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Sunday - November 16, 2014

Podcasts this Week (November 17, 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
E
SL Podcast 1052 – A Product Recall

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 “loss” and “to raise one’s profile.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Toy Safety.”
“Toys can present many safety hazards, especially for ‘infants’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 477

Topics: The American Indian Movement of the 1970s; Famous Buildings – The Sears Tower; inception versus conception versus to beget; to get back; cash on the barrelhead

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Sears Mail-Order Catalogue.”
“A ‘mail-order catalog’ is a small book a company produces showing its products …” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1053 – Buying Food at the Concession Stand

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 hit” and “posted.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Dine-in Movie Theaters.”
“For most Americans, going to the movies involves buying a bag of popcorn, ‘theater candy’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Thursday - November 13, 2014

These Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music

2007 Appalachian String Band Festival at Camp Washington-Carver, Clifftop WVIf you want an unforgettable drive, drive west from Washington, D.C., for about one hour, turn onto Skyline Drive, take it to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and drive to the end. These two roads follow the Blue Ridge Mountains for almost 600 miles (965 km). And if you drive them, you’ll experience one of the most historic (important to history) and beautiful areas in the eastern U.S.

You can’t drive fast here – the speed limit (how fast you can drive) is lower than usual – but you wouldn’t want to. Every turn in the road shows you something new – rugged (rocky) mountains and pastoral (farm-like) valleys (land between mountains) with waterfalls, rivers, and lakes. Forests and fields (areas of open land) of colorful wildflowers come to the edge of the road. And if you look carefully, you may see deer, bears, wild turkeys, and other wild animals.

One thing that sets these roads apart (makes them different) is that the area around them is treated as a historical museum. Historical places and buildings have been protected and taken care of so people can enjoy them as they were originally (from the beginning) and learn from them. When you drive these roads, you drive through history.

If you open your car window and listen carefully as you drive, you may hear something else that sets this area apart – the music. These hills are alive with the sound of music.

The hill music can be difficult to describe. It’s old-time music, some of it brought by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland. It’s string-band (see the photo) music. It’s bluegrass music. It’s the music of the people who live here. And they love to make it.

You can hear the music on street corners and in barber shops (where men get their hair cut). Evenings and weekends you can find people gathered on someone’s front porch (area in front of a house with a roof but no walls) or in someone else’s barn (large farm building), making and enjoying music.

Chris Wohlwend recently wrote about his visit to a popular gathering place called The Red Barn. It was a very casual gathering, he writes. Admission (cost to get in) is free. And everyone is welcome. Many of the people bring food to share with everyone else.

When it’s time to start, the musicians pick up their instruments and, in the words of one of their popular songs, “make them sing.” Any musician is welcome to “sit in” (participate; take part), and many do.

The Red Barn has about 100 seats (chairs), and on the night Wohlwend went, about 75 people were there. During the performance, some listened, some danced, some sampled (took a small amount of) the food, and others visited with (talked to) friends. A dog wandered (walked casually) through the crowd from time to time, and a young boy leaned (rested) against the stage (raised area where the musicians sat), fascinated by (extremely interested in) the fiddle (violin) player.

At the end of the evening, Wohlwend wrote, after almost everyone had gone, one of the men picked up his fiddle and began to play one of his favorite songs alone, “oblivious (not aware) that the barn was empty. He was playing for his own enjoyment.”

If you’d like to look at Wohlwend’s article, which includes photos and a link to one of the songs he heard, you can find it here.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

String band photo courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.


Tuesday - November 11, 2014

Let’s Party American Style

AsolocupI’ve recently come across (seen without looking for it) a couple of reports about American-themed (style) parties in other countries. The idea is to decorate, eat, drink, and play games that are stereotypical (a widely believed but too simple idea) of Americans and their celebrations. People attend these parties dressed like Americans — or at least what they think Americans look like — perhaps in cut-off shorts (short pants made by cutting off the pant legs above the knee, usually from jeans) and t-shirts, team jerseys (uniform shirts) of American basketball, football, or baseball teams, and baseball hats or cowboy hats.

The food served at American parties is also common American food, although not always the food real Americans actually would serve at parties. Among the things served are popcorn (made by cooking corn kernels (seeds) in hot oil and adding butter and salt), cupcakes (small, individual cakes), and hamburgers.

And, of course, there has to be beer. Apparently (it seems that) the most important part of having an American party is to have red Solo cups. Solo is an American brand of disposable (used once and thrown away) plates, utensils (knives, forks, and spoons), and plastic cups.

Most Americans would be surprised that people from other countries have identified these red plastic cups to be so, well, American. In fact, there is nothing special about these cups, to our way of thinking (from our point of view). The main reason they are so often used at parties is because they are cheap and they’re relatively large. They are large enough to hold a good amount of beer (16 ounces) and they are fairly sturdy (not easily broken) for a disposable cup. There is no particular reason for the cups to be red; it’s just the company’s way of distinguishing (separating themselves in people’s minds) its product from those of other companies. But because of its association with American parties, some companies are now selling red Solo cups on websites and in stores abroad (in foreign countries), precisely so they can be used for American parties.

The red Solo cup even has its own song. Popular country music singer Toby Keith released (made available to the public) a song in 2011 called “Red Solo Cup.” It’s a tribute (something done to honor or appreciate something) to the cup, and if you must hear it, you can see the video for it here. It’s truly a dreadful (terrible) song. I normally wouldn’t pass judgement (give an opinion), but it really is a bad, bad, bad song. You have been warned.

If you have had or have gone to an American-themed party, tell us about it.

If we were to have a party based on the country or culture you live in, what is the one thing that the party must have?

– Lucy

Photo Credit: Asolocup from Wikipedia


Sunday - November 9, 2014

Podcasts this Week (November 10, 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 1050 – Describing Stomach Problems

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 escape to” and “gas.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “TOPS Club.”
“TOPS Club is a nonprofit organization based in the State of Wisconsin…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 476

Topics: Ask an American – Drought and a new gold rush; vendor versus salesman versus pitcher; to clinch versus to breeze into versus to blow away; pronouncing bird versus beard versus bear

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Grills.”
“In ‘hip hop culture’ (see English Café 224), many people like to wear ‘bling,’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1051 – Getting and Making Threats

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 vent” and “to plug away.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Threatening the President of the United States.”
“‘Threatening’ (saying that one will do something to hurt or kill another person) the President of the United States…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - November 4, 2014

How Much Does a Free Library Book Cost?

Town_Library,_Peterborough,_NH“Time is money” is an old saying in English, meaning of course that your time is valuable. The time you spend doing one thing is time you are not spending doing something else, something that might give you more money or benefits.

Most of us don’t think about the time it takes us to travel to places as being part of the “price” or cost of using their products or services. For example, if you want to borrow (get something from another person to use temporarily) a book from a public library in the United States, you don’t need to actually give any money to the library. The book is “free.”

But is it really free?

In order to borrow a book (and I’m talking now about paper books, not an electronic ones), you have to get in your car, get on the bus, or walk in order to get to the library. The trip therefore costs you both time and, if you drive or take a bus, money. And since time is money, we can think of the effort of going to the library in all cases as a having a certain “price.”

So borrowing a “free” book from the library does in fact cost you something. Now, generally speaking, the more expensive something is, the less likely you are to buy it. As price increases, sales (things sold) decrease.

This means that if you live a very long distance from the library, you are less likely to pay that “price” to use it, and will therefore borrow fewer books.

Studies on public library use have found exactly that: the farther (greater distance) you lived from a public library, the less likely you are to borrow and read books from the library.

Communities that have more (and better) libraries do, in fact, read more, and children in those communities do better at reading in school! The reason is simple: when you lower (decrease) the price of something, more people will “buy” it. Living closer to a library decreases the cost of using it, and increases your likelihood (chance; possibility) of using it.

This relationship holds true (is true) for many different kinds of services. A recent article in Time reported on the average (typical) distance Americans live from certain kinds of people, businesses, and services. The article didn’t mention this relationship between access (the ability to get to or to use something) and the amount that people visit these places, but it is interesting to think about how the “price” of getting to these places influences how much they are used.

Here are some typical distances found in the article that are true for at least 50% of all Americans (distances are given sometimes in miles, sometimes in minutes needed to travel by car):

  • Mom – 30 miles. This is true for married Americans, and means that the average (married) American lives within 30 miles of his or her mother.
    >> I live 1,985 miles from my mother, since I’m in California and she’s in Minnesota.
  • Body of water – 60 minutes. This would include living near a lake or an ocean.
    >> I live eight minutes from a body of water (the Pacific Ocean).
  • Starbucks – 20 miles. This is true for 80% of Americans, but the distance is much closer for those living in big cities like Los Angeles.
    >> My nearest Starbucks is 1.1 miles from my house. There are more than 25 Starbucks within just five miles of where I live, and probably close to a hundred within 20 miles!
  • YMCA – 5 miles. The YMCA is a well-known, low-cost place with gyms and swimming pools.
    >> I live 2.6 miles from a YMCA.
  • McDonalds – 3 miles.
    >> I live 2.3 miles from a McDonald’s, very close to the national average. But I almost never eat there, so here even a low price doesn’t get me to buy!
  • Gun Dealer – 10 miles. A gun dealer is a person or store that sells guns for hunting or other uses. An amazing 98% of all Americans live within 10 miles of a place that sells guns.
    >> I don’t know how many miles I live from a gun dealer, and hope I never need to get a gun!

How far do you live from your Mom, a Starbucks, and a McDonalds?

~Jeff

Image credit: Town Library, Petersborough, New Hampshire, site of the first free public library in the United States, Wikipedia


Sunday - November 2, 2014

Podcasts this Week (November 3, 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 ESL Podcast 1048 – Launching an Initial Public Offering

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 cash in” and “to lose (one’s) shirt.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Employee Stock Options.”
“‘Employee stock options’ are sometimes part of a ‘compensation package’…”- READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 475

Topics: American Presidents – George W. Bush; I beg to differ, Would it kill you to (do something)?, ashes to ashes (dust to dust); worth more than; hodgepodge, gazillion, and tons of

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Margaret Truman.”
“Children of famous people often have ‘a hard time’ (difficulty) getting away…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast ESL Podcast 1049 – Buying Theater Tickets

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 “run” and “to break.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Longest-Running Plays in the United States.”
“Most of the longest-running shows in the United States are ‘musical theater’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

 


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