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Live in concert: Whitney Houston — or, her hologram anyway

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The estate of Whitney Houston, the pop singer who died in 2012, announced a hologram tour. Holograms reproduce the singer’s image in what looks like a three-dimensional image on a stage. Whitney’s hologram would be accompanied by her original band and backup singers. Plus, learn the English phrasal verb “turn down.”

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  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers, including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead. How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning, will be revived in electronic form, according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse.

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime. The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material, a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing, then match their typical movements, and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen. The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent—clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it, but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice. There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held. And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle. The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward, so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats, it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image.

    If the physics are hard to follow, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar, or belting out vocals. The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience, sit down on a stool, pull out a guitar, sing some tunes, say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon. More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected.

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike, and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to.” The other one is—that’s creepy. Are you supposed to applaud? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements—the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts. Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate, proposing many types of business deals. But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager, turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it. You don’t do what was proposed. The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service, they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience, so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets. I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion, but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently.

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university, and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work. So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no. Sometimes people will say, “I’m an importer of rare Persian carpets . I think you should do an episode about rare Persian carpets.” I will turn that down. I don’t mind the suggestion , but it doesn’t quite have the broad appeal that I’m looking for in episode topics, so I’ll turn that down. I’ll say “no” gently .

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

  • Whitney Houston is going to launch a concert tour. She will appear onstage with her original band and backup singers , including her brother Gary. The only catch is that Whitney, who died in 2012, will appear as a hologram

    Welcome to Plain English, the best podcast for learning English through current events. I’m Jeff; JR is the producer; and this is episode 162. You can find a full transcript of today’s program at PlainEnglish.com/162.

    On today’s program: Holograms are bringing some of your favorite artists back from the dead . How exactly does that work, and what is it like to see a hologram concert? That’s what we’ll explore today. Plus, we have a good phrasal verb for you, to turn something down. And it’s Monday, so we’ll close with a quote. Today’s quote is from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first explorer to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. So stay tuned for that.

    If you’re studying for the IELTS exam, you might have heard my message the other day. If this test is in your future, then you want to visit PlainEnglish.com/IELTS . That’s because you’ll find a great, free course by our friends at IELTS Advantage. All they do is counsel people on how to take the IELTS exam: it’s pretty amazing. And they will tell you the skills you need to get the score you deserve on that test. So check out PlainEnglish.com/IELTS to read more about that free course.


    Hologram concerts bring artists to life—sort of

    You will soon be able to see Whitney Houston live in concert. The singer, who died at the age of 48 after an accidental drowning , will be revived in electronic form , according to Pat Houston, her sister-in-law and the president of the late singer’s estate.

    During her lifetime, Whitney Houston had eleven number-one hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “My Love Is Your Love,” and perhaps her most famous, “I Will Always Love You.” She was known for hitting and holding the high notes ; she sang an excellent version of the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991; and she’s on the list of the best pop vocalists of all time. Toward the end of her career, though, her reputation was tarnished a bit, as she very publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse .

    Ever since she died in 2012, all manner of companies have pitched her estate on business deals, but Pat Houston turned them all down. But that is about to change, and the estate wants to revive the singer’s reputation so that people can remember her in her prime . The estate recently sold a fifty-percent share in its assets to a music publisher that will rebuild Whitney Houston’s business. Together, they announced a new album of previously unreleased material , a potential Broadway show based on Whitney Houston’s life, and, most interestingly, the hologram tour.

    A hologram is a laser light show that produces what looks like a three-dimensional image of a person on a stage. To make a hologram, you have to first start with a good image of the person in the right clothing , then match their typical movements , and essentially create a video of the person doing the actions you want him or her to do on the stage.

    A hologram looks three-dimensional, but it’s just an image projected onto a screen . The screen is made of something called Mylar, which appears transparent —clear—when there’s nothing being projected onto it , but it reflects an image when something is being projected onto it. Here’s how it works in practice . There’s a projector on the ceiling of the auditorium or wherever the concert is being held . And it projects an image down onto a mirror on the floor of the stage at an angle . The mirror reflects it up from the floor onto the Mylar screen, and that is what you’re seeing when you watch a hologram concert.

    This is hard to follow, so I’ll describe it one more time. The projector on the ceiling beams the light down at a 45-degree angle away from the audience and toward the floor of the stage. Okay, then the light from the projector hits the mirror flat on the floor of the stage, and reflects it back upward at a 45-degree angle, again away from the stage. That’s when the light hits the Mylar screen. The screen is tilted downward , so that it reflects the light straight back out toward the audience. From the seats , it looks like you’re looking at a vertical image .

    If the physics are hard to follow , it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you’re seeing a lifelike image of a person walking around on stage, strumming a guitar , or belting out vocals . The person can walk out from the side, wave to the audience , sit down on a stool , pull out a guitar, sing some tunes , say good night, and walk off again. A good tour will have a live band that synchs up with the movements of the hologram, and of course vocals from the hologrammed artist’s career.

    Holograms on stage are new. The most famous one was when the deceased artist Tupac Shakur appeared as a hologram on stage with Snoop Dogg, and they performed together. You can find that video on YouTube, but it is, as they say, “not safe for work.” The reviews of that one were mixed—it looked more like a cartoon . More recently, though, Base Hologram produced two tours: the singer Roy Orbison, who famously sang “Pretty Woman,” and the opera singer Maria Callas. They announced an Amy Winehouse tour, but postponed it in February, saying they were still trying to get the images and the creative work done right and that it was taking longer than expected .

    Audiences have mixed reactions to hologram concerts. One reaction is, “Wow—it’s so lifelike , and a lot of fun to go to a concert that I’d otherwise never be able to go to .” The other one is—that’s creepy . Are you supposed to applaud ? The singer can’t respond in any way to applause and will never know you gave it. I saw a video in which they interviewed people who had seen the hologram of the opera singer Maria Callas. One person was wondering, “is this art? Is this serious?” Others said she—should we call the image of Maria Callas “she” or “it”?—anyway, one person said the hologram performance was really powerful and seemed like Callas was really there.

    One way this might be more convincing is a live hologram performance. I saw another video online in which a band took the stage in England and performed for a live audience in Florida. In that case, the producers didn’t have to rely on old footage or reproduce movements —the artists were living and doing the performance, just in another place. They could also see the audience on a screen in front of them, so they could interact with their fans. I think that would be a little more fun than watching someone who’s obviously dead give a concert. But that’s just me.


    JR says he’s afraid of these holograms because they look like ghosts . Parece fantasma, he said. I think so, too.

    How many of you are studying for the IELTS exam? Maybe you are planning to study at a foreign university or you need it for a visa or even for a new job. If so, or if you’re planning on taking the IELTS, you will not want to miss the free online course called IELTS Fundamentals. The course is available to all Plain English listeners for free at PlainEnglish.com/IELTS . It’s produced by the team at IELTS Advantage and it tells you all the strategies and skills you need to get your Band 7 or higher on the IELTS exam. And the best thing is, if you need some extra help, IELTS Advantage has a variety of additional resources you can take advantage of. So if the IELTS is in your future, you’ll want to visit PlainEnglish.com/IELTS and take the free online course.

    Turn down

    We have a phrasal verb to share today, and that is to turn someone or something down. When you turn someone down, you decline an offer that person has made to you. Here’s how you first heard it. Whitney Houston died in 2012. Ever since then, lots of companies have approached her estate , proposing many types of business deals . But Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and former manager , turned them all down. She turned down all those offers—she declined the offers. When you decline an offer, you don’t accept it . You don’t do what was proposed . The estate had many offers, but it turned them all down.

    When you turn something or someone down, it’s less harsh than saying you reject a person or an offer. When you reject something, you say, “No, and I don’t want it.” Or, “no, and I don’t like it.” I’ll give you an example. I routinely get emails from people about the Plain English web site telling me they found lots of errors and if I only sign up with their service , they’ll fix everything on my web site. I reject those offers. I say no—I didn’t ask you for the proposal, and I don’t want it. Go away, basically. That’s like a strong “no.”

    But there are other times where listeners will propose things that I turn down—not because it isn’t a good idea, not because I don’t want to do it, but it just doesn’t fit in the strategy that I have for the program right now, or I don’t think it would serve the whole audience , so I politely turn them down, I politely say no.

    You might ask someone on a date, and that person might either say “yes” or that person might turn you down. That person might say “no.” If you’re applying to a prestigious university , and you have not paid a large bribe to a sports coach, you might be turned down. You might be accepted, or you might be turned down—not accepted.

    Do you know who Emilia Clark is? She starred in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and there were some nude scenes for her character in the early seasons. She thought that those scenes attracted all the attention and distracted from the rest of her work . So when producers of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” approached her to play Anastasia Steele in that movie, she turned them down. She said no—she wasn’t comfortable playing a role that would have, shall we say, more than a little bit of nudity in it. So she turned down that role.

    Quote of the week

    It’s Monday, so we have a quote. I was reflecting on Thursday’s episode and thought I’d try to find something from Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund Hillary was a mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand and he became the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1953. The quote I have for you from Sir Edmund Hillary is about reaching challenges. Here it is: “You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things—to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” I like that. You don’t have to be a fantastic hero, just an “ordinary chap.” Chap is like a very British way of saying, “person” or “guy.”


    So with that, we will wrap up today. Just a quick reminder that we offer so much more than just the program via our e-mail list. If you’d like to get the episode summaries with extra vocabulary words and links to English articles I used to prepare the show, then come join about 3,000 of your fellow listeners on our e-mail list. You can do that by visiting PlainEnglish.com/mail . Just enter your details there, and you’ll get the episode summaries. Now, one more thing. I’ve been dropping hints for quite some time about changes, improvements, to the program. They’re real and they’re coming and you’re going to love it. The people who are going to know about this first are the ones on the e-mail list. So if you want to be among the first to know about the improvements and expansions that JR and I have planned, you will want to be on the email list. PlainEnglish.com/mail . That’s all I’m authorized to say for right now. You will want to be on that list. Okay, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your Monday and we will see you right back here on Thursday.

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