You know Amber from my podcast of course, and you might also remember Sarah Donnelly because she’s been featured in a few episodes as well.
Amber & Sarah have recently joined forces to work on a comedy project called Becoming Maman. It’s a comedy stage show and a podcast, and it’s all about their experiences of becoming a mother in France, where you’re not mum (UK) or mom (USA) but maman.
Maman is the French word for mum but really it’s far more complicated than that, and that’s exactly what Becoming Maman is all about – exploring the complex differences between parenting in France and parenting in the UK or USA, and then making it into comedy.
I saw the first performance of Becoming Maman on stage a couple of weeks ago and it was very funny indeed. Amber and Sarah work really well as a double-act and as I have recently become a parent here in France too, the show really struck a chord with me.
Apparently, being a maman involves quite a different set of challenges to being a mum or a mom and Amber & Sarah have managed to capture those challenges very well in the form of their comedy show which contains plenty of jokes, sketches and stories that made me laugh all the way through the performance.
On the Becoming Maman podcast they chat together about different aspects of being a maman and in this particular episode they chose to talk to me about my experiences of becoming a dad, theories about how children learn languages and also a quick test of my knowledge of French baby words.
You can find all the episodes of Becoming Maman on their podcast website, or on iTunes. Becoming Maman should also be available from all other good podcasting services or apps.
Check out the Facebook page for Becoming Maman, where you can see some short videos and get news about their next performances and upcoming episodes of the podcast.
In an upcoming episode of LEP you’ll hear me interviewing Amber & Sarah about Becoming Maman and all about how being a maman is really quite different to being a mum or mom. That episode is coming soon. Also, the subject of raising bilingual children is one which I intend to cover in more detail on LEP at some point.
But for now, I hope you enjoy listening to my interview on Amber & Sarah’s podcast. Thanks for reading! Speak to you soon – bye!!
I want to share something really interesting that happened to me recently. I got into a debate with some ‘flat earthers’ – guys who believe that the earth is flat. It was pretty intense, and you can listen to it all here on this page.
What you’re listening to (and reading) now isn’t an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, it’s some website-only content – a post on my website with two bits of audio: Audio 1 (my introduction and comments) and Audio 2 (an episode of someone else’s podcast). I’m going to explain everything here and the script of what I am saying is provided on this page, just below the two audio players that you can see.
Audio 2 – My appearance on The Flat Earth Podcast – my part begins at 19mins
Transcript for Audio 1 starts here:
Hello, you’re listening to some website-only content on teacherluke.co.uk
I want to share something really interesting that happened to me recently. I got into a debate with some ‘flat earthers’ – guys who believe that the earth is flat. It was pretty intense, and you can listen to it all here on this page.
What you’re listening to now isn’t an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, it’s some website-only content – a post on my website with two bits of audio – Audio 1 (what you’re listening to right now) and Audio 2 (an episode of someone else’s podcast). I’m going to explain everything in this recording and the script of what I am saying is provided on the page, just below the two audio players that you can see.
Do you remember when I recently talked about flat earth conspiracy theories on my podcast? It was in episode 476. I talked about how some people think the earth is flat and rambled on about it for a while, considering some of the suggestions and theories, like the idea that the world is a flat disc or plane, that we don’t orbit the sun, that the moon isn’t what we think it is, that satellites aren’t real, that the international space station is fake and even that our idea of gravity is either completely wrong or is a deception and that the governments of the world are all lying to us about the earth being a globe. I said that although I hadn’t looked into it fully, I thought it was impossible and ludicrous, ridiculous. I believe the earth is round.
After uploading that episode I was contacted a few days later by one of the hosts of The Flat Earth Podcast – a podcast produced by two guys in USA, Jay and Dave, who are convinced that the earth is flat, and not a globe. They told me that I was wrong about what I’d said in my episode, that the earth is not a globe and that they wanted to talk to me about the whole subject.
In fact, this is what Dave wrote in the comment section of episode 476.
Hi Luke. You said it yourself, you really haven’t looked into it that much. We would like to invite you on an episode of THE FLAT EARTH PODCAST to discuss your thoughts on the subject. We are not dogmatic flat earthers or the type that go into a Starbucks and disrupt people. We have answers to all the misconceptions that you have stated on your show. Please reach out to us…
I thought, “why not let them try to convince me that the earth is actually flat? I thought it could be interesting to have that conversation and perhaps have a friendly debate about the subject.”
I got back in touch with Dave and said, “OK, I’d be happy to talk to you, let’s do it.”
They were serious about it.
Then we fixed a date and a time that would work for all of us – Me, Dave and his co-host Jay, in different timezones. Them in different parts of the US and me at home in Paris.
I was curious and interested but also a bit nervous about it, because I thought that their audience might be angry with me because of the comments I’d made about flat earth on LEP. I had at one point said I thought it was “a load of bollocks”. Yes, I did use the word “bollocks” but I might have got away with that because “bollocks” is not a word they’re that familiar with in the USA, except that it’s on the front cover of an album by The Sex Pistols, which works in my favour if anything.
But, I was a bit nervous nonetheless, but also quite excited at the prospect of actually debating with people who thought or think that the earth is flat. (Think – because they still think it! I didn’t convince them of course! Spoiler alert!)
In any case, I really wanted to have a respectful and grown-up conversation about it with Jay and Dave. That’s why I agreed to talk to them.
Then, a few weeks ago we called each other on Skype and had a conversation about whether or not the earth is flat or round.
You can listen to what happened in that conversation by using the embedded player at the top of this page.
Let me continue talking about this story.
What were my expectations ahead of the interview?
As I said, I was concerned their audience would be angry with me or at least unfriendly and a bit aggressive.
Although they seemed very friendly in the emails I thought they might give me a ‘slapdown’ – which means an aggressive response designed to put me in my place.
I wondered if I would be able to have a proper debate with them because it’s hard to talk to people about this kind of thing, especially when they’re convinced of their position. You need lots of specific data and scientific knowledge and also you have to be quite careful about the things they say. A lot of their ideas need to be fact-checked or at least considered very carefully to make sure the evidence they talk about is valid or reliable, to make sure the quotes they use are not taken out of context, and that the logic they’re using is clear and solid. So, I was wondering if I’d be able to keep up with their ideas or if I’d simply be unable to debate with them at all.
Having said that, I was also thinking about how I could find holes in the things they would say, because, you know I think they’re wrong about the earth being flat. So I did quite a lot of thinking about their arguments and the things they would say. I listened to a few episodes of their podcast, watched a video called the 21 Questions and really considered the points they were making, because I am open to the idea that the world is flat.
Imagine, for example, if all the things they said were genuinely true and that this small group of guys had really stumbled across a global conspiracy, and that their internet research and testing had uncovered evidence that was irrefutable. We shouldn’t be closed to the idea that they’re right about this. My position was – ok guys I’m not going to tell you that you’re crazy. I’ll believe it if you really convince me and I find your points utterly watertight. I’m open to it, let’s go.
Imagine if they are right though. Would they be under threat? If there’s a conspiracy to keep this thing under wraps, are they in danger? We know that when big secrets have to be kept that people get killed. People disappear, they get murdered to cover up big secrets, like government corruption or organised crime.
If these guys are right, they could be in mortal danger. If they’re right. But I suppose that they believe that there’s a plan in place to deal with this, that there is disinformation spread around that makes most people just think these guys are ridiculous, and that’s what prevents this idea from really posing a threat to whoever is keeping this secret.
I wonder if my open-minded approach to their ideas could somehow put them in danger. Imagine, if nobody thought their ideas were ridiculous and this whole concept started gathering genuine momentum, that the powers that be might want to take action and silence them.
I’m being hypothetical here, but when you take these ideas seriously, you end up considering all sorts of possibilities. Jay and Dave don’t seem to be paranoid guys to me. The impression I got was that they’re really inquisitive and enthusiastic about this subject. Hopefully they have no real reason to fear for their safety. I think they don’t, because I don’t believe that there is a cover-up going on. I think they don’t pose a threat really. That now sounds bad, saying that they’re harmless. I don’t mean that, but… I don’t know, it’s complicated.
You can see why this is quite fascinating when you think about it – it’s all about people’s belief systems and also about how to argue your point and how to prove something as true.
It’s essentially a philosophical debate, and I love philosophical debates – I mean, I got a D at A level in philosophy at college! Not a good grade, but I did study philosophy for two years between the age of 16 and 18! I like philosophical debate and I’m really happy that these guys are essentially engaging in quite a profound debate about the nature of existence, and questioning the world around them. I’m happy about that. I think it’s good to be curious and independently minded, but I do think that there are issues with their reasoning and with the evidence they propose, and the way they apply the mathematical theories that have been used to understand the way the earth works. I’m impressed by their rigorous approach and their devotion to the truth, but I am not convinced by the argument – yet! I say yet because we’ve got to keep an open mind, right?
I was thinking lots of these things, but mainly, I was concerned that I was being set up for a smackdown!
What was the conversation like?
It was actually really enjoyable. Dave and Jay were hospitable to me. They gave me quite a flattering introduction, joking that they would sound like stupid Americans compared to my British accent and that it would be difficult to debate with someone who sounded so intelligent and articulate. I assured them that it’s all just a trick – that I’m actually not very intelligent at all and I only sound clever because of my accent. We laughed.
They were very reasonable with me, in the way they treated me I mean. They told their audience that they’d probably hate me but to give me a chance, and that at one point all of them had been sceptical like me. They’d all at one point thought that the theory was ridiculous too.
They were nice, but of course they were! These guys aren’t crazy or anything and they’re not mean-spirited. They’re basically just normal guys who have good intentions. As far as they’re concerned they’re working for truth and justice – both quite respectable things, right? It’s not fair or helpful to brand them as weirdos or nutters or things like that. Saying that is both unhelpful and rude.
We should focus on the things they’re saying not the people they are. They really think we’re being lied to on a grand scale and they want to prove it. I don’t think they are proving it, in my opinion, but they genuinely believe it and I don’t think they’re motivated by hatred or malice or anything. So I was very happy that we all could take part in the conversation in a respectful manner and after all that is a basic foundation for this kind of thing. In an argument or a debate or disagreement – the moment that you lose your temper or start throwing around insulting comments or insinuations, you have lost the debate in my opinion.
I had no plans to do that, and I was really pleased that they didn’t either. I think they might have been annoyed at my position and the things I’d said but they didn’t make a big deal about it, and in fact were totally cool all the time and I had a good time on their podcast. Also, I should say that the podcast is well made. Good sound quality, well-edited, well presented. On that level we had a lot in common and just as podcasters I think we shared some mutual respect. I also think they’re probably around my age, and it’s always cool to make contact with people of your age who live in a completely different country to you.
So they treated me well and that was nice, but again – I was a bit nervous about how the conversation would go. I was worried that I would not be able to argue with them effectively, or deal with certain details in their arguments.
They did bring in another guy called Jerun who, as they put it themselves, is deep inside the rabbit hole. He’s gone really deep into flat earth theories and has been making loads of videos about the subject, and as they put it – he has answers to everything. So, I felt a bit like “Uh oh, they’re bringing in this guy Jerun too so it’s 3 against 1!” I felt a bit outnumbered.
What were the objectives of the conversation for you and them?
I decided that I’d just let them try to convince me. My thinking was this.
I believe the earth is round – but I’m not blindly married to the idea. Obviously, I grew up within this paradigm but I am definitely capable of questioning it. The reason I believe it is because I think the evidence for it is better than the evidence for flat earth – and I don’t hide from the arguments of flat earthers. In fact I’ve been actively seeking them out, looking for ones that I think are really solid and watertight.
I am ready to be convinced that it’s flat. However, I’m not just going to accept arguments without giving them full scrutiny. We need to be careful of confirmation bias – on both sides. This means interpreting evidence in a way that confirms what you want to believe and may involve jumping to conclusions. If they’re arguments are more watertight than the arguments for round earth, I’ll be convinced.
That’s what I was thinking, and I think it was their objective to try to convert me to flat earth because they wanted to get me on their team.
What was the outcome? How did it go?
You’ll have to listen to it and decide for yourself! You’ll see the episode embedded at the top of the page where you found the audio that you’re listening to now.
Have I had any reactions from people?
When the podcast episode came out I was a bit worried that I’d get some hatred from the flat earth community. I prepared myself for some possibly hateful responses in my inbox or in the comment section of the website. But I’m glad to say that I’ve had none, and I really am glad to say that – just because I can’t stand seeing that sort of thing. There’s plenty of blind hatred on the internet these days, particularly in the comment section of YouTube videos and so on. So, it’s quite refreshing not to have had any of that sort of thing. Touch wood. (What is this mysterious power that wood can have?)
But I did get a couple of nice responses.
From what I assume is a flat earther who just appreciated the fact that I was polite.
Hi Luke! I just listened to your interview on the Flat Earth Podcast and wanted to say “thank you” for being so open-minded and you were so polite. My first impression of you is that you are a very ‘reasonable’ person. I hope you continue to look into what the guys were saying and make up your own mind. Much Respect,
And from someone who apparently listens both to my podcast and to the flat earth podcast (as a sceptic) as well, which I found to be quite a coincidence – but maybe not considering how this is the sort of thing I’m interested in.
I sometimes listen to your podcasts, and I recently also came across to the flat-earth podcast, with your contribution.
I’d like to congratulate you for your calm and polite chat with the flat-earthers. I am an amateur astronomist, and of course a “glober” as they say. In the past few weeks I started listening to the flat-earth podcast, with a high interest in how a false idea can spread among people, in spite of evidence. Flat earth stuff is the more obvious example, but I realized that a lot of other false ideas happen to be more and more widely accepted.
Anyway it was a pleasure to listen to you politely standing in front of them. Sometimes you lacked the precise answers, and I tried to whisper some to you, but you did a really fair job ! Best regards.
Did they convince you that the earth is flat?
Nope, I’m still not convinced but I admit that I didn’t conclusively “win” the debate by any means. There were plenty of things I couldn’t really answer. For example, there were certain quotes I couldn’t check, certain mathematical equations I couldn’t really follow and certain claims that I couldn’t be sure of. I didn’t have all the answers to the questions they asked me. But I think I can say that I really considered the things they had to say and I continue to be curious about the subject in general. I’m not just ignoring it all or name-calling or labelling these guys as crazy. Like before, I am still ready to believe it and only a truly stubborn and closed-minded person would refuse to even consider the other arguments.
I was also happy to spend time with Jay, Dave and Jerun and I think I actually got on with them pretty well. I was relieved about that. By the end of the conversation I would have enjoyed going for a beer with them if we’d had a chance.
But having said that, at the moment I still think that they’re wrong about the earth being flat. Guys if you’re listening to this or reading it – you still haven’t got me yet – but I guess there’s still time! I think Dave told me it took 6 months for him to turn from being a round earther to a flat earther. So who knows where I will be in 6 months time. I guess you’ll have to watch this space.
They did say that if I became a flat earther that I would lose a large portion of my audience. So, does this mean that if I continue to be a round earther it’s only because I want to keep my audience? Could it not also be true that I will just think the earth is round? I mean, if I wanted to get a bigger audience I could say all sorts of things to appeal to people’s desires. I could be making all sorts of big promises about English or about how you can make money by following my steps, or I could be attracting the attention of certain religious groups by talking about religious ideas. I don’t do those things, even though doing them would increase the size of my audience. So, increasing my audience is not the only thing that motivates me. So, if I don’t come out as a flat earther, it might just be that I am still not convinced by the arguments. But, as I said, who knows where I will be in 6 months.
By the way, I’m aware that by talking about this and presenting this on my website to my audience that some of you might get converted to flat earthism. That’s up to you. Just remember – if you consider yourself to be open-minded, you’ll be open-minded about both sides. Being open-minded is not just the preserve of one side of this argument.
I’m going to ramble on about this a bit more because it made me think about things, like how difficult it is to argue using logic and to be sure about the nature of reality itself, just that kind of thing…
Debating flat earth with the guys from the podcast made me think about philosophical arguments, logic and how we talk about and argue about the truth itself. It’s a really complex business and it’s actually very difficult to do properly without falling into certain “thinking holes” or fallacies of logic.
There are various “thinking holes” or logical fallacies that are very easy to fall into when talking about this subject, or any philosophical subject for that matter. These are problems with logic or just problems with thinking. Anyone can fall into these traps – not just flat earthers, anyone.
But here are some of those issues that I have noticed when looking at not just flat earth theories, but also “bad science” or pseudoscience, and I admit that some of these points could also be applied to my position, which just shows how tricky it is, from an armchair position, to prove beyond doubt that something is really true.
Confirmation bias – Interpreting evidence in a way that confirms your world view. Interpreting evidence in a way that confirms the conclusions you expect or want. For example, looking at a mass shooting incident – a mass shooting can confirm several points of view. People who don’t like guns might say – mass shootings prove that we need to control guns or ban guns. But someone who loves guns might look at a mass shooting and conclude that we need more guns because good people need to be able to defend themselves against dangerous people. The same event can confirm several wildly different points of view. The people who love guns take it as confirmation that we need more, the people who hate guns take it as confirmation that we need fewer. By the way, I’m not getting into the gun control debate here, that’s not what this is about. That’s just an example. Confirmation bias is really common and I think affects many parts of our lives, and is something we must watch out for as much as possible, e.g. by constantly challenging our own ideas. We often interpret events in the way that suits our worldview. E.g. you can look at footage of the moon landing and be completely convinced that it’s proof that it actually happened, or proof that it didn’t happen, depending on how you feel about the thing in the first place. Everyone is vulnerable to confirmation bias, but especially groups like the flat earth community. One of the reasons I like Jay and Dave is that I think they’re aware of this and to an extent that’s why they brought me onto the podcast, so they’re not just in an echo chamber where everyone is constantly confirming each other’s views without challenging them. Maybe they invited me on because it’s healthy to have some debate. Respect to that. But I’d also like to suggest that they invite properly qualified scientists on their podcast for debates too – not just an English teacher comedian like me who has dabbled in scepticism. Maybe they need to speak to someone who works for a satellite company or a lecturer in astrophysics because that could lead to a genuinely open conversation. Even though they invited me on for a chat and I’m a glober as they put it I think that mostly they’re interested in challenging the round earth theory, and tend to have a very ‘open minded’ attitude to flat earth. ‘I am open minded’ can mean – ‘I am willing to believe this’. Obviously you need to be open to the idea that it’s true, but we have to be careful that ‘open minded’ doesn’t become a state of active confirmation of what we want to be true, for whatever reason. Being ‘open minded’ can be like opening the door to confirmation bias. Flat earthers might say that they’re challenging the round earth model, so they are being good scientists, but what they also do is jump to the conclusion that because the round earth model doesn’t stand up in their eyes, the flat earth model must be true by extension, but this is a whole other idea. Lack of proof for one thing is not proof of something else. E.g. If I’m trying to work out what my mum is going to cook for dinner and I can’t prove that my Mum is going to make chicken, it doesn’t logically mean it’ll definitely be fish. We just can’t be sure it’s chicken.
Unreliable evidence, false premises, unreliable sources or being unable to account for where evidence has come from. Some of the evidence which flat earthers propose is (I think) quite shaky and forms the basis of lots of other assumptions. If the foundation of your idea is shaky at the start, the logical steps from that point are likely to go in the wrong direction, ending up in a false conclusion. E.g. constructing a house on uneven ground. It might look straight at the beginning, but by the time the whole house is built, it could end up really wonky and even unsafe to live in. The roof might fall off or something. The foundation has to be absolutely solid.
The grey area between evidence and speculation First of all, talking about evidence – some of it shaky in the first place, and then moving seamlessly into speculation about things and those speculations becoming ‘theories’ which are considered to be as valid as other ‘theories’ such as gravity. E.g. Deciding that the earth must be flat because you don’t see how the round earth model can work, and then assuming that Antarctica is the limit of our world, and then speculating about what is beyond Antarctica. E.g. “It must be…”
Relying on first hand evidence – eg. human experience or what you see with your own eyes), or considering first-hand evidence to be the best, when actually it’s perhaps the worst kind of evidence. First hand experience as evidence is often the least reliable – e.g. the earth doesn’t look round to me. Why are the bottoms of clouds flat? The earth must be flat too. Why can’t we see the curvature on the horizon? Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Often we just don’t know what we’re looking at.
Jumping to conclusions – e.g. Some NASA photos of the earth are fake, therefore they’re all fake. Some scientists are motivated mainly by money or status, therefore they all are. Governments lie to their people and there is corruption, therefore they are lying about this.)
Cherry picking of evidence – Making the evidence fit the theory. e.g. picking out certain statements by scientists that seem to support the theory (e.g. moments when NASA astronauts say something that seems like a moment of truth – e.g. that they faked some pictures of the earth) So when the accounts seem to suit the flat earth theory NASA are leaking the truth, but when it doesn’t suit the theory NASA can’t be trusted.
For example, one of the arguments is – the NASA pictures of earth are fake. The reasoning is, that one NASA photographer admitted to using Photoshop to create a composite image of the earth from space, therefore this is proof that all NASA’s photos are fake. It’s true that some NASA pictures are made up – I mean, they are compositions made from a number of pictures, arranged together in Photoshop – because it’s hard to get a good-looking picture of the earth – it’s very big and you need to be quite far away from it to get a decent picture, so it’s necessary to take a bunch of photos, stitch them together and add layers of colour etc. So some NASA pics might be photoshopped, but this doesn’t mean that the earth is not round. It just means that some photos have been ‘edited’. This is cherry picking the evidence, or jumping to conclusions. E.g. some photos are fake therefore they’re all fake therefore the earth can’t be round.
Bad-faith representations of evidence. I don’t want to say ‘dishonest presentation of evidence’ because it might not be intentional to misrepresent something, it might just be confirmation bias that leads people to do this. E.g. presenting something as evidence of flat earth that isn’t really. E.g. mis-quoting someone, or quoting someone out of context and then using that as proof that they said the earth was flat, or presenting an old map that was created to help calculate time differences around the world and which appears to present a flat earth model, but it wasn’t designed originally as a flat earth map, it’s just a 2D representation, and presenting that as evidence of flat earth is to distort the original purpose of that map.
“If it’s old it’s true” – e.g. suggesting that ancient civilisations, medieval engravings, old buddhist texts or old maps seemed to show the earth was flat. Just because it’s old, doesn’t make it true. Quite the opposite probably.
Lack of evidence for one thing works as proof for something else. E.g. We can’t prove the earth is round, therefore it’s flat. E.g. I can’t prove that there is no afterlife, but it doesn’t mean that there is an afterlife, it just means that I can’t prove it. Lack of proof for one thing doesn’t give proof to something else.
Other fallacies of that nature: e.g. Einstein said that it was impossible to prove in a mechanical way that the earth is round, and that only theoretical or mathematical models could do it (which I think should be verified anyway). Therefore, the earth isn’t round. Or because only mathematical theories can be used to explain earth’s shape, all abstract theories become valid too, including the speculations that we’re making up.
Treating speculations as theories, or mixing up the words hypothesis and theory.A hypothesis is either a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon, or a reasoned prediction of a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena. But, a theory is a tested, well-substantiated, unifying explanation for a set of verified, proven factors. So, speculations about the shape of the earth are not theories until they have been really stringently tested again and again.
Not understanding the maths. – It’s quite possible that flat earthers don’t have the expert level of mathematical knowledge to understand the subject, and neither do I by the way – so I’m subject to this too. Now, either the mathematical theories are just wrong and the earth can’t be round, or these guys just don’t really understand the maths. Which one is more likely?
Trust and the belief in deception. A lot of this comes down to whether you trust ideas which you haven’t seen yourself, and when you believe there is a deception or a conspiracy going on. When you decide that there’s deception going on, it’s easy to just discount certain evidence as fake or part of the deception. E.g. “I think the earth is flat. Come on, prove that it isn’t. How about pictures of the earth? They’re fake. Satellites? Fake. International space station? Fake. But my brother went into space and saw it for himself. He’s been brainwashed, or he’s part of the conspiracy.” Perhaps these things are fake, or maybe it’s just a way to block out the evidence that disproves your theory. In the end, the conspiracy or the idea of a deception becomes a sort of tool (or maybe a trap) that erases the evidence that disproves your theory. The conspiracy is almost impossible to disprove because it relies on the assumption that information is being kept from us. We can only speculate on who is part of this conspiracy, and these speculations are presented as evidence, but where the hell is the information coming from?
As I said, some of those points could be applied to my position too, or any position including scientific ones. These are issues that anyone faces when attempting to argue a complex position. Conventional scientists are subject to things like confirmation bias and other issues too, but that doesn’t mean that all conventional or mainstream science has to be rejected completely.
A Question of Trust
I think it comes down to a question of trust. Do you trust what you’re told? And who do you trust? NASA scientists or Dave and Jay? Your own senses? Or the complex things that we’re told by various scientists and teachers.
If you listen to this episode of the flat earth podcast, let me know what you think. It’s quite long – we talked and talked for ages and we could have gone on much longer, but there’s no end to this debate when we’re essentially discussing the nature of truth and reality. But let me know what you think if you listen to it, and I’ll let you make up your own mind about the shape of the earth.
One thing I’d like to ask from you though – if you consider making a comment on Dave and Jay’s episode, please be respectful and friendly. Dave and Jay were both very polite to me and I think it’s only fair that we return the same courtesy to them, even if you really don’t agree with their position. As I said, one of the things I liked about this experience was that we were friendly and civil with each other and I want to keep it that way.
Also, Dave, Jay and Jeran – if any of you are listening to this, I’m sorry that I haven’t been converted to the flat earth position yet – but who knows I might change my mind if I feel like it’s really what’s going on, and I hope you feel I’ve been fair because I’ve made an effort to be.
At the end of the day (or at any time of the day) whatever the shape of the earth, we still have to go to work every day, still have to pay the bills, we still fall in love, we make friends, we laugh about stupid things and we look after our loved ones, and I think we all have these things in common.
Thanks for listening to this and reading it too, and if you’re a flat earther – Do you fancy a pint? Let’s go to the pub and have a friendly chat about it all. I’ll buy you a drink, how about that? In fact, if you’re not a flat earther you’re welcome too. Let’s all go to the pub and have a drink and some peanuts, and if the night goes well we could end up in karaoke. I’ll sing “Around the World” by Daft Punk (it’s easy) and you can sing Man on the Moon by REM.
A History of British Pop – a musical tour through James’ vinyl collection
This is a LONG musical mix using James’ vinyl record collection. Think of it as Jim & Luke’s Rock Radio Show with a history of British pop.
Website only – no download available, but you can listen using the Mixcloud app.
We decided to do this mix (with comments) featuring key moments in British pop and rock music only using the records in James’ vinyl collection, starting in 1961 and ending in the mid-nineties.
Please enjoy this musical journey through British history, with some commentary by James and me.
The Shadows – The Savage
The Beatles – Twist & Shout
The Kinks – You really got me
The Who – Pictures of Lily
The Rolling Stones – Get offa my cloud
The Beatles – I am the Walrus
Cream – Strange brew
Procul Harum – A whiter shade of pale
The Beatles – Come together
The Kinks – Lola
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Status Quo – Ride my paper plane
Led Zeppelin – Rock & Roll
The Rolling Stones – Tumbling dice
T Rex – Children of the revolution
Roxy Music – Virginia plain
David Bowie – Fame
The Who – Success story
The Sex Pistols – Pretty vacant
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll
The Buzzcocks – Lipstick
Dr Feelgood – ?
The Police – So Lonely
Madness – My Girl
Joy Division – Transmission
The Specials – Ghost Town
Depeche Mode – I just can’t get enough
Fun Boy Three (feat. Bananarama) – It ain’t what you do (it’s the way that you do it)
Musical Youth – Pass the dutchie
The Smiths – How soon is now?
Pet Shop Boys – West end girls
The Stranglers – Golden brown
Motorhead – Iron Fist
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
The Cure – Close to you
The Jesus & Mary Chain – April Skies
The Stone Roses – Elephant stone
The Happy Mondays – Hallelujah
A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo ray
808 State – Pacific
Orbital – Chime
Primal Scream – Don’t fight it, feel it
Saint Etienne – Join our club
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle emptiness
Oasis – Supersonic
The Prodigy – No good start the dance
There are so many other tracks we wanted to play but couldn’t because there wasn’t enough time. Maybe one day we can do this again! Leave your comments below to tell us which tunes are your favourites! Thanks for listening. :)
Here’s a message for you with some announcements that will explain what’s going to be happening with the podcast over the next few weeks, so listen up!
I’m currently sitting in my brother’s flat in South London.
I’m just visiting London for a couple of days to see my brother, to visit LSE, attend to a bit of business and to sort some other things out here.
I was at London School of English the other day, to meet Andy Johnson and to see some of my former colleagues.
But now I’ve got a little bit of time before I head back to Paris on the Eurostar.
So, I’m taking a moment to record this message for you. I’ve got a few things to tell you so listen up!
I’m going away for a while. I’m leaving…
…on holiday for a couple of weeks.
Don’t worry – I will be back of course! The podcast will return.
But, I’m going to be away on holiday until the end of August.
What this means is that I won’t be doing the podcast while I’m away and I probably won’t be on social media a lot either so I might not be able to respond to questions or comments by email, in the comment section and so on because I’ll be taking time off, getting away from it all and just relaxing with my wife on holiday.
You might be thinking – will there be no podcasts until September Luke? When will the podcast return?
There should be some episodes and some website content arriving while I’m on holiday.
2. While I’m away
I’ve recorded a few things recently – including a couple of things here in the UK, and before I go away I’m going to edit them, make them into audio files and then set them to automatically publish while I am away. So, keep an eye on your podcast app, the website, your email inbox if you are subscribed to the mailing list.
Some new content should arrive while I am away, including:
Something I recorded with my Dad at the weekend – not about politics this time
A couple of things with Andy Johnson – recorded at London School of English the other day.
And maybe something else if I have time.
It depends how much I can get done before I leave.
As well as that, there should be one or two website-only episodes too. These will be episodes which won’t appear on the podcast, but which you will be able to listen to on the website – probably a couple of things I’ve done with James – something movie related and something music related.
So, watch out – some podcast episodes will arrive while I’m gone, and there will be a couple of website-only episodes too.
The best way to keep up with both the podcast episodes and the website-only content is to join the mailing list.
If you join the mailing list on the website you’ll receive an email when I upload new stuff.
The “website only” stuff will have a link saying something like “WEBSITE ONLY”.
Less than 5% of my podcast audience actually visits the website. I’m not sure why, considering the amount of content that’s there for you, including all the notes, transcriptions, videos and stuff for each episode, not to mention the episode archive which contains some stuff you will never have discovered if you just listen to podcast episodes through an app on your phone or on iTunes or something.
I know the site is blocked in some places, so there’s not much you can do.
But if you can, check out the website – it doesn’t work very well on a phone, I know, it’s best on a computer.
Have a look in the episode archive for some content that you won’t have seen if you only listen to the podcast.
Anyway, check the website, join the mailing list – confirm the email and then watch out for new podcast episodes and also some website-only content.
3. A WHOLE BUNCH OF LEPSTER MEETUPS
Spain (Alicante) Japan (Tokyo) Russia (Moscow and SPB) London (already occurred)
ALICANTE LEPsters meetup
Attention all LEPsters in ALICANTE Spain!
A meetup is happening there on 6 August with a Rushin’ listener called Alex (from the Moscow meetup group)
Details here www.facebook.com/events/132540147345936/
6 August at 6pm.
Queen Victoria pub/bar/cafe
Calle Mar, 03189 Orihuela (Alicante), España
3 reasons why it’s a good idea for you to go:
You can do lots of speaking practice and this is really good for your English. We all know this. You have to take advantage of any opportunities to speak English. This is one of those opportunities.
Alex, who is hosting the meetup, is a really nice, friendly guy and an interesting person to talk to. He’s been involved in almost all the Moscow LEPsters meetings, he’s got lots of experience of doing these things, and he’s very interested in meeting up with any LEPsters who are in the area. He’s especially keen to meet podcast listeners from different countries – so this is a cool Russian/Spanish crossover.
You can meet friendly people and just have a good time. In my experience LEPsters are nice, interesting people who share a similar outlook on life. It’s definitely worth meeting up with each other because you’ll make friends and you’ll have a good experience meeting like-minded, chatty people.
I heartily encourage you to take part.
Alexander Suvorov is the host.
I expect you will be able to find him there – he won’t be hiding, but perhaps you could ask at the bar if they know where the LEP Meeting is happening.
If you like you can do it discreetly, like you’re a secret agent, but that’s not really necessary.
This is a kind of first joint meet up for us. So I’m very excited. We are going to have it on 19th of August. Could you please, by any chance, announce our new meet up on your podcast or your web site?
Thank you as always. Cheers Hideki
They’re getting together in an Izakaya in Shinbashi – they haven’t chosen the exact location yet, but check out the FB page for the event and you’ll see where they decide to do it.
It was organised at quite late notice and I announced it just a few days before it happened, so there wasn’t a big turnout.
In fact, to be honest, only 5 people turned up.
One of them was Zdenek Lukas who was officially hosting it at The Fitzroy Tavern.
The second person was me – yes, I was there! I didn’t mention that I would be coming because when I announced it I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I was in the UK visiting my parents and I came to London a bit earlier than expected and decided to drop in on the meetup.
The third, fourth and fifth people, it seems, were there but Zdenek and I didn’t see them. One of them was Tomasz – (based on his comment on the FB page it looks like Tomasz turned up at the pub with a couple of friends but couldn’t find anyone!)
We were standing outside the pub drinking and talking – both Zdenek and I were there from 7 to 8.30 – just outside the door on the Charlotte Street side. I’m really sorry you missed us!
Anyway – London LEPsters – and I know there are lots of you out there, you missed out because Zdenek and I had a very nice evening, a couple of drinks, we did a lot of talking and also Zdenek recorded a 30 minute episode of his podcast with the two of us, as he likes to do in situations like that. I expect he’ll be uploading that quite soon – and I’ll probably post the episode on my website if it gets published before I go on holiday.
5. Well done to the Orion Team – they transcribed 100 episodes.
Orion Transcription Team reach 100 episodes
I want to give some respect to all the people who joined the Orion team and did the 100 episodes.
This was done by the Orion team, some ninjas, and a few people working alone.
Check out the huge list of Orion Team members in the comment under Transcript Collaboration page.
Transcribing and proofreading is a collaborative project done by listeners at a variety of levels, working together for mutual benefit.
The Orion Team is dedicated to transcribing episodes of the podcast, by dividing each episode into 3 minute sections – each member transcribes a section and the transcription is made like that. It’s all done on Google documents.
100 episodes finished.
The next step is proofreading.
This job is for more advanced listeners.
There is now a new team, dedicated to proofreading transcriptions written by the Orion team. This proofreading team is called The Andromeda Team – another group of stars.
Andromeda team use their more advanced skills to check the transcriptions done by the Orion team, and proofread them.
At this stage the Andromeda Proofreading Team is quite small, so I’m making a request for new members.
Calling all listeners with a high level of English. We need you for the Andromeda proofreading team. What you can do is read a finished transcript, and make any changes or corrections which you think are necessary.
On the transcript collaboration page on my website you will see blue boxes (scroll down a bit) including one blue box that says “Finished Transcripts – please help to correct them” – those are the ones that need to be proofread.
You could get into that folder and pick an episode to proofread.
I recommend that you listen to the episode that you’re proofreading.
You can turn any text that you’ve proofread blue, so you and everyone knows what’s been done.
Fully proofread documents will then be moved into the Andromeda Team folder to show that they’ve been proofread.
Transcribing and proofreading – they’re both very good ways to work on your English more intensively and turn listening input into intake. It’s good training that allows you to focus on specific language, specific pronunciation, spelling, grammar and many other things. It’s a great exercise.
It helps me because it means I have more transcripts to offer my listeners.
It helps other listeners because they can read the words they are hearing in episodes.
So, everyone’s a winner.
The best way to get started is to go to the Transcript Collaboration page on my website, and leave a comment saying “I want to join the Andromeda Team” or “I want to do some proofreading!” – Someone should reply to you and then they’ll tell you what to do next.
Or you can send an email to Antonio at email@example.com and say “Hi Antonio, I’d like to join the Andromeda Team – what shall I do?”
It’s all done on Google documents that are shared online.
That’s it then…
So to sum up – I’ll be going away on holiday in a few days and then i’ll disappear for a few weeks, but watch out for some content in the form of a few podcast episodes and some website-only content which should be arriving while I’m away.
Over the coming few weeks I hope you continue to practise your English. Just listening to new episodes is good, or you could check out old ones again because that helps you pick up language more effectively.
Have a lovely August and I’ll be back properly at the end of the month.
All the best, Luke
Here’s the final part in this trilogy of episodes recorded at my parents’ house on Boxing Day. In this one my mum, dad and brother tell us a few more anecdotes about their encounters with some well-known people.
The conversation you’re about to hear was recorded with my family on the same day as the last couple of episodes. It was quite late in the evening, after my uncle and aunt had gone home and after dinner and number drinks had been consumed. Picture a very warm and cosy living room with a wood burning stove going in the background.
After listening to Nic describing his encounters with some famous rock stars earlier in the day, the other members of my family wanted to get in on the action too with their stories about brushing shoulders with the stars. So here are a few other anecdotes from my dad, my brother and my mum.
It turns out that my family have met some genuine legends. I didn’t even realise that a couple of these things had happened. You’ll have to wait and see who they are. But here are some slightly cryptic clues.
Can you guess which people I’m talking about?
One of the UK’s favourite authors who wrote a series of beloved books which have also been made into successful films.
A British comic actor who likes eating ice-creams and fighting zombies, criminals and aliens, in his movies (not real life of course).
A small but very important woman who often appears in public but is also a very private person.
A nonagenarian who once said that he was “the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” A nonagenerian is someone in their nineties – also, septuagenarian (70s) and octogenarian (80s).
There are others too, including an American punk rock star with lots of tattoos and muscles, a Shakespearean actor who has become a successful film director and an actor who had a bit part in the British TV series The Office.
I should perhaps remind you of several other anecdotes which you might have heard on this podcast before, which are mentioned in this conversation.
The time my brother ended up lost in Hastings and slept on a stranger’s sofa and woke up to discover the guy sitting in a chair next to him. Was the guy just friendly and welcoming, or slightly creepy? Originally told by my bro in this episode https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes
The time my mum met the King of Tonga. Originally told in this episode too https://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes
The time I met comedian Eddie Izzard and was a bit lost for words. I sort of went to pieces a bit and made it really awkward and weird by saying “You’re in my head!” – not the right thing to say at all. Originally told be me in this episode https://teacherluke.co.uk/2014/06/10/184-lukes-d-day-diary-part-2/
Anyway, you can now sit back and enjoy some more time with The Thompsons.
Outro Transcript + ad-libs
Funny, isn’t he? My brother. I would like him to be on the podcast more often, if he’s up for it. The thing is that he’s a bit modest really and isn’t the sort of outgoing person who likes to broadcast his thoughts and opinions over the internet, although he obviously should because he’s got a lot to offer. He ought to do a podcast or something like that, right? He does have a YouTube channel but it’s mainly skateboarding. www.youtube.com/user/VideoDaze/videos
*All the background music in this episode was also made by James*
This is a quick message not a full episode and I just wanted to say a few words about donations, essentially this: If you’re thinking of sending me a donation this Christmas, you could instead consider sending your donation to a charity in order to help people who are in need of our assistance at the moment. So, rather than sending something to me, send it to others, by using a reputable charity like Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) by going to www.msf.org/en/donate
In a recent episode I mentioned that you might want to donate to LEP as a way of wishing me a Merry Christmas and saying thanks for my work.
I’ve already received a few donations – so thank you very much if you’re one of the people who sent me something. It’s really kind of you to support my work on this podcast. I appreciate your contributions, I really do.
But today I was thinking about this, and I would like to say again, that instead of sending a donation to me for this podcast this Christmas, that instead you might consider donating some money to charity.
Because there are loads of people out there who right now are having a really bad time, and through no fault of their own they’re suffering – either because they are living in a place with no system of care, or they’re just stuck in the middle of a political or military conflict or an environmental situation that they have no control over.
There are many people all over the world in impossible situations, and in the vast majority of cases it’s not their fault – it’s nothing to do with them really – it’s governments, corrupt politicians or the effects of climate change. These people are just trying to live their lives but forces outside of their control mean that they can’t – not even in the most basic way – they’re being stripped of the absolute basics.
I think about the people of Aleppo in Syria for example – thousands and thousands of civilians are caught up in this extremely messed up international conflict, a conflict in which so many different factions are involved – the governments of many of our countries together with extremist groups like ISIS are all involved in this extremely complicated situation. It’s a horrendous conflict and there are just ordinary people stuck in the middle of it – whole cities of people just smashed to the ground and what for? They’re the victims of an ideological and economic proxy war which we don’t even really understand.
The fact is, these people need our help, quite frankly.
So I’d like to say – actually, don’t send any contributions to me because I’m alright this Christmas. I’ll be with my family having a good time – maybe having an argument about the rules of Monopoly or something or perhaps feeling a bit sick because I’ve eaten or drunk too much, but I’ll be doing more than alright, all things considered.
And since I’ve got some people who listen to this podcast, I thought I might just suggest that you send money to a charity that will use that contribution to give medical care and support to people who have basically been forgotten or ignored.
Because your health is the most important thing, right?
As long as you’ve got your health, you’re alright. Obviously, we’re all striving for more than that – we want success, to achieve things in our work or in our language learning. But ultimately, your health is the basis for any type of quality of life.
Some people can’t even be sure of that. They can’t even be sure about just the most basic of human needs.
So, I think you get it – I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything. I just want you to consider making a contribution to a charity for Christmas.
Obviously you don’t have to, it’s just a suggestion.
Now, it’s a little bit tricky donating to charity – because by giving money to an organisation you’re saying to them – Here you go, now I completely trust you to actually use that money for good things, and that you won’t just spend it yourself on some cake or something, or give it to corrupt leaders for whatever reason.
When you give to charity you are basically putting your trust in that organisation to spend it properly and in the most effective way possible.
It seems that before you make a donation you need to make sure it’s a reputable charity with good ratings in areas like:
Their overall mission and to what extent they actually accomplish it
Their goals and how they measure their own performance and evaluate their achievements
Their financial records – including details of exactly how the money is spent
Guarantees that they are neutral, impartial and independent – and not affiliated with governments or other organisations that might take a cut of the money
Where and how they actually use the money
To what extent they use emotional blackmail in their campaigns, or to what extent they prey on weaker people to give donations – both of which I think are signs of disreputable organisations
There are services that allow you to check the trustworthiness and effectiveness of charities, like for example charitynavigator.org
So, with all those things in mind I’m recommending that you donate to Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontiers or MSF. www.msf.org/en/donate
On their website: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality.
They are performing a vital role in giving basic medical care to people who have been forgotten or ignored by people in power. Much of their work is done in Africa, in Asia and also in the middle east providing care for Syrian refugees.
One of the things I like about them is that they take a politically neutral position.
More words from their website: MSF’s work is based on humanitarian principles. We are committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. MSF operates independently. We conduct our own evaluations on the ground to determine people’s needs. More than 90 per cent of our overall funding comes from millions of private sources, not governments. MSF is neutral. We do not take sides in armed conflicts, we provide care on the basis of need, and we push for independent access to victims of conflict as required under international humanitarian law.
Doctors Without Borders is one of the most widely known international charities involved in many Middle Eastern conflicts, including the Syrian civil war. Doctors Without Borders has been crucial in their medical aid to Syrian Refugees, especially in the neighbouring nations of Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. Their stellar work has landed them very high rankings on Charity Navigator.
So, they seem to be a charity who will do their best to spend as much of our donations as possible on actually helping people.
So, please consider sending something to them over the Christmas period.
It’s really simple to do – just go to MSF.org and click donate. You can choose how much you give, but I am sure that every penny counts. It could make a massive difference to someone’s life, allowing them some relief, comfort or care at this time of year.
OK, so that’s all I wanted to say! Thanks for listening and have a good Christmas.
I’ve decided to celebrate the 400th episode of LEP by making up an improvised comedy story, just for fun. In fact, this is the long-awaited sequel to The Pink Gorilla Story from episode 125.
In this episode I’ve decided to tell you an improvised comedy story in the ‘one-man-show’ style – the whole thing is made up on the spot with different characters and jokes along the way. It’s a challenge for me to do this kind of episode, and it might be a challenge for you to listen to it too, I don’t know! I certainly hope you enjoy it.
This kind of never-ending ridiculous story is often known as ashaggy dog story. It’s an old joke archetype. People have been doing this sort of thing for years. Shaggy dog stories are just jokes that go on and on forever, although I think 80 minutes might be some kind of record.
a shaggy dog story (definition)
a long, rambling story or joke, typically one that is amusing only because it is absurdly inconsequential or pointless.
This episode is actually a sequel to the original Pink Gorilla Story from a few years ago. That one is kind of a cult episode, meaning it is really popular with certain listeners. For some people it’s their favourite episode ever. I really enjoyed recording that one because it was a chance to just have fun, let my mind run and try to think of funny scenarios and dialogues, which is quite liberating. You could try doing it too as an exercise in liberated creative storytelling for fluency or production. Switching off your ‘internal editor’ and letting your mind run free with crazy ideas can be very fun and can open up your creative side, which I think shouldn’t be forgotten in your quest to develop your language skills.
You might want to listen to part 1 of the Pink Gorilla Story first, so that the sequel makes a bit more sense (“makes sense” ha!) You’ll find it on the page for this episode (below), then listen to this one. Or, you could listen to this episode first, then listen to part 1 afterwards. It’s up to you. Either way, I hope you enjoy it and just come along with me on this ride into comedy nonsense-land.
Similar stories I’ve done in the past
I have done other improvised stories like this in the past (linked below), but The Pink Gorilla Story was the first one I did and I’ve been meaning to do a sequel for a while. So, finally, here it is.
Today is 5th November, which is quite a significant date in UK culture because it’s Guy Fawkes Night!
“What’s Guy Fawkes Night, Luke?” you might (not) be shouting into your screen at this moment.
“Pray tell us Luke, what is the significance of this date in the UK calendar? This sounds absolutely fascinating! Why not record a podcast episode all about it!?”
Lovely idea – but I’ve already done it! I recorded an episode all about Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night exactly 7 years ago today. So in this post I thought I’d share this old episode from the archives. Some of you might have heard it before but I expect there are plenty of you who haven’t. So, because I don’t have a new episode to upload at this moment (I’ve had my hands full recently with work, zombies, ghosts and stuff) I thought I’d suggest that you listen to this one.
So, check it out below! It *might* be interesting for you to hear what LEP was like in 2009 when I recorded this on a crappy old laptop while sitting on my sofa in my old flat in old London.
Experience the horror of the terrifyingly bad sound quality of LEP in 2009! Behold the chilling sounds of my laptop humming and whirring in the background! Run screaming from the slightly dull way I used to speak on the podcast 7 years ago!(Or maybe not – do I sound any different?)
Here’s a selection of what you can expect to hear in this episode:
Stuff about the origins of Halloween – is it just a load of commercial crap, or is it a scary ancient celtic festival? Or both?
Some history of Guy Fawkes Night in the UK
Creepy stuff about spirits of the dead
A terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament
Regicide and mass homicide!
Gunpowder, treason & plot!
Guts, blood and gore!
Listen to the episode below and follow the link for the original page for episode 54.