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485 Topics: Famous Americans – Charles and Ray Eames; The Black Fives Leagues and The Negro Baseball Leagues; inner and outer versus inside and outside; severely versus seriously

Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 485.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 485. 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. Take a look at our ESL Podcast Store, which has some additional courses in Business and Daily English I’m pretty sure you’re going to like.

On this Café, we’re going to talk about a famous couple by the names of Charles and Ray Eames, who changed the way furniture was made in the United States in the twentieth century. We’re also going to talk about the Negro Baseball Leagues and the Black Fives Leagues. These were two groups of professional sports teams for African Americans during the first part of the twentieth century. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

We begin this Café talking about one of the most famous names in American design of the twentieth century, especially furniture design: Eames. Charles Eames was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1907. Missouri is in the central part of the United States. He studied architecture at Washington University, and in 1930, Eames opened his own architectural office in St. Louis.

“Architecture” (architecture) is basically the art and science of designing buildings by drawing pictures and making models of what they look like. The architect designs the building and the engineer builds it. So, “architecture” is the study of building buildings, if you will. Charles Eames opened his first office, his first business, in St. Louis in 1930. In 1935, he opened another office and worked there until 1938.

Finally, in 1938, Charles Eames received a fellowship from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. A “fellowship” is usually a position at a school, or perhaps at a museum, where a person is paid to do research or to do experiments – sometimes to do teaching, as well. It’s quite common in American graduate schools, in the places where you can get a masters degree or a doctorate degree, to have fellowships for the students.

They have research fellowships, and these fellowships pay for the tuition and the cost of the student to go to the university. There are also teaching fellowships. When I was getting my PhD at the University of Southern California here in Los Angeles, I had a teaching fellowship. If you were really smart, you got a research fellowship, where you didn’t even have to teach in order to get money. Dr. Tse, of course, was a research fellow, and I was the dumber teaching fellow. But anyway, back to our story.

Charles Eames got a fellowship to go to an art school in Michigan, which is located in the central northern part of the United States. At this school called Cranbrook, Eames was head of the experimental design department. “Experimental design” refers to using new and perhaps never before seen ways of doing things. An experimental design department would be part of the school where students and teachers were encouraged to use new ways of building things and designing things.

It was in this position that Charles Eames first began to work on new ways of building furniture. “Furniture” refers to chairs, tables, and things that you use in your house or office – desks, for example. Eames in 1940 began working on a project for a design which he wanted to submit, or give, to a competition for design that was being held in New York at one of the most famous museums in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art – what is more commonly known as “MOMA” by its initials.

Eames sent his design into this contest, this competition that was being held by MOMA. Eames had some help in creating this design from two people, both of whom became very important also in the world of American design and architecture of the twentieth century. The first was a man by the name of Eeon Saarinen. The second was a woman by the name of Ray Kaiser.

Eeon Saarinen would later go on to become a famous designer also of furniture as well as the architect who designed, ironically, one of the most famous buildings from the city where Eames himself was born, in St. Louis, Missouri. That piece of architecture is known as the Gateway Arch. But back to our story, the real person that we’re interested here is not Mr. Saarinen, but rather a woman named Ray Kaiser.

Ray Kaiser was born here in California – in Sacramento, the capital of California – in 1912. She went to school in New York and stayed there until she moved to the same art school Charles Eames moved to: Cranbrook in Michigan. And it was there that Ray Kaiser met Charles Eames, along with Eeon Saarinen, and the three of them designed a chair that later won the first prize in this MOMA competition.

Their chair is we would now describe as “formfitting.” “Formfitting” means that it is in the same shape as the human body. It’s almost as if it were a piece of clothing on the body. This was a very new idea in 1940-41. After the competition, Charles and Ray got married. Charles had actually been married previously and then divorced. He remarried by marrying Ray Kaiser in 1941, and the two began not only to work together professionally, but to be a married couple.

Soon after, the two moved here to Los Angeles, California, and they opened up a company for design and architecture in a place that has been home for many years to artists in Los Angeles, an area of the city called Venice. Charles and Ray Eames would continue to make furniture and work in the area of design for nearly 40 years here in Los Angeles.

They continued to make their formfitting furniture and began to research on the best ways to use a certain kind of wood in the furniture. This wood called “plywood” (plywood) is a very strong and very thin kind of wood that is usually made of other wood that is glued together. One of the first pieces that the Eameses designed with this new material was, interestingly enough, a splint. A “splint” (splint) is a piece of material that is used to hold your leg or arm together after you have broken it or injured it. So, it’s a “medical device,” we might say.

During World War II, the United States Navy hired Charles and Ray Eames to design and build equipment that could be used by the sailors, the military men and women in the boats and ships of the Navy. This equipment included these formfitting plywood splints as well as what we call “stretchers.” A “stretcher” (stretcher) is basically a portable or mobile bed. It’s something you put a sick person on in order to move him.

After they were first married, even though both Charles and his wife, Ray, worked on many of the designs, only Charles was given credit for the work. That would later change, but certainly that was the case initially. A large furniture company by the name of Herman Miller started to mass-produce the furniture that the Eameses designed. “To mass-produce” something is to make a lot of it – to make thousands, perhaps even millions, of a certain product.

In 1949, Charles and Ray Eames participated in a program that was sponsored by a famous architectural magazine in the United States, Art and Architecture. They participated in something that is quite famous here in Los Angeles – at least, if you live here, you probably know about it. It was called the Case Study Houses program. The Case Study Houses were houses that were designed by famous architects during this period of the late 1940s and 1950s that had very modern designs, very modern “looks” to them, we might say.

The Eameses designed a house for themselves in a very beautiful and rich area of Los Angeles called Pacific Palisades. There were several Case Study Houses, and you can still visit some of those today, including the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, which is right next to the Pacific Ocean. If you come to Los Angeles, you can visit the Eames House. It’s not close to much else in terms of tourist sites here in L.A., but if you really love architecture, especially modern architecture, you might enjoy a visit there.

Charles and Ray continued designing furniture, and in 1956, they designed perhaps their most famous piece of furniture, what is known as the Eames Chair. The Eames Chair is two pieces of formfitting plywood that were joined together by pieces of steel. It immediately became famous. In fact, some people call that the “Chair of the Century.” It’s a very popular chair here in Los Angeles for people to have in their homes, especially people with a lot of money, because the real Eames chairs are quite expensive.

In addition to furniture, the Eameses also designed buildings, including some that were used for the 1964 World’s Fair, as well as for the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States in 1976. “Bi-” as a prefix means “two,” so “bicentennial” would be two hundred – in this case, the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

In addition to designing buildings and furniture, the Eameses also got interested in film, in making short movies. That’s not particularly surprising, since here in Los Angeles there are hundreds of thousands of people who are involved in the film industry, or the business of making movies, especially in the area where the Eameses lived in Pacific Palisades and where they had their studio in Venice, California. They made a couple of short films, but one that was to become very famous was called the Powers of Ten.

Powers of Ten is a very short film, a very short movie – I think it’s less than 10 minutes long – that was first released, or shown, in 1968. This is a movie that I remember seeing when I was in grade school in the 1970s, and if you haven’t seen it or don’t know what it’s about, I definitely recommend that you go to the Internet and you search for Powers of Ten – the number 10. You can watch it.

It is a demonstration of the mathematical concept of powers. When we talk about “powers of” ten, or “powers of” a number, we’re talking relationships of magnitude, technically. I’m not a mathematician. I think that’s right, though. Anyway, it’s a great little film, and if you haven’t seen it, you would definitely want to look it up.

Charles Eames died in 1978 of a heart attack while visiting his hometown of St. Louis. More specifically, he died on August 21st, 1978. His wife continued designing until the end of her life exactly 10 years later, on August 21st, 1988, although I don’t think she died on that day by design. Today, the work of the Eameses continues on through the foundation, or organization, started by Charles Eames’ daughter from his first marriage. The foundation has several different projects including selling some of the designs that the Eameses developed during their career.

There used to be a place that you could go and visit called the Eames Office down in Santa Monica, which is just next door to, or near to, Venice, California, not too far from where I live, either. However, the office – at least, at the time of this recording in 2014 – is currently not open. I think they’re moving it to a new location, but in any case, if you come to California, you can certainly go to the Eames House here in Los Angeles, and as I mentioned before, if you haven’t seen Powers of Ten, the short movie, I think you would enjoy that as well.

Now let’s turn to our second topic briefly, which has to do with professional sports, specifically teams for African Americans in the early part of the twentieth century. As you know, before the middle of the twentieth century in the U.S., in many areas of the United States there was legal segregation. “Segregation” is when you separate two groups of people based on some characteristic. In the case of African Americans, it was because, of course, of the color of their skin.

African Americans were not allowed in many states and cities to go to the same restaurants and hotels that white people went to. This segregation of whites and blacks was also present in professional sports. The African-American community had its own professional sports teams, especially for popular sports such as baseball and basketball. These professional teams began in the late nineteenth century.

During the 1920s, there was something called the Negro Baseball Leagues. The word “Negro” (negro) is an old word that we don’t use anymore for blacks or African Americans. A “league” (league) is a group of sports teams. So, the Negro Baseball Leagues was an organization of professional sports teams for African Americans playing against other African-American teams.

One of the early Negro Baseball League teams was called the Chicago American Giants. It was managed, or led, by a former pitcher in the game of baseball. A “pitcher” is the player that throws the ball at what’s called the “batter.” The batter tries to hit the ball. Baseball became increasingly popular in the African-American community in the 1930s and especially during World War II in the 1940s.

In 1945, just after the end of the war, one of the up to then all-white professional baseball teams, the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided to start hiring, or giving jobs to, African-American players from the Negro League. This was the first time that an African American was ever paid to play baseball for a non-Negro League team, or non-African-American team. The first player that the Dodgers brought into their organization was named Jackie Robinson.

Now, usually when a professional baseball team gets a new player, a young player, the player doesn’t start playing right away with the main team. There are a number of smaller, what we may consider “lower-level,” teams in a professional team organization in baseball, and initially, Jackie Robinson played for one of these what we call “minor league” teams. The big teams – the main teams that we know about, such as the Dodgers and the Giants and the Yankees – all play for Major League Baseball.

Once Robinson became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, other African-American players started to join the previously all-white world of Major League Baseball. Some of these players became the very best players in the game, including Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Satchel Paige. The Negro League began to lose money once its best players started playing for Major League Baseball.

The Negro League teams continued until the 1960s and eventually disbanded – no longer operated – because it was no longer necessary when the major league baseball teams started to bring in the best African-American players on their own teams.

During this same time period during the early twentieth century, there were also teams for basketball for African-American players interested in basketball. These teams were sometimes called the Black Fives (fives). “Fives” because in basketball, there are five players. The Black Fives teams started during the early part of the twentieth century and lasted until about the middle of the twentieth century. The Black Fives teams are not as famous as the Negro Baseball League teams, but they were still an important part of the history of basketball in the U.S.

Many of the teams were paid for, or sponsored, by churches, newspapers, or black community groups. When I say they “sponsored” them, I mean they paid for their uniforms and paid the player something to play. The teams played not in large stadiums, but rather in small gyms or gymnasiums in schools and in YMCAs. YMCA is an organization that, among other things, sponsors or pays for a lot of gyms and sporting facilities in the United States. It’s what we call a “non-profit organization.”

Anyway, the Black Fives soon began to have musical groups play at the games to provide entertainment to the audience, and this helped increase the number of people that started to go to these games, these African-American basketball games. In fact, it was common after the game for the people who had come to see the game to stay and to dance to the music that was being performed by the bands that were there at the game. So, it became sort of a combination of a sporting event and a community event – a dance, in this case.

While lots of Americans have heard of the Negro Leagues, or the Negro Baseball Leagues, relatively few, I would say, have heard of the Black Fives. I certainly had never heard of it before researching this Café. They aren’t written about as much as the baseball leagues are. This is somewhat unusual because the Black Five teams sometimes played all white players, all-white teams, and beat them. In fact, the basketball team that has the most wins of all time in professional basketball is called the New York Renaissance, which was a Black Fives team.

In 1950, the main, up to then, all-white professional basketball organization, the National Basketball League began to have, just like major league baseball, African-American players on their teams. The National Basketball League, which we now call the National Basketball Association, was integrated at this time. “To integrate” (integrate) means to combine two things or two groups together. In this case, it was combining the previously all-white teams with new African-American players.

So, that’s a little bit of the history of the African-American professional sports teams of the early part of the twentieth century, at least those in basketball and baseball.

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

Our first question comes from Taiwan, from Pupu (Pupu). The question has to do with four words: “inner,” “outer,” “inside,” and “outside.” It’s impossible to understand the meaning of these words without knowing the definitions of “in” and “out.” You have to know what “in” versus “out” is to understand “inner” and “outer.” It’s almost impossible to define these words without understanding that basic concept. So, if you know what “in” is, and if you know what “out” means, then we can talk about “inner” and “outer.”

The inner side of something, or the inner part of something, would be something in the central part, or we might call it the core part, of an object or even an area. There’s a common expression: the “inner city.” The “inner city” refers to the areas that are in the central part of the city, often poor areas or areas with a lot of crime. You could talk about someone’s “inner thighs.” Your “thigh” is a part of your leg, the top part of your leg. So, the inner thighs would be the part of the thigh that is facing, the other part of the thigh of the other leg, that is to say. That would be your “inner thigh.”

“Outer,” then, would refer to the area away from the center part of the object or the place. We could talk about the “outer suburbs.” These would be communities, cities, that are located away from the main part of the city, certainly away from the inner city. Similarly, the words “inside” and “outside” are used to describe the concept of something being on the inner part, or outer part of, the object.

Often we use “inside” to talk about a surface – the surface of an object. So, you have a coat, for example, or a shirt. You have the “inside” of the shirt – that’s the part of the shirt that is against your body, against your skin – and then you have the “outside” of the shirt, which would be the part that everyone can see. That might be one use of those words as adjectives. “Inside” and “outside” are probably more common than “inner” and “outer.”

We use “inner” and “outer” for special situations. “Inside” and “outside” are probably more general terms. There are some specific phrases in terms where you use one versus the other. An example of that would be “inner city.” You wouldn’t say, “the inside city.” You could say, however, “inside the city.” If something is “inside the city,” it is within the boundaries or the limits of the city. Something that is “outside” of the United States is something that is not located within the United States.

Our next question comes from Xiao Ling (Xiao Ling) in China. The question has to do with two adverbs: “severely” and “seriously.” Let’s start with “severely” (severely). “Severely” means very bad, very unwanted. Something that has a very negative effect. “Our sales were severely affected by the bad weather,” or “The bad weather severely affected the driving conditions in the city.” “Severely” here means a lot, in a very negative way.

If you are in a car accident and you break your arm or you break your leg and perhaps hurt yourself in other ways, we might describe you as being “severely injured.” This would especially be true if perhaps you might even die or you have to spend weeks in the hospital. That would be “severely injured.” If you just broke your leg, we probably wouldn’t say you were severely injured. Usually, when we’re talking about someone’s health, the word “severely” is often used when the person might even die because of that injury.

“Seriously” (seriously) has a couple of different meanings. One of them is similar to “severely.” It can mean a very negative situation or when something has a very negative effect on something else. “I am seriously worried about my examination tomorrow.” You mean you are very worried about it. You could also say, “He was seriously injured.” That means the same as “He was severely injured.”

So, sometimes the words are used in similar situations. However, there are many cases where “seriously” would be the only word you would want to use. “Seriously” is often used to mean the opposite of “lightly” or even “humorously.” In fact, we often use it at the beginning of the sentence to tell the person that what we are saying is true and that it isn’t funny or it isn’t comical, or when we want to emphasize that the person should pay attention to what we are saying.

If you said to someone, “Seriously, you need to work harder in order to pass this class.” You’re telling this person that he needs to study more and he needs to concentrate or focus more and not take your warning as a joke, or not to think it isn’t something that he has to pay attention to.

More recently, the word “seriously” has been used to express disbelief or surprise that someone thinks a certain thing or does a certain thing. It’s used in a sarcastic way in some sense. Usually it said with a certain tone of voice to indicate that you are surprised at what a person is doing and you disapprove of it. You almost can’t believe that this person would do that or say that.

So, for example, you go to a wedding and someone you know comes to the wedding wearing shorts and a T-shirt – not dressed appropriately for a wedding. You might talk to this person, assuming the person is someone you know, and say, “Seriously, John? You came to this wedding in shorts, seriously?” The word “seriously” there is to express your shock and surprise at what this person has said or done.

Finally Tetsuya (Tetsuya) in Japan has a question about the words “slash” (slash) and “backslash” (backslash). We use the word “slash” nowadays especially when talking about the web or the Internet. “Slash” (/) is a punctuation mark in English that is used in website addresses, what are called “URLs.” So, for example, if you want to go to the Facebook page of ESL Podcast, you would go to facebook.com/eslpod.

That (/) indicates sort of a crooked line that’s leaning forward that’s a punctuation mark in English. There’s another word – which, to be honest, I sometimes have confused “slash” with in the past, including here on the podcast, and that word is “backslash.” A “backslash” () is also a punctuation mark in English that refers to a line that instead of leaning forward, leans backwards.

Now, you’ll find backslashes on many keyboards, on most keyboards, in English – computer keyboards, that is – but it really is only used for computer programming. It’s not used in normal English punctuation. I think on a few previous episodes, I sometimes said “backslash” instead of “slash.” Actually, sometimes in the computing world, to make sure there isn’t any confusion, people will say “forward slash” – that means the same as “slash,” and I’m sure that that is what I was thinking of, except I got it backwards.

So, thank you for that question and for allowing us to clarify. When we’re talking about Internet web addresses, and in most English punctuation, the word you want is “slash,” and the punctuation mark you want is (/).

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

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

architecture – the designing of buildings by drawing pictures and making models of what they will look like when built

* The Empire State Building in New York City is a perfect example of art deco architecture with its sharp, clear lines.

fellowship – a position, usually at a college or university, where a person is paid to do research, do experiments, and/or teach in their field of study

* Hans had worked in the film industry his whole life and was happy to accept a fellowship at the university to teach students about the art of making movies.

experimental design – using new and untried ways of creating or making things

* At the car show, see the experimental designs for the cars of the future.

form fitting – the same shape as a person’s body and resting close to the body

* The scuba diver’s wetsuit is form fitting so that she doesn’t have any extra material that might get caught on the coral reef.

plywood – a very strong and very thin type of wood made by gluing together several boards of thin wood

* When the hurricane headed toward Miami, people put plywood over their windows and doors to protect their homes from strong winds.

splint – a piece of hard material that is used to hold a leg, arm, or other body part in place when there is a broken bone

* When Neera broke her finger at work, her coworker created a splint from two pencils tied together to hold the finger in place until Neera could get to the hospital.

to mass-produce – to make something in large numbers, usually in a factory

* Once cars were mass-produced, the manufacturers could sell them for cheaper prices and more Americans could buy them.

league – a group of sports teams that play each other for a championship

* Mateo played in a men’s soccer league with matches on Wednesday nights.

pitcher – the player in a baseball game who throws the ball so that another player can try to hit it

* For the final out of the game, the pitcher threw his famous fastball that few batters can hit.

to sponsor – to pay for another person to do an activity; to give money or other support for an activity or event

* Many companies sponsor sports teams for children as a way of helping the community and getting advertising for their business.

YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association; an organization with buildings that have gyms and offers different kinds of physical and social activities

* The local YMCA in Pooja’s neighborhood has a gym, basketball courts, and a swimming pool, as well as yoga and weightlifting classes.

to integrate – to combine two things to make one

* Do you think we can integrate Dan’s department into ours without problems?

inner – located inside; located farther inside

* After riding horses all day, Sarah felt a pain down her inner thigh.

outer – located outside; located farther outside

* There are enough guards around the building, but not enough around the outer areas of the property.

inside – the inner or internal side or surface of something

* There are too many mosquitoes in this yard. Let’s go inside.

outside – the outer or external side or surface of something

* After the minor car accident, Josie found no damage to the outside of her car.

severely – very badly; very much unwanted; having a very negative effect

* The new school budget severely limits the buying of classroom supplies.

seriously – to a degree or point that is significant or causing worry because of possible danger or risk

* The bad weather seriously threatens the outdoor wedding today.

slash ( / ) – a mark used in writing as a substitute for “or”; sign used in website addresses (URLs)

* Don’t forget to include two slashes in our website address: http://www.eslpod.com.

backslash ( ) – a mark used mainly in computing to separate file and folder names

* You’ll forgot to include the third backslash in the filename: officegraphicsdecember.

What Insiders Know
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame “honors” (gives recognition and respect to) basketball players, “coaches” (people who train and lead a sports team), “referees” (people who decide whether players are following the rules), “executives” (high-level business people), and other personnel who made important “contributions” (helpful things) to the sport around the world. It is named after James Naismith, a coach, who “invented” (created) basketball in 1891.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was established in 1959 at the college where the sport was invented. It grew in popularity, and in 1985, a new facility was built in Springfield, Illinois. In that same year, the Basketball Hall of Fame started to recognize contributions from women in basketball for the first time.

In 1999, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame was opened in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is “dedicated to” (exists for the purpose of) all levels of women’s basketball. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame facility in Tennessee not only “houses” (provides a place for) and “preserves” (keeps something in its current or good condition) the history of women participating in the sport, it is also a place for special events.

As of 2014, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has honored nearly 300 hundred “inductees” (people allowed into a select or special group), while the Women’s Basketball Hall of fame has honored 139 inductees.