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347. Film Club: Marvel / Captain America Civil War (Part 1)

Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re doing alright today. Do you remember that in the last episode I had just come back from seeing the latest Marvel movie – Captain America: Civil War, and that I said I would talk to you about it? Remember that? Well here it is. You are now listening to a new episode of Luke’s Film Club, and this time I’m talking about the Marvel movies with a particular focus on the latest Captain America film. By the way, I’m going to talk about a lot of Marvel movies in this episode and I will do my best to avoid spoilers. I am only going to mention information which is basically common knowledge. I don’t think listening to this will really spoil your enjoyment of any of the films in the marvel universe. So, you shouldn’t worry about spoilers.

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Why am I talking about Marvel films and superheroes?

We like movie-related episodes, don’t we? I certainly like to record them and it seems that you like to listen to them. Enough said – but I’ll continue. I call these episodes “Luke’s Film Club” and in the past I’ve covered films like Taken, Kingsman, Star Wars, Back to the Future and others. Also, people like movies don’t they? People like movies. I like movies, you like movies, we like movies – everyone likes movies. Therefore, talking about movies seems to be a natural thing to do. And to bring this back to learning English, perhaps you will end up talking about movies in your English conversations, so you should know how to talk about this subject. It’s probably helpful to listen to me talking about films then isn’t it? We all know that listening is connected to your awareness of how speech is produced, which is connected to pronunciation, which is connected to your own production of speech. So – improving your listening will have a knock-on effect on your speaking. Also, if you’re wondering what to talk about with people you meet, or your language partner or teacher on italki for example – this could be a good idea.
In fact, you could start your conversations with typical questions about movies.
“Have you seen the latest Marvel movie?” or “Do you like superhero movies?”
“What have you been up to?” – “Well, I saw the new Captain America film” – “Oh really, how was it?” etc.
Those might be some good starting points for conversations about super heroes.

So, have you seen the new Captain America film? In fact, have you seen any Marvel films or recent superhero movies?

I’d be surprised if you hadn’t, because they’re really popular these days and there are so many of them that they’re kind of unavoidable. But if you haven’t seen Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America or The Avengers then that’s ok. Perhaps this episode can be a sort of introduction to a film series that you’re not familiar with. And if you have seen some Marvel films and you just can’t stand them – well, perhaps listening to my take on this subject might help to change your mind. And, if you have seen most of these superhero films and you pretty much liked them, then great! In any case, I hope you just enjoy listening to me going on about some popular culture in this episode (or episodes).

There are plenty of good reasons to talk about Marvel films, but I was prompted to do this episode by a request from a listener called Mayumi. Hello Mayumi, yes I am mentioning you again. It seems Mayumi is a bit of a film nut like me – you might remember her Star Wars themed photo in the photo competition recently. Here’s her comment from my website just the other day.

Mayumi’s comment

“Hi Luke, I hope you’re well. Recently, I’ve been missing your movie episodes like the one you did about “Taken”. The new Marvel one just came out and have you already seen that? If so, how was it?? If my memory serves, you haven’t talked much about Marvel things yet, have you? I’d love to listen to your thoughts if you like them! I personally enjoy watching Marvel films often because I don’t have to be too emotional or worried and it’s fun to watch great VFX. Cheers, bye!”

So – talk about Marvel movies, superhero stuff and Captain America? OK!

I’m not a megageek, I’m just a bit of a geek. I enjoy Marvel films but I’m not a complete fanboy. (Define: nerd, geek, fanboy) I am a fan of comic book films but I don’t profess to be an expert on all the history of every comic book character. I’m not that emotionally invested in superheroes and their stories in the same way that some of these fanboys are. I mean, I’m not going to get angry if the movies don’t follow the plot of the comics perfectly. I don’t mind about that. I just want to watch some entertaining films.

So, I’m not a fanboy but I am a fan. Also, I do have friends who are fanboys – like my mate Paul Langton who knows loads about comic book characters, including all their original backstories, the origins of their superpowers, who would be the champion if they all had a big fight and everything like that. In fact I spoke to Paul about superheroes on the podcast just yesterday, and you’ll be able to hear that conversation on the podcast soon.

So I’m no expert but I’ve seen most of the films and I’ve read some of the comics.
Loved comics as a kid, but my parents frowned on them. I couldn’t really justify spending all my pocket money on comics, and anyway I had nowhere to buy them because I grew up in the middle of nowhere.
I had a few comics, which I bought when on holiday in the USA.
The Marvel characters were the best.
I was always a bit of a Spiderman fan.
I thought Iron Man looked wickedly cool but I never read any of his comics.
I also used to have an Incredible Hulk t-shirt, which pretty much made me a fan by default. I used to chase my brother and his friend around the house wearing the hulk t-shirt and they’d run away from me like I was the hulk. Good times.
Marvel TV shows and cartoons – Any time a comic book related TV show came on the TV it was always brilliant. The Incredible Hulk TV show was a classic – that one featured classic moments when Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk and you see his clothes tearing and his skin turning green – and the hulk was played by a body builder called Lou Ferrino and the hulk scenes were mostly shot in slow motion to make him seem heavier. It was funny that all his clothes ripped off except his pants. They somehow stretched. The Incredible Hulk TV show was also incredibly sad – because at the end of every episode he had to leave town. He was very lonely, and there was that lonely music. I think that communicated loneliness pretty effectively, even as a kid.
There was a live-action spiderman show too, which was awesome because, well, it was spiderman – and he was full of wisecracks and the usual fun Spiderman stuff. Also there were animated TV series, particularly the X-Men series and another Spiderman series. There were probably other Marvel-related TV shows and some movies as well that I saw as a kid.
By today’s standards they would look terribly crap, but in those days they were just amazing.

Marvel Movies vs DC Movies
DC has the two most famous characters, but Marvel seem to be winning the movie wars. Other than Batman, Superman and perhaps Wonder Woman – the other DC characters are not that great – but I’m sure there are people listening to this who would disagree with me. We will be seeing more from DC in the future, with films like Suicide Squad this year, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and more.
Yes – just when you thought we couldn’t have any more superhero films, the next few years are going to see even more of them, so get ready. Marvel are in full swing and DC have only just got started. I wonder if we’ll all be fed up with superheroes within a couple of years. “Superhero fatigue” – it’s a genuine concept that movie critics and industry people use to refer to the idea that we might all just get fed up with superhero films and then stop watching them. The phrase was used over the last couple of years, after a couple of superhero movies didn’t do as well as expected. For example, last year there was a Fantastic Four movie, produced by Fox – and it was a huge flop. Also, the Avengers sequel “The Age of Ultron” didn’t take as much money as people predicted. Personally I think superhero fatigue is a myth. There is clearly still a big interest in superhero films, especially if they are done right. Fantastic Four was a failure because of casting decisions and because it was, by all accounts, a really bad film. And anyway – perhaps those particular characters are not that interesting. They certainly weren’t presented as very interesting. That film is an exception. Avengers: Age of Ultron might have taken less money than the previous one, but perhaps the bar has been set very high! Anyway, regardless of last year, this year has been a hit for superhero movies and Captain America Civil War has apparently been smashing box office records for Marvel yet again.

In my opinion – Hollywood has been producing superhero movies for quite a long time now, but it’s only recently that they’ve been any good. I feel like Marvel studios have cracked the code for superhero movies now – and finally the fun, action and character development that we enjoyed in the comic books is now translating onto the big screen. Not that we haven’t had good superhero movies before (Some Batman movies have been good – I’ll come on to that in a moment) it’s just that in my opinion they’re now getting better and better.

Superhero movies in the past – A kind of history of superhero films

Superman movies from the 80s, with Christopher Reeve (and Gene Hackman).
Batman movie from the 60s, then the 90s films – Tim Burton & Michael Keaton – two good films, then the franchise went steadily downhill as the films were directed by Joel Schumacher – culminating in the god-awful “Batman & Robin” in 1997.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze? “Everybody freeze!” and “Ice to see you!” etc. Terrible.

Also in 1990 there was a great superhero film called Darkman which stars Liam Neeson. It’s directed by Sam Raimi, who later did the Spiderman films. It’s brilliant and I suggest you find it. Liam Neeson, Darkman. Apparently it’s on Netflix – find it, hunt it down, and watch it.

There was another couple of Fantastic Four movies in the early 2000s. Unremarkable and original, except that Chris Evans played the human torch, and now he’s Captain America. He’s probably the only actor to have played two different Marvel characters.

Ang Lee directed a Hulk movie (most people dislike it), Sam Raimi directed a trilogy of Spiderman films (most people like them). More on those films later.

Also, there have been loads of X-Men films which have done relatively well in the box office.
One thing to note here is that Marvel studios don’t own the rights to all their characters in movies. In fact, before Marvel became a film studio, they were still a comic book publisher and in the 90s and 2000s they were seriously running out of money, so they sold the movie rights for a few characters to different film studios. Spiderman was sold to Sony, X-Men was sold to Fox. The result was that these studios made superhero films in their own way.

I expect Marvel watched those films and thought – we could do better than this. Later they managed to set up Marvel studios and start producing their own movies, with characters they still had the movie rights for – The Avengers, basically. That caught everyone by surprise, because… they were good films. More on that in a bit.

Now, back to the pre-MCU movies

Christopher Nolan revived the Batman franchise in the 2000s with Batman Begins and then The Dark Knight, also The Dark Knight Rises. They were ‘game changers’ for the superhero genre. They were very serious, had adult-themes, dealt with complex morality and gave the genre a sense of weight and quality, rather than being just colourful kids films.

There was a new Superman film called “Superman Returns”, which was basically another origins story.

The main success seems to have been Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

DC have brought back Superman, letting Christopher Nolan produce the film “Man of Steel” a couple of years ago, and more recently the film “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”. Although they have their fans, those new Superman films are considered to be flops I think. Man of Steel divided opinion, and Batman vs Superman seems generally to be considered as a flop.
DC are going to make other films based on their other characters, and eventually create a Justice League film which is a sort of showcase of all the main DC characters in one movie together.

It seems like a very similar strategy to the one Marvel are using, except that most of the films they’ve done so far have been crap except for a couple of Batman movies. That’s debatable of course – some thought that Man of Steel was alright. I thought it was half good. I liked the character development – like the scenes with Kevin Costner. But the action scenes took me out of the movie. I felt emotionally unengaged with a lot of it, I thought the Louis Lane character was underused and again it felt far too serious than it should be. I haven’t seen Batman vs Superman, but it seems that critical reaction to that film is also mixed.

What do you think? Have you seen the new Superman films? Superman vs Batman? Give me your quick movie review to any of the films I’m talking about here.

So, DC are still struggling to get a grip on the movie universe in the same way as Marvel, although I expect both of those Superman films have taken a lot of money, even if they’re not that good – because people want to see Batman fight Superman, right? Perhaps DC’s next film release, Suicide Squad will be really popular with fans. We’ll see. Let’s say that DC are still finding their feet at this moment.

Marvel on the other hand are doing really well today. They’re now into Phase 3 of their movie series (yes, we’ve already had phase 1 and 2) and so far they’ve managed to not only avoid any genuine flops, but they have also made a few really successful films and they seem to be getting better. Captain America Civil War is a big hit with audiences, critics and the box office.

So what’s the story of the Marvel cinematic universe?

Around 10-15 years ago Marvel decided to make movies themselves. Previously they were comic book publishers who licensed their characters to other studios, with fairly mixed results – some good films, some bad – on the whole it’s been inconsistent. E.g. Sony have made a bunch of Spiderman films. First there were the ones with Tobey Maguire, directed by Sam Raimi. They rebooted the franchise, starting from the beginning – telling the origin story of Spiderman and then having him grow up and deal with all the usual problems that Spiderman faces as a young superhero in the big city. Then Sony decided to re-reboot the franchise with Andrew Garflield in the role of Spiderman. I guess that was simply because audiences love Spiderman, and the studio felt like it could make a bunch of new money by essentially telling the same story all over again. It feels like Spiderman has been rebooted so many times that every Spiderman film is basically telling us the same story every time, but audiences love Spiderman so much that we don’t really mind. In fact, Spiderman has now been rebooted AGAIN in this latest Captain America film. I think Marvel managed to negotiate with Sony in order to get Spiderman in the Avengers universe. Well done Marvel, because the addition of Spiderman is a very popular move and it’s bound to please audiences and accountants at Marvel headquarters. And yes, we’re going to have a new solo Spiderman film at some point soon which is some sort of collaboration between Marvel and Sony, and that looks pretty promising because I think they have finally got Spiderman right in this latest film.

How are you doing everyone? Are you confused yet with all these different superheroes and their movie franchises? I hope you’re not suffering from superhero fatigue.

END OF PART 1 – CLICK HERE FOR PART 2

 

316. British Comedy: Tim Vine (Part 2)

Listen to Luke explain the rest of Tim Vine’s stand up routine from the video “One Night Stand”. Learn some natural phrases and bridge the linguistic and cultural gap between you and native speakers of English. Click here to listen to part 1 of this episode. Watch the video below.

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British Comedy: Tim Vine (part 2)
In episode 313 I played you part of a ten minute stand up routine by Tim Vine, who is a much loved British stand up comedian who specialises in telling one liners – those are very short jokes which usually involve some kind of word-play.
I played you 3 minutes of Tim’s routine.
I expect you didn’t get all the jokes.
I explained them all for you.
I expect you still didn’t find them all funny because explaining a joke often kills the humour of the joke.
BUT at least you learned a lot of language in the process.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s difficult to understand jokes in another language. You might go to a comedy show or watch it on TV and everyone else laughs but you’re the only one who has no clue what’s going on. This is because there’s a linguistic and cultural gap between you and everyone else who gets the jokes. Maybe it’s hard for you to hear exactly what’s been said as the lines of a joke are usually delivered quickly and with naturalistic speech patterns. Also, there’s the general cultural difference, which includes certain reference points but also the general mindset of British humour, like the fact that we enjoy laughing at ourselves, and we also enjoy the ironic fun of self-consciously bad jokes. I’m interested in closing that linguistic and cultural gap. The result, I hope, will be that you’ll learn some key bits of language and culture, and you’ll be a few steps closer to understanding natural British English like a native speaker.

In episode 313 I promised that I’d play you all of Tim Vine’s routine and explain it all. In fact, I only managed to get through 3 minutes in that episode. You might be wondering – what about the rest of Tim Vine’s routine? I want to understand that too! Well, that’s what I’m going to do now. In fact, I had one Japanese listener in particular who was very keen to hear me explain the rest of the routine. I’m sorry – I can’t remember your name or how you got in contact with me – it could have been an email, a FB message, a comment on the website, a tweet or some other way. I can’t keep up with the different ways people contact me sometimes – so if you don’t get a reply, I’m very sorry. My email address and other inboxes are often completely swamped by different notifications and messages. I do read everything, but then I don’t always get the chance to immediately respond, and then the message just gets forgotten about. So, I’m sorry if you have contacted me and I haven’t replied.

Anyway, this particular listener was quite desperate to understand the rest of Tim Vine’s routine, so here we go.

Bear in mind that there are some visual jokes in the routine and you’ll have to watch the video to really get them. I’ll explain it all for you step by step in just a moment. This routine is about 10 minutes in total. We’ll start by listening to the first 3 minutes again, which should work as a reminder of what you heard before. Then I’ll let you listen to the next 3 minutes, then I’ll pause it and explain everything before letting you hear the rest of the routine with my explanations.

OK? Got it? OK, let’s go. And remember, if you don’t understand anything at all – just hang in there because all will be explained in the fullness of time.

Let’s go. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome onto the stage again, the one and only, Mr Tim Vine – let’s hear it for Tim Vine everybody! Take it away Tim!!!

Full video: Tim Vine – One Night Stand

240. Politicians Avoiding Questions

In this episode we’re going to look at the way politicians deal with tough and challenging questions from TV and radio interviewers. We’ll listen to some examples of politicians avoiding questions in interviews and examine some of the ways they get themselves out of tight situations while also promoting their ideas. [Download]

Small Donate ButtonI’m not sure what you think about politics. I don’t talk about it a lot on Luke’s English Podcast. I did an episode a couple of years ago called “82. Votings, Elections, Government“, in which I talk about the political system, and various vocabulary related to politics, voting and elections. Now, a lot of people find politics to be quite boring, and I used to think that too, but more and more (perhaps because I’m growing up finally!) I think that politics is fascinating and really important. I’m particularly keen on watching debates between politicians, and watching the way in which politicians cleverly deal with challenging questions in interviews. It’s fascinating to watch them very skilfully squirm their way out of tight situations, or use all manner of linguistic and rhetorical skills to persuade people live on TV.

British journalists tend to interview politicians in an aggressive manner. Politicians are getting very good at avoiding questions. And this is what I’m particularly interested in studying in this episode of the podcast. How do politicians avoid questions? Let’s have a listen, and find out.

Here’s a clip from the satirical comedy show “The Day Today”. This programme makes fun of the news. It takes the mickey out of the way that news readers speak, and their interview style. In this clip we hear an interview with a politician who is facing allegations of ministerial misconduct – he’s being accused of lying in front of the House of Commons about a deal. The interviewer is not aggressive or challenging enough, and in the end he lets the politician get away with lying to the house. He’s too nice! Then the newsreader in the studio takes over and has a go at the interviewer for not asking challenging or tough questions. I think it’s really funny. Let’s have a listen and then consider the ways that politicians deal with tough interviews in TV.

That’s just a comedy clip, but in terms of real situations, here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Here the interviewer wants the politician to admit that he was wrong about the Euro. Clearly the politician doesn’t want to admit he was wrong, and so he pushes another line: The UK at the moment is not willing to be part of the Euro. Listen to the way the interviewer asks about his mistake over the Euro, how the politician attempts to avoid the question, and how the interviewer has to quite aggressively force him to deal with the Euro problem.

The politician: The energy secretary Chris Hune (in government)
The issue: He said that the Euro was going to be a big success and that the UK is missing out.
The politician doesn’t want to admit that he’s wrong, and instead wants to push the idea that the UK is not willing to be part of the Euro at the moment.

Some ways that politicians avoid questions
They have a pre-planned message, or line, which they have prepared carefully before going into the interview. Often this is in the form of soundbites – snappy, quotable phrases which can be used in newspapers.
Their aim is to present this line, despite the questions they will be asked.
As long as they are talking on the same topic, and they look presentable, reasonable and professional, we just don’t notice that they are not responding to the question.
Social conventions of politeness and communication make it hard for the interviewer to break this down. If the politician doesn’t really answer the question, it’s hard for the interviewer to a) identify that it has happened, b) respond to it quickly, c) find the right questions that will force the politician to really answer the question.

Smooth interviews break down when an interviewer is tough, aggressive and skeptical. The interviewer has to take an aggressive line in order to fight against the slick tactics of the politician. It’s very hard for these interviewers because they have to go against instinctive social conventions in order to break the politician’s spell. If the interviewer is too aggressive or emotional, the interviewee wins because he comes out of it better – he looks like a calm reasonable person, and the interviewer looks like a mad man. If the interviewer is not precise enough in his questions, the interviewee wins again, because the interviewer does too much talking, while the politician sits there in innocent silence.

The best politicians manage to make it very hard for the interviewer to put them on the spot. They use techniques to distract the conversation away from the tough questions, they don’t get emotional, they manage to come across as reasonable, modest, ordinary people. Likeability is vital to a politician’s career nowadays. We tend to vote for people who we like, rather than thinking purely of their policy, which is a terrible symptom of our image driven culture. So, clever politicians are able to construct a likeable image – as family oriented, hard-working, sympathetic, strong or humorous. That likeablilty acts as a kind of defence mechanism or even a distraction, so that viewers on TV let them avoid questions and so on. Research has shown (and I refer to a Harvard Business Paper called Conversational Blindness: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way Authors: Todd Rogers and Michael I. Norton Publisher: Harvard Business School, Working Paper No. 09-048 Date Published:  October 2008) that we just don’t notice that a politician has avoided a question when the answer is related to the question asked and is given with confidence and conviction. So, it goes like this:
The interviewer asks a question.
The politician responds with an answer that relates to the topic of the question, but doesn’t really answer the question specifically.
We don’t notice that the question is being avoided, because the answer is on-topic.
Politicians also use the phrase “Let’s be clear…” as a way to redirect their answer towards their point, while making it look like they are clarifying and directly answering the question. “Let’s be clear…” + their point.

This all breaks down, when tough interviewers manage to put politicians on the spot. Perhaps they take them by surprise, perhaps they are willing to come across as crazy by repeating the question over and over, or perhaps they manage to keep the courage of their convictions in order to verbally spar with these master debaters. So, when interviewers bring their A game, it can be pretty fascinating to watch a politician have a really hard time. It’s like car crash TV. It’s also pretty bizarre. These kinds of conversations rarely happen in normal situations. People talking over each other without stopping. People answering direct questions with completely unrelated answers. It’s weird.

Let’s listen to some examples!

“Did you threaten to overrule him?” Paxman vs Michael Howard
The accusation: Paxman questioned Howard relentlessly about a meeting he had had with prisons chief Derek Lewis about the possible dismissal of the head of Parkhurst Prison.

Chloe Smith on Newsnight (total disaster for Chloe Smith)

Excerpt from The Thick of It. “Answer the question you fat fuck!”

Why do interviewers in the UK have such a direct style? Because we believe they should be accountable for everything they do. We don’t have much deference for people in positions of power (and The Queen is not a person in a position of power actually! If she did exercise genuine power over us, we wouldn’t have the same level of respect for her I can assure you) and this style is a way to prevent politicians avoiding the question. If you’re too soft on people (and it’s not just politicians – it’s also heads of corporations or anyone with some duty to the public) then they will just use the interview for their own purposes. Also, I think audiences in the UK (and I’m sure it’s the same in many other places) believe that these people should be given a tough time, especially the ones who are not serving us well, or who are privileged in some way.

If an interviewer is too soft on a politician, we feel that they’ll just get away with murder.

Sometimes it seems to me that interviewers have got into the habit of being tough in interviews, and sometimes they do it when it’s not appropriate or necessary.

The Day Today – Jam Festival

This is funny on two levels: On one hand, it parodies the aggressive style of BBC journalists (especially Paxman). It’s also poking fun at people who do charity work just so they can make themselves look good.

PoliticiansPIC
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183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)


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Introduction
Friday 6 June this year was the 70th anniversary of the DDaylandings inNormandy. My Grandad Dennis was one of the soldiers who landed on the beach that day. Along with thousands of other men he risked his life to fight the Nazis in the 2nd World War. Many of his fellow soldiers did not survive. Last Friday I went to Caen in Northern France to take part in the D-Day commemorations and to see my comedy hero Eddie Izzard performing stand-up in 3 languages. I recorded a podcast during my trip, and some unexpected things happened! Listen to the episode to join me on my adventure.
6 June 1944 – D-Day
D-Day was a very important moment in World War 2. This was when the Allies fought back against the Nazis on the Western European front. It was a key victory for the Allies, but it was also very costly, particularly for the Americans, who lost thousands of men on June 6 alone. For more information about why D-Day was so important, click here to visit the website of the Imperial War Museum in London.

Ultimately, D-Day was a success, but it came with great destruction and loss of human life. The success was due in part to the very careful planning of the Allied forces before the day, but also to the extremely tough fighting in which the Nazis were engaged in the east with the Soviets.

Why was it called D-Day? Click here to find an answer to this question on the BBC Newsround website.

My D-Day Diary
In this episode you’ll join me on my journey to Caen, a town in Normandy that was a very important location during the Normandy campaign in WW2. Caen is where most of the commemorations were taking place (or so I thought). On Friday the town was visited by lots of people including heads of state such as The Queen, Barack Obama, Francoise Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. They were all very excited to learn that Luke from Luke’s English Podcast was also going to be in town ;)

I was podcasting regularly during the trip. First you hear me on the train, then walking through the streets of Caen on the way to my rented apartment room, then sitting on the steps of a church with my friend Sebastian Marx (from episode 130), then in a car with Yacine, on the street again, and finally in the train on the way home the next day. In the episode I talk about D-Day, my Grandfather’s involvement in D-Day 70 years ago, my experience of seeing Eddie Izzard’s comedy show, the dumbfounding excitement of having dinner with Eddie Izzard. All in all it was quite an emotional experience all round. I hope you enjoy the episode…

My Grandad, Dennis Hallam

Dennis is 94 this year. 70 years ago he was just 24 years old but he was an officer in the army, in charge of 35 young soldiers. It was his responsibility to lead these men off the boat, up the beach and ultimately all the way through France and deep into enemy territory. It was very brave of him, and he fought for my freedom. Without Grandad, I wouldn’t be here today and there would be no Luke’s English Podcast. Thanks Dennis.

Recently my Dad (Dennis’s son-in-law) wrote to Dennis to thank him for what he did on D-Day. Here is a copy of Dennis’s reply, typed onto a computer by my Mum (Dennis’s daughter). Some words are defined below.

Dear Rick,
Thank you for your “Thankyou” card which made me feel both proud and embarrassed – I was only one of thousands.

It was pretty hairy, and for me and many others it started long before we reached the beach. The Channel crossing was vile – I was dreadfully sick. At some point during the night it was my turn to be Duty Army Officer on the bridge and I had to climb up there being sick and miserable. So it was almost a great relief to get onto the beach, even though wet through, having had to wade ashore, and even though there were assorted bits of metal flying around. What amazes and horrifies me is to think that I was just 24 and in charge of and responsible for a platoon of 35 soldiers. If there were privileges attached to commissioned ranks – and there were, of course, I think we deserved them – a lot was asked of us.

However, it was a war that had to be fought, I think, and one simply called on one’s training and did what seemed right at any situation.

I hope the celebrations will go well and it is good to know that what we did is remembered and honoured.

Thank you again – it was very kind of you.

Yours, Dennis.

Thank you too Grandad.

Eddie Izzard
He’s a stand-up comedian from the UK. I’m a huge fan. I won’t write more about him here because I’m planning to do an episode about him soon, in which I’ll play you some of his stand-up comedy. On 6 June he put on a special show, doing 3 performances – one in German, one in English and one in French. That’s really impressive, especially considering he is learning both German and French as second (or third?) languages. I was pretty awestruck to actually meet Eddie on Friday and then sit down to dinner in his company. I still can’t believe it happened because he’s sort of a hero of mine. Listen to the podcast to hear my reactions. I was quite excited.

Here’s some video of Eddie talking about how Anglo-Saxon English evolved, including his version of how English became a non-gendered language, distinct from the gendered French which existed in England at around the same time.

Here is a video showing footage of the D-Day operation. To be honest, the video doesn’t really show us how big the operation was. It was the biggest naval armada the world had ever seen, and has ever seen since. It must have been an overwhelming sight to behold.

War Is Hell

“Some of you young men think that war is all glamour and glory,
but let me tell you, boys, it is all hell!”
-General William T. Sherman

33. Money Money Money – 12 Phrasal Verbs & more…


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Vocabulary and listening on the subject of money and the economy. Luke’s English Podcast is a free service for learners of English. Use this podcast to get exposure to natural British English. Listen to it wherever and whenever you want to. Luke is a well experienced and qualified English teacher, with plenty of other interests. Improve your English with this podcast, and have fun!

Hello everyone, this podcast is all about MONEY – cash, pounds, dosh, currency, capital, loot, notes, coins, credit, loose change, deniro – call it what you like – we all love to get it and then spend it on STUFF!

In this podcast you’ll hear me talk about money and the economic crisis. I use 12 phrasal verbs. Can you find them? I also discuss a few idioms, sayings and quotations about money.

12 Phrasal Verbs

Here is the transcript of the part of the podcast in which I use 12 phrasal verbs connected to money:

These days, many of us are living in tough times. The economic crisis is making life difficult for many people in this country. We’re all having to economise and cut back on our spending. Nowardays there is less credit available in the money markets and this is having a knock-on effect in our lives.

Unemployment is going up and house prices have gone down over the last few years. The Bank of England used tax payers’ money to bail out many of the banks which were facing insolvency due to their poor investments in so-called ‘toxic assets’ (many of them originating in the American sub-prime real estate markets). The government lowered interest rates to help people pay off their bank loans and mortgages. VAT was lowered to 15% in order to encourage us to splash out in shops up and down the country, and inject more money into the economy.

Some people are not being affected so seriously; particularly the wise individuals who have saved up their money in secure savings accounts. When they need to, they can just dip into their savings in order to pay for an unexpected household repair or a much needed holiday. But for many of us, we just have to get by every month on our monthly salaries. It’s not easy though, particularly in London when everything is so expensive. We try to pay off our loans and mortgages while trying to avoid taking too much cash out of the many cash machines which are available to us all over the city.

The energy companies in particular seem to be ripping everyone off with the price of oil and electricity. It’s almost as though they’re using global warming as an excuse for charging us extortionate amounts for our energy, even though wholesale market prices have dropped in recent months. There’s something rotten going on somewhere.

Big companies and banks seem to get protection from the state, while the average tax payer has to pick up the pieces by working harder, cutting back on our spending, moving into more modest accommodation, or accepting badly paid work because we have no choice. Perhaps it has to be that way – the big companies have to be protected in order to support the economy. It just seems a little unfair that’s all, and I’m sure there are some CEOs and directors who are still doing very well while the rest of us struggle to get by.

Still, it’s not all bad. The lower interest rates on bank loans and mortgages mean we don’t have to pay back so much money each month, and there is now so much freely available entertainment on the internet that it’s quite easy to have a good time without reaching too deep into our pockets.

So, take advantage of free internet content like this. But, if you’re doing okay for money at the moment, and you’re feeling generous – you could always donate some money to me via PayPal!

Did you find the phrasal verbs? Here they are:

1. to cut back on spending – this means to spend less than before. To try and reduce your spending. E.g. “I’m going to have to cut back on my spending in order to save up some money”
2. to go up – this means to increase
3. to go down – this means to decrease
4. to bail someone out – this means to save someone by giving them money. It’s usually used when the government gives money to a company or bank in order to save them from insolvency. E.g. “The government bailed out the banks by giving them £5billion of tax payers’ money”
5. to splash out – this means to spend quite a lot of money in a care-free way when you go shopping. E.g. “I was feeling a bit depressed, so I went to the shopping centre and just splashed out on some new clothes”
6. to save up – this means to save money. E.g. “I’m saving up for a holiday in Italy next year”
7. to dip into savings – this means to go into your savings account, and take a bit of money out. E.g. “I can’t afford to pay my electricity and telephone bills this month. I’m going to have to dip into my savings”
8. to get by – this means to survive, usually on a small amount of money. E.g. “Students in London find it difficult to get by on money they earn from part-time work”
9. to pay something off – this means to completely pay a loan or debt. E.g. “YEAH!!! I’ve finally paid off my student loan!”
10. to take some cash out – this means to withdraw money from a bank or cash machine
11. to rip someone off – to charge too much money for something. To give a bad price. E.g. “You always get completely ripped off in Harrods. You can by the same stuff in other shops for much less money. The prices are just high because it’s Harrods.”
12. to pay something back – to give money back. When you have borrowed money, you have to pay it back each month.

Here are the idioms, sayings and quotes I talk about in the podcast too:

“They say the best things in life are free” – This just means that the most important things are free; like friendship, love, trust, etc.

“Money makes the world go round” – This means that financial transactions, trade & business are what makes everything happen in the world.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” – This means that you have to work for money. You can’t get it without working.

“Money is the root of all evil” – This means that most of the bad things that people do are the result of their greed for money.

“Money money money: it’s a rich man’s world” – This is a quote from a song by the Swedish pop group, Abba.

“Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” – This is a quote from a song by Notorious BIG featuring Puff Daddy and Mace.