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401, 401V, 501V: English-Language Reading Diary

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Newspapers: Online test available


Hello from the beautiful city of Vladimir. In case you missed the Newspapers test (which we gave earlier than expected for two groups), please contact me for a link to the online version for your group. Write to me through Vkontakte or Facebook, or send me an e-mail.

Holiday blessings! See you in 2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Newspapers: Possible answers to our questions

Last week's homework assignment.
Last week, for your homework, we presented an essay on the suitability of Bob Dylan's work for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Here are some possible answers to the questions we asked concerning that essay.

These are certainly NOT the only correct answers, but, as you prepare for the end-of-semester test, we hope these sample answers help you understand what our questions are aiming at.

How is the article structured? This article is an essay, a structured argument, presented in the form of a blog post.

Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article. 
  • Part 1 explains why Bob Dylan is significant, and what he accomplished in American culture.
  • Part 2 explains how he did this: by demonstrating that popular songs can express huge ideas.
  • Part 3 contrasts Bob Dylan's lyrics with what the author considers truly good poetry. 
  • Part 4 claims that literature is self-contained, in contrast to Dylan's lyrics, which are inseparable from music.
  • Part 5, the conclusion, is a sort of lament: we literati have few occasions to celebrate the uniqueness of literature; if you take the Nobel away, we'll have one fewer.
Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?) Yes: Giving a folk singer the literature prize is like going to a hardware store for oranges -- it is a category error.

Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now? Literature is a silent activity.

What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  • Point 1: Literature in this specific sense of a self-contained, silent art, is little older than the printing press. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 2: Reading is a lonely activity in which you listen to a voice generated by your mind's interaction with another mind's words. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 3: Is it true that song lyrics are nothing without the music? Could we pick a better example than the song quoted by the author?
Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article? Yes. Metcalf's comparison might be unfair. Also, can a text be part of more than one category? (Folk music and literature, for example.)

Describe the voice and register. The register is literary/conversational ... note words such as "contingent" and "perspicuous" but also the use of the second person to address the reader. The author is speaking in his own personal voice to an audience that is probably already following him, either through his entries on Slate's culture blog, or in his podcasts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Newspapers: What is literature?

Source.  
Full article.

More questions: What is "mass media"? Do blogs qualify? Are blogs a newer version of the old "op-ed"?

This blog, "Browbeat," is hosted by the media site slate.com. The specific article we're looking at now represents an almost immediate response by blogger and cultural commentator Stephen Metcalf to the news, back in October, that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Metcalf is also the host of a weekly Slate podcast, the Culture Gabfest. Shortly after his blog post on Dylan was published, he discussed the post with his fellow Gabfest participants, and after a gentle debate he may have reversed the position he took on his blog. Judge for yourself -- the discussion begins at the 16-minute point.

The award ceremony for this prize took place in Stockholm, Sweden, last Saturday (December 10). Coverage of the ceremony, speeches, and concert included these articles:

Bob Dylan Nobel Prize Speech
A Transcendent Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize
(Official Nobel site) Horace Engdahl's presentation speech
(Official Nobel site) Bob Dylan's speech, delivered by the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

To help you prepare for our discussion of Stephen Metcalf's article...

  1. How is the article structured? Examples:
    • as a personal story or stories,
    • narrative of an event,
    • essay (series of arguments advocating an idea or point of view),
    • analysis with bullet points,
    • etc.
  2. Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article
  3. Summarize or paraphrase each segment of the article
  4. Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?)  If yes, please describe.
  5. Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now?
  6. What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  7. Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article? (For example: see Metcalf's comparison of Wilbur's poem and Dylan's song "Up to Me" ... and then look at the Dylan song Patti Smith sang at the Nobel concert in Stockholm.)
  8. Describe the voice and register (formal, informal, personal, or others -- see list here).
  9. What audience does the author have in mind? How do you know? 

Useful or unusual words and phrases:

middlebrow
mainstream
auteur
po-faced
parochial
apropos of nothing
house of cards
butterfly effect (as a verb!)
painterly
inert
obscurantism
contingent
perspicuous
literati

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mumford & Sons, "Hold On to What You Believe"

This video of "Hold On to What You Believe" is not great quality--let me know if you have found a better one!



Audio only:
Listen or download Hold On To What You Believe for free on Prostopleer

Amazon.com purchase link.

Hold On To What You Believe, Mumford & Sons

I can’t promise you that I won’t let you down
And I
I can’t promise you that I will be the only one around
When your hope falls down
But we’re young
Open flowers in the windy fields of this war-torn world
And love
This city breathes the plague of loving things more than their creator

I ran away
I could not take the burden of both me and you
It was too fast
Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break
When it was a promise I could not make
But what if I was wrong? What if I was wrong?
Oh what if I was wrong?

But hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
Oh hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight

And now this land
Means less and less to me without you breathing through its trees
At every turn
The water runs away from me and the halo disappears
I’m not whole when you’re not near
So what if I was wrong? What if I was wrong?
Oh what if I was wrong?

But hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
And oh hold on to what you believed in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight....

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Newspapers: How falling in love can help you learn a language

Source.  
Find the article on this page at the BBC site.

Some questions to consider in preparation for our discussion in class:

  1. How is the article structured? Examples:
    • as a personal story or stories,
    • narrative of an event,
    • essay (series of arguments advocating an idea or point of view),
    • analysis with bullet points,
    • etc.
  2. Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article
  3. Summarize or paraphrase each segment of the article
  4. Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?)  If yes, please describe.
  5. Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now?
  6. What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  7. Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article?
  8. Describe the voice and register (formal, informal, personal, or others -- see list here). 

Some of the more interesting, helpful, or obscure phrases in this text:

sparky
catch the eye
mutual attraction
stand in the way
fledgling romance
transgressed, transgression
forge a relationship
feature (verb), featured
in equal parts
shorthand
all manner of
tricky
painstaking, painstakingly, take pains
crystallise
spur on, spurred on
with gusto
pitfalls
dog paddle, dog-paddling
standing water
tongue twister
get one's tongue around
in tandem with
dogged
balancing act
come to the fore
trigger (verb)
push his (her) buttons
reticence
epiphany 
of sorts
catalyst
innate
pared-back
Kummerspeck
hygge
non-linear
determinist
a recipe for happiness

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Evening conversation group

Announcing a new "tea and conversation with Johan and Judy" group -- especially for evening students and graduates.

We will meet for a maximum of 90 minutes, but if you can't stay for the full time, don't worry! You can come and go as you wish.

Update: Starting on December 6, we plan to meet on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Newspapers: Washington Post on Cuba and "renewed tensions with U.S." after death of Fidel Castro

Source.  
Full article is here.

We will discuss this article according to the usual class format:
  1. Name of the assigned text, source, author if known
  2. Substance of the contents, in your own words
  3. Structure of the text (is it stand-alone or part of a package? are there subheads, pull-quotes, photographs, captions, sidebars, links to related resources?)
  4. Paragraph-by-paragraph (or subdivision-by-subdivision) summaries (not translation but “perceptive paraphrase”)
  5. Your personal commentary
    1. aim of the text; does it succeed?
    2. intended audience
    3. voice and register
  6. Other questions from the instructors based on the list of competencies for this course.
Chronology of Fidel Castro's life and leadership:


Here are some of the more interesting terms and phrases:

functional illiterate
Buffalo Bill
thrive
face off
dig
would not go unanswered
brinkmanship
throw barbs
secure the legacy
collision course
normalization
kneel to
ratchet up
stress test
supercharged
crackdown
stall
hard-liner
is to blame for, was to blame for
real or imagined
facilitate
bring about, fail to bring about
surge (noun and verb)
rush (noun)
roll back
dig in
spate
commandeer
run a tight ship
soaring rhetoric
soundtrack
pejorative (adj and noun)
counter (verb)
in the trenches, into the trenches
swagger, swaggering
underestimate
passing

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Take an Indian to Lunch"

Stan Freberg -- animation voice actor, satirist, and advertising creative director -- died earlier this year.



Here's a transcript of the track we heard in class (written by Stan Freberg):

Narrator: November, 1621 -- By now the white man has arrived in great numbers, not only at Miami, but at Jamestown, at Plymouth, and at Salem, Massachusetts. The Puritans have established a thriving colony, enjoying all the social and cultural refinements of a modern society.

Salem man: Hiya, Harve, who’re you taking to the witch-burning Saturday night?
Harve: Prudence Adams. Who are you taking to the Rotary Club luncheon?
Salem man: I haven’t got a date yet, but I hear it’s gonna be quite a spread.
Political Advisor: Well, Mayor Pennypacker, how’s it look for re-election?
Mayor: Great, great, great; never looked better.
Political Advisor: Yeah, what about the Indian vote?
Mayor: Waddya mean by that?
Political Advisor: Well, you’re not too popular with the Indians. They could lose you the election.
Mayor: That’s possible?
Political Advisor: Well, they outnumber us.
Mayor: That’s the trouble-you give ’em an inch, and they take over.
Political Advisor: But Mayor, they were here before we were -- we moved in on them.
Mayor: So we did. Well, there’s just something about ’em. They wear funny shoes, don’t even have buckles on ’em.
Political Advisor: Be that as it may, election is Friday. You better make some gesture this week.
Mayor: Like what?
Political Advisor: Well, what if you make a concession and pick an Indian as a running mate? You’d be sure to carry the Indian bloc.
Mayor: What? If anything happened to me, you’d have a mayor that wasn’t a Puritan. Probably take orders directly from Chief Powhatan.
Political Advisor: Yeah.
Mayor: Say, I got it. The luncheon tomorrow, the one under the trees?
Political Advisor: What about it?
Mayor: We’ll ask an Indian! That’ll impress the rest of ’em.
Political Advisor: We could even announce you’re gonna put one in your cabinet.
Mayor: No need to go that far, just have one to lunch.
Political Advisor: It’ll be great press!
Mayor: “Mayor Pennypacker Comes Out for Equality... Justice... Votes!” What a slogan:

[Song “Take an Indian to Lunch”]

Take an Indian to lunch (this week)
Show him we’re a regular bunch (this week)
Show him we’re as liberal as can be!
Let him know he’s almost as good as we
Make a feathered friend feel fed (this week)
Overlook the fact he’s red (this week)
Let him share our Quaker Oats
’Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch!
Two Four Six Eight
Who do we tolerate?
Indians, Indians, rah, rah, rah!

Take an Indian to lunch (this week)
Let him sit right down and munch (this week)
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit--
Just make sure we don't make a habit of it!

Take an Indian to dine (this week)
Show him we don’t draw the line (this week)
We know everyone can’t be
As “American” as we--
(After all, we came over on the Mayflower!)
Take an Indian,
Not a wooden Indian*,
But a real, live Indian
To lunch!

* Wooden Indian

Cigarindian1.jpg
"Cigarindian1" by WyrdLight.com. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newspapers: Meghan Markle writes for Elle

Actress Meghan Markle has been in the news recently, as stories have emerged about her relationship with the UK's Prince Harry. He recently issued a statement addressed to "fair-minded people" about how he believes the press has been treating her. In this earlier article, Markle herself talks about her own history and experiences as a biracial woman.



Source.  
'What are you?' A question I get asked every week of my life, often every day. 'Well,' I say, as I begin the verbal dance I know all too well. 'I'm an actress, a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of my lifestyle brand The Tig, a pretty good cook and a firm believer in handwritten notes.' A mouthful, yes, but one that I feel paints a pretty solid picture of who I am. But here's what happens: they smile and nod politely, maybe even chuckle, before getting to their point, 'Right, but what are you? Where are your parents from?' I knew it was coming, I always do. While I could say Pennsylvania and Ohio, and continue this proverbial two-step, I instead give them what they're after: 'My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I'm half black and half white.'


The full article is here: www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/news/a26855/more-than-an-other/

Some questions to consider in preparation for our discussion in class:
  1. How is the article structured? Examples:
    • as a personal story or stories, 
    • narrative of an event,
    • essay (series of arguments advocating an idea or point of view),
    • analysis with bullet points, 
    • etc.
  2. Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article
  3. Summarize or paraphrase each segment of the article
  4. Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?)  If yes, please describe.
  5. Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now?
  6. What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  7. Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article?
  8. Describe the voice and register (formal, informal, personal, or others -- see list here),
  9. Who is Meghan Markle's audience? Why did she choose this periodical to communicate her message? (And why might this magazine have chosen her to write for them?)
Please search for an journalistic article about Markle to help us build a context for the article above. (This may count toward your two articles per week.)

Useful words and phrases from the article:

verbal dance (and proverbial two-step)
lifestyle brand
firm believer
dichotomy
rigmarole
dip my toes
drawn to
in tow
craft the world around
mandatory
mess up
act of defiance
pit in the stomach / belly
prey (to ignorance)
not on the cards (not in the cards)
dorm mate
plagued with
Rodney King, Reginald Denny
fitting in, not fitting in
label driven, x-driven
sassy
girl next door
morphing
Eighties Benetton
chameleon
Goldilocks
dramedy
flanked
glitzy
quintessential
face that launched a thousand ships
trickle
run the gamut
percolate
boil over
spin
embrace
shattering, shatteringly
start anew

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Buddy Guy, "Skin Deep"

"Skin Deep": In class, I showed the video from the Waterfront Blues Festival I attended in 2011 in Portland, Oregon. That's where I took those pictures (above).

That video is no longer available on YouTube, so I substituted Buddy Guy's television performance of this same song (below). On the television program, Buddy doesn't tell the story of his mother and the broken mirror, but at least you have the song. He's using the same electric Jerry Jones Sitar that he used in the video I showed you.

First, here is the audio version I used in some of our classes. It features Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks, two of the best guitarists on the planet. Then, the TV video and lyrics are below.





Lyrics: (Buddy Guy) (according to the audio version)
I've been around a while
I know wrong from right
I learned a long time ago
Things ain't always black and white
Just like you can't judge a book by the cover
We all gotta be careful
How we treat one another
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
We all, all are the same
A man in Louisiana,
He never called me by my name
He said "boy do this and boy do that"
But I never once complained
I knew he had a good heart
But he just didn't understand
That I needed to be treated
Just like any other man
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
We all are the same
I sat my child down
when he was old enough to know
I said out there in this big wide world
You're gonna meet all kinds of folks
I said son it all comes down to just one simple rule
That you treat everybody just the way
You want them to treat you
Yeah
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
We all are the same
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
Skin Deep
Skin Deep
Underneath we're all the same
We all are the same
Yeah

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Newspapers: Адреналин вместо страха - как я училась выступать на публике

Source.  
The full article is here. I will also provide copies in tomorrow's class.

Please read this article and come to class prepared to:
  1. Summarize the full article.
  2. Describe how the author organized her material, and summarize the different stages of her approach.
  3. Suggest her goal in writing this article, and assess whether she has achieved it.
  4. Suggest her most likely audience. How did you reach this conclusion?
  5. Describe voice and register.
  6. Tell us why you can or cannot identify with the author.
What phrases in the article might be the most difficult to render in English?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Down By the Riverside"


Down By the Riverside from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

Here is some history for this song -- and some of the variations in the words. The "Playing for Change" version we showed in class chooses three verses from the traditional list of first lines in the Wikipedia article.

Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer I remember from my own teenage years in Chicago, recorded this version, which is still popular:



Here are the lyrics of the version by Grandpa Elliott and the "Playing for Change" organization:

1) I'm gonna lay down my burden
Down by the riverside,
Down by that river,
Down by the riverside.
Gonna lay down my burden
Down by that riverside,
Study war no more.

[chorus] I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more, study war no more.

2) [I'm gonna] Lay down my sword and shield ...

3) I'm gonna put on my long white robe ...

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Newspaper class: Google and Mosfilm launch online readings of The Master and Margarita

The full article is here on the RBTH site.

Teachers all over the world complain that students don't read books anymore. Do you think the Mosfilm-Google collaboration has a chance of attracting the attention of students who might otherwise never get acquainted with this classic?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whether or not you finish reading and summarizing this article long before we meet again next week, remember that the reading will be streamed THIS FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, November 11 and 12.

When we discuss this article in class, we will ask you to talk about...
  1. the article as a whole -- please summarize it in two or three sentences;
  2. the structure and subunits of the article -- what are the important subtopics;
  3. the occasion of the article -- why Google, Mosfilm, and audiences might be interested in Bulgakov at this time;
  4. the effectiveness of the article -- and how you assess it.
Here are some useful words and phrases. Which are unfamiliar?

release
audition (noun and verb)
teleport
of its kind
brush the dust off
curator
platform
green screen

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Update: No tea Nov. 8 and 15; Institute birthday party, November 20.


  • No "Tea and Conversation" sessions on November 8 and 15; I will be a guest lecturer at an institute in Moscow on those days. We meet again on November 22.
  • Please put this special event on your calendar:

Institute Birthday Party, November 20, 4 p.m., Cafe Kapra.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"My Body Is a Cage"



Audio, Sara Lov:

Amazon.com purchase link Arcade Fire
Amazon.com purchase link Sarah Lov
Amazon.com purchase link Peter Gabriel

My Body Is a Cage, Arcade Fire (Jeremy Gara / Richard Parry / Régine Chassagne / Tim Kingsbury / William Butler / Win Butler ) (Other singers' versions differ slightly.)

Chorus: My body is a cage
That keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key [x2]

I’m standing on the stage
Of fear and self-doubt
It’s a hollow play
But they’ll clap anyway

Chorus

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

I’m living in an age
That calls darkness light
Though my language is dead
Still the shapes fill my head

I’m living in an age
Whose name I don’t know
Though the fear keeps me moving
Still my heart beats so slow

Chorus

You’re standing next to me
My mind holds the key

My body is a...

My body is a cage
We take what we’re given
Just because you’ve forgotten,
That don’t mean you’re forgiven

I’m living in an age
That screams my name at night
But when I get to the doorway
There’s no one in sight

I’m living in an age
They laugh and I’m dancing
With the one I love
But my mind holds the key

You’re still next to me

My mind holds the key

Set my spirit free [x2]
Set my body free [x2] ...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Food of the New York Times: The Depressing Food of the Depression


Full article is here on the newspaper's site.

Here's an interesting combination of themes: history and food. As you study this article, be prepared to address these topics in class:
  1. In a few sentences, what is this article about?
  2. Who is the audience for this article?
  3. How is this article organized? What are the major subpoints?
  4. Do you think you would enjoy reading these food historians' book? Why or why not?
  5. Are you aware of any similar experiences in Russian history? What foods might be associated with these experiences?
Which of these words or phrases are unfamiliar to you?

square meal
ascending (to the presidency)
gourmand
solidarity (with)
tenement
no-frills
the crash (or the Crash)
medley
the land of plenty
fraught (a fraught subject)
mystery dishes, mystery food
mashup
home-ec
glop
tidbits
savory
let-me-eat-cake ("Let them eat cake")
sophisticate (noun)
got back on its feet
snazzy
can-do

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

Otis Redding was a beloved member of the Stax-Volt family of musicians, already well-known for his electrifying performances at live concerts, and for his amazing voice.

In December 1967 he recorded this song just a few days before he died in an airplane crash. The song became his best seller and continues to be a popular favorite to this day.

The guitarist and co-writer on this song was Steve Cropper, who is active today. Bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, however, died in 2012.

Here is the version of the song we heard today:



The words at the bottom of this post.

To buy this track, click here.

Sadly, Otis Redding's song was so new that it had not become part of his concert repertoire before his untimely death, so we don't have a video of him performing this song. Instead, here's a recent international mashup, with musicians from the USA, Brazil, Japan, Italy, and Cuba.





Words for "(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper:

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watchin' the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay, wastin' time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I've had nothing to live for
And look like nothin's gonna come my way

So I'm just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay, wastin' time

Look like nothing's gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same, yes

Sittin' here resting my bones
And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I'm just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Sittin' on the dock of the bay,
Wastin' time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Margo Jefferson interview: "I was anxious about using the word 'Negro' in a book title"

Source.  
(Click here for the full article.)

Groups 401, 501V: We will discuss this article in class next week.

In Russia, sometimes the English word "Negro" is used in translations from Russian to English, referring to black people. When we talk with students, we explain why this word, which has a deep and important history, is no longer preferred in current usage. The book Negroland, whose author is the subject of this interview, provides a far more adequate and interesting treatment of this and similar questions than we could give -- and I recommend it highly. In the meantime, enjoy this fascinating interview, and be ready to tell the class your thoughts on these points:
  1. In a few sentences, what is this article about?
  2. What are the interviewer's most important or most interesting questions? Summarize Margo Jefferson's answers.
  3. Who is this article's intended audience?
  4. How persuasive is the article in encouraging the audience to read Negroland?
Note these words and phrases. Which of them are unfamiliar?

emergent
precarious
lurk, lurking
ingrained
unease
show off
charged ("The word Negro is still very charged.")
signifier
trigger
tickled
call me a/an ("Call me a coward, ...")
hyper-awareness
thrall, in thrall to
essentialist
prime time
underpinnings

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Newspapers: U.S. presidential race goes off the rails (BBC Russian)


The full article (class handout) is here in PDF format.

This is one of the best overviews of the U.S. presidential election that I have seen in the international press. Some questions for you to consider as you prepare your summaries and comments:
  1. What does the author intend to provide you in this article?
  2. What are the emphases and arguments under each of the article's subheads?
  3. In the author's view, what are some of the main features that differentiate this specific presidential race from others that have gone before?
  4. Is the author objective? (How did you decide?)
  5. Is the author fair? (Is "fairness" different from "objectivity"?)
Please be prepared to discuss this article in one week after you receive it in class.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Newspapers: Useful phrases for commentary, analysis, and advocacy

Source.  

(Homework assignment is at the bottom of this page.)

PART ONE: Useful words and phrases for presenting your summaries: (based on a list developed by Marina Evstifeeva)

1. Today I’m presenting a (an)
● newspaper article
● magazine article
● article from an academic journal
● video
● book
● (other material)
2. This item is taken from ... [periodical, series, or other source]

3. The headline [OR title] of the item is ...

4. The reporter / author is ...

5. The item is dated ... [OR the dateline of the article is ... ]

6. Phrases for summarizing the article or item:
● The central/main idea of the article is ...
● The article is devoted to ... The article deals with ...
● The purpose of the article is to provide the reader with information concerning ...
● As the article makes clear, ...
● The article comes with
○ photos of ...
○ charts showing ...
○ a sidebar on ...
○ links to ...
7. Phrases for providing additional content:
● The reporter / writer goes into details about ...
● The reporter / writer mentions in passing that ...
8. Concluding phrases:
● In conclusion I’d like to say that ...
● My overall impression is that ...
● The writer makes [OR doesn’t make] a convincing case that ...

PART TWO: Useful phrases for commentary, analysis, and advocacy

Introduction:

● Many people prefer _____, but a growing number believe that ______.

● The increasing number of [OR: amount of OR: danger of] ______ has become an urgent
problem.

● Some people believe that ______, while others argue strongly that ______.

● Ever since the ______ incident, journalists and politicians have argued for more ______.

Let’s look at what each side has to say.

Outlining one side of the argument:

● This writer / researcher / expert has extensive experience in the field of ______.

● Many people argue that _______.

● In his / her / my experience, _______. [See note below concerning third-person vs
first-person.]

● In other words, ________.

● On the one hand, __________.

● This approach has many advantages ....

● First, .... Second, .... Third, .... In addition, .... Finally, ....

● As evidence, he / she / they point(s) to ________.

● If we fail to take their advice, the number of ________ will start to go up, and the _______
will start to go down.

● As the writer says, is it fair that ______ will enjoy ______ while millions of others will
______?

● Throughout history, people have _________________.

● Let’s look at the credentials of those opposing this viewpoint ...

Outlining the other side of the argument:

● On the other hand, _________.

● To be fair, _________.

● They argue that _________, but fail to notice that _________.

● To a certain extent, they are right. For example, __________.

● Theoretically, this may be true. But in real life, ....

● However, there are no reports of [OR: there is no evidence of] __________.

● At the same time, ______________.

● Is it worth the risk?

Conclusion:

● To sum up, ________.

● We [OR They] can’t have it both ways; either _________ is true or _________ is true.

● In the final analysis, _________.

● Both sides have some good points, _______________.

● While the results are not conclusive, most of the evidence points to __________.

● It is obvious that ______________.

● Why must we choose? Both approaches have value.

● If our only concern is immediate results, we can choose _________, but if we take future
generations into account, we will clearly want to ________.

NOTE ON VOICE/PERSON: In general, presentations made in the first-person “I” or “we” voice
are less formal. Often personal experience is more persuasive than abstract discussions, but be
sure to take into account your intended audience. An academic audience may prefer or even
require a more objective-sounding third-person approach.

BE CONSISTENT. If you decide to write or speak in the first person singular, “I”, don't switch to
“we” or a passive voice halfway through the presentation. If you speak as “we” or as a neutral
observer, don't switch to “I” unless you make an explicit switch, for example at the end: “I would
like to conclude with a personal experience.”

HOMEWORK: Practice using the phrases for commentary, analysis, and advocacy.

For each of the four sections (introduction, outlining one side of the argument, outlining the other side, and conclusion), choose two phrases that have blanks in them and use those phrases in complete sentences. (Don't choose the phrases that are already complete in themselves, such as "Is it worth the risk?" -- unless you add a logical addition. For example: "Is it worth the risk? Many satisfied customers would give an enthusiastic 'yes'!"

If you wish, you can write your practice sentences using the articles we have read together so far this year, or you can find other articles, or you can simply make up your own logical content. We simply want to see that you know how to use the phrases.

More examples:

Some people believe that school uniforms are unnecessary, while others argue strongly that uniforms reduce the pressure on students to dress fashionably.

If we fail to take their advice, the number of unemployed people will start to go up, and the gross national product will start to go down.

Please bring your homework to our next class. (401: October 26.)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fountains of Wayne, "Action Hero"

source


Purchase song: Action Hero

Purchase album: Sky Full of Holes (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Bonus Version)

(written by Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger)

Sometime after sunset
He is on his hands and knees
He is searching for his keys
At a small Vietnamese place
On East 11th Street
His daughters both at once say
Can we just get going please?
As his wife begins to sneeze
And his son is throwing peas
And eating with his feet

He's an action hero
And he should be fighting crime
Leaping between the buildings
And racing against time
He's an action hero, he's an action hero
In his mind

He drops by Mount Sinai*
Where they're running through some tests
And they've taped things to his chest
And they're all doing their best
To make him feel at ease
The doctor says it's really just
An educated guess
I suggest you get some rest
Try to cut back on the stress
Cause I don't like what I see

But the action hero
Swears he feels just fine
He's got to finish saving
The world for all mankind
He's an action hero, he's an action hero
And he's racing against time
He's racing against time
There goes the action hero
He's racing against time

__________________________
* Mount Sinai Medical Center

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Newspaper class: Germany reunified 26 years ago

Source.  
(FULL ARTICLE)

Group 401V: Be ready to discuss this article on the week of October 10.
Group 401 (day) and 501V: Be ready by the week of October 17.

Our thanks to Ekaterina Oreshnikova -- this article is from her reading diary.

In addition to the usual tasks (below), be prepared to evaluate how the author used graphics and maps. The printed version of the article included several comments; you might want to consider other comments that we didn't include in the printed version. 

Your tasks:
  • Summarize the whole article in two or three sentences.
  • Identify and summarize the major subdivisions of the article. (The subdivisions can be one paragraph or a cluster of paragraphs devoted to one aspect of the article.)
  • Prepare to discuss: What is the main goal of the article? Is the article successful in meeting that goal?
  • Prepare to discuss: What did you learn from this article, and what questions did the article provoke without answering? Were the comparisons between east and west fair? Were the differences explained in a clear way? ... in a fair way? Are you tempted to post a comment?
  • Bring to class: words and phrases from the article that are unfamiliar or unclear to you.
Useful words and phrases:

not everyone was convinced
a handful
a public spotlight (a spotlight)
to embrace change
influx
reliant on
to be evenly spread
entry-level position
political climate
sympathizer
quick to fill the void
bleak
legacy
pool
small arms
to posit
melting pot (and melting pot dynamic)