martes, 28 de marzo de 2017

Is this the best April Fool's ever?

This is the background story to how BBC's Panorama programme deceived Britain on 1 April 1957.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.



1. What does BBC’s Panorama deal with?
2. When was it broadcast?
3. What was the budget Michale Peacock gave to Charles Eager?
4. How had reporter Richard Dimbleby earned his reputation?
5. What metaphor did they use in the film?
6. Why was the spaghetti flexible?
7. Who did they tell about the prank?
8. What did the Director-General say to his wife?
9. How did the Panorama team feel afterwards?

I was anything, producing a very important programme in the BBC called Panorama. Panorama was a major vehicle for current affairs coverage of the major stories of the day.
We had noted in an editorial meeting that April 1st was on a Monday, and Monday was our transmission day. A week or so later Charles Eager, who was a freelance cameraman, came into the office and they pitched the idea of the spaghetti harvest being an April Fool’s joke. I gave Charles a budget of a hundred pounds and then sent him off.
It isn't only in Britain that spring, this year, has taken everyone by surprise. The past winter, one of the mildest in living memory, has had its effect in other ways as well. Most important of all, it's resulted in an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop.
When the writer’s came back, it was obvious that we had a wonderful film in the making and that we should treat it as a newsreel. The anchor man for Panorama was Richard Dimbleby. Richard was a most respected reporter. He’d earned his reputation as a war correspondent. He knew perfectly well we were using his authority to make the joke work. He loved the idea and then went at it with relic, I’ll put it that way.
Spaghetti cultivation here in Switzerland is not, of course, carried out on anything like the tremendous scale of the Italian industry.
David Wheeler, who wrote it, had been clever enough to use the wine harvest as a metaphor. This gave to those who knew what we were up to a coat-hanger, as it were, to hang their understanding and enjoyment of the film and for those who didn't know anything about spaghetti harvest, it made it more, more credible.
Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of the vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley. For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair.
Spaghetti had been cooked so it was flexible and where they wouldn't stick, they use a bit of cello tape.
Another reason why this may be a bumper year lies in the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, the tiny creature whose depredations have caused much concern in the past.
We realized that if we told even one person, like my boss, the last thing we wanted was to have the idea getting to the press, so we told nobody.
Many people are often puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced at such uniform length. But this is the result of many years of patient endeavour by plant breeders who've succeeded in producing the perfect spaghetti. For those who love this dish, there is nothing like real home-grown spaghetti.
At the end of the item, Richard spoke to camera, said that's all from Panorama this April 1st 1957. I learned that the Director-General had said to his wife, I didn’t know spaghetti grew on trees, and he started to reach for his encyclopaedia, and his wife said, don’t be a fool, of course it doesn’t.
Overall, I mean the press loved the story. There was a huge reaction. Some couldn't understand what was going on. Others loved it. Others hated it for misleading the nation. This is why it worked so well. We all felt very pleased with ourselves, of course.

KEY:
1 current affairs
2 on Mondays
3 £100
4 as a war correspondent
5 the wine harvest
6 because it had been cooked
7 nobody
8 I didn’t know spaghetti grew on trees
9 pleased with themselves

lunes, 27 de marzo de 2017

Listening test: Travel baggage free

Listen to a report on an ingenious idea on how to reduce the luggage we carry when travelling. Complete the blanks in the sentences with up to THREE WORDS.  Numbers count as one word. 0 is an example.

Source: Deep English

0 Example:
The best part of knowing English is that our foreign language skills and the experiences we acquire with it require no extra baggage.

1 These days airlines get money from us by ____________________ that used to be free, like checked baggage

2 During a recent trip to Indonesia, Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz brought ____________________  of baggage with him.

3 On his trip to Africa in 2013 Obama travelled, he brought along 56 vehicles including 14 limousines and hundreds of ____________________ .

4 The ____________________  can hold up to 15 kilograms of personal belongings with room to spare.

5 To look like a regular traveller with a bag, you can _________________ off as soon as you board the plane.

6 Travel writer Jonathan Yevin used to tear out and _________________ the pages of his book as he read them.

7 An immigration officer asked Jonathan whether he was planning to run around ____________________ when he had to wash his clothes.





Learning English takes time and effort. For most of us, the payoff comes when we hit the road. And the best part is that our foreign language skills and the experiences we gain using those language skills require no extra baggage.
These days airlines squeeze us for more dollars by charging for things that used to be free, like checked baggage. But for some people, money is no object. During a recent trip to Indonesia, Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz brought 506 tons of baggage with him. This included two Mercedes-Benz limos and two electric elevators. It wasn’t all personal baggage. He travelled with about 1,500 people, including 25 princes.
To be fair, the Saudi king is not alone in his extravagance. When Obama travelled to Africa in 2013, he brought along 56 vehicles including 14 limousines and hundreds of security personnel.
While kings and presidents don’t have to worry about baggage fees, more frugal travellers are looking for ways to avoid the extra costs of excessive baggage. You can now buy a jacket that has 14 large pockets to carry all your travel needs. The ‘Airport Jacket’ holds up to 15 kilograms of your personal belongings with room to spare. It allows you to avoid the hassle and cost of airline checked baggage fees. Of course, wearing your baggage is not the most comfortable or fashionable choice. For people who prefer not to look like a smuggler, it also transforms into a bag with a shoulder strap. As soon as you get on the plane and take the jacket off, you’re just a regular traveller with a bag.
There is an even easier way to get around airline baggage fees: carry nothing. Travel writer Jonathan Yevin spent a month traveling around Latin America with simply the clothes on his back, a toothbrush, a passport, a credit card, a small digital camera, and a cell phone. He also carried one book from which he tore the pages out as he read them and threw them away. Yevin says, “One of the best things about traveling is that you get to leave your home and all the stuff that drags you down.”
They say traveling light is the only way to fly. But it doesn’t come without problems. Jonathan’s lack of luggage looked suspicious when passing through immigration. One immigration agent asked him, “What about washing clothes? Are you gonna run around my country naked?”
Regardless of how you choose to travel, one thing is certain: the English skills you bring with you and the new experiences you get speaking to real people along the way are, without a doubt, baggage free.

KEY:
1 506 tons
2 charging for things
3 security personnel
4 airport jacket
5 take the jacket
6 throw away
7 his/the country naked

domingo, 26 de marzo de 2017

Extensive listening: What I learned from 2,000 obituaries

Lux Narayan starts his day with scrambled eggs and the question: "Who died today?" Why?

By analyzing 2,000 New York Times obituaries over a 20-month period, Narayan gleaned, in just a few words, what achievement looks like over a lifetime. Here he shares what those immortalized in print can teach us about a life well lived.

Lakshmanan aka Lux Narayan mans Unmetric, a social media intelligence company that helps digital marketers, social media analysts, and content creators control social signals to track and analyze competitive content and campaigns, and to create better content and campaigns of their own.

Outside of work, he is a perpetual learner of various things, from origami and molecular gastronomy to stand-up and improv comedy. He enjoys reading obituaries and other non-fiction and watching documentaries with bad ratings. Narayan makes time every year for trekking in the Himalayas or scuba diving in tropical waters, and once he learns to fly, he hopes to spend more time off land than on it.

You can read a full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 25 de marzo de 2017

Reading test: Lent 2017

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the insert-the-sentence type of task. To do so, we are going to use The Telegraph article Lent 2017 starts today, here's everything you need to know about Ash Wednesday.

Read this text and choose the best sentence (A - K) for each gap. TWO of the sentences do not correspond to any of the blanks. 0 is an example.

A - angered some traditionalists
B - as a reflection of Jesus's sacrifice in the Judean desert
C - fall on the same date each year
D - for prayer and penance
E - it can fall on any Sunday
F - it is determined by when Easter falls
G - to give up a particular vice
H - to use up rich, indulgent foods like eggs and milk
I - which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar
J - which marks the start of Lent in the Christian calendar – 0 Example
K - which means 'spring'

When is Ash Wednesday 2017?
Ash Wednesday, (0) … , has been observed by Britons for centuries. Its exact date changes every year, because (1) … . But it is always the day after Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and it always falls in February or March. This year, it is on Wednesday, March 1.
In January last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, suggested that Easter should (2) … . The plan, which would schedule the Christian festival on the same Sunday each year, was welcomed by parents and schools but (3) … .
At present, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox around March 21. This means (4) … between March 22 and April 25. Archbishop Welby said that Easter should most likely be fixed for the second or third Sunday of April.


What is Lent?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) (5) … .
Christians who observe Lent use it as a time (6) … . By observing Lent, Christians are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days before his crucifixion.
Traditionally, pancakes are eaten on the day before Ash Wednesday (7) … before the 40-day fasting season of Lent begins.
This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 16. The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word 'lenten', (8) … .

 Photo: Wikipedia

KEY
1F 2C 3A 4E 5I 6D 7H 8K

viernes, 24 de marzo de 2017

I always wanted to grow Christmas trees

Clive Collins used to have one of the most physically active jobs there is - a forester but one day he fell out of a tree, which paralysed him from the waist down. After the accident he was determined to keep working outdoors, following his dream to start a Christmas tree farm.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.



I’m Clive Collins, from Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm. My business is growing Christmas trees and selling them. I worked as forestry contractor in Sussex and I was pruning a tree and I fell out of this tree, (1) ___ feet, and landed on my feet and broke my (2) ___. This ended up with me being paralysed from the waist down and it meant I couldn’t walk.
When I was lying in hospital, I thought to myself, I’ve always wanted to grow Christmas trees. I started growing some Christmas trees but I was really… didn’t take any advice from anybody, so I made a lot of mistakes. I became quite (3) ___ about the great change in my life. I did tend to rely on drink a little bit, which didn’t do me any good either, made me more (4) ___.
I think I really started getting my business together when I met a Christmas tree specialist who came over, looked around my farm and gave me a business plan and he was definitely at a place in his life where I wanted to be.
We have a retail business which sells about (5) ___ trees. They are grown on (6) ___ acres and we have about (7) ___ trees in all.
Looking back on my career so far, I would say you’ve got to look for people who can help you to make your business successful, both listening to them and taking their (8) ___, and usually following it to the letter.

Key:
1 30
2 back 
3 depressed 
4 depressed
5 3,000
6 25 
7 25,000
8 advice

jueves, 23 de marzo de 2017

Nokia 3310 mobile phone resurrected at MWC 2017

Nokia's 3310 phone has been relaunched. Many consider the original handset iconic because of its popularity and sturdiness.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.



1. When was the Nokia 3310 last on sale before its comeback?
2. How long does the Nokia 3310 battery last?
3. What is it said about smartphone Chinese market?
4. Who has launched the BlackBerry Keyone?


Barcelona and, as the mobile phone industry arrives for its annual jamboree, there is nostalgia in the air. Nokia, a name that used to rule the mobile world, is making a comeback. For the Finnish firm which has licensed the brand, this was its first chance to make a big splash and, along with a range of new smartphones, it unveiled something very retro, last on sale in 2005.
Let me reintroduce the iconic Nokia 3310.
You can't do much with this phone except make calls and play a game of Snake, but the battery lasts forever. Well, almost.
We were just listening to our consumers. We asked, "What is the most iconic device that you have ever seen from Nokia?" And we thought, why not? Let's have some fun and we created this device for the consumers.
Now this may be fun, but let's face it, it is a bit of a gimmick. If Nokia is to become a major force in the mobile world again, it won't through the 3310, but for its new range android smartphones.
The company claims this model is already selling well in China, but competition in a market where all smartphones look much the same is tough. So, perhaps, it was smart to look back as well as forward.
By bringing out this truly iconic device, which has got bags of nostalgia, for many people it was
their first mobile phone, it catches their attention and people will know Nokia is back.
But will the new and old Nokia appeal to the phone-buying public?
Maybe with my parents that would work, but I don't think with our generation that that would be something people would be interested in.
I would switch my Apple phone for that thing.
Even if it couldn't go on the internet?
No internet? Oh, well, then, I think I will change my mind!
And here's another phone trying for a comeback. This is the BlackBerry Keyone, launched by a Chinese firm which has licensed the brand. Two once-great names making an unlikely bet that they can be big again in our mobile future.
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC News, Barcelona.

KEY:
1 in 2005
2 (almost) forever
3 all the smartphones look the same
4 a Chinese firm

miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017

Talking point: Food waste

This week's talking point is food waste. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Do you usually write a shopping list before you go to the supermarket?
Do you ever buy more food than you really need or are you careful?
Do you look for special offers, such as ‘buy one get one free’, or ‘two for the price of one’?
Do you check the shelf life of food as you buy it?
Do you end up throwing food in the bin every week?
If so, how much money do you think you waste?
If not, how do you avoid throwing out food that’s past its sell-by date?

Look at the following suggestions for reducing household food waste. Which of these…
do you already do?
would you like to start doing?
would you never do?

1 Plan your meals for the week and then write a shopping list.
2 Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
3 Make sure your fridge is at the right temperature.
4 Use old fruit and vegetables to make smoothies or soup.
5 Use your leftovers for lunch the next day.
6 When you buy new food, bring the old food to the front of the fridge.
7 Serve small portions and give people more if they actually want it.
8 Only buy what you need- avoid ‘buy one get one free’.
9 Use the freezer- defrost food as you need it.
10 Use a compost bin.

To illustrate the topic, watch the video of Selina Juul, a key part of Denmark’s food waste revolution.


martes, 21 de marzo de 2017

Melinda Gates on making a successful life

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent tens of billions of dollars to fund improvements in global public health. Melinda Gates sits down with Jane Pauley to discuss her long-held commitment to science and data, and how it is vital to combating hunger, maternal and infant mortality and malnutrition, and to improving access to education and family planning.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.



1 Microsoft has made $40 billion this year.
2 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters are worth $500 million.
3 According to the United Nations, since 1990 global poverty has doubled.
4 One million children are the number of babies that die on the first day of life.
5 Polio has been eradicated worldwide.
6 The Gates Foundation has been successful in raising the education standards in US.
7 Microsoft wasn’t the first company Melinda got a job offer from.
8 Bill Gates asked Melinda out on a date for the following weekend.
9 Mary Lehman, Melinda’s friend, found Bill a bill dull.
10 Melinda made a point of being a working mum.
11 Melinda doesn’t like being the focus of attention.
12 Melinda got in trouble with the Vatican because of her position on contraceptives.
13 Bill Gates doesn’t devote much time to philanthropic work.

Melinda Gates is a name to reckon with in the world of philanthropy, just as the company started by her husband is a force to reckon with in the tech world, reason enough to sit down with her and him for a Sunday morning conversation.
They are the richest, and among the world’s most influential power couples. The foundation that bears their names has given away nearly $40 billion, so far.
Your name is carved in equal-sized letters in the front. Is it a partnership of equals?
It’s absolutely a partnership of equals, and it’s important to both of us that the world understands that we are running this place together. This is our joint values being played out in the world.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private charity in the world. Its $500 million headquarters was intended to make a statement as bold as its mission. Inside they are literally trying to save the world.
I’ve asked an employee or two if to work here you have to pass an optimism test. Do you?
Well, yes, our work, the number of lives saved, I think just the exposure here would remind you that the plight of the poorest, as tough as it is, is improving. And we get to be a big part of that.
We are seeing progress. And I think that those points of progress are points of light that employees can point to and say, ‘I was part of that. We did change the world. We are changing the world.’
According to the United Nations, since 1990 global poverty has been cut in half. 122 million children’s lives have been saved through immunization, better nutrition and disease prevention, areas in which the Gates Foundation has been a leading funder.
What we’ve done as a world is we’ve done an incredible job of bringing down the number of deaths of children under the age of five, and that’s because of, basically, vaccines getting out there finally, and these malarial bed nets. This is the great thing about math and why data is so important. Not only does Bill like data; I’m a computer scientist. I like data because data tells us where to go and how to act.
For example, 1,000,000.
One million children are the number of babies that die on the first day of life. Can you believe that? Still a million children die on the first day. So now we know we need to work on that piece of the problem.
This number may astonish you: last year there were 37 cases of polio worldwide.
It’s the lowest number of cases we’ve ever had on the planet. And we think by next year we can drive that number to absolutely zero.
The Gates Foundation has a more modest domestic agenda, focused on improving public schools. They’ve invested in charters and promoted education standards. But success has been more elusive.
This is a tough problem. I don’t care how big your philanthropy is. We can set up experiences and points of light in places where we can show what can be done. Ultimately, everything that we’re doing takes government funding to lift it up and to fund it.
Raised in Dallas, Melinda French was valedictorian at a Catholic academy for girls in 1982. Five years later, she graduated from Duke University with degrees in computer science, economics and a masters in business… and a job offer from IBM, when a little known start-up caught her eye.
I came out and interviewed with Microsoft. And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I have to work at this company. They are changing the world. And if I get an offer, there’s no way I’m not going to take it.’
Speaking of offers, you married the CEO!
Wasn’t… that wasn’t part of my life plan!
I met her at a New York City sales meeting. And then it was only a week or so after that, that I went up to her in the parking lot and asked if she wanted to go out.
A week? Were you ready for that?
No. I wasn’t! When we met, and Bill is CEO of Microsoft and I was, you know, all of 23, he actually, at that first date, asked me out for two weeks from Saturday night. And I said, ‘Two weeks from Saturday night? How could you possibly know what you’re doing? My schedule doesn’t go out that far.’
I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t she know, she’s hardly met the CEO and he likes her!’
Mary Lehman and Melinda have been best friends since high school.
Did you imagine that she was going to marry him?
No. Probably not then. But I thought, you know, great for her.
She got to see what it was really like. I mean, games and puzzles. We played water volleyball one night in his pool, just the three of us!
What impressed me the most when I met him was just how down-to-earth he was and how fun.
After a seven-year courtship, they married in 1994.
The next year Microsoft released Windows 95, revolutionizing the personal computer, and at 39 years old, Bill Gates was named the Richest Person in the World.  The following year, pregnant with their first child, Melinda surprised Bill with news that she meant to be a stay-at-home mom.
Am I right that Bill was supportive but maybe a little surprise himself?
He was surprised, he was definitely surprised. But I said to him, ‘You know, it just doesn’t make sense. You can’t be the CEO and go as hard as you’re going and… somebody has to be at home, right? We didn’t want our children raised by somebody else. I said, ‘You know, if we want them to have the values we have, somebody has to be home.’
Their three children grew up in a 66,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Lake Washington in suburban Seattle. Since creating the foundation in 2000, Bill and Melinda have travelled the world seeking out the places their money can do the most good.
But Melinda shunned the spotlight, until five years ago, when she took on a cause of her own, and discovered how harsh the spotlight can be.
When you think about family planning from the perspective of a woman, it will change the way you think about family planning.
Once you became a public figure, in fact the first time you set foot on the public stage, I believe you discovered how controversial contraceptives can be, as only a Catholic girl who got in trouble with the Vatican over it would know. You got slapped down by the Vatican.
It’s okay. I’m doing the right thing. There are 225 million women asking us for contraceptives. They’re asking us. And I meet women who’d die because they don’t have access to contraceptives. I meet women who beg me to take their children back to the United States.  I had a woman say to me, ‘Take two of my children.’ I said, ‘I’m so sorry, I can’t.’ She said ‘Well then, take one.’ I mean, these are people living in extreme circumstances. You can’t turn your back on people like that. And so I grew up in the Catholic church that has a social justice mission. In fact, they used to talk about the cries of the poor. I’ve heard the cries of the poor. And we need to give access to women to contraceptives.
What did Bill say? He admits that he thought women’s issues, including contraceptives, were ‘soft’ issues. Now, it’s, like, a priority for him.
It’s a huge priority, because he sees the data.
What do the two of you separately bring to your individual partnership that strengthens your capacities?
We both go out and try and see the people we serve. But she does that even better than I do, does even more of that than I do.
When I come back from a field visit, the first person I want to talk to about on the phone or at home is Bill about it, both to tell him the stories of their lives, but then also for us to put our brains together and say, ‘Well, what else could we do? How could we make it better? Do we really know that what they’re saying to us in the field, does that add up to the data that we’re seeing or not?’
Ultimately the key to the Gates’ legacy may be their philanthropy. Which makes you wonder: Would Bill Gates be having the most impactful second act since Andrew Carnegie without Melinda?
I read this poem that I loved at my high school graduation speech about what a successful life was to me. And it’s to know that one life has breathed easier because you’ve lived. To me, that’s success.

KEY:
1F 2T 3F 4T 5F 6F 7T 8F 9F 10F 11T 12T 13F

lunes, 20 de marzo de 2017

Listening test: The Chrysler Building

In today's listening activity we are going to find out information about one of the most iconic buildings in New York, the Chrysler Building.


Choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence.


1. The Chrysler Building
A. was not taller than the Eiffel Tower.
B. was once the tallest building in the world.
C. was taller than the Empire State Building.

2. Frankie J Campione
A. designed the Chrysler Building.
B. has offices in the Chrysler Building.
C. is a futuristic architect.

3. For Frankie J Campione the Chrysler Building
A. inspired the automobile industry in the 1920’s and 30’s.
B. is a symbol of American industrialism.
C. preserves the idea of speed and excitement.

4. The Chrysler Building
A. is much more appreciated today than when it was built.
B. represented the 1930s tendency that buildings looked like the industry they were built for.
C. was well liked when it was built.

5. Charles Weiss
A. is an architect.
B. is still working.
C. lives in the Chrysler Building.

6. Charles Weiss says
A. he’s lived in Japan.
B. people identify New York with the Chrysler Building.
C. the Chrysler Building looks like a ship.



This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Chrysler Building, a landmark on the New York skyline. At the time of its opening in 1930, it overtook the Eiffel Tower as the world's tallest building, only to be overtaken by a New York rival, the Empire State Building, the following year.
The Chrysler Building, which was designed by maverick architect William Van Alen, was also striking for its futuristic structure. In order to find out how it had withstood the test of time, SPEAK UP went there and met with Frankie J Campione, whose Create Architecture Planning & Design company is based in impressive offices at the top of the tower:
I think after 75 years the building doesn't necessarily preserve the idea of speed and excitement, but it preserves the idea of American industry. The building was designed as the headquarters for Chrysler and throughout the building there are images that are prevalent that show inspiration from the automobile industry from the late 1920s and early 1930s. The building remains that same sort of icon that speaks to American industry: not so much speed and excitement, but American industrialism.
The Chrysler Building was considered ridiculous and discredited when it was first built because it was a folly, it was, by terms we now use, ‘entertainment architecture’. That is something that's new to architecture in the past 20 years. Back in the late 20s and early 30s, buildings did not necessarily resemble the industry that they were built for. However, by today's standards, it was considered very foresightful and ahead of its times.
The top of this skyscraper also houses the splendid offices of Charles Weiss, a 78-year-old dentist who has no plans to retire. We asked him why New Yorkers were so fond of the Chrysler Building:
You look at this tower at night when it's lit up and it's just so different and so beautiful, it's like a rocket shooting into the sky but, as much as New Yorkers like it — and it really is the icon building in New York City— all the years, there's just nothing like it. Overseas, it is New York City. I've been to Japan over 62 times, I've been all over the world teaching, you know, implant dentistry every time I pass a travel bureau, in any country, and they're saying "Go to New York," there's a picture of the Chrysler Building. It's the most famous building around the world: the Chrysler Building means New York to a whole lot of people.

KEY
1B 2B 3B 4A 5B 6B

domingo, 19 de marzo de 2017

Extensive listening: 4 ways to make a city more walkable

Freedom from cars, freedom from sprawl, freedom to walk your city! City planner Jeff Speck shares his general theory of walkability — four planning principles to transform sprawling cities of six-lane highways and 600-foot blocks into safe, walkable oases full of bike lanes and tree-lined streets.

Jeff Speck is a city planner and architectural designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for more walkable cities.

As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayors' Institute on City Design and created the Governors' Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps state governors fight suburban sprawl. Prior to joining the Endowment, Speck spent ten years as Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., a leading practitioner of the New Urbanism, where he led or managed more than forty of the firm's projects.

Speck is the co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream as well as The Smart Growth Manual. His latest book, Walkable City, which Christian Science Monitor calls 'timely and important, a delightful, insightful, irreverent work', has been the best-selling city-planning title of this decade.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 18 de marzo de 2017

Drama from BBC Learning English: The Race

In mid-Febraury this year, the BBC Learning English site launched The Race, a new drama suitable for intermediate students.

The Race, tells the story of Phil, a writer living in London. His life isn't very interesting but it's about change dramatically!

Students can can download the weekly instalments of the audio file and PDF of the transcript and they can also subscribe to the podcast.





H/T to The English Blog.

viernes, 17 de marzo de 2017

Princess Diana Exhibition: A life in fashion

An exhibition tracing the changing styles of Diana, Princess of Wales, opens at Kensington Palace - featuring iconic outfits from before she was married to after her divorce in the 1990s.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.



1. What does Princess Diana style reflect?
2. When did she wear one red glove and one black glove?
3. Why did Diana order Victor Edelstein’s dress?
4. What transition did Victor Edelstein’s dress mark in Diana’s life?
5. What was Diana very involved in after her divorce?
6. How many clothes did Diana sell at an auction of her clothes whose money was given to an AIDS charity?

The eyes of the world followed her and her fashion choices. Princess Diana style both reflected the time whilst influencing others. And now fans of Diana can see some of her most well-known outfits at an exhibition at her former home at Kensington Palace.
It’s in this room that we first meet Lady Diana Spencer when she's about to step onto that international stage so this room really reflects her early love of frills, ruffles, lace and she really enjoyed that sort of new romantic style.
The exhibition charts how her tastes developed and her style matured, featuring iconic dresses by eleven different designers.
This point in the exhibition really marks the moment where Diana became more confident and playful in her fashion choices. Famously in 1987 she made the daring choice to wear one red glove and one black glove with this dress on an official visit to Spain.
Victor Edelstein designed one of the princess’s best-known dresses. She wore it for that envy-making moment when John Travolta whisked her around the dance floor at the White House.
When she ordered it, I didn't know when she was going to wear it and I don’t suppose she did either. She just ordered it because she liked it and then, well obviously she wore it to go to the White House. I was talking to the curator at Hampton Court and she felt it marked the transition from her being rather more girlish to suddenly looking like a sophisticated woman, and perhaps that's true because obviously it's not a girl dress, so perhaps that also made it so noticeable and dancing with John Travolta helps.
As her marriage came to an end, Diana style became more pared down. This red dress by Catherine Walker among one of the most recognizable at the time.
Her whole life was changing. She was very involved in charity work and I think she wanted to communicate the fact that she wasn't just a clothes horse, a fashion sort of clothes horse. She actually was a working mother, she had a job to do and she was deeply committed to many of the charities that she was patron of.
Diana wore the final dress in the exhibition to the preview of an auction of her clothes. The proceeds went to an AIDS charity.
She sold 79 of her most famous gowns and the press widely reported that this was her closing a chapter on her royal life and style and embarking upon a new one.
Diana Fashion Story opens to the public on Friday with those memorable dresses remaining on display for the next two years.
Alison Freeman, BBC News.



KEY:
1 her time and the way she influenced others
2 during her official visit to Spain in 1987
3 because she liked it
4 from her looking girlish to looking like a sophisticated woman
5 charity work
6 seventy-nine

jueves, 16 de marzo de 2017

Baltimore: This is what poverty in the US looks like

Ian Pannell reports from the city of Baltimore, where 25% of the population lives in poverty.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.



1. The poor of Baltimore are given shelter at Manor House.
2. There is a lot of business activity in Baltimore.
3. The crime rate in Baltimore is very high.
4. America became a richer country with President Obama and poverty diminished.
5. Marcus Allsop repairs the city's homes.
6. Marcus Allsop says some families have been living in poverty for two or three generations.
7. The Stewards have $30 a day to live on.
8. The Stewards argue and fight all the time.

Say hello to Jackson, a citizen of the wealthiest country the world has ever known, and yet he's clothed in handouts. His parents can’t find work. They have no home of their own and every morning they come to the Manor House charity where the poor of Baltimore meet for a little food, warmth and compassion.
What is your message to President Trump?
Come and help us. Instead of critiquing us, come help us and you will see we need help… bad.
Like much of America, this is a story of two worlds. Baltimore is actually something of a boom town these days, but it doesn't feel like it in many parts of the city. In this economy, there is no trickle down.
Gun crime is surging here. Baltimore was even more violent than Chicago last year, driven by gang tuft wars. For some of its residents, this is a city where selling your body or selling drugs is the only job available.
If you want to know what poverty in America looks like, well, this is it. Incredibly, this entire block here is pretty much made up of dilapidated, abandoned houses. Incredibly, some people are still living in between this, though. Under President Obama poverty grew in America and President Trump says he’s going to fix it. He's going to deal what he calls the carnage in America of crime, of drugs, of gangs, of violence and of poverty. Well, there are few places better to try and do that than Baltimore.
Marcus Allsop has lived here for 40 years, he repairs the city's homes, an eyewitness to the worst Baltimore has to offer.
The poor living are in the single houses, the real houses in Baltimore city where they're generally rat-infested regardless of what you do as a person living there. Roaches, mice, I mean, an epidemic in bed bugs. I mean, the neighbourhoods are falling apart, not because the people are bad people, we're underpaid, undereducated and so many of us have been living like this for the second and third generation until we don't even know how to change. Despair is the way of living.
And this is where it resides, on a bleak row of abandoned homes. This is the end of the line for Americans gripped by poverty. Here we met the last family living on the block. Three generations of the Stewart family are crammed in here. They're months behind on the rent, unpaid bills are piling up. Not surprising, when they have just $30 a day to survive.
I love you, be careful. Have a good day.
They've been evicted before, forced to live in one of Baltimore's many abandoned homes.
It hurts, it hurts that they have to stay wrapped up in blankets every day because they are cold. They don't want to get out of bed because there's no heating to keep them warm. People talk about us. They get bullied in school because of it. It hurts. They got to where they didn't even want to show their faces outside, but we had no choice but to live there because of the economy.
I'm struggling for seven years, seven, hard years.
What pressure does that put on your relationship together?
Oh, we argue and fight all the time, all the time. I love this woman to death, she's my best friend, but to see her go through the things she goes through, it hurts me, it hurts me.
For so many people, this is no longer a land of opportunity. Hope has given way to despair. And the children who clamour for charity handouts have no American dream. It will be perhaps the greatest
challenge for the new President.
Ian Pannell, BBC News, Baltimore.

KEY:
1F 2T 3T 4F 5T 6T 7T 8T

miércoles, 15 de marzo de 2017

Talking point: Money

This week's talking point is money. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Look at the statements 1-8. Do you agree, partly agree or disagree? Give examples to support your opinions.
1 Money is for spending today. Who know what will happen tomorrow?
2 It’s important to save at least 10% of your salary each week.
3 If I can’t afford to buy something, I’m happy to borrow the money.
4 I’m always looking for new ways to make money.
5 I like to shop around for the best price before I buy something.
6 I only like buying things that are a good investment for the future.
7 Spending large amounts of money makes me feel nervous.
8 Having a regular income is better than having a lot of money one day and a little the next.
How are your attitudes different to your parents’ attitudes to money?

Teaching financial literacy
1    What does it mean to be good with money?
      A saving money for the future
      B not spending much money
      C making your money grow
      D spending money wisely
      E getting the most for your money
      F being rich
2    Are you good or bad with money? In what way?
3    Did your parents teach you lessons about money?
4    Did you learn any financial skills at school?
5    Is it important for schools to teach financial skills to children? Why? At what age?

martes, 14 de marzo de 2017

Angelina Jolie on divorce, film and Cambodia

Angelina Jolie on her new film First They Killed My Father, based on the genocide in Cambodia, politics and her family.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and answer the questions below.



1. What changed Angelina’s life?
2. What happened 40 years ago?
3. In what ways is Angelina related to Cambodia, according to the reporter?
4. What was Angelina’s New Times op-ed piece about?
5. How is Angelina fighting against the intolerance rising in society these days?
6. What does the reporter say Angelina’s film is about?
7. How is Angelina coping after her separation?
8. Where does Angelina see herself in five years’ time?
9. Who’s Angelina sharing her room with?

I'm not here because I'm a director who wanted to make a movie. I'm here because 17 years ago I came to this country and found love with people and learned about its history and in doing so realized how little I actually knew in my early twenties about the world, and so this country for me was my awakening. And my son changed my life. Becoming a Cambodian family changed my life.
So there was never a plan to… we should make this movie. It's just I became a filmmaker and one day I thought what story, what story do I feel is really important to tell? And I felt that this war that happened 40 years ago and… and what happened to these people was not properly understood, and… and not just for the world but for the people of the country. I felt that I wanted them to be able to reflect on it in a way that they could absorb, so it's through the eyes of a child and it's a lot about love.
Do you think, though, this nation is ready for that?
I hope so.  Yes, I do… I, I wouldn't have… when I… when I first started coming here… there's so much that’s changed. When many people spoke about this, 15-20 years ago, you know, since that happened there are many people denying the history or saying it wasn't as bad or trying to…, of course, many people want to forget or it's just the horrors, the horrors of war and you just simply…
I mean, it's interesting you say that, you know, this is a country which would have… is very much part of your own personal journey. Do you think that in many ways you've come full circle? You know, your humanitarian work started here, you became a mother here, that perhaps this is some sort of crossroads for you, it's come back here.
Yeah, yeah. I’ll always… I’ll always  be very grateful to this country, and I hope, I hope I've given back as much as it's given me. I don't think I ever could give back as much as this country’s given me.
You wrote a New Times op-ed piece a few weeks ago and you spoke about having a truly international family. You said that the refugee policy should be about fact not fear. You also said that we shouldn't be departing from our values. Can you tell me what you meant by that?
It's funny, isn't it, some questions seem so obvious, don't they, you know, it's just… it’s these things we talk about and we… and we hear them spoken about often now, you know, what… what… what are our values? I value life equally, every single individual life. I don't separate people by race, colour, religion, and I… and and if I do, it’s because I celebrate the diversity in the world.
But we are seeing this rise of populist leaders, right, around the world. Do you think it's creating a more intolerant society?
This is… this is an old, an old trick and… and we should know better than to fall for it. And I see it, and I see it rising, and the only thing I can do is to use my voice and encourage others and raise my children to know right and wrong and to have a broad view of the world and… and to embrace their diversity and other people’s and and respect others. And I think that all we can do now is, each and every person, each… each one of your listeners, each one, we all just have to be the best of ourselves. If not… if not now more than ever we really have to rise up and find our rational center, our who are we and what do we stand for. And we know it, we know what's right and wrong.
If I take it back to your… your film, your film is about family and loss. I understand this is a very sensitive issue. We know that an incident occurred which led to your separation. We also know you haven't said anything about this. Would you like to say something?
Only that… I don't want to say very much about that, except to say that it was a very difficult time and… and we are a family, and we will always be a family, and we will get through this time and… and hopefully be a stronger family for it.
Can I ask how you’re coping?
I'm… I'm… many… many people find themselves in a situation and this kind of… you know, my whole… my family we're all… we've all been through a difficult time, you know it's not… my focus is my children, our children and… and it is them and my focus is finding this… this… this way through, and as I said, we are… we are and forever will be a family, and so that is my… that is how I'm coping. I'm coping with… with finding a way through to make sure that this somehow makes us stronger and closer.
This film is a combination of… of passions: Filmmaking as an art, your humanitarian work. In say, five years’ time, where would you like to see yourself? Where do you think you’ll be?
Five years time. Do I have all teenagers?
You have all teenagers at this stage.
At that stage, I hope just standing. Yeah, in five years’ time I would like to be travelling around the world visiting my children, hoping that they're just happy and doing really interesting things. And I imagine in many different parts of the world and I’ll be supporting them and everything I do I hope is that I represent something and I represent the right things to my children and give them the right sense of what they're capable of and… and… and the world as it should be seen, not… not through the prism of… of Hollywood or through a certain kind of life, but really take them into the world where they have a really good sense and become rounded people.
What do you really want to do when you wake up first thing in the morning?
Get through the day. It's been a difficult few months. Right now, I'm going through a moment where there's just everybody's in my room, two hamsters, two dogs and two children at the moment, so it's wonderful but it's a… yes so usually I just wake up trying to figure out who's going to get the dog out, who’s going to start the pancakes and did anybody brush their teeth?

KEY:
1 Becoming a Cambodian family
2 The war in Cambodia
3 Her humanitarian work started there, she became a mother in Cambodia
4 About her having an international family, about how American values should be about celebrating diversity and not being afraid of diversity
5 By using her voice to denounce the situation and raising her children to be tolerant
6 Family and loss
7 By making sure that her family is stronger and closer together
8 Travelling around the world visiting her children and supporting them and continuing doing things her children feel proud of
9 two hamsters, two dogs and two children



lunes, 13 de marzo de 2017

Listening test: Entertainment News

Listen to some recent entertainment news and choose the best heading A-G which suits each one. There are two headings you do not need to use.


A - 56-year-old star retires
B - Discrimination in 21st century
C - Health problems for star
D - Second reunion for singer and city
E - Singer wins legal battle
F - Toys on sale before the movie
G - Weight problems lead to legal battle



1
Former teen idol David Cassidy said Monday he’s suffering from dementia. It came just a day after
weekend performances in California in which he forgot his words and appeared to fall off stage, raising concerns over his health. The 66-year-old former Partridge Family star told People magazine he was fighting dementia, a disease his mother also suffered from. He said he was in denial, but ‘part of me always knew this was coming’. Cassidy told the magazine he’d decided to stop touring as a musician to focus on his health. His publicist said his comments were accurate, but gave no further details. Cassidy has struggled with drinking and financial troubles in recent years.

2
Cher and Vegas are together again. The legendary singer opened a new residency show in Sin City on February 8. Titled “Classic Cher,” the concert at Monte Carlo’s Park Theatre, features some of her greatest hits like “If I Could Turn Back Time” and “Half Breed.” During the 90-minute show Cher has 11 costume changes, all designed by her long time collaborator Bob Mackie. Cher will be playing the 5,000-seat theatre through February 25, before returning for another block in May. This is the second residency Cher has had in Nevada. The Grammy and Oscar-winner performed a three-year engagement at Caesars Palace from 2008 to 2011.

3
Disney has announced that they will once again be holding a ‘Force Friday’ to unveil the latest toys from the upcoming ‘Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’. Like last time, the event, called ‘Force Friday II’ will be held worldwide at 12:01 am on September 1, allowing fans from around the globe to get a first glimpse of what will feature in the eighth film in the franchise. ‘Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’ will launch two and a half months after the toys on December 15.

4
Singer Kesha has released a series of emails in which her producer Dr. Luke says that musicians were unwilling to give her their songs to perform because of her weight. The emails were part of a set of court documents filed this week amid the singer’s case to get out of her recording contract. 29-year-old Kesha has been involved in a three-year battle to be released from a deal with Sony Music and pop hit maker Dr. Luke. Documents filed in New York state court this week show a 2012 email chain between Kesha’s manager and Dr. Luke in which he chastised the singer for breaking her juice diet by drinking soda and eating turkey. Another email chain outlines a dispute between the singer and the producer over the lyrics of a song. But representatives for Dr. Luke say the documents don’t show the full story. Kesha first filed a civil lawsuit in 2014 in Los Angeles against Dr. Luke with numerous allegations including that the producer’s criticism of her appearance had caused her to develop bulimia. The “Tik Tok” singer later dropped the lawsuit in California but her lawyers said she would continue her case in New York to get out of her contract. A New York judge last year denied Kesha’s bid to extricate herself from her recording contract, which sparked an emotional #FreeKesha campaign by the singer’s fans on social media.

5
13th argues that although it’s been 150 years since slavery was officially abolished, it is still alive in the United States in the form of mass incarceration that disproportionately affects the black population. It’s
already won a BAFTA and director Ava DuVernay has also received her fair share of acclaim and was recently announced as the first black female director to commandeer a $100 million movie budget. DuVernay’s documentary also shows how the black community has been wrongfully characterized over the years. Part of the reason why you can have a Muslim ban is that enough people don’t exactly know what that even means. You know what I mean, that enough people don’t know other kinds of people. They haven’t sat at your table, you haven’t read their history, you don’t know their music, you don’t know their poetry, you don’t know what their religion even really is, you only know what has been fed to you, you know, and it’s all about the ways that we don’t know each other. If we knew each other more, there would be more compassion and empathy and I think we’d be in a better place.

KEY
1C 2D 3F 4G 5B