English Challenge 09

I.  Article

A. Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Mind – Link / Excerpt and Questions /

B. Excerpt to Read and Record

  1. It would be foolish to believe that depression can be overcome with a single solution. But for some people, the light at the end of the tunnel shines in a very surprising place.  It certainly did for me.  Healing my depression came with healing my gastrointestinal tract—my gut.  When I became a nutrition student in 1992, I had a lot of healing to do.  I had the irritable bowel from hell.  No treatment had worked: not conventional medicine, nor the truly woo-woo stuff.  What I discovered, as a student, was that I had something called a “leaky gut”.  Cue much hilarity at that.
  2. The term leaky gut conjures up an image of cartoonish pseudoscience. But when given its scientific nomenclature — “intestinal permeability” — the idea immediately gains credibility.  Furthermore, the scientific evidence for the association between gut health and brain health is strong and gathering momentum.

What is a leaky gut? How can it lead to depression?

  1. Your gut does much more than just digest your food and extract the goodies from it. It forms a protective barrier between your insides and the external world.  But the system has a weakness.  This barrier — the gut lining — consists of just a single layer of cells, called the epithelium.  The cells of this fragile layer are held together by proteins called “tight junctions”.  Like doormen carefully guarding your innards, these tight junctions sift out undesirable elements and block their entrance.  Under normal circumstances, troublemakers are given short shrift and expelled from the gut in the normal way.  These include toxins, undigested food particles, microscopic bugs, and other foreign bodies that have found their way in via your food and drink.
  2. Unfortunately, it’s easy to damage the epithelium, leaving it leaky. Microscopic holes appear and the tight junctions start to loosen.  For the assortment of rabble able to cross into your bloodstream, it’s like having an all-access pass to the rest of your body.  Mayhem ensues, and it isn’t pretty.  Unsurprisingly, the symptoms of a leaky gut can show up anywhere, from the gut to the joints, from the skin to the brain.  I was proof of that.  For 15 years, I lived with daily abdominal pain, often excruciating, accompanied by some extraordinary bloating and gas.
  3. I could have lived with all that. But as a sensitive young adult, I could have done without the blemishes.  Not, thankfully, on my face. But my chest and back were peppered.  I was hugely self-conscious, and only wore clothes that covered up those areas.  Summers could be tricky.  Part of the problem is — and certainly was, for me — toxic overload.  The liver normally copes well with the body’s everyday toxins, but when the burden exceeds capacity, they get dumped elsewhere.  In my case, it was skin.
  4. Different people experience different symptoms. There are many conditions associated with a gut that has lost its integrity and become porous, including inflammatory bowel disorder, celiac disease, arthritis, eczema, and, of course, acne.  Scientists have recently added depression to that list.  The link between depression and leaky gut is inflammation, and inflammation is one of the key characteristics of intestinal permeability.  It is largely created by bacteria.
  5. Bacteria belong in the gut, where they normally either stay put or move out. But when the gut is leaky, they are able to cross into the bloodstream (a process known as “translocation of bacteria”), where they release a toxic substance called endotoxin.  This endotoxin sets in motion an immune response.  This response includes the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, and a substance called lipopolysaccharide (LPS).  There is growing evidence that cytokines and LPS can trigger major depression (MDD), also known as clinical depression.  So much so that in 2008 Belgian researchers concluded, in a study published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, that: “Patients with MDD should be checked for leaky gut”.
  6. Since then, the research into the link between gut inflammation and depression has continued. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an extraordinary 47% of people with clinical depression also have ‘heightened’ inflammation.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. What is meant by a “leaky gut”?
  2. What is the epithelium?
  3. What is the function of “tight junctions”?
  4. Where in your body can you expect to find symptoms of a leaky gut?
  5. Are the symptoms of a leaky gut the same for everyone?
  6. What are endotoxins and what can they trigger?
  7. What is MDD?
  8. Where do toxins go when the liver gets overloaded and can’t handle them all?
  9. What is the main message of this article?

D. Grammar Questions and Notes

  1. In Paragraph 1, there is an expression “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Imagining a train going through a dark tunnel under a mountain, what do you think this phrase might mean?
  2. In Paragraph 1, in the phrase “irritable bowel from hell”, what is the function or meaning of the phrase “from hell”?
  3. In Paragraph 2, given that a magician can conjure up a rabbit from inside a top hat, what does “conjure up” mean?
  4. In Paragraph 3, what do you think “goodies” means?
  5. Some types of clothes have a lining. Compare this use of lining with the “gut lining”, and explain what “lining” means?
  6. In Paragraph 3, it says that “troublemakers are…expelled from the gut in the normal way.” What way is this?
  7. In Paragraph 4, explain the functions of the words “unfortunately” and “unsurprisingly” in their respective sentences.
  8. In Paragraph 4, the statement “I was “proof of that” means what?
  9. In Paragraph 5, in the phrase “everyday toxins”, what does “everyday” mean?
  10. In Paragraph 5, what are the punctuation marks that look like horizontal lines and what is their function or usage in the sentence?
  11. In Paragraph 7, the first sentence begins with “Bacteria belong in the gut”. Is there a grammar mistake?  Explain why or why not.
  12. In Paragraph 7, explain what the expression “so much so that…” means?

II.  Song

A. Invitation to the Blues – Song Video / Lyrics and Questions /

B. Story

01 A man is in a café watching a waitress lean against the cash register.  She is wearing an apron and holding a spatula in her hand.  02 Perhaps she is past her prime – not young anymore (yesterday’s deliveries), but she is still attractive enough for bachelors to want to pay money to buy a lottery ticket to win a chance to date her.  03 She is sexy and curvaceous (a moving violation is an offense while driving a car => going fast, driving dangerously).  04 However, the man can see that trying to hook up with her will only bring him pain and sadness – an invitation to the blues.

05 This evening though, at this moment, he is feeling masculine and somewhat bold (like James Cagney, an old American actor), and she looks hot and sexy (like Rita Hayworth, an old American actress), and he fancies the two of them as two potential lovers in a famous, old drugstore (06 Schwab’s is a famous one where Hollywood movie star wannabes used to hang out in the old days).

07 He wonders if she’s single so he can hit on her – flirt with her – and try to get a date, or if perhaps she is a loner without any desire for a deep friendship, preferring only to casually mingle with people.  08 He realizes he has to be patient and watch her a while to try to figure out his chances of success if he decides to ask her for a date.

09 She asks him how he likes his eggs cooked – over-medium or scrambled.  He tells her, a little flirtatiously, to decide for him, to surprise him.  11 He’s a loser with a suitcase – probably contains everything he owns – and a bus ticket to leave town probably heading to nowhere in particular, just traveling around trying to find happiness.  12 He’s poor (old shoes).  10 He mentally warns her not to gamble by accepting a date with a loser like him.  He wouldn’t want her to be disappointed with him, leaving her sad – another invitation to the blues.

14 He is attracted to her and doesn’t want to leave her presence yet, so he orders another cup of coffee (java), which will also bring her close to him.  15 He feels like she might be flirting with him by the special way she pours his coffee, but he isn’t sure (joking); maybe she does that for all her customers.  16 It seems his name is Mr. Percy, and he strikes up a conversation with her and asks her where she’s from (New Jersey) and if she left anything (or anyone) behind when she left there to come here.  16 She answers, “Heavens, no!” (Mercy, mercy!)  She tells him that she just left an old ex-lover back there that she no longer cares about because 17 he was a jerk (broken-down old car = jalopy).  18 She made a mistake trying to chase a dream of riches, became an alcoholic (battle with booze), and 19 found only sadness with him – yet another invitation to the blues.

20 She tells him she used to have a sugar-daddy (rich guy who spoiled her by spending lots of money on her) and a fancy red Cadillac (candy-apple-red Caddy – an automobile).  21 And her own checking account with spending money, nice clothes, and all kinds of fancy things that rich people enjoy.  22 But her “ex” left her for a pretty but dumb young woman — a socialite.  He had sex with the socialite at night but during the daytime he ignored her completely –didn’t love her at all.  23 He was always drunk and never told her (the waitress) that he cared about her either.  24 So the ex and the socialite took the waitress’s money, car (registration and keys), fancy clothes (shoes), and 25 left her poor, with nothing but sadness.  She’s tired of getting invitations to the blues).

26 He tells us that there is a Continental Trailways Company bus leaving tonight, 27 and we can have his ticket and leave town in his place because he has decided to 27 stay in town 28 for a while at a hotel called the Squire and try to get a job at the gas station to survive.  29 He plans to eat in this café every night because 30 he has a crazy feeling that he 31 can get the waitress to marry him and finally find happiness.  He’s going to accept her invitation to share the blues.

C. Lyrics

  1. Well, she’s up against the register with an apron and a spatula,
  2. Yesterday’s deliveries, tickets for the bachelors.
  3. She’s a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes,
  4. Well, it’s just an invitation to the blues.
  5. And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth
  6. At the counter of the Schwab’s drugstore.
  7. You wonder if she might be single, she’s a loner and likes to mingle.
  8. Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue.
  9. She said “How you gonna like ’em, over medium or scrambled?”,
  10. You say “Anyway’s the only way”, be careful not to gamble
  11. On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here.
  12. It’s a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes.
  13. This ain’t nothing but an invitation to the blues.
  14. But you can’t take your eyes off her, get another cup of java,
  15. It’s just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customer.
  16. Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain’t nothing back in Jersey
  17. But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind.
  18. And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze
  19. And an open invitation to the blues.
  20. But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy,
  21. And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things.
  22. He probably left her for a socialite, and he didn’t love her ‘cept at night,
  23. And then he’s drunk and never even told her that he cared.
  24. So they took the registration, and the car keys and her shoes
  25. And left her with an invitation to the blues.
  26. ‘Cause there’s a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening.
  27. You can have my seat, I’m sticking round here for a while.
  28. Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station’s hiring,
  29. And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose?
  30. Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? Now I gotta choose,
  31. And I’ll accept your invitation to the blues.

D. Questions for the Students

  1. Look up the word “conk” and find a definition that might fit in Line 03.
  2. What do these two people seem to have in common?
  3. “The blues” has two meanings (one music-related and one emotion-related) and may be intended here as a double meaning. What are these two meanings?
  4. What seems to be his lifestyle?
  5. What was her lifestyle before she became a waitress in this café?
  6. He changed his plans for this evening. How, and why?


A. Human Trafficking Is All Around YouLink / Excerpt & Questions /

B. Read and Record – Excerpt

  1. About 10 years ago, I went through a little bit of a hard time. So I decided to go see a therapist.  I had been seeing her for a few months, when she looked at me one day and said, “Who actually raised you until you were three?”  Seemed like a weird question.  I said, “My parents.”  And she said, “I don’t think that’s actually the case, because if it were, we’d be dealing with things that are far more complicated than just this.”
  2. It sounded like the setup to a joke, but I knew she was serious. Because when I first started seeing her, I was trying to be the funniest person in the room.  And I would try and crack these jokes, but she caught on to me really quickly, and whenever I tried to make a joke, she would look at me and say, “That is actually really sad.”  It’s terrible.
  3. So I knew I had to be serious, and I asked my parents who had actually raised me until I was three? And to my surprise, they said my primary caregiver had been a distant relative of the family.  I had called her my auntie.
  4. I remember my auntie so clearly that it felt like she had been part of my life when I was much older. I remember the thick, straight hair, and how it would come around me like a curtain when she bent to pick me up; her soft, southern Thai accent; the way I would cling to her, even if she just wanted to go to the bathroom or get something to eat.  I loved her, but with the ferocity that a child has sometimes before she understands that love also requires letting go.
  5. But my clearest and sharpest memory of my auntie, is also one of my first memories of life at all. I remember her being beaten and slapped by another member of my family.  I remember screaming hysterically and wanting it to stop, as I did every single time it happened, for things as minor as wanting to go out with her friends, or being a little late.  I became so hysterical over her treatment, that eventually, she was just beaten behind closed doors.
  6. Things got so bad for her that eventually she ran away. As an adult, I learned later that she had been just 19 when she was brought over from Thailand to the States to care for me, on a tourist visa.  She wound up working in Illinois for a time, before eventually returning to Thailand, which is where I ran into her again, at a political rally in Bangkok.  I clung to her again, as I had when I was a child, and I let go, and then I promised that I would call.  I never did, though.  Because I was afraid if I said everything that she meant to me — that I owed perhaps the best parts of who I became to her care, and that the words “I’m sorry” were like a thimble to bail out all the guilt and shame and rage I felt over everything she had endured to care for me for as long as she had — I thought if I said those words to her, I would never stop crying again. Because she had saved me. And I had not saved her.
  7. I’m a journalist, and I’ve been writing and researching human trafficking for the past eight years or so, and even so, I never put together this personal story with my professional life until pretty recently. I think this profound disconnect actually symbolizes most of our understanding about human trafficking. Because human trafficking is far more prevalent, complex and close to home than most of us realize.
  8. I spent time in jails and brothels, interviewed hundreds of survivors and law enforcement, NGO workers. And when I think about what we’ve done about human trafficking, I am hugely disappointed.  Partly because we don’t even talk about the problem right at all.  When I say “human trafficking,” most of you probably don’t think about someone like my auntie.  You probably think about a young girl or woman, who’s been brutally forced into prostitution by a violent pimp.  That is real suffering, and that is a real story.  That story makes me angry for far more than just the reality of that situation, though.
  9. As a journalist, I really care about how we relate to each other through language, and the way we tell that story, with all the gory, violent detail, the salacious aspects — I call that “look at her scars” journalism. We use that story to convince ourselves that human trafficking is a bad man doing a bad thing to an innocent girl.  That story lets us off the hook.  It takes away all the societal context that we might be indicted for, for the structural inequality, or the poverty, or the barriers to migration.  We let ourselves think that human trafficking is only about forced prostitution, when in reality, human trafficking is embedded in our everyday lives.

C. Comprehension Questions

  1. Describe the speaker’s primary caregiver for the first three years of her life.
  2. What happened to her caregiver?
  3. The speaker met her caregiver years later after she grew up. Explain the circumstances.
  4. The speaker promised her grown-up auntie that she would call her again, but…she never did. Why?
  5. What is the speaker’s profession and what is her focus area within that field?
  6. Knowing that fishing is the source context, what do you think the idiom “to let someone off the hook” means?
  7. Explain what the speaker means by “look-at-her-scars” journalism.
  8. What did the speaker feel guilty about?

D. Grammar Questions and Notes

  1. In Paragraph 1, consider the clause “because if it were”. Is there a grammar problem here?  Why or why not?
  2. In Paragraph 2, what rule requires the first comma?
  3. In Paragraph 2, what does “to crack a joke” mean?
  4. In Paragraph 2, what does “to catch onto someone” mean?
  5. In Paragraph 3, list all verb tenses used in the second sentence.
  6. Paragraph 4 uses the “so…that” pattern. Write a sentence about something using this pattern.
  7. In Paragraph 4, what does “love requires letting go” mean?
  8. In Paragraph 5, second sentence, what is the direct object?
  9. In Paragraph 5, list one use of the “so…that” pattern.
  10. In Paragraph 7, in the phrase “eight years or so”, what does “or so” mean?
  11. In Paragraph 7, last sentence, according to my preferences, there is a comma missing. Where should it go and what is the special name for this comma?



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