Archive for the 'Television and Movies' Category
One of the first movies I saw at a theater was at a drive-in. I was eight years old and my friend Heather’s older brother had the family car for the evening. He let us tag along (allowed us to go along) with his friends to see a movie. He drove onto the large drive-in theater parking lot, parked alongside (next to) one of the speakers (device used to project sound) which he removed from the stand (something holding something in place) and hooked (placed over the top using a piece of curved metal so it would stay in place) onto the car door so we could hear the audio (sound) in the car, and went to the concession stand (place where food and drinks are sold, usually at a movie, concert, or similar event) to get our popcorn and sodas. Then, the outdoor screen in front of us came alive and the movie started.
My first drive-in experience came at the tail-end (near the end) of the drive-in’s popularity. In 1958, at the peak (highest point) of the drive-in craze (with a lot of enthusiasm for something), there were over 4,000 drive-ins in the United States. By the 1990s, many had closed, and today, there are about 350 drive-ins still in existence (remaining) in the U.S.
One reason for the slow demise (death) of drive-ins is rising (going up) real estate (buying of land and buildings) prices. Obviously, you need a large enough piece of land for cars to park to make enough money on each movie screening (showing).
Another major problem for drive-in owners is the switch (change) to digital projectors. Movie projectors allow film or digital images to be shown on a large screen. Movies used to be copied onto film for distribution (given to many people). Now, movies are distributed to theaters in digital form. One digital projector costs about $70,000 per (for each) screen, according to a recent Time magazine article.
Even with these major obstacles (problems in the way), some drive-ins are surviving (staying alive) and some are thriving (doing well). Some theaters are going upscale (with finer quality and appealing to pickier or more selective tastes) by offering quality beer and wine, and better food than the usual popcorn and candy. These theaters are located in urban areas and try to appeal to hipsters, people who follow the latest trends and fashions.
Do drive-ins exist where you live? Have you ever been to a drive-in? What is your favorite environment for watching a movie?
Photo Credit: Hollywood Drive in New York from Wikipedia
One of the more popular reality television programs in the United States is Top Chef, a cooking competition for young professional chefs (cooks). On the show, contestants (people who are participating in the competition or game) try to cook the best possible food, often in a very short amount of time. (Top means “the best” in this case.) It is one of several popular cooking shows now in the U.S.
Many Americans like to cook. Sadly, I am not one of them. But it is possible nowadays to pretend like you’re cooking, even when you aren’t doing all of the normal hard work of preparing a meal.
Several food companies have developed what we might call “half-cooked” or “half-prepared” meals, where most of the work is done for you, but not all of it.
You might wonder why companies would sell meals that were not completely finished. The answer is simple: guilt.
People feel guilty (bad because you did something wrong) about saying they “cooked” something when they don’t have some active participation in the preparation.
This fact came to light (was discovered; became known) in the 1940s, when baking companies discovered a way to sell cake mix (a dry, powdered form of the cake ingredients) that only required adding water and putting it in the oven. When they went to sell the product to (mostly) American women, they hated it!
So the companies tried something different. They made the mix so that you would need to add an egg with the water. That concept was an instant (immediate) hit (very successful). Women said this felt more like “real cooking.”
Even to this day (even today; nowadays), you have to buy an egg to add to the cake mix before baking it.
There are variations (different versions) of this approach (tactic; way of doing something). Some companies package (put into small bags) the individual ingredients (things you use to make food) separately so that you have to “add” them together to cook and eat the food. Again, the companies could just put them all together for you, but people want to feel like they’re cooking.
Another popular version is to require you to buy some “fresh” food, such as vegetables or meat, which is then added to the box of ingredients you get from the store.
I am hoping that someday soon, there will be another edition (kind; variation) of Top Chef called Top Chef: Fake Edition, where people like me who pretend to cook can compete against other fake (false; not real) cooks. I’m pretty sure I’d win.
Is “pretend cooking” popular where you live? Have you ever “fake cooked” a meal?
Image credit: Chef by Juan Pablo Bravo from The Noun Project
I feel sorry for celebrities. All of that wealth (money), admiration (people liking and respecting you), and influence. What a sad life.
And there is now a new reason to pity (feel bad for the suffering of) celebrities. They’re being “swatted.”
To swat someone is to pull a prank (play a joke) on them by getting emergency services such as the police, ambulance services (emergency vehicle to take you to the hospital), or firefighters to go to someone’s home when there is no emergency, often in the middle of the night or another inconvenient time. Usually, an anonymous (identity not known) caller calls 9-1-1, the emergency services phone number, and reports some type of problem or emergency. When the emergency vehicle arrives at the address, they find no emergency. Not only does this waste (use for no purpose) taxpayer money (money paid by citizens for public services) and tie up (occupy) emergency services, it’s a nuisance to the person they’re trying to “help.”
The term “swatting” is a relatively new one and comes from the acronym (word made from the first letter of a phrase or group of words) SWAT. SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics. (Weapons are tools we use to hurt each other, such as guns and bombs, and tactics are actions or strategies we carefully plan and use to defeat the enemy).
A SWAT team is a special group of police officers who operate like a military (army) unit and are called in (summoned; used) for difficult, high-risk, and dangerous operations that regular police are not trained to handle, such as hostage situations (where someone is holding one or more people and not letting them leave, usually threatening them with violence, unless the hostage-takers’ demands are met). The idea behind swatting is to bring a large number of police — or other emergency workers — to a place quickly and to create an emergency-type situation where none really exists.
Swatting is actually against the law, since you can be arrested (taken in by the police) if you report something to the police that isn’t true. However, with the technology of today, swatters use techniques that make it difficult for their reporting to be traced (followed to the source).
Many celebrities have been the victim of swatting, including the singers Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Sean Combs (also known as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, or just Diddy). Actors Tom Cruise, Miley Cyrus, and Ashton Kutcher have also been victims of swatting.
Too much money, too much admiration, and now swatting. I’m more grateful than ever that I’m not a celebrity.
Does swatting exist where you live? Are there laws against it?
Photo Credit: Members of the 60th Security Police Squadron’s Base Swat Team from Wikipedia
P.S. Thank you for all of the birthday wishes. It “takes the sting out of” (makes it less painful) getting another year older!
There was a game show (a competition on television for money) a few years ago called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (a fifth grader is a student in grade five, about eleven years old). In the game, adults would try to answer questions taken from the lessons of elementary school (grades one through six) students. If you got an answer wrong, you had to say, “I am not smarter than a 5th grader!”
The game became so popular that other countries (more than 50!) created similar shows, some of which are still on the air (being shown on television).
Today’s post is not about questions for fifth graders, but for those who are about to go to college.
In the U.S., students who want to attend (go to; be a student at) a university usually have to write a short essay about some topic in order to demonstrate that they know how to write well in English. I thought it would be fun to share some of the topics high school seniors (twelfth graders) have to answer when applying to many U.S. colleges.
The following writing prompts (topics for writing an essay, usually for an exam or application) are among the most popular used by American colleges. Read each question and think about what your answer might be:
-Some students have a background or story that is so central (important) to their identity (who they see themselves as) that they believe their application would be incomplete (not finished) without it. If this sounds like (appears to be) you, then please share (tell us) your story.
-Recount (tell us the story of) an incident (event; situation) or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
-Reflect (think about) a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted (caused) you to act (do it)? Would you make that same decision again?
-Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly (completely) content (happy; satisfied). What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful (important; significant) to you?
-Discuss an accomplishment (something you’ve done) or event, formal or informal, that marked (indicated) your transition (change) from childhood (being a child) to adulthood (being an adult) within your culture, community, or family.
See if you can answer one of these questions (in English!), then tell us about how you answered in the comments below.
Photo credit: Student in Kentucky, 1946, Wikipedia PD
Like many of you, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games. Here in the U.S., the Olympic Games are being broadcasted in real time (while it is happening; not delayed) on several channels and streaming (shown on the Internet while it’s happening) on the TV network’s website. And then each night, there is a recap (summary) of that day’s major events. I’ve only been watching the recaps each night, but have been reading the coverage in the newspaper.
Last Friday, we saw the opening ceremonies (the official start to an event) and, as usual, it was a spectacle (something amazing to see). Then came the parade (public marching to be on display) of the athletes from different countries. With this auspicious (good; indication of success) start, it’s unfortunate that these Olympic Games are marred (spoiled; made not perfect) by scandal (the doing of something wrong that causes the public to have strong negative reaction), which is par for the course (normal) in a sporting event this big. There have been accusations (statements that someone has done something wrong) of doping (taking banned (not allowed) drugs to improve performance) and cheating. Some of the the athletes have been exonerated (shown to have done nothing wrong), while others have filed official protests (statements of disagreement). With the media focusing so much on these scandals, it’s easy to lose sight of (forget) the spirit (true quality or characteristic) of the Olympic Games.
That’s why I like stories like that of U.S. Olympic swimmer — and now gold medal winner — Missy Franklin. Missy is seventeen years old and she did not follow the same path (route) as many Olympic athletes. When she was younger and showed talent for swimming, many people urged her parents to move her from Colorado to a major city where there are better coaches (trainers) and facilities (places to train), but her parents said no. Missy has continued to train with the same swim club that she’s been with for many years, which doesn’t even have its own swimming pool, and she continues to swim as one of many athletes for her high school team. What is more remarkable (surprising; amazing) is that she is still being coached by the same swimming coach she has had since she began swimming when she was seven years old. She also says that she plans to go to college, swimming for the university’s team, rather than to compete professionally, forgoing (not taking advantage of) a lot of possible prize money.
So while I’m watching the Olympic competitions and hearing about the medal counts (total number of prizes each country has won) and the continuing athlete scandals, I try to remember the true spirit of the Olympic Games.
Are you watching the Games? Which sports are you most interested in? Are there any stories of athletes that strike you (impress you) as particularly interesting or inspiring (giving you good, positive feeling)?
The television detective has been a part of TV history nearly from its earliest days. Cops (police officers) and private eyes (private detectives) used to be the most common type of TV detectives, but anyone can be a detective on television: attorneys (lawyers), doctors, and even mystery novelists (book writers). With so many TV detectives, can you pick a favorite?
My favorite American TV detective is perhaps an unusual choice. This detective was most popular in the 1970′s, and I watched most of the shows in reruns (a later showing of the same episode) many years later. He is a cop, but not an obvious choice for a hero (someone who is brave, whose actions help people, and is admired by others). His name is Columbo.
Lieutenant (one of the ranks (levels) in the police force below captain) Columbo is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. He is not young, not good-looking, and he’s always rumpled (looking messy and wrinkled, like he just got out of bed). But don’t let appearances fool you (trick you). Columbo has the mind of a steel trap (can think quickly, clearly, and intelligently). It is precisely (exactly) because his appearance (the way he looks) and his manner (way he behaves) are so unassuming (modest; humble) that the murderer often underestimates him (believes he is less able, skilled, intelligent, etc., than he is). With persistence (not giving up; continuing to try even when the situation is difficult), Columbo always gets his man — or woman (finds the criminal).
Peter Falk was the actor who played (acted in the role as) Lieutenant Columbo and he died in 2011. He acted in many films and was twice nominated (named as a possible winner) for an Academy Award, but he was best known for his role as Columbo. Columbo was on the air from 1971 to 1978, and then returned occasionally (from time to time) between 1989 and 2003 in TV movies.
Do you watch TV detective shows? Who is your favorite TV detective of all time? What makes him or her such a good detective?
Photo Credit: Peter Falk Columbo from Wikipedia
I often come across desert island questions, asking if we were stranded on (not able to leave) a desert island, or a deserted island, that is uninhabited (with no people, other than me), what would we want to bring along? It’s not too difficult to select our favorite books or movies to accompany (go with) us to our lonely new home, I think.
But what if you were stranded on a desert island and given the chance to have one companion, someone to keep you company (give you friendship or companionship)? This person cannot be a relative or even someone you know personally, such as your spouse (husband/wife), boyfriend/girlfriend, or best friend. It must be a historical figure (someone famous from the past) or a character from books, movies, or TV shows.
Of course, those of you who are practical-minded (thinking of and doing the most useful things) may immediately think of someone like MacGyver, or someone else who is extremely resourceful (able to do a lot with only a little), to help you on the island. This person would certainly be helpful as a companion, so let’s assume he’s already on the island with you.
The question is: If you were picking someone else to be on your desert island, who would you pick?
You might be interested to know that when I asked Jeff this question, first he said he might pick someone like Socrates or Albert Einstein. And then, he thought for a minute and asked me, “Is my wife dead?” so we know where his mind was going…and of course, we don’t blame him (say that he did something wrong)!
I’m still trying to decide. I think I would pick someone who is a great storyteller to help me pass the time.
Who would you pick and why?
Guilty pleasures are things that we enjoy, but that we are embarrassed or ashamed that we like. There can be guilty pleasures in all categories: food, TV shows, music, sports, and more.
In terms of food, one of my guilty pleasures is cake. Other people like ice cream, chocolate, or candy. I like cake–not the fancy kind at fancy bakeries, though I don’t mind those either. I am perfectly happy with a plain white (vanilla) cake with frosting (a layer of sweet icing used to decorate the top and sides of cakes). Chocolate cake is fine, too, but I don’t need fancy fruit, cream, or other fillings (food put inside of other food). My favorite part of birthday parties, mine and other people’s, is having cake. It’s something that I can never turn down (refuse), and I give in to (allow myself to do something I shouldn’t) my cravings (the wanting something very badly) all too often.
In terms of movies, I have a lot of guilty pleasures. My guilty pleasures fall into two categories:
1) movies that I can watch over and over again (no, I won’t admit how many times I’ve seen them), and
2) bad movies that I enjoy.
Movies like “The Fugitive,” “Shawshank Redemption,” and “Roman Holiday” are ones I can watch time and time again (many times). I usually catch them on lazy weekend afternoons, surfing the channels (using the remote control to move quickly through many TV channels).
Then, there are the bad movies. There was a movie I saw on television when I was young called “Sooner or Later” about a teenage girl who falls for a handsome 17-year-old guy. He is (of course!) the leader of a rock band, and she lies to him about her age so he’ll be interested in her. Okay, everything about this movie is cheesy (embarrassingly bad and of poor quality)–the acting, the script, the music, the premise (basic idea). Still, I can’t help enjoying myself when I watch the film now. I’m sure it’s nostalgia (warm feelings for the past), but I’m not joking when I say it’s bad.
All right, now that I’ve confessed (admitted to something I’m not proud of or to something bad I’ve done) some of my guilty pleasures, will you confess some of yours?
Talking about Twilight, the book and the movie, in Tuesday’s blog comments got me thinking about books that have been made into movies. These types of screen adaptations (television or film versions) are so common today, ranging from classics (old, respected books) to modern bestsellers (books that are extremely popular).
Personally, I have a very hard time seeing a screen adaptation after I’ve read a book. In fact, I usually avoid it. There are two main reasons. First, the film version has no choice but to leave out parts of the book because of time constraints (not having enough time) and this, to me, changes the nature or scope (range) of the story. Second, seeing a screen adaptation results in me replacing the images (pictures) I’ve formed in my mind about the book with those on the screen. This is especially troublesome (a problem) when the ways I picture the main characters don’t match those in the film, and the film images replace those I’ve created in my own mind. I can’t resist it. It happens every time, and for me, that’s a sad thing.
This happened with one of my favorite novels, I Claudius, by Robert Graves. This is a historical novel (story about real people in history) about the first Roman emperors (rulers). In the 1970s, the BBC produced a miniseries (show with several parts) based on this novel, which many people had told me was excellent. I finally rented the miniseries, but I couldn’t get the through the first episode. The main character, played by an outstanding British actor, was completely different from how I had imagined him to be, and I couldn’t get past that (forget about it and move on). Now, when I re-read the book, I can only see that actor, not the character I had created in my mind as I read the book the first time. Another of my favorite books, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty, another historical novel, this time about the American west, has also been made into a miniseries. Although this, too, received excellent reviews, I can’t bring myself (convince myself; force myself) to see it. I know that this is my loss, and I’m missing out on some very good films.
Are you like me? Do you also have this problem? Or, can you separate the book and the film, and not be influenced by the other?
I was recently reading a fascinating book called The Art Instinct by Denis Dutton. The books tries to show that much of our sense of art and artistic judgment is influenced by our genetics – that is, something that we are born with - and that this instinct has evolved (slowly changed) over many, many years. I’m not sure if I agree entirely with this argument, but it is an interesting idea.
In one section of the book, Dutton talks about research done by another writer, Christopher Booker, on the kinds of plots (story structures) that are found in the spoken and written stories of almost every language around the world. Booker identifies seven “basic plots” that every story uses in one way or another. Again, I’m not sure if this is true, but you may be interested in them. Many stories may combine different kinds of plots as well:
- Overcoming the Monster – To overcome means to defeat, to win over. A monster is a bad creature (person or animal). This is a story about defeating an evil person or thing.
- Rags to Riches – Rags are dirty pieces of clothing; riches refers to lots of money. This is a common expression in English, to go from “rags to riches,” especially to describe someone who works hard and becomes successful after being poor. This is a story about someone going from being very poor to being very rich.
- Quest – A quest is when you search for something for a long time, usually something very important or very valuable. Typically a quest story has a hero with others that help him in his search, and he must overcome some danger or evil in order to get his prize. The hero gets the prize and a beautiful woman, and they often become King and Queen.
- Voyage and Return – A voyage is a long trip. In this kind of story, the protagonist (main character) leaves “normal experience” and goes into an alien or strange world, then returns after escaping some danger in the new world. (The famous English children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an example of this.)
- Comedy – A rather broad (large) category, this kind of story often has some confusion until the end of the story, when the hero and his lover are united.
- Tragedy – A tragedy is a very sad event or situation. Tragic stories are usually about how someone overreaches (tries to do too much or more than he or she should) and this leads to terrible consequences (results).
- Rebirth – A rebirth is when someone is reborn – born again. This kind of story has the protagonist going through some dramatic change during the story, so that by the end of it he or she is essentially a new character.
Booker later added two more plot types:
- Rebellion – A rebellion is when people try to overthrow (defeat, bring down) their government. George Orwell’s 1984 would be an example of this kind of story.
- Mystery – A mystery involves some crime or unusual event that the protagonist tries to figure out or solve. The protagonist is usually called a detective, and may be a police officer (but not always).
So there you have all the possible plots in the world – at least, according to Mr. Booker!