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Archive for November, 2008

Thursday - November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

ThanksgivingToday is a national holiday in the United States, known as Thanksgiving Day.  I talked about Thanksgiving in a couple of podcasts here and hereTo give thanks means to be thankful for something, to appreciate and be grateful for the good things in your life.  Interestingly enough, being appreciative and thankful has been found by psychologists to make people happier.  People who stop frequently and think about all of the good things that they have are usually happier and more positive about the future.  Some psychologists recommend doing this on a daily basis, stopping for five minutes each morning or evening and thinking about three or four things you can be thankful for – your health, your job, your house, your family, and so forth.

We at ESL Podcast are thankful for you, our listeners, and especially our members and donors, who support us and make it possible for us to produce the episodes each week.  We are thankful for all of those who post comments to the blog, who email us with comments and questions, and who spread the word (tell other people) about our website.

For those of you who live here in the United States, the entire ESL Podcast Team wishes you a very pleasant holiday.  For those of you who live elsewhere, well, go out and get some turkey and celebrate your own little day of thanks.  You’ll be happier if you do!


Tuesday - November 25, 2008

Celebrity Contract Riders

jean_harlow04_jpg.jpgAn interesting website that is often mentioned in the media is The Smoking Gun. This website gets interesting and often confidential (secret) documents from the government, police, and the courts by using the Freedom of Information Act. The Freedom of Information Act is a law that was passed in 1966, which allows ordinary (normal) citizens to request information controlled by the government.

What does “The Smoking Gun” mean? It’s an expression that means that someone has indisputable (cannot be wrong) proof (evidence) that someone did something wrong, usually a crime.

One thing you’ll find on The Smoking Gun website are contract riders. A contract rider is used by performers who sign a contract (legal agreement) to speak or to perform. The contract rider includes the details on how the stage, sound, and lighting should be set up (arranged). It also includes what the performers want backstage in their dressing rooms ready for their arrival. This can include many things. For example, Jane’s Addiction, a rock group, wants clean boxer shorts (men’s underwear that look like shorts) to be in their dressing room, and Janet Jackson specifies (tells in detail) that she wants several different types of flowers in her dressing room, including tulips, gardenias, and lilies. Singer Amy Winehouse, who has had a lot of problems with addiction (wanting and needing a drug very badly) recently requested 48 bottles of whiskey for her dressing room. Let’s hope it’s for her entourage (the people or friends who are always around a famous person).

You can check out contract riders of the stars yourself at The Smoking Gun’s contract rider website.

~ Lucy

Tuesday - November 18, 2008

What’s Up? What Happened? What’s the Matter? What’s Going On?

Raul from Mexico wants to know what the difference is among these phrases:

What happened? / What’s up? / What’s the matter? / What’s going on?

“What’s up?” can be used in two ways. One common way is as an informal greeting to mean “hello” or “how are you?” We use this with friends or people we know well in daily situations.

Jeff: What’s up?
Lucy: Not much. How about you?

We also use “What’s up?” when we ask what the situation is at a specific time. We use “What’s going on?” for the same purpose. For example, if you return home and there are police cars in front of your neighbor’s house, you may ask your husband or wife, “What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” You want to get information about this specific situation.

“What’s the matter?” and “What happened?” are also used to ask for information about a specific situation. However, these two questions are normally used for a situation where something bad or negative has happened or may have happened. For example, when your 6-year-old daughter starts crying, you may ask her, “What’s the matter?” and/or “What happened?” If your co-worker walks into your office with an angry look on her face, you may ask, “What’s the matter?” and/or “What happened?”

You can also use “What happened?” to ask about the result of something.  If you know your co-worker asked your boss for a raise (higher pay or salary) and you see your co-worker the next day, you may ask, “What happened?” to find out the result.

Thanks for the question, Raul, and I hope this is helpful.

~ Lucy

Wednesday - November 5, 2008

Barack Obama – 44th President of the United States

060922_barackobama_xtrawide.jpgOn January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will become the first minority (non-white) American to be the president of the United States. If you had asked me two years ago–or even a year ago–whether I thought an African American could get elected to the highest office (public job) of this country, I would have been doubtful (not sure).

I would have been uncertain, like many Americans, not because we doubted the ability of Barack Obama, but because race continues to be an issue that divides (makes into separate parts) the United States. Despite what some pundits (people who give their political opinion on TV, radio, newspapers and other media) say, racial bias is still a part of the culture in the U.S.

However, Barack Obama did not lose because he is African American. He did not win because he is African American. He won because he was judged by the content of his character to be the best person for the job by a majority (52%) of Americans. That, many would agree, is progress.

~ Lucy

Tuesday - November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

Obama McCainToday is Election Day in the United States.  Normally, the first Tuesday of November is an election day every year for different political offices (positions) at the state and local level.  Every four years, however, we have a national election for president.  This year, you probably know, the two main candidates are Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain.  Obama is leading (is in first place) in the polls (opinion surveys about how people will vote) and is considered a favorite to win (someone who is expected to win).

Although the election of the president is the most important part of today’s election, there are also many other elections taking place.  All 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are being elected today, and about one-third of the 100 U.S. Senators.  In addition, there are many state and local elections, including votes on certain specific political issues or laws (called propositions) that people will decide directly.

Who will win?  We’ll find out by tomorrow morning, unless the vote is very close.  However, it is important to note that the U.S. presidential election is determined by a somewhat complicated system and is not just the candidate who gets the most votes nationally, although usually this is what happens.  If you want more information on how we elect the president, listen to our English Cafe #118 where I explain it in more detail.