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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.