I’ve come back from my holiday so it’s time to ramble on about some holiday stories, holiday vocabulary, podcast stats and other bits and pieces including an appearance by my daughter.
Talking to my brother about some click-bait topics, with stories, beliefs and a few celebrity impressions. Links, transcripts and videos available.
Hello listeners, how are you?
This episode is called CONSPIRACIES / UFOs / LIFE HACKS with James and I’m going for the full Joe Rogan clickbait title here, as you will see later.
I’ve said before that I wonder if clickbait titles actually work (I think they do) and whether I should use them (still not sure). I guess we will find out with this episode, which is a rambling conversation with my brother.
Clickbait, by the way, is any content on the internet which is designed just to get you to click it – usually with some sensational title or a promise of amazing exclusive information which is often not actually included. Usually they’re there as bait for clicks which ultimately will be turned into advertising revenue.
E.g. (for example)
“Dermatologists hate her new skin care routine that will save you thousands”
“Why Jabba The Hutt is the key to the Skywalker bloodline in ways you couldn’t imagine”
“10 Life Hacks guaranteed to change the way you live forever”
“Proof that aliens have already landed, and are living among us”
“7 Secrets about COVID-19 that the government don’t want you to know”
“These simple Language Hacks will help you speak like a native OVERNIGHT”
I hate clickbait but as an online content creator I am drawn to and fascinated by the impact of attention grabbing, wildly sensational titles. They obviously work, that’s the thing, because they’re everywhere. But a lot of the time I find clickbait titles annoying and even depressing because it’s so devious and also hackneyed. Anyway…
I’ve gone with the simple: “Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks” as a title. It’s clickbait-ish, with certain buzzwords that seem to attract attention. But really this is just a bit of a joke as you will hear in the episode.
Let’s see if it makes any difference.
What are you going to listen to in this episode then?
The other evening I called my brother James and I started recording our conversation before he answered the call, which I probably shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t expecting a podcast recording this time. But I pressed record before he’d picked up and what resulted was a spontaneous chat that ended up going all Joe Rogan as we talked about UFOs, conspiracy theories and life hacks.
First of all there’s a bit of a catch up and a chat about the COVID situation and how James has been handling it, and then we get on to some of the major topics of our time, including whether we are alone in the universe, how to cook poached eggs, how to walk up stairs, how not to make “British Tea”, The Beatles meeting Elvis, some sketchy impressions of celebrities, a dodgy chair and what you should do with overripe bananas.
I hope you enjoy it. I will be back at the end to chat to you again with some music going in the background as usual.
But now, let’s call my brother and see what happens…
I hope you enjoyed that. It was really silly in the most fun way possible. I’m glad I recorded it.
This tune in the background is one of James’ own, made on the Akai MPC2000. Those of you who work for the Akai consumer electronics company – James’ MPC2000 is currently on the floor of his living room, with the top off and all the circuits and boards visible. It’s not looking good. There’s something wrong with it and he needs a new one. So, if you’re in a position to provide him with an Akai MPC1 that would definitely help him to help the podcast by providing more background music. Just get in touch with the show if you’d like to help out and we will dedicate a special episode just to the wonderful Akai company and their delightful music making machines!
If you like James’ stuff check out his Soundcloud page where you can hear most of them
As you may know, James is also a DJ and since his MPC broke, he did a brand new LEP DJ set using his record decks and some new vinyl that he got recently. That special, exclusive DJ mix is now available on the page for this episode, it’s also available on the Music Mixes page on my website. Check it out there and have a listen. You’ll hear James introducing the tunes, speaking to you and DJing some music. Alternatively, get the Mixcloud app for your phone and listen to it there.
Here’s a link to James’ Mixcloud page with music mixes across various genres, including Drum & Bass, dub, punk, hip hop and so on
Music and comedy mixes (mostly done by me) on my website
Includes these shows:
Moto Mix (with plenty of silly improvisations, characters and voices by James and me)
Have you heard any conspiracies about COVID-19?
Have you ever seen a UFO?
Do you believe aliens exist?
Do you think they’ve made contact with us yet?
Who do you think might be posing as an alien in the world?
Do you think I might be an alien?
Do you have any good life hacks?
More Life Hacks (to justify the title)
OK, here are a few more life hacks. 5 fairly good ones I just found online, just in case you feel there weren’t enough life hacks in this episode.
This meaning of “hack” is something that makes your life easier – it’s like a solution to a problem in life. We talk about life hacks, learning hacks for language learners – simple little tricks you can apply that make your learning more successful.
I think you know what life hacks are then, so here are 5 more half-decent ones just to make sure you don’t feel undersold by the title of the episode, which is not a sentence that many internet content creator feel the need to say very often is it. “Oh yes, after all this video doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, sorry about that” – something you never hear. But I like to be different, so here we go.
Noel Gallagher story about champagne
“Arr kid” means his brother Liam
(Liam had a fork in a pint of milk because he thought it would keep it fresh)
That’s the end of this episode, have a lovely morning, day, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you next time!
Asking Andy questions from a speaking task in the English File Intermediate course book and chatting about eating habits, TV series, Liverpool & Tottenham in the European Champions’ League and music we’ve been listening to recently including some stories about Steely Dan and The Beatles. Intro & ending transcripts + Videos available below.
Hello and welcome back to the podcast. How are you? You’re doing alright?
How’s the weather? Not too rainy I hope. Sunny? Bit cloudy? Windy?
OK, that’s the small talk, the chit chat out of the way. But enough of this idle banter, let me introduce the episode.
This is part 2 of a conversation I had with Andy Johnson. You should probably listen to part 1 first, if you haven’t already done so.
In this part I ask Andy some questions from a speaking exercise from English File Intermediate 3rd Edition, a book I’ve been using with some intermediate classes I’ve been teaching at the British Council.
I’ve been helping my students practise their grammar, pronunciation and speaking using this book and I thought it would be interesting to ask Andy some questions that my students have been discussing with the aim of practising “used to” and other ways of talking about habitual behaviour in the past or present.
So, what you’re going to hear is us using “used to” and some other bits of grammar and then rambling on in a natural way, answering these questions designed to help learners of English develop their fluency.
The topics of the questions include stuff about our eating habits, TV series we used to be addicted to (Andy gives a nice summary of The Wire and we talk a bit about how neither of us have ever watched Game of Thrones – shock horror!) and then we go on to talk about music we’ve been listening to on Spotify recently – the latest Vampire Weekend album in Andy’s case and a classic album by Steely Dan in my case. If you’re a fan of Steely Dan, then listen all the way to the end for a bit of Steely Dan chat. I’ve been listening to their stuff on repeat recently and I’ve become slightly obsessed by a couple of their songs.
We also end up talking about football at some point, specifically the dramatic and unbelievable recent events in the European Champions’ League. Barcelona and Ajax fans, I expect you’re currently feeling a bit wounded by what happened last week, but I think it’s fair to say that football fans around the world were stunned at how both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur managed to win their semi-finals against all odds, beating Barcelona and Ajax respectively. Basically, it looked like Liverpool and Spurs were both definitely going to be knocked out as they were both behind by quite a few goals each, but they both managed to come back in spectacular fashion, winning their games and going through to the final. That description doesn’t quite do it justice. Those of you who saw the games will know that they were somehow two of the most astonishing moments of football in recent memory, certainly for us Europeans.
Right then, so now you’re prepped for the rest of the conversation, let’s get started.
Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll see a script for this introduction and some more bits and pieces including a load of recommended YouTube videos relating to the music we talk about. Oh and one more thing – bonus points for anyone who manages to notice the sound of a hoover in the background during this conversation. You might hear a hoover (a vacuum cleaner) at one point and you might think “Where’s that coming from? Is that someone hoovering in my house or something? I SAY! WHO’S HOOVERING?” Well, it was our cleaner who comes round once a week and was doing some hoovering outside my room while I was recording this. Hopefully you won’t notice, but just in case – there you go. So, extra bonus points for anyone who notices the sound of my flat being cleaned in the background.
All right then, let’s go!
Thanks again to Andy for being a great guest on the podcast as usual, and also a special thanks to my cleaner for doing the hoovering in the background.
Any comments you have – leave them on the page for this episode and Andy might well reply to you. He quite often does that when he’s been on the podcast.
Before we finish, I would like to just clarify something I said near the end of the conversation about drummer Bernard Purdie. It just seems important somehow.
At the end there you heard us talking about a drummer called Bernard Purdie who played drums on some Steely Dan songs back in the 70s. I said that Purdie was a compulsive liar who claimed to have played on some Beatle records. This is actually a bit of a legendary story in the world of music, especially for Beatle fanatics like me.
I’d like to just fact check this or clarify this a bit, because I don’t want to spread misinformation and I would like to be fair to Bernard Purdie. He’s one of my drumming heroes. Long term listeners might remember that he appeared in episode 88 of this podcast, which was called How to play the drums. He wasn’t a guest on the show, unfortunately. I mean, I just played some audio of him talking about one of his drumming techniques. Episode 88 is in the archive of course.
So here’s the story of Bernard Purdie and The Beatles.
The facts as far as I know are that Purdie once said that he’d played drums on 21 Beatle songs (we’re not sure which ones exactly) and that the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was in the studio when he did it. We think he means he overdubbed drums on some of the songs, but he’s never been 100% clear about it. in fact his story changed quite a lot over the years, which makes it seem like he’s lying.
He also said that there were 4 drummers who played in the Beatles, and Ringo wasn’t one of them.
For any Beatle fans, those are slightly outrageous claims to make.
Which 21 songs is he talking about?
Ringo didn’t play the drums in the Beatles?
What’s he talking about?
Also, this isn’t just some nutter with no credentials. Purdie was a bona fide legend of the drumming world. His drumming was amazing. One of the best funk, soul & RnB drummers ever. His work was outstanding, he was recognised for it and was highly respected as a session musician.
Also, looking at interviews and drum tutorial videos he did, he seems to be a jovial, friendly, big hearted person.
So I was a bit unfair when I said he was a compulsive liar.
He might have misremembered events from his life, or perhaps made a mistake that he just didn’t repair over the years. Perhaps he was just saying something outrageous in order to give himself a bit of publicity as a drummer, which worked because, well people are still talking about it.
The truth of the matter is that he did overdub drums on some recordings featuring John, Paul and George, but they weren’t recorded under the Beatle name, and they were songs the boys recorded while living in Hamburg, Germany in 1961.
Beatle fans will know those songs as the Tony Sheridan recordings, the most famous one being “My Bonnie” which was a minor hit at the time. The Beatles – John, Paul, George and Pete Best played as the backing band to Tony Sheridan who was a singer working in Germany at the time. They recorded 7 songs. This is before the Beatles were famous and before Ringo replaced Pete Best in the group. Before Brian Epstein turned round to him one day and said “I don’t know how to turn round and tell you this Pete, but the boys have turned round and told me they don’t want you to be in the group any more”, or something along those lines. I digress…
Later on, when the Beatles (with Ringo installed on drums) had become a massive sensation, the Tony Sheridan recordings were acquired by a record company in the USA and they wanted to re-release them under the Beatle name, but the drums didn’t sound good enough in their opinion.
They were too quiet in the mix and there was no bass drum sound. So they got a studio drummer to record drum tracks over the top of the 7 Tony Sheridan songs. That studio drummer was Bernard Purdie. So, he did overdub drums on some songs, but not the 21 songs he claimed before, and they weren’t really Beatle songs, they were Tony Sheridan songs, with the Beatles playing in the background.
And, the thing about the Beatles having 4 drummers but Ringo wasn’t one of them… God knows what he meant. Maybe he was alluding to the fact that Ringo wasn’t the drummer on the Sheridan tapes, and also the fact that there are a few other Beatle songs in which Ringo isn’t the drummer. Some of the tracks on the White Album feature Paul as the drummer, and there’s a version of Love Me Do, the Beatles’ first single, which has a session musician called Andy White playing the drums, because producer George Martin wasn’t convinced by Ringo at the time.
So, just a bit of fact checking there, for the record and for the music fans listening.
Purdie wasn’t really a compulsive liar, but he didn’t exactly tell the truth either. But what is certain is that he was a brilliant drummer.
I have to give credit to a YouTube video by FabFourArchivist which I watched and which gave me those facts. If you’re interested in music and these sorts of stories, you might enjoy it. The video is on the page for this episode.
Going back to Steely Dan, that band that we talked about before. I have a few other videos to recommend to you if you’re a fan of theirs or if you’re interested in stories about how songs are made and recorded.
First, I’ll put a video of the song Deacon Blues with lyrics so you can check it out, listen to the song and try to work out what the lyrics all mean.
Then there’s a brilliant video essay by a YouTuber called Nerdwriter1 which is all about how Steely Dan wrote and recorded the song Deacon Blues and what it all means. It’s a very well made video and is fascinating.
And you heard me talking about the Steely Dan Classic Albums documentary which is on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing pleasure, including the scenes with drumming legend Bernard Purdie.
I’d like to thank Andy for coming back on the podcast. He’s always a great guest.
That’s it for this episode. Let me just give you a gentle reminder that you might want to become a premium subscriber. I’ve got premium episodes in the pipeline for this month that include some explorations into vocabulary that has turned up in episodes of the podcast. That means you’ll get audio English lessons teaching you real, natural vocabulary, with all the usual things like PDF worksheets with tests, pronunciation drills and all that good good stuff. And of course, when you become a premium subscriber you get instant access to the entire back catalogue of premium episodes, which is ever growing. I put a lot of work and time into my premium content, and it’s available at what I consider to be a very competitive price! Just like buying me a nice cup of coffee every month from my local coffee place, maybe with a nice bit of carrot cake too if I fancy it, and why not? www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Thanks for listening and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.
I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.
For now though, it’s just time to say bye bye bye bye bye…
Ajax fans turn from celebration to devastation as they watch their team get knocked out of the Champion’s League.
Cory Henry jams with one of Bernard Purdie’s drum tutorial videos
Bernard talks about The Purdie Shuffle – “I’m gonna SPLAIN ya!”
Bernard Talks about his “Ghost Notes” (previously heard in episode 88)
Talking about the creepy subject of eating insects, which might be the solution to many of the problems that humans face as a species. This episode includes discussion of eating habits, environmental issues and some insect-related idioms and expressions. Transcripts and vocabulary lists available. Bon appetit!
Hello Lepsters! Here’s a new episode of this podcast which is dedicated to providing you with listening materials which are engaging, entertaining, educational and rich with language.
This episode is all about the creepy, yet potentially vital subject of eating insects.
It’s based on a couple of news stories, and also will contain some nice, chewy and nutritious bits of vocabulary and common expressions with words relating to insects and creepy crawlies, the environment, food and more.
And you thought English food was bad enough already – now this.
Grub Kitchen – the UK’s first insect restaurant has opened in Haverfordwest in Wales.
Dishes include: bug burgers, mealworms, grasshoppers and cheesy locust croquettes.
Read the first 3 paragraphs, and the last paragraph.
“Waiter, there’s a fly in my …” is a typical joke in the UK. It’s like a cliched restaurant complaint and usually has a funny response from the waiter. “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup”.
Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?
My brother once found a fly in his cake in a restaurant in our home town. He complained and the waiter said “that’ll be extra sir”.
Imagine if you didn’t realise it was an insect restaurant.
“Waiter, excuse me, there appears to be an insect in my salad.”
“Yes, that’s right, it’s the grasshopper salad. Would you like some salt and pepper, or should I say, wasp eyes and ant heads?”
What do you think?
What’s his recipe? (answer below)
Pan fry the locusts. Enhance the flavour with honey, a little bit of chilli, fry it in a little bit of butter.
Flavour of locusts: almost meaty, like a prawn. Effectively, they’re are basically a land prawn.
Pull the legs off. They tend to get stuck in the throat sort of.
— Charlotte Payne (@libertyruth) October 22, 2015
— Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm (@thebugfarmUK) October 30, 2015
Listen to this video from The Economist and try to identify some reasons why insects might be the answer to our problems. We’ll go through the language afterwards.
The world’s population is projected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century. Feeding that many people will be a challenge, and it is further complicated by the impact of climate change on agriculture. That is why some people advocate an unusual way to boost the food supply and feed people sustainably: by eating less meat, and more insects.
About 2 billion people already eat bugs. Mexicans enjoy chili-toasted grasshoppers. Thais tuck into cricket stir-fries and Ghanians snack on termites. Insects are slowly creeping onto Western menus as novelty items, but most people remain squeamish. Yet there are three reasons why eating insects makes sense.
First, they are healthier than meat. There are nearly 2,000 kinds of edible insects, many of them packed with protein, calcium, fibre, iron and zinc. A small serving of grasshoppers can contain about the same amount of protein as a similar sized serving of beef, but has far less fat and far fewer calories.
Second, raising insects is cheap, or free. Little technology or investment is needed to produce them. Harvesting insects could provide livelihoods to some of the world’s poorest people. (what a great job!)
Finally, insects are a far more sustainable source of food than livestock. Livestock production accounts for nearly a fifth of all greenhouse-gas emissions – that’s more than transport. By contrast, insects produce relatively few greenhouse gases, and raising them requires much less land and water. And they’ll eat almost anything.
Despite all this, most Westerners find insects hard to swallow. One solution is to use protein extracted from bugs in other products, such as ready meals and pasta sauces. Not having to look at the bugs, and emphasising the environmental benefits, might make the idea of eating insects a bit more palatable.
For more video content from The Economist visit our website: econ.st/1ytKwbp
Here are the reasons, based on a YouTube video from The Economist (video and transcript on my website, above). This bit has been paraphrased by me from the video.
I’d love it if the world embraced this idea and didn’t just go – “No, I don’t want it! Screw the planet! I’m not eating a worm!” It would be amazing if the whole human race just went with it and said “yep, this is fine. Bring on the insects, let’s get crazy! It’s dinner time!”
Because the thing is, you probably wouldn’t be eating insects the way they normally look. We’d harvest the insects and then basically turn them into a kind of protein powder which could be turned into all sorts of other things. Generic matter which could be made into a burger, mince meat, chicken nuggets or anything.
I can’t wait for McDonald’s to launch its first bug burger.
You could check the transcript (above) and repeat what you hear.
Talking to my dad, mum and brother about all manner of topics, including:
Space, climbing mountains, British comedy, fishing, earworms, tattoos, David Beckham, jokes, citizenship tests, baby monkeys, ghosts and celebrity impressions. Intro and outtro transcripts available.
Hello folks, how are you doing? It’s been a while!
It’s August. Things are quiet. We’re between holidays. Going away for another couple of days next week and then things get back into full swing again in September.
We spent some time in the south of France not far from where my wife and I got married, and while we were down there we met up with my parents and my brother.
One evening last week, after consuming a delicious dinner (with some wine) we decided to record an episode of the podcast so that you can join us at the dinner table with some slightly silly banter and discussion with the Thompson family.
Baldness, Space, climbing mountains, British comedy, fishing, earworms, tattoos, David Beckham, losing your marbles, jokes, games, citizenship tests, baby monkeys, ghosts and celebrity impressions.
The episode is ripe with descriptive language, linking words and specific grammatical constructions for a range of purposes, including building an argument, describing something and just having fun and joking around. So listen carefully to follow the conversation, pick up some nice language and just enjoy being part of the fun. Also, you can experience the pleasant voices and accents of my family.
I hope you enjoyed being with us at the table there for our after dinner session of talking rubbish, all presented for your listening pleasure and as an opportunity for you to learn some real English as it is spoken by my family.
This would make a great premium episode. There’s a lot of good language to be revealed and explained here. Each episode is a source of great natural language, but you might not notice or at least might not have time to look up every single new word or be able to identify all the parts of specific expressions and their real meanings. With LEP Premium I do all of that for you. I’ll highlight vocabulary and expressions, particularly the structures which are harder to notice but essential to know. Things like phrasal verbs, idioms, preposition collocations and gerunds and infinitives. THere’s also grammar and pronunciation. Each episode has a pdf and a quiz at the end so you can test yourself and check your learning.
At the moment there are about 5 full episodes in various parts, a couple of videos and part 6 coming up very soon. You can think of these as study packs for LEP, where I hold your hand and make sure you can pick up this essential natural language so you can boost your English to a higher level.
To register go to teacherluke.co.uk/premium. There you can sign up. It costs about the same as buying me a beer or coffee once a month. Not that much. You get access to the entire premium catalogue and all future content too. Get stuck in there. teacherluke.co.uk/premium
Premium is available in the LEP app if you sign in with your premium login details. It’s also available online at teacherluke.co.uk/premium. There’s a comment section and a way to download pdfs in normal size, so check out teacherluke.co.uk for more information.
That’s it! I hope you’re having a great August. More episodes of LEP are coming soon as I have a few days, but then things might go quiet until September when everything will go back to normal.
A conversation with Paul Taylor involving several cups of tea, recipes for French crepes, our terrible rap skills, a funny old comedy song about English workmen drinking tea, some improvised comedy role plays and a very angry Paul ranting about bad customer service in France! Your challenge is to listen to this episode in public without laughing out loud, especially in the second half of the episode. Good luck, may the force be with you. Vocabulary list, song lyrics, definitions and a quiz available below.
I’m going to keep this intro as brief as possible so we can get straight into it!
This one is a conversation with friend of the podcast, Paul Taylor. It was lots of fun to record, I hope it’s also lots of fun to listen to.
There are links, videos, word lists and song lyrics with vocabulary and definitions on the episode page on the website that can help you to understand and learn more English from our conversation.
There is some swearing in this episode – some rude words and things. Just to let you know in advance.
Try not to laugh on the bus while listening to this. That might be embarrassing. That is a challenge from me to you. Try not to giggle – because everyone will look at you and will feel either jealous or confused at your public display of the joy which will be bursting forth from your heart as you listen to Paul’s infectious laughter. No giggling or cracking up in public please. Get a grip on yourself for goodness sake.
Where’s Amber? All will be revealed.
Keep listening until the end of the episode for more additional extra bonus fun.
Alrighty then, that’s all for the intro, let’s go!
A 1960s comedy record featuring some cockney workmen moving a heavy object and drinking lots of tea.
Lyrics [vocab explained in brackets]
“Right,” said Fred, “Both of us together
One each end and steady as we go.” [be careful, do it steadily]
Tried to shift it, couldn’t even lift it [move it]
We was getting nowhere [yes, it’s grammatically incorrect]
And so we had a cuppa tea and [ a cup of tea]
“Right,” said Fred, “Give a shout for Charlie.”
Up comes Charlie from the floor below.
After straining, heaving and complaining [making lots of physical effort] [complaining]
We was getting nowhere [also grammatically incorrect]
And so we had a cuppa tea.
And Charlie had a think, and he thought we ought to take off all the handles
And the things what held the candles.
But it did no good, well I never thought it would
“All right,” said Fred, “Have to take the feet off
To get them feet off wouldn’t take a mo(ment).” [those]
Took its feet off, even took the seat off
Should have got us somewhere but no!
So Fred said, “Let’s have another cuppa tea.”
And we said, “right-o.”
“Right,” said Fred, “Have to take the door off
Need more space to shift the so-and-so.” [the thing]
Had bad twinges taking off the hinges [sharp pains] [metal parts that attach the door to the wall]
And it got us nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea and
“Right,” said Fred, “Have to take the wall down,
That there wall is gonna have to go.”
Took the wall down, even with it all down
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea.
And Charlie had a think, and he said, “Look, Fred,
I got a sort of feelin’
If we remove the ceiling
With a rope or two we could drop the blighter through.” [an annoying person or thing]
“All right,” said Fred, climbing up a ladder
With his crowbar gave a mighty blow. [a heavy metal tool]
Was he in trouble, half a ton of rubble landed on the top of his dome. [broken pieces of rock] [head]
So Charlie and me had another cuppa tea
And then we went home.
(I said to Charlie, “We’ll just have to leave it
Standing on the landing, that’s all [the hallway on an upper floor]
You see the trouble with Fred is, he’s too hasty [in a hurry, rushing ;) ]
You’ll never get nowhere if you’re too hasty.”)
Listen to Alexander Van Walsum talk to Luke about how to deal with “c’est pas possible” in this episode from the archive
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That’s nearly the end of the episode, I hope you enjoyed it and you managed not to laugh out loud on the bus.
Don’t forget, you can see a list of vocabulary and expressions from this episode all on the website, including the lyrics to that song that you heard. There’s also a YouTube video of the song if you want to hear it again and make sure you’ve understood all of it. So check that out.
By the way, the mobile version of my site has now been improved thanks to a helpful listener called Sergei who gave me some CSS coding advice. So if you check the site on your phone now it should look much better than it did before, which will make it easier for you to check vocab lists, transcriptions and other content from your mobile device. Try it now – teacherluke.co.uk. You will find the link for this episode and all the others in the episode archive – just click on the menu button and then EPISODE ARCHIVE.
Don’t forget to join the mailing list on the website so you can get a link to each new episode page in your inbox when it’s published.
As I said, it’s nearly the end of the episode – but it’s not actually the end yet. There’s more. In fact, I’ve decided to give you a bonus bit at the end here, because I’m nice.
So, what’s the bonus bit?
On the day that Paul and I recorded this episode (and in fact the next one too) we also recorded ourselves improvising a short comedy sketch. I’m now going to play you that sketch.
The idea of the sketch is that I work in an office in Paris and my job is to interview ex-pats (foreign people who have moved to Paris) – I interview ex-pats for a position on a kind of scholarship programme where we subsidise their living expenses and help them integrate into the Parisian community and in return they contribute something to community in terms of work, taking part in cultural events or making any contribution that will benefit the cultural mix of Paris.
Paul plays 3 different ex-pats who have come into my office for an interview, and let’s just say that they’re not exactly the ideal candidates.
The whole thing was completely improvised, it’s full of rude language and it’s all just a bit of a laugh so here is the Ex-pat Sketch show with Paul. Have fun!
Thanks for listening to the episode everyone.
Have a good day, night, morning, afternoon or evening!
Describing my recent trip to Japan and exploring the culture of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Food & Drink
It’s simply delicious and I don’t know why! What’s the secret, Japan? Why is your food so delicious?
Communication style & language (but I’m planning a whole other episode about English)
Constant sounds of “gozaimasu”
Heeeee, hoooooo etc
Certain words you always hear and could use: arigato gozaimasu (levels of politeness) doitashimashite, sumimasen, onegaishimasu, nama biru no futatsu onegaishimasu, kawaii, sugoi, gaijin, chotto, dekimasu, desu, desu ka, hai, so desu ka, ne, so desu ne.
Weird and scary things that people don’t often talk about
Some weird sexual stuff
No need to dwell on anything else. Every country has its dark side. I guess that it seems a bit more interesting in Japan because there’s so much emphasis on the cute, childish things. Also, because of the slightly ambiguous religion in Japan it makes you wonder where the moral lines are. A lot of that stuff seems a bit vague, probably because I come from a christian culture where morality is written down in the form of rules – very clear lines which we’re always aware of.
Before coming my brother was staying with me and we watched the new Godzilla film – not the Hollywood version directed by Gareth Edwards, but the recent Japanese one directed by Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi.
What does Godzilla mean? What does it tell us about Japanese culture?
He’s created by nuclear tests in the ocean. He kind of represents the consequences of nuclear testing on nature, or the destructive power of nuclear weapons in Japan, or simply the vast destructive power of nature. At one time or another Japan has been subject to massive levels of destruction from either natural disasters or nuclear weapons. The nuclear attacks are obvious of course – but there were also nuclear tests by the US army after WW2 in waters affecting Japanese fishermen etc. The metaphor of natural disasters is easy to see. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami which affected Fukushima’s nuclear power plant – lots of scenes of destruction similar to what you see in the films. Godzilla kind of represents all of that. It’s interesting that Godzilla has been accepted as a sort of mascot in Japan. They love Godzilla, and in fact he’s sort of a protector of Japan, which I see as them owning this destructive power and turning it into something positive and uniquely Japanese.
The film also portrays the government as very inefficient and unable to make decisions quickly. So many people at various levels of status – all asking for second and third opinions and approval from above before making a decision. Some say this is a comment about the way the government responded to the Fukushima situation – slow to react, a lack of transparency, an inability to make the right decision quickly enough.
I don’t have all the answers about this place. There are a lot of mysteries. I think of all the sliding doors, the silence, the shadow, the ambiguity of the religious aspects of life, the weird things in Japanese cartoons that I just don’t understand, and simply wondering what Japanese people are really thinking behind their exterior which is hard to read, and the polite manners. Part of me believes there is just open space inside people, which is a kind of peaceful place where there’s no judgement, where there is no dogma, but there’s a kind of natural balance, like the space between rocks in a zen garden. But maybe I’m romanticising it just a little bit! I expect Japanese people are just as mysterious as the rest of us, because ultimately who does understand the secrets at the heart of the human soul?
One thing I can say is cool – I have made friends with some Japanese people in a more sincere way than many others I have met, and I’ve had moving connections with Japanese people that I don’t tend to have with others. I don’t know why. My Japanese friend for example, he said some moving things to me on my wedding day, and on the day I left Japan that seemed to come from some deep place of ancient Japanese wisdom. Yoda stuff, basically.
The basics of where we went and what we did.
Met by our friend, drove to Asakusa, sushi place. Food, beer.
Kamakura – drive – Tokyo skyline etc. Back in Kamakura – “natsukashii” – ‘good old’ or ‘Wow, it feels amazing to be back!’. Cherry blossom in the hills. Time with Moto’s family. Dinner at Matchpoint.
What is special about Karaoke?
Perfect way to have a party. There are whole buildings devoted to it in Tokyo. There are girls in the street who are like karaoke room dealers. You speak to them, book a little room. Go to the building and usually there are loads of drunken salary men pouring out of it. You get into your room – somewhere on the 9F of a big building. They bring you beer and food, direct to the room. There’s a computer database with thousands of songs on it. They’ve got everything. Everyone becomes a performer with their favourite song. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, the machine helps you a bit. Some people are brilliant. Everyone comes out of themselves a bit. It’s just you and your friends. Favourite songs get everyone in the mood. Singing is amazing fun. The videos on the machine are hilarious too – totally nothing to do with the lyrics of the song. Usually it’s a couple of people on a date in a random city. Often the lyrics are completely wrong too. We sang a lot of British pop and rock. David Bowie, Oasis and Pulp. My Japanese friend dances like Jarvis Cocker and really gets into the performance. He’s a “plastic gallagher”.
A day in Kamakura – Daibutsu, Cherry blossom avenue, noodles for lunch. Hookokuji temple & bamboo forest. Car drive to Ishiiki beach in Hayama with views of Mt Fuji. Yakitori restaurant in the evening, then another dinner of Japanese barbecue after that! Taxi ride back to the guesthouse – pristine taxi, automatic door.
Travel to Kyoto on Shinkansen. Bento boxes. Arrive in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan during many important periods and was also the base of Buddhism. Also there are plenty of Shinto temples there since it was such an important place. Impossible to see everything in just a couple of days. More yakitori that evening and a lovely stroll by the river in the dark.
Kyoto shrine day. Early start and then these temples: Ninna-ji (beautiful rock gardens and pools, plus tons of cherry blossom everywhere. Interesting buildings – It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Various interesting buildings including the Goten, the former residence of the head priest in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Built in the style of an imperial palace, the graceful buildings are connected with each other by covered corridors, feature elegantly painted sliding doors (fusuma) and are surrounded by beautiful rock and pond gardens.
Then to Ryoanji Temple – with its amazing rock garden.
Then Kinkakuji – the golden temple.
Lunch at a convenience store – just rice balls!
Then across town to Ginkakuji – where there is an amazing sand garden with a kind of replica of Mt Fuji. It’s bizarre. Crowded.
Philosopher’s Walk – cherry blossom everywhere. Also crowded :(
Some shopping for Yukata – found a place selling second-hand yukata in perfect condition. One for me, one for the wife. Lovely patterns. Not too expensive. Met a friend from London, dinner. Matsusaka beef! Apparently it’s more tender because it comes from virgin cows. What, less trauma because the cow had never had sex? How does that work? I remember being distinctly more relaxed after sex (and not just immediately after) but perhaps for cows it’s more traumatic, anyway…
Hot bath at the guesthouse in the communal area. Far less “public” than my experience in Thailand.
Next day – early start for Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of red torii gates, which cover a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.
Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.
Basically there are these trails that go up to the top of a hill and most of the way is covered by these red gates. The red tori gates are common in the entrance to shrines and represent your movement from the normal world into the spirit world. They’re beautiful and this shrine with rows of thousands of red gates is stunning. The gates are donated by local businesses.
Then more walking around and some shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Shinkansen back to Shinagawa station – meet our friend again. Hotel in the Meguro area.
Gig that evening.
I didn’t know what to expect.
No people, loads of people? Not sure.
Arrived, place was already totally packed. Got upstairs, room goes “huuuuuuu!” as I enter. People are going “luku? Luku? Heeeeee~!” Gasps etc.
Upstairs with other comics, introduce myself etc. We chat. People are surprised and going – can’t you stay? Let’s arrange other shows!
There’s a scene there but mostly for expats in English. This room was full of Japanese people (and a few others) and they’re all here for me!
I walk around upstairs trying to get myself ready, trying to decide what to do.
Audience is lovely, but I think they’re mainly waiting for me.
Apparently some people can’t get in the place. There are people in the stairs just listening.
I did about 45 minutes. Lovely audience of course. They’re lepsters. Interesting to see what worked and what didn’t work. The bits that didn’t work were some of the film references – e.g. Ratatouille, and surprisingly Taken
A lot of my routine is for a French audience. Taken is actually quite specific to a French crowd because the film is set in Paris.
Some bits the audience took on face value – like they took it as being true. E.g. some bits in my star wars routine about how my Dad is an evil strict overbearing tyrant like Darth Vader – not true, but just full of parallels about my life and Star Wars.
Especially the bits about Japan. I’ll play you some extracts later.
A few requests:
The jingle. The italki promo. Some impressions, Obama, Hobson’s Choice!
I wish I’d gone bye bye bye at the end!
Then after the show there was a massive queue of people who wanted to get my autograph. So bizarre.
Also, selfies, handshakes, talking to each person. Gifts.
It was actually an incredible experience meeting each person and hearing about how they listen to my podcast and how it obviously means a lot to them. I’m very glad to know that as always, because I put a lot into it myself.
It was bizarre – I was a celebrity for that evening, with people staring at me and taking my photo and stuff.
Rest of the trip – in Tokyo. Hanging out in Meguro avenue, Daikanyama, Shibuya, Shinjuku. Shopping, sightseeing, eating tasty food. Taking photos. Just enjoying the sunshine.
Dinner at The New York Grill – where Lost In Translation was filmed.
Another day in the Ginza area – shopping for some more gifts like tableware and stuff from Muji which is my wife’s favourite shop. Driving around the imperial palace. Views of Tokyo tower – like The Eiffel Tower but sort of misshapen and not quite as beautiful but iconic in its own way. Went up the World Trade Centre for amazing views of the sunset. Everyone on a date.
Visited a couple of friends – including one at a super cool photography studio that allows you to take 3D photos.
Shabu shabu dinner in Shinjuku with Peter who I used to live with. He was featured in this episode actually (below)
Visited Asakusa temple – one of the biggest in the Tokyo area and very crowded.
Airport and home! So quick!
You Are Here by John Lennon
Describing some thoughts about Japan after my recent visit. Exploring the culture and lifestyle in the Land of the Rising Sun.
As you know I just came back from a little holiday in Japan that I had with my wife last week. We spent about 8 days there in total and I’m going to talk about it here because I thought you might like to know about the trip. You know, sometimes I do these episodes about travelling experiences that I’ve had and they seem to be quite popular. For example, I’ve done ones about going to India, Vietnam, Indonesia, New York, different parts of France, California and Thailand. In this episode (or these episodes) I’m going to do another one, this time it’s all about my recent trip to Japan from last week.
So, here’s another travel episode with a few stories, some descriptions of places, culture and experiences and other general ramblings about my reflections on the time spent in the land of the rising sun.
For the dedicated language learners and orion team transcribers, a lot of what I’m saying is written in the form of notes and I’ll put these notes on the page for this episode. So, you can read them and check any new words you hear, or if you’re transcribing this you can use my notes, copy them into your google doc and then just fill in the blanks – the bits where I improvise details and speak “off script” which I will probably do as I go along.
No idea how long this is going to take, but it’ll take as long as it takes. I’ll divide it into several episodes if it gets too long.
I’ve done at least one episode all about Japan before. That’s number 118 “Sick in Japan”(Full transcript)
It tells the story of how I ended up sick in a hospital bed in Japan more than 15 years ago, feeling physically terrible and mentally very panicked, not knowing what was wrong with me. Do you remember? If you haven’t heard it, I recommend listening – you might enjoy it! Basically, I got very sick there and spent two weeks (even before I went to hospital) essentially lying on my bed in my apartment at home getting more and more ill, unable to eat, unable to sleep even though I was very tired, in a lot of pain from a horrible infection. Eventually I got to a doctor who agreed to treat me and after taking a blood test he informed me in slightly broken English that I had liver damage, I needed to go to hospital and I needed an operation. To be honest, his diagnosis was a bit lost in translation and it wasn’t as bad as I thought but I assumed the worst! I thought I needed a liver transplant because I had some sort of weird liver disease! I remember the first night in the hospital bed feeling like I was going to die or something, not knowing what was wrong with me, thinking that I was going to be given an operation to get a liver transplant and the worst thing was that I worrying that they would give me a Japanese liver! For some reason this scared me because I thought “Maybe it won’t work with my body and maybe I won’t be able to drink beer like I could before!” That was the worst thing – I won’t be able to drink beer! Even if I survive! Weird paranoia and fear and ridiculousness. Naturally, it turned out ok in the end, and in fact it all turned out to be part of a really great adventure. That was one experience I had during the two years I spent in Japan in 2002 and 2003. To hear the whole story listen to episode 118. It also explains a lot of the reasons I went to live in Japan in the first place and what happened to me while I was there, especially the difficulties, even though the majority of my experiences were really great.
You might be thinking, “Why didn’t you come to my country Luke? My country is a wonderful place with many fantastic things to offer. Come, Drink our favourite drinks, eat our national dishes, let me sing you the song of my people!” I’d love to visit everywhere all the time of course! But this time, it was Japan – a place where I used to live and which I’ve always wanted to return to, for my own personal reasons.
I have a connection to the place. 2 years of my life there. I made strong friendships and became attached to some specific places and things. It was hard to break away from it when I left years ago. It was an important period so I still have a connection with Japan. When I originally left Japan I thought I would never go back. I remember looking around at the places I used to go and I’d think – I may never come here ever again. That’s a strange feeling actually. When I first went to Japan I was a bit depressed and lost to be honest. When I returned I felt much more confident and positive in many areas, including work, how to live, how to connect to people, even how to perform etc. When I arrived I was feeling that there wasn’t much I could do. Everything was negative and a bit difficult. When I left I felt like I could do whatever I wanted! The place really lifted me up. Also I learned about the kindness of people and about how to relax and look after myself in the middle of chaotic stress. It was a good time and a place where things changed for me a bit, so naturally I have a soft spot for the place.
Now it’s 15 years later and I’m married. My wife loves Japanese things, she loves travelling, and I love her so I wanted to show her this important place. That was quite important to me.
Birthday – my wife wanted us to celebrate, anniversary. It was a special occasion.
In no particular order, here are some reflections on the culture, lifestyle, psychology and general feeling of life in Japan, especially Tokyo.
About 130,000,000 people – more than double the number of people in the UK or France. Just under the number of people in Russia – but consider the relative space. Greater Tokyo has about 40,000,000 people, making it the most populated city metropolis in the world. But they make it work. Despite the large number of people, the place functions very efficiently. There’s not a lot of space but it’s amazing how interiors are designed to make the most of the space they have, and how everyone manages to keep everything peaceful and tidy.
The place is 70% mountain, so a lot of people are crammed into the city areas where it’s more practical to build. Also, the country sits on a whole series of fault lines which means there are regular earthquakes, more than a thousand in a year. Not all of them are noticeable, but many of them are. Mount Fuji is the biggest mountain in the country and it looms in the distance – sometimes visible from Tokyo, much more visible from areas in Kanagawa where you can see it from the beach or you get glimpses when travelling on the train, especially in winter when the air is clear and mountain is covered in snow. It’s a spectacular and beautiful sight – symmetrical, powerful, peaceful and majestic. It’s also an active volcano, which makes it seem a little threatening and powerful. If it erupted – it would be pretty devastating. qz.com/236129/what-would-happen-if-mount-fuji-right-next-to-tokyo-erupted-for-the-first-time-in-207-years/
I’m sure this has an effect on life there, but it’s kind of below the surface. I don’t know if Japanese people really think about it a lot, or whether it bothers them when they’re alone. I don’t really know. But there’s always this feeling of “the big one could come at any time” perhaps that contributes to the uniqueness, the energy, the weird zen-like feeling of the place.
Queueing and other forms of social order. Coming from France, where public moments of conflict are very common, Japan seems incredibly orderly considering the number of people living in quite a small space. I suppose this comes from necessity – that people need to be able to get along in order for the whole system to work. Generally, people respect each other’s personal space, there’s a lot of effort made to maintain the common good. It’s almost a subconscious duty to make sure you do your bit – don’t drop litter, don’t make loud noise, don’t take up too much space, be respectful to those around you. There’s a real sense of collective consciousness in Japan. In the UK, I remember coming back from Japan feeling that everyone seemed so individualistic and ego-centric. Also I was surprised by the way some of my friends behaved in an anti-social way – speaking loudly in public places, dropping cigarette buts outside doorways and so on. People also seemed to do a lot of talking about themselves. In Japan that seems to happen less, and it’s distasteful to talk about yourself too much. These are just observations I’ve had – I might be wrong about it all, and please correct me if I am, but I feel like Japan has more of a sense of collective consciousness, and collective duty and less individualism – that’s not to say people aren’t individuals, of course they are, but people seem to just pay more attention to things that will be for the good of everyone, and as a result the place is efficient, clean, tidy and peaceful.
The charisma man
I thought I’d talk about this now, since I’m on the subject of some differences between JPN and let’s say ‘western culture’. There’s this idea of the charisma man, which used to be a comic strip popular in the expat community. It’s quite interesting and a little bit controversial but it does tell us something about the way western people (especially men) can be treated in Japan, or at least one phenomenon which can occur (not necessarily every time with everyone). What’s a charisma man?
Wikipedia: Concept of the Charisma Man
“Charisma Man” manipulates the superhero genre to ridicule the often unjustified self–confidence of some foreign men in Japan. Although something of a loser in his home country Canada—the home of Charisma Man’s creator—when around Japanese people the central character transforms from a skinny nerd into a muscle-bound hunk, extremely attractive to women and admired by men. Like other superheroes, however, Charisma Man has one major weakness: “Western Woman”. Whenever in the presence of western females his powers disappear and he becomes an unattractive, skinny wimp once more.
“Charisma Man” is thus a statement on the relationships between Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan. According to Rodney:
“The Japanese seem to see Westerners through some kind of filter. An obvious example was all the geeks I saw out there walking around with beautiful Japanese girls on their arms. These guys were probably social misfits in their home countries, but in Japan the geek factor didn’t seem to translate.
“The dichotomy between the perception of these guys in their home countries and in Japan was amazing to me. This made me think of Superman; on his home planet of Krypton, Superman was nobody special, and he certainly didn’t have superpowers. But when he arrived on earth — well, you know the rest.
“He was somebody — that was the whole premise of the first strip.”
— Larry Rodney, in a 2003 interview with the Japan Times
I still see Charisma men in Japan quite a lot. Imagine some western guy who is acting a bit arrogant and self-important when really he’s not that great. The inflated ego of a western man getting attention from Japanese women. Partly it’s a bit unfair to Japanese women, that’s what some people say. It shows two things – one being that there is a certain filter through which some Japanese people will view western men – i.e. that they see them as more impressive and charismatic than they really are (or perhaps they’re just being polite) but the other thing is the way some western guys react to the attention they get in Japan. Some blokes let it go to their heads and they end up being tiresome egomaniac would-be alpha males who let all the adulation go to their heads. This is probably why they’re not that popular in their own countries – they’re just not that nice or charming, and it becomes more obvious in Japan when you see the way these guys become smug, arrogant self-important guys with an inflated sense of ego.
It’s just interesting to note the way in which people’s perceptions of themselves and each other can change depending on the cultural context. On one hand this is kind of a bad thing, but on the other hand it’s what makes Japan so special – people do treat you well, it’s really nice to have people show interest in you and to be genuinely impressed by where you come from and to be impressed by the differences. E.g. when we told people we were from Paris and London – this seemed to be impressive information. It’s nice! I’d rather have that than be met with indifference. Even if it’s even a little bit fake (which I’m not sure it is actually – I think people are genuinely curious) even if it’s slightly fake, it’s better than genuine rudeness. So it’s a double-edged sword – it’s lovely to be considered as slightly special because you’re different, but that can go to some people’s heads and make them act a bit arrogant, it can also get a little tiring after a while when you just want to be considered as a normal person like everyone else. I remember that I used to get a little fed up with people immediately being impressed by me when they first met me. Like, “where are you from?” “I’m from London” “Oh you are so cool guy! You are a gentleman!” and I thought “Well, I’m not really. I’m just a bloke – not all that cool really, just normal, and not that much of a gentleman really.” In the UK we tend to be a little bit wary of those big compliments and in fact when you really get to know someone you tend to just take the piss out of them, even when you don’t know them and first meet them, you might take the piss quite a lot – it’s a form of bonding and friendship building.
Quietness & “zen” feeling
Japan is officially a peaceful country.
But it’s more than that. The place can be incredibly peaceful. I’m not sure where this comes from to be honest!
Excellent – the customer is god. Polite in the extreme. Attentive. Generally everything is of high quality and you’re looked after well. Can be a bit robotic though, and I find that there’s a certain kind of high-pitched woman’s voice that you hear everywhere, from machines and announcements. Also there was an actual robot at the airport.
You could eat your dinner off the floor. The metro is shiny and reflective. Many indoor places ask you to remove your shoes and this is an excellent idea.
There are no bins anywhere! But also no litter on the streets. Very few cigarette butts. They all go in little cigarette butt bins, or people put them in their own little portable ashtrays.
A lot of natural forms. Not as robotic and futuristic as you might expect. There’s a lot of wood, lots of stone. Natural forms – imperfect shapes combined with symmetrical lines. Patterns, textures and surfaces which are imperfect. E.g. the texture of stone, or wood, or rough surfaces with random patterns and textures. The same kinds you find in nature, often combined – stone, wood, moss, water. Different textures next to each other, with natural lines, shapes very neatly presented. It’s extremely satisfying and peaceful, relaxing – Zen.
This is one of Japan’s big moments in the year. There are cherry trees everywhere, especially in certain spots and when the blossom comes out in early April it’s a beautiful sight to see. It’s a delicate pink colour and it looks like snow all over the branches. It contrasts beautifully with the blue sky and when the wind blows the blossom falls from trees again like snow. It lands on the ground carpeting it and also on rivers. It’s fleeting, transient beauty of the highest order. Japanese people celebrate it by having little picnics and parties in the park in cherry blossom areas. Lovely.
Cuteness – “Fluffy bunny land”
Cuteness rules – “kawaii”
Examples: Everything has a cute logo, everything is anthropomorphised with a cute little face – bread, chicken shops, cash machines, safety rules. Everything has a cute melody – constant little melodies like the music that plays when the green pedestrian light shines, bus doors, bus stops, cash machines, some streets just play music from the lamp posts. It’s like Super Mario Land, it really is.
Everyone has cute bags, badges, pencil cases. Even the people are adorably cute. They’re quite small, sweet, laugh and giggle easily, are self-contained (neat and tidy) quite easily scared (I mean, a bit socially awkward and shy) often have quite big fluffy hair, round faces. Extremely cute and adorable, especially the kids. Basically, Japanese people – you’re like cartoon characters to me, or ewoks or teddy bears.
Is that fair? I don’t know. I don’t mean to sound patronising, but Japanese people can come across as cute in those ways. But are Japanese people like Ewoks? Maybe. I’m sure Japanese people are perfectly capable of being mean, nasty, cruel, selfish and everything like that – I’m sure I’m just applying a filter to them just like they might apply a filter to me. Who knows… But I quite like the Ewok metaphor. Ewoks are cute and loyal, but they can also be deadly can’t they! When you think about it – the ewoks are perhaps the most dangerous creatures in the Star Wars universe. They basically stopped the Galactic Empire and helped the rebels destroy the second death star. You wouldn’t want to have to fight against them would you, even if they do look like cute little fluffy bears. Also, if you remember, in Return of the Jedi the ewoks were originally planning to eat Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca, until C-3P0 stopped them. They were going to eat Luke Han and Leia. They’re vicious carnivores! Don’t underestimate them. Anyway, what I originally planned to say was simply that Japanese people seem very cute to me and cuteness or (kawaii seems to have an important role in Japanese life).
Why is everything so damn cute??? Why is cuteness so important in the culture?
Paul Ratner from BigThink.com
While you may dismiss cuteness as a regional peculiarity, there is science to back up the unexpected usefulness of kawaii in life. A study by researchers from the University of Hiroshima did several experiments on students and found that their performance on a variety of tasks like fine motor dexterity and non-visual searches improved after viewing cute images of puppies and kittens. The scientists concluded that this is due to the increase in narrowing attentional focus that resulted from viewing the cute images. They advocated the use of cute images and objects in work spaces to improve productivity.
I often wonder how Japan manages to be so efficient, and I’ve always thought that there was just something in the air here which means that people find the most convenient stress free ways of getting on with things. Partly that atmosphere is created by just focusing on certain pleasing things and trying to stay calm at all times. I guess it’s similar to the way the Brits just keep calm and carry on and try not to let emotions stop you from just getting things done. In Japan they seem to emphasise the cuteness just because it makes you feel good, makes you feel protected, reduces stress and allows you to be more productive. Perhaps that’s because Japan is quite a stressful place when you think about it – the potential for natural disaster is quite high. If you think about it too much you could freak out a bit – tsunami, earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, Godzilla – they could all wipe everything out! Cute stuff helps you deal with that. Perhaps also the Japanese worship nature, like animals and so on – Shintoism believes in the gods of every creature or object, and you feel this level of respect in everyday life, kind of. It’s as if everything has it’s own Pokemon character which is both cute and potentially powerful and the Japanese are just in tune with all of that.
So, objects, animals and so on are given this cute personality just because this is the level of kind of respect that Japanese people attribute to things that in our culture would be basically meaningless. Maybe I’m wrong about that, if so – let me know what you think. Why are the Japanese preoccupied by cuteness? Are they the only ones?
Yumi Nakata from GaijinPot.com – 3 reasons
Reason 1: Kawaii usually refers to small children, babies and small animals. They are helpless and need to be cared for. In a culture that values youth, both men and woman are attracted to anything youthful. Women want to appear youthful and Japanese men are attracted to young girls, just look at the popularity of bands like AKB48.
Reason 2: Japanese people work very long hours and they are under enormous social pressure. Cuteness is the total opposite of Japan’s harsh reality. My sister who works in IT says she enjoys going to stores full of cute products especially after working long overtime hours. Cuteness is cool and soothing for Japanese people and allows them an escape from the realities of their life.
Reason 3: Japan is collectively a society with a 12 year old’s mentality and for many there is a strong resistance to grow out of this prepubescent stage. As adults Japanese people are expected to conform to strict social norms and expectations. However as I mentioned above, children are always taken care of in Japanese society. Therefore to cope with the harsh realities of adulthood, many Japanese people seek the comfort of cuteness.
End of part 1 – Part 2 coming soon.
Learn more authentic English directly from the mouths of these native speakers in an episode of the popular British TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” with famous chef Gordon Ramsay. Videos and vocabulary lists available below.
**This episode includes swearing and some rude content**
Video 2 – The orange sauce looks like “sci-fi sperm”
Let’s watch the family in action
Is there any chance you could talk to her
If you open up and ask…
You don’t remember after 5 minutes
Like fuck do I!
You try to make me look small
It’s like a one man band in there
It’s totally upside down
A backlog of orders
Mick starts to crumble
I don’t want no (*any) more food sent down
He can’t handle it
I’ll get my head bitten off / to bite someone’s head off
I’d rather you didn’t take it out on me
Video 3 – The family at war
She’s left to face the fallout of Mick’s incompetence
The meals are now being sent back
He can’t handle it / can’t cope / can’t take it / can’t deal with it
I’ll go and sort it out
My husband’s big fucking dream is a complete farce
I’m not having a heart attack over this
My heart’s booming
He speaks to me like shit
I try and take all the knocks
Even I have a breaking point
Video 4 – Catching up with the Martin family at the end
Talking about restaurant culture in the UK, an introduction to one of the UK’s most famous chefs and a chance to learn some authentic English from a popular British TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay. Video available. Includes swearing.
Hello, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English. Here is a new episode for you to listen to and indeed watch, because I’m videoing this one. You’ll be able to find the video on the page for this episode on my website, or by visiting the YouTube channel for Luke’s English Podcast.
A lot of what I am saying here – particularly in this introduction is written on the page for this episode. So you can read it with me, or check it for certain words you hear me using. The best way to get access to these pages is to subscribe to the mailing list.
In the last episode of this podcast you heard me talking to Amber about restaurants and hotels and some crazy TripAdvisor reviews.
At one point in the episode we talked briefly about Gordon Ramsay – one of the UK’s most famous chefs, and his TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” which was a really popular show in the UK a few years ago, and I thought it could be interesting to do a whole episode about that.
So in this one I’m going to talk a little bit about Gordon Ramsay and then we’re going to listen to some YouTube clips from one of his TV shows and I will help you understand all the language that you’ll hear. No doubt there will be some new vocabulary in the process – probably on the subject of food, cooking, restaurants and kitchens but lots of other natural language that just comes up, including plenty of swearing, because Gordon Ramsay is known for his frequent use of swear words.
Yes, there will be quite a lot of swearing in this episode, and you know my position on this. I’m choosing to show you the language as it is really used and that includes the rude words, but don’t be tempted to start throwing swear words into your everyday English. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that swear words are a short cut to sounding exactly like a native speaker. Often it just gives people a bad impression of you. We’ll go into it more later, because there are quite a lot of unwritten social rules around swearing that you need to be aware of – the main one being, that with swearing it is much much easier to sound rude and inappropriate than it is to sound cool. Think of swearing as a motorbike – you might think it’s cool but unless you really know what you’re doing you’re likely to seriously injure yourself. Similarly, swearing can be cool when it’s done in movies or even by someone like Gordon Ramsay, but if you try and do it in your normal life there’s a good chance you’ll just offend people.
So anyway, we’ll listen to some of the English in these YouTube clips and analyse the things they’re saying so that in the end you can understand it all just like I do, which should help you learn some real English in the process. You’ll also learn a thing or two about restaurant culture in the UK and about Gordon Ramsay who is one of the most well-known people in Britain.
Gordon James Ramsay, is a British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and television personality.
*Difference between a chef and a cook? Basically, a chef is someone who’s had professional training – at least a culinary degree, but a cook is just someone who cooks food. Both might work in a kitchen, but mainly being a chef is about having the status of culinary qualifications and experience.
Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the UK and probably in the world too. He has a reputation for being an excellent restaurateur and chef, and also for his extremely strict and direct style. He’s often very rude, saying exactly what he thinks about the people he’s working with in the strongest most colourful language. Imagine an army captain shouting at a platoon of soldiers during military training, but with really good food.
Ramsay was born in Scotland, but he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is in fact not far from where I grew up in England). So, he is Scottish but doesn’t speak with a Scottish accent.
Ramsay now has restaurants all over the place – in London, in Paris and in New York. During his career he has trained at the highest level with French chefs in the UK and in Paris. He specialises in Italian, French and British recipes, and his cooking is known for being simple, unpretentious, high quality and delicious.
His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin stars are very difficult to win and restaurants around the world proudly promote their Michelin Star status if they have one. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001, which is a mark of extremely high quality in restaurant dining.
As well as being a top chef, Ramsay is also a TV presenter. He first appeared on TV in the UK in the late 1990s, and by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best known celebrity chefs in British popular culture, and, along with other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith, he has influenced viewers to become more culinarily adventurous.
As a reality TV personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their cooking abilities.
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on British TV a few years ago – probably around 10-15 years ago now. These days you can find most of the episodes on YouTube.
Ramsay is actually very passionate about local restaurants in the UK.
In the UK our eating out culture is vibrant and successful but it is being undermined by a number of factors. One is the industrialisation of food culture. THis means that big businesses are involved in preparing food at an industrial level and then selling it to restaurants as part of a large corporate chain.
These chains might be restaurants which are all owned by one company, or food manufacturers who dominate the wholesale market, driving down their prices and pushing out competition such as local producers who sell fresh products.
In these industrial food manufacturing companies, the food is prepared in high quantities and then sold off to other companies and restaurants as part of a corporate supply chain for food.
There’s a big infrastructure for food purchasing in the UK which is dominated by these big food manufacturers. As a result, many smaller restaurants are forced to buy industrialised and mass-produced food because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food which you can buy direct from farms or markets.
If you were a struggling restaurant owner in a town in the UK, what would you do? Buy your food fresh from a local producer and then make sure you sell it in a short-term period, or buy similar products from a mass producer but at a lower price, and it’s food which you can store for longer because it has been processed to stay fresh.
In the end, people choose to eat at home, especially during an economic crisis.
So, economic factors are having a negative effect on the restaurant culture in the UK to an extent. Family owned restaurants should be where you get proper traditional and delicious local food, but these restaurants are being squeezed economically and forced to go along with the industrialised food manufacturing process.
Also, there are many chain restaurants which you find on high streets in the UK. These are not locally run, but are owned by big companies who have a single business model which they apply to all their restaurants. The fact that these places are part of a big corporate chain means that they can drive down their prices, making it very hard for local restaurants to be competitive. As a result, these smaller places suffer, struggle and often close down.
Gordon Ramsay believes that these local restaurants are the backbone of our restaurant culture in the UK, and he strongly believes that they need to be supported so they can compete with the corporate chains, and given training so they can serve the best food possible. Essentially that’s the concept behind Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but also it’s just entertaining watching him shouting at incompetent chefs. You sort of let him get away with the way he bullies people because you believe that really he’s just trying to help them to learn the discipline you need to run a really good restaurant.
But he does seem really passionate about proper restaurant culture in the UK and I like that about him. Even though he’s making this reality show and he’s making money from doing it, I think he really does care about improving restaurant culture in the UK.
On the other hand, he is very good at TV. He knows how to make entertaining TV, and he’s got a good formula for it. Basically, this means that he takes the harsh discipline and the no-nonsense brutally honest approach that he applies to his kitchen management, and uses it when giving feedback to the restaurants which he visits.
Let’s listen to a few scenes and I’m going to make sure you understand everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.
Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on UK TV about 10-15 years ago.
The format is this – Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant somewhere in the UK. So, restaurants that are failing – e.g. losing money, getting terrible reviews etc. He goes into the restaurant and spends a week there, observing the way the owners run the kitchen, how the business works and what’s going on at all levels. Usually he starts by sitting down to eat the chef’s speciality dish, and it’s nearly always disgusting, and Ramsay comments on how it tastes, how it looks, and also the decor of the restaurant and the service from the staff.
Then Ramsay gives his feedback to the owner and the chef, and it’s always a massive reality check, and it usually involves very strong words and lots of swearing. This is what happens when a top-level chef enters the world of a crappy low-level restaurant.
Then over the course of the week, Gordon helps the managers turn the restaurant around. It’s almost always a huge challenge and often the most difficult part is dealing with the psychological aspects – the stubborn chefs, the relationship issues in the kitchen, the fact that these people have personal issues which are causing the business to go horribly wrong.
It is car-crash TV. We see arguments, meltdowns, unhappy customers and so on.
In almost every episode Gordon seems to go hopping mad as he can’t believe the incompetence or shockingly low standards of service shown by the people in the restaurant. He then tries to help them change everything and turn the business around. It all makes really great telly.
And by the end of the episode, with Gordon’s help they have usually turned the restaurant into a successful business again.
There’s a UK version and a US version.
If you search for Kitchen Nightmares on YouTube you will probably find the US version first, but I think the UK version is better!
But really, it is better because the US version is horrible. It’s full of really fast editing and there’s loads of music which is added in order to tell you how you should be feeling about what’s happening. It’s distracting and patronising.
Example of the US version (just listen to all the distracting sound effects and music)
The UK version just has some rock music in the background at the start, but then during the show it’s more simple and you can just focus on what’s happening without constant sweeping sounds and tense music.
Let’s listen to some scenes from one of the episodes.
These scenes actually come from an episode called “Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmares” which was shown on TV between series 5 and 6 of Kitchen Nightmares. It’s basically the same as any other episode of the series.
Gordon goes to visit a restaurant in Devon called Dovecote Bistro, which is run by a guy called Mick.
Mick is a former truck driver and burger van operator who has opened this bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper decorating the restaurant, and then his attention turns to the food and the way it is cooked. While Ramsay is impressed with the simple menu, he is furious to find that Mick has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and using vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks in a microwave bag. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay solves the crisis by taking the business matters out of Mick’s hands and kicks him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.
Months later, Ramsay returns to find that the restaurant is making profit. He sent Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses Ramsay with freshly cooked food.
The restaurant was renamed Martins’ Bistro during production.
Let’s see what this ex-trucker can do
Fuck me! (surprise / shock)
Your blouse matches the wallpaper
I feel like I’m tripping out!
I’ve never touched the stuff but I feel like I just swallowed an E.
The hideous wallpaper
On paper it looks delicious
A spoonful of gravy
Fuck me do I need sunglasses!
That’s worse than fucking Benylin
They’re actually vacuum packed
They can last for about a year
They’re bought in, they’re vacuum packed
They’ve got a shelf life of about a year
Well, fuck me!
That might be the worst food I’ve ever come across
He might be beyond my help
It doesn’t need refrigerating
How in the fuck could you charge 11 pounds for that?
E numbers, like Tartrazine
Do you feel like having a shit?
Thank fuck I didn’t eat it.
I’m surprised you haven’t killed off half the population of Okehampton