I don’t like Mondays

You may have heard this song on the radio many times before, and perhaps – just like me – you just like to hear it because of the music, the tune etc., but you never really listened to its text. We just catch the line “I don’t like Mondays” and, we agree and stop paying attention to the lyrics.

But today I happened to hear this day’s broadcast of WDR “Stichtag”, a program of a German radio station which focusses every day on one event in history of that specific day’s date.

I realized that this song is about the Cleveland Elementary School shooting which took place on January 29, 1979, in San Diego, California. On the morning of this day Brenda Spencer, a sixteen year old girl, shot at the public elementary school (she lived in a house across the street). She shot dead the principal and a custodian. Eight children and a police officer were injured. In court she was treated as an adult and found guilty to two counts of murder and assault. As to this day she is still in prison.

You can read about the story at Wikipedia, or with more reference to the song and the Boomtown Rats here.

Here are the lyrics:

The silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload
and nobody’s gonna go to school today she’s gonna make them stay at home
and daddy doesn’t understand it he always said she was good as gold
and he can see no reasons ’cause there are no reasons
what reason do you need to be shown

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoot the whole day down

The telex machine is kept so clean and it types to a waiting world
and mother feels so shocked father’s world is rocked
and their thoughts turn to their own little girl
sweet sixteen ain’t that peachy keen no it ain’t so neat to admit defeat
they can see no reasons ’cause there are no reasons
what reasons do you need oh oh oh oh

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoot the whole day down down down shoot it all down

And all the playing’s stopped in the playground now

she wants to play with her toys a while
and school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
and the lesson today is how to die
and then the bullhorn crackles and the captain tackles
with the problems and the hows and whys
and he can see no reasons ’cause there are no reasons
what reason do you need to die die oh oh oh


Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like I don’t like I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like I don’t like I don’t like Mondays
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoot the whole day down

What Thomas Friedman means when he says “The world is flat.”

On YouTube we can find a lot of useful clips which add information to what we discuss in class. The title of Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” seems to be confusing at first glance. Several interpretations apply. Listen to what the author has to say in this video. What do you think of what he says?

Comments on YouTube more often than not are rarely useful, but sometimes they are. This one contains a reference which is recommendable: Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”.

It’s scary and it’s cruel. Read the “Shock Doctrine” by Naoimi Klein for the whole truth.

What do you think  is “scary” and “cruel” in what Friedman says? Think of the text “The Need for a new Middle” which we had as a class test. If you want to find out about Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” use this link. See also this earlier post on this site.

The next comment shows a somewhat stronger point of view:

So Friedman’s message is ‘If you don’t do it first, someone will do it to you.’ No wonder that neocon is an apologist for imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, he is predictably enraged when other entities have the audacity to undertake the very behaviour he advocates. That’s quite the double-standard, but not a surprising one for a neocon.


to believe or not to believe …

Do you believe in climate change? For the ordinary person it still seems to be difficult to decide whether global warming is really happening or not.

Every now and then – but really not very often – something pops up which seems to speak against climate change caused by us humans: scientists mixing up some numbers so that the glaciers of the Himalayas will not disappear in the next decades or a new book by some so called expert who tells us: “It’s the sun, silly.”

For me it’s more an example of how difficult it is for the scientific community to get through to the people and to make themselves understood. Since the seventies we have had the concept of “popular sciences”. There are some scientific magazines printed for the broad public and there are tv shows like “Quarks and CO” here in Germany that are quite successful. So a wider public should be well informed – which, by the way, is also a prerequisite for a lot of  political decisions – but still there is this gap between public and the scientific world. And why should that be? Is it disinterest of the ordinary person? Is it because we do not do enough to teach, or better: to make young people interested in and fascinated by the natural sciences? What do you think?

Anyhow, for those of my students who start preparing for their final examination, here is a link to an article published today by one of my favorite newspapers, the Guardian. It is titled: “Do you believe in climate change?” It was written by Vicky Pope, who is a  senior scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in the UK.

The article includes a link to  Everything you need to know about climate change .

Margaret Atwood on ‘Brave New World’

One of my ‘Brave New World’ editions has a foreword by Margaret Atwood, who wrote for example “The Handmaid’s Tale“, another famous dystopian novel.

I looked it up and found it also in the Guardian so that you can find and read it there via this link. Reading it may give you (the students) a good view of the topics and themes of the novel and also will put it in a frame of reference to history and other utopian and dystopian works.

Especially the comparison of ‘Brave New World’ with Orwell’s ‘1984‘ will again raise the question if Huxley had a utopian or a dystopian view in mind. What do you think?

The headline of the article also reminds me of something said by one of the main characters in “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, again another example of a famous dystopian novel. When Captain Beatty, a head of a kind of  “GESTAPO” like fire brigade, explains the history of the Fahrenheit world to the protagonist Montag, he claims: “We are the happiness boys”. And he really believes it.

Which shows that there are two different kinds of people who are extremely dangerous: the ones who simply want to have power and the ones who want to make you happy whether you share their idea of happiness or not.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ portrays a world where books are not only banned but burned (Talk about extrapolation here…) and we live in a free world, don’t we? Then why is ‘Brave New World’ one of thetop ten books Americans most want banned? Read about it in this Guardian article.

The Queen’s Jubilee

What better subject could I find to restart my blog for my students of English as a foreign language?

Monarchy is of course something special about our English neighbours, looking back on a long tradition and not unanimously  accepted by every citizen in the UK.

And yes, it could be a topic in your examinations, so it’s a good idea to know a few bits about various aspects of British monarchy.

So first we may try to find an answer to this: why is the queen so important for a lot of English people today?

A main reason from my point of view is that the institution of a king or a queen as a representative of the people aside from the quarrels and debates of the political parties offers an important point of reference and even something to hold on to in difficult times. One only has to remember the visits of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, (the mother of the present day Elizabeth, wife of King George VI) in London during the air raids by the German Luftwaffe. On the Wikipedia site we can read:

[…] She visited troops, hospitals, factories, and parts of Britain that were targeted by the German Luftwaffe, in particular the East End, near London’s docks. Her visits initially provoked hostility. Rubbish was thrown at her and the crowds jeered, in part because she dressed in expensive clothing which served to alienate her from those suffering the privations caused by the war. […] She explained that if the public came to see her they would wear their best clothes, so she should reciprocate in kind; Norman Hartnell dressed her in gentle colours and never black, in order to represent “the rainbow of hope”.  […] When Buckingham Palace itself took several hits during the height of the bombing, Elizabeth was able to say, “I’m glad we’ve been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.” […]

In the picture below, taken from the Indian Newspaper The Hindu’s article on her death in 2002,  she is called a “morale booster”.

But it is time to turn to the jubilee mentioned in this post’s title, in fact the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. When one reads the papers (in my case this means mainly my favourite newspaper The Guardian) you’ll find all kinds of comments from readers, some even going as far as to write: “The sooner we get rid of the royal parasites the better.” (Guardian, 10 February, comment to Ian Jack’s comment “Our attachment to the Queen is perhaps greater than we yet realise” .

The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins describes  her as “studious, stoic and worthy of her diamond jubilee”. He sees in her “the model monarch, not so much ruling as representing an institution that survives all upsets”.

In Stephen Bates’  article “The Queen: from glamorous princess to the country’s oldest ever monarch” we read:

You have to be nearly in your 70s now to remember when the Queen was not head of state here and in 16 other countries, from New Zealand to Jamaica.

Elizabeth II, once a glamorous young woman as iconic as – and just six weeks older than – Marilyn Monroe, was seen as a symbol of a supposedly new Elizabethan age in a Britain emerging from the privations of the second world war and the austerity that followed. Now she is the country’s oldest monarch and the second-longest reigning sovereign in British history.

She has met nearly a quarter of all the American presidents who have ever lived, and a fifth of all Britain’s prime ministers have served during her reign – Churchill, the oldest, born in 1874, Cameron, the latest, not born until the Queen had already been on the throne for 14 years. She has also met most of the world’s leaders of the past six decades and many of its most stellar personalities, and never said anything remotely controversial to any of them.

It is almost impossible now to imagine the Britain of 60 years ago if you weren’t alive then. It was an age when sweets were still rationed, black and white televisions had just one channel and if people wanted to use the telephone they usually had to go out and find a public phone box.

When the BBC broadcast the news of the king’s death on the wireless on the morning of 6 February 1952, many listeners burst into tears and drivers stopped their cars in the streets to get out and stand bare-headed in respect. In 1964 an opinion poll found that 30% of the population still believed that the Queen had been chosen by God.

This picture of the smiling young Elizabeth I found at a fellow blogger’s site: http://designsensibility.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/obsessions-queen-elizabeth-ii/ . I hope Esther doesn’t mind.

Political Speeches

Obama at memorial service TucsonPolitical speeches may very well be a topic of your “Abitur”. So watch out for more prominent ones if you wish to prepare yourself. It’s a good exercise anyway and the net offers a lot of resources.

Here are some suggestions from recent times: President Obama’s state of the union address, the transcript of which you can find on this site of the Ney York Times, or his memorial speech after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, which you can find for example on this site of CBS news.


Best remembered perhaps is his inaugural address:

Lots of political speeches are available via YouTube. For having some fun watch this:


Palin after Tucson shootings

There is always some fun in listening to certain people, Sarah Palin for instance, you never know if you should get really angry or simply laugh. Take as an example the speech of the Alaska  governor accepting the Republican vice-presidential nomination in St. Paul on Sept. 3., the transcript of which you can find – along with a video – on this site of the New York Times. In regard to Obama’s reaction to the Tucson shootings it is sort of annoying to listen to Palin’s reaction. Watch and read a comment on what she had to say on this site of ABC news.


Remember that political speeches might come from fictional texts, especially a drama. Watch Marlon Brando’s famous performance in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar:


Naomi Klein writes about Gulf Oil Spill

The Guardian - Naomi Klein about the gulf oil spill

The Guardian - Naomi Klein about the gulf oil spill

The gulf oil desaster might very well be a topic for your “Zentral Abitur”. Independent from that you might want to be informed about it. So here I recommend a link to an article on the oil spill which is from today’s Guardian and the author is the famous Naomi Klein. Now I know that a lot of people – not only men – mix that name up with the one of a totally different person, so here some further details.

Naomi Klein is a Canadian author, mainly known for her engagement in matters of globalisation. Her most popular publications are “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine”. She also did a lot of reports on globalisation questions for tv. She is quite an impressive person and if you want to learn more about her start with the Wikipedia article or go to Naomi Klein’s own site.

The Guardian article is a full length feature article and gives of course Klein’s point of view. But if you followed the coverage of the oil spill during the last weeks, you will not find much to argue against her. The Guardian article has got a link to a short documentary film about the oil spill. Please find the time to watch it.

Falling Man

Now that we start reading “Falling Man” by Don DeLillo and I began to look for interesting material connected with the novel I start to feel that the book was not such a bad choice after all. Still for an elementary course the narrative will bring some hard work, because often locations are switched without the reader being immediately aware of it and the use of personal pronouns instead of names, even though we suddenly have to deal with different characters, makes understanding for students of EFT difficult.

Richard Drew: The Falling Man / Esquire Magazine 2003

I began with the meaning of  “Falling Man” and almost at once came to Richard Drew’s photograph from 9/11 which you can see here.

It is part of an article by Tom Junod in Esquire magazine from Sep 8th, 2009. Go there to read the complete collection of texts of which we read some in class.

Reading the article I was quite surprised by the reaction of  the majority of the American public to this photograph. It was more or less banished from the US media after it had apeared in almost all the newspapers and magazines immediately after 9/11.

For most Americans – it seems – it was too much reminding them of voluntary suicide, of having surrendered and being cowardly and weak. “This piece of shit is not my father.” was what a young woman – in anger and grief simultaneously – said about the picture which might or might not show her father. (see the article from Esquire, link given above).

But how could a picture in any better way give some sort of dignity to the cruel death of so many people? And if one sees a relaxedness and acceptance of what lies ahead in the posture of the falling man, a decision to go head forward without fear what more appropriate way could there be to show defiance and strength against an inhuman enemy, or as one of my students said ” a calmness of mind and soul” in the face of anavoidable death?

Read more about how the photograph was taken and about the reaction on it in the article mentioned above.

It is also interesting and perhaps not surprising which photographs the American public liked. One which you have probably seen is one that presents the heroes of 9/11, the firefighters.

You surely see the allusion to a famous picture from the Pacific War / WWII whose story is so greatly told in Clint Eastwood’s movie “Flags of our Fathers”. (Definitely another MUST SEE!).

heroes of 9-11: firefighters and flags of our fathers

I will continue writing about photographs in further posts.

History of the English Language

English Language from: http://www.krysstal.com/english.html

We had such a great introduction to the history of English by our student apprentice Lili (thanks again!), that I thought some of you would like to read more about it or repeat a few things. Here are three web sites I recommend to you:

This one tells about the history and origins of the English language and shows some maps.

Here you will find – among other information – lists of vocabulary added to English from Norwegian and Norman language. The diagram shown at the top of this post is also from this site.

And the last one I mention here (there are many more…) offers e.g. a comparison between stages of English by the example of the Lord’s prayer. This site also links to a lot more detailled material.

For those among you who like to watch and listen YouTube has to offer a lot about the history of the English language, for instance this BBC documentary which otherwise is hard to come by:

British Empire – Resources

In class ( both 13 LK and GK) we are about to talk about the British Empire.

The texts I will use in class are excerpts from these web sites:


( History of Empire, its origin, theories)


(the role of planations for the economy of the Empire)


(about an important aspect of technology)


(about the importance of transport, especially ships)


(various aspects, especially about the end of the Empire)


(an interview with a popular Indian author about the British opium trade)

And here is a additional site I strongly recommend to you: The BBC’s new history pages on the web. Use this link to go to the BBC’s  site about the end of the Empire.