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Mark and Steve talk about the recent US Open tennis tournament and about a recent Sarah McLachlan concert in West Vancouver.
Mark: Hi everyone.
Here we are again for EnglishLingQ.
Mark here with Steve.
Steve: Hello there. Hello everyone.
Mark: We thought today we would maybe talk a little bit about the U.S.
Open tennis that’s been on.
Steve: Well, I know.
Mark: Well, I pointed out to you yesterday that incident with Serena Williams where she was berating the line judge.
I guess nobody knows exactly what she said or maybe they do, but, at any rate, she basically got penalized out of the match.
I mean it was over essentially anyway, which is probably why she was yelling at the line person in the first place.
Steve: Well, I mean I guess it’s a little bit intimidating when you’ve got someone like Serena Williams, who’s a big star; obviously, a very powerful figure in the tennis world.
Steve: You’re a lowly line judge.
Steve: You call her, you know, to the best of your ability.
Mark: Because that’s your job to do that.
Steve: That’s your job.
She comes over and not only wags a finger at you, waves her racket at you.
Steve: That would be…I mean if this was just some junior tennis player you wouldn’t worry.
Steve: But I think that’s a bit unfair on Serena’s part.
Mark: Especially in the tennis world where that’s just not done.
Mark: I mean there may be a bit of arguing, but you’re certainly not…
Steve: Although you were saying that Federer was also heard to speak a profanity.
I mean the problem is that these tennis players are multimillionaires and these line judges or umpires probably don’t make very much money.
And so the tennis players think that they should be in charge and what right has the judge to rule one way or the other, you know?
Mark: I don’t know if that’s necessarily the issue.
I mean I guess, presumably, they think the umpire made the wrong call.
Mark: I mean it’s not just in tennis. That happens in every sport.
Steve: I know.
Mark: I mean in hockey the players yell at the referees all the time.
Steve: Right, but part of that’s accepted there.
It’s kind of part of…
Mark: That’s what I mean, it’s more acceptable.
Mark: Now, of course, they can’t threaten the referee.
Mark: I mean at a certain point the ref will kick them out of the game.
Steve: I mean in hockey, if a hockey player waved… Like Serena Williams, now we know Serena Williams, even though she is very big and strong looking, she’s actually quite a mild personality, apparently.
Steve: So, I mean the little line judge was in no danger.
Steve: But in hockey if a player were to wave his stick in a menacing way…
Mark: Oh, he’d be in big trouble.
Steve: He’d be in big trouble.
Steve: Now she waved her tennis racket at this judge.
Mark: Oh, I know. I mean no matter what she said, just her actions alone.
Mark: I mean that was ridiculous.
Mark: You can’t threaten an umpire like that.
Mark: I mean supposedly she said, ‘Call that again and I’ll shove this ball down your throat’ or words to that effect.
Steve: Which, of course, she didn’t mean, but a line judge doesn’t know that.
Mark: Right. Well, yeah, you can’t.
I mean even in hockey guys might complain, ‘I didn’t do that.
How can you call that?’
and whatever, but if you say to the ref, ‘Call that again and I’ll do something to you’, yeah, you’re going to get in big trouble.
Steve: Big trouble. You’d be suspended.
Mark: Yeah, for sure you would.
Steve: And even if there’s some question about what it was that she actually said, her body language was not very friendly.
Steve: Waving a racket at this poor little line judge, who was probably half Serena’s weight.
Mark: Well, yeah, and especially in tennis where that just doesn’t happen.
Mark: It’s supposed to be a little more gentlemanly.
Steve: Well, I know.
Mark: I mean I know that even when I was playing rugby in high school you weren’t allowed to talk to the referees at all.
And you see that in professional rugby, like they don’t get away with saying anything to the umpires.
Mark: I don’t know what it’s like in soccer, but it’s probably fairly similar.
Steve: One thing that’s true in hockey is that the hockey referees have more attitude.
Like you know if you give lip to a referee he’s going to call another penalty on your team, like they have that kind of latitude.
Mark: Yeah, they do.
Steve: They’ll get back at you. But I don’t know, everything in tennis is much more gentle.
Steve: But we have a strange world where a small number of people – tennis players, soccer players, hockey players, golfers – can make this unbelievable amount of money because they’re skilled in this sport.
Steve: It’s pretty hard to be making, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars.
And, of course, they’re under some pressure and stress and they’ve got to always be in their best condition.
I mean you can’t have a bad day.
Steve: I ate too much last night.
I don’t feel like playing today.
Steve: So there’s a lot of pressure on those people.
Steve: And they have all this money and they must really think a lot of themselves.
Mark: Oh, for sure. I mean how can you not?
Mark: Everybody is fawning all over you all day long.
Steve: I know. I mean it’s a strange world.
Those people and then you’ve got these bankers making these obscene amounts of money.
There’s something wrong there.
Mark: Right. Speaking of those types of people…
Mark: …one of the other things we were going to talk about is the concert.
Steve: Oh, go ahead, yes.
Mark: The outdoor concert here in West Vancouver that was held on Saturday night…
Mark: …this past Saturday down at the local park.
I guess it was organized by Sarah McLachlan, who’s a local singer; quite a famous singer, at least here.
I don’t really know, I think she’s quite well known internationally.
Steve: Right. I think she’s quite well known internationally.
At any rate, she lives in West Vancouver and she hosted this concert for charity, I guess, and invited Sheryl Crow and Neil Young who, I guess, donated their time to put on this concert and all the proceeds will go to her charity.
Which, I must say, I don’t really know what it is, but I think it has something to do with kids and music.
Mark: At any rate, I mean that was a great event anyway locally, fun thing to do.
We’ve never had anything like that, any big name concert here.
You know they’re normally in downtown Vancouver.
Mark: Well, they’re normally downtown or out at the university, so it was kind of a neat event.
Steve: You know I was discussing that with my wife.
There’s quite a few famous singers from Vancouver.
Bublé…what’s his first name?
Mark: Michael Bublé.
Steve: Michael Bublé, Diana Krall…
Steve: …who’s very good.
Steve: Sarah McLachlan, Brian Adams.
I don’t know of any others, but…
Steve: I mean there are others.
Oh, what’s her name, Nelly Furtado?
Mark: Oh, yeah.
Steve: She’s quite well known.
Steve: I mean back East you’ve got Shania Twain…
Steve: …and Avril Lavigne.
I’ve never even heard them.
I wouldn’t know.
I just see those names.
Steve: I don’t know who these people are, but Celine Dion.
Steve: Yeah, there’s quite a few Canadian singers…
Steve: …which is kind of interesting. Not that I would ever go to a concert.
I mean it was mostly just neat to be outside.
It was a nice evening and beautiful sunset partway through the show.
And, yeah, it was just a neat thing to do.
It was neat to be able to walk there.
You know walk there and walk home.
Steve: You know we’ve had great weather, too.
I was out on the water in my canoe.
I can’t go in the kayak now because with my shoulder I can’t raise my shoulder the other side, but I can at least go out and paddle.
Steve: And it was spectacular.
Steve: I took some pictures, in fact, that I’m going to put up on my blog.
Wonderful weather we’re having.
I don’t know how long it will last, but…
Mark: Well, I mean this has probably been one of our best summers, if not the best summer that most people can remember, so…
Mark: After what was probably one of the colder winters that most people can remember. Yeah.
Steve: So, yeah, what else should we talk about?
We had music.
We had a little bit about sports.
How about…I guess we’re continuing to wait.
You know we seem to be getting more good news than bad news with regard to the world economy and yet there is this sense that sort of the distortions or the vulnerability of the world to, you know, derivative trading and the fact that the world is now so interconnected that if there’s one problem anywhere it just permeates the system.
Steve: So there continues to be this sort of sense of uncertainty over the future.
Mark: I mean I think a big part of it is that a lot of people just simply don’t understand all the machinations.
Steve: Is there anyone who does?
Mark: I don’t know!
Steve: I mean when you have these, you know, obviously top experts all disagreeing with each other.
Steve: There’s no consensus.
Mark: No, not at all.
Steve: No. Who knows?
Mark: I mean you can’t just blame the bankers, though.
I mean they took advantage of the market conditions, but I think a lot of it was caused by the incentives in the U.S.
to try to get more lower-income people into their homes.
Steve: Oh, right.
Mark: And you have that whole issue…
Steve: Oh, that’s going back to the origins of the problem, but there is all this derivative trading.
Steve: Many talk about that a lot of the high price for oil was driven by derivative trading.
And then they talk about the Chinese government or some other institutions that had a lot of oil, you know, hedge funds or something that are now worth nothing or they had to pay up on their hedges and they were going to renege on it.
That sort of disappeared.
Every so often you see these articles, you know: “The Secret that No One Wants to Tell You.”
Steve: You know?
And then, of course, it sort of disappears.
The great black cloud that was supposed to cause all this damage just evaporates.
Mark: Right, yeah.
Steve: It’s like there’s a guy in Russia, who’s one of their leading, you know, top bestselling book, had predicted 10 years ago that in the year 2009 the United States was going to basically be in a civil war and would break up into five regions.
And that the Pacific region would be then dominated by China, Alaska would go to Russia, the Midwest would go to Canada or would be dominated by Canada, the East Coast would then be closer to Europe and the Southwest to Mexico and there was going to be a civil war.
He’s running out of time.
Steve: We’re nearing the end of 2009.
Mark: Some pretty drastic things have to start to happen.
Steve: I know.
Mark: It’s funny that this guy’s theories didn’t spread further.
Is this some kook? How did you hear about him?
Mark: On your Russian radio station, of course.
Steve: On my Russian radio station, but it’s a bestseller and he’s taken seriously.
He was written up in the Wall Street Journal.
Steve: He’s mainstream.
Anyway, on the economy, as well, there are these stories about the hidden credit crunch that’s coming.
I don’t understand all that stuff.
Mark: Well, I mean fundamentally, all this hedging and derivative trading and so forth…I mean it didn’t just start happening recently.
Mark: I mean the factor that caused the problems now is the low-income mortgage issue.
Steve: Mortgages, yeah. But it seems to be more of the…
Mark: That’s what caused the meltdown…
Mark: …and then the rest of this stuff.
I mean the more you try…I don’t understand it very well, but the more you try and regulate this stuff — bring in more rules on what you can and can’t do — maybe the net effect is more negative because it prevents people from being inventive, from creating new instruments.
I mean, theoretically, the financial industry is there to help business access capital.
Steve: Well I’ve always felt, you know, when I studied Economics in school, which is a long, long time ago, that when you consider that the banks, which finance the economy, they’re only required to have some small percentage, you know, available against the eventuality that everybody they lent their money out to is going to come back and ask for it.
Steve: So you take and I take my money and I put it in the bank and they just lend it out.
Steve: And they only have to keep like five percent or some very small number…
Steve: …which, of course, fuels expansion and activity and business activity and job creation and all those good things.
Steve: But it always struck me as a bit of a…you know, like, you know, you’re relying on everything working out properly.
Steve: Because people, once they lose that confidence, they all start saying I want my money.
Mark: Well, yeah. It’s like a stampede, right?
Steve: Like a stampede, but it works, it works.
I mean those economies where that isn’t the case I mean, yeah.
Presumably in Afghanistan everybody hoards their money.
Or in Zambia, no, they don’t hoard it they take it out of the country.
Steve: Who knows?
Mark: Who knows? Certainly we don’t.
Steve: We don’t.
But (A) I’m an optimist by nature and, second of all, I see all the positive things.
Like we have new sectors in the economy, new products, and many of these products don’t even require natural resources, like games, you know, for computers.
So we have new products.
We have new types of activity.
We have all the activity now surrounding new forms of energy and the solar…what have they got now?
They’ve got these concentrated solar power stations, which people are working on.
You have the continued growth in the Chinese economy, in the Indian economy, in the Brazilian economy and they talk about the Russians more resource-based, but still there’s growth there.
And they talk about the Big Four, the BRIC, but also in the smaller, you know, developing countries.
So the economic pie is continuing to get bigger.
It used to be only North America.
Even after the war Europe was in a shambles sort of thing.
And so I can’t help but believe that our overall economic pie is getting bigger and therefore, you know…and people are better educated.
And so I think we’ll have our hiccups, but the alternative, as you say, is not to reintroduce some kind of socialized planning because we know that that doesn’t work.
Steve: We know that that doesn’t.
Some very bad decisions are made, you know?
Mark: I mean that’s the way of the world, the sort of overexpansion, boom-bust cycle.
Steve: I know.
Mark: But the trend is continually upwards and to try and do something more controlled has never been shown to work very effectively.
Steve: Well and people are always going on about how, you know, nowadays globalization, it’s no good.
You know, get us back to the “good old days”.
Well, which good old days?
I mean people live longer today.
They’re healthier today in so many different ways.
I’ve been reading this book about the history of alcohol and drinking.
I mean in some societies, I mean (A) lots of people were pretty drunk most of the time.
They couldn’t drink the water because it was unhealthy.
You know the average person died at age 35.
I mean, yeah, things are much better today.
They’re not perfect and there’s great inequality and there’s all kinds of problems, but, overall, I don’t think going backwards…
Steve: …is the answer.
Mark: I mean people always look back with rose-colored glasses.
They don’t quite remember.
Steve: Yeah. And have every generation.
Mark: And have always done so, yeah.
Steve: So the caveman must have been quite an outstanding individual.
Mark: That’s for sure.
Anyway, that’s going to do us for today.
Steve: Okay, alright.
Mark: And we’ll talk to you all again next time.
Steve: Remember to stay optimistic.