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

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
face off
would not go unanswered
throw barbs
secure the legacy
collision course
kneel to
ratchet up
stress test
is to blame for, was to blame for
real or imagined
bring about, fail to bring about
surge (noun and verb)
rush (noun)
roll back
dig in
run a tight ship
soaring rhetoric
pejorative (adj and noun)
counter (verb)
in the trenches, into the trenches
swagger, swaggering

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" by 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.

'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:

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
dip my toes
drawn to
in tow
craft the world around
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
girl next door
Eighties Benetton
face that launched a thousand ships
run the gamut
boil over
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.

Questions for listening comprehension: (for those who saw the video I showed in class)
  1. Did Buddy Guy’s mother live long enough to hear him play as a famous musician?
  2. Where did he grow up? In what kind of neighborhood?
  3. How old was he when he first experienced “running water”? (What is “running water”?)
  4. Did his family have electricity?
  5. One day, while his mother was combing her hair in a broken mirror, what did Buddy Guy say to her?
  6. Without “cracking a smile” (changing her expression), how did she respond to him?
  7. Does Buddy Guy agree with what she said? How do we know?
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
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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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

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?

audition (noun and verb)
of its kind
brush the dust off
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: purchase link Arcade Fire purchase link Sarah Lov 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


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


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)
solidarity (with)
the crash (or the Crash)
the land of plenty
fraught (a fraught subject)
mystery dishes, mystery food
let-me-eat-cake ("Let them eat cake")
sophisticate (noun)
got back on its feet