Friday, April 22, 2016

The Time Lords: Einstein and Eddington

We've seen the first third of this film. We plan to show the rest of the film next week. In the meantime, here are synopsis, discussion questions, and the full film itself. Feel free to make comments.

Doctor Who fans will recognize David Tennant, the Tenth Time Lord, who plays the role of Arthur Eddington.
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:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thursday, April 14: Listening comprehension class is canceled.

Both Judy and I are sick, so we're taking the day off. Our class is scheduled to meet again tomorrow (Friday), second pair, and we plan to do so. We'll let you know if we have to cancel again tomorrow....

Tea is also canceled today, but we plan to have it next week at the normal time and place.

Best wishes for all of you giving presentations today!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ray Charles - Biography in film

Ray – Questions about the film biography of Ray Charles
  1. What did Ray's mother Aretha mean when she said, “Always remember your promise to me. Never let nobody or nothing turn you into no cripple.” Is there something your grandparents or parents said to you that might come back to you in a similar way when you need it?
  2. At the bus, the driver refuses to transport Ray (an unaccompanied, blind passenger) all the way to Seattle. Ray told the bus driver, “I may have left my eyes on Omaha Beach, but I ain't asking no charity from Uncle Sam. I got a job waiting for me in Seattle.” The driver asked, “You were in Normandy?” Ray replies, “Shuttling troopers to the beach. We took a direct hit.” What is going on in this scene?
  3. In the Rocking Chair nightclub, when Ray is unexpectedly offered a chance to play, we see him using a drug for the first time. Who gave it to him, and why? (There might be two reasons, maybe three.)
  4. Ray uses his hearing to compensate for his lack of sight. Can you remember examples of this from the film?
  5. When Ahmet Ertegun visits Ray Charles to explain that Ray's contract has been taken over by Atlantic Records, Ray says nothing about Atlantic. Later in the conversation, Ray explains, “Well, you know, I gotta keep my eye on you city boys. Down home, we call it 'country dumb'.” What does Ray mean by “country dumb”?
  6. During one of their early recording sessions, Ahmet Ertegun tells Ray Charles that “I signed you because I sensed something special in you, not because you sound like Nat Cole or Charles Brown.” Ray replies, “I thought you like what I do. … I don’t know no other way.” Ertegun concludes, “We got to help you find one.” What does he want, and why is Ray resisting?
  7. When Ray plays “I got a woman, way over town, she’s good to me” to Bea, he is singing about Bea herself. Why is she shocked and upset?
  8. “Ain't nothing free in this world but Jesus.” What does this line mean?
  9. When Ahmet tries to talk to Ray about his drug habit, Ray asks, “Who's the one who delivers a record in one take, hmm?” What is Ray trying to say? If you were Ahmet, how would you answer?
  10. When Jerry Wexler finds out that Ray has been talking to Sam Clark at ABC-Paramount Records, Wexler hits the roof: “Ahmet wouldn't believe it. You know what he said, Ray? He said you would never turn your back on us. Never for a schlockmeister like Sam Clark! That's rich. Sam Clark's a corporate slug, who wouldn't know the difference between Earl Hines and Art Tatum!” What is Wexler saying about Clark? Is that the main reason he’s upset with Ray?
  11. In the film, Ray Charles is arrested twice--once in Indianapolis, and once in Boston. Why was the second arrest so much more serious than the first?
  12. At the recovery clinic, Ray sees his mother and his brother in a dream. What do they tell him?
Useful phrases from the screenplay; note examples of “nonstandard” English
  • never let nobody or nothing turn you into no cripple [“invalid,” disabled person—in this case, a mental attitude as well as physical condition]
  • on the dot [right on time]
  • what axe you play? [axe=musical instrument other than drums]
  • Vice is on my a** for letting you underage kids in. [Vice=Vice Department of police]
  • new blood [fresh faces, new talent]
  • score big [achieve a big success OR obtain/use a large amount of narcotics]
  • double scale as leader plus 10% [scale=standard rate of payment per union contract]
  • he can flop at my place [flop=couch surf, be a short-term guest resident]
  • as green as a blade of grass [a complete noobie]
  • you keep me high while they talk the business?
  • straighten out and fly right
  • scratch a liar and find a thief
  • you two have been gaming me since I got here [gaming=deceiving, exploiting, or manipulating]
  • Y'all got to learn to read and write real good, so you never have to work for people like that.
  • don't tell mama nothing
  • the place where the Negro comes to spread his wings [act and feel free, relax, reach creative potential]
  • give me some skin [здоро́во]
  • the Lord done took him home [i.e., he died]
  • I'm not playing no more
  • This ain't no weed, Ray. And we ain't snorting no bitch. This is boy. Boy'll make your a** null and void. [weed=marijuana; bitch=cocaine; boy=heroin]
  • it's his funeral [i.e., he will have to deal with the consequences himself]
  • I won't beat around the bush with you [i.e., I'm going to tell you directly, honestly]
  • we call it “country dumb”
  • every now and then
  • to make a living
  • stride piano [jazz/blues piano style; left hand “strides” up and down the keyboard]
  • sharecropping [farming someone else's land for a share of the harvest]
  • she passed away [i.e., died]
  • she didn't want me carrying around no tin cup [i.e., begging, panhandling]
  • there's only seven cats on this record [cat=musician]
  • you're turning God's music into sex
  • without the church attitude
  • you can talk 'til you're blue in the face
  • I really dig your sound [dig=admire, understand]
  • [if] we try to make it through these cracker speed traps [African American slang: cracker=white person, or ignorant white person, or Southern white person]
  • ain't nothing free in this world but Jesus
  • and then you bend some crazy note
  • he's got that junkie itch . . . he's totally hooked
  • your slip is hanging
  • I've gone middle-of-the-road [i.e., conventional; no longer innovative or avant-garde]
  • I'm never playing to Jim Crow again. Ever. [Jim Crow=nickname for institutionalized racial segregation]
  • “hit the road, Jack” [i.e., get lost]
  • I won't have you living hand-to-mouth, like me [hand-to-mouth=in poverty, barely able to feed oneself]
  • I'm not playing to Jim Crow joints ever again
  • to lose your fan base
  • if I want to shoot up, I shoot up [take narcotics, especially by injection]
  • Ray Charles was banned from performing [placed on a list of those not allowed to perform]