26 September 2004

G & S

Plate of shrimp! I was just talking to someone the other day about this very subject: Gilbert and Sullivan's immense contribution to society in writing “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General,” which makes possible countless silly songs using awkward words.

Case in point: “I am the Very Model of a Modern Esotericist.” My readers who will enjoy that one know who they are.

And y'all are geeks. Let's face it, a love for Gilbert and Sullivan is kinda geeky. The greatest of all “Modern Major General” variations is, of course, Tom Lehrer's “The Elements,” a song based on the periodic table of the elements.

There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium

(You ought to check our this very nifty Flash animation of the song I found, by the way.)

Recall that I pointed out some time ago that G&S also turn up in the West Wing drinking game. For all the banter in the halls of Sorkin's White House about basketball, any romanticized screwball drama about the White House staff has to be classified as a show by and for geeks.

Furthermore, to my mind, the only redeeming scene in Star Trek: Insurrection is the silly bit at the beginning where Data has gone a bit berserk and they're trying to recapture him. Worf and Picard are in one shuttlecraft, Data's in another, and they're having a dogfight. (If you haven't seen the film, you're going to have to believe me that this stuff is really in the picture: I cut-and-pasted it from a shooting script I found on the web.)

PICARD: He can fly a ship, he anticipates tactical strategies, his brain is obviously functioning ... We've seen how he responds to threats. I wonder how he'd respond to ...

Another shot connects

Do you know Gilbert and Sullivan?

WORF: No, sir. I haven't had a chance to meet all the new crew members since I've been back.

PICARD: They're composers, Worf, from the nineteenth century. Data was rehearsing a part in H.M.S. Pinafore before he left.
(singing to com)
 “A British tar is a soaring soul,
   As free as a mountain bird,
   His energetic fist should be ready to resist
   A dictatorial word.”

Picard looks at Worf, nods. Join me! Worf gives him an exasperated look ... Picard begins to enter commands into the computer as he continues to sing ...

 “His nose should pant and his lip should curl,
   His cheeks should flame and his brow should furl.”

Data reacts. From somewhere inside his damaged brain, he recalls this song. He starts to sing to himself ...

 “His bosom should heave and his heart should glow,
      And his fist be ready for a knock-down blow.”

The lyrics are scrolling on a monitor now, a bouncing ball making it easier for Worf to follow.

PICARD: (To Worf) Sing!

 “His nose should pant and his lip should curl,
   His cheeks should flame and his brow should furl.”

And Data sings in unison —

 “His bosom should heave and his heart should glow
   And his fist be ready for a knock-down blow.”

Picard catches his breath, turns off the com panel.

PICARD: He's stopped firing.

Suddenly from the speaker —

 “His eyes should flash with an inborn fire,
    His brow should scorn be wrung;
    He never should bow down to a domineering frown,
    Or the tang of a tyrant tongue ... ”

PICARD: (smiles, triumphant) Prepare the docking clamps.

So there you have it. Anything the crew of the Enterprise would have at the tips of their tongues has to be pretty geeky.

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