Sunday, March 31, 2013

Adventures of an American Shurik in Russia.

This book my colleagues gave me for my 60th birthday really is priceless!

(By the way, the second frame, showing the original Shurik. isn't in the book--I added it for the American audience.)

Enjoy! And remember--be careful about posting your pictures online--who knows where they might end up!?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

S201-205 Homework: Do-it-yourself text titles

Based on Afanasyeva's chapter 14 reading-comprehension exercises, write your own titles/themes for the following seven texts. Don't forget to include an eighth ("extra") theme. You can print out the form below or you can just send me the eight titles. Use at least two words, but no more than five, for each title.

Have fun!

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

301: Head baker

Sophie gets a promotion:
      Chef pushes his door shut. His jeans and flannel shirt hang neatly from a hanger on a hook on the back of the door, and his toque sits at attention on the corner of his desk.
      “Have a seat,” he says, shuffling papers. My pink slip? News that you have to sit down for is never any good. I lean back in the Windsor chair, the spindles jabbing my spine.
      “George loves the savory cheesecake,” he continues. George is the persnickety owner of the restaurant who makes surprise reconnaissance visits. The first employee to spot George on the premises is supposed to yell, “Red light.” The first person to notice him leave is supposed to say, “Green light.” Then everyone goes back to sitting on the counters or swiping rolls out of the bread warmer.
      “And the hazelnut torte is delicious.” Chef closes his eyes and purses his thick lips as though tasting the torte. While he’s one of the last people I’d relish praise from, I’m flattered.
      “Thanks.” Get to the point!
      “I’m going to promote you to head baker.”
Here are some words and phrases from this week's text. Please use twelve of them in your own sentences....

jot down
business plan
nest egg
toque [see photo]
at attention
have a seat”
pink slip
Windsor chair
to spot
on the premises
purses his lips
to relish (verb)
get to the point!
promote, promotion
acceptance speech
prep work
potential, great potential
rub, neck rub
who knows …
open my own café

Saturday, March 23, 2013

501 and 502: Einstein and Eddington

We've seen the first half of this film. Because of the blood drive (thanks for participating!!), we're scheduling the second half for the second week of April--IF we have a class that week. In the meantime, here are synopsis, discussion questions, and the full film itself. Feel free to make comments.

UPDATE: We've now seen both halves of the film.
The main plot:
Arthur Eddington, newly-appointed chief astronomer at Cambridge University, is expected to defend Isaac Newton's theories, which are believed to be a complete explanation for the mechanics of the universe. An anomaly in Mercury's orbit leads Eddington to look to physicist Albert Einstein for an alternative explanation, based on their mutual interest in gravity. Their correspondence leads to Eddington's idea for an expedition to West Africa, where observations during a solar eclipse in 1919 might result in Newton's vindication--or his dethronement in favor of Einstein's radical new ideas.

Most of the film takes place during World War I. Eddington is under pressure to submit to wartime hyper-patriotism, which included prejudices against Germans (even German scientists) and against conscientious objectors (отказники по убеждениям; he is a Quaker). Likewise, Einstein is under equivalent pressures in Germany, and is shocked to see his scientific colleagues participating in weapons development and testing. 

Eddington's dearest friend William Marston dies in battle; this death and the massive battle deaths generally cause a crisis of faith for Eddington, much to the concern of his sister and housekeeper Winnifred.

When German physicist Max Planck invites Einstein to leave his professorship in Zurich and return to Germany, Einstein's marriage to Mileva Marić is already under strain. In Berlin, Einstein falls in love with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal; they get married in 1919, a few months after Einstein's and Marić's divorce.

Discussion questions:
  1. What are the men hauling up the mountain in West Africa, and why?
  2. What did Arthur Eddington’s and William Marston’s opponents advise Eddington to do at the end of the tennis match? What does Winnifred advise him to tell Marston?
  3. According to Sir Oliver Lodge, what is Eddington’s new job? Why was the committee a bit concerned about Eddington’s suitability? Why was Eddington the best man for the job, in Lodge’s mind?
  4. Why is Mileva Einstein upset with her husband just before Max Planck comes to visit? What is Planck’s offer to Einstein, and what might Einstein have to sacrifice?
  5. According to Isaac Newton, what is the force that orders everything in the universe? How did Newton reconcile himself to the invisibility of this force?
  6. In his conversation with the “fat industrialist,” Max Planck explains what Einstein offers Germany. What is it?
  7. Eddington presents a summary of Einstein’s thought up to 1905. What, according to the seminar participants, are some of the weaknesses in Einstein’s theory of time? What did Eddington not tell the seminar participants?
  8. After the meeting in which Eddington assures the Mullers that they are welcome, we see an angry crowd outside. Why are they angry?
  9. What document does Einstein refuse to sign?
  10. Oliver Lodge warns Eddington that “consorting with the enemy”—even with the scientists of “barbaric” Germany—is a treasonable offense. Does the film show the relationships between British scientists and the war effort?
  11. Why is Mercury a problem for Newton’s theory? Why does Eddington decide to write to Einstein? What is Einstein’s reaction to Eddington’s letter?
  12. When Einstein bursts into the Common Room, why is he so angry? At the same time, Eddington is also devastated—why?
  13. What does Einstein want, according to Eddington at the meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society? How does Lodge counter Eddington’s question about Mercury?
  14. Why was Einstein not allowed to enter the gates at the University?
  15. What advantage does a solar eclipse give in providing an opportunity to test Einstein’s theory?
  16. As the war ends, Eddington is aghast at the loss of life. As Winnifred leaves on a Quaker relief team to Germany, she’s worried about her brother. Why?
  17. How long did Eddington and Dyson have to take their photos of the Sun and the stars made visible by the eclipse?
  18. What might Winnifred be thinking from her balcony vantage point during Eddington’s presentation of the photographic results?
  19. Why have reporters gathered outside Einstein’s home?
Oh leave the Wise our measures to collate
One thing at least is certain, light has weight
One thing is certain and the rest debate
Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight.

--Arthur Eddington
Here's the film itself:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

S201-205 Homework: Is air travel better?

Photo by J. Maurer
Comment on the following statement:
Travelling by air is usually considered to be much quicker and more comfortable than travelling by other means. However, sometimes this may not be the case.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of traveling by air? Write 200-250 words on paper that you can give me. (I'll return it with written comments.)

Use the following plan:
  • write an introduction (state the problem/topic)
  • list the advantages and give reasons/examples
  • list the disadvantages and give reasons/examples
  • draw a conclusion (give your opinion or a balanced consideration of the topic)

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

301: "My old stomping ground"

Sophie waits and waits for Drew. Then ...
... the phone rings. I jump but then let it ring several more times, not wanting to seem interested or desperate or even home.
   “Hello,” I say casually.
   “Sophie?” Drew’s voice sounds thick, as though he’s been drinking. Great! A boozer.
   “Hi. Is this Drew?” I try to sound as though I forgot that we even had a date.
   “I’m so sorry,” he slurs.
   “No problem.” I obsessed over mascara, you jerk*. Fifteen minutes in the aisle at the drugstore debating between clump-free or luxury lash.
   Crystal hovers beside me, cracking her knuckles and mouthing, Is it him? I swat her away.
   “I’m at the hospital,” Drew moans. “I got hit.”
   “Hit? By who?” I’m thinking bar brawl. DUI, maybe.
   “A truck. I was crossing the street. That’s all I saw. The grill of a very big pickup truck.” He giggles. “Sorry,” he says apologetically. “They gave me a pain pill.” He pauses, then perks up. “Hey, you want to come down here? I’ll buy you some peanut-butter crackers from the vending machines.”
   The Ashland emergency room. My old stomping ground.

* apologies to Lolly Winston; slight change!
Homework: Choose twelve of these words and phrases and use them in the same sense they're used in the text. You can write a sentence for each word or phrase, or you can use several at once. You can write disconnected sentences or compose a story. Surprise us!

bar brawl
perks up
emergency room
my old stomping ground
could use
a lift
and besides,
two for the price of one
giving smb a ride
pick up
“I’m Drew Ellis’s…ride”
Ethan’s face always lit up.
no breaks

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Theresa Andersson, "Accustomed to the Dark"

Texas Burning-Theresa Andersson-"Accustomed to the Dark" from TEXAS BURNING on Vimeo.

Audio (live, from the Texas Burning concert above):

Listen or download Accustomed to the Dark for free on Prostopleer purchase link.

Accustomed to the Dark
Theresa Andersson / Don Cook / John Barlow Jarvis

On a dusty farm-to-market road
Eighteen miles from Jericho
About a million more to go
Before I sleep again
Out on Highway 49
A moon fell from the Texas sky
What a lonely place to say goodbye
To no one but the wind

Silent light, lonely night
Haunted by your fading light
Scarlet moon, starless sky,
I guess I'll have to find my way by heart
So I can grow accustomed to the dark

A busted billboard sign ahead
Reminds me of something you said
And the tape is running through my head
It tears me up inside
Oh I wish I was a midnight train
Blazing across the Pontchartrain
Maybe then I'd lose this pain
That's killing me tonight


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

S201-205 Homework: David has a question about pocket money

You have received a letter from your English-speaking pen friend David, who writes:
… I only get a little pocket money from my parents because they can’t afford to give me a lot. Do you get pocket money? Do you think parents should give their children pocket money? I don’t have a part-time job, but my best friend does. Is it common for teenagers in Russia to have a part-time job?

So, I have a new hobby—I’m learning to play a musical instrument....
Write a letter to David. (Write about 100-140 words; don’t forget the rules of letter-writing.)

In your letter,
  • answer his questions
  • ask 3 questions about his new hobby.
The assignment is due next week (March 20 or 22). Please write it on a page that I can take home with me.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mstislav Rostropovich

Scenes from the BBC documentary
Rostropovich: Genius of the Cello
"But because we suffer..."
"Of course we know our father's voice."
"They were chalk and cheese, but their relationship was
surprisingly close."
Re-experiencing the Shostakovich cello concerto premiere.
Xavier Phillips on Rostropovich's ideal endless bow.
"He would kiss anything he could kiss."
Several groups saw the first half of this documentary on Wednesday and Thursday. I hope you liked it--and you will look for more music by this amazing man and his "three kings," Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Britten.

In case you missed the classes, here are the discussion questions we used (and also the questions for the second half of the film). You can see the film itself online--see the bottom of this page.
  1. Why are cellists more beautiful, according to Mstislav Rostropovich?
  2. What do cellists do better than violinists and pianists?
  3. What experience does Rostropovich's daughter Elena report concerning the radio?
  4. When he plays quietly, what happens to the people in the concert hall?
  5. Three famous composers wrote music for Rostropovich. Who were they? What does he anticipate will happen after he dies?
  6. On August 21, 1968, during the Soviet Union's intervention in Czechoslovakia, what was the question facing the concert organizers at the Royal Albert Hall? What did M.R.'s wife say happened at the start of the concert?
  7. According to the narrator, what is special about the cello?
  8. Why was Prague important in Rostropovich's life? (Three reasons at least!)
  9. When asked about his four-day courtship of his wife Galina, what was his response?
  10. Mischa Maisky wasn't playing Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations, especially the change from C-minor to C-major,  to Rostropovich's satisfaction. What "cure" did he advise Maisky to use?
  11. How did he understand the use of the bow? What toy did he use to explain his ideal bow? What is the bow's weak point?
  12. What did Rostropovich do especially well, according to the conductor Seiji Ozawa?
  13. When applying to the Soviet authorities to let his wife accompany him on overseas concert tours, he gave an unusual explanation. How was it different?
  14. Why was Prokofiev criticized by Soviet critics?
  15. What was the first risk that Rostropovich took in his career?
  16. According to Xavier Phillips, what is the risk involved with meeting an idol? In his own case, what happened? How did he describe Rostropovich?
  17. Awaiting their master class, how did the students know that Rostropovich was near? What were the first two signs? What does "on tenterhooks" mean?
  18. Why did Rostropovich say that there's no shame in weeping from Rakhmaninov's music? What, apparently, was Natalya Gutman's problem?
  19. What was the meaning of analogy of the beautiful suitcase?
  20. In what ways did Rostropovich express his love of life?
  21. Why was the discovery of Haydn's cello concerto in C so important, according to Rostropovich? What will he do when he gets to heaven?
  22. Seiji Ozawa uses the metaphor of "soldier" to describe Rostropovich's mission upon receiving a new cello score. His collaboration with which composer illustrated this mission? What very unusual sort of meeting did they have? Why did the narrator say that these two men were like "chalk and cheese"?
[break at 44:46]
  1. What was unusual about Rostropovich's fingers? What problems did Rostropovich avoid by having such sensitive fingers?
  2. What was it like to be a teenage daughter with Rostropovich for a father? What did he do with their new jeans?
  3. Why was Henri Dutilleux worried three weeks before the premiere of his new work for cello?
  4. Why did Rostropovich play every work written for him at least once? Were they all masterpieces? What did he think would happen eventually?
  5. What was Benjamin Britten's reaction to Rostropovich's playing? How did it affect him personally?
  6. How did Rostropovich introduce and explain his guest Alexander Solzhenitsyn to his daughters?
  7. According to Rostropovich, what was the best step he ever took in his life?
  8. What was Witold Lutoslawski describing in the cello concerto that he wrote for Rostropovich at the start of Rostropovich's troubles? What do the brass entries represent?
  9. Rostropovich played Bach's Sarabande as the encore at the famous concert of August 21, 1968. What was his attitude about this piece and its performance in public? What happened when Chionofuji's daughter died?
  10. How did Rostropovich get into Russia without a visa? What was Galina's response to this adventure?
  11. What image did Rostropovich use to express the idea that he would now help a young cellist, Xavier Phillips, to play with the insight and weight of an older musician?

Rostropovich: Genius of the Cello HQ from Vaughan Matthews on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

301: "How will I know if I really like Drew Ellis?"


In our fourth reading from Good Grief, Sophie gets ready for her first date in Ashland....

I believe every woman with curly hair has a graveyard of products under her bathroom sink that she resorts to in emergencies such as this. Canisters of mousse, gel, and pomade—each promising to be the miracle cure. The pathetic part is, I moved my mousse collection from California to Oregon. Towed it up in the U-Haul. And now I’m on my hands and knees, burrowing through the bottles. I choose one: Frizz Eaze—the z’s on the can mirroring my own kinks. I rub the goo between my palms and pat my head. Now my hair has a shellacklike sheen. It’s frizzy, sticky, and crunchy all at once. I give up, tug it into a ponytail, and slide on my glasses for an overview. Great. The librarian look. Allow me to recommend this volume on the Dark Ages.
For your homework, here are the words and phrases to choose from:

status quo
make passes
resort to
burrow [used twice]
the … look
holing up
to manage to [incl. ironic]
to see [to attend a game]
distinctly recall
go for it
teeny, teeniest
work up
a notch
the thing is
grace period
go on a date
get on with

Sunday, March 3, 2013

301: Good Grief, part three: Crystal


"I don’t know how to do algebra," I tell her.
"Dude! But you’re, like, a grown-up."

 ... So begins our third reading from Good Grief. Please use twelve of the words/phrases listed  below in sentences of your own, using the meanings we learned in last week's class. You can use one word or phrase per sentence, or you can use more than one in a sentence.

don’t have the heart
polishes off
Death Valley
reddish, adjective-ish
rolls her eyes

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fountains of Wayne, "Hey Julie"

Here's the song from this past week:


Listen or download Fountains Of Wayne Hey Julie for free on Prostopleer purchase link

Hey Julie, Adam Schlesinger, Chris Collingwood (performed by Fountains of Wayne)

Working all day for a mean little man
With a clip-on tie and a rub-on tan
He’s got me running ’round the office like a dog around a track
But when I get back home,
You’re always there to rub my back

Hey Julie,
Look what they’re doing to me
Trying to trip me up
Trying to wear me down
Julie, I swear, it’s so hard to bear it
And I’d never make it through without you around
No, I’d never make it through without you around

Hours on the phone making pointless calls
I got a desk full of paper that means nothing at all
Sometimes I catch myself staring into space
Counting down the hours ’til I get to see your face

Hey Julie,
Look what they’re doing to me
Trying to trip me up
Trying to wear me down
Julie, I swear, it’s so hard to bear it
And I’d never make it through without you around
No, I’d never make it through without you around

How did it come to be
That you and I must be
Far away from each other every day?
Why must I spend my time
Filling up my mind
With facts and figures that never add up anyway?
They never add up anyway

Working all day for a mean little guy
With a bad toupee and a soup-stained tie
He’s got me running ’round the office
Like a gerbil on a wheel
He can tell me what to do
But he can’t tell me what to feel

Hey Julie,
Look what they’re doing to me
Trying to trip me up
Trying to wear me down
Julie, I swear, it’s so hard to bear it
And I’d never make it through without you around
No, I’d never make it through without you around
No, I’d never make it through without you around