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Archive for January, 2012

Monday - January 30, 2012

Podcasts This Week (January 30, 2012)

The fastest way to improve your English is to read along in the Learning Guide as you listen. You’ll improve through listening and reading at the same time!

In the Learning Guide, you’ll also get additional vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

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………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 760 – Paycheck Deductions

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 “stub” and “wages.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Voluntary Payroll Deductions.”
“All employees are “subject to” (affected by) “mandatory” (not optional) payroll deductions for taxes and certain benefits, but some employees…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 331

Topics: Ask an American: Online money management; don’t worry versus don’t bother; not only; to move/get past a feeling; pronouncing wool versus wall

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Piggy Banks.”
“For many Americans, a “piggy bank” is a “symbol” (an object or image that represents something) of saving and “frugality” (not wasting money). A piggy bank is a small object…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 761 – Animals in a Zoo

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 “the next best thing” and “to rise up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Zoos.”
“There are many different types of zoos in the United States. A “traditional” (common; as things were done in the past) zoo has animals in many different cages…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 26, 2012

Murals in Peril*

Coit Tower isn’t very tall – only 210 feet (64 m). In fact, it’s short compared to some of the other buildings on the San Francisco skyline (the shape made by hills and buildings against the sky). But it stands on top of Telegraph Hill, so it’s hard to miss (avoid seeing) by day or by night.

Telegraph Hill, which is popular with many tourists, is an important part of San Francisco’s history. It gets its name from a signal (something used to send messages), located at the top of the Hill, that was used to identify ships arriving in San Francisco harbor (place near the city where ships stop). In 1850, the signal alerted (sent a message to) San Franciscans that California had become the 31st state in the U.S.

Coit Tower was built on Telegraph Hill as a gift from wealthy socialite (well-known rich woman) Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She was a little eccentric (unusual, odd) – for example, she loved to chase fires (go where fires are burning) – but she wanted to add “to the beauty of the city which [she] had always loved.” The Tower was designed in the art deco style – with strong, simple shapes and colors – that was popular in the 1920s and 30s. It was dedicated (officially opened) in 1933.

Many people have seen the Tower from the outside; fewer, however, know about the art treasure inside. The interior walls are covered with fresco murals created by 27 different artists and their assistants. Frescos are works of art created by painting directly on the surface of a wall or ceiling, often when the surface is still wet, so that the painting becomes a permanent part of the wall or ceiling. Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is one of the most famous examples of fresco.

A mural is any work of art painted on a wall or ceiling, often as a part of the design of the building. According to a recent report, more than 2500 murals were painted in post offices, schools, and other public buildings in the U.S. in the 1920s. The murals in Coit Tower tell a story of life in California in the early part of the 20th century. They include scenes of “the grim (serious) reality (truth) of city life, the pastoral (peaceful) beauty of California’s agriculture (farm life), and the worlds of food and leisure (relaxing activity).” Famous Mexican muralist (someone who paints murals) Diego Rivera influenced many of the artists who painted the Coit murals.

Many of the public murals in the U.S., including those in the Coit Tower, are in danger today. The U.S. Post Office, for example, is down-sizing (becoming smaller) and closing many of their buildings, including some with murals. The Coit murals, however, face a different peril (serous and immediate danger) – the San Francisco fog.

One of the problems with frescos is that anything in the environment that damages the wall or ceiling they’re painted on also damages the paintings. This kind of deterioration (becoming worse) seriously damaged Da Vinci’s Last Supper and required a major effort by art conservators (someone who repairs art) to rescue (save) the painting.

In the Coit Tower, moisture (small amounts of water) from the almost daily San Francisco fog penetrates (goes into) the walls. As it evaporates (dries), it moves through the wall to the painting on the face of the wall and leaves tiny white salt crystals (pieces of salt) that slowly destroy the paintings. This process causes the wall and the paintings that cover it to slowly crumble, or fall apart.

People in San Francisco have begun to raise money to try to preserve (save and protect) the tower.

If you’d like to learn more about the Coit Tower  murals and what’s being done to save them, you can read and listen to this story from the PBS Newshour.

*Peril = serious and immediate danger

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor and coach and creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestion for better English.

Photo by Thomas Hawk used under Creative Commons license.

Monday - January 23, 2012

Podcasts This Week (January 23, 2012)

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Become a Basic or Premium Member and you’ll get the Learning Guide.  We designed them specifically for English learners like you.  Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

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

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 758 – Showing Off a New Purchase

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 “baby” and “to whip it out.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Luxury Taxes and Sin Taxes.”
“A “luxury tax” is a “tax” (a way for a government to receive money) on “luxury goods” (products that are very expensive and nice, but “nonessential” (not necessary; optional)) such as…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 330

Topics: American Authors – Toni Morrison; Homeboy/Homegirl Industries & Father Greg Boyle; screw versus bolt versus nut; to kidnap versus to abduct; to sharpen (one’s) ax

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Gang Hand Signs.”
“Belonging to a group sometimes means “adopting” (taking on; accepting) certain types of “identifying” (showing who one is and where one belongs) things…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 759 – Worrying About Your Children

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 “natural” and “to take after.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “GPS Tracking of Children.”
“Parents always worry about their children, “wondering” (wanting to know) where they are, whom they are with, and whether they are safe. In the past, parents had to ask their children to share that information…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 19, 2012

Big Shot

A big shot is an informal adjective to describe an important person in an organization. When we say “big” we don’t mean they are physically big or tall.  But some new research suggests that people who are big shots really do think they’re bigger!

In a recent study, scientists measured the height (how tall someone is) of 100 male and female college students.  Then they gave them a test that (the researchers said) measured (indicated; showed) how much ability they had to be a leader (boss; manager). Finally, they asked students to role-play (pretend) that they were either managers or employees.

The students were assigned (put into a group) randomly (by chance) to play either a manager or an employee.  They were told that they were put into the manager or employee group based on (because of) their score on the leadership test, but in fact, their assignment wasn’t related to that score at all.

After they were assigned to a group, the students were then asked to give their own height.  There was no actual (real) difference in height between the two groups.  The employees gave their correct height, but the managers said that they were taller than they actually were!

Our perception (the way we see something) of ourselves psychologically is, according to the researchers, related to how we view ourselves physically.  Does this mean that if I imagine myself as being 20 years younger, I will be able to grow my hair back?

~Jeff

Photo Credit: Robert Wadlow, 1918; Wikipedia PD

Tuesday - January 17, 2012

Shanghai Blues

In some ways it was an unusual musical event. In 2009, popular young Chinese pianist (a person who plays the piano) Lang Lang joined Herbie Hancock, an African American jazz pianist, and the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall in London to perform (play) Rhapsody in Blue by American composer (a person who writes music) George Gershwin.

Several things set this performance apart (make it unique or unusual). Rhapsody in Blue is the first piece of concert music to blend (mix) classical music and jazz (If you want to know more about jazz and blues, read this blog post that I wrote several months ago). So I suppose it is fitting (appropriate) to have the piano part of Rhapsody played by classical and jazz pianists together, especially since it is usually played by only one pianist.

What makes this performance even more interesting to me is that the story of jazz in China did not begin until 1981, almost exactly one year before Lang Lang was born.  Before then, jazz, which began in America, was virtually (almost) unknown in China.

American jazz was introduced to the Chinese by two other African American jazz musicians, Willie Ruff and Dwike Mitchell, when they were invited to Shanghai to spend (use time to do something) several days with the teachers and students of the Shanghai Conservatory (school for studying music and other arts) of Music. William Zinsser, who also traveled to Shanghai, tells their story in his book Mitchell and Ruff: An American Profile (an article or book that describes someone) in Jazz.

Zinsser writes that Ruff and Mitchell explained jazz and the blues to their Chinese audience and performed (play their instruments) examples of what they are talking about.

The Chinese musicians in Shanghai had never experienced anything like this. Jazz is not written or planned. It is like an unplanned musical conversation. There is always a theme – like a topic of conversation – but every player has a different idea of what to “say” about it. A piece of jazz develops like an after-dinner conversation where we all talk about the same thing but have different ideas or feelings about it.

“The audience buzzed (made an excited noise) with amazement and pleasure,” writes Zinsser after one number (piece of music) when Ruff told the audience, “That is called Shanghai Blues. We just made it up (created it now).”

One of the older professors got up and asked Mitchell and Ruff if they had a plan when they started to play Shanghai Blues. “No,” said Ruff, “I just started tapping (make a quiet noise by moving your foot up and down) my foot and played the first thought that came into my mind…. And Mitchell heard it. And he answered. And after that we heard and answered, heard and answered, heard and answered.”

The old professor asked if they could ever play the piece again. “No,” said Ruff, “We never can.”

“That is beyond our imagination (we can’t imagine that),” replied the professor. “Our students here play a piece a hundred times, or two hundred times, to get it exactly right. You play something once – something beautiful – and then you just throw it away.” For those of us who enjoy jazz, that is part of its attraction (what makes it interesting) – it’s always new, always different.

If you want to experience part of Mitchell and Ruff’s Shanghai experience, including hearing them create a new jazz piece based on (to use something to develop something new) a song written by one of  the Chinese students, you can do it by viewing this YouTube video.

Thanks to Mitchell and Ruff, and many other American jazz musicians, jazz has traveled around the world and is enjoyed today by people from virtually every country. And musicians like Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock can share the stage (perform together) to create something new.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo credit: cover of Mitchell and Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz from Amazon.com.

Monday - January 16, 2012

Podcasts This Week (January 16, 2012)

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

By becoming an ESL Podcast Member, you get the Learning Guide with even more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

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

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 756 – Holding Structured and Unstructured Meetings

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 fall to” and “free for all.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Business Meeting Agendas.”
“At most business meetings, each “attendee” (person who participates in a meeting) is given a copy of the agenda. The agenda lists each item of business and the…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 329

Topics: American Presidents: Jimmy Carter; The Lost Ship of the Desert Legend; phrases used to ask for status updates; to start off for; likely versus probable

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Dune Buggies.”
“If you live in or near a desert, you may be familiar with “dune buggies,” which are vehicles that look like cars, but with very large and wide wheels…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 757 – Getting Political Support

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 sign on” and “first things first.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Events Before an Election.”
“Most political candidates organize many events in the weeks and months “prior to” (before) elections. These events help them “garner” (gather; earn; get) support and…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 12, 2012

Help Us Win a Macmillan Love English Award for 2011

The Macmillan Dictionary company holds (has) a contest each year to determine the best English language website and blog on the Internet. This year, ESLPod.com and the ESL Podcast Blog have been nominated for the best website and best blog!  We are happy to be nominated, but we need your help to win.  

If you believe we have the best English language website and blog, please vote for us!  It’s easy and will take less than one minute to do.

To vote for us for the best website, click here and look for “ESL Pod.” (Do not vote for “English Cafe.” That is not our website.)

To vote for us for the best blog, click here and look for “ESL Podcast Blog.”

Voting is simple: Just find our name and click on the “Vote” box.  That’s all you do!  You don’t have to give your email or sign-up for anything. Voting ends on January 31st, so vote today before you forget!

The most important reward for us here at ESL Podcast is knowing that we are able to help people improve their English. Because of this, we don’t normally pay much attention to awards, but since these awards are chosen by the users — people like you — we do care what you think!  So vote and wish us luck!

~ Jeff and Lucy

 

Tuesday - January 10, 2012

Headline English: N.H. Vote Seen as Gauge as Rivals Try to Slow Romney

In today’s post, I’ll look at a newspaper story from today’s New York Times, explaining what the words in the headline mean, and what the story is all about.

N.H. Vote Seen as Gauge as Rivals Try to Slow Romney

N.H. is an abbreviation for “New Hampshire,” a state located in the northeastern part of the U.S. New Hampshire is in the news today because there is an election there to help decide who the Republican candidate for president will be this year, the person who will try to defeat Barack Obama in our presidential election in November. (For an explanation of our presidential election system, see here.)

You probably know there are two main political groups or parties in the U.S.: the Democrats (generally more liberal) and the Republicans (typically more conservative). The Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2012 will be President Obama. The Republicans are choosing their candidate from among several people.  The person with the most popularity right now is the former businessman and governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

The New Hampshire vote (election) is seen as or is being interpreted as a gauge.  A gauge is a tool or instrument you use to measure something.  Here it means an indicator, a sign of something. The election is a sign of whether Romney’s rivals will be able to slow him down.  A rival is a person who is competing with you for some prize or in some competition, a person who wants to defeat you. To slow someone or to slow someone down means to make him go less fast. In this headline, “to slow Romney” means to prevent him from winning the Republican nomination (the right to represent the Republican party in the presidential election) too quickly, before any of his rivals have a chance to win it themselves.

If Romney wins the first several state elections for the Republican nomination (he won the first one last week in the state of Iowa), it is likely that he will be able to beat (defeat) all of his rivals and become the Republican candidate. Of course, getting the nomination is just the first step. To become president, Romney will have to defeat President Obama in the November election. Right now it is too early to tell (to know) if he will be able to do that.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Mitt Romeny, Wikipedia PD

Monday - January 9, 2012

Podcasts This Week (January 9, 2012)

Do you want to improve your English in 2012? Start now by becoming an ESL Podcast member!

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 by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 754 – Being in a Flood

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 “soaked” and “go ahead.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Biggest U.S. Floods.”
“Most people are “familiar with” (have seen) images from the “horrific” (terrible; awful) flooding caused in and around New Orleans, Louisiana by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But there have been many other large…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 328

Topics:  The Scopes Trial; American Cities: Aspen and Vail, Colorado; The City of New York versus New York City; verge versus brink; to compliment versus to complement

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Play Inherit the Wind.”
“In 1955, two “playwrights” (authors of plays), Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee “debuted” (showed for the first time) a play called Inherit the Wind.  This play was a “parable”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 755 – Rejecting Newer Technology

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 act up” and “spring.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Classic Video Games.”
“Pong is one of the “classic” (traditional; one of the first of something and still admired) video games. Released in 1972, it was based on a tennis game…” - READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - January 3, 2012

You Say You Want a Resolution

Last week, I talked about five things I was thankful for in the year 2011. With 2012 upon us (here; with us now), it is of course time to make some New Year’s resolutions. Here are a few of mine:

1. Exercise more. I discovered recently that, although I wish otherwise (want something else or something different), I am getting a little older every year. My doctor that says the best thing for me to do is more exercise.  I already exercise everyday on a treadmill (a machine for walking), but I could stand to do (could benefit from doing) a little more, especially after all of that pumpkin pie I ate over the holidays.

2. Eat more pumpkin pie. Eating pumpkin pie is one of my favorite things in the world to do. So, hey, if I exercise more, I can eat more pie, right? Of course, if I eat more pie than I do now, I will need to exercise even more, but that just means I can then eat more pie and then…well, you get the idea.

3. Learn something new. I am what my father used to call a “professional student” – I was in school for so many years that it seemed as though that was my “career.” But the truth is I really do enjoy going to school and learning something new. Last year I took a couple of classes at my local community college, and I had a lot of fun, even though I was by far (easily) the oldest person in the class. I plan to do that again this year.

4. Spend less time watching television. It is too easy to sit down and spend half of your evening watching the silly programs that are on the TV. That time can be better spent talking to my wife and my family, reading a good book, or eating pumpkin pie.

5. Suffer fools (more) gladly. Fools are people who are do things we think are stupid or who might annoy (bother) us with their silly actions. To suffer usually means to undergo (experience) pain, but it can also mean to tolerate, to put up with someone. Gladly means happily.  There is an old expression that we should learn to suffer fools gladly, meaning that we should be more patient and kind to those whose behavior (actions) we don’t like, who are foolish, or who bother us in some way. I think we can all afford to do (are able to; will benefit from) that. We can make the world around us just a little bit nicer by being nicer ourselves.

What are five things you want to do more of, less of, or differently in 2012?

~Jeff

Photo credit: Treadmill by McQuillan