Tar and Cement

“Nail house” in Shanghai: Lucas Schifres/Getty Images

Film, music and photography-based ESL/EFL lesson about urbanization and nostalgia

My last post featuring Frank Sinatra’s It Was A Very Good Year reminded me of a grammatical structure I have seldom had cause to teach. Twice in the song we see the modal “would” used not in the conditional context that most students will encounter first, but rather to express habits in the past (“We’d hide from the lights / On the village green”, “We’d ride in limousines / Their chauffeurs would drive”). To build on this, as well as the structure “used to + verb”, to talk about our past routines, there is fantastic song which is also a rich basis for discussion about our relationship to the past, particularly as concerns urbanization and the irrevocable transformation of the natural environment into the built one. The song is Tar & Cement, a one-hit country-soul wonder by Verdelle Smith, written by┬áLee Pockriss and Paul Vance. Continue reading

Bladerunner and the Esper machine

M. C. Escher, Still Life with Spherical Mirror, 1934

Communicative English class on perspective & optical illusions featuring the Esper Machine scene in Bladerunner & its inspirations in art

My previous post about Blow-Up, and especially the scene in which the hero enlarges the photographs in his dark room to reveal that he had unwittingly witnessed a murder, put me in mind of another great scene from cinema. Among the many evocative scenes from Ridley Scott’s sci-fi opus Bladerunner that could be used in language teaching (indeed, I hope to come back to the film in future posts) is this one in which the hero Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, runs a photo through his Esper machine, a rather dated-looking bit of kit with highly prescient technological capabilities. Continue reading