ESL Podcast Home ESL Podcast Store
HOME > BLOG

Welcome to ESL Podcast Blog


Thursday - October 30, 2014

Waiting For The Great Pumpkin

GreatPumpkinForty-five years is a long time to wait for anything. But that’s how long Linus has been waiting for the “Great Pumpkin” to appear.

Linus is one of the characters from the popular Peanuts comic strip (picture stories that appear in newspapers). Listen to him tell his friend Snoopy why he’s been waiting:

On Halloween night the “Great Pumpkin” rises out of the pumpkin patch (garden) that he picks as the most sincere (honest, truthful). Then he flies through the air bringing toys to all the good children in the world. Just think, Snoopy, if he picks this pumpkin patch, you and I will be here to see him!

Linus is sure he’s right. But his friends aren’t. Charlie Brown, his best friend, thinks Linus is confused (not able to think clearly):

Charlie: I can’t believe in the “Great Pumpkin” because I’ve never seen him!
Linus: But he exists (is real). I tell you! On Halloween night he rises out of the pumpkin patch, and flies through the air!
Charlie: I think you have him confused with Santa Claus.
Linus: Would I confuse the sun and the moon? Would I confuse NBC with CBS (TV networks)? Would I confuse the American League (group of baseball teams) with the National League? Would I?
Charlie: (to himself) I can’t stand (accept or put up with) it!

Lucy is sure that Linus’ problem is much worse than being confused:

Lucy: Stupid*! Foolish*, that’s what it is! Stupid and foolish!
Linus (writing to the “Great Pumpkin”): Dear Great Pumpkin – Halloween will soon be here. We are all looking forward to your arrival.
Lucy: Ridiculous*!
Linus (writing) Next week you will rise out of the pumpkin patch, and fly through the air.
Lucy: Absurd*!
Linus (writing) You will bring presents to all the good little boys and girls in the world.
Lucy: Preposterous*!
Linus: I have tried to be good all year long, and hope that you will bring me lots of presents.
Lucy: Crazy*! Completely crazy!
Lucy (as Linus puts on his coat and prepares to take his letter to the mailbox): Outrageous (shocking)! Insane*! Totally and completely insane!

Linus hasn’t convinced (to make someone believe) his friends about the “Great Pumpkin,” but after arguing with them and waiting for all these years, he has learned one thing:

(Talking to himself) I should have known better … There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people … religion, politics and the “Great Pumpkin”.

After 45 years, the “Great Pumpkin” still hasn’t appeared. But a television special – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – has. And it is rerun (played again) every year. So every year we wait with Linus, watch the television special, and hope … that this will be the year.

* Vocabulary note: stupid, foolish, ridiculous, absurd, and preposterous all have the idea of being silly or unreasonable; ridiculous adds the idea of “very”; absurd and preposterous add the idea of “completely”. Crazy and insane suggest mental problems.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Peanuts comic strip conversations from www.peanuts.com.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Tuesday - October 28, 2014

“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett

Friday is Halloween, the unofficial holiday when children and adults dress up (wear makeup and costumes) to attend parties or to go trick-or-treating (going from one house to the next asking for candy). (Jeff also talked about Halloween in this blog post).

Every year as Halloween rolls around (approaches), radio stations start playing a 1962 novelty (fun or funny song, not to be taken seriously) called “Monster Mash.”  The song in sung from the perspective (point of view) of a mad (crazy) scientist who has created a monster (scary and dangerous creature). One day, the monster gets up and begins doing a dance. The dance becomes very popular and many other monsters attend a party given by the mad scientist to do this new dance. Very silly, right?  But, it is a very popular song on Halloween.

The singer of the song, Bobby Pickett, imitates (tries to sound like) the voice of Boris Karloff, an English actor best known for his 1930 films, including his portrayal of (playing the role of) Frankenstein in Frankenstein (1930), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Boris Karloff had a very deep voice, very recognizable (easy to distinguish from other voices), and he went on to play many roles (acting parts).

This song has become associated with Halloween, and if you don’t hear it played on the radio, you’ll hear it played at a Halloween party.  No one really knows what the dance — the “Monster Mash” — looks like. Maybe it looks a little like the “Mashed Potato.” You’ll have to use your imagination to picture how a monster can make his — or her — feet do that.

Lucy

 

“Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett

I was working in the lab (laboratory, where experiments are done) late one night
When my eyes beheld (past tense of “behold,” an old-fashioned word for “saw”) an eerie (frightening) sight (thing that one sees)
For (because) my monster from his slab (large, thick piece of stone), began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash
The Monster Mash, it was a graveyard (outdoor field where dead people are buried) smash (popular thing)
He did the Mash, it caught on (became popular) in a flash (very quickly)
He did the Mash, he did the Monster Mash

From my laboratory in the castle (large house where kings and queens live) east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast (eat a lot)
The ghouls (ghosts) all came from their humble abodes (homes)
To get a jolt (electric shock) from my electrodes (something attached to the skin to deliver an electric shock)

They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They did the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash

The zombies (walking dead people) were having fun
The party had just begun
The guests included Wolfman,
Dracula, and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging (enjoying) the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by (accompanied by) his baying (howling) hounds (dogs)
The coffin (box where dead people are placed before being buried)-bangers (hitters, like with a drum) were about to arrive
With their vocal group, “The Crypt (underground room for dead bodies)-Kicker Five”

They played the Mash, they did the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They played the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, they did the Monster Mash

Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring (sound loudly)
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
Opened the lid and shook his fist (raised his closed hand in anger) and said
“Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist? ”

It’s now the Mash, it’s now the Monster Mash
The Monster mash, it’s a graveyard smash
It’s now the Mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the Mash, it’s now the Monster Mash

Now everything’s cool (okay), Drac’s a part of the band
And my Monster Mash is the hit of the land
For you, the living, this mash was meant, too
When you get to my door, tell them Boris sent you

Then you can Mash, then you can Monster Mash
The Monster Mash, and do my graveyard smash
Then you can Mash, you’ll catch on in a flash
Then you can Mash, then you can Monster Mash


Sunday - October 26, 2014

Podcasts This Week (October 27, 2014)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1046 – Types of Luggage

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “trunk” and “as we speak.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Traveler’s Cheques.”
“Before the1990s, “traveler’s cheques” were a “convenient” (easy-to-use) and safe…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 474

Topics: How to Become a Dentist; The Guano Island Act; classic versus classical; to be there for (someone) versus to take (someone) there; after full deliberation

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The United States Minor Outlying Islands.”
“The United States Minor Outlying Islands ‘consist of’ (are made of; include) nine…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1047

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “positively” and “out.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Clean Air Act.”
“The Clean Air Act of 1963 is a U.S. federal law that was designed to control…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - October 21, 2014

Scalping Dinner Tickets

Jacques_Lameloise_DSCF6580Your favorite band is coming to town. You call, wait in line, or go on the Internet right (immediately) when the tickets go on sale (become available for purchase) hoping to snag (get something difficult to get) some before the event is sold out (without any remaining tickets).

We’re all familiar with this process even if we haven’t tried to get concert (music performance) tickets, but can you imagine going through this to eat at a sought-after (in demand; wanted by many people) restaurant?

Some chefs (professional cooks), tired of people making reservations (appointments to eat) that end up (result) as no-shows (not arriving when planned) or last-minute (close to the planned time) cancellations (announcing that a planned event will not happen), have instituted (put in place; started) a ticket system.

Like going to a concert or show, eating at their restaurants requires a “pre-paid” (paid in advance of the event) ticket. Some chefs say that last-minute cancellations can result in 40% of their tables going empty (without visitors/users). With tickets, they say, that does not happen. Of course, only the most well-known or respected chefs can pull this off (be successful with a plan).

This ticketing system was invented (created) by a Chicago chef named Nick Kokonas in 2011. A ticket to his theme (based on one subject) menu meals costs about $300. The menu changes every four months, so people can buy season tickets (tickets to attend each event during a period of time), just like they would for the symphony (large orchestra of musicians, usually playing classical music) or the ballet (a type of classical dance). Other restaurants charge about $100 for a complete meal and tickets sell out quickly.

Some who criticize this system say that hard-to-get tickets for restaurants have been sold by scalpers (people who resell tickets at a much higher price) similar to concert tickets at exorbitant (unreasonably high) prices.

I don’t have a very sophisticated (knowledgeable) palate (appreciation of flavors), so fine dining (eating at high-quality and fancy restaurants) isn’t usually my cup of tea (not usually what I prefer). I doubt I’ll be buying any of these dinner tickets soon.

Are there top or celebrity chefs where you live, and would you consider buying a ticket to one of their restaurants?

– Jeff

Photo Credit: Jacque Lameloise from Wikipedia

 


Sunday - October 19, 2014

Podcasts This Week (October 20, 2014)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1044 – Issuing a Public Apology

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “plainly” and “to bounce back.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Corporate Public Apologies.”
“Companies often make mistakes and have to ‘apologize’ (say they are sorry) for …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 473

Topics: Famous Buildings/Structures – The Brooklyn Bridge; The Minimum Wage; to speculate versus to deliberate versus to contemplate; holy moly; down-and-dirty

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The National Registry of Historic Places.”
“On October 15, 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) became a…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1045 – Being Infatuated With Someone

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “fan” and “sighting.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Fanzines.”
“‘Fanzines’ are unofficial magazines that are created by the fans of a particular…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - October 16, 2014

The Musician and The Writer: A Return Visit

ayerslopezMr. Ayers (pronounced “airs”) and Mr. Lopez have been friends for almost ten years. Some of you may remember their story from The Musician and The Writer. In it, I described their story as “a story about dreams and broken dreams and triumph (success) over broken dreams.”

Ayers was a promising (showing signs of future success) young musician who dreamed of playing in a professional orchestra. When he was 19, he began to study at the Julliard School, one of the world’s best music schools, in New York.

Ayers’ dream didn’t last long. He had a mental breakdown (became very depressed, anxious) and had to leave school. His condition grew worse and worse, and he ended up in Los Angeles, a street person (without a home) living under a freeway bridge.

Lopez, a newspaper writer, met Ayers while taking a walk in downtown Los Angeles. They became friends and he told Ayers’ story in a series of newspaper articles and a book – The Soloist – that became a movie.

Earlier this year, Lopez continued Ayers’ story and wrote about his battle in the Los Angeles Superior Court against a doctor’s recommendation to take anti-psychotic medication, medicine that would control his mental illness. Ayers argued (strongly gave his opinion) that drugs like these had caused very bad side effects (unexpected results) for him years earlier.

Lopez wrote that it was difficult for him to listen to the arguments. Part of him wanted Ayers to win. But the other part wanted to see if the medication might “bring him relief (freedom from his illness), clarity (clear thinking) and peace.”

The Court decided that Ayers had to take the medication. So he did.

Lopez writes that he began to see positive results from the medication a few weeks later. Ayers became “softer around the edges (easier to be with), more focused (able to pay attention), and more lucid (able to think clearly).” And there were none of the side effects that Ayers had feared (been afraid of).

Lopez and one of Ayers’ friends who used to work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (orchestra) recently visited Ayers at the rehab center (place to treat mental illnesses) where he lives now. Ayers had prepared a musical concert for them, and when he finished, his friend said, “I’ve never heard him play so well.”

Ayers seems to be doing better. He’s improved enough that he is allowed to leave the center from time to time. One Sunday he went to church with one of his sister’s friends and played his violin for the people who were there. “With all due modesty*,” he told Lopez, “I brought the house down (made the people excited, happy).”

Ayers will always have to live with his illness. “I’ve got my problems, but I wanna (want to) be free,” he told Lopez. “I wanna be back out there, using every moment as if it’s the most precious (valuable) thing in the world. I don’t have any time to waste.”

Mr. Ayers’ dream continues.

* Some people use “with all due modesty” when they want to talk about something they have done but don’t want to sound too proud (satisfied) about it.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site where you will find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Awesome Stories.

 


Tuesday - October 14, 2014

It’s Snowing . . . in L.A.?

IMG_0404I live in a strange town. Quite often, I’ll drive around and see large yellow signs that Angelenos (people who live in Los Angeles) know is a directional (showing right or left, up or down) sign to a filming location. The signs use code names (not real names), so you’re unlikely to see one that says “X-Men” or “Modern Family.” And if you follow them to the location, you’re just as likely to find a shoot (filming) for a boring commercial as for a TV show or movie.

Driving around town, you can also easily spot (find) filming locations by looking for a concentration (having many in one location) of trailers, the large enclosed trucks used for hauling (moving heavy things) filming equipment and as dressing rooms (rooms for changing clothes) for the stars or actors. Sometimes one of these shoots is in my neighborhood, so I’m seldom (rarely) surprised to see those signs or trailers when I drive or walk by. However, I had a surprise last week.

Last Friday, I was driving past my neighbor’s house a few streets over (past my house) and I saw a large crane (large mechanical arm; see photo) and several large trucks. That wasn’t so surprising, but I slowed down to see what the crane was doing. The crane was moving around the roof of my neighbor’s house spraying a white substance (material). When I looked more closely, that white material covered their lawn (grassy area in front of their house) and their trees. It was snowing in Los Angeles!

I noticed that on one of the trucks was the name of the business responsible for this weather phenomenon (special weather occurrence): Snow Business Hollywood. Apparently, there is an entire company devoted to (for the purpose of; intended for) creating winter snow scenes for TV shows and movies. That’s what I guess was happening to my neighbor’s house.

Anyone who films in Los Angeles is required to get a filming permit (written permission) and the permission of the property owner. Many home and business owners will rent out their properties for a price for a short time for a shoot. I guess my neighbor decided that their house would look good in snow.

Living here, I’m not sure what to expect next — perhaps dinosaurs roaming (walking around over a large area) my street or an alien invasion (creatures from outer space coming to take over or take control)? At least life is never boring.

– Lucy

Photo Credit: by Lucy Tse


Sunday - October 12, 2014

Podcasts This Week (October 13, 2014)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1042 – Being Diagnosed With and Treated For Cancer

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “lump” and “to face facts.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Great American Smokeout.”
“The ‘Great American Smokeout’ is an ‘annual’ (once a year) event organized by…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 472

Topics: Movies – Amadeus; The Adelsverein; neither and nor: earworm; badass

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Boston Pops Orchestra.”
“The Boston Pops Orchestra was created to ‘specialize in’ (concentrate on) playing…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1043 – TV Shows Being Renewed and Cancelled

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “ratings” and “to get the ax.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Longest-Running American TV Shows.”
“Most TV shows have a short ‘lifespan’ (the amount of time that something exists)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - October 7, 2014

Headline English: A Captain Should Be Pitch Perfect at a Multitude of Skills

icon_5360Here’s a recent headline from the Financial Times:

A Captain Should be Pitch Perfect at a Multitude of Skills

This headline is for an article that compares the game of cricket, popular in Great Britain and other countries, to the world of baseball. But there are lots of interesting things we can learn from it.

Let’s start with captain. A captain is a leader in the military (such as the army and navy), but we also use that term for someone who is the leader of a sports team. Sports vocabulary is also very popular in the American business world. So in business, a captain would be a leader, usually of a company.

There’s an old expression, “the captains of industry,” meaning the business leaders of a country.

The next interesting term here is “pitch perfect.” The word pitch has two different meanings here, and the headline is using both to make a little joke, what we would call word play or play on words. To pitch (as a verb) means to throw a ball, like a player in the game of cricket or baseball might do. But pitch (as a noun) refers to the musical note that a person can sing.

In music, to be “pitch perfect” means to always be able to sing the “right” or correct note, or to recognize it when you hear it. (And, to make things even more confusing, “pitch” as a noun is also used in British English to refer to what Americans would call the “field,” the area where a sport is played.)

However, in normal conversation, pitch perfect means to do or say exactly the right thing, to be perfectly accurate and effective in what you say or do, or to say something with just the right tone or mood.

Juliana: Did you hear John’s explanation of why we lost 200 million dollars last quarter?

George: Yes. I thought his explanation was pitch perfect. The investors seemed to be less nervous after his talk.

I should also add that “pitch” as a verb can also be used to mean to attempt to convince someone to accept your proposal, to buy what you are selling, whether it is a physical object, a service, or even an idea. Pitch can also be a noun meaning the act or process of selling or convincing.

Gustavo: I have a great new idea for a movie.

Justin: How are you going to pitch it to the movie studios?

Gustavo: I’ll just give them the story idea. You see, there’s a planet full of sharks who are as big as dinosaurs and then they start to eat people and . . .

Justin: Okay, I’ve heard enough (I don’t want to hear any more)!

The final word of interest here is “multitude.” Business vocabulary in English is filled with polysyllabic words (words that have more than one syllable; poly means “many”) that are used even though you could say the same thing with a shorter, easier word. I guess people think that if you use long words, you are smarter than if you use short ones.

Multitude is a good example of a polysyllabic word that people use to impress their colleagues. It just means a large group or number, or simply, “many.” Normally, we use the preposition “of” after multitude, as in a “multitude of skills.”

Leo: This project has a multitude of problems, doncha (informal for “don’t you”) think?

Kevin: No more than all of our other projects!

So, to sum it all up (to review or summarize what we just said): this headline says that if you are a leader of a team or company, you need to be able to do lots of things really well. But you probably knew that already, right?

-Jeff

Image Credit: The Noun Project


Sunday - October 5, 2014

Podcasts This Week (October 6, 2014)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1040 – Dealing with Bureaucracy

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to the letter” and “to be palmed off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Paperwork Reduction Act.”
“In 1980, the U.S. government  ‘enacted’ (made into law) the Paperwork Reduction Act…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 471

Topics: Famous Americans – John Brown; High School Reunions; phantom versus soul; coast versus shore; plug nickel

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue.”
“The Fugitive Law of 1850 was a law passed by the United States Congress that required citizens…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1041 – Being Rescued

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “provision” and “to hear things.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Animals Used for Search and Rescue.”
“Animals are often used for search and rescue ‘missions’ (projects with a specific purposes)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide