What is this blog all about?

The main purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the things I do, in my everyday life, in order to improve my English. Since I am a very lazy person, I mostly read, and watch movies, and do things which make it possible for me to improve my vocabulary, my grammar and my accent without getting bored... So this blog is going to be about the books I read, the movies I watch, and some other things which I find relevant (or not)...

I hope you'll like it! Don't hesitate to leave comments if you have any suggestions concerning what I should write about!!

mercredi 28 mars 2007

Yeah!!! Allez les bleus!! Allez les bleus!!!

Yeah!! Yeah!! Yeah!!! I'm so happy!! We won!!! We did it!!!

France won their qualification game against Austria tonight!!! Yeah!! I'm so happy!!

The weirdest thing just happened to me, reader! I was on my way out of my room, in order to go in the corridor see if anybody was setting booby traps on my way to the kitchen (to get revenge), and in my enthusiasm I guess, or maybe it was because of the erratic movements I was making with my legs (I tend to call that my "victory dance", but most people would probably describe it as 'erratic movements'), I completely unhinged my door.

Have you ever tried to re-hinge a door all by yourself? I couldn't call for help, y'know, one has to have dignity (you have to agree, my dignity standards are not too high, but still!!) Have you ever tried to re-hinge a door all by yourself while laughing hysterically and trying to keep the noise down? Well it's a lot of fun. I think I'll do it again some day. And from the look of things, it seems like I'm going to have to do it everyday! Am I not lucky??

Maybe I should just seize the moment to tell you about the flat I live in? I share it with two Austrian students, who are really nice, but who I don't see very often. The trouble, apart from the fact that my door is now completely out of order, is that the bathroom doesn't really have a door, it's more of some kind of screen, that only very partially hides the actual bathroom. Which is directly connected to the kitchen. That's really handy. Concretely, it means you cannot shower while someone is having breakfast.

"Why on earth did you pick such a lousy flat, then?" asks my -once again- perplexed reader? Well, it has to do with my allergy problems. I think all the bad things which happen to me are always related to my allergy problems...

Anyway, I was in a really cool youth hostel in Graz (by the way, here is a link to the website! I wonder why I never thought of it before!! It's such a great place to stay!! The owner is extremely welcoming and helpful, really if any of you have relatives visiting and don't know where to make them sleep, send them there!! -http://lg4.at/). I loved it there (as you might have guessed) but the owner also has a cat, which is lovely, but turned me into elephant man in a matter of days. Bloated face, red eyes, runny nose, the whole lot. I just couldn't stand it anymore, so I picked the first "WG" I found. Might have been a mistake, looking back on it, but hell, I'll manage!!

Well, this post is still not about Tolstoï, and it's not even about what I wanted it to be about... I meant to say "our coach might look like a sheepdog, but we can play football!! If the players on the opposite team restrain from insulting our players, that is. I'll never forgive the Italians!! NEVER!!!". But there we go! I said it!

Next time, I'll say somethin clever! Promise!!

PS: I categorize this into "cultural issues", but I'm not sure that unhinging my door belongs in there... I don't actually think anything about this post deserves to be called "cultural"...

Oops I did it again...

I tried reader!! I really did! I thought, go on, Claire, write a post about something serious which has nothing to do with anybody's backside, and which will make you sound really really clever. I figured, I could write a post about Babel, but then I rembered Gael Garcia Bernal, and I had second thoughts: "No backside-references, I said"...

So I figured, let's talk about the last movie you saw, is that going to make you sound intelligent and cultivated?? Music and Lyrics... Yes, now, that was reaaaaaally highly philosophical... You lost again...

So, reader, insofar as I seem to fail completely in my task of pretending to be an educated person, I decided I'd just stand up for my right to silliness, once again, and procrastinate my wish to show off.

Sooooooo tonight, I am going to tell you about my top five funny accents in movies and series. I hope you'll like it. And if you don't that's OK too. I'll do better tomorrow. Or the day after.

1. Bound to be Johnny Depp's incredible pirate accent in Pirates of the Caribbean. I think this actor is fantastic anyway, not just because of the way he looks (although that's fantastic too, I have to say...), but also because he can play ANYTHING at all, and never ever looks silly. Just think of Edward Scissorhands, or Willy Wonka, or Ichabod Crane, he keeps playing very different characters, but he always gets it right.

2. Ewan McGregor's hint of scottish accent, whenever, wherever. (I think we're meant to be together, but he seems to have a different opinion on the subject...)

3. Brad Pitt's accent in "Snatch". Can't make out a word of what he is saying. Lisa Joyce told us it was an imitation of the "Travellers'" language, spoken by an Irish bohemian group.

4. "What do you think I am, dumb or something?"- Fourth comes Jean Hagen's great silly voice in the equally great musical "Singin'in the rain", an all time classic, which I find absolutely great (can I say "great" some more?). I saw it when I was a kid, but it still makes me laugh, all the more now that I actually get to understand the dialogues instead of the subtitles... Especially the "Good Morning" song, which has an improving effect on my mood. Did you know that Debbie Reynolds, the main female-character, is also the mother of Star Wars' Princess Leia in real life? You didn't and you don't care? Can't blame you. I'm a big Star Wars fan, so I couldn't help mentioning. You don't care about that either? Well, OK, then, let's move on.

5. Daniele Rousseau's ridiculous fake French on Lost. It just makes me feel so special as a French person to be able to say "that's not even CLOSE to being French, har har har" when I watch the original version of the show... She IS ridiculous though (le tewitoiwe sombwe, har har har!!! Why did'nt they actually cast a French? We've got cool actors too!! Si, si!! I promise!!). And I might as well add a little something here about Sawyer's cool southern accent, which is also very hard for me to understand. That will be a good occasion to add a picture of him... XD. And also, I could tell you about how Sayid's English has got no accent whatsoever in real life, and how he comes from India and not Iraq, and also point out the fact that in the French version Rousseau is actually supposed to be German. You're still not interested? well...

I think I should stop now, anyway. I seem to have a problem with my brain being missing. I managed to talk about Gael Garcia Bernal, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Ewan McGregor and Josh Holloway in just one post, whose title came from a Britney Spears song, and in which I made a very subtle reference to Shakira.

Can I still come to class?

Am I going to lose all my friends? Am I going to make some new ones, maybe?? Am I am hoffnungslose Fall?? Can I blame it on my speaking German all day long? Can somebody help me? And give me a nice ending for this worst post ever? How about good night... Yeah... I'll go for good night... Tomorrow comes my post about Tolstoi, I swear.

mardi 27 mars 2007

Now there's a key where my wonderful mouth used to be...

Today, in order to make this blog a little bit more varied, I want to tell you about a book I read recently, "Extremely loud and incredibly close", by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I chose this book because it was lying on the table in the living room back home, and everybody had read it before me, and kept saying "ah, that's a good book", or "that was just great, have you read it?" so, I decided I would give it a try. (Although feather-brained Claire is usually more into Brontë and Austen, and does not care much for books with less than two wedding proposals...)

And I did right. I had never read somthing like that before, it is extremely interestingly written and unusual, both in the style and in the layout. Indeed, the author uses imaginary parts of many different things in order to make his story whole (a kid's diary, interview exerpts, letters, pictures, etc.)

The story is about a nine year old, whose father died during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His relationship to the said father was very important to him, and since he is a very clever kid, his father used to set up riddles for him to solve, very sophisticated ones. That's why after his father's death, when he finds a mysterious key in his father's dressing room, he is persuaded that it is the first clue to his father's very last riddle. And he sets out to discover which lock this key opens. And he is determined to find out, even if that implies trying it in each and every lock in New York City.

I don't usually like stories about children, because I usually find that the authors are making too much of an effort to make their characters sound like children. They then end up writing dialogues and describing scenes you can only imagine played by very bad actors. I really liked this kid's story though, maybe because he is cleverer than most adults, and has a way of thinking of his own. He's himself, he couldn't be just any kid in the world. As "regular" novel characters, he has a personality of his own, and he is not only defined by his age.

The characters that the boy meets during his "quest" are very interesting too, but I must admit that I was not quite as interested by the stories of the other members of his family, who, in my opinion, have a tendency to make simple things way too complicated, and thus make their own, as well as each other's lives, a real hell.

I must warn you that the book is extremely sad. I actually found it really awful. But it is very beautiful, and the character of Oscar, the little boy, is so deep and interesting that it's well worth a little depression... I also just found out that the author is actually only 28, and I find that very impressive really, because it is a very elaborate book, and the style is really original without being overly crazy and screaming "see?? I'm the next generation! I'm something brand new! You don't understand me because you're silly, but in five generations, when brains will have expanded enough to match mine, I'll become real popular".

So, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is the name of the book, and it's really worth your time! (I'd recommend it to those of you who have read and liked "The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". I personally did not like this one, but it has got a similar construction)
I think I'll leave it at that for tonight, reader, I just came back from the most boring choir practice ever... I don't know what's wrong with singing Austrians, but they seem to have a socializing problem!! Nobody talks to me!! And when I try to talk, they answer by "yes" or "no" and then run away, with a scared (and scary) expression on their faces... Is something the matter with me?? Do I smell?? You'd tell me reader, wouldn't you?

lundi 26 mars 2007

Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand...

I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from meeeeee... Sorry.

I'm back reader! I'm feeling much better! In spite of the rude awakening this morning, due to my forgetting to change the time on my alarm clock. I trusted it to guess that we had changed time... Silly machine... Anyway...
Tonight, in order to celebrate my unblocked nose, I want to tell you about Firefly. No, not the bug, the series. It has been seen by about 5 persons in the world, so I guess you might not have heard of it before, but it is one of the best series ever created in my (personal and humble) opinion.

Just imagine, reader, the main character is a mix between Han Solo and Clint Eastwood. Could you possibly get cooler than that?? The scene is set in a distant future, the Earth has died out, but humans have colonized other planets (and you don't have to put up with multiple-eyed and funny-voiced creatures from outer space, all there is is plain human beings. Sometimes gone wrong, but still, they all are human).

I particularly like the creator's view of the Earth's future, some kind of multicultural society where everybody can speak Chinese.

I think it's a pretty cool and new idea to acknowledge Chinese as one of the main cultures, for an American creator.

The said creator being Joss Whedon, the famous director of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" series, which were also really really cool. In my (personal and humble) opinion. Anyway. I think he is a genius.

I have to say a word about the cast, too, of course. I find all the actors real good, especially the main character, Captain Mal Reynolds (I have seldom seen a character as charismatic and original). He is played by the Canadian Nathan Fillion (Yes... The one with the interesting backside...), who is a really great actor, and has less success than he deserves. He has recently played in "Lost", (in Evangeline Lilly's flash-backs), and in a new series called "Drive", which I had not even heard about (once again, I owe all these informations to the wonderful IMDb website.)
Captain Mal Reynolds is a smuggler, who used to be in a war his side lost. As he puts it "I was on the losing side, maybe, but I'm still not convinced it was the wrong one". He now travels all over the universe, in his old Firefly ship, which is supposed to look like a firefly, but actually is more of a giant turkey type of UFO... So much for the designers...

The supporting roles are also very interesting, even though some are more interesting than others, especially the crazy young girl, who has a tendency to get on my nerves. But that's OK, because you don't see too much of her anyway.

Just as in Buffy, I find the dialogues very very funny most of the time, nearly always realistic, and it is one of the main attractions of the show.

The only trouble, as I said, is that only about 5 persons have seen it so far, and that did not seem to please the 20th Century Fox too much. So there are only 14 episodes, plus one movie, "Serenity", which is OK, but not quite as great as the series. The good thing is that you know the beginning and you know the end, you can make a "Firefly night", you don't need to make that a week, and the need to keep the producers pleased and the audience watching put such a pressure on the shoulders of the screen-writers, that all episodes are real jewels.
But then again, the cast and crew seemed to get on so well with each other and the whole story could have gone so far, that I can't watch the bonus material of the DVDs without getting a bit teary. I don't even think the whole thing has ever been translated, so you're bound to improve your English, although they do have a funny accent and they also have their own vocabulary, such as "shiny" instead of great, and other things like that. That's where this market-dominated economy is leading us!!! Everybody watches Smallville and Firefly is down the drain!! No, my friends, let's rise!!

Well OK.

Let's not rise, let's just appreciate what's good while we can. I hope you'll find a way to see one or two episodes of this wonderful series, I just guarantee you'll like it. Otherwise, I'll repay your time by giving you a wonderful ticket for one hour free squash training!! Isn't that great?? Don't you want it very badly?? I didn't think you would...

Well, it's midnight now, thanks to the silly daylight saving time change, so I'll just go now... As Captain Reynolds would probably say, "Claire, your mouth is talking, you might want to see to it"... So good night, reader!!

dimanche 25 mars 2007

Total eclipse of the brain

Hi everybody...

Well not much to say today, no major english speaking event in my thrilling life... I guess my brain is still a little bit slow from yesterday night...

I actually spoke English once today, to my German-speaking flatmate... He was peacefully getting himself a glass of water in the kitchen and I wanted to clean the floor where I had spilt some washing powder. So I came in the kitchen (it was 2 pm, I had just woken up, and was in a brilliant mood, of course, hair in my eyes and teeth showing), and mumbled "I just popped a thingy there, I'm sorry, move over". And then I realized that it was not German that I had just sopken, so I said, "murph, Danke", which is the best I could come up with at the moment. I hope he understood.

Apart from that highly interesting event, I'm afraid I don't have much else to report, I dit not even watch a movie today, or even read anything, it's just a shame. Shame on me reader!! I'm sorry! I'll do better tomorrow!!

Good night, anyway!! I'll blame this post on the jetlag...

samedi 24 mars 2007

We Are Fa-mi-ly!!

Good evening again, readers!!

I just wanted to tell you about my cousin's website (well, it's a blog actually). It's in French, all right, and therefore, it is not going to improve your English. But I personally like her drawings very much (she is a professionnal illustrator) so I thought I would put a link here to her website, in order to advertise a little!!

I like her humoristic little comics a lot, and her "serious" illustrations are very impressive too. Although the themes are often very dark. Well let's say it's not a site you want to show your five year old cousin. But I find it all very beautiful.

Here is the link, don't hesitate to go have a look!! The art can be appreciated even though you might not understand the accompanying texts!!


Ah! Autria won, supposedly!! There was just one car honking down my street... Well... Prost! I'll go fetch me'self another camomile...

Cry me a river...

Beuh, reader!!! Double beuh!!! (snirfl)

Well, where should I begin...

I went to the speed-friending event at "The Office" tonight. It was very well organised, and I liked the pub, and the atmosphere was great. But it did not quite work out... Where should I begin...

Well, I stopped at the call-shop near my place on my way there, cause I wanted to say hi to my best friend from France and talk to my mother (because she is in the hospital now, she just got a hip-replacement operation. She's doing fine.) Up to then, everything was OK. But that's when it started to go wrong... They smoke a lot at the call shop, (cause it's not forbidden, in Austria, to smoke in public places), and I kind of felt my eyes getting red, and I sneezed a lot.

Then I went out, and walked to the pub, under the rain. I was stopped on my way by a lovely guy from Nigeria, who said "I saw you at the call shop and thought "oh"".


No, I mean, thanks. "Oh"... I'm not talking to you anymore, man. I'm not talking to you unless you say "I saw you at the call shop and thought "Never knew, I could feel like this... like I've never seen the sky before... Want to vanish inside your kiss... Every day I love you more and more." Yeah. A girl needs to have standards...

Anyway. So I talked to the nice guy from Nigeria on the way, who was very impressed by my height (reason why he thought "oh") Point of this is that he spoke English and not German, so I guess I have used my English a little already at that point in the evening.

Then I arrived at the pub, was assigned a spot, sat down, and talked, with a lot of people, from a lot of places. And sneezed. More than I spoke actually. And blew my nose in a fashion as ladylike as I could make it (i.e. not very). Especially insofar as I did not have more than one pack of tissues. But I don't mean to gross you out. Somehow, my different speaking partners did not seem to enjoy speaking to the gooey monster of table Nb2. I really can't see why. I'm sure I looked lovely, with my red eyes and my increasingly red nose. Well, anyway, so when the event was over, I got up, and waited for someone to talk to me ("Hi!! I'b Glaire!! I'b vrom Vrance"), and looked around for lonely people whom I could talk to, both of which I did without success, so I just went home!!

And now it's half past nine, and I feel like a complete loser!!! Well, not a complete loser, I won a great raffle prize for one hour of squash. Because having a crappy evening is not enough, you also have to be PUNISHED for annoying everyone with your sniffing noises all evening. Anyway. If anybody here is interested in squash, please, let me know, I have that wonderful raffle ticket I don't know what to do with.

I should not despair though, I met nice people (who probably don't ever want to see me again), including an Italian who told me "I thought you were a Brit". So I said "Thanks". And he looked disappointed and said "I thought you'd be offended!". I thought about pretending to be offended and telling him to go away, but I did not, because I am a nice person. And also all that allergy-thing is probably slowing my brain down. But I made bitter comments about Italy winning the soccer world cup instead of France and how we'd never forgive them. Yeah, I know, I have a wonderful technique to make friends. Anyway. So, there we go, that was a summary of my wonderful evening at the Office. As I said, it's nothing to do with the organisation, which was really good, or the participants, which were real nice. This post is actually a protest against smoking in public places in Austria...

Well, I guess I'm going to go and fetch myself a herbal tea before watching Austria vs Ghanna... Aaaaaaaahahahahahaaaaargh!!!! Why me!!!???

vendredi 23 mars 2007

Money money money...

Today, I want to tell you about the Daily Reckoning. I thought I needed something to compensate the frivolity of everything I have written so far, which is mostly just about cinema, music, or my time abroad, and I decided to tell you about this newsletter.

Yes reader, tonight, tonight, won't be just any night.

The Daily Reckoning is an American free newsletter about the American economy and the stock exchange in general. It might not be your main interest in life (I confess it is not mine) but reading it once in a while is a nice way to keep up with the world of finance, in an entertaining way. Indeed. "The world of Finance in an Entertaining way". No, I would not have believed it either. But in fact, they even manage to be funny!! And it's pretty interesting to see that in a way, the world is actually ruled by the American stock exchange. (At least until the world starts ruling the American stock exchange, which should be soon, according to the authors of this newsletter).

Many people collaborate to it, but they have in common their wish to get off the beaten tracks and give us a more critical view of the situation. Well, critical is actually an understatement. They mostly have doomsday-scenario kinds of opinions. Which can bring you down. But, once in a while, I find it to be a really interesting read! My personal favourite is Richard Daughty, (a.k.a. the Mogambo Guru) who is very funny, but nonetheless instructive. And Bill Bonner, the main writer, who also writes best-selling books about finance in America, has really good articles too, which are maybe some of the easiest to read in this daily chronic.

Of course, since it is a theme I don't read about too often, it is sometimes difficult to understand, and you definitely have to read more than one of those articles to be able to appreciate them. There are frequently some words I have to check, but, in away, is that not precisely the point? I find it very enriching. I might not need to use expressions such as "gold bullion" and "subprime mortgage" very often, but one never knows. Besides, they are still easier to put in a conversation than "spittoon".

Well, readers, I think that's all I have to tell you about "the Daily Reckoning" so I'll leave it at that. Oh no! I nearly forgot... Here's the link!!

jeudi 22 mars 2007

Say what?

Good evening people!
Well, today, I am going to tell you about one of my favourite language learning games, which you can play basically anywhere. All you need is love. No sorry. All you need is an MP3 player, or somebody playing the radio. It's also a good way to help time pass when you are forced to listen to somebody's music which you can't stand. Provided it's in English, of course.

This is not going to work with your grandmother's latest André Rieu record. Obviously. But you can try it out with your neighbour's old Nirvana CD, which he plays over and over (and over again) every night since his thirteenth birthday. You've been living here for five years now, and there has not been a single hawaha now entertaiiiiinaaaa-free night. I'm not against Kurt Cobain, as such, reader, please understand. But enough is ENOUGH!!! A microphone is not a spittoon!! (I just found this word in a dictionnary, I did not know it existed... ha ha!! Spittoon!! I have to use it again soon... I can't see why I would, though...)

The point of the thing is to listen to the lyrics very carefully. Well, OK, everybody has had this idea before me, more particularly all the high school English teachers, at a loss for themes that might interest their students. Didn't we aaaaaaaall sing along (and out of key) to "Imaaaadjinn all ze pippoll...." (yes, I think I told you already... I come from France...) But really, it's fun to do, and although you might not be able to re-use the vocabs you get there in your next "Defining Britishness" essay, it can still help you understand some people. Who have been drinking too much. Or got all their teeth knocked out...

It's pretty funny, also, to actually find out what all those singers are talking about! Sometimes it's pretty surprising. Which also means of course that you might have very bad surprises and never want to hear about some songs again. It did that to me with some of the Black Eyed Peas songs. I should have known... And it's also funny to realise how little the melody sometimes has to do with the lyrics. You don't want to play a song saying "I hate you, you betrayed me, I hope you'll die soon, and never want to see your face again" at your wedding, just because the piano background sounds like Elton John. I was actually surprised at how many American song lyrics have a strong religious meaning, for example.

Well, I think it's time for me to go to bed now, I've been speaking German too much today, and now feel like Arnold Schwarzenegger had slapped me hard across the face with a Duden... So good night! Hope you'll all have nice dreams!!

mercredi 21 mars 2007

Alive, alive oh...

(This title is supposed to be a reference to the famous Irish song 'Molly Malone', I'm sure you guessed)

Anyway. The point of having an Irish title for this entry is of course, that we got the chance to meet and interview Lisa Joyce tonight, who told us more about her homeland: the Republic of Ireland. We had a nice little quiz at first, which was a little difficult, but taught us quite a lot, and then we were able to ask her questions about the country. I found it really interesting, to hear things from someone who actually knows the country from the inside.

Of course, we asked questions about what we hear about, here in "continental" Europe, so we talked about alcohol, and the Celtic Tiger, which appears not to be quite as fantastic as it looks from the outside, and seems to have eaten up the "old Ireland"... (What a fantastic play on word, don't you think reader? The Celtic Tiger has eaten up Ireland... Ha ha ha... Get it? Why don't you laugh, then?)

She told us about economy, about everyday life, and about the most important traits of the Irish people in general, in a nutshell, about what it means to be Irish today. And she also gave us titles of books and movies that we can read to get to know the country better, which is great.

I have been to Dublin too, I stayed there during the first semester of 2007, and it is a great place. Irish people are so cheerful and welcoming, it's very easy to get them to talk to you. The country is very beautiful of course, except that it's raining all the time, and also extremely windy, which is even more bothering. But it's most amazing what the sun does to the landscapes there, really, as soon as it shines, you feel like you just landed in fairyland, everything is so bright and green and healthy. But I must say it does not shine very often, and that might get a little depressing.

Besides, I love the Irish accent. Not quite as much as the Scottish accent, but still, I like it. It sounds very good, and I wish I could have picked it up while I was in Dublin! It's sometimes a little difficult to understand, but it's part of the charm! (As it is, I have more chances to have picked up a Polono-pakistani accent... Now that would be unusual...)
So my advice to you, readers, would be to take advantage of the incredible fares of RyanAir, and check it out for yourselves!! Go drink a Guinness in Temple Bar!! Go have the most expensive Capuccino of your career at the Clarence Hotel Bar! Breathe in the nice sea air, and walk on Oscar Wilde's footsteps... Well don't, actually, it could be dangerous, and you might end up in prison...

Anyway, it was really nice to hear more about Ireland, and to learn brand new words such as "begrudgery"... Hope I won't have to use this one too often...

PS: I now will sing Molly Malone for the next fortnight or so, I hope I managed to plague some of you dear readers. Please, don't begrudge me... ^_^

There's no business like show business

Hello again!!

Well, I was just re-reading the posts I've... well... posted so far, and I thought I really needed to tell you about my favourite website in the whole world, The Internet Movie Database.

It's just so amazingly complete, I spend my days on it, looking at trivial stuff and learning more about my favourite movies and actors.
The forums are very interesting, some are even quite funny (I found one which focused exclusively on one of my favourite actors's backside...) and mostly made by people who share the same interests as you (namely, Nathan Fillion's backside :-)). It's really a nice place to go when you don't quite know what to do, and feel like doing a little reading... Besides, it is updated daily, and there are always nice links at the end of the homepage, to interesting articles about cinema, chosen by the IMDb webmasters, who always manage to pick things that are interesting to me. These articles focus more on serious subjects, and are mostly from really good newspapers such as the Guardian, for example. (Which does not mean that Nathan Fillion's backside is not serious buisness, of course...)

But what amazes me most is the incredible quantity of people they have filed. Want to know who was in charge of the lights in that Uzbek movie you saw when you were three? -unlikely you would want to, but anyway, IMDb is here to tell you!! Want to know the title of that incredibly good movie you saw with that guy who plays in that series with the other girl who is married to Paul Bettany? Go to IMDb and you will know, in 4 clicks at the most! I just love this site. Besides, if you are a little bit feather-brained, like me, you might find some interest in the little details they give you about people, such as their marital status, their hobbies, their nicknames, or, if you are a 6-feet-tall-feather-brained person like me, their height. Yes! They actually give you the people's height!! (am I the only one who cares?)

So, here you go, my favourite website ever, www.imdb.com

And of course, they will tell you everything about hollywood actors, but not only! They have very good infos about bollywood actors too, and French ones, and German ones, and Austrian ones I guess, although I must admit to not being overly interested in Austrian cinema... Feather brained, I said!!

Their "search" facility is very well made too, you can search the site by name, character name, title, title of TV episode, and even quotes. Honestly, no question you have about cinema could stay unanswered... Hope you'll find this link useful!!

mardi 20 mars 2007

Kya tumhare chacha chachi mere chacha chachi nahi?

There we go people!! I could not resist any longer!! I hid some pictures on this blog before, but NOW I found a way to make Bollywood properly fit into this English Language learning blog!! Yeah!!! Drinks all around!!!

So, where were we? Ah, yeah, Bollywood. I don't know if you have heard of Bollywood before, but in case you haven't, the name is a mix between Bombay and Hollywood. Indeed, although they are not very well known, most of the movies produced every year on this planet come from India. Never heard of "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai"? You think "Chori Chori Chupke Chupke" is the sound a squirrel makes when it throws up?? YOU'RE WRONG!!! Ha ha ahahahahaha!!! (OK, I am going to calm down, now... Am I being overenthusiastic? No, readers, I am just being passionate...)

"What does all this have to do with anything?" Well, as I said, these movies are Indian, and therefore, most of them are shot in Hindi, which does not really help us, poor SUK4 students, improve our English. In particular not our English accent. But they are incredibly fun to watch, for anybody who likes musicals. But look titles up on the internet before you chose a movie, because 800 of them come out every year, and most of them are not worthwhile, some being barely watchable, some being very questionable as far as morals and ideology is concerned. But I might come back to that in another post.

What I find interesting for my English, and my knowledge of the English Language and culture, is of course the love-hate relationship between India and English speaking countries which is often depicted in these movies. In my two personal favourites (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Kal Ho Naa Ho) indian families go to live in the US or in England, and it is funny to see how life in these countries is portrayed, really. Especially in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, where you can still feel a tinge of resentment against the UK on the part of the Indian family. Both of them are really good movies, which I heartily recommend.

Another movie which describes that very well, and which has the complimentary interest of actually being in english is "Bend It Like Beckham", Gurindher Chadha's hit movie, which depicts the life of a teenage indian girl who is trying hard to blend into her English life, but has to face a lot of difficulties from her pretty traditionalist family. It is a very good and optimistic movie, maybe a little over optimistic, but still, nice and fun to watch.

If you are interested in seeing any of the above, please don't hesitate to ask me in class, I'll be happy to lend my DVDs! And I also have the adress of a really nice Indian shop in Graz (Jakomini platz) where you can buy them for pretty cheap.

Here is a link where you can find a little clip, particularly revealing... Don't think Indians are stupid, please, it's supposed to be funny (to some extent, at least.)

dimanche 18 mars 2007

How long must we sing this song?

Hello again!

So, here comes my first post about music. Because I love music. This is not going to be very elaborate, it is just a transcript from a live version of the famous song "Sunday Bloody Sunday", by the Irish band U2. Well, I guess you all know the song, but what I am going to write down there is the "speech" part of the live performance. I found it very moving, and it talks about something I did not really know much about, i.e. the links between the troubles in Northern Ireland and the USA. So here you go!! -oh, yes, and I'm sorry, Bono uses the f... word *o*

"Let me tell you something: I've had enough of Irish-Americans, who haven't been back to their country in 20 or 30 years, come up to me, and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home... and the glory of the revolution, and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution.

They don't talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What's the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where is the glory in that? In bombing a rememberance day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day? Where is the glory in that? To leave them dying, or crippled for life, or dead, under the rubble of the revolution?

But the majority of the people in my country don't want no more..."

I have a lot of admiration for this speech, because it was made during a live performance in Chicago, and I think it must have demanded quite a lot of courage to say things like that to a public amongst which I guess, where some people who would have disagreed with Bono. Everyone knows that U2 is very much involved in a lot of charity, and supports a lot of causes, both in their songs and in different organisations, which can end up being a little irritating (do they think they can actually save the world? Well I guess maybe they can, but you don't have to agree...)

Anyhow, I find their opinion on this particular topic more interesting than on many others, insofar as they actually know what they are talking about, since they come from Dublin. Bono himself had to face problems in his personal life, as a youth, because his parents were a "mixed couple", his mother being a Catholic, and his father a protestant. Not an easy situation in Dublin in the 70's.

I suppose it comes out much better when you get to actually hear it, but I don't know yet how to put a link to some music on this, so... Hopefully a litte later!!

Put your feet on the table!

Hi everybody!

Today, I am going to write about politeness. Because it is one of the things that I have found most difficult to adapt to in the different countries I have been in. Indeed, the idea of what it means to be polite can vary, both on the side of the host and on that of the guest, to a point where your attitude can be very much misinterpreted both if you are too relaxed and if you are too polite.

For example in France, where I come from (did I tell you I came from France?), being polite, on the part of the host, is being at your guest's service, and trying to satisfy his of her needs as fully as possible, by treating him to things you don't usually treat yourself to. In return, as a guest, being polite is not asking too much, and behaving in a way maybe more reserved than you would in your own house.

Therefore, when I went to Ireland and was invited to dinner with people who came from Pakistan, I did not sink in the couch, I sat up straight, and "politely" sipped my coke. Or, when I went to Australia, I asked permission before helping myself to some more salad.

"What is the problem with all that, mademoiselle?" ask my perplexed readers... (asks my perlplexed reader?)

Well, the problem is that thus, I appeared to be the worst stuck up person they had ever invited in their house. Or maybe I appeared to be scared to death by these strange strangers. I guess it was a bit as if I had come to a picnic in the park wearing a fancy evening gown. "Don't be so tense" said my Pakistani hosts... "chill out, mate", said my Australian family... But there is the hitch: I was neither tense nor nervous. Well, a bit nervous I guess, as always when you are dining with people you don't know too well, but still, my behaviour with them was absolutely natural. Until I realized that it was also completely out of place and ended up looking intently at the carpet, more nervous than before.

But in Pakistan, for example, or in Australia, for that matter, being polite is being ready to act with the guest as if he were part of the family. The guest is allowed to come anytime, wihtout warning or invitation, and he will be seen as someone who belongs in the house. That is, he will not be treated better than the usual inhabitants of the place, but in exchange, he is allowed to behave as naturally as he would behave in his own living room (i.e. put his feet on the coffee table). But this takes some time. To me, it felt a little strange at first, to be able to just do what I pleased.

But generally, what I have noticed, is that if you behave naturally, no matter whether you are being overly polite or a little bit rude, people understand. At least if they are people who invited you to their house, which tends to indicate that they like you, or that they are aware that you might be from a different culture, where things are not quite the same.

As always in intercultural exchanges (as far as going to dinner at a friend's place in a foreign country can be called an "intercultural exchange") the key would be adaptation. Just look around, take 10 minutes to see how others behave, and then just do the same. It sounds quite logical, I know, but sometimes logic is not quite the first thing that comes to your mind when you are in a sticky situation. Especially when you are embarrassed, you tend to react more with your nerves than with your brain. Which only makes things worse...

samedi 17 mars 2007

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die…”

Hello again, dear readers !

There we go, here is my second real entry on my brand new blog… Don’t worry, I am not going to count them all, because hopefully, there are going to end up being quite numerous… Anyway, as a second entry, I wanted to tell you about one of my favourite books, “The Princess Bride”. Some of you might know it already from the movie that has been made out of it, starring Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, and Colombo (among others…) The movie is really good too, but what I want to tell you about today is the book (I’d like to make adaptations of books in the movies the object of a later post, anyway).

It was written in 1973 by the incredibly inventive William Goldman (don’t get mixed up, he has got nothing to do with “The Lord of the Flies” author William Golding). The story is supposed to be told by Goldman himself, out of a book from a Florinese author named Simon Morgenstern, which Goldman’s father used to read to him. In order to make this sound realistic, Goldman regularly interrupts the general storytelling in order to signal the places where he edited the original version, etc.

I might sound a bit silly to those of you who actually read the book, but I bought it. I really thought there was a Simon Morgenstern, and I was really disappointed when I realized it was all a big lie… (How dare you lie to me, William Goldman?) Anyway… The book is really good, very easy to understand and quite entertaining, especially for those who have a remaining fondness for their childhood’s fairy tales. But don’t get me wrong, it is not a children’s book, some parts of it are actually quite bitter, and not overly optimistic about life in general, more particularly the parts about Goldman’s “real” life.

It is very hard to find it in foreign countries, I have not been able to find it in French (hence an endeavour to translate it myself for my best friends to read –I finished it, but it does not do justice to the original…) but, as I said, the American version is quite easy to understand, and you might find some useful everyday-life vocabulary and expressions in it. I find the dialogues particularly well written.

“-Death first”…)

Ok. Maybe not “particularly well written”, but very entertaining. I think “entertaining” is in fact the word that best defines the book. It is not philosophical, or meaningful, or particularly poetic, but it is surely to be recommended to people who find reading “boring”. To be read aloud to them, if they can’t actually read… It is the first book that comes to my mind when I talk to non-English-speaking people who tell me they would like to read a book in the original version in order to improve their English. Because it is so gripping that the wish to know the ending is (I think) way stronger than the possible difficulties that might be encountered on the way. And as I said, it is very hard to find a translated version of it, so there is no temptation to cheat…

Here is a link to William Goldman’s Wikipedia page, for those of you who would like to know more about him!

New York City, Centre of the Universe

Hello everybody!!

So here we go! There comes my first real entry into my brand new Language Learning Blog… Still haven’t found a proper title for it, I’m trying to be really smart, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little while still, dearest readers. Anyway. Yes. Where was I… Ah, yes, my first entry… So, I decided to write about a journey, because “spicing up the travels” is one of the main purposes of learning languages, as far as I am concerned. So yeah, here you go, a little account of my unforgettable travel to New York…

I went there in 2003, with the other students of my English class, from the Lycée Bartholdi in Colmar, France. There was a really good ambiance and we all had a great time, I think. We mostly went sightseeing, which was great: I spent one of the most tiring weeks of my life there, but when I left, I did not feel like I was missing out. We saw ground zero, went to the top of the Empire State Building (where I took plenty of photos with no film in my camera…), visited two or three museums, Harlem and Columbia University, and the Statue of Liberty, of course. I loved it. I mean, the lot of it, not just the Statue…

Of course, we stayed with a family, so we were able to speak a little bit of English. I got on very well with the people with whom I stayed, they were absolutely lovely, and very open-minded, very warm and welcoming. And also very easy going, which might be one of those quality we lack in France (yes, I admit it, we are not entirely perfect. But we’re close!!). They made me feel very much at home, and always tried to tell me things about New York, and to know more about me, although I guess this must have demanded some patience, because of the difference of language.

One of the things I liked most during my stay there (actually, without a doubt THE thing I liked best) was our going to Broadway to see a musical. I must admit, I love musical movies, so I thought I was going to like it, but since it was my first “live” musical, I did not expect it to be that great. Although it was sometimes a little hard for me to understand all the dialogues (the scene is set in New York, obviously, but it is about young people who live in a squat, and their vocabulary is not always of the kind you learn in High School) I still got most of the action straight, and it did not spoil the show. I saw the movie they made out of it recently, and it’s quite good, but it doesn’t really compare.

Anyway, the reason why I tell you about this musical, reader (Reader?? Do you copy?? Does anybody even READ this?), is that it has a lot in common with what I’ve seen of life in New York in general. It is a bit hectic, and there is no possible way you can get bored: there are simply too many things to see. If you don’t know what to do, if you don’t have any money, if your TV set is broken and you’ve got nothing to read, just sit down on a bench anywhere, and look around. I think you can spend days there just looking without getting bored. Besides, your chances of actually meeting someone who will keep you entertained are quite high, since New Yorkers are very curious about strangers, where they come from and why they are here.

So yeah… New York City, centre of the universe… I’ve never seen a place quite like it. And I surely hope I will be able to see it again one day!

mardi 13 mars 2007


Hi everybody!!

Here is my Blog's first post, I hope you like it.

Hopefully the next one will be better...