Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I know this clip is old, and that it's become so popular as a meme that referencing it is somewhat of  a cliche by now, but I can't find anything else that so perfectly expresses the way I feel every time I turn on the news.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dirty Bertie: An English King Made in France by Stephen Clarke

(Book Review)

Why I Read This Book
Living in Asia, the selection of English books is limited. So I often find myself reading books that wouldn't particularly have caught my attention back home.

This is one of those books.  I was in the mood for a history book, the selection of English books at my local bookstore in Saigon was severely limited, and so I ended up with this.

I had no complaints about the subject nature of the book--the actual subject matter of the book is in my area of interest (I'm interested in Victorian Era History, and also the Paris Commune--both of which figure in this book--and I've always felt that Prince Bertie was an interesting guy).  But the book cover didn't quite look like it would scratch my itch for a good history yarn.

(While it's true that I like narrative histories rather than serious academic studies, I still prefer narrative histories that get into some of the juicy details and immerse themselves in the story.  This book looked like it was mostly fluff).

And (spoiler alert) my initial reservations about this book turned out to be correct.

But it was short and readable enough, so I breezed through it in a couple of weeks.  And here I am with my review.

Background

Before I get into critiquing the merits of this books, I'll give some brief background on the subject.

Before he was King Edward VII of England, the son of Queen Victoria spent most of his life known as Bertie.
Bertie was an interesting figure, partly because he essentially spent his entire life just waiting around to become king.  He occupied the position of Prince of Wales for longer than any of his predecessors. Because Queen Victoria refused to die for so many years, Bertie didn't become King until he was 60. (Although, assuming he outlives his mother, the current Prince of Wales will one day beat that record--Prince Charles is 67 now.)

Bertie's parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were famously very puritanical about sex, cigars and alcohol.  Bertie infamously went in the exact opposite direction, and was a womanizer, drinker, smoker and playboy his entire life.  (Bertie appears to have been one of these rich playboys who have an extended adolescents that lasts into their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s).
The family drama of Queen Victoria's prudism versus Prince Bertie's libertinism always makes for interesting reading.
Queen Victoria was constantly tearing her hair out trying to control her son. Bertie, for his part, spent most of his adult life trying to resist being controlled by his mother.
Queen Victoria was sure Bertie would be a terrible king, but in the end Bertie handled the responsibilities of kingship very well.

(Sidenote: Apparently Shakespeare's portrayal of the mischievous Prince  -Hal is largely fictional--we don't actually have any historical records that King Henry V was irresponsible in his youth.  (W)  However, Bertie's transformation into King Edward VII is a great example of a real life Prince Hal story.)

The Review
Having explained why any book with Prince Bertie as the subject has the potential to be interesting, let me now get to the merits of this particular book.

Stephen Clarke's background is not as historian, but as a comedy writer (W).  Serious students of history should stay well away from this book.  (But then, of course you already knew that just by looking at the cover art.)

However if, like me, you enjoy history as a hobby, and want to be entertained and amused by history, then having a comedian as your guide is all the better.

And the good news is that Stephen Clarke can write very readable, witty prose.

I would have been quite content to read Stephen Clarke's version of a comic biography on Prince Bertie.  But the problem is that this isn't really a biography.  It's trying to make an argument, and in my mind it doesn't make a convincing case, and also spreads itself too thin trying to cover too many things at once.

The central argument of the book is in two parts, and goes like this:
1) Prince Bertie was very attracted to the debauchery going on in Paris during the 19th century, and in fact it was the French culture that shaped Bertie's character.
2). As a result of receiving his education in the night clubs of Paris, Bertie became a great at managing social situations.  Which in turn made him a great diplomat when he finally became King.  Which in turn, made him the one man who was able to handle the unhinged Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Stephen Clarke argues that as King, Bertie was able to delay World War I during his lifetime.  And further argues that if Bertie had lived 4 years longer, World War I would never have happened.

It's an interesting argument, but the problem is that it means that this slim little book is essentially juggling 3 stories at once.  It is at once a biography of Prince Bertie, and at the same time a social history of Paris during the 19th Century, and at the same time a story about the relationship between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Bertie.

All of these are interesting stories in their own right, but as a result of them all being crammed into the same book,  none of them are done full justice.  For, example, we get a very brief biographical sketch of Prince Bertie, but only the bare-bones details of his life, and not enough to get immersed in the story.

The second problem is that, despite Stephen Clarke's best efforts, it appears the connections between the different narrative threads are tenuous.

The decadence of Paris during the end of the Second Empire is well documented (See: Paris Babylon by Rupert Christiansen, among other books), so Stephen Clarke is on firm footing there.  Where he seems to be stretching is when he tries to say that connect all the decadent stories of Paris directly to Bertie's life, and to then claim that Paris molded Bertie into the man he would become.

To my mind, Stephen Clarke never really firmly connects what was happening in Paris to the story of Prince Bertie.
Now, I'm not an expert by any means.  I don't know what the historical data actually says.  But just as a casual reader, I can tell Stephen Clarke is stretching the evidence just by his use of modal verbs.
"Bertie probably thought..."
"Bertie must have seen..."
"Bertie could not have failed to..."
"Bertie undoubtedly..."
"It is probable that Bertie also..."

The entire book is just speculation.  Stephen Clarke essentially spends 364 pages saying, "Look, we Prince Bertie was a very naughty boy.  And we know that some very naughty things were going on in Paris at the time.  So....You do the math!"

To be fair, Stephen Clarke does have a handful of actual real stories about Bertie getting up to mischief in Paris.  But not enough to pad out his whole book.  So he just fills the rest of the book with speculation.

An example of how extremely thin Stephen Clarke's evidence appears to be is his over-reliance on  Nola by Emile Zola (a fictional novel) as proof of the mischief that Prince Bertie got up to in Paris.  Initially Stephen Clark introduces Nola as what it is--a fictional story that may or may not have been loosely based on some real life incidents--but then as he gets carried away with his arguments, a few pages later, he drops the caveats completely, and starts quoting from Nola as if it were real life.

The evidence is stretched just as thin on the other argument as well--arguing that Bertie (King Edward VII) single-handedly kept World War I at bay.
Again, I'm no expert.  But the story Stephen Clarke shows is stretched so thin, you can just see the holes even without doing any research.  Stephen Clarke presents Edwardian diplomacy as if it was just based on the whims of the monarchs, ignoring that both Edward VII and Kaiser Wilhelm II had limited power in their respective constitutional monarchy systems.

 Although Stephen Clarke does show that at times, Bertie was able to calm Kaiser Wilhelm II down, he omits the fact that just as often Bertie's high-handed attitude towards his nephews would inflame Kaiser Wilhelm's anger (at least, according to Wikipedia (W).)

The book reaches its most desperate point on pages 354-357, when Stephen Clarke attempts to demonstrate that Bertie would have prevented World War I by imagining a fictional conversation between Bertie and the rest of the heads of state of Europe following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.  The description of this fictional scene contains narrative such as this:
"...By now his audience of royal males would have been stroking their decorative facial hair.  At least half won over, they would have been ripe for Bertie's clinching argument..." (p.355)
I suppose this kind of unhistorical imagining is excusable in a comedy-history book that was never really meant to be a serious study.  But then a few pages later, Stephen Clarke has the chutzpah to say

"Nowadays Bertie's role in keeping the First World War at bay is generally underestimated or even ignored. Most people seem to see the conflict as a machine that was gaining momentum throughout the first decade of the twentieth century, and would have broken loose whatever anyone did. I hope that this book has shown that things could have been different. Bertie really could have cooled the hotheads, and convinced the world not to go to war over so trifling a matter as the shooting of an Austrian Archduke who was unpopular with his own emperor." (p.361)
Excuse me?  This book has shown nothing!  An imagined conversation that Bertie might have had at an imagined meeting between Europe's monarchs?!  It's interesting speculation, but that's as much as I'm willing to grant it.

So that's complaint number one.  Too little story in this book, and too much speculation.

Complaint number two is more of a personal bias--I tend to prefer narrative history to social history.  I like to hear history as a story, not as a description.
Stephen Clarke ends up spending a lot of time describing the social scene in Paris during the 1860s and 1890s, and so these sections caused me to lose interest.  But that's just me.  If you like social history, you'll enjoy this book more than I did.

**************************

As I read through this book, I began to re-evaluate my opinion on how interesting a figure Prince Bertie really was.  Perhaps, as it turned out, he wasn't interesting enough to base a whole book around.
There's a certain romanticism associated with the teenage rebel, and so we can all cheer on the youthful Prince Bertie as he rebels from his parents and breaks free of his restrictive upbringing.
But the same characteristics are less attractive in a man of 40 or 50.  When Bertie was a young man and horrified his parents with his drinking and womanizing, it was interesting family drama.  But when Bertie is in his 40s and 50s, and still his only major life accomplishments are sleeping around a lot, and smoking and drinking, his story is beginning to look less interesting.

On the Plus Side
Despite all my complaints about this book, I will admit to learning a lot of interesting things along the way.
Flawed though the book is, there are lots of interesting little tidbits of information scattered throughout it.  I suppose that might be enough to give this a cautious recommendation to other history geeks.
The thing that made the biggest impression on me is how completely crazy Kaiser Wilhelm II was.  I thought maybe Stephen Clarke might have been exaggerating his character, so I looked Kaiser Wilhelm up on Wikipedia to double check it, and, yeah, he appears to just have been out of his mind.  Check out the Wikipedia bio here (W).
The Daily Telegraph Affair (which is infamous enough to have it's own Wikipedia entry--here) is another little interesting bit I learned from this book.

Connections With Other Books I've Read

Prince Bertie/King Edward VII made several appearances in the Flashman series.  In Flashman and the Redskins, Flashman describes their relationship thusly:

King Teddy's company is something I'd sooner avoid than not, anyway, for he's no better than an upper-class hooligan. Of course, he's been pretty leery of me for forty-odd years (ever since I misguided his youthful footsteps into an actress's bed, in fact, and brought Papa Albert's divine wrath down on his fat head) and when he finally wheezed his way on to the throne I gather he thought of dropping me altogether - said something about my being Falstaff to his Prince Hal. 
In Flashman and the Tiger, one of the three stories revolves around Prince Bertie and the Royal Baccarat Scandal (W).

And King Edward VII is also a supporting character in Mr American.

Prince Bertie also popped up in the mini-biography I read about Queen Victoria, and in Monarchy by David Starkey.
Prince Bertie's 1860 tour of America (something mentioned briefly by Stephen Clarke) was also mentioned briefly by Amanda Foreman in A World on Fire.

Several times, Stephen Clarke mentions the Schleswig-Holstein problem as a sticking point in British-Prussian relations in the 19th century, and George MacDonald Fraser devotes a whole Flashman book point--Royal Flash.

Many of the diplomatic tensions in Europe around this period resulted from the Scramble for Africa, my knowledge of which comes primarily from Thomas Pakenham's excellent book on the subject.
For example, Stephen Clarke devotes pages 301-306 to describing the Fashoda crisis (W) and Bertie's role in it.
I had already known about Fashoda from Thomas Pakenham, but Stephen Clarke adds a little extra tidbit that I did not know--apparently this incident is still a sore point in France even today.

If you ask any French patriot to list the low points in Anglo-British relations, they will probably begin with recrimminations about Joan of Arc and St Helena, before spitting out a strange word: "Fashoda"This is the name of a diplomatic incident that still rankles with the French, all the more so because hardly any Brits have ever heard of it. (Clarke, p.301)
As an Englishman who spends most of his time living in France, I guess Clarke would know.

The other big event that occurred during this time period was, of course, the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune.  And so this book also fits in with my Paris Commune reading list.
The Paris Commune wasn't the central focus of this book by any means, but it does take the focus from pages 169-176.
The most interesting detail I learned from this section was that General Marquis de Gallifet, who pops up in most histories of the Paris Commune as a savage butcher of the Paris proletariat, was actually a good friend of Prince Bertie.

Nitpicks
I think I've spotted a couple mistakes in this book.

On pages 176-177.  (I'll quote the whole paragraph to set the scene, but my issue is only with the last sentence):

Despite his friendship with Napoleon and Eugenie, Bertie was for obvious reasons a royalist at heart, as were many of his Parisian friends.  And in 1871 the Comte had a real chance of stepping in to take power, because, unlike Louis-Philippe, he was a man of action.  In the early 1860s, he had got bored in exile and gone to fight in the American Civil War--not, as we might imagine of a French conservative, on the Confederate side, but with the anti-slavery Union.  He had even seen action in battle, at Gaine's Mill in June 1862, although it is surely a coincidence that the presence of a French aristocrat in the Union army led to one of its only defeats of the whole war.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Union army suffer a lot of defeats and set-backs before eventually winning the Civil War?

And one more nitpick from page 195:

Bertie was emboldened by the fact that the moralist Gladstone had lost a general election and been replaced by the worldlier Benjamin Disraeli, so that it looked as if his mother had been deprived of an ally in her war against her son's French indiscretions.
While there's no technical falsehoods in that sentence, it's leaving a false impression, so I'm going to go ahead and nitpick it.
The implication is that Queen Victoria would have been upset about Gladstone losing the general election to Disraeli, but in fact Queen Victoria was overjoyed.  She hated Gladstone and loved Disraeli.

Child Psychology
While reading this book, I began thinking about how the life of Prince Bertie indicates that so many of the proverbs about child-rearing are complete nonsense.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." says the Bible  (Proverbs 22:6)
Or
"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Proverbs 13:24).

Bertie spent his entire childhood not being spared the rod, and also having the moralistic values of his parents shoved down his throat, and yet he still rebelled against everything he had been brought up with.
In fact, as Stephen Clarke argues, he rebelled against it precisely because it had been so oppressive in his childhood.  As Clarke writes on pages 13

"Young Bertie was ordered to write essays for his father, each one of which provoked a paternal report to the effect that they were below standard and that he needed to study even harder. When the frustrated boy rebelled with foot-stomping, furniture-throwing tantrums, he was given a sound flogging by Albert."

and later 14-15

"It was, of course, entirely thanks to this tyrannical upbringing that Bertie would rebel and turn into exactly the kind of gambling, philandering playboy that his parents abhorred.  But then a very similar pattern was being repeated for most upper-class British males at the time, so Victoria and Albert were only applying an extreme form of current educational thinking."
Stephen Clarke seems to be arguing, "if you try to force good values on a child, they will grow up to do the exact opposite."

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky: The Crimes of U.S. Presidents

Doraemon PowerPoint Game: Changing Past Passive Sentences into Active Sentences

(TESOL Worksheets--Past Simple, Past Simple Passive)
Google: drive, docs, pub
The format for this PowerPoint presentation was created by Kyle Ludeke.  My contribution was just to plug in the sentences.
The sentences are presented in the past simple passive, and the students have to transform them into the past simple active.
I used this activity to Supplement Life Pre-Intermediate Textbook 7E Applying for a Job.  The focus of that lesson was to use active verbs in a resume instead of passive verbs.  However, I think this can also work with any lesson on the past simple passive.

Monday, August 22, 2016

TEFLology Episode 48: Pokemon Go, Tsuda Umeko, and Storytelling

(TEFLology Podcast)

A new episode of TEFLology is online now here.  Actually once again, I'm several days late on this, and it's been up since last Wednesday.

But better late than never, here I am with my review.

I'll admit this wasn't my favorite episode of TEFLology, but let me attempt to be fair, by acknowledging how difficult it must be to consistently produce a bi-weekly podcast.

If I was doing a TELF podcast, for example, I could maybe do about 5 episodes before I exhausted all my areas of interest in the field.  These guys are on episode 48 by now.  It must be really tough to keep coming up with new and interesting content.

But that being said... yeah, this wasn't my favorite episode.  I didn't find any of this week's topics particularly interesting.

...Or at least that is to say, I didn't find the topics inherently interesting in-and-of themselves.  What saves this show, and makes this podcast still fun to listen to, is the terrific banter these guys have back and forth with each other.  So even though I thought the idea of exploring Pokemon Go on a TEFL show was pretty stupid, I still enjoyed a lot of the jokes these guys had back and forth among themselves.

Anyway, the topics for this week were:
Storytelling,
Tsuda Umeka and
Pokemon Go.

I'll list my thoughts about each topic below.

Storytelling

In this segment, the TEFLologist discuss a new study that examines the benefits of being a good story teller, based off of this Washington Post Article: Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love. Studies find the way people tell their own stories has an outsize effect on their life satisfaction

I, however, was skeptical about the value of this study.

For example, take this quote from the article (which was also mentioned in the TEFLology podcast),

Research shows that the way people construct their individual stories has a large impact on their physical and mental health. People who frame their personal narratives in a positive way have more life satisfaction.
This seems to me like a classic "correlation does not equal causation" fallacy.  It's not at all clear to me that people have more life satisfaction because they frame their personal narratives in a positive way.  In fact, the cause and effect is probably the reverse.  If you have more life satisfaction, you're more likely to frame your personal narratives in a positive way.
Plus, how are they measuring life satisfaction anyway?  The article never says, but presumably it's by participants' self-reporting, right?  And what is a personal narrative? It's also a form of self-reporting, right?
Which means that this article is essentially saying: "People who self reported positive things about their life were more likely to self report positive things about their life."

So count me underwhelmed by this study.

The second part of the study was that: "women find men who are good storytellers more appealing."

Actually this part I can easily believe.
I noticed a long time ago that guys who are smooth talkers can get a lot of women even if they aren't particularly physically attractive. Keeping a women entertained, and making her laugh, seem to be the key to winning a woman's affection.  (These are all skills I'm terrible at, so I've had no personal experience with this, but I've observed other guys do it often enough.  Also, Neil Strauss devotes a whole book to chronicling how otherwise unattractive guys can become great at picking up women if they just master the smooth talk.)

I believe storytelling skills are a part of smooth talking, so I'd believe this part of the study easily enough--even if I thought this wasn't so much "news" as it was just common sense.

But even so, I'm skeptical of the shoddy methodology of the study, which appeared to be just presenting women with pictures of men, and telling them that some of these men were good storytellers, and some were not.

What is nice about  TEFLology, however, is that the discussion format of the podcast means that any claim advanced by one TEFLologist seldom goes unchallenged by the other two.  So just as I was thinking that this study didn't really prove anything, one of the other TEFLologists gave voice to my skepticism.

"It seems to me like a strange thing, I mean, just saying you've got three people: one of them has a positive trait, one of them has a medium trait, one of them has a poor trait, which one do you prefer?  And the only thing you know about them is that this one has this positive trait," said one TEFLologist.
Yeah, those were my thoughts exactly.

Another TEFLologist countered that the study wasn't only about storytelling traits, but also physical attractiveness.
But physical attractiveness is such a subjective variable that I find it difficult to believe it was adequately controlled for.  As the TEFLologist responded: "Yeah, but different people prefer different types, so..."

What does all this have to do with teaching English?
Well, one of the TEFLologists was arguing that we should be teaching our students more storytelling skills, because this study demonstrated storytelling skills have great value in life.

Possibly.  Although speaking personally, I'd need a lot more training before I was prepared to teach any story telling skills.  I'd need to learn these skills myself before I could teach them.

In terms of getting students to listen to stories, however, I am all about using stories in the English Classroom.
In my own Young Learner classes, although I don't teach them productive story telling skills, much of the class is based on learning English through stories.
In each class, I try to spend some time watching a movie (which is a narrative) and some time reading a story from a graded reader.
(A colleague who observed one of my classes once commented to me that my entire class seemed to be based off of listening and reading stories in one form or another).
This is partly because of my belief that Young Learners learn English best through comprehensible input, and partly based off of a comment a former manager of mine once said to me.  "People don't want to learn a language because they like studying grammar," he said.  "People learn languages so they can have access to the stories and culture of that language."

Tsuda Umeko
This was part of the TEFL Pioneers section of the podcast, a segment in which the TEFLologists look at the lives of famous English teachers.

This segment was good for what it was.  The TEFLologists did a good job of recounting the life of Tsuda Umeko and her contribution to English teaching in Japan.
...assuming you're interested in this kind of thing.  Which I wasn't particularly.

I'll be honest, I don't find the TEFL Pioneers segment of this podcast particular useful.
As someone who listens to this podcast primarily for professional development, I am not really interested in the biographies of TEFL teachers.  I'd be interested in the theories they developed, particularly if those theories are still influential today.  (So I enjoyed the previous episode's discussion on Alan Waters).  But I'm not particularly interested in learning about people who opened new schools, or who were the first to start teaching English in their part of the world.

Sidenote: Of the books on Tsuda Umeko's reading list, I was familiar with A Tale of Two Cities.

Pokemon Go

I remember in a past episode (I forget which particular one) the TEFLologists were talking about a paper they saw presented at a conference which talked about the benefits of using Angry Birds to teach English.

You get the sense that these poor guys have been to way too many academic TEFL conferences, and have seen way too many TEFLers desperate to get published by shamelessly exploiting the latest pop culture trends.

The cynicism comes through in the episode, and the cynicism in and of itself is amusing.
"I reckon at next year's or any conferences coming up it's going to be: 'The Effects of INSERT POKEMON GO on INSERT ENGLISH, INSERT SKILL, reading INSERT...Using Pokemon Go to INSERT something..."

Spoken like a man who's had to sit through too many of these awful academic conferences.

So the cynicism about the TEFL academic conferences and publishing industry was amusing.
And also in this section particularly, the banter between the three TEFLologists was particularly good.  I found myself chuckling a bit at their various back and forths.

But in practical terms for my own classroom, I didn't get anything useful out of this section.

Oh well... for a bi-weekly podcast, it doesn't do to be too demanding.

Sausage Party

(Movie Review)

Why I Saw This Movie
This movie was not even on my radar until it came out a couple weeks ago, and then I started seeing reviews for it pop up all over the Internet.   (See here, here, here and here, for example). And the reviews made it sound like the movie might just be bizarre and twisted enough to be kind of interesting.

To the best of my knowledge, this movie is not hitting cinemas in Vietnam (where I'm currently living), but a pirated copy was uploaded to Kisscartoon, and I watched it there.

[The link is HERE, for anyone else who's interested.  The quality of the video isn't great--it's a video camera in a cinema type deal--but it's adequate for at least getting the idea of what this movie is about.]

I know, I'm a bad person for watching an illegal copy.  But since seeing it in the cinema wasn't an option over here, I'm giving myself a pass.
Plus, when I read that Sausage Party had created terrible conditions for their workers, and forced them to work unpaid overtime, I felt even less guilty about it.
See Washington Post Article: The working conditions for some ‘Sausage Party’ animators were pretty terrible
  (Seriously, if Hollywood is not going to pay the workers who actually work on their movies, then why should we consumers feel guilty about not paying to watch it?  If all that money is just going to the CEO's pocket anyway, and not to the actual workers, I feel zero guilt.)

That being said, I am able to separate my feelings about the conditions on the production of the film from the review of the actual merits of the film itself.  And on the whole, I liked this film

Positives
* A brilliant parody of the Pixar movies.
When watching a Pixar movie, I'm sure I'm not the only person who has thought: "Actually, if these inanimate objects really were sentient, in reality they would have a very hellish existence".  Of course to acknowledge this would be to ruin the whole Pixar film, so we have to constantly fight to keep that thought out of our brain when enjoying something like Toy Story.
Which is all the more reason why it feels very liberating to have a film openly acknowledge this fact, and take it as its main premise.

* The philosophy of this film is clever.
Like The Invention of Lying before it, this film does a very good job of dramatizing how much of religious "truth" appears to be based on wish fulfillment rather than a rational examination of the evidence.

* The humor is dark, and sick, and twisted.  I know that probably should be a negative, but it's also what makes this film so interesting.
Stories like this are unpredictable.  You never know what sick twisted plot twists the film makers are going to throw in next.  No character is safe.  And therein lies the interest of the film.

Negatives
* Ever since South Park and Family Guy, it's been fashionable for hip comedians to try to offend everyone.  And this is true in this movie as well.  There's things in here designed to offend both the religious right, and also to offend the left.
Since this is the intent, it seems counterproductive to complain about it.  The moment I've admitted I'm offended, it's a victory for the film makers.
But that being said, I don't understand what constructive purpose is served by the continued use of ethnic stereotypes.
It just seems to be perpetrating the myth that the human race is divided into us and them--that there are normal people, like ourselves, and then there are all the strange foreigners.

* A lot of comedy writers seem to think that sex is inherently funny, but it's often not as funny as Hollywood thinks it is.
There's a certain shock value associated with breaking taboos, which can make sexual humor seem funny for a little bit.  But once that shock value wears off, then the joke has to earn its laugh on its own merits.  Sexual innuendos are, in-and-of-themselves, not enough to earn a laugh just by existing.
Unfortunately, the jokes in this movie get lazy by assuming sexual innuendos are inherently funny.

The Review
A bizarre little story that easily held my interest just by being so bizarre.
In a world where Hollywood movies are getting increasingly predictable, this movie was anything but.  (No one could have predicted the bizarre plot twists and turns that this movie would take).
The humor in this film was good in the broad strokes as a genre parody, but at an individual level, most of the jokes failed to make me laugh.
Still, it held my interest for the 90 minutes.

Rating
7 out of 10 stars--I'd recommend this movie with caution--there are a lot of sick jokes in this movie--but if you're cool with that, it's worth seeing.

Links
Movie Bob's review of this movie was one of the factors that made me interested to see this movie in the first place, and his commentary on the movie is a lot more intelligent than mine.



Link of the Day
noam chomsky and varoufankis

Life Pre-Intermediate Textbook: 7E Applying for a Job p.89

(Supplemental Materials for Specific Textbooks--Life Pre-Intermediate)


Lead in Questions (docs, pub)
Write 4 Sentences (docs, pub) (A worksheet used to supplement the activity in the book)
Similar or different (docs, pub) (After writing the four sentences, the students have to walk around the room and check to see if their classmates have had the same experiences as them or not.)

Applying for Jobs

Have you ever applied for a job before?  

How many jobs have you applied for?

Have you ever written a CV before?

What information did you include on the CV?

What was the most difficult thing about writing a CV?

In your country, are CVs supposed to be handwritten or typed?

In your country, what information are you supposed to include on your CV?

In your country, should you include personal hobbies on your CV, or only business details?

Write 4 sentences about a job you have done.  Use action verbs

1.


2.


3.


4.












Write 4 sentences about a job you have done.  Use action verbs

1.


2.


3.


4.

Classmate name
similar tasks to me
different tasks to me







































Sunday, August 21, 2016

Below are various links that I used to make a lesson on describing photos:

Describe a Photo or Picture from the British Council Website
I also used their various worksheets here, here, here, here and here.
I also used materials and photos from this website here, and here.

[In an effort to keep track of useful materials--so I can find it again when I need it--I'm collecting links to stuff that I've had good luck with using in class. I'm indexing it, along with my own materials, over here  and here .]

I used these materials to supplement a lesson in the Lifestyle Elementary Textbook on describing photos.  But I think it can also be used independently of the textbook, so I'm posting it here.

I also used this material in conjunction with this slideshow on describing famous historical photographs.

I also put together a google slides presentation to guide my students through this.  And I designed a couple of worksheets.

Google Slides (slides, pub)
Worksheet 1 (docs, pub)
Worksheet 2 (docs, pub)