Category Archives: Horror

451. Film Club: Alien Covenant

Another film club episode, this time about the Alien franchise and a review of the new film “Alien: Covenant”. The film is in the cinemas now and you could watch the other films at home (with or without subtitles) for some more English listening practice.

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Introduction

Here’s a film club episode about the Alien movies. I hope you’re a fan of those films. If you’re not a fan then this might not be for you I guess, but I hope you listen. In terms of language you’ll hear loads of descriptions of the events and themes of the Alien films and my opinion of “Alien: Covenant”. As ever I encourage you to listen out for language – you might notice some specific phrases. Check out the page for the episode where you’ll see a lot of the notes I made before recording. There are also a few YouTube vids there for you to see as well. OK, let’s get started.

I got a message the other day from a listener in South Korea called Ethan Lee. Ethan asked me if I was going to see the new Alien film “Alien: Covenant” and if I could talk about it on the podcast.

Well, I’m sort of a fan of the Alien movies and today I’m going to see Alien: Covenant, so here’s a film club episode all about the Alien franchise.

I’m going to describe the films, their stories, what makes them great or not so great, including Prometheus from a few years ago.

Then I’m going to go and see Alien: Covenant, the new movie and afterwards I’ll tell you what I think of it.

I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers throughout this episode while discussing these films, although I’m assuming that you’ve probably seen at least Alien and Aliens and you know some of the big moments – like probably the most famous scene in the original alien film where we first see the alien – when the alien comes to dinner, let’s say.

So I expect you know some stuff, but in any case I’ll try to avoid big plot spoilers.

I’m also going to give mini reviews of the films in the franchise, before focusing on Alien: Covenant

Episode notes

Why are you interested in the Alien films?

First time I heard about it.

First time I saw clips from Aliens in a sci-fi exhibition in America when I was about 14.

First time I saw Aliens when I was a kid.

The Alien franchise – Timeline

Alien
Plot
What type of film is it
Director
Alien
What makes it good
Mystery
Slasher film
The design by HR Geiger
Subtexts about sex, reproduction and motherhood
Limitations in filming
Ridley Scott

Aliens
James Cameron
Action movie
More aliens & explosions
New additions like The Queen
An amazing action sequence at the end where Ripley fights the Queen and then a few shocks at the end.
Annoying marines being macho, but great action sequences and Aliens on top form.

Alien 3
Disappointing
Poor storyline – killing off some of the characters from the last episode
Set on a prison colony
Bland set designs – all these characters with shaved heads
I’ve seen it a few times and even now I can’t remember what it’s all about
Poor CGI aliens

Alien: Resurrection
This was slightly better than Alien 3
It’s about a gang of mercenaries who find out that the military have cloned Ripley and used her to create aliens, which as ever they want to weaponise. The Aliens get loose in the ship and it all goes wrong while the ship heads towards earth.
There are some creepy bits about cloning including the times they’d failed to clone Ripley and also at some point a weird Ripley/Alien mix is created which is quite a horrific monster that just wants to kill everyone except Ripley who she considers to be her mother. The scene where the monster goes is both hideously disgusting but also terribly sad.
All in all it’s a weird, gross film which explored some of the themes of reproduction and motherhood.

Alien vs Predator and Alien vs Predator: Requiem
Never seen these films in full although I’ve caught some of them on TV and watched a bit but didn’t continue.
Quite horrible direction, in the dark, close up, so you can’t see anything. Generally it’s Aliens punching Predators. It could have been great but it’s not. There’s a predalien. Another weird name.
Neither of the Alien vs Predator films are considered ‘canon’.

Prometheus
Ridley Scott, back on board.
Let’s bring back the original world of Alien.
Excessive marketing with Ridley Scott really talking up the film in very high level terms – talking about ancient myths and big themes about humankind dabbling in too much power and the gods taking revenge and all this stuff, the legend of prometheus.
The film deals with humanity’s relationship with the gods—their creators—and the consequence of defying them.
I thought – this sounds amazing.
I binged on the publicity and the hype.
Went to see it expecting something huge.
What I got was cheesy dialogue, B-Movie level plot points and action sequences, pseudo-intellectualism, amazing visuals, some bizarre monsters and some extremely stupid decision making.
All in all I’m not sure what to think of Prometheus, but I am slightly obsessed with it.
There are some great things – the effects, the visuals, the performance of Michael Fassbender as the android David.
Some of the monster scenes are amazing.
It’s also mysterious and makes me wonder what it’s all about really.
It spawned numerous “fan theory” videos on YouTube with people going on at length about all the hidden meanings and real meanings – it all makes my head spin.
Here’s my take on it
Millions of years ago on earth an ‘engineer’ arrives and drinks weird black stuff that makes him disintegrate and spread DNA into the ecostystem on earth, seeding life on earth – probably human life. Alright. I wonder why he has to drink that stuff to do that. It looks cool though.
Then, cut to the present day or the near future or whatever. A couple of scientists have worked out from cave paintings where the engineers come from.
They go to find them, sponsored by the Wayland corporation.
They get there to find a seemingly deserted planet.
Find a spaceship. Apparetly this isn’t the engineers’ home planet. THere’s a ship there with loads of these kind of jars of black goo.
The ship also has some murals including one of a xenomorph. The black jars of goo look a bit like alien eggs, but not.
It looks like the engineers were loading the goo onto the ship and something went wrong. Maybe they got infected by the goo and had a bit of trouble. It looks like it. They’re dead anyway.
Apparently they were heading for earth with this load of black goo.
What’s the black goo? A kind of bioweapon.
David tests it. Doesn’t go well.
Shaw’s weird alien birth.
Two of the crew members are utterly stupid.
Apparently the black goo has infected some worms…
Find an engineer in hypersleep.
Wake him up and he’s angry.
Apparently the engineers were fed up with us and wanted to kill us. Maybe because they’ve been observing us and they’ve thought – no, start again! Humans are rubbish! Look, DOnald Trump, The Kardashians, Brexit – no, kill them all!
The remaining crew members stop the engineer sending all the goo to earth.
Engineer ends up getting impregnated
The ship crashes – stupid running away scene.
“Deacon” is born.

Alien Covenant
It’s been advertised in the same way as Prometheus.

A LOT of youtube videos. A LOT of footage released in trailers. LOADS of different versions of the trailers. LOTS of shots of the alien – as if to say “Look there are definitely aliens in this!”

But I have to say I don’t think it looks good.

Why?

First of all they appear to be repeating the same steps as the original Alien film. It looks like the same thing.

Then there are some clips of moments that look utterly cliched.

For example there’s a person who apparently has been infected by the black goo.

Black goo is rubbish by the way. It’s not as good as the Alien. It’s just goo and it’s really unspecific. If it touches you you become a monster with super strength. The alien with it’s weird reproduction cycle is far more interesting. Black goo just doesn’t make any sense.

Anyway, in the trailer one person apparently is mutating into a monster but it’s the most cliched thing of him standing under a bright light and kind of shaking while apparently possessed. We’ve seen it a million times before.

Then there’s a clip of two people in a shower and the Alien creeps up on them in the shower and you see the tail coming up between their legs while they’re in the shower. Basic sexual imagery – not like the inventive designs of Geiger, just old fashioned Freddie Kruger type stuff.

So, I don’t expect much from this but I feel like I should see it just to find out for sure. Who knows, it could be really great.

So now I’m off to see it so let’s see!


I then went to see Alien: Covenant in the cinema down the road. Listen to the episode to find out what I thought!


What do you think of the Alien films? Leave your comments below.

 

449. Film Club: Touching the Void (Part 2)

Part 2 of this Film Club episode looking at the award-winning documentary “Touching the Void” which tells the story of a mountain climbing expedition which goes wrong. Listen to this episode and then watch the film on Netflix or DVD for that extra bit of English input.

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Click here to get the book “Touching the Void”

Click here to get the film on DVD.

The Story Continues…

Their plan was to climb back down the North ridge and then abseil down a part of the north face.

Abseiling is when you use ropes to kind of lower yourself down. But the clouds started coming in again.

The walk along the north ridge was much harder than expected. It was vertical on one side (with overhangs) and steep flutings (like grooves going down) on the other side. You wouldn’t know if you were stepping on something safe or not.

As they were descending, with the weather setting in, things got a bit out of control.

They got lost and they were in a whiteout – unable to see anything.

Their plan was to get down that day. But, by the time the sun went down they were still very high up the mountain, still over 6,000m up.

That night while they were making a brew of water, their gas ran out.

Day 4

The next day they could see that they’d managed to get down the worst part of the ridge and Simon thought they’d get down the rest of the mountain that day. He thought the whole climb was “in the bag” (if something is ‘in the bag’ it means you’re certain to achieve it, you’re definitely going to get it.)

Simon thought it was in the bag. He was wrong.

Joe was climbing in the front, before Simon. He reached a vertical wall, a fall in front of him, so he started to lower himself off it.

The method of lowering yourself down an ice wall, using pick axes and spikes on your feet.
Joe swung his pick into the ice, and it made a strange sound, so he decided to take it out and place it in again.

He was about to swing again, and the whole piece of ice he was attached to with his left hand just came off like a pancake, so he fell through the air.

And he landed hard, on his leg.

It broke, really badly. Not just a fracture.

Pain flew up his thigh from his knee. Incredibly painful.

I’ve never broken my leg and I hope I never do because I’m sure it’s horrible.
I have injured myself before. Of course, I’ve cut my fingers on knives etc. When you do injure yourself there is a shock, especially a kind of shock where you think it could be serious. That kind of shock lasts a few moments, when you don’t just feel pain but you feel a kind of panic, thinking “I’ve seriously hurt myself”. Most of the time that feeling goes away when you realise it’s not bad.

But if it is serious, you get this dreadful feeling that comes on. A truly dreadful feeling that comes from the realisation of just how difficult and inconvenient things are going to get. Not just the pain, but the fact that you now have this injury which is going to make everything so damn hard for you.

Now imagine that feeling when you’re 6000 metres up the side of a freezing mountain in Peru with no water and no medical services anywhere near you.

I don’t know about you, but I would feel more than dread, I’d feel pretty hopeless. I imagine I would feel more than the pain and the inconvenience, there would also be all this emotion coming, like anger, tragedy, sadness.

Anyway, Joe at this point was mainly feeling the intense pain of a badly broken leg.

Here’s what happened, and this is really horrible, ok?

The impact of the fall caused his knee joint to actually split. The joint split and the bone from the lower leg went up through the knee joint, split the end of his femur (the thigh bone) and carried on up the leg.

Unimaginable really. All those ligaments completely ruined, the bone, cartilage, nerve endings, and of course the blood vessels broken by it.

The whole leg would have been unusable of course, and there was a lot of internal bleeding inside his leg.

Apparently he couldn’t cope with the pain at all at the beginning, but after breathing for a while he started to get a grip on it.

But he thought he was done for. He was still level with the peaks of some of the other mountains.

He tried to stand on the leg – impossible.
Simon eventually arrived, and he describes seeing Joe’s face – a complex mix of terror, pain and anguish.

Simon said “Are you ok” and Joe nearly said “I’m fine thanks” – because that’s what we say to that question, even if you’re not fine!

But he said “No I’ve broken my leg” and immediately Simon thought, “Oh god, we’re stuffed”
Now. What would you do if you were Simon and Joe here?

Let’s imagine you’re Joe.

You say, “mate, you’ve got to help me” or “Go ahead without me, I’m stuffed!” or “Don’t you dare leave me!”

Let’s say you’re Simon, what do you say here?
“Mate, don’t worry. We’ll get you down this mountain.”
“Look, you’re not going to make it. Do you have anything you want me to say to your parents?”
“Wait here, I’ll go and get help. I’ll come back for you I promise!”

Obviously, Joe is the one with the broken leg and the pain, but Simon also is in a difficult situation here because they’re partners.

According to Joe, Simon gave him some painkillers which did nothing, and they didn’t talk about it for a few moments because they both knew that Simon was going to have to leave Joe there, because they couldn’t get Joe down from the mountain without risking both their lives in the process.

Joe thought Simon would leave him there because there was no other choice.

Meanwhile, Richard, the third guy is sitting at base camp wondering what has happened to them, thinking that they both might be dead and that he’d find them at the bottom of the mountain because they’d just fall all the way to the bottom! There wasn’t really anything Richard could do because they were many many miles away from civilisation. There was no ambulance service to call. No mobile phones in the 80s. He just had to wait and see.

Back on the mountain, Simon pulled himself together to think about how he was going to get Joe down the mountain.

He decided to try and save him and had to come up with a practical solution.

The plan was, he’d just lower Joe down the mountain on a rope. Just slide him down.

He tied two 150ft ropes (there are about 3.3 feet per metre) together, with a knot in the middle and Simon was attached to one end, and Joe on the other.

Slide Joe down, letting the rope through the belay device. When the knot got to the belay device, stop letting Joe slide. Joe would stand up to take the weight off the rope. Simon would then unattach the rope from the device, let the knot through, then reattach the rope and then let it continue for the rest of the 150feet.

Then when Joe was at the end of the rope, Simon would downclimb to join him.

They continued like this for quite a long time, repeating the process. Letting Joe slide down, then letting the knot through the rope, letting Joe slide down further, then Simon climbing down.

Simon was letting Joe slide down quite quickly, conscious of the time running out and the fact they needed to get down to the bottom as quickly as possible.
It must have been excruciating for Joe.

But there were still these interpersonal things going on.

Apparently Joe kept wondering if Simon was pissed off.

These are the things you think about when you’re with a friend, doing something. Is he pissed off? Does he mind? Apparently Joe was wondering if Simon was annoyed by it all.
But I think Simon was also suffering from shock and panic too, and to an extent he held a lot of responsibility now for both of them, because Joe was out of action. It was basically a single-handed mountain rescue by Simon, in extremely difficult conditions.
It must have been a desperate desperate feeling for both of them.

What they didn’t know at the time though, was that this was just the start and that it would get a lot worse, and that something awful was approaching that they had no idea about.
They continued going down the mountain in this fashion – Joe badly injured, in shock and losing blood into his leg, both of them exhausted, both dehydrated at altitude and close to hypothermia.

A race against time.

The weather turned bad again, and within an hour or two they were descending in a full storm, with wind chill factor of something like -80 degrees.

They couldn’t dig a cave and rehydrate because they’d run out of gas. There was nothing they could do. Apparently at this point they lost control and started panicking, flying down this mountain in this desperate fashion.

As they made some good progress, albeit in such awful conditions, Simon started feeling a sense of hope because he could see that they were virtually down. Almost down at the bottom.

Things were looking up.

I say “reach the bottom” – in reality there were lots of different sections and terrains between the summit and the camp. From top to bottom it was like this:
Peak
Ridge
Face
Less-steep part of the face (approach to the face)
Glacier (like a huge river of ice that flows from the top of the mountain range down to the river bed at the foot of the mountain – slowly moving down, carving out the valley as it goes, crushing rock underneath it) – full of crevasses (massive cracks in the glacier with drops that went down all the way to the floor – to the river bed of the glacier)
The bottom of the glacier – full of huge boulders and stones, with water trickling deep underneath them.
A long section of this rocky terrain.
The base camp next to a glacial pool.

God knows how far from civilisation this base camp was.

Anyway, they were nearly down the mountain face, approaching the glacier. For Simon, he could see a glimmer of hope.

Until suddenly, Joe slipped off a cliff.

Neither of them realised it was coming, but Joe suddenly felt the ground under him get icier and more and more steep, and he started slipping faster and faster – going like a rollercoaster downwards, screaming at Simon to stop, but Simon couldn’t hear him and had no idea it was happening, just assuming that Joe was going faster over some steeper ground..
And then -whoosh, Joe slipped right off the edge of a cliff and was left dangling in the air, right above a massive crevasse – a huge crack in the mountain that went straight down into pure darkness. Joe was dangling over a huge abyss. About 80 feet between him and the opening of the crevasse.

Describe the problem from Joe’s point of view.

He gave up hope and would have died as hypothermia began to set in.

From Simon’s point of view.

Simon’s decision. What would you have done?

What Simon did.

Night fell – Simon dug a snow cave.

Meanwhile, Joe wasn’t dead. He survived the fall and had landed on a ledge in the crevasse, not far from the top.

Day 5

Follow Simon as he goes down.

He was suffering from shock and was also in a serious condition with dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. He was also seriously traumatised by what had happened. Apparently he said he was convinced that he was going to die too.

But what about Joe?

Attached himself to the ice wall of the glacier.

Called for Simon.

Pulled the rope.

Saw it had been cut.

Impossible to get out – broken leg, overhangs. Ice.

Joe lost it.

He came face to face with his own death.

He didn’t have a religious moment. He knew nobody was coming to save him. There was no god, just the abyss. It filled him with fear.

Imagine the worst darkness. Fear of the dark – it’s primal.

He was also extremely angry and felt like this was not the end of his life.

Joe’s bravery and refusal to give up.

One of the most impressive moments that has stuck with me.
“You’ve got to keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions, you know. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.”

Joe could have stayed on the ledge. He could have given up.
He chose to keep making decisions. He chose to keep moving forwards.
It just shows that you must not let things happen to you. Don’t just let yourself be carried away by events. Don’t stop making decisions and let yourself be carried away.
Even if you feel hopeless, like all options are screwed and that you’ll fail no matter what happens. Don’t stop making decisions.
You have to continue and keep going.
Like the famous quote, often attributed to Churchill – “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
Don’t give up when things are hard and hellish. Keep going.
Don’t just stop and let things happen to you, especially when you’re in hell.
That’s no time to stop! You’re in hell. Keep moving! You’ll get out.
Joe decided he’d use the remaining rope he had to lower himself into the crevasse and possibly reach the bottom.

Bottom.
Crawled along.
Horrible sound – imagine the fear.
A spot of light. Hope.
The incredible joy of the light and emerging, born again.
But out of the frying pan into the fire.
This was still just the beginning of his challenge.
He started following Simon’s tracks.
Night fell. He crawled in the dark until he couldn’t go further and managed to create a snow cave.

Day 6

Simon’s tracks had gone.
He could see the massive challenge ahead of him. He nearly gave up when he realised how far he had to go. The challenge overwhelmed him almost completely.

He was presented with this massive maze near the bottom of the glacier, where it was full of crevasses, creating all these little pathways with huge holes down the sides. Joe had to shuffle through all of this.

He got to the rocks at the edge.
Much harder terrain.

Created a splint using his sleeping mat. Discarded his other gear.

Horrendous experience of trying to get through the boulders and through the rocks. Hopping, falling onto the rocks, getting up, continue. Falling virtually every hop, like breaking his leg again every time.

Just 25 yards but it took so long and with so much pain.

But he describes himself as insanely stubborn at times (spell it correctly this time!)
This worked to his advantage because he was determined not to be beaten. He wanted to have it his way.

This is where the second most impressive part came.

He broke up the challenge into bits. He said – right, I’ll get to that rock in 20 minutes. Everything became about getting to the next rock in 20 mins, then the next 20 minute challenge and so on.
He became obsessed with these targets. If he got to the rock in 18 minutes he’d be over the moon, ecstatic. If he made it in 22 minutes he’d be furious with himself.

This is another thing we can learn about achieving something big. It’s true – trying to achieve one huge thing can seem impossible. You might look at the whole challenge and think, “oh my god, there’s no way I can do that, it’s too big”. But the key to it is to set a series of small goals and just try to reach that, then another small goal. Break it down into little chunks and you will be able to do it. Looking at the whole challenge doesn’t help. It dwarfs you.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – it’s like something my Dad said to me about how to eat an elephant (that sounds weird because you might think – why are you trying to eat an elephant? But it’s just a metaphor that my Dad said to me once).

The thing about my Dad is that he often tends to be right about things. It’s quite annoying when you’re having a discussion or debate because he always somehow ends up being right, but it’s also great because I have learned some pearls of wisdom from him. I don’t know where he got this one from himself, maybe his Dad.

Anyway, when I was a child I think I was talking about how I was finding a school project difficult – I think we were even walking in the garden, but that sounds like it’s too good to be true – walking in the garden with my Dad and he gives me a piece of wisdom, like something out of a Hollywood movie or something. Tell me father, how can I train in the force and become a jedi? Etc.

Anyway, I said “I can’t do my history project Dad…” and he dropped some wisdom on me, saying “How do you eat an elephant?”

The point is this:
Seeing the challenge as one whole thing can destroy your motivation, but step by step, bit by bit – that’s how you get a big thing done. And don’t give up.
Also, you just have to have drive – you have to be stubborn, you have to be motivated. Listen to that army captain you have in your head and obey him!

Joe says that at times he felt like there were two voices in his head. One saying, “let’s rest here in the sun it’s nice” and another part of him which was completely unsympathetic, saying “No, you’ve got to get to that rock. Now get up and go!”

We all have that inside us. That cold, pragmatic voice, which seems frightening or something, but we just have to listen to it sometimes, just to get things done.

Obviously Joe was in seriously bad physical condition at this point. Exhaustion, the badly broken leg, internal bleeding, shock, frostbite, hunger, injuries from his falls.
But also he started falling apart mentally too.
That feeling of there being several voices in his head or several parts of his mind got stronger and stronger – with one part being this cold pragmatic feeling of just relentlessly getting to the next point and the next after that, and the other part of him was just almost disconnected as his mind wandered away from what was happening as if he was observing it all from a distance. It must have been seriously strange and disturbing.

Sound of water driving him mad.

Night fell and he lay on the rock staring up at the stars and his consciousness became quite unhinged, having psychedelic out-of-body experiences. He says he felt like he was becoming part of the rocks and part of the mountain itself, and he lost all sense of time, feeling that he had lain there for centuries.

Day 7 – Joe still isn’t dead!

Meanwhile, Simon and Richard are preparing to leave the next morning.

Joe finds water.
Peeing himself, enjoying the sensation.
Feeling totally robbed of his dignity.
Realises he could make it.
But hit hard by the realisation that Simon and Richard might have gone.

The delusions – thinking that Simon and Richard were, for some reason, following behind him but choosing not to come and help him because they didn’t want to embarrass him.
Then realising that they weren’t there and feeling utterly hopeless and alone and distraught.
Considered just getting in his sleeping bag. But felt it was too pathetic.

Sun went down and he completely lost it. He couldn’t hold his mind together any more.

Confusion and madness. He tried to look at his watch but couldn’t work out what time it was.
The worst thing – he got a song caught in his head. Boney M – Brown Girl in the Ring. It went on and on for hours.

You know when you can’t sleep and you get a song caught in your head, really vividly. Imagine that but 1000x worse.
Like being trapped in hell.
It really upset him because he really wanted to think of other things but he couldn’t because of the song.
“Bloody hell I’m going to die to Boney M”

He would drift off, then wake up thinking he was in a pub car park drunk, he kept losing it. Totally delirious.

He woke up (or became conscious) because of a strong smell – it acted like smelling salts.
He’d crawled into the toilet area of the camp site.
After all that – he ends up crawling through their own shit at the end.
But it gave him hope that Simon and Richard might still be there. He had reached the camp. He called out to Simon, but got no reply.
That was the end for Joe.
This is when he finally knew he was finished.
He described how he lost himself completely at that moment. Ego death.

Simon and Richard were still in their tents, ready to leave the next morning. Apparently, Richard woke up because he thought he heard something.
Imagine you’re in the tent. This is about 4 days after Simon got back. They both thought Joe was dead.

Imagine you’re in the tent, feeling terrible, ready to leave the next day. Darkness.
The wind, blowing across the fabric of the tent. The shadow of the mountains in the background, with the knowledge that the body of your friend is still up there.
You wake up and you freeze because you’re sure you’ve just heard something.

There it is again, but it can’t be true. It sounded like a voice on the wind.
Apparently Richard waited, listening, and heard it again, and it really scared him because he wasn’t sure if it was real, or he was imagining it, or if it was a ghost.
He decided to check on Simon and discovered that he was already up – Simon had heard it too and was convinced it was Joe.

They searched for him shouting his name and found him on the ground a few minutes from the camp site.

What they found was the body of Joe, like a ghost or some kind of monster.
Joe was in such bad condition, covered in earth, crap, frostbite and sunburned, thin, starving, dehydrated and nearly dead.

They carried him to the camp and began the process of trying to rebuild his strength.
That’s where the story ends. We know that eventually Joe was brought down to a nearby civilisation where he received medical attention.

The challenge was not over there of course. I understand that he received some poor medical help in the basic hospital he ended up in, had to be flown back to the UK and his leg had to be amputated.

About the decision to cut the rope.

Joe has always defended Simon’s decision, saying that he would have done the same thing.
I can’t really understand why anyone would have a problem with what Simon did. Why should they both have died? It doesn’t make sense.

In fact, when you think about it, by cutting the rope, Simon saved Joe’s life, or helped to save him.

If Simon hadn’t cut the rope, they both would have fallen and it’s likely that one of them would have died. Let’s say that Joe would have landed on the ledge like before. Simon would probably have died. It’s unlikely that he would have landed on a ledge too. He probably would have fallen into the crevasse, dragging Joe in too. They both would have died.

Anyway what do you think?

Again, I urge you to watch the documentary film on Netflix, on DVD or on what other platform you can find.

Also, consider reading the book, or Joe Simpson’s other books – because apparently he had even more near death experiences on mountains too!

Let me also leave you with this

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.
  • How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time. How do you get down a mountain? One step at a time too! Or you slide, or you drag yourself, or you hop. But you break down the challenge into achievable steps.
  • Nobody even broke their leg learning English – so, enjoy your studies and seize the day!

Thanks for listening.

What happened next?

Returning to Siula Grande

 

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Listen to the conclusion of this mystery story in which Amber, Paul and I attempt to solve a series of kidnappings in Victorian London.

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Welcome back to the this double episode in which Amber, Paul and I are working our way through an online text adventure game. The game is set in London in the Victorian era. We are playing the part of a brilliant detective with a particular set of skills who, with his partner Mardler, is trying to track down and rescue 4 kidnapped girls while also bringing the kidnapper to justice.

This is part 2. We’re halfway through the story. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, I suggest you do so. It’s episode number 425.

Thanks to Peter Carlson, who wrote the story. Peter gave me the go-ahead to record us reading it out on the podcast. Nice on Peter, thank you.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

You can find the link to the game on the page for this episode (link above) where you read all of the text that we are reading. So you can either just enjoy listening to us going through the story now, or you can listen now and read the story yourself later, or you can listen to us and read the story at the same time. It’s worth checking the text in the story because you’ll be able to read all the words and check certain things that you might miss, like spellings, definitions of certain language etc.

Whatever you choose to do, try to watch out for descriptive vocabulary (particularly verbs for different types of movement), the language we use while working together as a group and also the language we use when making deductions and speculating about the case (things like “might have” “could have” “must have” and so on).

As I said before, the story does contain some descriptions of violence so if you’re very sensitive to the gory details, then be warned, although it’s not that graphic in my opinion and you expect a bit of blood in a detective story, don’t you?

What’s the story so far?

Let’s recap again quickly.

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper in the form of a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

We were called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe had disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we worked out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They had planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduced that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we discovered that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a strange, creepy yet huge and strong man with an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

4 young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all have similar coloured hair – they all have light hair. Then we start receiving notes from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap, written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin – but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us (I blame Amber). It turns out she’s not at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that he must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place – the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

Let’s find out.

*** The story continues ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** The story ends ***

Here’s a recap of the story, just to make sure you got it.

Part 2 of Victorian Detective – Explained

So, after making a mistake and searching the cemetery for Chloe Worthington, we went to the hospital to track down Mr Burlap the kidnapper, who we suspected was Cade Brewer the weird, big guy from the mortuary. There we find the body of one of the other girls, Amy Anderson, but unfortunately it was too late! We’d wasted too much time at the cemetery and the girl had already died from ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Next to Amy’s body we found a smiley face (the kidnapper’s calling card) and a scratched note from Mr Burlap indicating that another one of the girls was being held somewhere else and that we had a limited amount of time to find her. We then deduced that she was being kept near the Thames river. We went there and discovered another one of the missing girls tied up next to the water. Mr Burlap’s plan was that because the Thames is tidal, the tide would eventually come in and the water level would rise, drowning the girl. Thankfully we managed to rescue her in time. We suspected the Italian uncle of the paperboy from part 1 of the story to be the killer, because Mr Burlap wrote “Good luck” in Italian at the end of the note. Closer inspection of Chloe Worthington’s house revealed that it wasn’t the Italian uncle, and that in fact Cade Brewer had been spying on Chloe and Joseph (the Italian paperboy) and that’s how he knew about the Italian phrase, which he wrote in the note as a distraction. We then worked out that Cade Brewer, who must be Mr Burlap was probably hiding in a forest just outside London – Epping Forest. We went there to investigate, and eventually found a small wooden house where we came face to face with Cade Brewer. There was a bit of a fight at the entrance to the wooden house, Mardler got hit in the face with a shovel, we dropped our gun and Cade Brewer escaped. We then picked up Mardler’s gun and investigated the house, which was full of bear pelts, bear traps and loads of carved smiley faces all over the walls – clearly Cade Brewer was Mr Burlap the kidnapper, and he’d been practising his smiley faces by scratching them everywhere in his house, like the way you practise your signature when you’re young, until you’re happy with it! We decided to chase after Brewer by going down a trapdoor which was hidden by a bear pelt on the floor. In the basement we discovered the 3rd girl, tied up, standing on a chair with a noose around her neck. For some reason we didn’t immediately rescue her from this perilous situation, and instead we chose to try and follow Brewer by shooting the lock on the back door of the basement  and opening it to discover a tunnel. We then didn’t look properly and got our leg caught in a bear trap, badly injuring ourselves. It didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome of the story but it must have stung a bit! Then, with the help of Mardler and some police officers we cut down the other girl, rescuing her (2/3 at this point).

Then the point of view changed and we followed the story from Cade Brewer’s perspective. Playing as Brewer was a disturbing experience because he was obviously suffering from extreme side effects because of the Opiax painkillers he’d been taking. In fact the painkillers had driven him mad and he’d turned into a psycho, completely obsessed with a nurse who had cared for him at the hospital where he’d been a patient with an injured leg. With his mind twisted by the effects of the opiax, he’d killed the nurse. Brewer’s mental illness, caused by the side effects of the painkiller, came in the form of the voice of Mr Burlap, who convinced him to kidnap the other girls and kill them as part of some kind of natural cycle, which he had to complete. Poor Cade Brewer was completely overcome by the influence of Mr Burlap, all because of the effects of this untested drug that he’d been given at the hospital. His next step was to kill not only Chloe Worthington, but also the detectives on his trail – that’s us!

Then we returned to the point of view of the detectives who had somehow worked out that Chloe Worthington was being kept back at the mortuary, and there we discovered her, only to be locked inside by Cade Brewer/Mr Burlap who proceeded to try and burn down the building as the conclusion of his natural cycle – having killed the other girls with earth, water, air and now fire. Thankfully we managed to use our articulate communication skills to trick Brewer into opening the door of the mortuary, where we chose to mercilessly shoot him dead without asking further questions (notice that Amber was the one who chose to do that straight away, immediately saying “shoot the fucker!”)

We escaped from the burning building with Chloe Worthington. But tragically we didn’t get 100% success because we let Amy Anderson die in the hospital due to our poor deductive reasoning at the cemetery.

That’s the end.

Let us know your thoughts

As ever, I’m curious to know what you think.

  • Would you have made the same choices we did?
  • Did you manage to work out what was going on?
  • Do you have any language-related questions or comments?

Let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section.

Other episodes like this

You could try these episodes if you haven’t already heard them.

Thanks for listening!

Luke
Foggy forest house

425. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 1) with Amber & Paul

Listen to Amber, Paul and me as we attempt to solve a series of mysterious kidnappings in Victorian London.

[DOWNLOAD]

Introduction

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here’s a new episode, you’re actually listening to it. It’s really happening and here is my introduction. This was a very fun episode to record and I hope it’s going to be a fun episode to listen to. It’s going to be a two-part episode and this is part 1 and here is the introduction.

Amber & Paul are back on the podcast in this episode, and this time we’re going to play a game in which we imagine that we are detectives trying to solve a mysterious series of kidnappings in Victorian London and you’re going to join us.

In the recording that you’re going to hear, the three of us are reading through an online text adventure game – one of those games where you read part of a story and then make a decision which affects the way the story continues. I have done this on the podcast before. It’s always a fun thing to do so let’s do it again. And the cool thing about this is that the entire text is available online for you to read too. It’s all there if you want to read it, just visit the page for this episode and you can see the link to the game.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

Click that link (or just go to textadventures.co.uk and find the story called Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson) and if you check out the text for this story you can then not only listen to this episode but also play the game and read all of the text too.

This opens up lots of possibilities for using this episode to improve your English.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. You just listen to this. Maybe you’re doing the ironing or something. Just listen to us going through the story, try to follow it all, follow our choices and try to enjoy it as an entertaining detective story even if there are some bits that you don’t quite understand. You will hear the entire story from start to finish in this episode and the next one. So, just listen and enjoy it!
  2. After you listen (like when you get home or whenever you’re in front of a computer) play the text adventure game yourself. That way you’ll get lots of reading done and it’ll be a bit easier to follow the story because you will have already heard us reading through it, it will reinforce the things you heard in this episode, and it’ll allow you to check out words that you didn’t catch by using an online dictionary and so on. Also, as you play the game you can make different choices if you want and you can experience a completely different story.
  3. You listen and read at the same time, following everything we do, clicking on the same things as us, making the same choices and effectively just reading along with us. You can pause the episode whenever you want if you want to use online dictionaries to check the meanings of any words.

So, there are some options – just listen, or listen then read, or listen and read at the same time.

There’s a bit of graphic violence in this story (blood and stuff…)

Another thing you should know is that this is a crime story and it involves some descriptions of violence and a few gory details. It’s no worse than an episode of a crime thriller on TV or something like that, but there are some descriptions of violence involving blood and mortal danger, so if you’re a bit squeamish, then I suggest that you have a bottle of brandy nearby so you can revive yourself in the typical 19th century fashion, or take a few deep breaths or have a cup of tea to calm your nerves if necessary.

I understand that this episode might be a little difficult to follow

Or maybe not – you might have no problem following it all, but I have a feeling it will be a bit trickier because the three of us get quite animated and excited at times and we speak rather quickly, interrupting each other and talking over each other sometimes, but as we’ve established before on this podcast, that’s actually quite good practice for your listening skills – being able to follow a group conversation. There are many situations like that you could face in the future – imagine for example a business meeting involving you and three other people and everyone’s enthusiastically taking part, sharing ideas, working together quickly to make decisions. It’s good to listen to that sort of thing, rather than just always listening to one person giving a monologue or just two people discussing something. In episodes like this you can get used to hearing multiple voices discussing things and making decisions together.

Try to notice specific language – decision making, verbs of movement and modal verbs for speculation and deduction

From a language point of view, I want you to watch out for this type of language:

Try to notice language for making decisions. Listen out for the ways we ask each other for opinions on each decision, the ways we agree or disagree, the ways we speed things up or slow things down, the way we clarify meaning and the way we summarise or recap information. These things are often done very quickly, yet they’re important practical bits of English for team work.

The story has some moments of action, and so there’s a variety of verbs used to describe different types of movement. Watch out for them and remember to read the text to help you.

Watch out for the language of speculation and deduction. Since we are working together to analyse evidence in order to work out what’s going on, there’s a lot of language of speculation and deduction. So that includes simple ways like, like just putting maybe or perhaps at the beginning of the sentence. For example, “Perhaps she ran away” or “Maybe she was kidnapped”, but also more complex ways using modal verbs to speculate about the past. For example, when you’re talking about possibilities with might or could: “She could have run away” or “She might have been kidnapped” or when you’re certain that something happened by using must, e.g. “She must have escaped through the window” (in the past) and “He must be at the hotel” (in the present), and using ‘can’t’ to talk about something that’s not possible, e.g. “He can’t have escaped through the window, it’s not big enough” or “It can’t be the father!”. So watch out for might have, could have, must have, can’t have for deductions about the past, and watch out for the way we say those auxiliary verbs – “He must have gone through the window” – ‘have’ is hard to hear, but you know it’s there because of the extra syllable and the fact it’s followed by a past participle. “He can’t have done it”.

OK, keep in mind that kind of language, and also the fact that you can read the text for this story too whenever you want, and you’ll see there is a lot to be gained from this episode in terms of English learning.

Just enjoy the story!

But also, I hope you just enjoy listening to the story and spending some more time in the company of Amber, Paul and me.

Alright, that’s enough of an introduction. Here we go!

*** The recording with Amber & Paul starts here ***

Hello Amber & Paul. How are you? … What’s the situation while we record this? … We’re sitting in front of the TV screen and we’re going to play a game.

A Detective Story with Deductive Reasoning

  • Have you read any detective stories, or watched Sherlock? (Paul has read the Goosebumps series, Amber has read loads of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie)
  • Are you any good at deductive reasoning? Are you good at working things out?

Deductive reasoning: Your deductive reasoning is your ability to recognise certain clues and then put them together to make correct judgements.

Let’s test your deductive reasoning with a quick riddle.

Riddle

Can you answer this cunning Sherlock-style riddle?

There are three light switches in front of you. The light is in an upstairs room and you can’t see it. You are only allowed to take one trip up to the room. How do you work out which switch controls the light?

Answer:

1.Turn two of the switches on, say switch A and switch B.  Leave them on for a few minutes.  Then turn switch B off.  Run upstairs into the room.  If the light is on, switch A controls the light.  If it is off, feel the bulb.  If it is still warm, then switch B controls the light; if it is not warm, then switch C controls the light.  

Victorian Detective – Episodes 338 and 339

Last year I did a couple of episodes in which I read through an online text adventure called Victorian Detective on textadventures.co.uk . I read through the story, making decisions based on the evidence, trying to solve a murder mystery. The whole thing was written by a guy called Peter Carlson.

I didn’t ask permission from Peter before reading out the story on the podcast, although I did make a point of giving credit to Peter.

Then, the other day I got an email from Peter Carlson in my inbox. Ooh.

Here’s what it said.

Dear Luke,

I’m the author of the Victorian Detective game, which you read on podcast 338. You did a really good job! Thank you for picking my work to read.

Peter Carlson

I replied:

Hi Peter,

You’re the one who did the great job. Your story was excellent. I hope that it brought a bit more traffic to the site and that more people read your story.

Would you mind if I did Victorian Detective 2 on my podcast as well?

All the best,

Luke

Peter replied:

Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the game.

 
That would be really great if you read Victorian Detective 2 as well.
 
Peter

I was very pleased to get this endorsement from Peter and he’s clearly quite happy for me to be reading through his stories on the podcast.

Victorian Detective 2

So, let’s do another detective story on the podcast. This one is called Victorian Detective 2 and this time I’m joined by Amber & Paul. Let’s see if we can put our heads together to solve the mystery in this story.

What we’ll do is read through the story as we play it. We can discuss and explain our decisions one by one. The listeners can follow the whole thing and they can even read along with it by going to textadventures.co.uk and finding Victorian Detective 2 – the link is on the page for this episode. That can help you check all the words, the spelling and so on and play the game yourself if you think we are making the wrong choices.

The link: textadventures.co.uk/games/view/rl6-r253x0aca-y-v_vnvw/victorian-detective-2

Remember, listeners, that we will be experiencing this story for the first time as we read it, so we have no idea what’s coming next or what happens at the end. In fact, I understand that there are multiple possible endings for this story.

The game will tell us if we’re making good or bad choices along the way. It counts a score as you go. E.g. if you make a good deduction it says “deductive reasoning success” or “deductive reasoning fail” and gives you a + or – score for each decision. And then at the end you get a score which explains what kind of detective you are. E.g. if you’re like Sherlock or you’re Shernot. 

OK let’s get started.

We should choose the name of our detective agency.

Thompson, Taylor & Minogue? or Taylor, Thompson & Minogue?

*** The story begins ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** End of Part 1 ***

That’s the end of part 1!

Have you managed to keep up with the story so far?

Here’s a brief summary of what has happened so far, just to make it clear.

The story so far

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. So far 3 girls have gone missing. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper. It’s a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

Taylor, Thompson & Minogue (all of us playing the part of one detective with a particular set of skills) are called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe has disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we work out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduce that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we work out that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a kind of creepy loner. Physically he’s huge and strong and he has an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is, so we can’t ask him any questions. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

Four young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all look quite similar – they all have light coloured hair. Then we receive a note from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap. The note is written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin, but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us. Obviously this is Amber’s fault – just listen back to it and you’ll see, but it also didn’t help when I clicked the wrong option at one point, losing us points and valuable time. Anyway, it turns out Chloe Worthington is not being kept at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that Mr Burlap must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place, in the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact the kidnapper Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

I suggest that you immediately check out part 2 (if it’s available) in order to continue this story and to find out if we discover the identity and motives of the kidnapper and how many of the missing girls we manage to rescue.

Thanks again to Peter Carlson. All credit goes to him for writing this exciting detective thriller. Remember you can check out textadventures.co.uk to play more of these games – and there are others written by Peter Carlson.

Any comments? Write something in the comment section below.

vicdec2

389. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 2

Here is part two of my conversation with Sarah and Sebastian from the USA about the upcoming presidential election. In this episode we turn our attention to Hillary Clinton.

[DOWNLOAD]


So, that was our conversation about the election. There were opinions flying around. There were words flying around. There was a hell of a lot in there. I could spend forever untangling it all and explaining the words, breaking it all down bit by bit so you understand it all. But frankly, that would take me hours and hours and I just can’t do that. In the end, I think perhaps the best thing to do was to play you a natural conversation about it instead, even if it was hard for you to follow.

Perhaps because we were talking rather quickly. Perhaps because we were talking over each other a bit. Perhaps it was difficult because of the American accents of Sebastian and Sarah. Perhaps because you don’t know the subject well and that made it hard to understand. So, if it was a struggle to understand everything, well done for making it through to the end of the episode here.

If it wasn’t a struggle and you feel you understood a lot of the conversation, then well done you!

I expect some Trump fans out there listening to this got triggered by some of our comments. You might have strong feelings. Can I suggest that before you do that you take a deep breath before you start writing. Also, I’m sure there are some anti-Hillary people out there. Again, don’t spread hateful comments on the website. Instead I encourage you to present a developed argument, and not the sort of hateful nonsense you find under the average YouTube video.

Whatever your thoughts and feelings, please join in the conversation and leave your comments on the page for this episode. I have a few questions for you. You can answer as many as you like.

  1. How was the conversation for you? Did you understand it all?
  2. What do you think of Hillary?
  3. What do you think of Trump?
  4. Who do you think will win?
  5. Who do you hope will win?

I look forward to reading your thoughts on the website.

Thanks for listening. Speak to you soon.

Bye.

Luke

election

388. US Presidential Election 2016 – Trump vs Clinton (with Sarah & Sebastian) Part 1

The presidential election in the USA is about a month away and I’ve been meaning to talk about this subject on the podcast for ages. So in this episode you’re going to hear me in conversation with a couple of American friends of mine who you might already know from their previous appearances on this podcast – Sarah Donnelly and Sebastian Marx. We sat down in my flat today to talk about the elections, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, their thoughts, feelings, opinions and predictions on the whole thing.

[DOWNLOAD]
The conversation you’re about to hear is very fast moving with quite a lot of specific vocabulary about American politics. It’s quite passionate and opinionated in places. I certainly hope that it is an interesting conversation for you to listen to and that you enjoy hearing about this subject from two American people in their own words.

Because it is so fast moving and we had so many things to say I expect that this will be a difficult one for you to follow. I think this will be a challenging episode. So, if it’s hard to keep up with – don’t be surprised. That’s quite normal because I think this is a fast conversation for any learner of English to keep up with.

Alright, I don’t want to go on about it any more in the introduction here, suffice to say that I know this is a fast moving and opinionated conversation so strap in, focus, listen carefully and I hope you enjoy it.

PRESIDENTIAL POLL

election

371. In Conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool (PART 2: Film Analysis / Hidden Meanings / Stanley Kubrick / Conspiracy Theory)

This is part 2 of my conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool, who makes documentaries about films and publishes them himself on his website Collative Learning. If you haven’t heard part 1 yet, you should check that out before listening to part 2. In this conversation we talk about Rob’s approach to film analysis, hidden meanings in films, the work of Stanley Kubrick and the conspiracy theory about the moon landing. More details below.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Click here to visit Rob Ager’s website collativelearning.com

In part 1 we talked about Liverpool and what it’s really like to live there. Then we talked about how he developed his approach to film analysis. In part 2 we talk about films in more detail, including some of the films which struck a chord with him when he was younger, and films which have inspired him to make his analysis videos. We focus on the work of Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker whose work has really fascinated Rob over the years. We also discuss the idea that directors add hidden messages into their work, and how this is sometimes interpreted wrongly by viewers and critics. We also discuss the so-called conspiracy theory about Stanley Kubrick and the moon landing, and whether there are hidden messages about this in the film The Shining.

Links & Videos

Rob’s website www.collativelearning.com

Some interesting videos from Rob’s YouTube channel


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370. In Conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool (PART 1: Life in Liverpool / Interest in Film Analysis)

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Rob Ager from Liverpool, who is probably best known for his film analysis videos on YouTube in which he discusses classic Hollywood thrillers, sci-fi and action movies in quite astonishing levels of detail, often focusing on deep psychological and political themes and hidden messages that most viewers probably wouldn’t even notice. His videos are carefully constructed documentaries, made for educational purposes and all of them feature a voice-over commentary by Rob in which he analyses the film and gives his observations.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

Click here to visit Rob Ager’s website collatedlearning.com

I think I first came across Rob’s work on YouTube about 5 or 6 years ago. Sometimes I start watching YouTube and I get sucked into a kind of YouTube worm hole. That’s where you start watching one video, and that leads you to watch another one and then another one and eventually you find yourself watching something really fascinating and unexpected and that you wouldn’t normally have come across. I think that’s what happened with Rob’s videos. I think I first came across a short documentary he made about a horror movie called The Thing by John Carpenter, which is one of my favourite films. It’s really scary, tense and well directed, and it has a terrifying monster in it. Also it has a complicated story line which creates an eerie sense of paranoia that invites the viewer to speculate on who is or who isn’t a monster. It was really interesting to listen to Rob talking about The Thing in so much detail and it made me think about the movie in ways that I hadn’t considered before.

Then after that I kept noticing other videos by Rob and I would always watch them with interest. He has videos about The Matrix, Star Wars, The Shining, Alien and more.

Sometimes I find his comments to be a bit too specific, like he is perhaps over-analysing the films, but then again I think this is what’s great about movies – that everyone can interpret them in any way they want – and that a film might mean one thing to you, but mean a completely different thing to someone else. Even the director of the film might have a very specific message in the movie, that most of us don’t even notice. I think most modern film makers understand these ideas and they often leave their movies open to interpretation. Think, for example about the ending of Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio – what does it really mean? We’re supposed to imagine and discuss our own interpretations of it, and I think it’s one of the strengths of the film and one of the reasons it is so popular. Everyone can leave the movie with their own theory on what it was about and what had happened at the end. Rob Ager takes this principle – that there are multiple readings of a movie – and really runs with it in his documentaries, suggesting that many of these great films that we love could in fact be about political events in the real world, our deep desires and psychological motivations or even about hidden power structures.

Another interesting thing for me is that Rob comes from Liverpool. He’s a scouser (that’s the word for people who come from Liverpool) and he speaks with a scouse accent, which really reminds me of the people I used to meet, talk to and work with when I lived in Liverpool years ago. The Liverpool accent is really distinctive, and I always want to feature different British accents on this podcast, so on this one you’ve got the chance to get used to listening to a scouse accent, or Liverpool accent.

Also, I think Liverpool is a fascinating city and not enough people know about it. Most people know The Beatles or Liverpool and Everton football clubs, but there’s more to Liverpool than that. I’m hoping that Rob will tell me a few things about what it’s really like to live and grow up in this important English city.

His website – CollativeLearning.com reveals all sorts of interesting things – like that fact that Rob is a filmmaker himself and he is very prolific with his analysis videos. He has loads of documentaries which you can download from the website. What becomes clear after reading and watching his work is that Rob is a very observant and articulate person with a great interest in film, but he is also knowledgeable about a wide range of academic theories and he incorporates ideas from psychology, sociology and philosophy in his film analysis. All of that reminds me a lot of the things I read and wrote about while doing my Media & Cultural Studies degree at university in Liverpool. What’s also notable about Rob though is that he has received no formal academic education or training in all of these subjects – he’s completely self-educated.

I’ve never spoken to Rob before, and I’m recording this introduction before our interview, which is due to start in just a few moments. I’ve got no idea how the conversation will go or what directions our conversation will take but I really hope it’s an insightful and engaging listening experience and that Rob and I get on with each other. I suggest that you listen out for differences between my standard Southern British RP accent and Rob’s accent, and let’s see what kind of vocabulary emerges from our talk.

Alright, it’s time to speak to Rob now. So, here we go.

*Conversations starts (after I remembered to press ‘record’ on my device)*

Links & Videos

Rob’s website www.collativelearning.com

Some interesting videos from Rob’s YouTube channel

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337. MURDER MILE WALKS: Stories of London’s Most Infamous & Shocking Murders [Some Explicit Content + Swearing]

Hello, and welcome back to to the podcast, this episode is called “Murder Mile Walks: Stories of London’s Most Infamous & Shocking Murders”, and in this one we’re going to hear about some true crimes that happened in  parts of central London. Yes, all the stories that you will hear in this episode are true, and you should know in advance that this episode does contain some graphic descriptions of horror and extreme violence. And on top of that, there is some swearing at the end of the episode too.

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explicit contentAttention: Explicit Content

So, this is an adult episode of the podcast, recorded by adults, featuring adult conversation between two adults about adults doing adult things to other adults and it’s presented here by an adult for other adults to listen to OK? So, the point I’m making is that it’s not for kids, this episode. So, if you don’t mind a bit of horror and some strong language – then, great! But if you’re easily shocked then please be cautious. To be honest though it’s no worse than some of the stuff you see in the average horror film, an episode CSI or Grey’s Anatomy or a true crime documentary or something. But anyway, now that I’ve warned you about that let’s continue…

Moz

Welcome to the podcast. This is a conversation with my mate Moz, who has been on the podcast before. You might remember Moz from previous episodes such as the Brighton Fringe Festival series, the drunk episode, and the drunk episode 2, which was recorded on Moz’s boat. So, Moz has been living in London for ages but a couple of years ago he decided to buy a canal barge – a narrow boat, and live in it at various locations in the London canal system. It sounds like a pretty nice life. Instead of just living in one location the whole time he moors the boat at different locations in the canal and river system in London, enjoys a more peaceful side of London life, with all the ducks and geese, and fishing, and pubs, and knife crime. Well, maybe not the knife crime. Let’s hope not anyway.

Anyway, Moz used to work as a producer of comedy TV shows at the BBC. He also produced, wrote and performed in a few of his own comedy theatre shows at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe festivals over the years, and all his shows featured slightly dark subject matter but in a comedic way. They were basically horror stories that in the end turn out to be quite funny and sweet.

Murder Mile Tours

Fairly recently Moz launched a small tour company. It’s a company that offers walking tours in the Soho area. You know those tours that you can join, where there’s a tour guide who shows you round some interesting spots in the city, and you follow the guide around as he or she holds an umbrella in the air or something (that’s always a bit weird in my opinion – walking around holding an umbrella followed by loads of disciples – worshipping the holy umbrella!) and the tour guide stops and talks to you at various points, and you’d rather be in a pub or something. They’re nice, but a little boring sometimes, right?

Well, Moz’s tours are quite different, and they’re proving to be very successful already, with some great reviews on the travel website TripAdvisor. The thing about Moz’s tours is that they’re original, because not only are they presented by Moz himself, the tours are all about murder. A lot of murder, in fact, they’re all about real murders that took place on the streets of London, in Soho to be specific.

I’m not going to tell you more, I’ll let Moz do that. You can just listen to find out all the grisly details as they come up in the conversation.

We’re almost ready to start listening to the conversation. But I would like to just give you another warning now before you listen to this episode.

ANOTHER WARNING: Explicit Content

Most of you won’t think this is necessary but I would like to just ask you again to please be aware that this episode contains some descriptions of explicit violence and horror. It we deal with the subject in a grown-up and responsible way but if you are playing this to young listeners, please use the maximum amount of discretion – it’s supposed to be for adults.

Vocabulary

There is loads of great vocabulary in this, not to mention some really good stories all based on proper historical research, and everyone knows that listening to stories is a great way to learn English.

So, as you listen – just try to follow the conversation. I’m not teaching you specific things in this one, I’m just inviting you to listen to some natural conversation between native speakers, but try to notice language as it comes up. Would you like it if I produced a follow-up episode in which I explain all the vocab, like I did with the Craig Wealand interview? Let me know.

Before we get to the murder stories we talk about swearing on TV and on Luke’s English Podcast, and we discuss the question of whether I should bleep out swear words on the podcast. “To bleep or not to bleep?” As a former producer of BBC comedy shows, Moz has some wise words to say about that.

So, a bit of conversation about swearing, and then we get onto the subject of Moz’s new project: Murder Mile Tours.

So, let’s get started.

*Conversation with Moz begins*

Talking talking talking talking bleep talking talking talking talking murder murder talking talking talking.

*Conversation Ends*

So that was the chat with Moz. How do you feel? Alright? Personally, I don’t feel too upset or disturbed by those stories, I just find them intriguing. It’s amazing what has happened in the past, what people do and their motivations. People are fascinating and mysterious aren’t they? And isn’t it weird that the woman sensed the site of that plague pit? It’s all very interesting indeed and I can’t wait to go on one of those walks on a Sunday next time I’m in London.

You can check out Murder Mile Tours by visiting murdermiletours.com. If you’re going to be in London I think this could be a really cool tour for you to join. You’ll get to see some cool spots in Soho like Denmark Street with its guitar shops, and you can hang out and have a cup of tea and a chat with Moz, and maybe hang out for a bit and go to a pub and drink beer and talk nonsense for a while. Buy him a pint, he might like that.

That’s it from this episode then. Thanks for listening! I look forward to reading your comments on the page for this episode.

Now, wait a moment that’s not the end, because I’m now going to play you an outtake.

Out-take: Some bonus swearing

Earlier in episode the were talking about swearing, and I bleeped out pretty much all those words (partly for comedy purposes) but after we finished our conversation Moz and I kept talking and we came back to the subject of swear words and we decided to let rip a little bit – to let rip – that means just express your emotions or thoughts without holding yourself back. In this case we decided to let rip with some swearing. So here is a mini outtake, sort of like a sequel to the swearing podcast I did a couple of years ago with my brother. So, here is a super-duper x-rated outtake which I recorded with Moz after having finished the interview.

ANOTHER WARNING!

You’re about to hear loads of swearing now. If you’re offended by the rudest words, stop listening now. Got it? If you’re not offended by swearing, then keep listening! It’s pretty simple isn’t it. Do you take the blue pill or the red pill? Your choice.

OK OK that’s enough explaining and justifying – Let the swearing commence…

*Swearing outtake starts*

Swearing swearing swearing swearing swearing swearing swearing HELICOPTER swearing swearing swearing HELICOPTER swearing swearing swearing swearing swearing! (Moz gets arrested)

*Swearing out-take ends*

By the way… Did you know that the Royal Family use swear words too?

Thanks for listening! I’m looking forward to reading your comments…

330. Let’s Play… Grand Theft Auto 5 (and learn some English while doing it)

Hi listeners – this is a multitasking episode in which I record a podcast while doing something else at the same time. In this case I’m playing the classic computer game “Grand Theft Auto 5”. Listen to hear some general discussion of the game, descriptions of what’s happening while playing and some other bits and pieces. Enjoy :)

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Introduction – Men can’t multitask, really?

Here’s another episode in which I talk to you and teach you some English while doing something else at the same time. It’s another multitasking episode. Last time I did this I was cooking dinner while recording the podcast. I’ve done others before in which I was either driving or just walking around somewhere and talking to you at the same time. I’m doing this again today because I hope it will be an interesting episode of the podcast, but also as some sort of ongoing mission to prove that men are in fact able to multitask, unlike the fairly commonly-held view that we actually are not able to do several things at the same time.

I do think men can multi-task, despite the fact that people often say that we can’t. Of course we’re capable of doing two things at the same time. Just think, for example, of David Beckham who must be an expert at multitasking, because not only does he have to play football really well, but he has to look handsome while he’s doing it! Or consider Liam Neeson in the film “Taken” who has to punch people’s teeth down their throat with the edge of his hand, and be a good father at the same time. So, it’s clearly possible.

To be honest, I think that this myth of men not being able to multitask probably comes from the fact that there is one situation in which we definitely can’t do it, and that’s when we try to complete a task while also listening to a wife or girlfriend.

Because when your wife is talking to you, you have to stop everything and focus! We can’t multitask in that situation because if you’re not concentrating and you miss something then it will come back to you later, when she remembers and you forget and then you’re in trouble!

So, “men can’t mulitask” and “men don’t listen” are closely linked to each other I think. It’s not that we can’t multitask, it’s just that listening to you is already a kind of multitasking – because not only do we have to understand what you’re saying, we also have to identify important bits of information which might get dropped into the conversation – clues about what you want for your birthday, indications about how you feel about certain people, basically – anything that could go into the “I told you” category. The “I told you” category is obviously a category of information that your wife or girlfriend has told you, but for which you have absolutely no memory. It could be, for example, like this:
“I’m going to the football tonight babe, ok?”
“But it’s our half anniversary tonight”
“What?”
“It’s our half anniversary”
“Half anniversary for which day? When we met or, when we…?!
“Babe! I told you!”

Now, this might be followed by “You never listen to me”.

For example,
“It’s our half anniversary of six months since our previous anniversary – I told you!”
“Umm, no you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did – you never listen to me!”

“…Sorry, what did you say? I wasn’t listening…”

So, it’s important to listen to your partner to prevent this kind of thing. Which is why women think men can’t multitask. We just can’t listen to you, and do something else at the same time.

For example, you’re doing the shopping, trying to buy the right food so you can prove that you’re able to buy the right food.
Your girlfriend calls you, and you answer the phone because you love her.
She then starts talking to you about nothing in particular.
Stop shopping. Just stop.
Stop what you’re doing.
Put that grapefruit down and listen.
This might seem like a meaningless conversation.
She might just be calling you because she’s finished work and she likes to call you as she’s walking to the bus stop.
She might be speaking to you while buying some bread in the bakery, or even while speaking to a colleague in the street.
But you still have to concentrate on every word she says, or you might miss fluffy the cat’s birthday or something and then you’ll be in trouble.
Because if you continue shopping, and try to make fresh fruit choices while talking to her – either you’ll miss something vital or you’ll seem distant and not fully involved in the conversation and she’ll say “What are you doing?” and you’ll have to say, “I’m buying some grapefruits – you know the pink ones you like” and she’ll say “Can’t you do that and listen to me too?”
NO. Actually.
No I can’t.
And now men can’t multitask.
David Beckham can’t buy fruit and talk to Victoria about the kids at the same time. Neither can Messi or Ronaldo or any of those other over-paid multitaskers.

Even RAF fighter pilots who are the best multitaskers in the world, are probably standing in supermarkets right now not doing anything, on the phone to their wives, because they love them.

So anyway, maybe men can multitask, maybe they can’t. Maybe we’ll find out in this episode.

This could be a series, perhaps called the multitasking series

Last time I cooked a chicken dinner and taught you some words for cooking. That was quite popular and I had a few comments from listeners about it, and even a couple of suggestions for other episodes I could do. For example I had a message from Ethan Lee from South Korea who said on Twitter, “I enjoyed the cooking episode a lot. Why don’t u try another thing like house cleaning? Looking fwd to it! Cheers!”

OK, so now I’m getting requests to do the housework on Twitter as well as at home. Only kidding…

That would be great Ethan because I’d be able to teach you all the language we use for cleaning, like “rub, wipe, rinse” etc – but the only problem is, I’d actually have to do some cleaning, and… I hate doing the housework, but then again maybe that could be a really good way of getting things done – just making mundane acts of housework into episodes of my podcast. There are so many possibilities for new episodes! Luke does the ironing while talking about clothes and fabrics (while trying not to burn the clothes – my wife told me to say that), Luke cleans the windows while teaching you some phrases about glass. Luke builds some IKEA furniture while teaching you some of the most commonly used swear words in the most authentic way possible. So many ideas…

Well, this time, rather than doing the housework, or doing something else useful, I’m playing a game on my new PLayStation 3. I’m going to play Grand Theft Auto 5, and while I’m playing I’m going to just describe everything I’m doing in the game, and also just ramble on about the whole GTA phenomenon (and it is a phenomenon – the series has made over 220 million dollars worldwide, which is quite a lot of money – I think it’s officially a lot of money), and anything else that occurs to me during the episode.

So, in terms of language teaching in this episode

I’ll just see what comes up while I’m playing – you know, I’m just going to kick back and see what happens (really cool English teacher character – yeah, we’ve got no agenda today, so close your book – let’s just stick on GTA5 and see what language stuff happens… yeah, chill out, no homework today – just a DVD…) but I will aim to explain and highlight certain expressions in English as I talk to you.

I expect the language that you’re going to hear in this one will fall into these categories

– General vocabulary for playing a game, with verbs such as ‘start up’, ‘plug in’, ‘unplug’ and so on
– Phrases for describing what is happening, so that means vocabulary of movement, phrases for navigating around the city, travelling, describing dramatic action, accidents, violence, explosions, shootings, murder – just the usual things that happen in a normal game of GTA5
– Exclamations of surprise, shock, anger, tension (yes, there may be some swearing)
– Ways of describing the gaming experience, such as the emotions and feelings you experience while doing it
– Ways of commenting on the game as a cultural phenomenon – so, some fancy language for discussing how games fit into society, and the usual arguments about violent computer games like this

I have done a full episode on computer games before in which I go through a history of gaming and discuss some of the issues around the subject. Click here to check that out.

The microphone should pic up some background noise while I’m doing this, which I hope should provide some context.

So, let’s go!

Things to say

– Explain the point of the game for people who have never played it.
What type of game is it?
What’s the objective?
What’s the story?
What do you actually do?
How does it work?

– It’s many things – a kind of pulp gangster movie, a sandbox game, a collection of mini-games, an online playground, a very controversial franchise and a work of social satire

– The history of the GTA franchise
It’s a British game!
Originally created by DMA Design – a games company based in Edinburgh Scotland!
DMA created Lemmings and some other games like Uniracers and Body Harvest before creating GTA for the PC and PlayStation consoles. DMA was bought by Rockstar Games – another British company based in London. Later Rockstar games was bought by Take-Two games, based in NYC. So, GTA is a British/American production. The games have all been developed by British game developers, and marketed by American companies.
GTA – 1997
GTA London 1999
GTA 2 1999
DMA became Rockstar North when it was acquired by London company Rockstar Games
GTA 3 2001
GTA – Vice City 2002
GTA – San Andreas 2004
Various GTA games for handheld franchises
GTA 4 2008
GTA 5 2013

– Controversy
According to The Guinness World Records 2008 and 2009 Gamer’s Edition, it is the most controversial video game series in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it, which include accusations of glamorising violence, corrupting gamers, and connection to real life crimes.

– The violence in the game. Is it ok? Or is there something wrong with this?

– The satirical elements of the game

– Some fun things to do while playing
* escaping from the cops
* causing total mayhem
* blowing things up
* driving through the hills
* stealing different vehicles
* skydiving
* going up Mount Chiliad
* diving in the sea
* setting challenges for your friends
* starting a gang war

– How it feels to play it for an extended period of time

– What might happen with the GTA franchise in the future (combining this with google maps, Oculous Rift, social networking, bitcoins – we could have a fully immersive, virtual reality earth in which we go round doing whatever we want, with no consequence – a world that has its own currency, but which has almost no boundaries)
gta5