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Select Readings – Upper-Intermediate

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  1. Chapter 1: The Youngsters Behind Youtube
    Before You Read
  2. Reading the passage
  3. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  4. Building Vocabulary: Understanding Compound Nouns
    1 Practice
  5. Reading Skill: Identifying Main Ideas
    1 Practice
  6. Discussion and Writing
  7. Chapter 2: When to Use Female Nouns
    Before You Read
  8. Reading the passage
  9. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  10. Building Vocabulary: Using Female and Gender-Neutral Nouns
    2 Practices
  11. Reading Skill: Supporting Main Ideas
    1 Practice
  12. Discussion and Writing
  13. Chapter 3: Your Negative Attitude Can Hurt Your Career
    Before You Read
  14. Reading the passage
  15. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  16. Building Vocabulary: Using Synonyms and Antonyms
    2 Practices
  17. Reading Skill: Scanning for Specific Information
    1 Practice
  18. Discussion and Writing
  19. Chapter 4: The Colorful World of Synesthesia
    Before You Read
  20. Reading the passage
  21. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  22. Building Vocabulary: Understanding Verb-Forming Suffixes
    1 Practice
  23. Reading Skill: Making Inferences
    1 Practice
  24. Discussion and Writing
  25. Chapter 5: What Is Creative Thinking?
    Before You Read
  26. Reading the passage
  27. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  28. Building Vocabulary: Understanding Figures of Speech
    1 Practice
  29. Reading Skill: Using Context
    1 Practice
  30. Discussion and Writing
  31. Chapter 6: Listen Up
    Before You Read
  32. Reading the passage
  33. Understanding the Text
    3 Practices
  34. Building Vocabulary: Using Adverbs and Intensifiers
    1 Practice
  35. Reading Skill: Recognizing Sentence Transitions
    1 Practice
  36. Discussion and Writing
  37. Chapter 7: Students Won't Give Up Their French Fries
    Before You Read
  38. Reading the passage
  39. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  40. Building Vocabulary: Learning Idiomatic Expressions
    1 Practice
  41. Reading Skill: Summarizing
    1 Practice
  42. Discussion and Writing
  43. Chapter 8: Why I Quit the Company
    Before You Read
  44. Reading the passage
  45. Understanding the Text
    3 Practices
  46. Building Vocabulary: Understanding Phrasal Verbs
    1 Practice
  47. Reading Skill: Paraphrasing
  48. Discussion and Writing
  49. Chapter 9: East Meets West on Love's Risky Cyberhighway
    Before You Read
  50. Reading the passage
  51. Understanding the Text
    3 Practices
  52. Building Vocabulary: Using Modifiers
  53. Reading Skill: Identifying Points of View
    1 Practice
  54. Discussion and Writing
  55. Chapter 10: Don't Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgment
    Before You Read
  56. Reading the passage
  57. Understanding the Text
    2 Practices
  58. Building Vocabulary: Forming Participle Adjectives
    1 Practice
  59. Reading Skill: Recognizing Sources
    1 Practice
  60. Discussion and Writing
  61. Chapter 11: The Art of Reading
    Before You Read
  62. Reading the passage
  63. Understanding the Text
    3 Practices
  64. Building Vocabulary: Learning Word Forms
    1 Practice
  65. Reading Skill: Recognizing Analogies
    1 Practice
  66. Discussion and Writing
  67. Chapter 12: When E.T. Calls
    Before You Read
  68. Reading the passage
  69. Understanding the Text
    3 Practices
  70. Building Vocabulary: Understanding Nouns Derived from Adjectives
    1 Practice
  71. Reading Skill: Recognizing Scenarios
    1 Practice
  72. Discussion and Writing
Lesson 27 of 72
In Progress

Understanding the Text

Rathanak May 27, 2021

by Roger von Oech from A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative 

I once asked advertising legend Carl Ally what makes the creative person tick. Ally responded, “The creative person wants to be a know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history, 19th century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower arranging, and hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen.” 

I agree wholeheartedly. Knowledge is the stuff from which new ideas are made. Nonetheless, knowledge alone won’t make a person creative. I think that we’ve all known people who knew lots of facts and nothing creative happened. Their knowledge just sat in their crania because they didn’t think about what they knew in any new ways. The real key to being creative lies in what you do with your knowledge. 

Creative thinking requires an attitude that allows you to search for ideas and manipulate your knowledge and experience. With this outlook, you try various approaches, first one, then another, often not getting anywhere. You use crazy, foolish, and impractical ideas as stepping stones to practical new ideas. You break the rules occasionally, and explore for ideas in unusual outside places. In short, by adopting a creative outlook, you open yourself up both to new possibilities and to change. 

A good example of a person who did this is Johann Gutenberg. What Gutenberg did was combine two previously unconnected ideas: the wine press and the coin punch. The purpose of the coin punch was to leave an image on a small area such as a gold coin. The function of the wine press was, and still is, to apply force over a large area to squeeze the juice out of grapes. One day, Gutenberg, perhaps after he’d drunk a goblet or two of wine, playfully asked himself, “What if I took a bunch of these coin punches and put them under the force of the wine press so that they left their image on paper?” The resulting combination was the printing press and movable type. 

Navy Admiral Grace Hopper had the task of explaining the meaning of a nanosecond to some non-technical computer users. (A nanosecond is a billionth of a second, and it’s the basic time interval of a supercomputer’s internal clock.) She wondered, “How can I get them to understand the brevity of a nanosecond? Why not look at it as a space problem rather than a time problem? I’ll just use the distance light travels in one billionth of a second:’ She pulled out a piece of string 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) and told her visitors, “Here is one nanosecond.”

In 1792, the musicians of Franz Joseph Haydn’s orchestra got mad because the Duke promised them a vacation but continually postponed it. They asked Haydn to talk to the Duke about getting some time off. Haydn thought for a bit, decided to let music do the talking, and then wrote the “Farewell Symphony.” The performance began with a full orchestra, but as the piece went along, it was scored to need fewer and fewer instruments. As each musician finished his part, he blew out his candle and left the stage. They did this, one by one, until the stage was empty. The Duke got the message and gave them a vacation. 

Then there’s Pablo Picasso. One day, he went outside his house and found an old bicycle. He looked at it for a little bit and took off the seat and the handlebars. Then he welded them together to create the head of a bull. 

Each of these examples illustrates the creative mind’s power to transform one thing into another. By changing perspective and playing with our knowledge, we can make the ordinary extraordinary and the unusual commonplace. In this way, wine presses squeeze out information, string is transformed into nanoseconds, labor grievances become symphonies, and bicycle seats turn into bulls’ heads. 

The Nobel Prize winning physician Albert Szent-Gyorgyi put it well when he said: “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”

Here are two quick exercises to give you a chance to “think something different.”

Exercise 1: An eccentric old king wants to give his throne to one of his two sons. He decides that a horse race will be run and the son who owns the slower horse will become king. The sons, each fearing that the other will cheat by having his horse run less fast than it is capable, ask the court fool for his advice. With only two words the fool tells them how to make sure that the race will be fair. What are the two words? 

Exercise 2: Can you think of a way in which you put a sheet of newspaper on the floor so that when two people stand face to face on it, they won’t be able to touch one another? Cutting or tearing the paper is not allowed. Neither is tying up the people or preventing them from moving. 

Why don’t we “think something different” more often? There are several main reasons. The first is that we don’t need to be creative for most of what we do. For example, we don’t need to be creative when we’re driving on the freeway, or riding in an elevator, or waiting in line at a grocery store. We are creatures of habit when it comes to the business of living—everything from doing paperwork to tying our shoes to haggling with telephone solicitors. 

For most of our activities, these routines are indispensable. Without them, our lives would be in chaos, and we wouldn’t get much accomplished. If you got up this morning and started contemplating the bristles on your toothbrush or questioning the meaning of toast, you probably wouldn’t make it to work. Staying on routine thought paths enables us to do the many things we need to do without having to think about them. 

Another reason we’re not more creative is that we haven’t been taught to be. Much of our educational system is an elaborate game of “guess what the teacher is thinking’ Many of us have been taught to think that the best ideas are in someone else’s head. How many of your teachers asked you, “What original ideas do you have?” 

There are times, however, when you need to be creative and generate new ways to accomplish your objectives. When this happens, your own belief systems may prevent you from doing so. Here we come to a third reason why we don’t “think something different” more often. Most of us have certain attitudes that lock our thinking into the status quo and keep us thinking “more of the same?’ These attitudes are necessary for most of what we do, but they can get in the way when we’re trying to be creative.

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