Saturday, December 26, 2009

Purse snatchers beware!

Patrolling in high heels, wigs and designer bags, Japanese black-belt policemen have been cross-dressing in a bid to beat off bag-snatchers, a report said Wednesday.The all-male squad has been deployed since last month on night patrols in central Aichi prefecture wearing skirts and stockings and carrying eye-catching handbags as bait for potential thieves, the Asahi daily reported.

So far the unit has failed to nab any muggers, the Asahi said, and Aichi police declined to comment to AFP on the report. To qualify for the special squad, police have to be young, slim and hold the top rank of a black belt in a martial art such as karate or judo, the report said.


  1. How are the Japanese police trying to catch purse-snatchers?
  2. Do you think this is an effective strategy?
  3. If you were a policeman, would you like to participate?
  4. Wouldn't it be easier to train women police?
  5. Find in the text synonyms for (1) catch (2) team (3) attempt

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Well-kept secret survives 175 years.

This small lead chest was extracted from the pedestal of a statue of Miguel de Cervantes in the Plaza de las Cortes just a few days ago. Officials of the Culture Ministry have disclosed that the chest will be opened to officially reveal its contents. What do you think is inside?
OK, OK, you probably already know what's inside - it was all over the news. But anyway, who do you think was responsible for placing this time capsule in the pedestal of the Cervantes statue? Do you think there may be more such time capsules out there in pedestals of other statues? Should we tear all the statues down to find out? (dumb question, sorry) Do you think the original Don Quixote manuscript is out there somewhere?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas magic

This is a truly moving story. Watch this video and answer the questions that follow:

  1. When did the "Christmas truce" take place and during what war? What does truce mean?
  2. How did the soldiers celebrate Christmas Eve?
  3. What did the soldiers do on Christmas Day?
  4. Where did this extraordinary event take place?
  5. How is this event commemorated today and by whom?
  6. Did this event repeat itself during the war?
  7. Who won the original match? What does the reporter say about losers?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spooky Christmas

If you didn't know better, you might think that the Italians got Christmas mixed up with Halloween. If you're ever lucky enough to spend the Epiphany in Italy, don't be surprised if you see a witch giving out presents to the bambini. The Italian equivalent of Santa Claus is Babo Natale, but the true giver of gifts in Italy is La Befana, an old crone who looks just like a witch from your childhood nightmares. La Befana is derived from Epifania, the Italian for Epiphany. In the distant past the people of Italy thought La Befana was evil. They rang clay bells and made noise to keep her away. Now she is viewed as a gentle spirit that will give gifts to the children of Italy. Would you accept sweets from La Befana?

It seems some Christmas holiday traditions may have their roots in pre-Christian or pagan pastimes. I discovered there really are a lot of strange Christmas customs out there, especially in Great Britain. Take Wales, for example. They have one involving a dead horse’s head. I kid you not (maybe Francis Ford Coppola can make a movie about it). It’s called the Mari Lwyd, and it involves carrying around a horse’s head on a stick dressed in a sheet. Sort of like caroling. Only with a horse’s head. Do you know of any peculiar or spooky Christmas traditions? Were you afraid of the Wise Men or Santa Claus as a child?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here's a funny-sounding word

Here's another one of those weird videos. I looked through several of them and discovered they all feature sprightly young ladies, all of whom seem to be under 25 and have perfect teeth. Is there something just slightly sexist about these videos? Anyway, the vocabulary is useful for proficiency. This word is used quite often in written English. In spoken English we might use more often "spoil" or "ruin."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Who's to blame?

Watch this short video and answer the following questions in your notepad:
  1. What kind of gambler is Jenny Kephart? (first letter "c")
  2. What is she suing the casino for?
  3. How much did she lose in a single night?
  4. Who sued who first? Why did the casino sue Kephart?
  5. What did the casino do to keep her coming, according to Kephart's attorney?
  6. What two synonyms for "attract" are used in the video?
And now, post a comment giving your opinion: who's to blame? Should casinos be banned? Would you feel guilty if you worked in a casino? Is it possible to consistently win money in a casino or does everyone eventually lose in the long run?

Monday, December 7, 2009

What's a sporran?

Well, now we all should know what a sporran is, thanks to Veronica's informative presentation on Scotland. But in case you forgot, the picture should give you a little hint.

And here's a more difficult one to remember: what's a sgian dubh?

Giant transatlantic tunnel between London and NYC

Before you watch this video answer this question:
Do you think there might actually be a giant tunnel connecting London and NYC? Or do you have to be really gullible to believe a thing like that?
OK, now watch the short video and answer the questions below in your notepads:

1. So, is it a real tunnel or not?
2. Whose idea was it? What was the inspiration for the idea? (What synonym for "idea" does the reporter use?)
3. Who provided the technology to make the idea possible?
4. What games do people play across the tunnel?
5. Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?
6. If you could introduce this idea in Madrid, what city would like to connect with?
7. What joke did the people in England play on the people in NYC?
8. What is the name of the news service that presents this report? Have you ever heard of them? Do they sound like native speakers?


What do you think of this video? I find it a bit bizarre, myself. Watching it too many times might be a bit of an "ordeal," actually. But anyway, at least we've learned a new word. Have you been through any ordeals lately? Exams at university, for instance? Post a comment. And yes, any native speaker would know this word, so go on and put it in a sentence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November entries

Just a note for you newbies to blogging: I didn't erase the November entries! All you have to do is click on "November" and they will reappear. BTW, there are two November entries since last Friday's class - be sure to check them out.

Haircut in London

Ever been to London? Not this London, I bet. Watch this video, in which the actor Stephen Fry visits a barber shop in London. Answer the following questions in your notepads, and feel free to post a comment. Did you recognize the American southern accent? How would you describe it?
  1. Where is this London, exactly?
  2. What season of the year do you think it is? Why?
  3. Why does Stephen Fry decide to go to London?
  4. What does Fry mean by "tidy up my act?"
  5. Has the barber ever been to London, UK?
  6. What's this a picture of?

  7. What worldwide festival takes place in London,KY?
  8. Whose hair did the barber's co-worker used to cut?
  9. Does Fry like the smell of KFC?
  10. According to Fry, what do Americans like to dress up as? Why do you think he says this?