Saturday, June 19, 2010

And a little farewell...

Well, the course is over, and I thought I'd say good-bye with a song (the artist is a not very well-known, but I think he has potential).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Amazing coincidence

Here's one those stories you never believe until you hear the facts. Watch the brief video and aswer the questions that follow.

1. What type of volunteer work does Kevin do?
2. What organization has Kevin been involved in(apart from the answer to question no. 1)? What life-saving skills did he learn there?
3. What happened to Kevin as a boy? How did Penny know Kevin? How did Penny help Kevin?
4. What amazing event, involving Penny and Kevin, happened several years later in a restaurant?
5. Did Kevin recoginize Penny at first? How did Kevin discover who she was?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How they handle fame

Listen to U2 singer interview superstar George Clooney and answer the questions below:

1. What is the mistaken idea, according to Bono, that people have of celebrities?
2. What does Bono admire about George Clooney?
3. What other famous person does Clooney refer to in his family? Did she remain successful?
4. What helped Clooney handle the pressure of fame?
5. According to Clooney, what can famous people not do anymore, and why not?

10 travel faux pas

In the previous post you can listen to an explanation and the proper pronunciation of the expression faux pas. You can also call them "no-no's" or "don'ts" (often accompanied by its opposite, "do's"). Check out these travel faux pas at this website and answer the questions that follow:
First, read the faux pas here:
Now, answer these questions:
1. Were you familiar with all of these faux pas? Which ones are common sense?
2. Why is it improper to pat (remember that word?) someone's head in Thailand?
3. Are there any faux pas you would recommend for a foreigner visiting Spain?

That's a no-no!

There are hundreds of words and expressions of French origin which are commonly used in the English language. Check out this one:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Listen to the man in this video and answer the following questions:

1. What kind of schooling has this parent decided to give his children? What is his opinion of conventional schooling?
2. According to the man, how is a day "best spent" for a child who wants to learn?
3. What famous person (an American author and poet) has influenced the man's ideas? What did this famous person used to do and what purpose did it serve?
Discussion questions:
1. Have you ever heard of "unschooling?" Do you think it's a good idea?
2. To what extent can school have a negative impact on children?
3. Do you think children can motivate themselves to learn useful things without the need to attend school? Can an "unschooled" person prepare himself/herself for life as an adult? Why or why not?

Monday, April 26, 2010

FPIQ (20?)

Let's see if you can work this one out. Hint: she's changed her hair, too.

Bye-bye conventional cars?

Car of the future? Watch this video and decide on your own (answer the questions that follow):

1. Where can you park this interesting contraption?
2. What are the company and model names of this innovative product?
3. What kind of appeal does it have? How many people does it seat?
4. How long does the transition from car to plane take?
5. What institution are the engineers who developed the vehicle from?
6. What type of moment did the developers experience during the test flight, and at what airport?
7. How is this flying car powered? Why does this make it "greener" than normal planes?
8. When are the first units scheduled to be delivered to customers?
9, What advantages does the Transition have over an SUV (and what's that, BTW)?
Discussion questions:
1. Is this the future? Do you think there is a market for vehicles such as these? If so, can you describe the typical customer? Are they practical?
2. Would you buy a Transition if you could afford one? Do you think many people will be able to afford them?
3. Do you think the next generation will only have this type of vehicle and cars will become obsolete? Give reasons.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FPIQ (anybody know how many we've done?)

OK, here's a good one. Hint: he's not the most attractive guy in the world, but his daughter is a real head-turner.

Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"

Here's something interesting to discuss. Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow designed a hierarchy of needs, based on a pyramid structure. At the top of the pyramid is "self-actualization" (we can discuss what that means in class), which can only be attained if all the other needs below it are satisfied beforehand.
1. Have you heard of this before?
2. Do you agree with the order of the needs in the hierarchy?
3. Can you think of an individual who has reached the top of the pyramid? (What does "self-actualization" look like?)
4. What is homeostasis (at the base of the pyramid)?

Here's one to pronounce...

Have fun pronouncing this one! We'll talk about Maslow's hierarchy of needs in class.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Former NBA player "comes out"

Watch this video and answer the questions that follow in your notepads (feel free to post a comment):

1. What "first" has Amaechi achieved in the sports world?
2. What type of product is he endorsing? (What is an "endorsement," by the way?)
3. Why does Amaechi think HeadBlade thought of him to pitch their product?
4. What did former NBA star Hardaway have to say about having a gay teammmate?
5. What adjective does Amaechi use to describe Hardaway's words?
6. Was Amaechi openly gay while he was playing? Why or why not?
7. Have any active NBA players commented on Amaechi's "coming out?"
8. Why does Amaechi consider Anne Coulter's comments more dangerous than Hardaway's (what adjective does he use to describe her).
9. What advice does Amaechi have for public figures when giving opinions?
10. Who does Amaechi feel responsible for?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FPIQ # (I lost count +1)

Alright, the last one was way too easy. Try this one out for size! (hint - she's changed her hair)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ever cross a ford?

So here's a cowboy crossing a "ford" (see the spurs on his boots?). In class, I said it was a valley. I was wrong! Here's the definition. (You must forgive me, I'm a city boy - I'd just call it a river crossing).
A shallow place in a body of water, such as a river, where one can cross by walking or riding on an animal or in a vehicle.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't "rock the boat"

I know you all missed these girls! Here's a good expression for you.

FPIQ # (I lost count)

OK, who's this (now a very famous person)?
Hint: She has kind of an unusual first name, and her appearance can be stunning or dreadful, depending on the movie.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gifted Child

Have you ever met a child prodigy? If not, it's my pleasure to introduce Emily Bear, who some are calling the next Mozart. Watch this short video and answer the questions below in your notepads. Feel free to post a comment saying whether you think this a hoax or if it's for real.

1. In what prestigious venue did Emily have the honour of performing?
2. Where is Emily from? (city and state, country)
3. What does Emily do in addition to performing music?
4. Where does Emily's music come from (according to her)? What word does her family not like to use to describe her talent?
5. Who "discovered" Emily? When Emily was two years her grandmother heard her playing a ___________. (fill in the blank) What does Emily's grandma do for a living? Who did grandma contact when she discovered Emily's prestigious talent? What piece is she practicing now and for what concert?
7. Who wrote Emily's favourite song? Who was this song written for?
8. Why is the stuffed animal that Emily is holding her favourite?
9. What does Emily want people to think about her? What does Emily want to be when she grows up?
Discussion questions:
1. Do you think Emily was born with this gift, as the reporter says, or was she simply a product of her environment? Justify your answer.
2. Do you think it's possible to learn to play the piano like Emily as an adult? Why or why not?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Healing technique or a bunch of hooey?

A revolutionary new technique for healing? Watch the video and answer the questions that follow:

1. What does EFT make clear before the video begins? What do we call this type of statement and why is it so common in the USA? (Think of a recent discussion we had in class).
2. Which much older technique is the inspiration for EFT? What does EFT stand for?
3. What is the source of illness, according to the proponents of EFT?
4. When does physical pain start to subside, according to the EFT founder?
Fill in the blanks:
5. One EFT patient (shill?) says as a child he fell down a _______________________. This same man was diagnosed with ___________________. What did EFT do for this man? He says he's 54 and he's doing _________________________.
6. EFT technicians analyze the health of a patient by analyzing the flow of their __________________. They only take a _________________ of a person's blood.
7. According to the philosophy of EFT, what does a sick person not need in order to heal his illness? What famous organization (religion) makes the same claim?
8. Do you think this technique is legitimate or a load of hooey? Why?
9. Would you try this technique if you were ill? Why or why not?
10. Do you think this technique is expensive? How much "training" do you think is necessary to become an EFT practitioner?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does it make a difference?

Yes, little expressions like this one do make a difference. (And you should learn how to use auxiliary verbs in this way - more on this in class). A native speaker would use this expression fairly often, but I seldom hear my students using it. It means "help" a situation in some way. For instance: "If you're looking for a job, having the PCE qualification can make a difference."
Similarly, "makes no difference" or "doesn't make any difference" have the opposite meaning, eg. It makes no difference who wins the elections. (Being cynical, again - sorry).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Public domain photo #2

Here's another photo I got from the Library of Congress public domain collection. I have pretty detailed information about the people in the photograph, thanks to the LOC files. Here's a few questions - I know it might be difficult to answer them, but take a crack at it, anyway:
1. When and where do you think the picture was taken?
2. What sort of life do you think the people in the picture lead? What sort of challenges do they face?
3. What can we deduce about their religious convictions? What evidence do you have? Give as much detail as possible.
(Answer questions in your notepads, but do feel free to post a comment sharing your impressions of the photo).

Vocab focus

This one came up in that somewhat macabre video (my apologies if anyone had nightmares) about the Alcor customers, which I posted a few days ago, entitled "You decide..." First check out the definition and pronunciation here:
This is one of those typical words that every native speaker knows, but for some reason goes unnoticed by even the highest level students (like yourselves!) Let's try to remember this word and use it in class once in a while. If someone is in a feisty mood or acting in a feisty fashion, you can say "A bit feisty today, aren't we?"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A closer look at Noomi

Now that we know who she is, let's get to know Noomi Rapace a little better. Watch this interview and answer the questions:
1. How did Rapace prepare for the role of Lisbeth Salander? Why did she feel these preparations were necessary?
2. Is Rapace's English perfect? Can you detect any errors? Do they impede communication?
3. What do critics say about Rapace's performance?
4. What kind of life did Rapace lead as a teenager?
5. What did Rapace not want to do in the violent scenes of the film?
6. What do we know about Rapace's taste in film? Would she accept a role in a Hollywood film? Do you believe her? (sorry, that's me being cynical again).
7. Do you think Millennium is a "mainstream" novel and film (according the video it is not)? What does mainstream mean, anyway? Examples?
Discussion questions:
1. Have you read any of the Millennium books? If so, why so, and if not why not?
2. Do you think Millennium is a mainstream phenomenon or a fringe cult series?
3. How many books do you read per year? How many movies do you see per year? Why do we tend to see more movies than read books? What's more satisfying? Why?


Here's an interesting one. She's not really famous internationally...yet, anyway. But she is famous in a certain European country. Guess the country and you'll be one step closer to guessing the identity of FPIQ #8.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Yes, this guy is famous! Hint: he's not from an English-speaking country and he's not from Spain, either.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You decide...

You decide if the content of this video is romantic, sad, tragic, bizarre, surreal, grisly, whatever adjective you choose to describe it. Post a comment with your own impressions and answer the questions that follow in your notepads:

1. More than anything else, what kind of story is this (according to the narrator)?
2. What was Terry like (tall and ______________________).
3. According to Joe, he and his late wife never had a what?
4. What was done with Terry's body the minute after her death?
5. What preparations has Joe made for Terry's "return?"
6. What does Joe drink with each meal?
Discussion Questions:
1. What kind of service does Alcor offer? What is taken for granted by its customers?
2. Would you ever consider hiring the services of a company like Alcor? Why or why not?
3. Do you think technology will exist in the future which will enable us to revive the dead?
4. Was this one of the spookiest videos you've ever seen?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

This video is a little bit longer than usual, but you only have to watch the first three minutes of it to answer the questions:

1. Is Washington, D.C. a state? What is it, then?
2. According to Stephen Fry, Washington feels more _________________________ than other American cities.
3. Jimmy Wales is the founder of the most _______________________ encyclopaedia ever.
4. How many people actually work for Wikipaedia, according to Jimmy Wales? Do you believe that?
5. Do the paid employees edit Wikipedia? Who does all the administrating for Wikipedia?
6. Does Wikipedia survive on advertising money?
7. Is Jimmy Wales a billionaire, according to him? Do you believe him? (Am I being too cynical?)
8. Wales feels proud that Wikipedia is different from other things people associate with Internet. What are a couple of the negative things he mentions about Internet? How does Wales think Wikipedia is different?
Discussion questions:
1. How often (if ever) do you use wikipedia? Do you find it useful? For what?
2. Do you think wikipedia is a reliable source of information, compared to other sources in the media? Why or why not? Who updates wikipedia? Are you a registered user yourself? Would you like to be? Why or why not?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The secret of success (FPIQ # 6)

Well, sort of. These new-age gurus are always speaking in riddles, so I don't know whether I chose the right title for this entry. Do you know this bloke? He has many high-profile followers: for instance, he is the spiritual adviser for Hillary Clinton, current Secretary of State of the United States.

I'm going to make it easy for you this time. Just click on this link and you'll see a little interview. Answer the questions that follow in your notepads:
1. According to the speaker, what is success not about?
2. How does the speaker measure success, then?
3. What is his formula for having all the time and money in the world?
4. Do you think this guy is a success, by his own definition? Do you think he's a quack? Why or why not? Do you think he just tells people what they want to hear? (OK, OK, I'm being cynical again, I know - let me have it!)

Monday, March 15, 2010


This guy is famous - maybe not when the picture was taken (although he did have a relative who was already famous at the time - and I'm not giving any more hints).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No need for lie detector machines

Wanna know how to catch a liar? Here's a video that might help:
You will see a series of steps with flash headings for each telltale sign that a person is lying. Write the headings in your notepads and make notes for each one. Be prepared to discuss in class.

Discussion questions:
1. Do you think this video is helpful for detecting lies? Or is it rubbish?
2. Are there other reasons why a person might perform the actions stated in the video as indicators of lying (i.e. personality, cultural differences, etc.)?
3. Do you think the actors in the video do a good job? What is the "lie" in question here?
Feel free to post comments!
4. Use the techniques you have just learned to determine if James Cameron is lying about how proud he is of his ex in the previous blog entry.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ex hubby being nice...I think

Who says divorce always ends in bitterness? It seems, in this case at least, James Cameron has a good relationship with his ex-wife. What clues do you get from this short video? Maybe I'm wrong and it's just an act to get good press. What do you think? Post a comment. Also, answer the questions that follow in your notepad.

1. How many times has Cameron seen The Hurt Locker? What special version did he get to see, and what does this suggest about his relationship with his ex?
2. How does Cameron feel about his ex-wife after having seen the film? What role did he play in her decision to direct the film?
3. How does Cameron describe the film?
4. What does Cameron think about all the praise the film has been getting?

Monday, March 8, 2010


OK, here's a good one. Hint: she's managed to make her mark in an industry dominated by men. And you can certainly say her star is on the rise.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to have a happy marriage

Here's a little public domain video, which I thought you mind find interesting to watch. Times have obviously changed...but perhaps not that much. Watch and answer the questions that follow.

1. In what country do you think this film was produced and released? What clues are there?
2. In the beginning of the video, the narrator uses three verbs beginning with the letter "b" to describe the different phases of marriage. What are they?
3. What organization do you think sponsored this video? Do you think it was a successful campaign? Were there (or are there today) similar campaigns in your country?
4. What are some of the challenges married couples face, according to the video?
5. Do you agree with the message of the video? Why or why not?
6. In what ways would one say the video is "politically incorrect," by today's standards?

What was once impossible

Here's a brief excerpt of Kennedy's famous moon speech, as well as footage of the moonwalk, in which you will hear the most famous phrase ever uttered by an astronaut. See if you can make it out.
Also, fill in the blanks in Kennedy's speech (below):

"I believe this nation should ____________ itself to achieving the goal, before this ___________ is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to _____________, or more important for the __________________ exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to ________________."
President John F. Kennedy, speech to U.S. Congress, May 25, 1961.
Discussion questions:
1. Can you find two instances in Kennedy's speech of politically incorrect language, by today's standards?
2. What percentage of the population do you think believed this was an achievable goal?
3. Can this be compared to a world leader today announcing his country's intention to send a manned mission to Mars? Or is Mars a much more ambitious and unachievable goal?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Public domain document

I've discovered a treasure trove (good expression) of old photographs in the Library of Congress archives. Here's one for us to discuss - answer the questions in your notepads to prepare discussion in class:
Pay close attention to detail and click on the photo to enlarge.
1. Where and when do you think this picture was taken?
2. What social reality does it reflect? How have things changed, particularly in recent times, in the country portrayed in the photo?
3. What was this social system called in the US? In South Africa?
4. Do you think this system of discrimination exists elsewhere in the world today?
5. What is the sign in the photo an advertisement for?
6. What is meant by "public domain" and how is it different from "copyright?"
7. Do you think all art should belong in the public domain? Why or why not?

Monday, March 1, 2010


Listen to this brief discussion with Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and popularizer of space-age science (heir to Carl Sagan). Answer the questions that follow:

1. What is teleportation?
2. What is the record distance for teleportation?
3. What are scientists actually able to teleport at this stage?
4. What does Dr. Kaku believe we will be able to teleport in the foreseeable future?
5. Why would human beings be so difficult to teleport?
6. Many references are made to Captain Kirk. Who is he?
1. Did you know that scientists were teleporting atoms today? Are you surprised?
2. What applications do you see in teleportation?
3. Would you like to be the first human being to be teleported?


OK, the only hint I'm giving you is yes - he's Spanish and I think his star is on the rise, too! And don't even try to cheat - I've taken measures to prevent it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What's "terraforming?"

This video is slightly longer than the ones I usually post on the blog, but I hope you find the subject as fascinating as I do. Interestingly enough, it comes from a documentary made by Carl Sagan - a professor at Cornell University (of which I am an alumnus), and was first aired nearly 30 years ago. Nevertheless, the ideas discussed in the documentary, like terraforming, are very current, and Mr. Sagan was certainly ahead of his time. He was my hero when I was a teenager, and I applied to Cornell with dreams of meeting him some day (more on this in class). Listen to the video and answer the questions that follow. I think the subtitles should help, but only use them as a last resort!

1. Vishniac's machine to detect life on Mars was removed from the Viking mission because NASA is especially vulnerable ______________________________________.
2. Vishniac decided to use his machine to detect life in Antarctica because it is the most ________________________________________________.
3. In November 1973 Vishniac was left in __________________________________________-
4. Vishniac left camp on Dec. 10th to _____________________________________________, but never returned.
5. Carl Sagan says there will be a time when Mars is thoroughly explored. He feels that if there is life on Mars, then _______________________________________.
6. If there is no life on Mars, however, Sagan envisions something called _________________________, which is the process of rendering Mars suitable to human existence.
7. The problems Mars poses to human life are (name three):
8. These problems could be solved if we could make_________________________________________.
Discussion questions:
1. If life is discovered on Mars, even if it were a very simple life form such as a microbe, do you agree with Carl Sagan that we should leave it undisturbed? Why or why not? (Maybe in class we can have some of you play devil's advocate).
2. Do you think life in our solar system originated on Earth, or could it have once existed on one of our neighbouring planets?
3. Do you think the terraforming other planets is something you will see in your lifetime? Why or why not? Do you think we already possess this technology on a smaller scale? Explain.
4. Do you think terraforming is the only way our species (homo sapiens) will survive in the distant future? What is the ultimate fate of planet Earth? (What do you know about the evolution of our Sun?).
5. Would you like you children or grandchildren to live on Mars? (Or would you like to yourself?) Why or why not?

For the sake of argument

Here they are again - those Amazon women who have imprisoned all the men in their country! But I have to admit I'm hooked on their video lessons. They've expanded the lessons to include idioms and slang expressions. Here's a very useful expression to learn and use:

So, I'm going to play devil's advocate, just for the sake of argument (see comment):

Monday, February 22, 2010

A rash decision?

Well, here's one millionaire who decided to share a bit. Watch the video and answer the questions below.

1. According to the presenter in the beginning of the report, why did the Austrian millionaire decide to give away all his wealth? (And how would you describe the presenter's tone?)
BTW, what's the word he uses to describe a millionaire businessman (first letter t)?
2. What expression is used to describe his trip to Hawaii?
3. What kind of business did he own?
4. What was his hobby and where did he like to practice it?
5. The Austrian tycoon says that on his trip to Hawaii he had the feeling he was ____________.
6. How much is his house in Austria worth? What does he have in Provence?
7. Do you think he's given away all his wealth, or do you think he's still rich? Could this just be a publicity stunt?
8. Would you do the same?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


It's time to test your Famous Person IQ again. I try not to make it too easy - this young lady is not a superstar just yet, but her star is on the rise. See hints below:

1. Her surname is a kind of freshwater fish.
2. She starred alongside Bruce Willis in a recent sci-fi flic (the film was a bit on the mediocre side).
3. She put on a fine performance in the film "Pride and Prejudice."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take advantage of this!

Let's get a dialogue started with expressions using take.

Much more than a red light district

Before you watch the video, answer these questions:
1. Have you been to Amsterdam?
2. What is Amsterdam famous (or notorious) for?
3. Is Amsterdam known for its beauty?

Now watch the video and answer the questions that follow.

This time we'll do this Cambridge exam style (fill in the blanks with a maximum of six words).
1. The presenter lived and worked in Amsterdam and even __________________________.
2. Amsterdam is _____________________ for many international companies.
3. Ms. Richards has heard that Amsterdam has more _________________________________.
4. The people of Amsterdam are ____________________________________________ (three adjectives)...and they really make ______________________________________ their time off.
5. If you're lucky enough to know someone who owns their own boat it's a ___________________________________ the city.
6. If you feel so inclined you can have yourself a smoke while playing _______________ or ___________________.
7. Cycling is brilliant because they have so many ________________________________.
8. Instead of hopping off the bike, Ms. Richards stayed on the bike and _________________________.
9. A good night out in Amsterdam usually starts with _____________________________.
10. Amsterdam is definitely the canals, ____________________________________________ (three more things).

Monday, February 15, 2010


It's time for FPIQ, the Famous Person IQ game! This is the first in a series of Famous People pictures I will be posting to test your gossip IQ: all of us occasionally browse through those intellectually stimulating magazines - you know, the ones with 10 times as much space for pictures as for text, so as not to make our minds work too hard. I may sound facetious, but let's face it - these publications serve a purpose. After all, it's important to know who's who, ain't it? Anyway, here it is - Famous Person #1. Answer the questions that follow:

1. Who is this guy? Hint: He's not Bon Jovi. And he's not rural.
2. What other famous person is he associated with? Why?
3. Was he famous in his own right before hooking up with this other famous person?
4. (If you don't know who this is, skip to #5). How did you know who this was?
5. Does it make you feel out of touch not to know who this famous person is?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's mojofiti?

What are these people talking about? Watch this short video and answer the questions that follow.

1. What do you think mojofiti is? A religion? A cult? A business? All three? None of the above?
2. What does mojofiti claim to do?
3. What does the first speaker say about human nature?
4. What does the child say about mojofiti?
5. What phrasal verb does the first speaker use the second time he appears?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Latin grammar survives in the English language

Here's another one of those wacky videos. I really am intrigued about who's behind them and why they only feature young women with shiny, white teeth. Maybe they're a tribe of Amazon women and they've killed all the men in their territory! (Don't mind me, I've just had some very pure, organic chocolate and I think it's going to my head).
Anyway, I thought this one would be worthwhile, first, because the word in question is a false friend, and secondly, because it is quite commonly used in English, particularly American English. It is also a living example of how one feature of Latin grammar has survived in the English language to this day.
The word is often used in the context of "alumni associations," whose job it is to badger alumni and ask them for contributions. Private universities in the US survive on the donations of alumni.
Also popular in American culture are "alumni reunions," in which alumni (which if you haven't guessed by now, means former students - not current students) get together to meet their old classmates and compare their jobs, houses, etc. (sorry, that's the cynical side of me coming out again). Anyway, have fun with the video. I bet you'll never forget the word alumni after watching it!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to unite nations

What's the quickest way to make countries forget their differences? Former US president Ronald Reagan had the answer. Watch this video to find out, and then answer the questions that follow.

1. Reagan refers to a thought he had during a meeting with another world leader. Who was this other world leader and what was his exact title?
2. What was the thought that Ronald Reagan had, in your own words?
3. Do you agree that such an event would unite humanity?

Unmistakably American

I know what you're all thinking... wow, that is some real tacky American, old-fashioned corny music. It's also a favourite in Karaoke bars in Japan. I can't watch this without cringing, but I thought you might have a little fun with it. What's the horse's name?

See if you can make out the words to the chorus:

Oh, give me _____________, lots of _________________
Under starry skies ____________
Don't fence me in
Let me __________ through the _________ open country
That I ___________________
Don't fence me in
Let me be ____ ________________
In the evening __________________
And listen to the _______________
Of the cottonwood _______________
Send me off _______________
But I _______ you please
Don't __________ me in!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't fence me in.

The following video is a report about the fence built by the US Department of Homeland Security along the Rio Grande, the natural border between Mexico and Southwestern US. Before watching the video, answer the following questions:
1. In what instances, if any, do you think it's a good idea to build some kind of physical barrier along national borders? Give reasons.
2. Why do people risk their lives to cross borders?

1. When was Eloisa's family "given" this land? How many acres was her family originally granted, and how many has she got left?
2. Eloisa says "this is my history, this is my ___________" (word beginning with h). What does Eloisa say she will not allow the government to do?
3. The government official says that it is the civic duty of the public to collaborate with the project, as long as ______________________________ (fill in the blank).
4. Does the Rio Grande (BTW, how do you pronounce this in English) prevent people from illegally crossing the border? What proof is there?
5. According to the government official, what are the risks of not putting up the fence?
6. Why is the mayor of the border town opposed to the fence? What alternative is he in favor of?
7. How long is Eloisa willing to continue the fight to prevent the fence from being built on her land? What phrasal verb does she use ("I'm not b_________ d_____")
8. What's the reporter's name and where's she reporting from?

And for discusion
1. Do you identify more with landowners along the border or with the gov't?
2. Do border fences work?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who's Loma Linda?

Who the heck is Loma Linda? Well, it's not even a person - it's a place in California, actually. I'm writing from the Huesca public library, which is just about the only place I could find with an Internet connection in this (excuse me if I offend any "Oscenses") backwater provincial town!
But anyway, getting back to Loma Linda, California - I was going to ask if any of you knew what this place (Loma Linda, that is) has in common with Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy. I'm sure some of you may have guessed already. Post a comment! In the photo there's a not-so-subtle hint.
BTW, "not-so-subtle" is a compound adjective - just put "not-so-" in front of any adjective and you can create a bit of irony, which you all need at this stratospheric proficiency level!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Secrets to long life

Pre-listening questions:
1. What do you think are the secrets to long life? How would you rate the following, in order of importance:
diet, genetics, country or city of residence, outlook on life, gender
2. Would you want to live a very long life? Would you like to be a centenarian?

Now listen to the short video and answer the questions below:

1. What is the location of Stoccaredo? (Not quite in the Alps, but in the _________ of the Alps).
2. Is the diet is this small Italian town particularly healthy? What is the exact term used by the reporter to describe it?
3. What peculiarities does one notice about the people in Stoccaredo?
4. Of the reasons listed in pre-listening questions #1, which would the Stoccaredo case seem to support?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A trip to Milan

Thanks to Leticia for her mouth-watering presentation on Milan - let's all go to Navigli for some aperitivos!

Dan Brown interview

Before you watch this interview with best-selling author Dan Brown, answer the following questions:
1. Have you read "The Da Vinci Code" or any other Dan Brown books? If you have, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Dan Brown has sold more books than J. K. Rowling?
3. Do you think authors like Dan Brown make more money from their books sales or from their movie deals?

Now watch the video and answer the questions below:

1. In how many languages have Dan Brown novels been published?
2. What is the subject of Dan Brown's latest book, and where does it take place?
3. Why has Dan Brown focused on this particular subject?
4. Is it Dan Brown's intention to cause controversy (and how do you pronounce this word)?
5. How has success changed Dan Brown's life?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An outrageous idea?

Read this quirky news item and post a comment with your opinion. Would you hire this service if you were staying at the Holiday Inn?

LONDON - International hotel chain Holiday Inn is offering a trial human bed-warming service at three hotels in Britain this month.

If requested, a willing staff-member at two of the chain's London hotels and one in the northern English city of Manchester will dress in an all-in-one fleece sleeper suit before slipping between the sheets.

"The new Holiday Inn bed warmers service is a bit like having a giant hot water bottle in your bed," Holiday Inn spokeswoman Jane Bednall said in an e-mailed statement.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is this America?

I'm not sure this little vignette of Stephen Fry's is altogether representative of what you might expect to find in my homeland, but it certainly is entertaining. Watch the short video and answer the following questions:

1. Why was Stephen Fry nearly born in USA? In what state was he nearly born (he uses the initials)? Where was he actually born, then?
2. What does the hunter rub on his clothes? What does his wife think of this?
3. How much does the lady gambler say she has made from gambling?
4. Wikka is a colloquialism meaning what, exactly?
5. What do "Wikka" practitioners do on Halloween and to what end?

This is outrageous!

What do you think is outrageous? Post a comment...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A new expression

Here's a useful expression we learned in our last class. Let's try to practice it by posting comments in the form of questions. I'll ask my friend, Cookie Monster, to start it off.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A little fun

Here's a little online hangman - a bit violent, perhaps, my apologies in advance!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Presentation series

After highly interesting presentations from Adrián, Daniel, Verónica, and most recently, from Diana on the Roman mosaics in Carranque (photo), I am pleased to announce that we have another volunteer for this Friday. So don't miss our next class!

Personality test

Are you imaginative and easily absorbed? Or are you down-to-earth and logical? Or are you simply suspicious of nonsense such as this?
Take this quick personality test to find out. Then post a comment a say whether you agree with the result.

A fine idea?

In the last couple of decades the gap between the rich and the not-so-rich has increased so much that the former just park their Ferraris wherever they want, drive as fast as they please and pay fines as a cost of doing business.

In Switzerland, measures have been taken to stop super-solvent speeders in their tracks by making speeding fines proportionate to income. Now a new record has been been set, and not a speeding one: 299,000 Swiss francs, or almost US$ 300,000 against a millionaire going 35 miles over the speed limit. It raises an interesting issue: is this the way to control speeding and parking of offences by those to whom the ticket is meaningless? Do you think it's a fine idea? (pardon the pun). Your comments, please...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Can music induce violent behaviour?

Listen to this brief video and answer the following questions in your notepad. Feel free to post a comment, BTW! I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss.
1. In the video, can you identify at least five things and people that are held responsible for violent behaviour?
2. Why did Marilyn Manson like listening to music as a child?
3. The young man at the end of the video with the blue shirt makes a case for why he believes some Marilyn Manson fans may be induced to violent behaviour. Do you agree?

Vocab review

OK, students - you know what to do! What are you waiting for?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let's get started!

In my never-ending effort to get you all to post comments (how's that for a hint?), I came up with a little idea. Remember that fun activity we did in class one day, in which we swap papers continuously and build several dialogues simultaneously? Well, I thought we could do something similar, but here on the blog, in order to review vocabulary and have a little fun with it (and get you all posting comments!). So take out your notepads and let's get cracking! I'll start the dialogue with a comment, and you guys continue. Answer the question, and remember to ask another one to keep the dialogue going (try to keep the comments sort of short for this purpose). Here's some vocab which you could use, in case you don't have your notepads handy:

Amazing animal or just another hoax?

This is actually not a hoax. There is a bird in Australia that can mimic not only the sounds of other birds, but also machinery and just about anything it hears - and with great fidelity! Give it a listen and write down in your notebooks the different sounds it imitates.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

When should they start?

The question of when or whether children should be given alcoholic beverages is a controversial one. In the United States it is illegal for anyone under 21 to have any type of drink containing alcohol. When I was a waiter in NYC, we had to be very careful about this because the NYPD would send in underage cops in plain clothes to catch waiters "red-handed." If you served them a drink, you would be handcuffed and taken to the station, and the restaurant would receive a stiff fine. That is why in the States you are always asked to show your ID when ordering a drink, even if you look 40. Nevertheless, this does not stop the phenomenon known as "binge drinking," which is commonplace on college campuses across the US.

In my conversations with people here in Spain, the same words usually come up to describe the American attitude towards drinking: "puritan" and "extremist." I tend to agree, at least in part, as it seems ridiculous to give a young adult a gun and send him off to war, allow him/her or vote in presidential elections, and then deny him/her a beer. Having said that, the practice known as "botellón" in Spain hardly seems like a healthy habit for young people. Teenagers, it seems, when left to their own devices, do not know how to control their alcohol intake. Then again, neither do many adults.

The top-ranking health official in the UK has an opinion of his own on this matter. Read this BBC article and watch the two short videos which accompany the article. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Are parents legally allowed to give their children alcoholic beverages in the UK?
  2. What does Liam Donaldson think about the idea that children should be given watered-down alcoholic drinks at a young age in order to prime them and teach them to drink sensibly?
  3. How does the chief medical officer (Sir Liam) feel about parents drinking heavily in front of their children?
  4. What does the mother in the second video think about the consequences of forbidding her children to drink alcohol?
  5. According to the daughter, why do youngsters start drinking?
And now your opinion (feel free to post a comment on the blog):
  1. Do you agree more with Sir Liam or with the mother, as regards adolescents being given alcoholic drinks at home?
  2. Is there an official drinking age in Spain? Is it respected? Should it be? Why or why not?
  3. What advantages would there be to a society without alcohol? What disadvantages?