Thursday, June 07, 2007

The annotated half-a-bee

Perhaps one of the greatest unrecognized philosophic works of the 20th century is Monty Python's skit "Eric the half-a-bee". At first glance this seems a trivial, even silly, skit describing the antics of a man with a handicapped pet insect. Closer inspection reveals it to be a muti-faceted examination of the nature of human existence. Following is the text of the skit, annotated to show the hidden, but subtle references to philosophy, music, and language.

* * *

Half a bee, philosophically, must, ipso facto, half not be.[1]
But half the bee
has got to be,
vis a vis [2]
its entity - do you see?

But can a bee[3]
be said to be
or not to be
an entire bee
when half the bee
is not a bee
due to some ancient injury?

La dee dee, 1 2 3,
Eric the half a bee.
A B C D E F G, [4]
Eric the half a bee.

Is this wretched demi-bee, [5]
half asleep upon my knee,
some freak from a menagerie? [6]
No! It's Eric the half a bee.

Fiddle dee dum,
Fiddle dee dee,[7]
Eric the half bee.

Ho ho ho, [8]
Tee hee hee,
Eric the half a bee.

I love this hive employee-ee-ee [with buzzing in background]
bisected accidentally [9]
one summer afternoon by me [10]
I love him carnally. [11]

He loves him carnally... [together]
...semi-carnally [12]

The end [13]

"Cyril Connelly? [14]
No! "Semi-carnally"

Cyril Connelly [sung softly and slowly]

***This is the actual end of the skit.***

1)This is a pun on Rene Descartes's famous "Cogito Ergo Sum", or "I think therefore I am".
2)Vis-a-vis : Literally, "face to face." Means "in comparison with"
3) The German philosopher Schopenhauer had this to say about Shakespear's soliloquy:
"The essential purport of the world-famous monologue in Hamlet is, in condensed form,
that our state is so wretched that complete non-existence would be decidedly preferable
to it. Now if suicide actually offered us this, so that the alternative "to be or
not to be" lay before us in the full sense of the words, it could be chosen unconditionally
as a highly desirable termination ("a consummation devoutly to be wish'd" [Act III,
Sc. I.]). There is something in us, however, which tells us that this is not so,
that this is not the end of things, that death is not an absolute annihilation."
4)Uses the following chords:
C D (A bee, cee dee)
F D7 G
5) Demi: a prefix, signifying "half"
6) Menagerie: A collection of live wild animals on exhibition
7)Fiddle dee-dee: Used to express mild annoyance or impatience.
8) Laughingly
9)Bisect: Cut into two parts
10)The author expresses pain and guilt at injuring a living creature.
11)Carnally: Of or relating to the body or flesh; bodily
12) Semi: A prefix to a verb, noun, or adjective meaning "half".
13) This is a literary misdirection to fool the listener into think the skit is over.
14) Cyril Connelly (1903 - 1974) was an English intellectual.
Perhaps his best known work is the autobiography Enemies of Promise (1938), in which
he attempted to explain his failure to produce the literary masterpiece which he
and others believed he should have been capable of writing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New clues to origin of the banjo.

The origin of the banjo remains shrouded in the mists of history, but historians have recently uncovered a fascinating clue about its beginnings. Researchers studying the Bayeux Tapestry at the Louvre Museum in Paris recently noticed what appears to be an Akonting, the early predecessor of the Banjo, in a depiction of King Harold.

The Bayeux Tapestry (French: Tapisserie de Bayeux) is a 20 in by 230 ft long embroidered cloth which depicts the events leading up to, as well as, the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The tapestries are believed to have been commissioned in the 1070s, possibly completed by 1077.

In scene 3 of the tapestry, King Harold is shown picking a banjo from the prow of his ship as he prepares to land in Ponthieu, north of Normandy, the territory of the fierce Count Guy. The tapestry depicts Harold being seized by the soldiers of Count Guy who is angered by the sound of the instrument. After a series of negotiations, Harold is rescued by Duke William of Normandy.

If this research proves true, it could set our knowledge of the banjo’s origin back nearly 500 years
© 2008 Raoul Rubin