Creatives and their art forms

English for Artists should highlight different art forms, e.g. profiling artists expressing themselves in the various media. The Thrash Lab vlog and YouTube playlist include a profile of Saber, a graffiti artist who has branched out. In this profile he describes the work that made him a name, similarities to typography, and how he reacts to young people today who engage in the illegal art of graffiti.

manifest something through the creative process
maintain a level of inspiration
my artist name is
I’m based in… and have been painting for X years
I knew that art was what I wanted, and graffiti was the venue that I chose.
Picture diving headfirst into your signature and making it your number one mission
Typography is held at a high level of design
We are master typographers
I was willing to risk my life and freedom
Something made me go do it
We were one of the first to use housepaint
I just took it from there
26 gallons of bucket paint were used
It just so happened to be the biggest piece in the world – the biggest illegal piece ever painted.
It became a home plate for graffiti
It takes years and years to stumble into those processes
My paintings represent 22 years of intense art-making

“Art gets a bad rap because it’s considered something that’s elite, and something that only an elite person can understand, when that’s not true. ’cause every single kid in the world picked up a crayon once and had that little spark.”

“There’s two kids I meet in the world. And there’s the kid who says, ‘Hey Saber, I’m so happy to meet you, and take the Facebook photo’ and I’m nice and I do it all, and then they say ‘Yeah, I’m a’go bombing tonight’ And I go ‘na, you should go on a computer, you know, you should do graphic design, you should get into school, that’s what’s your path is.’ And then I meet the kid who says ‘Wassup Saber’ and I go, ok, I feel it in him, and I go, ‘You know what, go crush those freeways’, because you know what, that’s all he has, and the alternative is a lot worse.”

Hasan Elahi: FBI, here I am

“The Visible Man”, Bangladeshi-born American Hasan Elahi, says that he was mistakenly included on the US government terrorist watch list — “and once you’re on, it’s hard to get off”. (Wired) In response, he has dedicated his work to surveillance culture and has put the minute details of his life and travels online. See his website and engaging and thought-provoking talk on TED.

If you’re learning English, don’t watch the video here, though; watch it on the TED site instead, where you can follow this, like most of the talks, in the interactive transcript. Click on any part of the transcript, and the video plays that part. If you’re practicing listening comprehension, keep the section very short, listen to it several times, and try to repeat his words with the same emphasis to get a sense of the way the speaker stresses some syllables (the stressed syllable in the words that carry meaning), and unstresses all the others. The TED talks, along with the fantastic English Central, and for everyday topics, Video Jug, are great for self-study listening comprehension.

Mind Your Language

I’m revising for the phonology orals now, trying to focus on typical areas that learners with different mother tongues need to work on. Had some fun with this. I was wondering whether it was offensive, but have come down on the side of funny. As one reviewer puts it “Yes, they were stereotypes, and it was deliberate. Put believable foreigners in there and you do not have a funny show.” Anna’s trouble with /v/ and /w/ is in part 2 at 9:25.

Mr. Jeremy Brown teaches an English class to a diverse group of ten foreign adult students in London, hailing from nine different countries. From Europe come two au pairs, the flirtatious and beautiful Danielle (France) and prim and proper Anna (Germany), two young single men, Giovanni (Italy) and Max (Greece) and a laid-back middle-aged bartender, Juan (Spain), who speaks no English at all. From Asia, come a revolutionary-minded secretary from the Chinese Embassy (Su-Li), a Japanese businessman (Taro) as well as three students from the Subcontinent, a devout Sikh (Ranjeet) and an unemployed Pakistani (Ali), who are constantly at each other’s throats, and finally a Hindi-speaking housewife (Jamila) who can’t speak a word of English. The school principal, Miss Delores Courtney, nearly dismisses Mr. Brown immediately as she had requested a female teacher, but he is allowed to stay on a trial basis. Mind Your Language, TV Series 1977-1986

Pigeon: Impossible

Pigeon Impossible, the silent animated film by Lucas Martell released on 9 November that took 4 years to make, passed the 1 million views mark on YouTube after less than 2 weeks online. The film is set in the neighborhood of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., where two of my nieces and I spent an enjoyable afternoon in October. I grew up in Cold War D.C. – I hope other teachers haven’t had exactly the same idea yet: Here’s my contribution of a lesson plan to the upcoming EFL blog carnival.

Target group: Adult education, Business English (group and one-to-one)

Level: multilevel, ca. B2

Language goals: 1. Speaking 2. report writing 3. spy/ thriller vocabulary (a one-to-one student is reading Le Carré) 4. predictions; 5. could/ coudn’t/ was able to (describing general ability vs. single achievements)

Material/ preparation: Go online to Watch film online. If not possible, download video “Pigeon: Impossible” (use Download Press Kit pdf to show film stills on screen. No handouts. Save those trees!


Pre 1: Present title of video “Pigeon: Impossible.” Predict genre. Revisit Mission: Impossible series 1966-1973; 1988-1990; film series with Tom Cruise. Use soundtrack or poster if necessary to help recall.

Pre 2: Hypothesize content of film. Brainstorm spy and Cold War vocabulary (e.g. for reference: to gather intelligence, secret agent, espionage, operation, operative, screen someone, be in disguise, conceal your identity, code/decode, crack codes, cypher/decypher, wiretap, detect surveillance, brief/debrief; Cold War, Berlin Wall, Iron Curtain, Star Wars, rocket, target, cruise missile, explosives)
Wordle: Spy and Cold War vocabulary

During: Watch film, and stop at likely places to ask “What will happen next?”

Watch film to about 1:50. Look at still of pigeon inside the briefcase. Collect and write up predictions (note grammar: I think, will probably, is likely to). (If teaching a group, let separate groups develop and present their scenarios.)

Watch to about 2:32 (pigeon has discovered that the suitcase can fly and is armed; man finds bagel again). Again, predict.

Watch to 4:04 (bagel has hit red button, Washington Monument turns into launching pad, rocket is underway to Russia). Again, predict.

Post 1: Reconstruct and summarize what happened: Contrast outcomes with predictions “I/we thought he would… and/but he…”

Post 2: Write “Incident on F Street” on the board. Make three columns. Headers: pigeon couldman couldn’t, man was able to

Tell students they are the man and will have to write a report to their line manager about the unforseen incident with the pigeon. (If you’re teaching a group, do this in pairs.) Tell them to concentrate on describing what the pigeon

  • could do with the additional powers at its disposal,
  • what they (as the man) couldn’t do to interfere and
  • what they (as the man) were ultimately able to do to stop pigeon and end the incident

Note grammar: contrast “could” for general ability with “was able to” for ability in a specific situation; couldn’t is more natural for negatives.

Have them use the film stills as guides. If they ask for it, watch the whole film again as they finalize their notes. Then they write reports. They pair up with another group to read each other their reports.

At least that’s what I’m planning to do. This is an action enquiry. I’ll let you know how it went later on this week in the comments. If you’re using this film in a different way, or have other ideas about how you would, I’d be delighted to read about it.

Blog Carnival archive - esl, efl, ell carnival

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Heaven Can Wait

Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg,  won best actress Cannes 2009 for Lars van Trier’s totally horrifying “Antichrist” after having gone through brain surgery (9/2007). These doubtlessly destabilizing experiences have gone into her collaboration with Beck on her album IRM. The “Heaven can wait” song video (Keith Schofield) gives us “the dregs of the world”, the freaks noone wants: guys with a nacho bomb; a pancake monster; a gangster in a lousy Sponge Bob costume; a man being chased by an axe with a mind of its own. Nothing and noone you’d want to meet in your dreams. Thank you, Ms. Gainsbourg and Beck, for a dark, experimental, gorgeous album.

sediment that has settled at the bottom of a liquid (e.g. dregs of wine); residue or remains; British slang: a despicable person


She’s sliding, she’s sliding down to the dregs of the world
She’s fighting, she’s fighting the urge to make sand out of pearls

Heaven can wait and hell’s too far to go
Somewhere between what you need and what you know
And they’re trying to drive the escalator into the ground

She’s hiding, she’s hiding on a battleship of baggage and bones
There’s thunder, there’s lightning in an avalanche of faces you know


You left your credentials in a greyhound station
with a first aid kit and a flashlight
Going to a desert unknown

CHORUS interview

PS: If you decide to buy the album, get the deluxe edition on iTunes for the interesting interviews with Charlotte and Beck.

song of the week :-) englisch lernen mit liedern

Fly tricks: Early science films

Source: New Scientist


“(Percy Smith) made a gimcrack device made up of a see-saw and two old tin cans. The tin cans slowly filled up with water, and when it would reach the bottom, clunk! it fired the shutter of the camera. And using this extraordinary home-made piece of aparatus, Percy Smith made the very beautiful film, Birth of a Flower.”

“The acrobatic fly was a bit of a close-up film-make, rather than shot through a microscope. And what Percy did was to tie the fly down with a tiny piece of silk thread, and then just pass small objects to the fly. It looked as though the fly was juggling, and that is what the public saw. But in actual fact, Percy came to the conclusion that the fly was just doing what came naturally to it, i.e. trying to walk.”

(I was reading up on Charles Urban when I stumbled upon this film.)