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17 апреля 19:30 (четверг)

The Art of Face To Face Communication

New York Blackouts Kill Phones, Revive Ancient Art of Actually Speaking to People

NEW YORK — Blackouts in lower Manhattan have revived an ancient practice: talking to other people without repeatedly looking at your smartphone.

When her dorm in Union Square lost power on Monday night, Elise Michael, a first-year student at the Cardozo School of Law, joined more than a dozen others in the cramped, candle-lit quarters of her friend’s room. There, they practiced the analog art of telling stories and paying attention. “It was really nice to walk in and see a big group of people in a small space not looking at phones, not watching things,” said Michael. “I was close to most of the people there, but it was different. We shared more stories and more intimate stories than we would have otherwise.”

Once considered on the verge of extinction, face-to-face conversation, reading books, playing board games and even stargazing saw a resurgence in New York City this week thanks to spotty cell phone service, dark apartments and gadgets constantly in need of a charge. Matt Field, who works at a Manhattan tech start-up, acknowledged that the first 20 minutes he spent mingling with his roommates after the blackout were “awkward.” Left without TV, Wikipedia or anyone to text, Field passed the rest of his night doing something he joked he hasn’t done since he was 5 years old: playing cards. “We ended up staying up until 2 a.m. and spending five hours huddled around a coffee table with candles, talking,” said Field. “With the power on, we never would have bonded like that.” Stopping at a diner to get hot chocolate, one 20-something Brooklynite even said she had migrated into Manhattan’s dark zone to enjoy the quiet that comes with being out of touch, expressing relief at the chance to “get a break» from the pressure of constant contact.

Strangers were also pulling out their earphones, leaving their phones in their pockets and speaking to one another again, New Yorkers say, with more than a few drawing comparisons to the fellowship following 9/11. Even after four days without power and a crippled transportation system, camaraderie, not anarchy, was the prevailing sentiment in the city. People were sharing cabs, friends were volunteering their homes, those blessed with a functioning phone were lending it to people they’d pass on the street, and everyone, it seems, had a hot cup of coffee to spare. “That’s how New Yorkers are: When something important happens, they start talking to each other,” said a host at Veselka, an East Village eatery.

The lack of cell phone service and power south of midtown Manhattan has turned smartphones into virtually useless camera-cum-address-books. Lost? You actually have to ask a person for directions. “Yelping” means seeing if a passerby can recommend a restaurant in the neighborhood. Manhattan apartments that were pitch black and cold once the sun set drove people to friends, family, restaurants and bars in search of entertainment. Netflix and Time Warner, after all, weren’t an option. On the Upper East Side, where a hostess at The Crown sniffed that “all the people downtown are moving uptown,” many restaurants were packed elbow-to-elbow. But even 70 blocks south, the few bars lit by candlelight, and playing music from battery-run radios, said they’d seen a steady stream of customers hoping to hang out with others and, on the whole, a festive mood.

Hurricane Sandy has also produced a kind of early Thanksgiving, forcing some New Yorkers to spend the week with relatives who have heat, water and electricity. “My dad made a comment that while it’s obviously under strained circumstances, the benefit is that he feels like he’s seen me more in the last week than in the last year combined,” said Field, who ventured to his father’s apartment uptown when the lights stayed off in his.

The quiet of a world without devices that buzz, glow and ring offered time for some introspection, as well.
Eric Borb, a bar owner who, in another life, worked 600 feet underground digging water tunnels and boring through earth to build subways, spent two hours sitting on his fire escape just staring at the night sky. “It made me realize how beautiful it is,” he said. “That’s one of the few times in my life I’ve ever done that. And it was so beautiful.”

Questions for dicussion:

  1. How long can you last without looking at your phone? Do you ever turn it off or just leave it at home? Can you ignore it when it rings or vibrates? Do you wish you could?
  2. How do you feel when someone you are talking to is constantly looking at their phone? Do you answer phone calls when you are in a conversation with someone? Is this kind of behaviour acceptable to you or do you consider it rude?
  3. Have smartphones killed the art of conversation? Are people becoming less sociable as a result of modern technology? Did you use to talk more before smartphones came along? Would you like to experience life without them again for a while?
  4. Do you enjoy talking to people? Are you a talkative person? Could you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger? How do you feel when someone you don’t know starts talking to you? Is it normal for people in your country to engage in small talk with strangers?
  5. What do you do to entertain yourself during a blackout? How long could you comfortably live without electricity? Which electronic devices do you miss the most when they don’t work?
  6. How do you think you would have coped if you were living in one of the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy?
  7. Have you ever experienced any extreme weather or natural disasters? If so, talk about your experience.
  8. Do you have time to just sit and enjoy nature (look at the stars, enjoy the scenery, relax in peaceful surroundings, listen to the sound of the ocean etc.)? When was the last time you did it? How does it make you feel? Would you like to do it more often?
  9. Do you think that people who live in the country are happier than people in large cities? What about you? Is modern city life unhealthy?
  10. What is the most beautiful sight you have ever seen?

20 апреля 11:15 (воскресенье)

Do you believe that…

Below there are 25 facts that sound odd but, nevertheless, are absolutely real. What do you think about them?

Facts to discuss:

  1. The War of Red and White roses didn’t have such a name in its due time. It was invented in 400 years after the conflice by Scottish writer Walter Scott.Could it be possible that the history we know isn’t a real history, and is retold one?
  2. In 1915 a millionaire Cecil Chubb bought Stonehenge as a present to his wife. Ms Chubb didn’t like the present and it was donated to the British government in 1918. Did you ever give or take unwanted present?
  3. An ordinary microwave oven spends more electricity for its integrated electronic clock than for food heating. Do you believe that Earth hour and other deeds can help environment while we spend so much recourses for useless things?
  4. A personal exhibition of William Blake in 1809 got just one comment. The critic said that the author is insane. How important are critics’ reviews for you? Do you try to read or to hear some opinions of movie or show before watching or visiting it?
  5. Since 1912 to 1948 the painting was being an Olympic category. In 1924 Jack Butler Yeats took a silver medal – the first Olympic prize of Ireland. What kind of painting do you like? Why? Who is your favorite painter?
  6. The word “cat” initially meant “a dog”. It derives from Latin word “catulus” – “a little dog”, “puppy”. Do you like more cats or dogs?
  7. Italian verb “asolare” means “to spend time at the enjoyable but meaningless pastime”. What do you like to do to asolare?
  8. The logo of Chupa-chups was designed by Salvador Dali. Do you pay attention to a package? Could you be as impressed by ad as you would like to try the product?
  9. An average British woman spends approximately 100 000 pounds for cosmetic during her life. What is the most stupid expenditure that people can do to your opinion?
  10. When Mao was ruling the country, every Chinese family had to kill a sparrow per week to stop them ruin a rice crops. The idea was senseless – sparrows don’t eat rice. Do you know other examples of stupid governmental doings? How one could resist them?
  11. To send a man to the Moon and to kill Usama bin Laden cost to American government the same amount of time and money: 10 years and 100 billions dollars. Do you think mankind should continue space exploration or we have as many problems on Earth that we better spend money solve them?
  12. Museums and galleries in Britain are visited in 7 times more than football games of Premier League. What are you interested more? What would you prefer to visit in Great Britain? In other country?
  13. When the novel of Victor Hugo “Les Miserables” was published first time in 1862, the author sent a telegram to his publisher asking about sails. The telegram was laconic: “?”. The reply was so laconic: “!”. By the way, in this novel there is a sentence of 823 words long, divided by 93 commas and 51 semicolons. The skill to form thoughts into the most appropriate words is the most essential for writer, isn’t it?
  14. Isaac Newton was a member of Parliament from Cambridge but he took a word just once: he asked to shut a window because it was cold. Should scientists be involved into politics? Or sportsmen? Or art people?
  15. In Great Britain at least one person per week asks to change his middle name to a “danger”. What name could you choose as your middle that can characterize you most?
  16. In 200 yards close to the apartment in Islington where George Orwell got an idea of his “1984”, 32 closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) are set now. Are you stressed due to permanent control? Why do predictions of authors of anti-utopia become true now?
  17. When a priest had asked the dying Spanish General Ramon Blanco y Erenas, does he forgive his enemies, the General answered: “No. I have no enemies. I ordered to shoot them all”. Do you have enemies? Who are they?
  18. In 2007 a Bosnian called Amir Vekhabovich imitated his own death to see how many people would come to his funeral. Only his mother came. Is it possible to evaluate someone’s life based on number of people attended at a funeral? How important is it to give the last honor to someone?
  19. An average British talks about weather 44 times per month with 18 persons. What other neutral themes to speak about with unfamiliar people do you know? Do you like small talks?
  20. The opposite of plankton is nekton – creatures who move in a water in any directions they like. So, fishes, dolphins and people are nekton. Do you like to swim? Where and when did you learn it?
  21. 25% of movies in Iran are shot by women but in the USA – only 4%. What other gender-linked occupations do you know? Why some professions are male and other are female?
  22. When Georg — Auguste Escoffier was a chief cook of Carlton Hotel in London he fed his English clients by frog legs called “a nymph of a down”. What is the most exotic food you ever try? Did you enjoy it?
  23. Austrian composer and painter Arnold Schoenberg was superstitious about number 13. He was afraid to die in 76 because 7+6=13. And that happend. More than that he died in Friday, the 13 of July, 13 minutes before midnight. Do you believe that our fears can attract unwanted events?
  24. Towel is significant thing in Belorussian culture: it is placed even on the flag of the country. On traditional belorussian wedding a bride comes to a church dragging a towel. What another odd traditions do you know? Do you agree that every tradition has a histirical roots and if we know these, we can accept the tradition?
  25. The sci-fi novel of Frank Herbert «Dune» was rejected to public 20 times. Finally it was approved by publisher of car instructions. Result? Dune is the world’s best-selling science fiction novel. What could be motivation to proceed resultless process? Is it possible that we lost some brilliant books due to their authors had no enough patience and confidence or manuscripts don’t burn?

Plus, one more fact which doesn’t have a question yet:White rhinoceros and black rhinoceros are the same colour. What would you ask based on this fact?

All facts are taken from book “1227 QI facts to blow your socks off”. If you disagree with any of these facts please contact John Lloyd, John Mitchinson or James Harkin.

24 апреля 19:30 (четверг)

Progress and gadgets in our everyday life

  • — Can you imagine your life without gadgets and electric appliances?
    — Do you think we are weaker in the world where you can’t do simple things on your own (like making dough or communicating in person, writing paper letters)?
    — Will there be artificial mind in the end? Will it conquer the world of humans?
    — Where would progress go next? (medicine, aerospace sphere, robots, food growing and processing, etc.)
    — Would you like to live in the world where you can walk anywhere (not drive or fly)?
    — What new gadgets does the world need?
    — New generation of kids sees the world differently, they are more open-minded, but they can hardly believe in floppy discs or absence of television and internet. Do you think they would be able to adapt if they got into the past?
    — Have you ever thought of something that was soon invented?
    — Can you think of a replacement for any technology? Or do you know how people lived before without the simple things we are used to like a refrigirator, a stove, running water, central heating, elevators?
    — If we stop using modern technologies, how slow will our life become? Do you like the life you live? Would you like it to become slower? Or maybe faster?
    — Do you use programmes to plan your day to manage to do more things?
    — How do computer games and fixition liturature infuence the science and progress in general? What did we see in fantasy movies that is now a technical unit we use every day?

27 апреля 11:15 (воскресенье)

Pros & Cons

Questions for discussion:

Think of advantages and disadvantages of:
-being a child/teenager
-being an adult
-being retired
-being a hard worker
-being a lazy person
-being a boss
-being an employee
-being a celebrity
-being a millionaire
-being poor
-being religious
-being an atheist
-being a human being
-being an animal
-being a man
-being a woman
-living in the 21st century
-living any other time (the one you choose)