Thursday, September 06, 2007

Definite Articles

Poetry! Poetry is very similar to music, only less notes and more words. And there was a Scottish poet named Robbie Burns- Robbie Burns to Scottish people, Robbie Burns to English people, and Rabbi Burns to Jewish people… who turn up at his door and say,

“What is the Hebrew translation…?

“I don’t know, I’m a poet, I don’t know this… go away. Are you trick or treat?”

“I need the translation…”

And he wrote poetry, he wrote a big fucking book of poetry, but one of his most famous lines is The Best Laid Plans O' Mice and Men Aft Gang Aglay,” meaning “The best laid plans of mice and men often go wrong.” And because it’s poetry, people go, (mimes stroking beard) “Oh, I know what you mean there, Robbie, yes… Fucking plans ganging aglay by a fucking truckload…” And being a poet, he must have observed humanity, must have said, “Men. Men make plans. These plans go wrong. Go wrong once, twice… often! Often, a number of plans I’ve seen go wrong… Possible idea for a poem…”

And then he must have turned his attention to the other animal mentioned in that line of poetry. If you think back to it, “The best laid plans of mice and men…” Exactly which mice plans was he really honing in here on? The best laid ones go aglay, some of the worse laid ones are okay? Some of them get through? He was fucking off this trolley! “See, mice also make plans, unbeknownst to most people. They plan to get cheese! They run, they scamper… Oh, one’s fallen over! No cheese today… Oh, plan two: they’ve got three, another one’s got a stick, he’s gonna put the stick into the mousetrap… No, he’s broken the stick! What a jessie! Plan three – Oh, they’ve got a flip chart now! Very serious… there’s a lot of mise surrounding the meeting, and they’re having a discussion… Oh, good plan this, probably! Their best laid plan, I believe… I could just hear what they’re saying. One mouse is going,

“You aren’t supposed to blow the bloody doors off! Told you about that… What are you doing, coming in here, and making such a fracas? Now tell me the plan.”

“Well, we’ll drive the Minis into the square…”

“No, piazza.”

“Oh, it’s piazza, Charlie? And we load the cheese in the back of the Minis, and we drove it at you during a football match.”

“That’s right. Wallop, wallop, wallop, into the big coach driven by William, rounding in the Alps, and we’re free. And you’re sitting in the back, and you’re not having a migraine, and you’re gonna shut your face.”

“All right, Charlie.”

(as Burns, still taking notes) “Meanwhile, back in London, the Chief Mouse is talking to the prison governor-

“Somebody has broken into my toilet.”

“Well, I’m terribly sorry.”

“Get on to Camp Freddy, I want Charlie Crocker given a good going-over.””

So if you haven’t seen “The Italian Job,” this is all meaningless, by the way, but then, if you haven’t seen it, you probably haven’t lived… Yes, yes…

And sayings as well! Sayings are very interesting ‘cause they’re based on truth, then they’ve got a bit of old wives’ tale on top, then a bit of a hazy farther, a bit of uncle… banana, and then you’ve ice-cream on top, and it’s just rubbish! I mean, like “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” We go (mimes agreeing with saying) Who does suffer fools gladly?! How often you can go,

“Hello! I’ve got a pig in me trousers!” (mimes having a pig in trousers)

“Come in! Come in, you fool! That pig sounds like a dog.”

“No, it’s a pig; I just can’t be bothered to do the impression. Can my friend come in? He’s got jam for brains”

“Yes, come in, you fool!” (mimes trying to keep jam inside head)

The other saying was… what was the other saying? Oh, yes, “Go and teach your grandmother to suck eggs.” What on Earth is that one about? You’ve got a lot of free-range eggs,

“All right, Gran, I’m gonna teach you to suck eggs.”

“I’m not gonna suck eggs, I’m not! You piss off, you young children! There’s a mouse here making a plan, you see? Planning to scale the Eiffel Tower on a bat…”

“Why are you Scottish, Gran?”

“I don’t know… I’ve been taken over by Mrs. Badcrumble. Oh, my hairnet! It’s coming off… The hair thieves are upon us!”

Now we do have haircuts, don’t we? Humans have haircuts, and sheep have haircuts, and poodles, and they’re the only three animals in the entire world, in the universe, as we know, to have haircuts. This is true, you don’t get ants going, (mimes ants marching and moving hair away from the face) You don’t get lions going, “I’ll go and get that antelope… (mimes running) Jesus Christ! (moving hair away from face) I’ll put it in bunches, right?” (mimes lion braiding his mane and resumes running) The antelope’s going, “There’s a huge girl with big teeth coming after me! Run! Run!” (mime turns from running to swimming) The last one was the butterfly… Which is a pointless swimming stroke, isn’t it? Remember when you had to stand back in the swimming bars, and some big, fucking kid came through doing the butterfly? (mimes water splashing) You just wanted to hit him with a floater. “Fuck off with your butterfly! Fucking show-off! We can’t even do doggy-paddle yet! Bastard!”

Anyway, we do get haircuts, and sheep get haircuts. Some sheep must be going into that shearing shed, going, “Hi, can I get a coffee? Thanks.” (singing laconically while turning magazine pages) “Yeah, a little bit off the top, loose down the back, and sort of wedge-shaped, that’s quite in at the moment. That’d be great, thank you… thank you” (mimes sheep reading and shearer at work) Flump! (mimes sheep looking in mirror after being sheared) “Well, it’s not quite what I was after…” (picks up the fleece and piles it on top of head) “Do you have a hairnet?”

I’ve done a bit of Latin in me time, but I can control it, you know. I never let it get out of hand, I just… have a dealer and… he sells me Latin transcripts, and you know, “Okay…” (mimes effects of Latin) so that late at night you just feel like translating Latin for a bit, upstairs, smoking in the coats’ room. I don’t know what I’m talking about now. No, I did, I did Latin, I learnt “Amo, amas, amat…” “Amo, amas, amatis, amant,” and it comes in handy. Yes! Sometimes you’re queuing at a petrol station at 3:00A.M. in the morning, and there’s a line of murderers behind you, and you turn around and go, “Amo, amas, amat! Amo, amas, amatis, amant!” and they go, “Fuck! He knows Latin! (mimes running away) He knows a dead language! Run! Head for the hills! Head for Azerbaijan! Run down the Fort Court!”

Yeah, I remember you did it as “an option,” yeah… And the teachers with options were,

“Yeah, learn Latin! You’ll get the whole underlying knowledge of all the European languages!”

“Why don’t we just learn the European languages, then?”

“That’s a good point, yes…”

It’s very rare you’re at Frankfurt airport and someone’s going,

“Ja mein Herr, was ist los?”

and you’re going:

“Sprechen Sie Latin? Pugnato sum… et kumquat and romanes avec gallum et… pugnato fish…..’

“Ja, ja, aber was ist los?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know, what ist los? Do tell me…”

So I don’t think it’s very useful today, really, and they had language labs! Language labs came in when I was at school, and that was great; you get in that little cubicle, had a tape going around, the headphones on, and the tape would go, “Où est la plume de ma tante? Monsieur, où est la plume de ma tante?” And you’d go, “La plume de ma tante est près de la chaise de ma tante… as well you know…”

And the tape would go: “Oui! Oui, la plume de ma tante est près de la chaise de ma tante…” You’d go, “How does this tape know what I’m talking about?” And the tape would continue, “Où est la plume de mon oncle?” And you’d go, “La plume de mon oncle est bingy bongy boogy bongy…”

And the tape would go,

Non! Pas du tout! La plume de mon oncle n’est pas bingy bongy boogy bongy – qu’est-ce que vous dîtes? Vous êtes un putain!”

“Je ne suis pas un putain. Je n’avais pas le sexe pour l’argent – qu’est-ce que vous dîtes, vous cassette?’

And the tape would go, “Oh, oh pardon. Je suis désolé, vous avez raison. (sings) Je suis seulement un pauvre cassette. Je n’avais pas les pantaloons…” Oh, it’s an old song…! Yeah…

I did an exchangeship with France; yeah, the teacher at my school said, “Do you want one of ours? He’s already loaded into the tuba.” (mimes flying to France taking off from inside a tuba) And I went to a place called Châlons-Sur-Marne, it’s on the river Marne, otherwise it’d be “Châlons-Sur… no, nothing.” It’s in the Champagne region of France,

which is North… North-East, and champagne is going on there all the time. They have loads of champagne, and they celebrate all the time. “You’ve crossed the road? Champagne! You’ve walked out of a shop? Champagne! You can lean over a bit like this? Champagne!” Big occasions – “You had a baby?” (mimes opening and drinking a can of beer)

So it’s a bit of a functional French town, every country’s got a bit of “oh!” Emotionally linked with Felix, though… And we were shown around places of interest in Châlons-Sur-Marne; we were shown around the glue factory, you know. When you’re a kid, you go,

“Oui, oui, le – le usine de glue. C’est très bien.”

“Voici le usine de glue. Voici la porte de l’usine de glue. (mimes getting hand stuck to doorknob) Merde!”

Se we went around, they showed us glue- one pot, they lifted the lid, there was just glue going around, we’re going, “Oui, c’est très bien.” (mimes tasting glue) And we ended up in a boardroom, and a bloke with a flipchart was saying, “Voici l’usine de glue. C’est le flipchart et… qu’est-ce que c’est? Le fromage? Les souris? ‘Le Job Italian’! Qu’est-ce que ‘Le Job Italian’? Qui est Charlie Croker? Camp Freddy? Mr Bridger…” Sorry, just gave you the whole list there. The cast list.

So he said, “Oui, oui, c’est l’usine de glue. Ah ici, c’est… Ah, the glue making process, okay. Ici un cheval, pas de glue, un cheval, pas de glue, pas de cheval, beaucoup de glue!”

“Oh, c’est merde pour le cheval!”

“ Oui, c’est merde…”

And it was an exchange trip, so we had to be re-exchanged, you know, and this all took place in the cross-Channel ferry, like it does. And all my teachers went down – we all went down on to the car deck, and my teachers switched on the lights of their Rover… and the Châlons teachers switched on the lights of their Citröen. All my teachers got out with cricket bats and tennis rackets (mimes teachers taunting French teachers) And all the Châlons teachers got out with French sporting equipment… a set of bulls. And my head teacher is going, “Send the English kid over!” So I was pushed off with a load of French bread…

“C’est un cadeau, un cadeau!”

“Oh, merci, merci…”

And the French kid was coming over with a load of Brillo pads… “Oui, oui, c’est un cadeau de les anglais. C’est le shredded wheat. Ils sont très generous, n’est-ce pas? Oui, oui, on peut le manger. Oui, un peu de lait, un peu de sucre… Et on mange, mange, mange, mange, mange, mange, mange, mange, mange, et après, pas de dents!”

If you don’t understand French, by the way, all of this is very funny, I assure it. But we’re Europeans, we can swing with it.

I did German tapes as well! Big drop in your understanding. The tape’s going round and saying, “Wo ist das Kind, mein Herr? Wo ist das Kind?” And I’d go, “Das Kind ist in dem Flughaben… as well you know!” And the tape would go,

Ja, das Kind IST in dem Flughaben. Aber warum?

“Well, I’m not really sure… Perhaps he likes the airplanes.”

And then we did Latin tapes as well, we did bloody Latin tapes, and they were just lies. It was pure lies because no one knew what the bloody accent was. They were trying to get you to learn the Latin accent, and they had NO IDEA! Because everyone was dead, it’s a dead language; the Romans, for all they knew, could have said, (in a high pitched voice) “Hello, we’re the Romans!” (in a deeper, dumber voice) “We’re the Romans.” (mumbles same line through different pitches and accents) “We’re the Romans, we want to come in your country and take all your things.” They had no idea, so they lied, and they made up all this Roman accent, which was kind of floaty, it was (floatily) “Puella est in cana.” And that was too floaty for me, because this is a very aggressive nation, very (growls); I mean, they weren’t into democracy and diplomacy, ‘cause they were Greek words, and they’d invaded them… They went ‘round, invading countries, with organized men with stabby swords, stab, stab, stab… I just don’t think they went into Gaul, going,

“Hello… Are you the people of Gaul? Wonderful! Well, we are the Romans. Yes, we are. And you must be Chief Vercingétorix, is that right? No, I recognize you from the “Asterix” books. Well, we’re the Romans, I am a legionary; this is our leader, Mr. Dog.”

(mimes being on a horse, then as James Mason) “Yes, I am. And a word with you, legionary, if I may… Thinking of changing my name, I am… Changing it from Mr. Dog to Cesar. Had a word with the marketing department… the marketing department of Rome, and it’s Mr. Cesar… Oh, I’m getting off this see-saw! It’s boring. Bring me my horse, thank you very much! There we go, that’s much better… Have we got steel radials on the back of this?” Yeah…

Roman history was fascinating because 2,000 years ago they murdered and killed a lot of people! But 2,000 years ago, “forgive and forget,” eh? Let bygones be “beegones.” Whatever a bygone is… That’s another saying, isn’t it?

“Let bygones be bygones.”

“What’s a bygone?”

“Well, it’s a gone…”

Oh, it’s a thing that’s gone by, isn’t it? Forget it. That makes sense… So some sayings are true! So what you do is you hit someone –

“Why the fuck did you do that for?”

“Oh, it’s a bygone! It’s already done, it’s been done… No use crying over bygones. Look, the bygones are coming!”

(mimes bygones marching down)

“It’s the fucking invasion of the bygones!”

That’s quite good, isn’t it? “Invasion of the bygones!” They’re all going, “Look, it’s no bother, really.” (chuckling) That’s a very British invasion. “I’m terribly sorry, we’ve overstayed our welcome. We used to be imperialist bastards, but now we’re just coming quite politely. Hello…”

Yes! Back in Roman times, when people died, they had professional mourners come in, which is a terribly weird idea. “My husband is dead- Mr. Claudius is dead. Oh, God…!” Which god…? Oh, Jove! “By Jove, he’s dead! Tragedy…” Not the other god that you’re thinking about. I’ll do this again… (cracks up) “Oh, my husband is dead!” Fuck it! Forget the whole thing. Re-cut. No. “My husband is dead, Mr. Claudius is dead… And there’s not enough grief! There’s not enough grief in this house to warrant his death, I wish to beef up the grief! Slave, get a message out to Mourners-R-Us, will you? Tell them I wish to beef up the grief! Yes, let bygones be bygones. Here’s 10 denary for your trouble, and get them straight back here, slave. What do you think you’re doing?”

And up will come a very smooth guy,

“Good afternoon, I’m Mr. Marcellus. I’m from Mourners-R-Us. (suffering moan) Just a free sample there. Now…”

“That’s very impressive!”

“Yes… (different types of mournful sounds) I told you… (more sounds) We can do both hands, ambidextrous. Oh, Mr. Claudius is dead, what a tragedy! A great man- was he a great man? I hope he was, yeah… A great big man, anyway. Well, we have several funerals on offer this week, we have a special on, the cheap one- we call it “Oh, bum, he’s dead!” funeral. It’s our bargain, 25 denary, and that’s just Mr. Claudius out front, and just myself about 10 meters behind, just a little bit pissed off.” (mimes walking behind the dead man and gesturing that he’s dead) “Oh, bum!” “That’s the ‘Oh, Bum!’ funeral, not much bother, shove him in the ground, no problem. For a full 50 denary, we got myself and Flavius here, at either side of the funeral cortège, slightly more geared up, slightly more, ‘Oh! (takes hand to forehead) Tragedy! Tragedy! He was a great man…’ We could have a CV at this point… ‘Oh, he made jam… played the ukulele, all these things… in the George Foreman quartet’ and we’ll poke people with sticks to make them cry more. (mimes poking) ‘Go on, cry, you bastards!’ That’s our 50 denary.

And for a full 100 denary, all four of us carry the deceased along, and then we gently lower him into the ground on straps… and then we’ll twang him into a tree!

That end bit isn’t really authentic, is it? But just to tail off the whole piece, so I started twanging him into trees! And it gets a big laugh, and then I carry on… (sticks tongue out) That’s comedy for you! But we’re kind of lugubrious about, you know, funerals and people dying, and we always mourn the death throughout, when celebrating the life is a different attitude. And I think, “twang ‘em into trees!” That’s what I say. Wouldn’t you rather die and be twang into a tree? The jury is out for that one, you know… Just think about it, give a lot of fun to people… (mimes twanging corpse into a tree) “Oh, it didn’t! Bring it back, bring it back… Come on! (mimes re-twanging it) Duel funerals… (mimes corpses crossing each other mid air) Funerals on bonfire night… (mimes fireworks and twanging corpses) It’s an option, we can go that way if we want to. So, yeah…

Also, back in Roman times, Pliny The Younger wrote letters. He was a letter-writer, it’s a great bloody profession, isn’t it? ”Oh, I’m gonna write some letters today… April 7th…” He’d just write postcards, (campy cockney) “’ello. Bye!” ‘Cause people do write really crap postcards, you know. ‘I’m here. You’re not. Bye!’ Or you start getting interesting, just at the bottom of the postcard, and you start writing all along… (mimes writing on all sides)

Anyway, I don’t know that Pliny did postcards, but he wrote from Vesuvius; he was at Mt. Vesuvius when it erupted, on the West coast of Italy, back in 80 (mumbles) No, it was 80-79, right? So that’s kind of the time period, and he was there. “Dear Father, I am here at Vesuvius, it is erupting as I speak. Fucking ‘ell!!! Get me out of here!! The top’s come off the mountain! There’s stuff everywhere! (hysterical screaming) Send ships and big ships. Send fucking dogs… Get on to Mr. Dog, tell them to send people… Everything’s gorgeous. Got a great tan, even though we all have it ‘cause we’re in Italy. Love and kisses, Pliny the Younger. P.S.: Nothing.” Yeah…

And St. Paul, he wrote letters, didn’t he? “St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.” Always writing to the Corinthians. “St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – Chapter 1 – Verses 1 to 53. Dear Corinthians, as you can tell from my preamble, it’s gonna be quite a long letter. Here we go: Don’t do bad things, only do good things. Always treat your neighbour like someone who lives near to you. Never put a sock in a toaster. Never put jam on a magnet. Never throw your Granny in a bag. Never suck all the juice out of a vampire. Never lean over on Tuesday…” (takes drag out of joint) “Lots of other things, but I gotta go and have a Mars bar now. Love, Paul (Saint).” (cracks up) Is that how he wrote his name? “Paul (Saint). B.A. honours.” Yeah, so he wrote this – “All right, that’s the end of the letter…” (mimes folding the letter, putting it into an envelope and licking it close) “The Corinthians… Corinth.” (mimes sending the letter out like a paper plane)

They must’ve been real fucked off over in Corinth, don’t you think? The postman going,

“Come on, one of you Corinthians, gotta take this letter.”

“Oh, fuck off! That’s from old mourner St. Paul, isn’t it? No… I don’t want it, I don’t want it!

“You gotta take it. Come on, I gotta have a signature for it.”

“Oh, fuck off! It says “the CorinthianS,” plural. Ask someone else. Oh, give it here. What does it say…? ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that… Never put a sock in a toaster? Jam on a magnet…’ Ooh, he’s lost his brain, ain’t he? Whose idea was it to be a pen-pal with St. Paul anyway? That fucking backfired, didn’t it? He’s supposed to stop doing it at about 15, he’s been doing it for years… Come on, Corinthians, come on, general meeting. We’re gonna write a letter back to him, stop all this rubbish.”

“The Corinthians’ Letter Back to St. Paul - Chapter 1- Verses 1 to a million. More letters to follow. Tuesday 28th of something. Dear Paul (Saint, apparently), FUCK OFF! Just fu- who are you? Why do you keep sending these letters? You arrogant bastard, you send a letter to an entire city! What do you want us to do, put these up in a board or something? Just fuck off! You’re coming on like Alistair Cooke, for fuck’s sake! ‘Never put a sock in a toaster,’ what’s all that about? You daft git! Love and kisses, the Corinthians. Kiss, kiss – Steve the Corinthian, Fred the Corinthian, George the Corinthian…” (mimes folding letter and sealing it in an envelope) “There we go – St. Paul… Outside Corinth” (sends letter as paper plane)

And the Carthaginians as well! Oh, they gave the Romans hell! Because they attacked Rome, the Carthaginians did, over the Alps on elephants… and the Romans were never expecting that. The Romans were there, going, “What? The Carthaginians attacking? God! I knew it! What? Attacking over the Alps? Damn! I knew they’d do that! What? They’re coming on elephants? Where did they get the elephants? There aren’t any elephants in Europe! This I’ve gotta see… Are you sure? You sure it’s just not a typo mistake? ‘The Carthaginians are attacking, they’re coming over the Alps in their element’? Happy, you know? They’re coming on fucking elephants…”

They weren’t gonna, you know, they were gonna come on skis, of course. That was the way in down the fucking Alps. But their leader, Hannibal, and his brothers, Hasdrubal,

Haveaball and Haveabanana, whose real name was, “whoa! Have a banana…” Hannibal went to the shop, and said, “Skis for all my men! We’re gonna attack the Romans over the Alps.” And the guy said,

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“We’re gonna attack the Romans over the Alps, in fact.”

“Oh, all right. Well, fresh out of skis at the moment. The last pair just went to… someone.”

“Oh… that’s a bummer.”

“We’ve got some elephants, though…”

“Are they good at skiing?”

“Oh, tops! Top skiers there…”

‘Cause elephants were much more lithe back in Roman times, much more like Austrian skiing instructors are today… (mimes ski instructor’s moves) Off the tops of those roofs of chalets… (mimes jumping from chalet roof) What about the people who lives in those wooden huts? (mimes coming out of house with gun)

“Fuck off my roof! (shoots) Stop skiing off my roof, you bastards! Bloody elephants! All my life living at Heathrow, coming out here… fucking ‘ell! Bit of peace of quiet and whoom! Fucking elephants on my roof! (shoots) Sorry about that, Mrs. Badcrumble! Anyway… So you think I should take up the clarinet, do you?”

“Yes, I do, I think it’d be very good. Mr. Cesar here has been learning the clarinet for some time now.”

(as James Mason) “Yes, I have, it’s a very good instrument… It’s very sexy. I’m learning ‘Snig as a Bug in a Rig.’”

“Isn’t that ‘Snug as a Bug in a Rug’?”

“Yes.” (cracks up)

“Well, I’ll go on, Mrs. Badcrumble. You know, I’m just… Why am I Australian, by the way?”

“I don’t know.”

“My country hasn’t even been invented yet… except by the indigenous tribes who lives there…” Whoa, there we go!

I don’t know what all that bit’s about… “Sorry about living here in this hut… (elephant jumps off roof) Fuck off my roof! I’m gonna put a huge hairnet up, that’s what I’ll do… (mimes putting up hairnet) That will stop them from doing it. “ Elephants going, (mimes skiing and getting trapped in the net)

“And you’re gonna stay there!”

“Can we have our ball back, please?”

So he did, and Hannibal said,

“Well, all right, you proved it with that small film there… (cracks up) You’ve let me into it with that small elephant ski… Are you sure it’s a good idea?

“Oh, yes! (singing) If you’ve never seen an elephant ski, then you’ve never been on acid…”

“Too true, as the old film shows. Right! Elephants for all my men.”

“What size do you take?”

“Six and a half, thanks.” (mimes standing on two elephants) “All right, you guys better be good at skiing.”

(mimes skiing on top of elephants) Huge ski sticks. (mime continues) And the ski lifts back in those days were enormous! I don’t know if you’ve seen… The Carthaginians are sitting in those bucket seats, with two elephants hanging off their feet (mimes elephant in air) The Carthaginians are going, “Oh, my thighs!”

- Eddie Izzard, from Definie Article

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