M is for the movers and shakers

Movers and shakers are people who initiate change and influence events, now most often applied to the rich and powerful in politics and business. The public perception of the term began after the first performance of Sir Edward Elgar’s  choral work The Music Makers, in 1912. The work is a setting of Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1874 poem ‘Ode’. That poem singles out poets and musicians as those who guide our thinking:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

You may know the famous first lines of that poem as spoken by Willy Wonka, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

The premise of Roald Dahl’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) asks: what would an industrial factory engaged in mass production look like if it was built by a fantasist, dreamer, and romantic in a world dominated by pragmatists, realists, and materialists. In this lonely island, Wonka wonders who will inherit his life’s work and hopes that in the next generation of children there might still be romantics. His sampling of youth via the lottery tickets provides a referendum on Charlie’s generation. The selected tourists to Wonka’s candyland are a fools gallery of technocrats, capitalists, hedonists… and opportunists. – Aharon Varady

E is for eating

Nobody spotted the dwarf yesterday, eh? Pity, such a sweet little one, I wonder where George found him. Now for advent calendar day 5:

“Eat your words!” (Nimm alles zurück!) ... and Milo does. The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) takes him into a parallel world where you have to eat words to use them. — I’m always nibbling on mine.

Highlights from the book: Milo meets the Whether Man (“for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be”),  and picks up a watchdog named Tock (who has a giant alarm clock for a body). Milo and Tock then set off toward the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the twin Princesses, Rhyme and Reason. In jail, they meet a Which named Faintly Macabre, who used to pick which words were used for which purpose. But she was a very bad which, because she decided to keep all the good words for herself.

Also see the review by Gregory McNamee

Margaret Atwood at Literaturhaus

It’s rare to come face to face with an author you admire and go away feeling as empty as I did last night. Margaret Atwood read far less from The Year of The Flood than I would have wanted. Long passages of the translation into German were “played” with spunk by a fine young actress, Lisa Wagner. The author, by contrast, read out her passages slowly, knowingly. Her comment on the German reading: “I wrote that?!?” Interesting.

The two would have made for an arresting contrast there on the podium, but for the host, sitting stage center, self-important, blundering into stupid questions. Things got a little out of hand and I was thinking, ach, man, can’t you just go outside and play? Bah.

Ms Atwood in the café afterwards

Margaret Atwood three weeks ago on her book


“Wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like paté.”
— Margaret Atwood

THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND, by Meg Rutherford

Far, far away is a beautiful island
of enchanting lakes and green, dreaming pastures.
In other lands, the houses were lonely
or crowded or crippled or else could not breathe.
The birds heard their sighs, and flew to them crying:
‘Travel with us to the isle of contentment.’
Three little towers first had the courage
…..then two sad memorials
…..and a lone mountain church.
From the east and the west
they excitedly hurried,
cathedrals and palaces, manors and cottages…..
bravely they travelled
through dark, winding passes,
over vast, windswept gorges
and sun-beaten deserts
where people and furniture…..
…..were sometimes mislaid.
The heavier houses lingered and rested
while others on rivers
drifted down to the sea. Then, alas!
the wind whipped the waves
and the sea became strewn with
the wreckage of houses.
So some crossed by tunnel…..
…..and some by baloon…..
…..till they came one by one
to the Beautiful Island,
where at last the houses found
sunshine and peace.
There on the island
they can float on the rivers,
there are bowers for lovers
or nooks for the shy…..
and for the sun-weary
the shade of cool caverns…..
and dancing and happiness and
JOY WITHOUT END.

This is only the text of the marvelous collage novella that gave this blog its name. Meg Rutherford created splendid collages of old black and white prints. Miraculously, her book is still on the market. Published in hard cover in London by George Allen and Unwin Ltd in 1969.

From the blurb: “Comparable only with the work of Max Ernst and René Magritte, THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND is an unparalleled adventure in the use of collage. A story? A poem? An idyll? An allegory? It is a joyful, wistful architectural fantasy that will, it is hoped, capture the hearts of artists and dreamers, adults and children.
Meg Rutherford was born in Australia in 1932 and came to London in 1958 to study at the Slade School of Art. Principally a sculptress, her work was first exhibited in 1961 and since then has been shown in many galleries …”

Making questions

Helmut and I are using some of my teaching materials here so he can improve his English. We’ve never spoken English with each other, because I’m an English teacher and there’s always this slight feeling of hierarchy in a teacher-student relationship, which doesn’t do a marriage any good. But here we are, and he wants to work on his skills, so we do. Anyway, the materials I’ve brought along include my very favorite ones, namely a set of grammar cards published by Brain-Friendly Publications, a publisher dedicated to Accellerated Learning, “whole brain” teaching, NLP, Suggestopedia and so on, written and illustrated by a wonderful teacher and teacher trainer, Mark Fletcher. This publisher now has e-books, too, but both my husband and I are hands-on types, and having cards on the table or on the beach towel is simply lovely.

Yesterday he had me in stitches (Freunde, that means: laughing my head off) as we worked with a card that asks the student to make questions to go with answers that are given on a card (and the teacher then needs to answer the questions). The answers Helmut had to work with were:

  • No. I’ve got an awful headache.
  • Very well, thanks. I’m almost finished.
  • You switch it on and press the ‘start’ button.

I’m not going to tell you what his questions were. And, no, I didn’t get the answers “right”.

Englischlernen mit Blogs is as easy as 1,2,3

If you are practicing English online by yourself, here are three lovely blogs written especially for you to start with. Each one is special in its own way:

1. Der Englisch-Blog

Dieser Blog von Markus Brendel ist auf Deutsch geschrieben und erklärt täglich entweder einen Ausdruck oder eine Frage aus der Grammatik. Gestern hat Markus beispielsweise das sehr aktuelle Thema “Dienstwagen” präsentiert, und ich habe mich total nach Washington, DC versetzt gefühlt, wo die dicken schwarzen “official cars” mit Tatü, Tata! durch die Straßen düsen. Nicht zu verwechseln mit dem “company car”, den Dolce fährt. Und heute geh’s um den Begriff “mad as a hatter” aus Alice in Wonderland.

2. Bite-Sized English

Toby features great topics of everyday life, like getting ready for a baby (which I think he is doing right now) as well as very practical, specialized business English topics. He provides a daily podcast and a worksheet to print out. Often he will feature the same topic several days in a row as a series, so you can really concentrate on it. Right now the topic is cars, or “Automotive English“. I wonder whether he’ll be doing something on having your car stolen?

3. Nik’s Daily English Activities

If you like gadgets and online tools and want to play with all of these fun things, Nik Peachey‘s blog is the place to go. He used to be a jazz guitarist, and I think it shows in his love for experiments. Nik’s very focussed on tools that really help you learn, and his blog for teachers is my main guidebook through this brave world of online learning. Learn to understand English accents, from America to India, using the best of the web, the Speech Accent Archive of George Mason University, in his latest post. Or, to stay on topic, play the eye-opening game in his post on “Driving and Listening to English“.

And those are just three to start with! There are so many, and I promise to feature more. Please have a look at my blogroll “englischlernen” for some of my favorites.

Wenn Sie etwas Spezielles suchen, kann ich Ihnen ja vielleicht einen Tipp geben. Auf Twitter (http://twitter.com/annehodg) folge ich vielen Lehrern mit tollen Blogs. Sie haben echt was zu bieten. Also: Fröhliches Surfen!

Question: What’s your summer read?

americangods_massmarketpaperback_1185415388I’m strapped for time this week, with lots to do before we take off for Drummond Island. Three weeks with my husband! I can’t remember when we last had a break like that. I think it was ten years ago when we last went to the States together, just before we moved here to Munich.  Anyway, things are pretty busy, so let me cut to the chase: I’d like to know what you’re reading this summer.

The book I’ve started and that is calling out to me is Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”. I’m going tell you about it and read you a short passage from it in this week’s podcast.

American Gods is a combination of Americana, fantasy, and ancient and modern mythology. The central idea is that the gods exist because we believe in them, and they thrive in traditional society. But when immigrants to the United States brought their dwarves and elves and spirits and gods with them, their power was diminished as people stopped believing in them. They were replaced by the New Gods of America, media and technology, celebrity and drugs.

As the story begins, Shadow, who is as moody as his name, is just getting out of prison and looking forward to seeing his beloved wife again. But then he hears that she has died in a car accident, and his dreams are shattered. On the plane to her funeral he has a “dream”… (reading from pages 19 and 20)

This book hooks an adult reader the way books on, say, dragon slayers won’t, because the world of magic is so near, just around the corner, in the next stranger you meet. Thank you very much to Katja for lending it to me.

So what’s your summer read? What genre is it? What do you like about it? Who is the author? Have you read anything else by him or her? How did you find out about the book and the author? Where and when do you plan to read it?

Was ist das Blogprojekt? Mehr dazu unter Englischlernen mit Anne!

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