Eric Idle OnlineMy Life

Smaller and Smaller

By , October 31, 2012 8:43 am

Not a day goes by without us getting smaller.  So far from the medieval picture of us as the centre of the heavens, with everything revolving around our fixed planet, we now find ourselves thrust ever farther from the enormity of the Universe, so that now we are only at the extreme edge of a thing so immense it is almost impossible to conceive.

I was thinking of such things this summer staring up at the Milky Way overhead, and by the way, if you want to do that do hurry up, because each year light pollution makes it harder and harder to see, so that in thirty years the whole planet will be alight by night and day and we can forget the inconvenient truths about how tiny we really are, and get on with the whole business of supplying arms to each other.

I was working on a new version of The Galaxy Song for Professor Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life,  and I remembered that some people (including Brian himself) have questioned some of the facts referred to in the original Galaxy Song.  When I began to write that song in Provence in 1981 the astronomical distances and speeds mentioned in the lyrics were all considered scientifically accurate: now, of course, we have had thirty years of expanding scientific research and observation and so I have had to alter the words to correspond to our new estimate of the extreme distances in the Galaxy and the ever expanding Universe.   Here’s the original lyric.

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving

And revolving at 900 miles an hour,

That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,

A sun that is the source of all our power.

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see,

Are moving at a million miles a day

In an outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,

Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

 

Our galaxy itself contains 100 billion stars

It’s 100,000 light years side to side.

It bulges in the middle 16,000 light years thick

But out by us it’s just 3 thousand light years wide

We’re 30,000 light years from galactic central point,

We go round every 200 million years

And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions

In this amazing and expanding Universe.

 

The Universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding

In all of the directions it can whizz

As fast as it can go, at the speed of light you know,

12 million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.

So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecure

How amazingly unlikely is your birth

And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space

Because there’s bugger all down here on earth.

c) Idle/Du Prez

The first challenge to the lyrics came in 2003, with this webpage: http://ephemeris.sjaa.net/0312/b.html

My comments in italics. Remember he is writing in 2003.  The comments from Professor Brian Cox are from this week.

Eric Idle, Monty Python player extraordinaire, wrote the Galaxy Song for the movie The Meaning of Life. I was quite curious to see how it has withstood 20 years of astronomical leaps in our understanding of the universe. My references can be found at http://www.softwarerepair.com/astro/ReferencesforGalaxySong.htm.

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
While still controversial in some areas, evolution seems pretty well established.

Except perhaps in America.  Where in some areas evolution is clearly going backwards.

And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
The speed of the earth’s revolution is once per day (duh) but at the equator the circumference of the earth is 25,000 miles so that makes the speed just over 1,000 miles per hour. However, by the time you get as far north as the UK (Eric Idle’s country) the speed is actually less than 700 miles per hour. The 900 figure might be good enough for our purposes.

And it was written in Provence, further South than the UK.

That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
The earth orbits the sun at 29km/second and there is roughly a 3:2 ratio between kilometers and miles so 19 miles per second is pretty close.

A sun that is the source of all our power.
This may be a bit of hyperbole. The sun is responsible for all wind and solar power and because our weather depends on the sun we would include hydroelectric power as well. Oil and coal formed as a result of sun-driven processes on earth so that’s okay. But this particular sun did not create uranium so it could be argued that it doesn’t supply all of our power.

I think it was a metaphor not a hyperbole, but I must bow to scientific accuracy.  Professor Brian picks up on this too, so I shall have to alter it.   This is what he says…

(PBC) “The Sun isn’t the source of all our power. We use heat from the Earth’s core in the form of geothermal energy, and nuclear power comes from Uranium, primarily, which was made in a supernova explosion before the solar system formed. The Earth’s internal heat is part nuclear – Uranium decay and other radioactive isotopes, and part the heat from the gravitational collapse of the solar system’s primordial dust cloud 5 billion years ago – ish. Also, tidal power comes from the Moon’s orbit.”

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
The sun (and therefore the earth and at least all the stars that you can see with the naked eye) are moving through the galaxy at 225km/sec. This comes out to more than 6 million miles per day.

I shall clearly have to alter this

In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
We are indeed in an outer spiral arm of the galaxy. If we were moving at a million miles per day that would come out to 40,000 miles an hour. If the number is closer to 6 million miles per day that makes it close to 250,000 MPH.

Hm, this is tricky for the metre. Would you settle for 200,000 miles per hour?  Recently I was singing 400,000 miles per hour which is way too much, so I have to change it.

Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.

While there have been some estimates that are a bit higher than 100 billion stars, this is still a pretty good estimate.

This is Professor Brian’s comment:

(PBC) “Not sure about the latest Milky Way geometry figures, but they are about right. I think the Milky Way stats on its Wikipedia page are accurate. Slightly fewer than 500 billion stars, prob. closer to 300 billion etc.”

So we’ll settle for that then, 300 billion stars.

It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
Give or take 20,000 light years, this is close to the current estimate.

It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
Estimates vary quite a bit but 10-30 thousand light years is at least one estimate for the middle of the galaxy

So sixteen is right in the middle and can stay right?

But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
And in the outer arms it is anywhere from 1 to 10 thousand light years wide.

I was singing “a thousand” recently but three seems as good as anything.

We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
A very good estimate.

We go round every two hundred million years,
Rounding down to the nearest hundred million, this will do nicely.

And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
Millions of billions would be quite a lot. Some estimates are in excess of 1 trillion galaxies but that’s only thousands of billions. But we aren’t done counting yet.

Now this one Professor Brian does pick up on in this email quote:

(PBC) “I’d be specific that the song is speaking of the observable universe – the sphere around 90 billion light years in diameter. There are around 300 billion large galaxies in the observable universe I think, so a million billion galaxies is too many.”

Fair enough but I think the distinction between the observable universe and non-observable is way too esoteric for the song….

(PBC) “But I think there are also a larger, unknown number of dwarf galaxies. But still less than a million billion!”

Here are some “facts” that I pulled out of David Engelman’s book about the brain:  He states there are:

500 million Galaxy groups

10 billion large Galaxies

100 billion dwarf Galaxies

2,000 billion billion suns

The visible Universe is 15 billion light years across and may itself be just a small speck in the total Universe…

But Professor Brian quarrels with this

(PBC) “10 billion is way too low for large galaxies, but this number has changed a lot since the Hubble Deep Field Image was taken. I think the newer number is 300 billion large galaxies, which isn’t far off 110 billion if you count his dwarf galaxies (what’s a factor of 3 between friends). But this is a lot less than a million billion – ten thousand times less in fact. I’ve seen it said there might be a trillion dwarf galaxies, but that’s still only a million million and not a million billion. A million billion is a thousand times more than a million million, which in turn is a thousand times more than a billion :)

So I have to change this.  Can I have millions and billions?  Which keeps the original feeling of the line but doesn’t stray from scientific truth.

(PBC) “And it’s definitely 90 million light years side to side … 15 billion in his book comes from the age, but we (of course!!) are speaking of the co-moving distance – i.e. spacetime itself has been stretching for 13.7 billion years, so although it’s only 13.7 billion years old, the distance to the most distant things we can see NOW is greater – around 45 million light years in each direction.”

That’s fine, because it’s the figure we use in the new Galaxy song (qv), as is this reference:  

(PBC) “There are certainly well over a billion trillion stars in it, though. The entire Universe, beyond the visible horizon, may be infinite in extent. But we’ll never see it all !”

this amazing and expanding universe.
And probably expanding at a faster rate than before.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whiz
We have pretty solid proof of that these days

As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
But matter cannot generally move at the speed of light so the speed of the expansion is somewhat less. On the other hand, there was a time in the early universe where it seems it did expand at a speed greater than the speed of light.

Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
The speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second or just a bit shy of 12 million miles a minute. There are claims for things that can go faster but it is still speculation.

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
The human genome project has found 30,000 genes. It would take only 33 genes to make every living person unique.

And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.

Certainly true.

So here is the scientifically correct updated lyric for today.  Of course in thirty years you’ll have to change it all again, but I’m afraid you’ll have to do it for me.

The Scientifically Approved and Totally Verified, All New, Guaranteed Reasonably Accurate lyrics to Monty Python’s Galaxy Song.

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving

And revolving at 900 miles an hour,

That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,

A sun that is the source of so much power.

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see,

Are moving at six million miles a day

In an outer spiral arm, 200,000 miles an hour,

Of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

 

Our galaxy itself contains 300 billion stars

It’s 100,000 light years side to side.

It bulges in the middle 16,000 light years thick

But out by us it’s just 3 thousand light years wide

We’re 30,000 light years from galactic central point,

We go round every 200 million years

And our galaxy is only one of millions and billions

In this amazing and expanding Universe.

 

The Universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding

In all of the directions it can whizz

As fast as it can go, at the speed of light you know,

12 million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.

So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecure

How amazingly unlikely is your birth

And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space

Because there’s bugger all down here on earth.

c) Idle/Du Prez

In Me Own Words

By , October 24, 2012 9:29 am

 

The Rock and Roll Memoirs of Eff “Stiffie” Steffham.

When this autobiography was first mooted, people laughed.   Eff hasn’t even read a book they said, let alone written one, but as I said  to my publisher, if I’m gonna have me own autobiography, which tells me own story in me own words,  I want somebody good to write it.    So that is why my first words are to thank Ian Scramm for helping me wiv all the boring bits of an autobiography,  like writing it down and typing it up.  Wivout him I couldn’t have written this book.   It’s my name on the cover and I remember everyfing.  People say “Oh Eff, he can’t remember nuffing because of all that stuff he took to help him play guitar so loudly” but that is not true.  I only took medicine to help me stand up.  I have spent a lot of time lying down in my career, thanks to the various medications that I was forced to take by the stresses of society, but people don’t realize that it’s not easy to take all the drugs, all the sex and all the money, without napping a bit on stage, and yes it used to annoy the others,  but it was me people came to see fall over.   And nowadays people look up to me; at least when I’m standing up.

 

Looking back on it I’ve bin pretty lucky.   But it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.  Or a prettier.  Nature has been very kind to me, and I have bin described as having the face of an angel, and the balls of a racehorse.  Or was it the face of a racehorse and the brains of an angel?   No, that was Celine Dior.   Still in rock and roll it doesn’t hurt to look good and without me The Knobs would never have got nowhere, because it was me that created the name The Knobs.  Well I wrote the first half anyway.   “It’s got to be the something” I said, and thank heaven they listened to me for once.  I don’t know why, but some inner voice, call it God if you like, was telling me that somefing very big was about to happen.  Somefing in its way as big as the discovery of gravity by Stephen Hawking, who is a big Knob fan by the way and has both our albums, including the very hard to find Strangling the Badger, which many people have credited wiv helping him discover Black Holes.   And that wouldn’t surprise me at all because we discovered so many black holes between here and Maidenhead.   Of course it all started wiv Iron Midden, they were heavy shit.   But even without them, and our accidentally borrowing a few of their songs The Knobs would still have been something that they are today.

Nowadays almost every jumped up prat in rock and roll is publishing an autobiography and some of them don’t even have the decency to pay a writer, they just do it theirselves.  Cheapskate bastards.   At least Ian bothered to do research, and wait till I was awake and then talk to everyone I reckon I ever knew, and yes we teased him a little by setting fire to him now and again and throwing him off the boat in Crete, but he recovered very well, and took it all in good heart, because he knew we were only playing, and we all wish him well, and hope he’ll be out of hospital soon.   Anyway the book’s almost done, the cover looks great, and there only remains the heavy bits like reading it, and being on the telly selling it, which I am quite looking forward to. But it has been a long hard road, and mercifully Ian has been down every highway and written it all down in me own words.   Now I expect he’ll want money.   But that’s people innit.  They always want a piece of yer.  As I say in me song, life has a way of biting you in the bum.   And that’s become an anthem.   So, I hope you’ll buy both our old albums, and maybe even come and see us on the road, who knows:   I might fall over!

 

Cheers mate

 

Steff.

 

c)  Eff Steffham.  32 Tax Haven Street, Willesden.

 

Tour dates:   (not yet confirmed.)

The Wordsworth Centre, Lake Windermere

Redditch Cemetery.

Parkhurst Prison, for a reunion with Soggy.

The Mud Festival Wales

Burning Itch Outdoor Weekend

The Concert for the Poor (cancelled due to lack of sales.)

 

 

November 13th is Dick Day

By , October 16, 2012 8:21 am

Remember the date.  Blog it.  Post it.  Tweet it.  Put it on your calendar.  Have it tattooed on a private and rarely seen organ.  Tie a bit of string round the dog’s bollocks to remind you.  Leave small notes about the house saying “Today is Dick Day.” Call up your friends.  Tell people at work.  Email it to people you hardly know.  Stop wedding guests in the street and tell them in verse.  But do remember the date:

November 13th is Dick Day.

On that day (or almost a day earlier in Australia) you can begin to download Dick exclusively from www.whataboutdick.com

Yes this once in a lunchtime offer to see Dick can be yours for only six bucks.  Featuring one of the funniest casts ever assembled:  Russell Brand, Billy Connolly, Tim Curry, Eric Idle,  Eddie Izzard, Jane Leeves, Jim Piddock, Tracey Ullman and Sophie Winkleman, talk about bang for your bucks.

Be the first on your block to download it.  Plan a Dick party.  Come in your pajamas.  Or come in her pajamas.   Either way don’t miss this shameless display of public weirdness.

 

ERIC IDLE’S HILIARIOUS COMEDY EVENT

“WHAT ABOUT DICK?” WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR DIGITAL DOWNLOAD TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2012

Featuring an All-Star Cast of:

Russell Brand, Billy Connolly, Tim Curry, Eric Idle,

Eddie Izzard, Jane Leeves, Jim Piddock, Tracey Ullman and Sophie Winkleman

 “Utter madness, brilliant innovation, weirdly wonderful… and deeply moving.”

– Huffington Post, Jay Weston

What is What About Dick?   A bird?  A plane?  A superglue? A film for radio?  A play?  A farce? An improv?  An albatross?  This weird hybrid, somewhere between Greek Tragedy and Professional Wrestling, is a comedy for comedians.  It has been variously described as “Oscar Wilde on acid,” “like Downton Abbey and almost as funny,” “like E.M Forster on steroids” and “a cross between a budgerigar and an accountant.”

 What About Dick? begins with the birth of a sex toy invented in Shagistan in 1898 by Deepak Rushdie Obi Ben Kingsley (Eddie Izzard), and tells the story of the subsequent decline of the British Empire as seen through the eyes of a Piano. The Piano (Eric Idle) narrates the tale of Dick (Russell Brand); his two cousins: Emma, (Jane Leeves) an emotionally retarded English girl; her kleptomaniac sister Helena (Sophie Winkleman) and their dipsomaniac Aunt Maggie (Tracey Ullman) who all live together in a large, rambling, Edwardian novel.   When the Reverend Whoopsie (Tim Curry) discovers a piano on a beach, a plot is set afoot that can be solved only by a private Dick, the incomprehensible Scottish sleuth Inspector McGuffin (Billy Connolly) who with the aid of Sergeant Ken Russell (Jim Piddock) finally reveals the identity of the Houndsditch Mutilator.

The show features eight new songs from Eric Idle and John Du Prez, the Grammy-award winning duo who brought you Spamalot and the comic Oratorio, Not The Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) including Arsetrology, Blow Me (a Kiss in the Moonlight) He’s Different (not Gay) and The Lament of the Lonely Trout.

 “A comic free-for-all.” Tim Curry

 “It’s a huge laugh.  It could rip your lungs out.  People could watch this and laugh too much and die, so that’s, that’s the danger.  It’s actually dangerous to watch this…” Eddie Izzard

 “These people are people that live for laughter!  They’re dangerous people to be around.  They’ll do anything!” Russell Brand

 “Most of the audiences have no idea what it is… They know there’s a vaguely suggestive title and they know the list of names and that’s why they’re in here!” Billy Connolly

 “The audience loves hearing those Python rhythms and that Python language… but we’re adding ourselves to it too and going off in riffs of madness…” Tracey Ullman

 “Genuinely a spirit of anarchy.” This cast is unique.  You’ll never see this cast together again doing something like this.” Eric Idle

 “Everyone who watches it gets free glue for life!” Eddie Izzard

Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whataboutdick,

follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/whataboutdick

or add on Google+ at http://gplus.to/WhatAboutDick.

Or follow Eric on https://twitter.com/ericidle

 

Twit of the Year

By , October 8, 2012 10:36 am

I’m sorry.

I’m going to disappoint you.

I’m going to let you down.

I said I wouldn’t.

I assured you I couldn’t.

And yet, sadly, and alas, it’s true:

I’m going to Tweet.

I know.  It’s distressing.   And for those of you who have made a healthy unliving out of tweeting in my name it’s bad news.  It’s bad news too for both of you who like my blog because now I have only 140 words instead of unpacking my mind in paragraphs.

But the reason for my change of heart is simple:   I want you to see my Dick.

Not Exhibitionism so much as Commerce.

So here it is folks.  https://twitter.com/ericidle

The Powers that be insist that if I only start tweeting, people will be driven into a feeding frenzy and download awesome amounts of What About Dick? 

Of course this may be a total lie, and they just want me to go out there pimping my ass so they can feel better, but I cannot prove this, and as I very much want you to see my Dick I have no leg to stand on.

Actually I just stood on the dog’s leg, but that was an accident.

Ouch.   She bit me.   Bloody dogs.  Can’t take a joke.

Anyway we have finished editing the HD movie of those four mad nights of What About Dick? and it has been greeted with gales of laughter from both my friends and now it is time to make its way into the world and face the whistle test: will you like it, will you buy it?   Particularly so as we are venturing into the brave new world of direct download.   Our product will be Executive-free, my Dick will be untouched by any foreign hands, it will be downloaded directly to you anywhere in the world directly from our website http://www.whataboutdick.com/

And to get that message out, apparently I must begin tweeting right away.

As I am unfamiliar with this mode of creation I intend to tweet many of my friends who are already light years ahead to get their advice on how to master this new form.   I have much to learn and many questions to ask.

Here are a few:

 Is it necessary to wear a condom while tweeting?

I have heard the internet is unsafe, and I don’t want my computer to catch anything.  I intend to ask Stephen Fry this, as he has been tweeting since the early nineteenth century. (https://twitter.com/stephenfry)

Do I have to be funny?

This is clearly a question for Garry Shandling, although he rarely fails to be funny about everything.  (https://twitter.com/GarryShandling)

What shall I wear when Tweeting?    Loose shorts?   A kilt perhaps?

Obviously a question for Billy Connolly.  If anyone knows more about kilt-free tweeting I will be very surprised. (https://twitter.com/Billy_Connolly)

Should I wear eye make-up when tweeting?

                                    This is tailor-made for Eddie Izzard (https://twitter.com/eddieizzard).

Can I tweet while drunk?

I shall ask Sir Patrick Stewart this since he promised he would not tweet while drinking. (https://twitter.com/SirPatStew/status/244586042278178817).

Is it rude to tweet during sex?

This is a question for Russell Brand (https://twitter.com/rustyrockets).    No one will know more about the etiquette of tweeting and greeting.   For instance it may be ok to tweet during foreplay.

Do I have to publish a Book of my tweets?

This question is obviously for Steve Martin ), who has already done just that.   He is probably already Hosting The Tweet of The Year Awards  (The Twitties?)       (https://twitter.com/SteveMartinToGo

Can you tweet while playing banjo?

Obviously this is a twick question.  I am going to send it to Kevin Nealon (https://twitter.com/kevin_nealon), but Steve Martin and Billy Connolly are both excellent banjo artistes.  In fact it may be necessary to learn banjo in order to get the speed into the fingers required for hammering out a fast tweet.

Is the tweet the sonnet form of today?

Not as random a question as it looks.  A Shakespearian sonnet has ten feet per line, times fourteen lines, so metrically a tweet is a sonnet.  I’m going to ask Salman Rushdie this, as he knows everything, and I am halfway through his brilliant must-read memoir Joseph Anton.     (https://twitter.com/SalmanRushdie)

What exactly is the size of the Universe again?

Obviously a simple question for Professor Brian Cox (https://twitter.com/ProfBrianCox).  Of course you are impressed I even know Brian Cox, let alone have dinner with him, but I met him when he came to the filming of Dick and I have subsequently worked with him on a new version of The Galaxy Song, for his upcoming series The Wonders of Life, about which I shall surely blog shortly.

OK so now I’m ready to begin my first day tweeting.  Wish me luck.  Oh, and if you feel like it, that bit I wrote for The New Yorker is out today.

 

Become a fan of What About Dick on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whataboutdick, follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/whataboutdick  or add on Google+ at http://gplus.to/WhatAboutDick.

Follow Eric’s brave new world at https://twitter.com/ericidle