Bored of the dance

Hello there. Firstly may I thank all of you who have downloaded and listened to my first podgram. Since it was little more than an incoherent stream of reminiscence poured into a microphone by a man with no functioning right arm with which to type, the piece was not available to be read as a text blog. From now on, however, always assuming I am careful enough not to incapacitate other useful parts of my body, podgrams will also be accessible in classic text-blessay form at www.stephenfry/blog. The choice is yours – eyes or ears. Or both. Or indeed all four. You may have noticed too that the podgram was delivered through a heavy cold and a fog of sleeping pills and analgesic opiates: apologies for the concomitant croaky dopiness.

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Download the latest podgram “BORED OF THE DANCE”. Available in both .m4a (audio visual) and .mp3 (audio only) formats.

The PODGRAM is free via the iTunes Store or RSS feed subscribe link on the podcast page.

You may wonder why the podgrams can’t, like the blessays, be downloaded directly from stephenfry.com. Why must one go through the leviathan that is the iTunes store? I am afraid that no host that we can find is capable of dealing with the 1 terabyte plus of traffic engendered without crashing. And so we turned to the might of Apple to help us out. The problem we always return to is bandwidth. Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. Who would not prefer to pootle along the country lanes in a flowered gypsy caravan, rather than blast down the motorway in a colossal juggernaut? Trouble is, when you’ve a certain number of deliveries to make a van just isn’t big enough. Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. I sound like a 30s schoolgirl with a lisp. Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. What is she saying? Something to do with sandwiches perhaps? Or bandits. Bandits eating sandwiches and wearing bandages? We’ll never know.

Americans are no more irony illiterate than Britons or anyone else

Well. So. Thus. To the substance of this podgram. Since October 2007 I have been travelling around America making a documentary for the BBC. The idea is to visit every one of the 50 states that make up the great Union. We started six months ago at the top right hand corner in the state of Maine and will finish, in May this year of grace 2008, in Hawaii. Part paean to the continental Unites States and its matchless variety, beauty and almost preposterous grandeur, part journey of discovery through 50 entities, so diverse, proud and individual as almost to deserve to be considered nation states in their own right, part attempt to discover the nature and characteristics of the fabled “real America” whose citizens are so much more than the sum of wearisome cliché: red-necked gun-toter, bible-thwacking faggot-hater, egocentric freak, camp Hollywood gossip or ludicrous military figure shouting in sunglasses. We see a lot of New York City and Los Angeles on British television, and we see a good deal of sneering at religious cults, eccentric sex therapists and semiliterate politicians, but for those of us who have spent any time in the country, these are no more indicators of life in America, or conclusive characteristics of Americans than films about braying dukes and vomiting ladettes are clinching definers of all things British. If you are confused about what a ladette may be you can look it up (http://www.wordwebonline.com/en/LADETTE). God help you. Anyway. That is the idea. Not a propaganda piece for the America Tourist Board, if such a thing exists, but not an attempt to seek out the stupid, the mockable and the obvious. Incidentally, forgive a detour here, but if there is one misapprehension about Americans that annoys me more than any other, it is the lofty claim, usually made by the most dim-witted and wit-free Britons, that America is an — ho-ho — “irony free zone”. Let it be established here, this day, that no one, on pain of being designated fifty types of watery twat, ever dare repeat that feeble, ignorant, self-satisfied canard ever ever again. Americans are no more irony illiterate than Britons or anyone else and the repeated assertion (and it is no more than an assertion not a demonstrable provable fact) is no more than a pathetic symbol of a certain kind of Briton’s flabby need to convince themselves of their sophisticated superiority over the average American. Now, don’t feel bad about the fact that you, dear listener/reader have, at some point in the past been guilty of repeating and transmitting this feeble myth, we all have. It’s lazy, easy and gives us a warm glow. My war on the lie begins now, and is not retrospective, so you need not feel ashamed. Only promise never to repeat it. Actually, even if you think it’s true, have the grace to recognise that such a clunking, tedious, oft-repeated cliché is so dull and well-worn that it almost doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s just plain tedious and only bar-stool bores and dull-witted gibbons would ever think it worth trotting out. Besides, it is ugly, graceless and rude.

Some American landmarks may be obvious and yet for all that impossible to ignore. The Grand Canyon for example: for our film crew to pass it by would be silly. And there are cultural equivalents. Most obviously perhaps musical landmarks. You cannot really travel through the Appalachians in Tennessee and Kentucky for example, without wanting to sample the clog dancing, banjo-strumming, guitar picking, fiddle-scraping, bass-slapping Hillbilly music known as bluegrass. Then there is the Mississippi River, from its mouth in New Orleans where jazz, zydeco and cajun music were born, through the Delta whence came the blues and up to Memphis, Tennessee, which styles itself the birthplace of rock and roll, and thence to Chicago where house music was first heard, a city that also has its own tradition of blues, jazz, swing, funk soul and rock. A few hour’s ride east will take you to Detroit, Mo’town.

If you add to this the rhinestone country music of Nashville, the gospel tradition abounding throughout the south, the Tin Pan Alley achievements of Broadway, the cowboy music, the West Coast sound and Seattle grunge, it is easy to look at a map of America and see an atlas of music. What a treat for me then to take those legendary trails.

Yes…

But…

Oh dear, this is an odd but, and I really must get it right.

I cannot BEAR …

No, that isn’t right at all.

I just don’t GET …

No, that isn’t it, either.

The thing is, trusted listener/reader, I have a problem with popular music. A real problem. It marks me out as an inadequate citizen of my time. I like to regard myself very much as a lover of the modern, a neophile, if you will. I like cars, computers, digital doodads, television, movies, just about anything new and shiny enthrals me. But, I …

It isn’t really to do with ancient versus modern

No, you see, I’m getting it wrong again, it isn’t really to do with ancient versus modern. It’s about something else, something quite other, something perhaps more profound.

Let me tell you about a moment, if you don’t know it, in a most excellent film called Running on Empty, made by the great Sidney Lumet, who has never really known how to make a bad film. It stars Judd Hirsch off of of of Taxi. I don’t know why people say “off of”. “You’re that Stephen Fry off of QI, people say to me.” And once, “aren’t you off of of the telly?” Two ofs. Anyway. Judd Hirsch off of of of off Taxi, Christine Lahti of Golden Globes lavatory fame, Martha Plimpton and the effulgent River Phoenix. Oh and Steven Hill, an actor with whom I’m ever so slightly obsessed, has one scene as Christine Lahti’s father … quite brilliant. The premise essentially is that Hirsch and Lahti, as Arthur and Annie Pope, once blew up a napalm factory as a protest against the Vietnam war, they thought the factory was empty, but there was someone there who was mutilated in the explosion and the FBI has been on their tail ever since. River Phoenix is their musically very gifted son, born on the run, who practises piano on a dummy keyboard, so unsettled are their lives. So, we witness them escape one near FBI bust and they arrive in a new town with new identities, River dyes his hair and enrols in the high school in this new town as Michael Manfield. He is destined to fall in love with the music teacher’s daughter, Martha Plimpton, but that’s later. We see him arrive, slightly late, at the music class. He gives Ed Crowley, who plays the teacher, his registration documents and is told to find himself a seat. Crowley continues with his lesson: he plays two pieces of music through speakers. One is classical, the other is, I think, a Madonna track. Crowley asks the class what the difference between the two is. There is the usual dumb silence you get when you ask a class of teenagers anything. Eventually one kid sticks up his hand and suggests, “one of them is good and the other is bad?” Crowley isn’t having that. “A matter of opinion, surely?” River shyly puts up his hand.

“Yes, Mr …. Manfield?”

And this is River’s answer: “You can’t dance to Beethoven.”

Crowley is delighted by this.

You can’t dance to Beethoven.

So there we have part of my problem. Dance music. It is not that there is classical or modern, serious or popular, the division is between music you can dance to or music you can’t.

I know that much of what I am about to say is wild exaggeration, but bear with me. I want to address a terror that lurks within me, a huge beast on my back, a great maggot in my brain. You cannot expect too much rational talk from a fellow who is unburdening himself of his deepest fears.

This is not a blessay or a podgram in which I reveal that I prefer classical to pop music. That is a) dull, b) over-familiar, c) as mad as saying that I prefer air to food: both food and air are necessary and besides they each use different pipes, so preference doesn’t enter into it, and d) it isn’t true anyway even if it could be, which it couldn’t so there.

All that music I talked about in describing a journey around America? I love it all. Or can love it. I love country, blues, rock and roll, gospel, zydeco, jazz, swing, Tin Pan Alley, roots, bluegrass, hillbilly. Less keen on the West Coast sound, on funk, soul, mo’town, rap, hip-hop, house, R and B. Don’t hate them, just don’t like them quite as much. Outside America I have gone on record as to confessing a weakness for Led Zeppelin and Abba twin poles on the Euroglobe, but each as splendid in their own way as the other.

But this is not a Nick Hornby Man List in which I show off my knowledgeable, insightful eclecticism. I know a great deal less about popular music than almost all of my contemporaries. The point is that I do want you to understand how much I love, or can love, this music. It is important when I try to explain to you how much I hate, or can hate, this music.

It’s all dance music. Give or take. I mean, yes, some tracks are dancier than others, some styles are dancier, but essentially they are all about tapping those toes and swinging those feet.

I hate doing it myself

I hate dancing more than I can possibly explain. I hate doing it myself, which I can’t anyway, but I loathe and resent the necessity to try. I hate watching other people do it. I hate the way it breaks up conversation. I hate the slovenly mixture of sexual exhibitionism, strutting contempt and repellent narcissism that it involves. I hate it when it is formless, meaningless bopping and I hate it (if anything even more) when it is formal and choreographed into genres like ballroom or schooled disco. Those cavortings are so embarrassing and dreadful as to force my hand to my mouth.

If I listen to music, I like either to do it completely alone, so that if I am taken by the desire to move my feet and body (which is inevitable with so much music) I can do it unwitnessed, or I like to LISTEN to it, to hear the line of it, to follow the lyrics and to allow it work inside me. I do not want to use it as an exercise track for a farcical, meaningless, disgusting, brainless physical public exhibition of windmilling, gyrating and thrashing in a hot, loud room or hall. I do not want to use music as the medium for a mating or courting ritual. No one would ever select me as a sexual partner on the basis of my ability to froth, frolic and gibber in time to music anyway, and nor would I ever choose a partner by such desperate and useless criteria.

I can’t dance. It may well be true that guilty feet have no rhythm, but it is also true that perfectly innocent feet can also be unable to move persuasively or happily to the beat. I can’t dance and I SO do not want to. Or is it that I don’t want to because I can’t? No, I don’t think so. I can’t play football, golf, cricket to anything like a human standard and I want to desperately. Desperately. It really isn’t a question of being truculent and captious about it. I really, really, really hate dancing and have not the slightest milligram of envy for those who can do it. If there is such a thing as ‘being able to do’ the kind of dancing people routinely engage in. Not so much an accomplishment as an affliction.

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The unhappy self-consciousness of the adolescent on the dance floor at school, or in the village barn dance or local disco is too well known a standard hero of rueful dissection for me to need to describe myself in that guise in too much detail. Here were boys and girls my age twisting, spinning and jumping at each other and they all seemed to know what they were doing. Had I been confined to the sick room with an asthma attack the day disco dancing was covered in the syllabus? How did they know which way to move,when to fling up a hand, when to spin, when to jump? When to look into their “partner’s” eyes, when to look at the floor? There was nothing written down, did it accord to some chord change or eight bar measure that I, in my hot discomfort And pop illiteracy simply could not hear?

Dancing around a handbag

Yes, it was true that the girls often danced with each other, or in desultory fashion around a handbag and yes it was true that some boys were gawkier, jerkier and less convincing than others, but that didn’t seem to worry them too much, they just got on with it. They had jumped in and they were being born along the current of the music. I was hanging on the bank, gazing in … what? Envy? Disgust? Misery? Scorn? Hungry sorrow? Actually, none of those things, I just wanted to be somewhere else. If I had been offered the skill and dance charisma of …. I don’t know, John Travolta, say … I would have turned it down. I found, from the get go, that a dance floor was a place I never ever wanted to spend any time at all. Not so much as a second of my life.To this day I cannot abide so much as a minute in a place where people are dancing. I find it simply unbearable. Think of it as an allergy. I hate films set in such places. Have never sat through all of Saturday Night Fever, Flash Dance, Dirty Dancing or any of those. I feel ill just picturing them: the leg warmers, the tights, the stretching and leaping … ugh…. And how people love to try and drag me to the floor. Just as I am tired of people saying to me “I’d really like to see you drunk one day, Stephen” I am tired of them saying “I’d love to see you dancing your head off.” Grrrrrrr.

Nowhere to run

There is a celebrated moment in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy squashes the blandly pompous Sir William Lucas, who has said something like, “There is nothing like dancing … I consider it one of the first refinements of polished societies.” To which Darcy replies, “and it has the advantage of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies. After all, every savage can dance.” We overlook the less than respectful language of the day, but actually the ‘savage’ element of dancing, the primal nature of it has returned to our culture and is the basic form enjoyed by most people in our “polished” society. At a pinch I would welcome that over the continued existence of endless long ballroom routines in which you have to be taught the steps of quadrilles, cotillions, gavottes, waltzes and so forth. I suppose the descendant of that ghastly form of entertainment is the vile terror known as Line Dancing, a proceeding so fatuous and horrible as to defy language. I have twice been caught with nowhere to run in one of those events. It was like being on the gymnastics mat at school, or in the infant Music and Movement room. The sweaty, ghastliness of it all and the silly hats and embarrassing clapping. Oh god, I’ve given myself hives just thinking of it.

And hell, that reminds me of childhood Scottish dancing lessons, hopping over swords. Or more recent holidays with friends with Highland Reels promised as an after dinner treat. ‘In this life,’ Sir Arnold Bax is reputed to have said, ‘you should try everything once, except incest and folk dancing.’ Eightsome reels. Stripping the Willow. The Roger de Coverley, whoever the arse he was. Morris Dancing, which is fashionable to loathe, I really don’t mind at all. In fact I quite like it, because there is never the faintest chance of being invited to join in. Organised dancing and disorganised dancing in which one is supposed to participate. Both of them fill me with dread and disgust. Yes, probably self-disgust more than any other kind.

Maybe it all springs from having to sing at school the Worst Song Ever Written — Lord of the Dance. ‘Dance then, wherever you may be, for I am the Lord of the Dance said he. I’ll dance with you if you dance with me, for I am the lord of the dance said he.’ And so bloody on. If ever a song were guaranteed to create a generation of atheists and non-dancers it is that one. ‘I danced for the sun and I danced for the moon. I danced at night and I danced at noon.’ I mean, come on. Seriously shut up. Shut so up and go so dreadfully and entirely away.

Classical music, we might as well use the term, is of course descended, like all music, from forms of dance. Even the most classical classical music has its roots there. Sarabands, gigs, minuets, galliards, pavanes, mazurkas, schottisches, waltzes, polkas and reels have informed the repertoire from the very beginning. You would be hard pressed to dance to a gig from a Bach partita however, or to boogy on down to the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. River was right. You can’t dance to Beethoven. Time signatures change and shift, there is no back beat, what dance rhythms there might be are played with in such a fashion as to discourage a tapping foot. Classical music is there to be listened to. It doesn’t make it better. I really, really mean that I do not believe that it makes it better, and I despise the snobbery and ignorance that is convinced otherwise. But it does make it better suited to Stephens. I can follow the line, lose myself in the music’s conflict and dialectical struggles, dive into the textures, surge with the ebb and flow of climaxes and surface again, all without pumping, primping and body popping. Again, I am aware that many of you, no matter how many times I repeat this, will think I am being all superior. So let me be absolutely clear about this. This is all a weakness, failing, problem, phobia, hang-up with me. It is something to do with physical shame, clumsiness, self-consciousness, pride in privacy, lack of co-ordination, all of which have culminated in a huge and insuperable hatred of losing physical self-control, in jumping in and joining in. The once sappy bendy young tree is now too old for anything to be done about it without his gnarled distorted shape cracking with a puff of dry dust, so it is too late to change.

It is more or less certain, statistically, that the vast majority of you listening or reading will love dancing and will be annoyed and upset to think that I am contemptuous of your adored hopping and bopping. I am not contemptuous. I think less of no one for loving to dance. I am fully aware that, from the most polished society to the most, hem, savage, it is what humans do more than writing, ball games, praying, knitting, riding, singing even. They dance in the mornings they dance at nights, they dance in their trousers and they dance in their tights. The whole world dances. Except Stephen and a few others. So do believe this. I am not in any way, not in ANY WAY scornful of those who dance, I am merely describing my allergic response. I am allergic to champagne as it happens, and this has given me a very healthy and natural distaste for it. I could describe the loathing and fear I have of the drink, but it would in no way implicate champagne drinkers. So let it be with Terpsichore and her art. I am allergic to it, but I do not despise those who are not. I can’t go so far as to say that I envy them, but scorn and derision? Absolutely not. Just don’t ever look for me on the dance floor.

And so when people ask me what I think of pop music, or folk music, or rock and roll, or whatever other kind, I never quite know how to answer. I like listening to it, there is much of it lifts my spirits, that speaks to my deeps, that cleans me out, cheers me up, flies me away. But as for going to concerts, being in rooms where it is playing, hearing it on television, at parties, in the street, having it pour from hairdressers, clothes shops and bars — well no thank you.

And if you think that means I’m an enemy of the people, an elitist, a snob, then I’m sorry I haven’t explained myself properly.

Thank you for letting me leak my unlovely torment all over you. Thank you for listening/reading. Until the next time. Fare well.

Stephen

© Stephen Fry 2008

Producer’s note, Andrew here.

Thanks for the kind offers about bandwidth. Currently The Positive Internet Company, a lovely company based in the UK are providing stephenfry.com with all our 1930′s school girl needs. Hope you all enjoy listening (and watching) Stephen’s latest offering.

This blog was posted in Blessays

73 comments on “Bored of the dance”

  1. missblue says:

    Dear Stephen, as it happens I was feeling a bit blue, maybe a combination of blue and mauve, so I was listening to your PADDINGTON audiobook and hoping you were on the mend. I’ll comment again when I’ve thoroughly masticated this blessay, but wanted you to know that I am still wishing you well with your schedule, which would exhaust me on a good day, never mind injuries. Do take care.

  2. Christa says:

    And isn’t it also a fact that when we are allergic to something it tend to be around us wherever we go? People who are allergic to cats knows exactly what I mean :)

    As for America and it’s citizens, I learned a lot while living there, not as much because I wanted to, but because it’s a must if you want to function in a society. But it does straighten out a lot of misunderstandings, and most stereotypes die after a while.
    I lived in Los Angeles and I’m certain that I will retire to Southern California one day. With all it’s earthquakes, the warm sun and the hot dry Santa Ana :D
    Call me crazy, but that’s my Paradise :)

  3. Ligeia says:

    I am numb with shock at having finally found another Steven Hill fan! I thought I was the only one.

    Like you, I also have an almost pathological reaction against dancing. I can’t dance and hate watching people dance. What’s worse is watching people who think they’re great dancers when they are emphatically, pathetically not; my stomach turns with a mixture of pity and revulsion watching those misguided souls humiliate themselves to a throbbing disco beat. At least in the UK you’re not bombarded by the vast number of insipid dance-related reality shows that we have crammed down our throats here in the States.

    Hope the arm’s on the mend!

  4. Well now I have Lord of The Dance in my brain, for the first time since school! Fortunately it was displacing Cocomo by the Beach Boys which I couldn’t get rid of. No wait, it’s back.
    The Worst of Perth

  5. rademisto says:

    Actually, as a trained dancer I can sympathise with your thoughts and feelings very well. I am not saying this to be sycophantic, either. No, no…hang on there, I am not. Read on, if you can bear to. I was trained as a classical ballet dancer which is quite a different fish to the bopping, popping gyrating, flip-flopping ‘thing’ that my peers were ‘enjoying’ on the disco floors. Everyone assumed that because I was trained as a dancer, I would be superb on the disco floor. Another Swayze, perhaps. Not. Far, far from it. I could not bop, plop, gyrate, flip or flop. Additionally, I absolutely and completely, LOATHED disco dancing and still do. And I have no desire to master it even if I was in a physical state to be able to.

    I am proud to say I have never entered a disco in all my life. Do I think that I have missed out on one of life’s opportunities? No.

    Does that sentence above make me a snob? Perhaps. Do I care? Not really. Are there better things to be concerned about in my life (my life, not anyone elses, as your life, Joe Grundy’s life, et al might be different) Yes.

    I am very, very proud to say that at the tender age of 16 I turned down a contract by Elstree to dance (ballroom….euck) in the disastrous movie “Heaven’s Gate”. At the time, with adolescent arrogance I felt it was beneath me to veer towards acting by accepting a contract, small as it was, to do anything other than pure classical dance. With my ever present retrospectoscope, I can now see how much wisdom ;) I had at that age…..being able to for-see what a terrible flop the movie would be!

    Interesting blog-pod-cast. I shall now take Arnold’s 4 Scottish dances, and return to my cave of paranoia, where I talk to no-one in particular of my love affair with classical dance, classical music, and other such things.

    One question though, Stephen, do you attend ballet performances? Or are they so nauseating to you that the thought of them brings on respiratory arrest after an allergic response?

  6. cx5 says:

    I’m off for rowing on the Isis right now, i’m going to listen to this over breakfast when I get home!

  7. Mo says:

    Hi Stephen,

    If bandwidth/hosting is an issue, you should take a look at Joyent: their speciality is hosting upcoming and popular web applications with significant processor or bandwidth demands (they’ve hosted Twitter in the past, and host the LA Times if memory serves), and they’re not terribly expensive (especially given the weakness of the dollar). I’m not affiliated with them, it’s worth noting!

  8. voxo says:

    I had the misfortune of being a wedding recently where one of the chosen pieces of the bride was “Lord of the Dance”. Oh my oh my… I don’t give them much hope…

  9. west_haven says:

    great podcast, stephen – thank you – so delightful when you tap into the old brain-pan & turn on the spigot. wonderful hearing the ebb & flow of the undrugged voice, such an exciting & enticing rhythm – why, one could almost dance to it. (ummm, was that ironic? or just silly?! i’m american so i gotta ask . . . )

    (an aside: effulgent – i can never get comfortable with that word – such an awkward, lumpy, brutish-looking thing, so opposite of its meaning. makes me think of wastewater runoff from chemical factories.)

    re dance, i share both your dislike & inability & wonder if we are not more in the majority than we think. if one belongs to a culture where to dance is considered normal, few will admit to feeling like we (and some of the above, too) do.

    while i don’t mind seeing others dance, i can’t stand being in a room where people are playing music. the horror & revulsion i feel when exposed – subjected! – to live musical performances is something i’ve never been able to explain, but it’s definitely on a level with your reactions to dance. i refuse to stay in restaurants when musicians show up, and left – at a run – many a gathering in the 60′s & early 70′s when some wannabe pete seeger or john lennon (and it was always a male. hmmm – perhaps a mating ritual of which i was ignorant?) would materialize a guitar and exclaim, “Let’s sing!” i do enjoy virtually any kind of recorded music, tho.

    thanks again, stephen – and glad you’re feeling so much better! oh – love the podcast pics, btw.

  10. jillydoc says:

    Dearest Stephen,

    I am with you when it comes to watching others dance in public. I don’t care to. I don’t care to watch others at all. But I will say occasionally I do like to dance by myself, when the music moves me. And even more rarely have I felt moved to dance in public. As I think about it, it’s never been with the exhibitionism, contempt and narcissism you mention, but its been more like musicians when they play music together and have a common goal. There is a celebratory feeling that is shared or perhaps it is the sharing of the feelings that music elicits. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but it’s less about what the dancers look like and more about expressing the feelings. Again, it very rarely happens and has to be with the right crowd of friends.

    In any case I quite enjoy your dancing in “A Bit of…” and thought you did very well in spite of (or perhaps because of) your discomfort, which was very apparent. In my book, you never have to do it again. Just refer doubters to a clip if they don’t believe you. Or use Jennifer Saunders’ excuse and say the bones in your legs fell out and leave it at that.

    As regards being asked, “What do you think of pop, rock, folk, etc?”, it is an odd question since music is much more about listening and experiencing rather than thinking, at least it is to me. I don’t know anyone who likes all music of any one genre. When I am asked what music I like I invariably answer, “It depends, some I like very much, and some I can’t stand, and sometimes it all depends on my mood.” And then I name artists such as Sarah MacLaughlin, or Coldplay who’s music I very much like. That usually satisfies the interrogator in the same way that mentioning favorite authors or movies do. (They’re looking for something in common).

    And about the film Running on Empty, I LOVE that film. Sidney Lumet is a genius, check out his book Making Movies if you haven’t already. He’s extremely down to earth, humble and generous with his experience. Speaking of favorite authors films and directors, I recently saw Bright Young Things and I loved it. I think you and Lumet share the gift of having been actors, which gives you a shorthand and trust as a director which shows. So thank you for the podgram, the writing, acting, directing, and yes the dancing. I love it all.

    Warmest regards and I hope your arm is feeling better,

    Jillian

  11. Scrowl says:

    Stephen, I so so agree with all you have said/written about dancing and music.

  12. Having caught the tail end of acid house in the UK, I can’t say I share your hatred for dancing but your “Careless Whisper” reference did make me laugh out loud!

  13. vdots says:

    Dear Stephen,

    I totally love this podcast. I should admit though that the first one seemed even better to be, sounding like a very personal and spontaneous thing, like a long voicemail from a good friend. Thanks a lot for that.

  14. dyfferent says:

    Actually I relate rather well. I love music–same genres as you, if you add in middle-eastern music as well–so much, I listen with my whole self (my ipod overfloweth, I cannot fit all my CDs onto it anymore). But there is a body disconnect. My body and I don’t get on well, never have. It’s willing to type and talk for me, but that’s all the self-expression it’s up for. I wish I could dance. Once it merely filled me with dread but I have seen it done and done well and I wish that I could do it too. I enrolled in a dance class, actually, in hope that it can truly be taught. I am currently that horror, the overweight middle-aged woman in a belly dance class. I picked that kind because there is almost no footwork and the movements are all fairly natural and you don’t have to weigh 8 stone or begin at age 4. God help me, I really want to succeed.

  15. lexid523 says:

    Thank you so much for trying to disabuse your public of the silly, silly notion that we Americans have no sense of irony. I remember Simon Pegg once wrote something very nice in the Guardian about Americans and irony, and he pointed out (quite accurately, IMHO) that we just use irony less frequently because we’re more open with our emotions and feel far more comfortable speaking frankly.

    As for music, we’re very much in the same boat, in some respects. Though I’m more classic rock than classical, I also can’t think of anyone past the Ramones really worth listening to. And I get very angry with anyone who suggests that jazz is boring (and even more angry at the musicians who make boring jazz), because they are missing out on the sheer orgasmic joy of sitting in a darkened room, listening to Duke Ellington.

    Incidentally, I’ve been known to headbang to the 1812 Overture ::shrug::

  16. CraigB says:

    What a great read on a sunny saturday morning. I have memories of singing “Lord Of The Dance” at my old primary school and I do wonder from that point if religion was really something to sing about (I was only 5 at the time and gotten smart questioning about it. That scares the living hell out of teachers then!).

    Now, I think I’ll go sit somewhere and get hypotised by The Doors.

  17. Alethea says:

    As a long-term expatriate from the US to France, I particularly appreciated that you noticed that Americans are “so diverse, proud and individual as almost to deserve to be considered nation states in their own right”. That is what the “United States” meant as a name and what many Americans still think of themselves. Not myself, but then again I am convinced that the European Union really exists. Try explaining your revelation to the French or the Germans. You did try with members of the United Kingdom and far-flung remnants of the Empire and succeeded in a flattering way; thanks.

    Entertaining and insightful as usual.

  18. Tine says:

    Regarding the bandwidth issue, maybe I’m just being daft and this is something you’ve considered and discarded as a possibility, but what about torrenting it as an alternative to iTunes? The files are relatively small, so seeding shouldn’t be a problem even if many people just upload while downloading. I bet that even of the non-technophilic readers, a good portion can deal with a torrent client as well as they could with iTunes.
    I’m not sure how much bandwidth the tracker would eat, but even if you couldn’t host the tracker due to bandwidth, you could probably find a home for it. I know eztv.it hosted a big fan-run radio-type show (sci-fi something or other) last year.
    Off to listen now!

  19. amyl_nitrate says:

    Oh damn you for putting that bloody Lord of the Dance song in my head. grrr. *bite*

    I used to feel the same about dancing. It used to fill me with as much horror as PE and swimming lessons at school did. :’( Then when I was older and started going to goth nights with my friends I was always the one left at the sides while everyone else went off dancing. I eventually got tired of being left on my own feeling miserable so I started to join in. Overtime I stopped feeling quite so self-conscious about it and actually started to enjoy myself. I couldn’t go dance in a mainstream trendy club though, I just don’t feel like I can relax in those places and feel terribly uncomfortable like I’m on display at a meat market or something.

    Still, there are some songs, some kinds of music I cannot dance to. No matter how much I enjoy listening to them I can’t dance to them. Some people don’t understand what I mean by that. *sigh* Sometimes music is best when you just listen to it in private and get lost in it, sinking further and further in and exploring the little details of it. Stuff you don’t notice when you simply hear it in the outside world. Speaking of which, how off-putting is it when you go into a shop and it’s blaring out loud music? I’ve walked out of shops just as quickly as entering because I found the music so nauseatingly loud and obnoxious. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.

  20. Ingrid says:

    Hello Stephen,

    I must say that I can understand not likely dancing, especially if you feel you don’t have the knack for it. Or even if you did, not finding much pleasure in it. I am surprised that you dislike seeing others dance though, especially people who are very good. Do you dislike ballet then? As a small child I decided to do ballet and loved it. I continued with it all the way until my early twenties. I only really stopped because I struggled to fit it into my schedule now that I work and have finished university. As a result of the ballet (and occasional stints learning ballroom dancing and modern dancing) I adore dancing. I have no musical talent at all, one of things I wish I did have in fact. I wish I could play the piano, but I’m hopeless. But when I hear music in my mind I see the different steps that could go along with that piece of the melody or beat. Music to me is really a series of movements, well that’s how it plays out in my mind. Its the only way that I know how to express appreciation for it. So when you say that you can’t dance to Beethoven, I disagree, I think you could choreograph a wonderful ballet piece to some of Beethoven’s music.

    Sill I must say that I do understand where you are coming from. My husband is a computer scientist and a little nerdy and has no rythm and will not dance anywhere out of the comfort of our home. It doesn’t bother me too much because I see dance as a personal experssion anyway, it should only ever be done for yourself whether publically or secretly.

    Best regards.

  21. Max Sang says:

    Can’t dance to Beethoven? Stuff and nonsense. Remember what Brahms had to say about the 7th Symphony?

  22. Kelly says:

    Well, I suppose if I have to be one of the others that does not dance, I’m in decent company. Thing is, I’d certainly love to have the grace and coordination to dance (I suspect it would come in handy for many other aspects of life), I was probably trying to convince my lungs that breathing was a good idea when that particular skill was given out. (Or perhaps I was asleep. That’s equally likely.) So I don’t really enjoy dancing. I do enjoy watching some talented people dance – problem being, of course, that there are many more untalented exhibitionists who dance than the talented few who really do seem to be able to let the music, whatever kind you’re talking about, flow through them like a live wire and transform them into something Other.

    About the only good thing about a bar, club, disco, etc, is that you can get music at the proper volume – living in a small flat, neighbours pressed on all sides, basically guarantees, at least if you are polite, that you don’t listen to music (at least some music) at the appropriate, soul encompassing level of volume. Which makes me sad.

    However – I wanted to digress to the question of “do you like pop/rock/grunge/R&B/fill-in-the-blank.” That question itself strikes me as sort of like asking “do you like cola?” It’s slightly more specific than “do you like soda?”but not so specific as “do you like pepsi?” – and equally hard to answer. Well, sure, I like some cola, sometimes. Just like I like some R&B, sometimes. The idea of liking all variants of one style of music seems overly broad, to say the very least. (And I do think that people who flat out refuse to even consider certain styles of music, dismissing with “I don’t like opera” or “I hate country music” are being snobbish, because how can you say with 100% certainty that you hate every single possible song in a genre, without having first listened to, if not all, at least a goodly chunk of them?)

    Anyhow, I do digress, and beyond that, am running late to a conference. Thanks for the morning kickstart for the brain!

  23. Curse it, pipped to the post. I was going to concur with Mr Sang. While I agree with your general argument to the point of absurdity and beyond (can’t dance, won’t dance, my problem and no-one else’s) the specific example is perhaps faulty.

    Of course, they could have used Schoenberg as the classical example. You definitely can’t dance to Schoenberg. Well, I can’t.

    And for a modern (well, non-classical) counter-example, you can’t dance to Yes.

  24. andygrunt says:

    I’ve never been a fan of dancing either though not to the borderline psychotic extents you’ve seemed to reach :)

    I’ve always thought it must be hilarious for the deaf to go to a Disco (sorry, night club) and watch the sweaty crowd jerking around spastically. What a bizarre activity dancing is.

    Actually, I’ve always been interested in hearing the opinions of people unfamiliar with what we think of as the ordinary. I remember seeing a(n) Horizon programme (I think it was) many years ago where they wired up an early video camera directly to a blind man’s brain. It allowed him to receive a very crude picture (I’m talking a handful of pixels here) and ‘see’ for the very first time in his life. For some reason, the first thing they pointed the camera at was a lit candle. The blind man was astonished. It had never occurred to him that a flame would have a shape – he’d always assumed it was shapeless and never read a novel or story where the author had thought to describe the shape of fire.

    I love that. Something we take for granted being pointed out and highlighted as just one possibility. I can’t wait for the Aliens to pop by and share their observations of us if only to see the world with fresh eyes.

  25. Trynemjoel says:

    On your remarks of the internet being analogous with trucks and highways I must quote Senator Ted Stephens : “It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

    Wonderful Podgram Stephen, a very nice way to start my day.

  26. SvartaSjael says:

    You perfectly, perfectly, perfectly nailed the (non-existent) point of Dancing and Dance music. I completely agree with everything you said – and I’m only 20, and female, which probably means I’m actually supposed to be into this sort of things. I’ve been to discos maybe 3 times in my life and I never even got close to having a good time there. I sat, smoked and starred at the dancing crowd in enormous amusement, being glad I was not in there making an idiot out of myself, which is the only expression of it, in my eyes. I do not agree with people of my or whatever age who tell you that you’re missing out on something and who think you’re of “starched” nature just because you think that there’s much better ways to have (splendidly much) fun than by hopping around in ridiculous ways.

    I do enjoy music even more than I enjoy watching a movie or reading a good book, but it’s a pain in the arse to witness the abuse of ‘music’ for the purpose of providing 15-minutes looping beat tracks to shake one’s bottom to.

    So, dito!
    I absolutely love your podgrams. Looking forward to the next one very much.

  27. Steve Howard says:

    So, I guess you don’t like dancing then?

    I’m disappointed, Stephen. You waxed lyrical, metaphorical and long about how and why you are not a fan of dance, yet you took no time whatsoever to justify your assertion that “Americans are no more irony illiterate than Britons or anyone else”.

    From my own experience of living in the US for almost 4 years, and ‘dealing’ with Americans for several years before that, I must admit to reluctantly agreeing with you. But only because I hve to turn the coin over and point out that most Brits are irony illiterate too, but they just don’t know it :-)

  28. banjo says:

    :)

    I think I understand your sentiments.

    I thought of this while reading, I haven’t heard it yet, maybe you’d like it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Perpetual-Motion-Bela-Fleck/dp/B00005OSX6

    (i’m NOT being ironic. really. ;) no, really.)

    Thanks for being so open-minded towards the more rural parts of America, and thanks VERY much for the text version, i have no highspeed available where i live (rural part of America.)

  29. dark_maylee says:

    I’m suddenly reminded of a certain physics class. My physics teacher occasionally had classes when we do no physics but discuss personal problems or things that make us happy. Since half the class was facing stress over university applications, school in general, and low self-esteem, these little classes were supposed to be like our ‘therapeutic sessions’.

    Anyway, my physics teacher once asked us to each bring a favourite song. A CD would be made containing the songs chosen and one class would be dedicated to just dancing to every song, regardless of genre. Half the class was frightened and the other half only worried about which song happened to be a favourite. I was pretty frightened too. I wasn’t a good dancer and I have frequently been mocked for my own moves. They seem to be very very very bad versions of Johnny Bravo’s (no idea if you’ve ever watched that cartoon) dance moves mixed with air guitar. (I don’t play guitar.) I wasn’t skilled on the dance floor at all. Why can’t I do the Soulja Boy dance? Apart from my hatred over that song, I don’t have a lot of rhythm. I’ve never danced with a boy. At my Form 5 graduation dance, I had no date and my father was home with a bad back. I left without shaking a foot. But despite the fact that I am terrible at dancing, I don’t mind it. If I make a fool of myself, so be it. If people laugh, I don’t give a fart. I refuse to become upset over my own dancing. I’ve already been laughed at for being short, Chinese, a chess-lover and someone who does not listen to any form of Soca or R & B. Really, I was just tired of letting things bother me, so I don’t think I have the strong fear of dancing as you do. I can’t change my height and I am NOT going to try out any dance classes to improve anything. I showed up at that physics class with a pretty undanceable song by Do Make Say Think and did my little psuedo-Johnny Bravo dance even though it doesn’t match the song at all. My class danced with me. It was embarrassing but strangely memorable.

    I do want to strangle something whenever my school had to sing Lord of the Dance during mass but seriously, I’ve cringed worse. There’s another hymn: In Your Hands. I can’t find the lyrics online but they are perfectly innocent…. UNLESS YOU HEAR MY SCHOOL SING THE SONG. There’s a note that’s so fricking high, no student dares to reach unless they want to try and kill the person next to them. Whenever anyone tries to sing that note, it’s equivalent to nails on a blackboard. It doesn’t relate to dancing and if it wasn’t for that one note, your eardrums wouldn’t be damaged and it would be tolerable to listen. Still, the note exists and everytime I leave the chapel with my hair standing I almost, almostalmost wish that the Lord of the Dance was sung instead… almost.

    I didn’t think this would be a long comment.

    P.S. When I was in Hong Kong I saw Feist’s latest video for ‘I Feel It All’. I love this video simply because she looked like she was dancing without any care if anyone was watching or making fun of her. She was dancing and singing as if she was home alone.

  30. crystal041282 says:

    It pleases me to no end to witness my favorite Briton standing up for the American people. We aren’t all as loathsome as our politicians….

    There’s a musician out of Charleston, South Carolina called Jay Clifford who has been providing the Southeastern United States with beautiful poetry (which peeks ever so casually over rock rhythms and phrasing) since the early 90′s. His new album “Driving Blind” has several tracks that are quite enjoyable. “Dissolves” is unadulterated magic. His music can be heard at myspace.com/jaycliffordmusic.

  31. NeilHoskins says:

    Thank you for dancing your way through another podgram. The verbal leaps, glissades, pliés, and pirouettes were joyous to behold.

    (Hands up if you’re American and don’t get that.)

  32. Gluben says:

    Dancing leaves me quite cold too, especially in such a crowded atmosphere. Thousands of eyes are focused on you because you have just revealed you cannot dance, and someone else has chirped in with “Go on, give it a try!”. Before long, people begin the inevitable chant of “Dance, dance, dance, dance…” and you are forced to move your feet awkwardly, twist your arms in an extraordinary way.

    It’s the current fascination with dancing on television as well. I think it started with those idents on BBC1, with all those dancers in red and white doing Capoeira or Haka or Ballet or whatever it was, in a shameful attempt to make the channel appear ‘diverse’ and ‘multi-cultural’. Urgh. I hated those idents with a venomous passion, and still do. The hot air balloon before it, which glided dreamily over numerous landscapes was easily adaptable and exuded a sense of authority and grandeur, while simultaneously uniting all parts of Great Britain. Nation shall speak unto nation indeed.

    But I digress. This unhealthy obsession with dancing soon persisted with programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, itself a revival of the ballroom-dancing show some 30 years earlier. I have no desire to dance, nor do I wish to see soap stars and athletes doing the same and wasting the public’s money. It is a pointless endeavour which, to my bemusement, continues each and every year. At least the X Factor competition, as much as I detest it, has some goal at the end of it. But now we have Dance Fever, Dancing on Ice, and, worst of all, a Eurovision Dance Contest (even though the Song Contest is probably more about the dancing anyway).

    So thank you, Stephen, for highlighting a concern of mine which has bothered me for some time and which you agree with.

  33. Carrie Uff says:

    Very entertaining podgram. My husband and I listened it on our squeeze box, what better way to spend a lazy Saturday morning in Portland, OR (not ME for those Mainers out there.) It’s a lovely spring day, with sunny skies and rain-soaked streets.

    I’d never heard America called an “Irony free zone” while in the UK, but it does shed some light on an incident a couple years ago in Stratford-upon-Avon. My sister and I were enjoying a nice English breakfast in our B&B when we overheard an older English couple discussing (a bit loudly) how “ironic” it was that Shakespearian actors in the UK like Patrick Stewart had to go to America to make their fortune. Sigh. The devilish part of me wished my sister and I had begun a discussion on the misuses of irony, but instead we contented ourselves with poking fun at them in the privacy of our own room after breakfast.

    Enjoy the rest of our trip through the US.

  34. rademisto says:

    Ingrid, Hi! I would like to agree with you and perhaps lead dear Mr Fry towards the works of the choreographer George Balanchine (1904 – 1983) and his New York City Ballet Company. He used Beethoven’s works a number of times, quite well enough to counter River Phoenix’s character saying that a person could not dance to Betthoven.
    Specifically, “Les Creatures de Prometheus”, a ballet actually composed by Beethoven early in his career, and a century later used by Balanchine and Serge Lifar with new, choreography, premiered in 1929 with Paris Opera Ballet at Theatre National de l’Opera, Paris. Serge Lifar was a dancer with Diaghilev if I remember correctly, and he danced at the premier, with Olga Spessivtseva, a lovely but rather fragile dancer who sadly had a nervous breakdown cutting short her career as a dancer and thereafter.

    So, er, um, just wanted to point out that you can dance to Beethoven. Other “contemporary” choreographers have had differing successes with Schoenberg and even Stockhausen.

  35. Gertrude Susanne says:

    Having grown up in a city where you are traditionally sent to a dancing school at the age of 17 (my generation at least, nowadays they are probably even younger) and having spent a grand total of about 2 years going to weekly dance lessons (where flailing arms and hopping and bopping is an absolute no-no), I can assure you: there is nothing more comforting than the knowledge that the lovely atmosphere of the evening won´t be spoiled as a result of being whirled around the dance floor to the hm-ta-ta of “The Blue Danube” et al. (uplifting as the music per se may be) and feeling nauseous after about 15 seconds – thanks to the gentleman who took you to the ball deeply abhoring dancing … furthermore, it takes a strong RIGHT arm to make sure the girl does not end up hurling across the dance floor, knocking any couple in her trajectory flying as well! (Now how is that for an excuse from now on, eh? But do hope your recovery is a speedy one, you did look fantastic on 2/3/08!). Thus, don´t feel bad about your dislike for dancing… just sit back and enjoy the music :o) GSK

  36. ifeelunusual says:

    Dancing is so overrated for those of us born without the dancing gene. I always look stupidly spastic if I try to dance, so I just obstain! Thank you for your brilliantly phrased insights. They are always worth a read. ~S.Le

  37. canis rufus says:

    First, thank you for helping to show the rest of the world that there is more to the U.S. than that which comes out of Hollywood and Washington, D.C. I am looking forward to watching the documentary :-)

    Second, I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard when you started going off about dancing–mostly because I loathe it too! And getting dragged on the dance floor–ugh. I love music, in most forms, but I would just rather sit, listen, and enjoy it than to work up a sweat.

    Well done on the second Podgram, Stephen :-)

  38. idyla says:

    I’m so happy! After an awful long day of shopping, I come home to see I can listen to a new podgram! Yay!

    I can totally empathize with the earlier poster, I, too, took years of dance lessons and when I went on a school cruise, I could not ‘dance’ either. Sure, my bourée might have been the best in the class, but when it came to ‘real life’ dancing, I stink! Fortunately, most everyone else I have encountered stinks as well, but I tend to prefer dancing in the privacy of my own room now to more classical works for enjoyment/exercise and excluding ‘dancing’ from my social calendar.

    The absolute worst is hearing the dreaded “You’ve had lots of dance lessons, so what’s the problem?!” The problem is, that’s not the dancing I learned!!!

  39. alessandra.j says:

    I’m afraid I must disagree with you, Mr. Fry, about not being able to dance to Beethoven, and that pains me because that then requires me to agree with that oh-so-jolly fellow, Richard Wagner. Wagner called the Seventh Symphony the “apotheosis of dance,” did he not? (Is it too much to hope that you or a cheeky researcher/producer used a clip from the fourth movement of this piece on purpose in the podcast?) I believe Wagner once made Liszt play the entire symphony on piano while he danced, just to prove his point! One can only imagine that particular spectacle.

    And, yes, Beethoven did write a ballet, as was pointed out above. Music from the finale of the Creatures of Prometheus was reused, of course, as the finale of the Eroica Symphony, so I’m eternally grateful that Beethoven tried his hand at the genre. But it’s not my favorite piece by any means. No, the Seventh Symphony perhaps remains the best example of “danceable” Beethoven because there is something so overwhelmingly joyous about it. (Erm, that is, if one disregards the second movement. One can, however, still dance to that movement.) How could anybody possibly sit still during that piece? I can’t say that I like the idea of Beethoven being forced to sit quietly in a chair, even if that’s what we force him to do every time we go to a classical music concert. That’s why I enjoy playing in an orchestra so much–you can and indeed must be a bit more physical when you’re playing! But listening to music like that is an individual experience, I’ll agree with that. There’s nothing like losing yourself in Beethoven.

    On the other hand, I can’t abide singing in public. I can sit through opera or musicals without a problem, but the moment people start singing in public I go absolutely insane. Karaoke is my absolute worst nightmare. I don’t like dancing in large groups, to tell you the truth. I’d rather make a fool of myself alone in my room and have fun doing it, thank you very much.

    Sorry, I just love talking about Beethoven in any shape, way, or form.

  40. lexid523 says:

    Carrie, you should have pointed out how “ironic” it was that despite how loudly British people like to lord Shakespeare over Americans as a synecdoche of every thing that makes British culture superior to American culture, that it was an American who spearheaded the campaign to rebuild the Globe Theatre.

    (And then watch them clam up as they realize that they actually know nothing about Shakespeare and you clearly do. I’ve done it, it’s fun!)

  41. Phil Brown says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Thank you for putting into words what I have seem to have consistently failed to explain to my girlfriend when she asks “But why won’t you dance? Just once? For me?” Etc. She will be subscribing and re-educated as soon as possible, I can only hope.

  42. zfiledh says:

    I’ll use both eyes and ears to absorb your blessays, my good man. :)

    “This is all a weakness, failing, problem, phobia, hang-up with me. It is something to do with physical shame, clumsiness, self-consciousness, pride in privacy, lack of co-ordination, all of which have culminated in a huge and insuperable hatred of losing physical self-control, in jumping in and joining in.”

    That pretty much sums up my life, psyche, and personal philosophy. Thank you for wrapping it up in a nicely verbose and pretty package! :)

    I can’t dance to save myself, to be quite honest. I’ll join you in listening and watching on the sidelines. :)

  43. Susan P. says:

    I find the juxtaposition of the commentary re irony and the dance issues reminding me of what it is like to be somewhat out of it; starting on one topic and then suddenly making a grand conceptual leap or two before focusing energetically onto something else.

    The comments on irony presume, don’t they, that irony is a behaviour or trait worth having. If one doesn’t value irony then saying “Americans don’t display irony” isn’t a negative at all is it?

    But why do people say this? Is it because many situation comedies and so forth emerging from the US don’t appear to favour the same ironic humour as that emerging from the UK? I’m sometimes puzzled why we simply cannot accept difference. Why we have to apply values of worth or one up power to different views and ways of being.

    In Australia, there are a group of comedians who, at the end of a particular annual show, sell ‘product’. It’s for charity so they use the opportunity to basically send the item up. An example would be rabbiting on about (this is an imagery item) “Man Chick Ties” and then telling the audience what a load of crap they are and how badly made. It’s a humour we recognise here and it doesn’t necessarily deflect audience view of, in this case, the potential value of the ties at all. I have been told by someone in US marketing that this simply wouldn’t happen say in radio there.

    So, I could say, “Americans do not utilise or offer extrapolated send-up comedy at all in advertising”. Why does that have to be good or bad?

    You then moved to talking about cliche portrayals of culture. Point taken, but further down you discourse some of the music – the rockabilly, bluegrass et al concepts or genre. Where is the line between cliche and facts or factual examples? As I read your later list, which I know is reflecting fact, it seemed to be a potential list of cliches also. I just find this interesting.

    As to dance..I don’t dance either..I have tried (like 30 years ago) and felt humiliated within myself and knew I looked a complete idiot. But I do have rhythm. I can tap out two beats with one hand while waiting at traffic lights. But one can dance to Beethoven. I guess one could also dance to a Gregorian chant in stilted quiet madrigal style if one was so moved. I admire watching dance in the same way I may enjoy someone at the Olympics twirling round and round ready to let go the shot-putt. I admire expertise and artistry at most things. I find some contemporary dance absolutely agonising and boring as heck. Then again, I have caught an art film on dvd at someone’s home and thought..lordy, what is THIS all about??

    But for each of us I think there is something excruciating in life that we cannot bear. For you it is dance. I cannot read Kathy Lette’s work without feeling extremely harassed and embarrassed. I cannot watch Schindler’s List without sobbing within a few scenes. I’ve come to accept those issues without too much forensic examination.

    I enjoyed reading yours though.

  44. robertas says:

    Mr. Fry, I’m too tired to download the latest podgram, something to do with lugging my suitcase through the streets of Norwich in the early hours today, but I will get to it as soon as I can manage to plug my brain properly…

    After my long weekend I think I understand why you wax so lyrical about your home county :) I have traveled a fair bit and I have even lived in England for a while, but never in my life have I met people that are so kind, considerate and open hearted… what is in them waters? :) I’m totally smitten with East Anglia and its people…
    From the bus driver, to the pub landlord, to the taxi driver and the bouncer – literally everyone was so kind to us I’m still in shock… and we did manage to make some friends as well :) anyhow I’ll write more about it tomorrow…
    And we did find the Kingdom beach, breathtaking… quite a trek I have to say (especially without the wellies) that left the sand in most unseemly places :)
    Oh and we have sent you a little care package through your agent, I do hope it will find you eventually…
    Ok time to unpack and hit the shower and then I can concentrate on the podgram… :)

  45. Crusader says:

    Incest and folk dancing.. I’ve always wondered who actually said that.

    I can feel your pain, Stephen. I feel quite the same way about karaoke singing. I can fair well sing in my own privacy, hum in the shower or while driving a car and exceptionally, in presence of one or two friends but out in public with a microphone and loudspeakers? Not in my lifetime.

    When it comes to dancing, I have to say that I enjoy it but I’ve noted that only when drunk and that is of course because I *think* I can dance (and the people around me are at least as drunk so they don’t care). I remember once watching people on a dance floor, all more or less drunk, and thinking to myself that if I look just as idiotic as them while doing it (and why wouldn’t I) I will not not enter a bar that owns a dancefloor if I’m under the influence.

    This podcast came with flashbacks to Moab is my Washpot and Peter’s Friends.

  46. Tree Top Piru says:

    Hey, hey, hey Stev-o – two things:
    1) You didn’t seem to mind dancing when you used to make the cocktails at the end of “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”. In fact I thought you used to tear the place up with your Electric Slides and thrusting pelvis. When you’re next at some crazy line dancing gin-joint and you’re asked to dance – just do the cocktail dance and I guarantee you won’t be asked again.
    2) I know you appreciate and love the English language in all it’s many, varied forms but, “…from the get go”? Sweet Moses, that is just unacceptable. I think you need to stay away from the US before you start screaming, “Good job guys!” whenever anyone does anything at all.

  47. fourstar says:

    Throughout my school years, I genuinely thought he was the “…Lord of the dance settee”.

    Dancing whilst sitting down? Brilliant!

  48. PeterDavis says:

    “Classical music is there to be listened to”, you say, and “You can’t dance to Beethoven”. Yes indeed, but doesn’t all music sort of derive from the dance (including, distantly, Gregorian chant)?
    To my feeble mind, one of the defining features of most – but not all – classical music is not that it’s undanceable-to but that it is composed rather than doodled. I like, in the nicest possible way, a touch of discipline, and get instantly bored by the self-indulgent improvised witterings of, say, much modern jazz. Oddly enough, I enjoy Indian music which is also improvised, but I suspect that the ragas impose considerable discipline (cf a poem vs free verse).
    And as for there being, as you say, “no back beat” in classical music, I agree. Thank goodness for that. What good tune needs a mindless and superfluous addition of a backing beat?
    Bah, humbug!

  49. Susan P. says:

    Tree Top Piru.. good point re the cocktail dance…

    And “awesome”. ;-)

    Tho, wherever I am on the earth, please god do not put a gum chewer next to me…annoys me NO end. Constant loud mastication does nothing for my nerves at all.

  50. Stuart Langridge says:

    On the bandwidth front, the Internet Archive (archive.org) can handle the bandwidth, and it makes it very easy to get at the downloads for everyone (including people who can’t get at iTunes). The Internet Archive has tons of films and public domain audio for download, as well as a mirror of the whole web going back about ten years, and they’re keen to help people host this sort of thing.

    —-

    Producer’s note, Andrew here. We’ve got excellent bandwidth hosting provided by The Positive Internet Company. Thanks for the offer though.

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