IELTS: The UK school system

17th September 2020

Farewell, Baxendale and his Bash St Kids - spiked
The Bash Street Kids … from ‘The Beano’ which is a famous comic from the UK, first issued in 1938.

Tonight we have a listening lesson which, although tremendously important, not to say imperative, can be somewhat tedious for the students.

One factor is the vocabulary. If students don’t know some of the words, they will not be able to answer some of the questions; that stands to reason.

that stands to reason = it is obvious, it is common sense, it can be understood. I live in Vietnam but only speak a little Vietnamese. It stands to reason that if I spoke Vietnamese, I would be more independent.

Therefore, allow me to explain a little about the UK educational system while, at the same time, pre-teaching some new vocabulary.

First up, we have Kindergarten or nursery:

How to Help Children Achieve Kindergarten Success - Education and Career  News

As you can see, the age for Kindergarten is 3 – 5. It can be free, or parents can choose to send their children to a private Kindergarten or nursery.

Maybe the word Kindergarten looks a little strange in an English lesson – quite right, it is, in fact, a borrowed word from German. If you have seen my other IELTS posts, you may have come across ‘prima donna‘, which is a borrowed word from Italian. If you can use borrowed words in your IELTS tests, it will surely impress the examiner.

Next, we have primary school for children of 5 to 11. When I was at school, it was broken down into Infants and Juniors. Infants school was two years, then we moved up into a new building, attending four years of Junior school. This was a mixed school by which I mean boys and girls were in the same class.

Woodside Primary Academy © Julian Osley cc-by-sa/2.0 :: Geograph Britain  and Ireland
Woodside Primary school in north-east London

Following on from Primary school we have, quite logically, Secondary school:

A typical class photo from the late 1970s. As you can clearly see, this is a single-sex school. Furthermore, the pupils had to wear school uniform of trousers, blazer and school tie.

Pupils spent three years here, from ages 11 – 14 at Junior High, after which they progressed to Senior High:

Walthamstow Memories - George Monoux Grammar School

Pupils have to attend school until they are 16; it is compulsory.

You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

Read more on: https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

What options are open to you after 16 ?

Pupils can either stay at school and enter the VI (Sixth) Form, or go to a Further Education College which differ in that they offer a much wider selection of options such as vocational courses which are more practical and can help students train for a specific job. VI Forms, on the other hand, are academic (theory), preparing students for university.

The VI Form is usually in the same building as the Senior High, so pupils are familiar with the teachers and students. Going to a new college, meeting new staff and students means that time is needed to settle in or settle down.

Qualifications are imperative these days, so many students want to go to University.

149 PhD, Research and Academic Positions at the University of Cambridge, UK  - Scholar Idea

Finally, we have Adult Education which, as the name implies, is for adults who wish to further their job prospects, or simply learn for their own pleasure. As many people are working, these type of education often takes place in the evening or at weekends.

New Vocabulary:

term – part of the teaching year for example First Term is from September to December

it’s a pity – it is sad or it is unfortunate

Fresher’s Week – a week for new students (Freshmen in USA) to get to know what their college has to offer, such as clubs and events.

GCSE exams – tremendously important exams taken at age 15 or 16. Good results mean the student can to VI Form or have to re-sit the exam.

tertiary – means the third – after Primary (first) & Secondary (second), tertiary refers to Higher Education, taken after the age of 18.

NVQ National Vocational Qualification – this is more practical as opposed to academic, designed to teach skills needed for a particular job:

Construction Industry NVQ Assessments Provider | Up Level Ltd
An NVQ card stating that the holder has passed exams to work in the construction industry

BA or BSc – (Bachelor of Art or Science) degrees in the arts or science. Usually attained after a three-year course. The next step is a MA (Master’s Degree) and then a PhD.

internship – gaining real-life experience by working for a company, often for low or even no pay.

Graduate Fair – a chance for students to think about what career to follow, or what company to join. They can speak to people who represent organisations:

A trip to the fair... Okay a graduate recruitment fair. - NAO trainee blog
Fairs - The University of Nottingham

IELTS: Speaking Test, Part 3: How to nail it.

12th September 2020

Ten don'ts for the IELTS speaking test | British Council
Having to think on your feet.

My classes at campus have practised (and practised; I make those guys put their noses to the grindstone) Parts I and II of the speaking test. To recap:

Part I: 4 – 5 minutes, warm up questions. Answer with two, three or four sentences, throwing in a few L-FW (big words), idioms as appropriate, and demonstrate you know how to form a complex sentence.

Part II: 1 minute to make notes, 2 minutes solo speaking. This is your chance to shine, show all you’ve learnt, and score points for vocabulary (including idiomatic language, low-frequency words, adverbs and adjectives), grammar including, as you know, complex sentences which will earn you a higher score as well as being much more interesting to listen to as opposed to short simple sentences. Fluency, so make use of those multi-purpose sentences such as, “Well, that’s an interesting question,” “It’s funny you ask me that question because I have just been thinking about …” etc. Lastly, and not to be underrated, pronunciation, intonation and stress.

Now, we come to Part III

psycho scream

Yes, I know, it can be a nightmare ! The questions are so complex, how could you possibly answer even in your native language ? Well, you can’t … no one can, especially not in a minute or so and under the pressure of a test.

Take a look at this example:

Does the media have a positive or negative effect on the music people in your country buy ?

What a question ! You may be tempted to say, “I haven’t the foggiest idea,” “I haven’t a clue,” or “I have absolutely no idea, next question, please.”

i have no idea what you are talking about - LDS S.M.I.L.E.

The secret is to take power back – make yourself comfortable with the question … and here’s how:

Firstly, we need a great introduction. Some examples are:

Well, that’s a very complicated question …

What a hard question, I may have to think about this …

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however …

The secret is to take this general question and make it personal, so you can speak about what YOU know, as well as using IELTS language.

Show that you understand the question by defining ‘media’.

I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers.

For me, the internet is great for learning about new singers or groups with sites such as YouTube or Spotify as opposed to newspapers where I can only read about music.

The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour.

This time, instead of using expressions such as in my opinion, you can use:

in my experience

allow me to tell you what I do

I can’t speak about other people, but I

EXAMPLE:

Well, that’s a very complicated question but I will endeavor to answer. I usually get my information from the internet, although I know some people use TV, radio or newspapers. Usually, I join a Facebook page of a band I like, or follow them on Instagram. Naturally, I look at YouTube which is great because it suggests other music I may like. Therefore, I am able to hear new artists. I’m not sure how much this affects how other people buy music. In my experience, I will buy music if I really like it, for example, downloading a song on iTunes. I can just buy the songs I like, so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

This time we can use examples:

I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however I can think of one example. I remember when Taylor Swift won an award for best video but Kanye West stopped her speech. This made a lot of people think very badly about him, so maybe they stopped buying his music.

Why Taylor Swift and Kanye West hate each other

I’m not sure I know how to answer that, but let me try. The media is tremendously important for musicians. They are able to upload videos to YouTube, have a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Fans can know when they have a new song or go on tour. I can’t speak about other people, but I rarely buy music anyway, just once in a blue moon.

Hyomin (T-ara) bất ngờ có mặt tại Nha Trang | Văn hóa | Thanh Niên

What a hard question, I may have to think about this … oh, I know, fans can follow their favourite singers on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I usually get my information from the internet. I would be over the moon if a music star replied to my comment. On the other hand, if they don’t answer, some people may stop liking them.

The Shins - Simple Song (Live On Letterman) - YouTube

Well, that’s certainly a hard question. I really don’t know what other people in Vietnam do, but allow me to tell you what I do. I like to listen to English songs, to help me improve my language skills. My friends and I tell each other about English or American bands and we look up the words … the lyrics … to help us. I can give you an example. My teacher played a song in class by a band called The Shins, who are from USA. I quite liked the song although most of the words are very difficult to understand. I know one of my friends bought the last CD because he liked it so much.

US singer Kacey Musgraves slammed for sexualising Vietnamese ao dai by  wearing only top half of outfit | South China Morning Post

That’s a very complicated question. However, I can think of one singer who upset many people in Vietnam and Vietnamese people in USA. Do you know Kacey Musgraves ? She sings country music, which is not really my cup of tea, but that is not why she is famous. She wore an ao dai on stage, but only the top part … she didn’t wear the trousers. Many people thought this was so disrespectful. For me, I don’t think I would buy her records after this, even if I did like them.

Train kept a-rollin’: Train videos for listening and vocabulary.

12th September 2020

A compilation of train-related videos to help you improve your listening skills and to increase your vocabulary.

Contents:

Trans-Siberian Railway:

Listening skills. Native and non-native speakers talking in English. English subtitles.

Shinkansen – 10 cool facts:

Listening to native and non-native speakers.

High-speed trains in China:

Listening skills. English pronunciation & vocabulary.

London Tube at rush hour:

A glimpse of London life.

Why trains can’t go uphill:

Listening skills. English pronunciation. Science vocabulary.

Kindergarten song – Choo Choo Train

Vocabulary for very young learners.

Travelling – The Trans-Siberian Railway

Write down new expressions / vocabulary.

Do you understand the gist (the main points / keywords)

Would this appeal to you ? Why or why not ?

What would you need to bring ?

Shinkansen: Bullet Train – top ten facts:

This is as much as listening exercise as an engineering one. How much can you understand ? Which presenter is easier to understand, the young lady or the man from USA ?

High-speed trains in China:

London Tube at rush hour:

James May – why can’t trains go uphills ?

What do you think of James’ pronunciation – can you understand all ? Try to copy him.

What is the problem with trains and going up gradients ?

What do they struggle to do ?

What are the scientific reasons for this ?

Image result for steepest railroad in uk

What was the problem with James May speaking ?

James normally speaks quite clearly, but there were problems. This was due, I feel, to the speed and the amount of language. Look at this conversation analysis: (0. 10 – 0.42):

“And now, ‘Why can’t trains go uphills ?’ Well, the smarter ones amongst you will have recognised already, especially if you’re a qualified railway engineer, this is a bit of a trick question because of course, train can go uphills … they’re just not very good at it.

If you think about the topography of most of the world, this is clearly a bit of a problem. Human being can, albeit rather sweatily, motivate themselves up a gradient of around eighty degrees, or one in a quarter.”

Listen again– hear how James:

  • links words
  • uses expressions (bit of a)
  • adds addition information / commentary in supporting clauses. 
  • Creative use of adverbs – ‘sweatily’ shows how words can be made into adverbs by adding –ly to the end

Think – does James need to add the clauses ? What is the purpose ? Consider the medium (TV, internet, blog etc) and the target audience.

James is speaking to a fluent, English-speaking audience, probably native speakers, or people who have lived in the UK for a long time. Therefore, they will be more used to this natural way of speaking.

This is why I recommend student put their text books down and read real English books, watch English-speaking films and TV shows and sing English songs. It really helps.

He does make allowances for non-British audiences by showing two fifty-pence coins, but his language isn’t downgraded.

Kindergarten song – Choo Choo Train:

IELTS: Last chance saloon

8th September 2020

Scotties Last chance saloon" - Trang chủ | Facebook

One of my classes have their speaking test next week therefore, this is their last chance to practise, to demonstrate they know what they need to do to pass with flying colours.

Some tips to assist

An introduction:

That’s a very interesting question

Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ?

It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …

Well, that’s a great question

As a young Vietnamese (add your own nationality), I …

Opinion questions:

If you have a question with the following wording:

“What do you think ?”

You can use opinion phrases. We do not want facts, but want to hear if you are able to understand what is required by the question, and if you are able to articulate your thoughts.

In my opinion // From my perspective //personally // In my view / For me // From my point of view

Finally, there will probably be a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of adjectives and adverbs.

You may encounter a question such as:

What qualities are needed to be a good police officer ?

Pin on IU

You could start with listing adjectives:

patient / firm / authoritative / determined / brave / energetic / level-headed / down-to-earth / strong / fit / healthy / imposing / honest / loyal / civic-minded / caring / hard-working /

Next step, add an adverb:

very / extremely / amazingly / unbelievably / quite / rather / undeniably / remarkably / totally / absolutely /

Combine into a complex sentence with discourse markers and relative pronouns and clauses. If possible, paraphrase key words (here I substitute ‘attributes’ for ‘qualities’).

EXAMPLE

A police officer, in my opinion, needs to have many attributes such as being extremely brave and caring although they will also need to be totally healthy as well as being strong and undeniably energetic. Working for the police, which can be a very dangerous job, is not my cup of tea. Having said that, I really admire the honesty and loyalty of these amazing people.

Now … your turn

What qualities are needed to be a … ?

Sports person / Film star / Doctor / Musician / Mother

park, captain of manutd!! | Manchester united, Manchester united players, Manchester  united football club
Crouching Tiger star to wed after drone proposal in China - BBC News
African Doctor Looking to the Camera with Team of Cowoker by sergii_kozii  on Envato Elements
Faces of Classical Music: Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.3 in C  minor – Alice Sara Ott, L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mikko  Franck (HD 1080p)
ᐈ Mothers pic stock images, Royalty Free indian mother photos | download on  Depositphotos®

IELTS: complex sentences

7th September 2020

Last week, I asked a typical warm up question, “What did you do today ?”

Quarantine Memes - MemeZila.com

Remember, when we ask questions we are just giving you a chance to show off and practice your English, so be creative. However, even if you can’t think on your feet, you can make even the most prosaic day more interesting. Allow me to demonstrate:

Today I met my friend and we went to see a movie. After that we had coffee and had some street food.

Asian Girl Shows Emotions During Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free)  12386756 | Shutterstock

OK, we can easily make that more appropriate for IELTS.

Firstly, an introduction. Then … details, tell me about the film, about your friend, about the coffee shop and about the food … there is SO MUCH to talk about. Write a longer answer, I’ll give you three minutes.

EXAMPLE

I didn’t go to school (work) today so I had some free time

I met my friend Nancy who I have known for over five years

I had a date with my friend who is from USA

We were at the mall and decided to take in a movie

We were in the mood for a film

We had our heart set on seeing ‘Parasite’ which is Korean film that has won many awards

After, we needed some coffee so we headed for the nearest coffee shop, which was Highlands Coffee. The prices are sky-high however the coffee is delicious. Additionally, there is free Wi-fi.

Later on, we grabbed some coffee at one of the ubiquitous coffee shops. I had a large cappuccino which cost an arm and a leg, however it really woke me up.

It was late, so we felt quite hungry. There is a lot of affordable and delicious street food. I had some chicken and rice and my friend, who is vegetarian, had rice, eggs and salad.

After the movie, we were hungry but the food at the mall is not very exciting and the prices are sky-high, so we went for some street food which is ubiquitous in this city.

Now … you turn

What will you do on your next free day ?

Remember … this is future tense and you can express the uncertainty in your answer.

Target language:

I’d love to … / I’m planning to / I have my heart set on … /

I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to … / I wish that I could …

I’ll probably … / I keep telling myself that I will finally …

Use at least one of the above expressions.

Use relative pronouns to give more information.

See if you can add an idiom (or two).

EXAMPLE

Vietnamese fast food

I really need a free day because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends this week.

I’m not absolutely sure yet, but I plan to meet up with some friends and just hang out. We have all been so busy, we haven’t seen each other for ages. (for a long time).

As you may know, I’m a vegetarian. However, all my friends love fast food especially burgers and fries. We often go to Lotteria which, I believe, started in Japan, and now they are ubiquitous in Sai Gon and easily seen with their bright red stores and big white ‘L’ logo. Despite not eating meat, I can order a fish burger but, in my opinion, the food is not exactly mouth-watering and the service can be rather slow.

Afterwards, I’ll probably go home as I have my heart set on playing a new computer game that my friend, Tony, lent me. Tony, who is actually from Ha Noi, is a real computer geek, he loves gaming, maybe too much. As for me, I get a little bored after an hour so then it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone and hit the books (study) again. “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” That quote, from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, inspires me to work harder, even if sometimes the work is quite tedious.

53 Three Happy Chinese Students Having Fun Hong Kong China Stock Photos,  Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
Enjoy your free day

For my students with a speaking test soon … Best of British !

Present Perfect exercises

6th September 2020

Resultado de imagen de present perfect tense verbs | Perfect tense, Present  perfect, Activities for teens

A compilation of exercises to practise using the present perfect form

Present perfect

Subject + have/ has + past participle [verb 3]

She has been to New York / They have visited London

NEGATIVE:

Romcom classic My Sassy Girl will get a K-drama remake | My sassy girl, Sassy  girl, Romcom
gatsby - todo um novo mundo | Libri, Leggende

I haven’t read The Great Gatsby

have not seen My Sassy Girl

QUESTION:

Have you read Romeo and Juliet?

[Have / has + subject + verb 3 … ?]

Change the verb into the correct form:

  1. I (read) your book several times. I have read your book several times
    2. She has (wear) that skirt many times. [worn /wear / wore]
    3. My family (visit) Brazil a few times.
    4. I (eat) already.
    5. Marta (finish) her homework.
    6. You (break) the glass again.
    7. They (pay) for everything.
    8. It (never snow) like that.
    9. I (meet) Anna once.
    10. We (see) him before.

Change simple past into present perfect 

Example – I started a band = I’ve started a band / I have started a band

1 I went to Ha Noi // 2 We explored a cave // 3 I ate cake // 4 We saw a famous building // 5 She buys many dresses and visited many friends

Correct the mistakes

I have go to Ha Noi

She have seen the London Eye

We have eat English food

Has you going to Thailand ?

He not has bought iPhone X

Extra activities on this link:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/07/04/adult-speaking-class-level-2-present-perfect-exercises/

Unusual London Buildings. What do you think they are ?

6th September 2020

A lesson for all ages and all levels, just adapt to suit your students’ ability. First, show the photos and try to elicit what the buildings are for, or their original function.

For Speaking Level 3 or IELTS-standard students, they can explain their reasons and use target language, adjectives, adverbs and LFW (low-frequency words). Furthermore, it shows students a different aspect of London (it’s not just Big Ben, London Eye and Tower Bridge).

Now, without further ado, the photos:

 

Tate Modern

Was built 1947 – 1963 to be used as a power station (designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Battersea Power Station and the iconic red phone boxes).

Gallery opened in 2000 by the Queen

Shows British and international art

One of the largest museums in the world

in 2018, there were 5.8 million visitors

Globe Theatre

Was built 1599, burnt down 1613.

Rebuilt and opened in 1997

Has plays by Shakespeare, as well as modern plays.

Has 857 seats and 700 standing spaces. People who stand are known as ‘groundlings.’

“To be or not to be,” is from Hamlet.

Police Station

Was built in the 1920s

Only big enough for two people

Has a telephone inside

Made from an old lamppost

Now used for storing brooms

Lloyd’s Building

Completed in 1986

Architect was Richard Rogers

Lloyds are a world famous insurance company.

The lifts are on the outside to make more space inside.

It is 95.1 m tall or 312 ft.

New Zealand House

The building was opened by the Queen in 1963

It is the only tall building in the area.

The House has 18 floors.

However … there is something very special for Vietnamese … can you see the blue circle ?

There used to be the Carlton Hotel here, but is was destroyed in World War II

Ho Chi Minh worked in the kitchen at the hotel

Carlton Hotel, London - Wikipedia
The old Carlton Hotel where Ho Chi Minh once worked

Activities

Young Learners

Stick fact sheets around the classroom. Students, in groups, have to collect information about basic facts such as when the building was opened, and an interesting fact, then present to the class.

Adult Speaking Classes

Elicit uses of bulidings, then ask them if there are any similar buildings in their city. What interesting buildings would they show tourists ? A student has to describe one of the buildings and the other have to guess which one.

IELTS

Students are assigned a building and they have to make a presentation of up to two-minutes in length (to practise for the speaking test). They may be allowed to use the internet for additional information but they are NOT allowed to merely read verbatim from Wikipedia !

As this is an IELTS exercise, we are looking for;

Good, strong introduction

Creative use of adverbs + adjectives

Low-frequency words

Opinion phrases

Idiomatic language

Anecdote or a personal review, giving reasons for their thoughts

Target Language:

Quite unusual / eye-catching / remarkable / innovative / quintessentially British / controversial / brilliant /

It’s not to my particular taste / / I have my heart set on visiting / a unique experience (now add an adverb) / a truly unique experience / a magnet for tourists /

17 Signs That You Probably Need A Break From London - Secret London

Waiting Fo (u) r Godard: A play for one actor & two laptops

5th August 2020

WAITING FO(U)R GODARD by Paul Pacifico

Copyright 2020. Paul Pacifico asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

Anyone is free to perform this play, royalty-free

If significant revenue is generated, then I merely ask that the actor or company make a donation to a cancer charity, UNICEF or the WWF

Have fun and break a leg

The play can use the actor’s real name and list their credits, for example the actor in the script is called James Green and he performed in ‘Krapp’s Last Tape,’ among other theatre, film and TV.

Directors are free to add their own ideas to localise the play.

BLACK

SOUND FX : The end of the world.

: Silence.

: Increasing sound of insects scuttling about.

: This fades as sound of a projector starts, very loud.

: Projector volume drops, but continues. Seagulls.

: Still with projector noise, various traffic and city sounds, cut in at random, at different levels. Ends with a loud bicycle bell.

LIGHTS

The stage has two tables at front, left and right, each with an open laptop (facing away from audience), one Windows, one Apple. Around the stage are symbols of film making: tripods, cameras, lights etc. as well as one old chair.

One door, upstage

Sound of knocking on door

MAN enters and, with a little trepidation, looks around. Closes door carefully. He is wearing a light brown raincoat covering a shirt and tie. He carries a slip of paper on which is written, ‘MAN’

MAN : Is this the place ?

Man seems encouraged when he notices the equipment. He looks around and slowly paces the room

MAN : Only me here. Hello ? Hello ? Maybe I should call my agent.

Man pulls out a mobile phone, tries calling, then walks around room holding phone out at different angles

Man : Can’t get a reception. Merde ! Ok, better warm up the voice.

Man changes voice and intonation

“Is this the place.” “Is this the place ?” “Is this the place !”

BLACK

SOUND FX : A voice with a European accent:

Germany, Year Zero.

LIGHTS

MAN : Ah, sounds like a European art film, lucky I wore my coat of many characters. What better to induce the ambience of world-weary, coffee-stained existentialism ?

Man demonstrates a sense of Fado, leaning forward as if the weight of the world were oppressing him. Suddenly he springs upright and starts to shake pretend hands a la Jacques Tati

ManMr Hulot by Jacques Tati. In addition to the aforementioned Tati, I can also play detectives, gumshoes, pickpockets, secret agents, private I’s, philosophers, misanthropes, gamblers, gun-runners, Bullitts, Samuarais, spies who come in from the cold, hit-men, thin men, conmen, last men, lusty men and bicycle thieves. The director will love it. Speaking of a director … I didn’t get a script. Maybe I should call my …

Man repeats procedure, seeming to loose his confidence as he tries, in vain, for a signal

Man :No reception. Merde. I have no idea what the part is, just says, ‘MAN’ … or who the director is … or where he is. Naturally, we, the actors, represent him, because it’s usually a man, but I don’t want to get into that now, a physical envoy of his thoughts and feelings, the idea made flesh, abstract peregrinations given tangible form. I hope I get a great speech like that…and sound effects, juxtaposed together. It would serve to support my thesis relating to the dichotomy of cinema, at one and the same time being the foremost cultural influence …

SOUND FX : A heavy piano chord

MAN: Charming. Very dramatic. I suppose it serves to highlight the very lack of drama. Is a bare stage the same as a stage that’s bare ? I don’t know. Je ne sais pas. Ich weiss es nicht ! See, I can act in three languages … and brilliant in each one.

SOUND FX : An electronic chicken 

The Windows computer seems to come ‘alive’. Man walks over, excitedly, to the laptop. 

MAN: Hello ? I’m here for the part of ‘MAN’ ? Hello ? Bonjour ? Guten Tag … Ni hao ? That’s it I’m … Oh, wait, Ciao …

Laptop : Enter password

MAN : OK. What is the password ? And why’s it just me here ? Will there be other actors coming ? You can just give me the part now, that will save every…

Laptop : Enter password

MAN: Ohhh ! La-la ! What is the blo … what is the password ?

Laptop : 3 point 1 4

MAN: Oh, easy as pi.

Laptop :15926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971 6939937510 5820974944 5923078164 0628620899 8628034825 3421170679

Man tries to enter the numbers but can’t keep up. He gets increasingly agitated and finally shuts the laptop

MAN : Never work with children, animals or computers. Or professionals but that doesn’t seem to be a problem here.

Man opens laptop. The voice has stopped. He tries for a phone signal again; no luck, again

Man : Merde ! Maybe I can email my agent. Hey, wait a moment.

Man walks over to other laptop which is an Apple

Man : The anguished cry of modern man, “What’s the wifi password ?” Hey, Siri, what’s the wifi password ?

SIRI : The password is …

SOUND FX : A loud electronic buzz blocks out the answer

Man : Oh, that’s clever, thanks, Siri. Pretty obvious, really.

Man enters password and the Apple seems to come ‘alive’

Man : Hello ? I’m here for the audition.

SIRI : Name ?

Man : Yes, haha, John, John Green

SIRI : Hello, Yes, haha, John, John Green

Man : Everything screwy is normal in this crummy place.

MAN walks to the centre of the stage and faces the audience, preparing himself before speaking.

MAN : Is this comedy or tragedy ? I don’t know. For the benefit of late-comers, an actor in the time when cinema is dying, is attending an audition for an unknown part in an unknown production with an unknown director. Talk about a script found on a dump. Who wrote th … oh, him ! I know him, well he’s far away in Viet Nam, now, best place for him. Remember the golden age of Hollywood ? Real writers. Now they just pick a hit book and call it a ‘ready-made script’. Siri, please tell my agent he’s fired.

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I can’t do that.

MAN : What ? Then what use is your hard-drive and motherboard and billion bytes of RAM ? You’re just a pocket calculator loaded with conspicuous consumption.

SIRI :Thespian !

MAN :Status symbol

SIRI :Character actor !

MAN :Over-priced piece of crap

SIRI :Walk-on parter !

MAN :Made in China rip-off. I’m going back to Windows

Man closes the Apple and types something into the Windows laptop.

SOUND FX : Sounds of people moving equipment around, background chatter, sounds from a film set.

MAN: Hello I’m … John Green. I’m here for the audition. Is this the right place ?

Windows: Hey, who are you ? What do you want ?

Man: I want a plot ! I’m here for … Excuse me, do you know what time the director’s getting here ? Only I don’t have all day. I want to watch ‘The Swimmer’ on TV with my friend Burt Lancaster ?

Man turns to camera and makes exaggerated smile

SOUND FX : A heavy piano chord, different from before

MAN: Well you’ve changed your tune. I have a question for you … What exactly is cinema ?

Windows: (in a different voice, a working class agitator)

Thank you brother. Cinema: it markets a dream which is unavailable to the target audience who could never participate in an equivalent reality. It propagates the idea that such dreams are possible while, at the same time and working in collusion with multi-national corporations, strives to ensure that such equality can never exist. I will now let my small brother, who represents the developing world, expand, expound and explain.

MAN: It’s full of symbolism, isn’t it? If you don’t like symbolism, if you don’t like metaphor, if you don’t like subtexts … you can get stuffed.

Windows: (in another different voice)

Thank you, brother. Success is only measured in how close we come to emulating the standard product. Such factors as locality, language or legend are labeled ‘colourful’ but viewed with suspicion, and are detrimental to the cause. Overseas sales are increasingly imperative in the battle for survival and as such, the product has to have a universality readily identifiable.

MAN: Now I have a headache. Ok, Let me draw an analogy between Cinema and the hamburger. Audiences will be unquestionably conditioned to accept one, and only one, type of movie. There are fewer and fewer descendants of D.W.Griffith as cinema plays whore to the lure of the dollar. 

Windows: (working class agitator voice )

We will leave you with a thought from the Polish filmmaker Andrej Wajda. Under Communism, any film could be made, it just may not have been shown. In the West, any film gets shown, but may not have been made. Which is the better ? 

Windows appears to shut down.

MAN: Well don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s going on. What should I do now ? 

SOUND FX : A high-pitched, weak bell as in a works canteen

Man: Hello, who’s this ?

Electric voice: Union lunch break. Stop all work. Tea up. First coffee break.

MAN: At last. They must know I’m here, at least. What’s on the menu ?

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage. Pastry.

MAN: I get it, the drink represents USA and the pastry represents Europe, right ?

Slight pause.

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage. Pastry.

MAN: Well, if we’re going to share a stage, you’ll have to do a bit better than that. Do you have any more lines ?

Electric voice:Yes, I have a good one, imminently. 

MAN: Nu ? I’m waiting, boy am I waiting ? How about some acting ?

Electric voice:That’s not my job.

MAN: Oh, come on, it’s easy, you know you want to, don’t want to disappoint the audience, do you ? And don’t say “fizzy beverage” again.

Electric voice: It’s my bona fide line. 

MAN: What if I were to tell you, teach, yes, teach you something. I would then be passing on the training to another union member.

Electric voice: errrrr….

MAN: Bon. Alors, how about if I teach you some reactions ? How about surprise mixed with wonderment ?

Electric voice:Oh, I don’t know anything about …

MAN: La-la, it’s the easiest thing, we learn it on our first morning in acting class. Slowly open your mouth and make your eyes bigger, and wooooowwwwww. Voice high and soft.

Electric voice does perfect reaction

MAN: Wow ! Formidable ! Zwei mal wunderschoen!

Electric voice:Yes, well, I, er … don’t like to, er, blow trumpet, but, er … well … to business. Look under the table

MAN finds a can of Coke, a croissant and a copy of ‘Das Kapital’

Electric voice:For the children of Marx and Coca-cola.

MAN does a Groucho Marx impression

MAN : Last night I shot an industrialist in my pyjamas. He was studying the relations of re-production.

Electric voice:Twenty dollars.

MAN : What ?

Electric voice:Fizzy beverage and pastry. Twenty dollars.

MAN : I hate no-budget projects. OK, I’ll ask you a question, and if the answer is ‘I don’t know’, you owe me twenty dollars. Exactly, what is this play about ?

Electric voice:I don’t know.

MAN : Right, that’s twenty dollars you owe me. Don’t worry about it, use it to cover the cost of the catering.

SOUND FX : a bell as if played back on a broken tape player

MAN: It’s not even a real croissant ! It’s a prop.

MAN starts making little jumps around the stage, ending with a large jump.

MAN: Practicing my jump-cuts, and I do my own stunts. Now, here’s a trick I learnt in montage class.

Lights go out for a short period. When they come back, the MAN is standing on the chair, in a far corner. Light out, back on, MAN is making a sideways running gesture, frozen in mid run. Lights out, back on, MAN is under the chair, crawling out.

MAN: Merde ! This is why actors hate montage; no control over what happens. Hhhmmm, no-budget film, hey, or play, or project, or workshop, or … thing. Probably no effects. I also have that covered. Alors, watch this … I walk across the stage in real-time. Now, backwards … now looped, see the same sequence repeated, repeated … Now, a personal favourite, slow motion. Phew ! A guy can get tired like that. I should take a break ?

Apple laptop seems to come ‘alive’

Siri : From what ?

MAN becomes increasingly dramatic during his speech

MAN: Je ne sais pas … la vie … love, existence. 

All this … being … nothingness … oh, why am I

doomed to play in such insubstantial fare ? Where are

the inspired roles of yesteryear ? Where can I liberate

my oppressed soul in lofty flights of poetry, escape the

drudgery of moribund routine and don wings to ascend to

the Olympian heights of elegance and eloquence ? Oh, what time’s ‘The Swimmer’ on ?

SIRI : 21.30

MAN: You’re speaking to me again. Hey, Siri, why did I get a croissant ? Wouldn’t an English muffin be more appropriate, London and all ?

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I don’t know the answer to that.

MAN : Oh, not that again, just call me ‘Yes’.

SIRI : Yes 

MAN: It probably refers to the middle-classing of Socialism. You won’t find many poor socialists now, they can’t afford it. People have to be capitalists to earn the money to become socialists. To wit, the croissant, symbol of middle-class leisure and ineffectuality. 

SOUND FX: The MGM Leo the Lion roar

MAN: Hey, Siri … is this a play that thinks it’s a film, or a film that thinks it’s a play ?

SIRI : I’m sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, I don’t know the answer to that.

MAN : Someone needs an upgrade.

SIRI :Someone needs acting lessons.

MAN : I can unplug you, Missy !

SIRI :You and whose army ? Anyway, I have a lithium polymer battery to provide maximum battery life in a compact space. 

WINDOWS: (WORKER’S VOICE) Thus exploiting the downtrodden people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in cobalt mining.

MAN : The laptops get dialogue ? Hey, Siri … where did you get a script ? Windows … ?

SIRI & Windows together: 

We’re sorry, Yes, haha, John, John Green, we don’t know the answer to that. 

Black

SOUND FX : A voice:

Later, that same day.

LIGHTS

MAN is still walking around trying to get a signal. His coat is off and he is in shirt-sleeves.

MAN: No signal. Merde ! 

MAN continues searching, thinks he has a signal, but no success. Suddenly the Windows laptop appears to come ‘alive’.

Windows: Absurd.

MAN: Great ! Another extra with only one line. Look, I’ve been thinking, if the director’s not going to show up, I may as well leave.

Windows:D’accord. Goodbye.

MAN: You mean he, because it’s probably a man, may arrive ? I think I’ll stick around for a bit. Just a few minutes longer.

Windows:Just a few minutes longer, Just a few minutes longer.

MAN: So he’ll, it’s usually a he, he’ll be here soon ? Oh, I get it. This is the audition. All the while, all these cameras and lights and whatnot, the computers, yes, haha.

SIRI : Yes, haha, John, John Green.

MAN: Shut up, Siri, all the while, I’ve been watched, studied, scrutinised and, still being here, I’m evidently doing a great job. Now to reel them in.

Windows: Hey, who are you ? What do you want ?

MAN : Well, I’m glad you asked. Something engaging, with just the right amount of Brechtian alienation and a bit of Beckett to boot. I can act, magnificently, play guitar, musically, drink, moderately, you’ll never get me on a horse. I play the lead, supremely, react, subtlety, dance, sublimely, for extra money, of course. And, if the script calls for it, and the lady is cute, I mean … you know … artistically cute in a non-judgemental, non-patriarchal, non-Harvey Weinstein, sicko-pervo kinda way … if script calls … I do ‘love scenes’.

Windows: No love scenes. Bad for the Chinese Market. Mustn’t forget the Chinese market.

MAN : The population of China is, Siri, what’s the population of China ?

SIRI : The population of China is 1.42 billion

MAN: Is 1.42 billion, believe me, people in China are having love scenes.

SIRI : Haha. That told him. So what are you doing now ?

MAN: I’m just waiting for the director. .. been waiting since … No script …don’t know what, if any, rôle I’ll have …

Windows: You’ve been waiting for a director who won’t show up, without a script, which hasn’t been written, for a part, which doesn’t exist.

SIRI : Haha. That told him. So what are you doing now ?

MAN: The laptops get a love scene ? Why do I always end up in screwball comedies ? Enough. From my experience of no-budget, low-budget plays, the director ain’t gonna show. And, “It is beyond doubt that all our knowledge begins with experience.” 

Windows: You can’t say that.

MAN: I can’t ? but Kant can. And if Kant can, I can’t see I can’t. Adieu. Fare thee well.

MAN starts to leave, but before he reaches the door

SOUND FX : A fast sports car screeching to a halt

: Some music playing, fading in

: With song still playing, sound of heavy rain on a city street

: Electronic voice: 

The Second Act. Decision of the actor. Resolution

MAN: Lucky I stayed. Now we’re getting somewhere. 

MAN pulls out phone, extends but doesn’t even check if he has a signal.

MAN: No reception. Merde ! I see, Project Phoenix, Project MK Ultra, Russian sleep Deprivation, Big Brother. How will I respond, not to direction, but to no direction, to no director. To nobody. This is ‘opennism’. Allow me to explain. It’s up to the audience to contribute, to read the text and extract from it what they will. The play itself takes on a sort of existential life force, with no preconceived ideas or fixed point of reference. The audience is doomed to make their own interpretation, with no old fashioned abstract morality about what is right or wrong …

The Windows laptop appears to come alive. MAN runs over to it, with a hint of desperation

Windows:John Green.

MAN: Oui, c’est moi

Windows: Theatre – Krapp’s Last Tape, you were Krapp

SIRI: Haha

(Windows adds full list of theatre and acting work)

SIRI: Mr Green, exactly, what is cinema …?

MAN: Enough words, let me show you. Cinema is action, is passion, is dedication, is vision, is love, is life. Cinema is the composition of Ozu, the landscapes of John Ford, the ticking clock of Hitchcock, it is la Dolce Vita and playing chess with Death, Eisenstein steps, Tarantino toes, Bunuel eyes and a Bardot pout. It is the reason I live, and the reason I am here … here, alone, all alone, no one to improv with, no one to bounce ideas … just here, alone, all day, talking to computers. I will tell you about Cinema: Cinema is life and this isn’t living.

SIRI: … in five words or less

MAN: He’s, because it’s usually a he, he’s not here. There’s no one to impress. I need a break. I suggest running away from this play and starting my own. Let me just … search … hhmmm, 

SOUND FX :Sound of a heavy glass door opening. Immediately, new sounds of a busy café/restaurant.

MAN: : Some wonderful music, please.

SOUND FX : French-style accordion music

MAN seems more relaxed, walking around the stage as if it were a chic Parisian cafe, nodding to friends, kissing the hands of ladies. Windows laptop seems to come ‘alive’ as SOUND FX fade.

Windows: Is this modernist or post-modernist ?

MAN: It’s a cafe, look around, use your … imagination. I’ve always wanted to be in a kick-arse movie, directed by a Nicholas Ray. Today, the lead will have to be a hot chi…, I mean a highly-talented female actor. That looks good in leather.

Siri: Is this post-modernist or post-post-modernist ?

MAN: I don’t know what this is. Neither … both. It has the post- modern aspect of requiring a departure from the conventional structure, while being chockablock with pop culture references, though Bergman and Wajda are hardly Lady Gaga and those Kardashian calamities. To both break tradition but still being vaguely recognizable … within boundaries. Then something more, something else, something the audience has to bring, or take from it. As for our director, he’s either, as Camus would predict, having coffee or killing himself … because it’s usually a he. This is absurd.

Windows: Absurd

Siri : Absurd

MAN: Absurd ! Lenin said two things which are of eternal relevance. Firstly, cinema is the most important of the arts. Secondly, and of especial interest to us, ‘What is to be done ?’

Windows:Is it difficult getting an actress to do love scenes 

MAN: Getting an actress to do a nude scene isn’t the problem. Try getting an actress to keep her clothes on. But that’s only in cinema, alas. I’m tired, I can’t go on much longer. I can’t leave, not after waiting so long. I know …

MAN snaps his fingers 

SOUND FX : Sixties guitar-based song.

MAN : Come on, let’s dance.

MAN performs a very impressive dance routine, very ‘Ye-Ye’ and full of twists and shouts

SOUND FX : Record stops immediately as LIGHTS go down.

: An electronic hum/buzzing.

: A car stopping on some gravel. Door opens and shuts. Footsteps on gravel. Doorbell.

: A typewriter. The keys are hit slowly at first, then faster and faster. This turns into machine gun fire.

: A medium paced drum beat, played by a fairly competent amateur.

MAN is sitting in the chair, leaning back against the wall and balancing the chair on its two back legs. 

DRUMMING STOPS

MAN: I’m trying to sit like Henry Fonda in ‘My Darling Clementine’. This is getting us nowhere. Where’s my café gone ?

SOUND FX : The French music resumes, sounding as if it is being played on an old jukebox.

: A small café, quite busy. Coffee machines, glasses knocking against each other, an old cash till.

MAN: Somewhere that serves beer, but I don’t want to have to go through a whole linguistic routine with the barman about ultimate and abstract issues. I just want a beer. And I’d quite like some kind of resolution. I just want to do what actors do best … hang out in bars and tell people how talented we are.

SOUND FX : Sound of beer bottle being opened, then poured

MAN: To have come so far without getting anywhere … at least, nowhere that can be discerned. Does the fact that we can’t measure metaphysical distances make them less or more valid ?

Siri:Definition is a prerequisite and often the most contentious. The truth of a sentence lies in the ability to prove its meaning.

MAN: Then most of my lines have been meaningless.

Windows: Only insofar as they are subjected to the laws of that particular concept. Even when we reduce, we are still left with words such as ‘meaning’ or ‘truth’.

MAN: Truth is, I’m not even sure if this is a part at all.

Siri: That will at least save you from the actor’s revenge; preferring the life of the character to such a degree that they abandon their own self and take on the identity of the rôle. However, maybe a Cartesian approach to your dilemma will prove beneficial.

MAN: The central questions of knowledge and the relationship between mind and body ?

Windows: To counter the doubts about the character: You are acting, are you not ?

MAN: It’s a matter of some debate, but I believe I am.

Siri: Therefore, you have a character. Proceed from there.

MAN: As long as I continue to act, I will have a character. I act, therefore I, the character, am. If I act and I’m conscious of this, it follows that they must be a time when I’m not acting …

Windows: Or else it wouldn’t be acting.

MAN: And the time when I’m not acting is when I’m myself. I stop acting, therefore I am. The actor – character relationship can be seen as an analogy of the mind – body concept. I wonder if Jean Renoir would apply a Cartesian reading to his work ?

Siri: When one has mastered the art of storytelling, why trouble oneself with philosophy ? Appreciation and perpetuation of beauty is gift enough. Besides, one no sooner accepts a view of life, only to see it challenged and dismissed by a Wittgenstein 

MAN: A return to zero.

Lights slowly, slowly start to fade

SOUND FX : The following lines spoken as if at a political rally, with crowd reaction audible in the background, cheering and clapping:

Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.

It will signify what cannot be said by presenting clearly what can be said.

SOUND FX : A burst of laughter like in an English music hall. This continues during the following,

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

SOUND FX : Huge roar of laughter and applause.

LIGHTS return to normal

MAN: Hey, Siri, ca va ?

Siri: Oui, ca va.

MAN: Well, how do we end this ? We could have a classic Hollywood ending, fall in love and get married. Or fall in love, anyway … there ain’t nobody with whom to fall in love … or marry. Siri …

Siri No, that’s silly.

MAN : I quite like this … sitting around in coffee bars and talking. I wish I could get a job doing it, as my career as an actor is on the rubbish dump. 

Windows: Don’t you have anything else lined up ?

MAN : Maybe some adverts, but screw that. Oh, merde ! So it’s come to this ? I’m going to end it the way I want to. Nothing to lose, now. Doesn’t look like he’s coming. Maybe he never intended to. Because it’s usually a … Hey, I’ve an idea …

SOUND FX : An authoritarian voice reads the following:

The MAN pondered a neat, conclusive ending such as is found in the films of Howard Hawks. The Man also pondered something more dramatic, along the lines of Orson Welles. Then the MAN pondered a fixed camera fade on him, in the style of De Sica. Then he pondered … and he pondered

MAN: I don’t know.

SOUND FX: The opening movement of Mozart’s Requiem

MAN walks around, and finds a book he hadn’t seen, under the other table. He flicks through it, then finds a paragraph to read

MAN: Baudelaire, writing about Goya, the Spanish artist. He writes, “Goya often plunges into savagery or soars into comic brilliance. He is at all times a great artist and often a terrifying one … No-one has ventured further into the realms of the absurd than he has.”

BLACK

Windows : Cruelty, oppression, absurd

: Music stops

Siri : Absurd

MAN: Absurd

LIGHTS

There is to be no curtain call

There are to be no encores

Thank you, Princess

4th August 2020

Last night, after a three-hour IELTS class, another IELTS student was waiting to speak to me. It was one of my ‘Top Cats’, someone of whom I’m expecting great things.

The student, who I call Princess as she is so elegant, polite, refined and respectful, presented me with the following gifts:

September is a special month in Vietnam what with Independence Day (2nd), the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh’s death (also the 2nd, though some say 3rd) and the Mid-Autumn festival which this year falls on the 13th.

Why you should visit Hanoi for Mid-Autumn festival | The Independent
Mid-Autumn Festival in Ha Noi
Mid-Autumn Festival - Be completed with moon cakes
Mid-Autumn Moon cakes

Thank you my Princess … see you next week 🙂

Quotes for the classroom

2nd September 2020

Today is Independence Day in Vietnam, so let’s start with Uncle Ho, Ho Chi Minh (1890 – 1969). He has some very sage advise, especially for Vietnamese students:

Ho Chi Minh quote: I'm very moved to be here today, ... Our lives...

“We need to work much harder.”

Don’t take my word for it, listen to Uncle Ho. Now, let’s go back to Ancient China and listen to Master Kong … Kong Fuzi … Latinised as Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC):

Pin by Kelly Ferrara Carlson on point to be noted.... | Confucius quotes,  Philosophical quotes, Philosophy quotes

Moving forward, and westward, we come to Ancient Greece and the philosophy of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC). I think he deserves two quotes n’est-ce pas ?

Aristotle quote Best Quotes – Quotes – BestQuotes
Pin by F. M. on Man Made History...the Good and the Evil | Aristotle quotes,  Philosophy quotes, Teaching quotes

Our inspirational journey takes us my homeland, a “Precious stone set in the silver sea,” (Shakespeare, and more from the Bard, later). The court of Queen Elizabeth, and her adviser and alchemist, the mysterious John Dee (1527 – 1608 or 1609), furthermore, the man credited with coining the phrase “British Empire.”

TOP 10 QUOTES BY JOHN DEE | A-Z Quotes

As promised, something from Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to  heaven – William Shakespeare - Quotes

I totally agree. The quote is from Henry VI, Part II.

Finally … Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013):

Nelson Mandela Education Quote Gallery - Basecampatx