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295 Topics: Movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey; Bozo the Clown; kind of versus so-so versus more or less; firm versus company; to get + participle

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 295.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 295. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at eslpod.com. Download this episode’s Learning Guide, an 8- to 10-page guide we provide for all of our current episodes that gives you some additional help in improving your English. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, with additional courses in English, as well as our ESL Podcast Blog, where several times a week we provide even more help in helping you increase your language proficiency.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about a very well-known science fiction movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey. We'll also talk about Joshua Tree National Park. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

As I said, this Café begins with a discussion about a very well-known science fiction movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey. An odyssey, "odyssey," is a long, difficult journey where the traveler has many interesting adventures. This particular odyssey in the movie is an odyssey through outer space, "space," or the huge area around our planet, which include all the planets, stars, suns, moons, and galaxies.

2001: A Space Odyssey is actually a novel and a movie that share the same title. They were created concurrently, "concurrently," or at the same time, in 1968. Actually, the book was released just a little bit after the movie. The novel was written by Arthur C. Clarke. The movie was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

The basic plot, "plot," or story is pretty much the same in the book and the movie, although there are some differences. In 1999, scientists on the moon discover a large monolith, "monolith," which is a large, tall piece of stone. In the past, some cultures used monoliths for religious purposes. The scientists say that this monolith they've found on the moon is definitely not natural, meaning it must have been created by extra-terrestrials, "extra terrestrials," or living beings from another planet. As the people examine the monolith, a mysterious radio signal is sent from it.

Then the story jumps to a year and a half in the future, when five scientists are traveling to the planet Jupiter. Two of the people are awake; the other three are cryogenically frozen, "cryogenically frozen," or put in a state where they are unconscious and seem to be asleep, so that they can be woken up when the spaceship arrives at Jupiter. The ship has a computer called HAL 9000, or just "Hal." Hal is very intelligent and apparently incapable, "incapable," of making mistakes. Or at least that's what he says.

However, strange things start to happen on the ship. Hal tells the scientists that certain pieces of the ship aren't working properly and need to be replaced, but the scientists don't think anything is actually broken. They decide that they will replace the piece as Hal has told them to, but they agree that if nothing is actually wrong with it, they will turn off Hal. But Hal is watching them through a window and he is able to read their lips. In other words, he figures out what they are saying by watching their lips move.

So when one of the scientists goes outside of the spaceship to replace the part, Hal cuts the scientist's oxygen hose, killing the scientist. When the other scientist, called Bowman, leaves the ship to try to rescue his colleague, Hal turns off the machines that are keeping the cyrogenically frozen scientists alive, so they die.

When Bowman tries to get back into the spaceship, Hal doesn't want to let him in, because he doesn't want to be turned off. But Bowman sneaks back into the spaceship without Hal knowing it. To sneak, "sneak," means to do something secretly, without letting someone else find out about it. Once Bowman has sneaked back into the ship, he turns off Hal. And then a video message appears, informing Bowman about the monolith that was found on the moon, as well as the real purpose for the trip: to visit the place where the monolith's radio signal was sent.

When Bowman reaches Jupiter, he finds another monolith orbiting, "orbiting," or going around the planet. But as he gets closer to it, he is pulled into it and travels very far, very quickly. He sees many amazing sights as he travels through space.

The ending of the movie is very strange. Bowman finds himself in a well-decorated bedroom, able to see himself getting older and older. At the very end, he is transformed, "transformed," or changed into a being that is surrounded by an orb, "orb," or circle of light, and then that being is seen next to the planet Earth.

The release of the novel and movie coincided with the early space program. To coincide, "coincide," with something means to happen at the same time as something else. In the 1960s, the United States was trying to explore outer space and in 1969 the first man walked on the moon. So there was a lot of interest in space exploration at that time.

It was also a period of time when technology was changing very quickly and people were becoming worried about whether technology would take over, or get control over humans. Of course, that's exactly what happened in the novel and movie, when the computer, Hal, started killing the scientists on the spaceship. In the end, the humans triumphed, "triumphed," or won over the technology. But the idea of technology taking over is still a source of fear for many people even today.

The movie is unusual, because it uses little dialogue, meaning the characters don't speak very much. It relies on a lot of unusual images and classical music. Many people believe 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the best movies that has ever been made, and it has been ranked highly by many organizations. If you get a chance to see it, I think you'll enjoy it.

Now let's turn to our next topic, which is Joshua Tree National Park. The area was first designated a National Monument in 1936, and it became a National Park in 1994. The area covers 1,234 square miles in southeastern California, and it's a little bigger than the State of Rhode Island.

The Park covers parts of two deserts: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. It is a hot, dry climate, but there are many strange-looking trees, called Joshua trees, which the park is named after. There are also many cacti. Cacti, "cacti," is the plural form of cactus, "cactus," which is a category of plants that grow in the desert, don't need very much water, and have very sharp thorns instead of soft leaves like most other plants.

Joshua Tree National Park has fascinating, "fascinating," or very interesting geological features. The unusual rock formations, "formations," or shapes were created 100 million years ago. Since that time, erosion, "erosion," has changed the shapes. Erosion, "erosion," is the process by which water or wind slowly destroy and remove small pieces of dirt and rock, and over many, many years, can change the shape of the landscape. At Joshua Tree National Park, in some places erosion has given rectangular rock formations a rounded top.

People visit Joshua Tree National Park to marvel at the rock formations. To marvel, "marvel," at something means to look at something and be very impressed by it, or like it very much, often because it is very beautiful or unusual. Visitors can hike, climb rocks, and camp. There is also a tour route that people can drive on to see interesting geological features. Other people like to go to Joshua Tree National Park to see the birds and other wildlife, "wildlife," or animals, as well as colorful wildflowers during certain times of the year.

This year, 2011, Joshua Tree National Park is celebrating its 75th anniversary as part of the National Park System, so there are a lot of special events for visitors to participate in. I hope I'll have a chance to visit the park soon.

Now let's answer some of the questions that you have sent to us….

If you have a question or comment for ESL Podcast, you can email us. Our
email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see
you next time on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and
Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2011, by the Center for Educational

odyssey – a long, difficult journey where a traveler has many interesting adventures and/or meets many difficulties

* This book is about a man’s 12-year odyssey to find his missing son.

concurrently – at the same time; occurring in the same time period

* Cities across the country are holding concurrently celebrations on Independence Day.

plot – the main events or the main story in a novel, movie, or play

* The movie’s plot was so unclear that most of the audience members left the theater confused and unhappy.

monolith – a large, tall piece of stone

* The monoliths on that hill are two stories high and no one knows how they got there.

extra-terrestrial – a person or living being from another planet; a living creature not from Earth

* Do you believe that extra-terrestrials have visited Earth and some are living among us?

cryogenically frozen – for a person to have been put in a state where he or she is unconscious and seem to be asleep, to be awaken later

* When Sam dies, he wants to be cryogenically frozen so that if there’s a cure for his disease in the future, he can be brought back to life.

to read lips – to see the movement of a speaker’s lips and be able to understand those words, even though one is not able to hear the speaker’s voice

* Quincy is deaf, but he can read lips so well that he can usually understand what someone is saying to him.

to sneak – to do something secretly, without letting someone else find out about it

* If I sneak a cookie from the cookie jar before dinner, do you think Mom will notice?

to coincide with – to happen at the same time as something else; to occur at or during the same time

* The expansion of the company coincided with the hiring of 40 new employees.

cactus – a type of plant that grows in the desert and that doesn’t need very much water, with very sharp thorns instead of soft leaves like most other plants

* Be careful! If you fall down onto a cactus, you’ll be in a lot of pain.

erosion – the process by which water or wind slowly destroy and remove small pieces of dirt and rock over many, many years

* These rocks must have been pointed many years ago, but through erosion, they are now rounded and smooth.

to marvel at – to look at something and be very impressed by it, or like it very much, often because it is very beautiful or unusual

* We climbed to the top of the hill and marveled at the beautiful view of the city.

kind of – a little bit; somewhat

* If you don’t mind, I’m kind of tired and would prefer to stay home rather than go out this evening.

so-so – somewhat; not good, but not bad either; okay

* My cooking is just so-so. If you want to find a good cook, talk to Jiyoung.

more or less – somewhat; approximately

* There were about 50 people at the concert, more or less.

firm – a business, especially one that deals with law or money

* Our investment firm helps clients manage their money.

company – a general term for a business, especially one that makes a product

* Kia’s family has owned a shipbuilding company for over 80 years.

What Insiders Know
Watson and the TV Show Jeopardy!

Since the release of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, many authors and filmmakers have “addressed” (thought about and dealt with) the “theme” (subject) of computers “taking over” (having power over) the world. Hal did that in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and now, there is a real life computer we can be afraid of.

For many years, the computer company IBM has been working on a computer that could think like humans. In 2011, they “unveiled” (made public) a computer they call “Watson.” Watson is a computer that is able to answer questions “posed” (asked) in “natural language,” the language used by humans when communicating with one another. Watson was named after the first president of IBM, Thomas J. Watson.

In February 2011, to show the new computer’s ability, Watson competed on the popular “quiz show” (television show with people answering questions to win money) Jeopardy! against the two most successful “contestants” (people competing in a game or contest) ever. During the three-day competition, Watson “dominated” (was far ahead of the competitors) the entire game. He finally beat both of the past winners, winning the $1 million prize, which IBM officials said would be given to “charity” (groups formed to help people, not to make money).

Near the end of the game, both of the human competitors knew that they had lost the game to Watson because Watson had “accumulated” (collected) so much money. In the final written response by one of the competitors, Ken Jennings, he “jokingly” (being funny) wrote: “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.” An “overload” is a ruler or someone with power over you.