Advanced English Listening: Firemen, Jackals and Ireland                                                   

Hi, and a warm welcome to all our students; it’s time for another episode of Culture Clash… where we explore different topics and cultural forms that are somehow connected. Now, after listening to this week’s audio, you may be a little confused as to whether this week’s subject is pets or homosexuality, but you definitely won’t be confused with the introduction.

Advanced English Listening 1

One of my earliest childhood memories is of the Village people; whether this is further proof of my closet homosexuality is up for debate… but I don’t remember it being an erotic moment. I think I was impressed at there being men on the screen that looked like toy soldiers and cowboys and Indians. Obviously, though, the rest of the world shared my opinion as although they were originally created for a gay audience the band quickly became so popular they moved into the mainstream and have sold more than 100 million records. My favourite story about the Village people though is about when they started… the manager needed to recruit band members and put an advert in a trade magazine… “Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Moustache.” Anyway, despite their appearance in my childhood, these days when I think of village and music… it’s more likely I think of the Villagers.

Advanced English Listening 2

The Villagers are an Irish band started by Conor J. O’Brien. But let’s forget the Villagers…if we’re going to talk about Irish music let’s talk about the band, Fred. Why? Well, the fact my brother is the drummer may have something to do with it… but that’s not all… they are a great, great, Irish band. Ok… the producer is waving at me for hijacking this part of the show. Okay, I’ll talk about the Villagers. Well, Conor O’Brien formed Villagers 24 hours after the break-up of The Immediate – his previous band. According to the singer, he woke up with a bad hangover the next day and wrote the first song. The style of the Villagers is described as folk rock and they have had considerable critical success. Their first album was nominated both for the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music award. Their most famous song and also the title of their album is “Becoming a Jackal.”

Advanced English Listening 3

One of the most interesting aspects of a Jackal is their domestic nature. They find a mate and then are monogamous; they establish their home territory and the couple defend it together from intruders or rival couples. An interesting aspect of Jackal anatomy is the combination of large feet and fused leg bones which allows them to run for a long period of time compared to other animals – maintaining speeds of 16 km/h for extended periods of time. Jackals also have an interesting image in culture. The Egyptian God Anubis had a jackal’s head and was associated with the afterlife. The Jackal is also mentioned in the bible multiple times and in literary history the jackal is often used as a symbol of destruction or abandonment as that they are scavengers. Of course, in the twentieth century the most common cultural association with this canine species was Carlos the jackal.

Advanced English Listening 4

Carlos the Jackal – real name, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, was born in Venezuala in1949 – and he was very much a creature of the twentieth century. A deep believer in Marxist Lenninism he was an active political terrorist in the cold war era. And the term ‘deep believer’ is accurate because Marxism was like a faith he was born into; his parents were so Marxist they named their sons Ilich, after Vladimir Ilich Lenin and his brothers Lenin and Vladimir. Ilich joined the youth movement of the national communist party in 1959, went to university in Moscow and joined a Palestinian liberation group upon finishing his studies. He was a career terrorist for the next three decades. He was involved in assassination attempts, hostage taking at an OPEC meeting in Vienna, the murder of French intelligence agents and had contact with everyone from the East German secret police to the PLO, the  Syrian government to Saudi princes. He is now in prison in France serving multiple life sentences, and has traded in Marxist Leninism for Islam. Apparently, he believes the September 11 attacks were justified.


  1. What were the principle requirements for being a member of the Village People?
  2. Why can the narrator not be objective about Fred? 
  3. What two types of jackals must a jackal defend his territory against?
  4. What did Carlos do after graduating from Moscow university?


  1. Being macho, able to dance and having a moustache.
  2. His brother is in the band.
  3. Rival couples and intruders.
  4. He joined a Palestinian liberation group. 

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