Episode 113 - West Side Story but with Actual Violence (Dance Week)
Kristian: I spent an hour in Bendigo a few years ago on a road trip through Victoria. They were hosting a Marilyn Monroe festival of all things, highlighted not by a full size figure of her as a wheelchair, but an 8m tall sculpture of her in the iconic 7 Year Itch pose.
Marni: Someone, help me! You guys are in my head and it's too distracting! I've been reading "An Atlas of Extinct Countries" by Gideon Dafoe... And the narrator inside my head has Sam's voice (with occasional interjections of laughter from Tom!) Am I too far gone?!!
This week I started by looking a few famous diarists. I was going to look through their diaries for amusing references to dancing. I didn’t want to fall back on Pepys who is always guaranteed to say something funny but unfortunately I couldn’t find any other diarists who made amusing references to dances. The best I got was Francis Burney, later Madam D’Arblay, also known as Fanny Burney. A name that led me to creating some FBI agent names that allude to a lady’s private parts getting warm: Minge Singe. Beaver Blaze. Clunge Smoulder. She refers on a number of occasions to courting dances, the sort you find in Jane Austen books, or if you’re a heathen, Bridgeton. Her entries are rather boring, much like this:
“On Friday, I went with the girls to Madam Clunge Smoulder’s house for a dance that she promised would be a delight. It did not disappoint. The flighty Mr Haemorrhoids was there and he was oh so persistent. I was not in the mood for dancing at the beginning of the evening on account of the DJ’s choice of songs: the Macarena being a personal dislike. But Mr Haemorrhoids eventually persuaded me to accompany him when a conga commenced. It was most fun. On account of Madam Clunge Smoulder being a most abhorrently vocal vegan, the conga line began chanting ‘you don’t win friends with salad’ in protest at the spread. There wasn’t a cocktail sausage in sight, nor any pineapple and cheese on sticks. The night ended rather abruptly when the flightly Mr Haemorrhoids vomited all over the dance floor; he’d had one too many Bacardi Breezers. I stayed on the J20 after I shat myself whilst blind drunk at the Duke of Wombles dance earlier in the month.”
So after not finding any gold with diarists, I decided to research people embarrassing themselves by farting at one of these Regency dances, but alas, no one noted this down, although I’m sure it would have happened on numerous occasions. Nothing clears a dance floor like a bad fart does it? In clubs in Birmingham, when it was apparent that my farts weren’t stinkers, I used to fart as loudly as I could knowing full well that nobody would be able to hear it over the top of the music. Although, there was always that risk that the music would stop abruptly as I clenched and grimaced. Unperturbed, I carried on my research because I know our audience and I’m not ashamed to please them. Then I struck gold. I discovered the Fukutomi zōshi, or the Japanese Fart Scroll, originating from the Muromachi Period (mid 15th century) but known by later transcriptions.
There are a variety of versions of this scroll, broadly speaking they can be categorised in to one scroll and two scroll versions. A version of the second scroll held by the Cleveland Museum of Art is 37 cm in height and over 10 meters long. This can be viewed online. It’s basically a picture book with lots of wonderful drawings telling a story. The two scroll version of the story tells the full story, which is as follows. And I’d like to point out that I found a narrative version of the story told on these scrolls somewhere in the deepest recesses of the University of Delaware website. It’s a pdf of a photocopy of a book without citations unfortunately. The names are the unknown author’s translations of the original Japanese names. Anywhere, here goes.
Windfall Oribe was a common man who possessed an innate talent that has made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. He was a fart dancer and commoners and noblemen alike enjoyed his show. He would warm up with a quick cabbage salsa to get the bowels moving, then the shitterbug, the twist and fart, and the big finale, to ensure that there was no more to give, the foxtrots.
Windfall lived in a big house surrounded by land that produced good crops. Next to Windfall there lived Hard-Up Toda. Hard-Up lived in a dreadful little house with thin walls that did not prevent the icy wind from blowing through in the winter. His garden was covered in weeds and everything he could lay his hands on to burn had been burnt to keep him and his wife warm during the winter. His wife incidentally was called Old Harpy on account of her gaping mouth.
Old Harpy is fed up with her poverty and one day gives Hard-Up a good hen-pecking. She tells him to visit Windfall and beg him to teach him how to fart so that he can beginning to make some money, even a fraction of Windfall’s wealth would be better than what they currently owned. Windfall responds positively to Hard-Up’s request for help, but alas! He’s a malicious little farter man! He tells Hard-Up a fib. In order to perform like him, he needs a secret medicine (actually morning glory seeds in one of the scrolls)…
All your dreams are made
When you can fart on demand and get handsomely paid
Today’s the day that all the world will see
Another windy afternoon
Farting to the sound of my favourite tune
Tomorrow you’ll all learn that my arse is like a bassoon
…that will produce the finest parps. Hard-Up is all ears because soon he dreams about being all arse (that’s a very clever joke because ears and arse are anagrams). Hard-Up begs for a small amount of the medicine immediately so that he can demonstrate to Old Harpy what he has learnt so far. Windfall gives Hard-Up the medicine and tells him to eat it on a very full stomach.
Hard-Up returns home and tells Old Harpy about the medicine. She is delighted. She tells Hard-Up not to waste the medicine on a private show. Instead, find the most important person you can! We will put on a show right here right now.
Hard-Up heads out of the house in his finest clothing to show the Honourable Middle Captain
of Imadegawa his trick. The Middle Captain is having a dull day and thinks, yes, a show of fart is just what I need to spice things up. So he invites Hard-Up in and lays a table of food and drink before him on his beautiful court yard. By now the medicine is taking affect and Hard-Up’s guts are rumbling and bubbling. He’s squeezing his buttocks tightly to prevent the show starting too early. Meanwhile, the family of the Honourable Middle Captain were gathering around eagerly anticipating the show. Oh but then something dreadful happens, the rumbling in Hard-Ups guts becomes too much! He releases and explosive shit all over the courtyard and a strong wind, not from his arse, gusts, blowing the foul stench right into the faces of the Middle Captain and his family.
The Middle Captain is furious! This is not what he was promised! Had he known that he was going to be shat on, he wouldn’t have invited the Hard-Up in to the house. He had been looking forward to a farty one man conga and a parpy rendition of some of Yoko Ono’s greatest hits (they’d probably be better that the originals). The Middle Captain sends his men to beat Hard-Up black and blue as he sits in a pond of his own shit. They then drive him out of the house. Hard-Up now has to walk home, bleeding, bruised and covered in shit. And what do you think the people he passes do? Do they offer him water so that he can wash? Do they offer to dress his wounds? Fuck no! Don’t be a loser! They follow him pointing and laughing hysterically. Here’s a direct translation of the writing on one of the scrolls:
“A poor farter makes this kind of uproar. Beat him! Beat him! Could he have been drunk? It has the stink of a rotten persimmon. It reeks! It reeks!”
“People peeked out from roadside stalls and snickered. Look at that! Don’t do poo-poo, little boy! I What a stink-you’d think the great wind god himself let it out!”
Old Harpy is at home. She has been eager anticipating her husband’s return all day! Then she sees him in the distance in his new red robes. Oh joy! She exclaims, he nailed the farting routine. She then burns all her clothes and the clothes of their children and grandchildren. But alas, the clothes are not beautiful red robes, they are his bloody clothes! Hard-Up returns home to find no new clothes to change into so strips naked and sits on his haunches in that Asian style that is good for hip mobility. Between his legs his balls dangle, swinging back and forth like Hard-Up’s hopes that day.
If you think that’s poetic, take this from a story version of the scroll I discovered online:
All that night and the following day his stomach ached. Evening
mist rose from his behind, and it seemed that nocturnal insects
were chirping in his guts. His bowels emptied like rain from
autumn skies, fitfully stopping and starting
After a few days of constant shitting, Hard-Up begins to feel better and Old Harpy manages to persuade a physician to give him some medicine. She sets her sights on Windfall. She prays to the gods that he be punished for his cruel joke. The god’s respond by making Windfall have nightmares every night. Then one evening Windfall decided to go on a pilgrimage in the hope of getting back on the good side of the gods. Old Harpy hears of this and waits for him in a wood. She then attacks him in a frenzy and the story ends.
I think that this is enough for now, but I have in my back pocket scrolls that depict fart battles and penis battles from around the same period. These fart battles depict Japanese men and women having their hats blown off by farts, big bags of fart being released at people who fall backwards in repulsion and people performing drive-by farts on horseback.