Improve your ability to speak English
M: What makes a painting a great work of art? There are many answers to that question. Some people think that a painting should look pretty. Others disagree. The skill of the painter is important. The techniques used are also important. Most of all, a great painting has meaning. A great painting has a special element in it.
Sometimes, a painter’s special element is the way he portrays his or her feelings in a piece of art. An example of this is Picasso’s painting, Guernica. It has strange shapes in it. It shows suffering people, too. It is not a very pretty picture. However, it makes people understand Picasso’s feelings about war.
Other times, the element is a memory or feeling. This comes from inside another person. Someone may see a painting and be reminded of a beautiful memory. A painting can also remind people of a feeling. For example, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is very popular. Many people like her smile. Some people say it is a sterious smile. Others say it is a happy one. Still others make up stories about the woman in the painting.
Which element is the most important? Is it the skill of the artist or the feelings of the person looking at the painting? Whatever the case, a painting that grabs people’s emotions is popular.
B : I want to be a member of a heavy metal band. I love heavy metal drums, James.
M: I don’t, Henry! They are too heavy, if you ask me. I prefer a more traditional style, like African barrel drums.
B : Barrel drums? What are those?
M: They are made with hollow logs and animal skins. First, they cut down a tree. They cut a section that’s about as thick and tall as a barrel. They stretch an animal skin over the top, and tie it to the sides with wooden pegs. These pegs can be tightened to change the pitch.
B : Hmm… that sounds interesting.
M: In Nigeria, they have “talking” drums. They use a hollow tree trunk that’s smaller than a barrel drum, and leave an opening at both ends. Then they fit an animal skin on each end. There’s a string between each of these ends. When a player holds the drum under an armpit and squeezes, it tightens the string and raises the pitch.
B : Why do they call it a “talking” drum?
M: The drummers are so skillful they can make the drums imitate human voices. They seem to cry, laugh, and shout.
B : I’d like to hear that.
M: Why don’t you come to the community college with me tomorrow? A troupe from Africa is giving a concert, and they are supposed to have the best drummers in the world.
B : Now, that sounds great!
The Hot New Movie
W: The latest blockbuster movie Robots Attack 2 starring Garrison Fort opened yesterday. Fort and Andy Robot are at it again, saving people from the jaws of death. The evil robots are invading Atlantis once again. The crowds seemed to love the sequel. Maybe they loved it as much, if not more than, the first Robots Attack. The special effects are fantastic! Mr. Fort seems to have worked on his fighting technique. His martial arts skills are amazing. He beats the evil robots easily.
Of course, our leading man saves a lady in distress, the fair Angie. She promptly falls in
love with Garrison the hero. However, Andy Robot is jealous of this new love. He spends a good part of the movie trying to ruin their plans. Another surprise is the evil robot, Homer, who decides he wants to become a do-gooder. His partner, Ethel, works hard to
make him return to his evil ways.
Does Andy Robot succeed in rescuing Garrison Fort from love? What about Ethel? Does she bring Homer back to his evil ways? To find out, head for the theater, buy a ticket, and sit back and relax.
A Faux Pas
G : It happens a lot. So many people visit and live in foreign countries nowadays. The culture and manners of every country are different. It is likely that a foreigner will say or do something inappropriate. This is called a faux pas. In one culture, it is fine to do something one way. In another culture, it is rude.
For example, friend visited a relative in Israel. She offered to wash the dishes. She did not know that it was important to wash the meat dishes with a special sponge. She used the wrong sponge. Her friend’s father was very upset. In Canada, it is fine to use the same sponge to wash all of the dishes, but not in Israel.
Something similar happened to me when I visited a temple in India. I was surprised when two officials stopped me and told me to take off shoes. It was only then that I realized that people are not allowed to enter a temple with their shoes on. I was very embarrassed. Of course, I apologized for mistake.
A faux pas is embarrassing. No one wants to be rude. No one wants to cause problems. However, when two cultures meet, there can be misunderstandings. The next time someone is rude, be patient and understanding. He may think he is acting politely.
G : Thanks for coming, Dad. I can’t believe first day of school is just next week!
M: Your mother and I are proud of you. Greer is a very prestigious art school.
G : There is an enormous list of art supplies. They are mostly items I don’t recognize.
M: Let’s look for the supplies that you recognize, Megan, and then we can get help with the rest.
G : I need a large drawing board. I also need a drawing pad one meter by half a meter in size, newsprint paper, and a set of artist’s drawing pencils.
M: Here is the drawing board, and I noticed the pencils over there. What’s next?
G : I need watercolor paint, various brushes, India ink, and a fountain pen.
M: They are on the wall display.
G : Now we need to locate the vine charcoal.
M: Excuse me, miss.
W: Yes, sir? How can I help you?
M: We’re trying to find vine charcoal. Do you know what that is, and where we can find it?
W: Vine charcoal is specially-burned wood. Burning it makes it like a black chalk. It is commonly used for drawing. Vine charcoal is very easy to erase, so we keep it next to the erasers.
G : That’s everything, Dad!
M: Great! Let’s pay for all these supplies.