Questions About A Drama Class
Listen to a conversation between a student and his drama professor.
Professor: Hi Robert. So how's your paper going?
Robert: Pretty well. It's a lot of work, but I’m getting into it, so I don't mind. I’ll probably have some questions for you in the next week or so.
Professor: Okay. Glad to hear you’re progressing so well.
Robert: Um… There was something you said at the end of the lecture on Tuesday, something about there not really being any original plays.
Professor: There’s no such thing as an original play. Yes. That's the direct quote from Charles Mee.
Robert: Mee… that's with two “e”s, right?
Professor: Yep. M-E-E. You'll probably be hearing a lot about him. He's becoming a pretty famous playwright.
Robert: Yeah，well, I’ve been thinking about his quote. I mean there must be some original plays out there.
Professor: I’ll grant that he's overstating things somewhat. But the theater does have a long tradition of borrowing. Take Shakespeare. Like most writers of his day, he borrowed plots from other sources unabashedly. And the ancient Greeks, all the plays they wrote were based on earlier plays, poems and myths.
Robert: And borrowing applies to plays being written nowadays, too?
Professor: To some extent, yes. Mee, for example, he's made a career out of remaking plays, one of which we’ll be studying soon. It’s called Full Circle and Mee based it on an earlier play by a German playwright.
Robert: Oh Full Circle… Wasn't that based on the Caucasian Chalk Circle?
Professor: That's right.
Robert: I remember hearing about that play from my acting coach.
Professor: Okay. Well, the Caucasian Chalk Circle was based on a play by yet another German playwright, someone who was fascinated by the ancient literatures of China, India and Persia, and many of his works were adapted from those literatures, including his version of the Chalk Circle which was based on an early Chinese play.
Robert: So this Full Circle play, by Charles Mee, the one we're going to study, it's like the third or fourth remake. Wow… And we complain that Hollywood keeps making the same movies over and over again.
Professor: Well, part of what Mee’s trying to do is drive home the point that: One, theater’s always a collaborative effort.
Robert: Well, yeah, the playwright, the director, the actors, people have to work together to produce a play.
Professor: Yes, of course. But Mee means historically. The dramatic literature of early periods is hugely influential in shaping later dramatic works.
Robert: So it's like when the playwright bases a play on a previous playwright's theme or message.It's like they're talking to each other, collaborating. Uh, just not at the same time right?
Professor: Exactly. And the second point Mee's trying to make, I think, is that it's legitimate to retell an old story in a new way, in a way that’s, uh… more in line with contemporary concerns. So when playwrights reinvent or update an earlier play, it shouldn't be construed as a lack of imagination or an artistic failure.
Sounds In The Film
Listen to part of a lecture in a film studies class.
Professor: Nowadays we take sound in films for granted. I mean you still might see black and white films occasionally. But you'll hardly ever see silent films anymore.
So it's interesting to note that the use of recorded sound was originally controversial. And some directors, uh, some filmmakers even thought it shouldn't be used, that it would destroy the purity of cinema, somehow reverse all the progress that had been made in the art of cinema. Abby?
Abby: What about all the sounds you hear in some silent movies? Like, you know, a loud sound when somebody falls down or something?
Professor: Okay, you're talking about a soundtrack added much later, which has over time become part of the film we know. But this recorded track didn't exist then.
And it's not that most people didn't want sound in films. It's just that the technology wasn't available yet. Don't forget that instead of recorded sound, there was often live music that accompanied movies in those days, like a piano player or a larger orchestra in the movie theater.
Also, think of the stage, the live theater, it has used wonderful sound effects for a long time. And if wanted, these could be produced during the viewing of a film. You know, the rolling of drums for thunder or whatever. But that wasn't as common.
Oh, and another thing, that they might have in movie theaters in the early days, was a group of live actors reading the parts to go along with the film, or, and this seems a particularly bad idea to us now, one person narrating the action, an early example of a long tradition of movie producers, the ones concerned mostly about making money, not having much confidence in their audience, thinking that people somehow couldn't follow the events otherwise.
So, it finally became possible to play recorded sound as part of the film in the 1920s. Trouble was, it wasn't always used to very good effect. First it was, you know, amazing to see somebody's mouth move at the same time you hear the words, or hear a door close when you see it closing on screen.
But that luster wears off, of course. And if you're a director, a filmmaker, what's the next step?
Abby: Well, you sound to enhance the movie right? Bring something more to it that wasn’t possible?
Professor: Yes. That’s exactly what directors, who were more interested in cinema as art, not commerce, were thinking.
But they also predicted that there would be a problem that sound would be misused and, boy, was it ever.Because the commercial types, the producers and so on, were thinking, “Okay. Now that sound is possible, let's talk as much as possible and forget about the fact that we're making a movie, that we have this powerful visual medium.”
So many of the films of the twenties were basically straight adaptations of successful shows from the stage, theatre. The name they used for sound films then was “talking films” and that was on the mark, since, well, all they pretty much did was talk and talk.
So, remedy? Well what was proposed by a number of filmmakers and theorists was the creative expressive use of sound, what they generally called nonsynchronous sound.
Okay, synchronous sound means basically that what we hear is what we see. Everything on the soundtrack is seen on the screen. And everything was recorded simultaneously, which… Well, since the sound technicians working on films often had experience with live radio that made sense to them. Recording the sound separately and adding it in afterward? Well, that idea was less obvious.
Anyway synchronous sound means the source of the sound is the image on the screen.Nonsynchronous sound then is…
Abby: The sound doesn't match the picture?
Professor: Right. Now we can look at this in various ways. But let's take it as literally as possible.
Music, unless we see the radio or the orchestra, that's nonsynchronous. If the camera shot is of the listener rather than the speaker that's nonsynchronous. If we hear, say, background sounds that aren't on the screen, that's nonsynchronous.
So, that doesn't seem so radical, does it? But again, those early producers didn't think their audiences could keep up with this.
Abby: Excuse me, but did you say earlier that some filmmakers actually advocated not using sound at all?
Professor: Well, yes. But that was a bit of an exaggeration, I guess. What I meant to say was that some filmmakers thought that the way the film sound was actually used was setting the art of filmmaking back.But everyone agreed that sounds solved some very difficult issues and offered potentially exciting tools.
Two Kinds Of Pollution
Listen to part of a lecture in an environmental science class.
Professor: The Chesapeake Bay on the east coast of United States is huge. The largest estuary in the U.S., and it’s very important to local economies.
But like many of the world’s waterways, the Chesapeake is being polluted. And efforts to stop that from happening have not been entirely successful. And that’s partly because of the type of pollution affecting the Chesapeake which may not be what you might predict.
Um, first let’s mention that the sources of pollution are of two general types. And let’s begin with what’s known as point source pollution. Point source pollution has an identifiable source and you can find the specific point where say one particular pipe is dumping pollutants into the bay. And then treat the water right there where the pollution's coming from.
And that’s what's happened over the past thirty years or so. Modifications have been made in factories and sewage treatment plants to treat polluted water before it’s released into public waterways. But there’s also something we call non-point source pollution.
Nowadays the most serious pollution threat doesn’t come from any particularsource like a factory or sewage treatment plant, but originates from many sources over a large area. And this non-point source pollution is a challenge to deal with because it doesn’t just enter the bay through one pipe. You can’t identify precisely where it’s coming from.
And to be specific, the biggest problem now facing the Chesapeake Bay is due not to toxins but to nutrients contained in chemical fertilizers used on farms all over the region. These nutrients like phosphorus and especially nitrogen wash away what we call agricultural runoff. That’s when water from a hard rain or from melting snow carries these chemicals down to streams and into the bay.
And there they stimulate the explosive growth of algae and that uses up much of the oxygen in the water, oxygen that fish and other aquatic organisms need to stay alive. So since there is no single place you can treat the runoff before it reaches the bay, any efforts to reduce this non-point source pollution generally need to be aimed at keeping pollution out of the streams in the first place.
But before we go into that, let’s look at the role of nitrogen fertilizer in modern farming. Until about sixty years ago, before a great increase in industrialization, this wasn’t a problem. In the past, farmers use natural fertilizers, and rotated crops so that in addition to commercial food crops like corn and wheat, they might plant legumes like alfalfa and clover for animal feed.
But these legumes also enriched the soil by converting nitrogen in the atmosphere into nitrates, a form of nitrogen that crops like wheat or corn could use as nutrient. And these and other cover crops, planted to hold the soil after the wheat or corn was harvested. They stored much of the surplus nitrogenduring the time of the year when the runoff tended to be the greatest.
But farming practices changed as farmers came under pressure to use more and more chemical fertilizer in order to increase crop production on the same amount of land. But more isn’t always better, at least in terms of chemical fertilizer in the environment. And along the way, farmers switch from legumes to animal feeds more suited to intensive large scale animal production.
And the excess nitrogen once trapped by these cover crops either washed away in the next big rain or went down into the groundwater and either way eventually ended up in the streams and the bay, and that as we said means more algae in the water and less oxygen for the fish and other aquatic life to breathe.
So what’s being done? Well, two things.
First, after the main crops are harvested, more farmers are planting cover crops again. Other kinds like rye and barley that hold the nitrogen and keep it from washing out of the soil during the months when that most likely to occur. And the second strategy is to plant buffer zones at the edges of streams. Not crops but natural areas, trees. The roots of these trees can absorb the excess nitrogen in the runoff before it reaches the streams. Farmers sometimes object to letting trees grow on land where they might otherwise be cultivating crops. But there’s a government program that compensates them, that pays them for creating these buffer zones between their fields and the streams that eventually feed into bays like the Chesapeake and it’s beginning to show some success.
Advice For Cafeteria
Listen to a conversation between a student and a cafeteria manager.
Manager: Oh, hi, you're Amy, right?
Manager: I haven't seen you here for a while. Welcome back.
Student: Thanks. Uh, you're right. I haven't been eating here regularly like I used to.
Manager: Why not?
Student: A couple of reasons. First of all, I have a class that ends during lunch time. So by the time I get here, there's hardly any food left.
Student: Yeah. And then I have a chemistry lab at night this semester. It's 2 hours every Tuesday and Thursday. You know that building is way across campus. So I just eat something in my dorm before I leave or skip dinner altogether. I come here afterward, but lab lets out at 7:30 and...By then the cafeteria is already closed.
Manager: Oh, I'm really sorry. Well, what about getting something to go and eating it in class?
Student: I can’t. Food isn't permitted anywhere near the laboratories. I wish you stayed open later.
Manager: Have you complained formally? We've always had a suggestion box. And now, you can send us an e-mail.
Student: As a matter of fact, I did fill out a suggestion card. I asked for longer hours and for better food choices, too. But that was like weeks ago. And nothing’s changed from what I can see.
Manager: You know, I was just promoted to cafeteria manager, and one of the things I'm trying to do is pay more attention to students' concerns. There have been a lot of complaints similar to yours over the years.
Student: Yeah. A lot of my friends complain about the cafeteria, but I figure nothing will ever be done.
Manager: Well, some things can change. For instance, you mentioned you like better food choices. Is there anything in particular you like added to the menu?
Student: Hmm, I guess it'd be nice to get hot cereal in the morning, and maybe a wider choice of soups and salads at lunch and dinner. And there should definitely be enough food to feed everyone whenever the cafeteria is open.
Manager: Hmm hmm. ... But all good suggestions. Say, were you aware that the university has recently formed a food advisory committee? It includes myself, a nutritionist, the school chef, a food science professor and the person who oversees the cafeteria budget.
Student: Do you want me to talk to the committee?
Manager: I was thinking you might like to serve on the committee. If you are interested, I'll recommend you as the student representative.
Student: Oh, I'm not so sure if I have enough spare time to get that involved.
Manager: Ok, then why don't I let you know when and where our next meeting is? And we will put you on the agenda. You may also want to send me an e-mail with all of your suggestions. Now that I am in charge, I will make sure they get serious consideration.
Student: I’d appreciate that. Thanks.
The History Of Tea
Listen to part of a lecture in a world history class.
Professor: Now, according to Chinese legend, the first person to drink tea was a Chinese emperor who lived nearly 5000 years ago. This emperor was, oh, you could call him an amateur scientist. And he wisely required all drinking water to be boiled for hygiene. So, once, emm, when visiting some distant part of his empire, he noticed that a breeze had blown some leaves into his pot of boiling water and these leaves turned the water kind of brown. So, well, would it be your first impulse to drink this? Probably not. But he thought the resulting brews smell pretty good. And in the name of science and discovery, he tasted it. And the practice of drinking tea was born.
Oh, well, a good story. But actually we cannot say with any certainty just who first discovered how to make tea. We can be confident though, that the Chinese have been using it in some form for close to 5000 years. And from those earliest times, more and more tea was cultivated to meet the growing demand, and tea became an important part of the economy of China. In fact, it was formed into sort of bricks, and used as a common type of currency for trade. But its effect on Chinese culture was even more profound. Tea became extremely popular in China, and scholars even wrote works discussing how to grow tea, prepare it, drink it, really championing tea; one of them saying it was like the sweetest dew of heaven.
Now, recommendations like this could only add to its huge popularity there. But tea was also spreading throughout Asia. In Japan, perhaps even more than in China, tea became a major cultural symbol, and one of refinement of etiquetteand aesthetics. Well, best seen in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which is still performed today. This is an intricate formal ritual, emm, ceremony that can take hours to complete.Clearly, tea became not just a beverage in Japanese culture but much much more. Tea eventually got to western Europe, after European traders, mainly Portuguese and Dutch, brought the first small commercial shipment of tea back to Europe. Unfortunately, it was mostly just treated as a curiosity, since no one knew quite how it was supposed to be used.
A few has some pretty strong opinions though. One German doctor wrote a book saying tea was harmful, actually poisonous. But at about the same time, another doctor from Holland wrote another book calling tea ‘a miracle cure for just about everything’. Who to believe?
So, anyway, tea didn’t really catch on in Germany or France, as something just to enjoy drinking, they seem to prefer coffee. But England did take to tea. And to an extent that nobody could have foreseen. Such that, even today we tend to associate England, Great Britain with tea. And, well, a bit of perspective, at the start of the 18th century, almost nobody in England drank tea. But by the end of it, almost everybody did. By the 1750s, official records show tea imports up from almost nothing to about 20 million kilos. And those records didn’t even begin to account for all the tea smuggled into the country illegally to avoid paying taxes. And as for reasons for the popularity of tea there, well, tea first became fashionable after the king of England married a Portuguese princess who loved tea. And pretty soon, more and more people started copying her and drinking tea. Later, when a direct trade route was established between China and England, the supply of tea greatly increased. Most important though, tea drinking became sociable. And although coffee houses or tavern were generally considered to be for men only, tea shops became places where women could come. And even bring their families. And soon there were tea parties, books on tea etiquette, and even tea gardens—parks filled with lights and walkways and venues for musical performances, places where people of all social classes could go to drink tea and socialize. By the end of the 18th century, all classes of English society drank tea, from royalty to common workers. Tea became a staple of everyday life, part of the common culture, and traditionally considered by many, the very mark of being English.
Listen to part of a lecture in an astronomy class.
Professor: Saturn’s rings have always baffled astronomers.Until about 30 years ago, we thought the rings were composed of particles of ice and rock that were left over from Saturn’s formation, extra material that never managed to form er...er coalesce into a moon.
As you know, it’s believed that Saturn and all the planets in our solar system, coalesced from a swirling cloud of gas some 4.8 billion years ago. However, if the rings are made of leftovers from that process, then they’d also be about 4.8 billion years old. The problem is that anything gathering space dust for that long would certainly have darkened by now.
But Saturn’s rings, most of them anyway, are pristine, so bright and shiny that they make Saturn “the jewel of the solar system”. So the hypothesis that the rings are just made of material left over from the time of planetary formation. That hypothesis must be wrong. Saturn’s rings are much younger than the planet itself. They may have formed only a few hundred million years ago, around the time the earliest dinosaurs lived on earth. We realize now that the ring particles, which range in size from microscopic dust to boulders, bigger than large houses, well, a lot of these particles are eventually lost. Then we believed they gradually spiral down out of the rings and into the planet’s atmosphere. This occurs as a result of the planet’s gravity. And also because of the effects of its magnetic field.
Now, if material from Saturn’s rings is being lost, and nothing new is added from time to time, the rings would be disappearing, but that’s not happening. So somehow, there must be new material feeding the ring system. Question is, where is this new material coming from? So, we’re back to square one. But, instead of asking how did the rings form, we should be asking… anyone? Beth?
Student: How do the rings form?
Professor: How do the rings form! Because they are apparently replenishing themselves somehow. OK, here is one possibility. The moons, the dozens of moons, they all orbit Saturn, are providing raw material for the rings.
A moon in the system is complex at Saturn’s, and Saturn has at least 49 known moons which vary tremendously in size and shape. A moon in such a complex system, is not only affected by the gravitational force of the planet, but also by that of the other moons.
Student: So the planet may be pulling a moon one way, and other moons may be pulling it other ways?
Professor: Exactly. Such forces could actually alter a moon's orbit, and as a result there might be a collision when moon might crash into another. And the debris from that collision could become part of the rings. Then there are tidalforces, a moon might get too close to the planet and get broken apart by Saturn's tidal forces.
Student: Excuse me! You mean, tidal force is like high tide and low tide on the oceans?
Professor: Well, by tidal force, I'm referring to the gravitational pull of Saturn on its moons. In the mid-1800s, a French scientist named Edouard Roche was studying the effects of a planet's tidal forces on its moons.Roche was able to show mathematically that if one celestial body, say a moon, if it passes too close to another, say a planet, that has a gravitational force stronger than the force of self-attraction that holds the moon together.
Well, that first body，that moon， it'd be ripped apart. We call the distance at which this happens the "Roche limit". So if one of Saturn's moons reaches the Roche limit of the planet, or even a larger moon, it would disintegrate, be torn apart and thus add more material to the ring system.
And there's another way new material might be added to the Saturn's rings, an asteroid crashing into one of the moons. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that some of the many rings are a bit reddish in color. Yes, George?
Student: I'm sorry, I don't follow the logic.
Professor: Well, this reddish coloration suggests the presence of complex organic molecules, carbon-based molecules, mixed in with the water ice. Remember, the rest of Saturn's rings are made almost entirely of water ice. And none of Saturn's moons is red. But asteroids could be. And thus could end up contributing to the ring system, the kind of carbon-based molecules we're talking about.