Wednesday, September 15, 2010

INDEX TO AMERICAN SHORT STORIES

"A Child's Bath" by American Impressionist,
Mary Cassatt, 1893





Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cole Porter, Part Two, from VOA



This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we bring you the second part of our program about American songwriter Cole Porter. Porter wrote his songs from the nineteen twenties to the nineteen fifties. They continue to be popular today.

(MUSIC: "Anything Goes")

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, Heaven knows,
Anything Goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose, Anything Goes.

If saying your prayers you like,
If green pears you like
If old chairs you like,
If back stairs you like,
If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose!

So, though I'm not a great romancer
I know that I'm bound to answer
When you propose,
Anything goes...
Anything goes!

That was a recording of “Anything Goes”, one of Cole Porter’s most famous songs. Caroline O’Connor sings it in the movie about Cole Porter called “De-Lovely.” Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd star in this movie about Porter’s life, released in two thousand four. The title of the movie is from one of Porter’s popular songs, “It’s De-Lovely.” In the song, Porter plays with words that start with the letter “d.” Robbie Williams sings the song.

(MUSIC)

The night is young, the skies are clear
And if you want to go walkin', dear
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

I understand the reason why
You're sentimental, 'cause so am I
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely

You can tell at a glance what a swell night this is for romance
You can hear, dear Mother Nature murmuring low "Let yourself go"

So please be sweet, my chickadee
And when I kiss ya, just say to me
"It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely"

As we said in our program last week, Cole Porter went to live in France in nineteen sixteen before he became famous. He was a wealthy young man who was smart and funny and knew how to enjoy life. He and his wife, Linda, became well known for their costly and exciting parties.

Yet Cole Porter never let other pleasures interfere with what he loved most – writing songs. He worked hard on his songs. Both the words and music had to be perfect.

Porter gained fame as a musical theater writer by the early nineteen thirties. His musical plays were produced in Broadway theaters in New York City. He had a new musical every year or so during the years of America’s great economic depression. His words and music gave people a few hours of pleasurable escape during difficult times.

Some critics still consider one of Porter’s early musical plays, “Anything Goes,” to be his best. “Anything Goes” opened on Broadway in nineteen thirty-four. It starred one of Porter’s favorite singers, Ethel Merman. She sang a song that became famous immediately. It is called “I Get a Kick Out of You.” That expression means I enjoy being with you.

(MUSIC)

I get no kick from champagne.
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?

Ethel Merman
Some get a kick from cocaine.
I'm sure that if I took even one sniff
That would bore me terrifically too
Yet I get a kick out of you.

For years, Porter was Broadway’s “King Cole.” His musical plays were very successful. Later, he went to Los Angeles, California and wrote music for Hollywood movies. They were very popular, too.

Cole and Linda Porter traveled all over the world. They were happily married most of the time. But Cole Porter was homosexual. He had sex with men. Homosexuality was both accepted and forbidden in high society at that time. Love affairs between men were not exactly secret. Yet they could never be admitted publicly.

All his life, Cole Porter wrote songs about love, desire and passion. He included the names of foreign countries, famous people and comments on current events. And he filled his songs with little jokes and hidden meanings.

Porter’s words stretched the limits of what was socially acceptable. They spoke directly and indirectly about sex. They admitted that love is not always pure. It is often selfish. And it rarely lasts forever. Porter was not even sure what love really is. He wonders about it in this song, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” It is sung by Lemar.

(MUSIC)

what is this thing called love
this funny thing
called love
just who can solve its mystery
why should it make
a fool of me?

I saw you there
one wonderful day
you took my heart
and threw it away
thats why I ask the lord
in heaven above
what is this thing
called love?

Cole Porter also wrote some of the most beautiful love songs ever, full of true, deep feeling. Critics consider “Every Time We Say Goodbye” to be one of his finest songs. Natalie Cole sings the song.

(MUSIC)

Everytime we say goodbye, I die a little,
Everytime we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the Gods above me, who must be in the know.
Think so little of me, they allow you to go.
When you're near, there's such an air of spring about it,
I can hear a lark somewhere, begin to sing about it,
There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to
minor,
Everytime we say goodbye.

In nineteen thirty-seven, Cole Porter was injured while riding a horse. The horse slid on a muddy hill and fell on top of him. His legs were crushed. Cole Porter spent the rest of his life, twenty-seven years, disabled and in severe pain. Yet he continued writing wonderful songs, musical plays and movies.

In nineteen forty-eight, he wrote what some consider his greatest work. It was a musical play called “Kiss Me, Kate.” It was based on William Shakespeare’s play, “The Taming of the Shrew.” But it takes place in modern times, among a group of actors. The play was produced again on Broadway in nineteen ninety-nine.

One of the most famous songs in the musical is called “Too Darn Hot.” It is a funny song about how hard it is to be interested in love in really hot weather. Stanley Wayne Mathis sings it in “Kiss Me, Kate.”

(MUSIC: "Too Darn Hot")

It's too darn hot,
It's too darn hot.
I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight.
I'd like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight,
But I ain't up to my baby tonight,
'Cause it's too darn hot.

Cole Porter had another hit show in nineteen fifty-three, called “Cancan.” It was his final play. That same year, Porter’s wife, Linda, died. Porter was very sad, and increasingly disabled by his old injury. He died at the age of seventy-three in nineteen sixty-four.

In nineteen ninety-one, America celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of Cole Porter’s birth. Special concerts celebrated his music. New recordings were issued. Jazz singers and symphony orchestras recorded his songs.

So did several rock-and-roll artists. They made a recording and special music video to honor him. All the money earned from the recording and video was given to research on AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a disease that was first discovered among homosexual men.

Today, Cole Porter’s songs are still valued for their beauty, humor and intelligence. And for their unexpected jokes and word play. They shine like jewels, one critic wrote. They are shot through with love that sometimes feels like pain.

There seems little doubt that Cole Porter’s songs will continue to be sung. They will make us laugh. They will make us cry. And they will touch the deepest truths of our emotions.

(MUSIC: "Night and Day")

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. At Harvard University, Cole Porter first studied ______ .

a. music
b. law
c. art
d. psychology

2. Most of the songs Cole Porter wrote were about _______ .
a. politics
b. current events
c. love
d. little jokes

3. A song that considers the meaning of love is " ____________ " .
a. You're The Top
b. What is This Thing Called Love
c. Too Darn Hot
d. Kiss Me, Kate

4. Cole Porter went to live in Europe in 1916 because his first musical, "See America First" was _________ .
a. a great success
b. going to be produced in Paris
c. a big failure
d. a prize winner

5. Cole Porter used his money to live a life full of ___________ .
a. sorrow
b. activity
c. travel
d. pleasure

6. A movie made about Cole Porter is called " ___________ " .
a. Kiss me, Kate
b. Cole Porter
c. De Lovely
d. Falling in Love

7. Cole Porter got the idea for "Night and Day" while traveling in ____________ .
a. Morocco
b. Paris
c. Spain
d. Peru

8. Some people thought his songs were outside of what was ___________ .
a. normal
b. socially acceptable
c. rational
d. interesting

9. Another name for this article could be " __________ " .
a. Songs of the Twenties
b. Life Among the Rich
c. Cole Porter: Great Writer of Love Songs
d. Song Writers of the Thirties

10. This article is mainly about ________ .
a. what love really is about
b. why marriages often fail
c. the life story of a popular songwriter
d. how to find love in paradise


Youtube: Clip from the 1988 revival of "Anything Goes" by Cole Porter
Cole Porter, Part One


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"First Nation Peoples" from Voice of America




This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States. Today, we tell about early Native Americans.

Scientists believe that the native peoples of America came here thousands of years ago during the last ice age. These people settled the land from the cold northern areas to the extreme end of South America.

As the groups of people settled different parts of the land, they developed their own languages, their own cultures and their own religions. Each group's story is important in the history of the Americas. However, it is perhaps the tribes of the central part of the United States that are most recognized. They will be our story today.

(MUSIC)

In 1804, Merriwether Lewis and William Clark led a group of explorers to the Pacific Ocean. They were the first educated Americans to see some of the native tribes of the Great Plains.

And they were the first white people these Native American people had ever seen.

When the group of explorers neared the eastern side of the great Rocky Mountains, they met with a tribe of Indians called the Shoshoni. Merriwether Lewis was the first to see them.

Let us imagine we are with Merriwether Lewis near the Rocky Mountains almost two hundred years ago. Across a small hill, a group of sixty Shoshoni men are riding toward us.

(MUSIC)

The first thing we see is that these men are ready for war. Each is armed with a bow and arrows. Some carry long poles with a sharp knife on the end.

They are riding very fast. Some horses seem to be without riders. But a closer look shows that the men are hanging off the sides, or under the horse’s neck. They are using the horses' bodies as protection.

The horses are painted with many different designs that use blue, black, red or other colors. Later we learn that each design has a special meaning for the man who owns the horse. Each one tells a story.

For example, the man riding one horse is a leader during battle. Another has killed an enemy in battle. One of the designs protects the horse and rider.

As they come nearer, the Shoshoni group sees that we are not ready for war. They slow their horses but are still very careful. Merriwether Lewis holds up a open hand as a sign of peace. The leader of the Shoshoni does the same. They come closer.

The Shoshoni are dressed in clothes made from animal skin. Most of these skins are from deer or the American buffalo. The shirts they wear have many designs, and tell stories like the designs on the horses. One shows a man has fought in a battle. Another shows a man has been in many raids to capture horses. Still another shows the man saved the life of a friend.

Captain Lewis smiles at these men. He again makes a hand sign that means peace. The signs are now returned. Lewis and the Shoshoni chief cannot speak each other's language. They can communicate using hand signs.

One young Shoshoni man comes near. He drops to the ground from his horse. He is tall and looks strong. His hair is black in color and long. He wears one long bird feather in the back of his hair. Some of his hair is held in place by animal fur.

His arms have been painted with long lines. We learn that each line represents a battle. There are many lines. But we leave the Shoshoni without him adding another one.

(MUSIC)

The Shoshoni were only one of many tribes of native people who lived in the Great Plains area. The life, culture and society of these tribes developed because of the land that was their home.

The Great Plains today is still huge. Even in a car, traveling at one hundred kilometers an hour, it can take two long days of driving to cross the Great Plains. The plains reach from several hundred kilometers north in Canada across the middle of the continent to Mexico in the south.


In the East, the Great Plains begin near the Mississippi River and go west to the huge Rocky Mountains. It is the center of the United States. There are big rivers here, deserts and mountains. Other areas are so flat that a person can see for hundreds of kilometers. Millions of kilometers of this land were once covered by a thick ocean of grass.

The grass provided food for an animal that made possible the culture of the Indians of the Great Plains. The grass fed the bison, the American buffalo.

The buffalo was the center of native Indian culture in the Great Plains. The huge animal provided meat for the Indians. But it was much more than just food. It was an important part of the religion of most of the native people in the Great Plains.

The Lakota tribe is one of the people of the Great Plains. The Lakota are sometimes called the Sioux. They believed that everything necessary to life was within the buffalo. Another Plains tribe, the Blackfeet, called the animal "My home and my protection."

(MUSIC)

The back of the huge buffalo provided thick skin that was used to make homes for the Plains Indians. Other parts were made into clothing. Still other parts became warm blankets. Buffalo bones were made into tools. Nothing of the animal was wasted.

No one knows how many buffalo were in North America when Merriwether Lewis first met the Shoshoni. But experts say it was probably between sixty million to seventy-five million.

Another animal also helped make possible the Indian cultures of the Great Plains. Native Americans first called these animals mystery dogs, or big dogs. They had no word for this animal in their language. We know it as the horse.

No horses existed in North America before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s in what is now the southern part of the United States. Native peoples hunted, moved and traveled by foot. Traveling long distances was difficult, so was hunting buffalo.

The horse greatly changed the life of all the people of the Great Plains. It gave them a method of travel. It provided a way to carry food and equipment. It made it easier and safer to follow and hunt the buffalo. The horse made it possible to attack an enemy far away and return safely. The number of horses owned became the measure of a tribe's wealth.

Spanish settlers rode horses to the small town of Santa Fe in what is now the southwestern state of New Mexico. They arrived there in about the year 1609.

It is not known how native peoples in Santa Fe got the first horses in the country. Perhaps they traded for them. Perhaps they captured them in an attack. Many tribes soon were trading and capturing horses.

By the 1750s, all the tribes of the Great Plains had horses. They had become experts at raising, training and riding horses. They became experts at horse medicine.

Each Indian of the Great Plains could ride a horse by the age of five. As an adult, a young man would have a special horse for work. Another horse would be trained for hunting. And another would be trained for war. An Indian warrior's success depended upon how closely he and his horses worked together.

(MUSIC)

George Catlin was an artist who traveled a great deal in the early American west. He painted many beautiful pictures of American Indians. Mr. Catlin said the Plains Indian was the greatest horse rider the world has ever known. He said the moment an Indian rider laid a hand on his horse he became part of the animal.

The buffalo and horse were extremely important to the Plains Indian. Because the horse made hunting easier, more time could be spent on things like art. The Plains Indians began to make designs on their clothing, and on special blankets their horses wore. Even common objects were painted with designs.

The coming of white settlers to the Great Plains was the beginning of the end of the buffalo and horse culture of the American Indians. Settlers did not want buffalo destroying their crops. The buffalo were killed. By the year 1885, the Indians of the Great Plains were mostly restricted to area of land called reservations.

Lakota Medicine Wheel

Many of the Great Plains tribes that survive today work hard to keep their traditional cultures. They produce art, music, and clothing. They keep alive the memory of these people who added greatly to the history of America.

(MUSIC)

This MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Paul Thompson. This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. Merriwether Lewis communicated to the Shoshoni Indians ____________________ .
a: with sign language
b: by speaking the Shoshoni language
c: by speaking English
d: by speaking through a French fur trader who knew Indian languages

2. Because the horse made hunting easier, Native peoples could spend more time ______________________
a: creating art
b: playing with their children
c: going on vacations
d: going to war with other tribes

3. The Blackfeet called _________________ "My home and my protection".
a: the tee pee
b: the Great Plains
c: the Buffalo
d: Washington D.C.

4. The buffalo didn't supply the Lakota Sioux with ______________________ .
a: meat
b: thick skins for homes
c: religion
d: grass

5. Native peoples of America came to this continent ___________________ .
a: about two thousand years ago
b: during the last ice age
c: during the Spanish conquest
d: two hundred years ago

6. Horses first existed in North America _____________________________ .
a: at the end of the last ice age
b: after Merriwether Lewis visited the Shoshoni tribe
c: after the Spanish arrived in the 1500s
d: before the first buffalo moved onto the Great Plains

7. White settlers in the Great Plains destroyed much of Indian culture by _______________________
a: killing the buffalo
b: teaching English to Indian children
c: stealing the Indians' horses
d: building railroads

8. The colorful designs on the Shoshoni horses ______________________ .
a: were for the purpose of frightening enemies
b: were a method of artistic expression
c: were unfinished illustrations
d: illustrated a stories about the riders

9. Horses didn't provide Native Americans with _______________________ .
a: a way to carry food and equipment
b: a way to attack an enemy far away and return safely
c: a measure of a tribe's wealth
d: a source of warm blankets

10. Before the horse, people of the Great Plains traveled by ____________________
a: car
b: foot
c: wagons drawn by buffalo
d: train

This is a nice visual and musical celebration of First Nation People from Youtube:




For more reading and listening on this subject, see:
Crazy Horse, Leader of the Lakota Sioux
George Catlin: Painter of First Nation People, Early 1800s
George Catlin: Part Two and a Quiz

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Jackie Robinson: the First African-American
Professional Baseball Player" from VOA.


Welcome to PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America. Today Shirley Griffith and Rich Kleinfeldt tell about a man who changed professional baseball in the United States. Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was the first black man to play in modern major league baseball.

(MUSIC)

After World War Two, many Americans still believed that people of different races should not mix.

In some parts of the country, blacks and whites lived in separate areas and went to separate schools. Blacks who tried to change the system risked being beaten or killed.

Blacks were not permitted to play on professional baseball teams or in any other major league sport. No black man had played for a major league baseball team since eighteen eighty-four. In that year, American baseball organizations agreed to bar blacks. That began changing when Jackie Robinson played his first game for New York's Brooklyn Dodgers on April fifteenth, nineteen forty-seven.

(MUSIC)

Jackie Robinson grew up in a family of five children in Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles. His father had left. His mother did not earn much money, so Jackie Robinson learned to make his own way in life. It was in California that Jackie Robinson first learned the ugliness of racial hatred. White families who did not want to live near them repeatedly tried to force them to move away.

Jackie Robinson established himself early as an athlete. He was a star player while attending the University of California at Los Angeles.

Jackie won honors in baseball, basketball, football and track. He was named to the All-American football team. He was considered the best athlete on America's west coast.

Jackie Robinson left college early because of financial problems. He joined the United States Army in nineteen forty-one, during the Second World War. He became a lieutenant after boxing champion Joe Louis pushed for Robinson to be trained as an officer. However, after three years, Robinson was dismissed from the army because he objected to a racial order. He refused to move to the back of a bus.

In nineteen forty-five, there were not many jobs open to a black man, even someone who had attended college. Robinson wanted to play professional baseball. Blacks, however, were not permitted to play in the major leagues. So, he decided to play with the Negro Baseball League. The Negro League teams were started in the nineteen twenties to give black people a place to play baseball.

Many of the best baseball players in the United States played in the Negro Leagues before white professional teams began accepting black players. The skills and records of black ball players were as good as major league white players. It was a hard life for Negro League players. They took long trips by bus. They changed clothes in farmhouses and shared bath water with teammates.

Many eating places did not serve food to blacks. They had to eat outside or on the road. And they were not permitted to sleep at hotels for whites. Many players slept on the bus.

Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs. It was one of the most famous baseball teams in the Negro League. But, he was unhappy in the Negro League because of the difficult life there. In a statement from the book "The History of Baseball, Nineteen-Oh-Seven," actor Ossie Davis expresses hope for change in the sport.

OSSIE DAVIS: "Baseball should be taken seriously by the colored player -- and in this effort of his great ability will open the avenue in the near future wherein he may walk hand in hand with the opposite race in the greatest of all American games -- baseball."

(MUSIC)

In nineteen forty-five, Jackie Robinson signed an agreement with Branch Rickey to play for the Dodgers. Rickey was president of the team. He wanted to find a black player who could deal with the insults and racial pressure he would face in the league.

He wanted a black player who would show restraint at all times. Rickey thought Jackie Robinson was good enough as a player and strong enough as a person to succeed. He made Robinson promise that he would never show his anger on the baseball field. Jackie Robinson accepted that condition. He said:

JACKIE ROBINSON: "I knew that I was going to be somewhat out front and perhaps, I would have to take a lot of abuse. I knew that this was bigger than any one individual and I would have to do whatever I possibly could to control myself."

Some observers said that Jackie Robinson was not the best player in the Negro Leagues. Others said that he was chosen for his communications skills and educational level and because he was an established sports star.

David Faulkner wrote a book about Robinson's life. It is called "Great Time Coming: The Life of Jackie Robinson from Baseball to Birmingham." In it, he talks about the end of racial divisions in baseball.

DAVID FAULKNER: "For many years, there had been an active campaign against segregated baseball led by Negro newspaper editors and, strangely enough, by the Communist party, which from the middle nineteen thirties on, had actively campaigned against segregated baseball. There were a number of pending bills in different legislatures challenging fair employment practices. By nineteen forty-five, there was a lot of heat in a lot of different areas -- professional baseball was certainly feeling that. Robinson in a sense was the right person at the right time."

Shortly after Jackie Robinson signed the agreement with the Dodgers, he married Rachel Isum. They had three children. It was important to Branch Rickey that Jackie Robinson be married. He thought that the public would accept Robinson more quickly if he was married. He thought that it would lessen the fears of white men that white women would find Robinson desirable.

(MUSIC)

In nineteen forty-six, Jackie Robinson began playing for the Dodgers' minor league Canadian team, the Montreal Royals. During that time, Branch Rickey tested Robinson's ability to deal with racial pressure he would face in the major league.

In nineteen forty-seven, Jackie Robinson became the first black to play modern major league baseball. He played for the Dodger's major league team, New York's Brooklyn Dodgers. In doing so, the pressure increased. He received death threats on and off the field. During games, pitchers threw the ball at his head. Several teams threatened not to play against the Dodgers. And, some of his own team members tried to have him banned from the team.

It was not easy for Robinson on road trips, either. He was never permitted to stay at the same hotels or eat in the same places as his white team members.

Jackie Robinson had difficulty on and off the baseball field, but he did not let that interfere with his game. He was a great player and leader, winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award in nineteen forty-nine. He also led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six league championships and to baseball's World Series Championship in nineteen fifty-five.

Jackie Robinson helped show that blacks and whites could live, work and play together. He became a national hero to both black and white Americans because of his skill, bravery and restraint. Robinson's success opened the door for other black athletes to play on all-white professional teams. Soon, other blacks began to appear on major-league teams. By the end of the nineteen fifties, every major league team had black and Hispanic players.

Jackie Robinson retired from baseball in nineteen fifty-six at the age of thirty-seven. He became a businessman, a political activist and a strong supporter of civil rights. In nineteen sixty-two, Jackie Robinson was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, an honor given only to baseball's best players. He died in nineteen seventy-two. He was fifty-three years old.

(MUSIC)

This Special English program was written by Cynthia Kirk. It was produced and directed by Lawan Davis. The announcers were Shirley Griffith and Rich Kleinfeldt.

I'm Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Sharks!!! Look Out!!!"




This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus.

This week, we will tell about sharks -- a fish with a public relations problem.

A picture in the newspaper shows a person standing next to a huge shark. The body of the shark is hanging with its head down. A scale is measuring its weight.

The lines below the picture say the shark was a very big one. Or perhaps it was one of the biggest ever caught in the area. The person who brought in the fish looks extremely pleased. That person won a battle with what has been called one of nature's fiercest creatures.

Some people, however, do not approve of catching sharks. They do not think all sharks are terrifying enemies. They know that studies show lightning and snakebites threaten people more than shark attacks.

Activists for sharks note that the fish are valuable in the ocean. Sharks eat injured and diseased fish. Their hunting means that other fish do not become too great in number. This protects other creatures and plants in the ocean.

Environmental activists worry that some kinds of fish are in danger of dying out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that fishing operations kill more than one hundred million sharks every year. Sharks are harvested for meat and cartilage, liver oil and, especially, for their fins. Many of the animals die when people harvesting other kinds of fish pull in sharks by accident.

George Burgess leads the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History of the University of Florida. He says shark attacks increased during the past century for a good reason. Hundreds of millions of people now use the world's oceans, more than in the past.

Professor Burgess says the first ten years of the twenty-first century are expected to register the most attacks of any ten-year period.

Yet the International Shark Attack File reports that the number of shark attacks has, in fact, decreased in recent years. During this period, there was an average of sixty-three attacks worldwide each year. That compares with a high of seventy-nine in two thousand.

The file gives some likely reasons for the decrease. One reason is that overfishing of sharks and related fish has reduced the size of some shark populations.

Another is that more people are careful to stay away from waters where sharks swim. And the file says workers responsible for boating and beach safety may be doing a better job of warning people when sharks are seen.

The International Shark Attack File describes shark attacks as either provoked or unprovoked. An unprovoked attack means the person is alive when bitten. It also means the person must not have interfered with the shark.

Some divers interfere with sharks on purpose. They want to get the attention of sharks, perhaps to take pictures of them. The diver may put food in the water to get the animal to come close. Sharks do not normally want to be with people. But their excellent sense of smell leads them to food.

Some experienced divers say they may not face danger when near a shark. But they say the next person who comes near the shark may be in trouble. The animal's experience with being fed may make it connect food with people.

(MUSIC)

Some divers, filmmakers and nature photographers enter a shark's territory while inside containers made of steel. Others wear heavy metal equipment for protection. And others get near sharks wearing only normal diving equipment.

Close contact with sharks has its critics. Some people say it represents invasion of the animals' territory for no good reason. But exciting films may increase public interest and sympathy for the animals.

Many people wanting to save sharks have formed activist groups. For example, a group called Shark Safe helped prevent the killing of sharks at a fishing competition in Florida earlier this month. Event organizers had said the goal would be to catch and release sharks.

But the Shark Safe Project said the stated goal of "bringing in the big one" would lead to killing of the biggest sharks. The big ones are the most likely to reproduce.

The Shark Safe Project planned a demonstration against the competition. The demonstration never took place, however. Instead, the event organizers changed their plans. Participants were to catch the sharks as expected. But all sharks were to be released.

The Shark-Free Marinas Initiative is a campaign aimed at helping sharks worldwide. Under the Initiative, people could not bring a killed shark to a participating marina. People transporting captured sharks to the boat landing for weighing and killing would also be rejected.

The initiative cooperates with several other programs, including the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas islands. The Institute is an educational center that also operates a shark research program.

(MUSIC)

In late two thousand seven, a United Nations conference reported that one kind of shark, the basking shark, is in danger of dying out. The numbers of basking sharks have been decreasing for the past half-century. The animals are the second largest shark, after whale sharks. They swim with their mouths open, cleaning the water as they move. They take up and eat objects like fish eggs and tiny sea organisms.

Scientists want to know how and where basking sharks travel.

Recently, experts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were interested in a huge basking shark discovered in eastern Canada. The remains of the eight-meter long animal were found on a rocky beach in Saint John, New Brunswick. Experts said the cause of death is unknown.

Donald McAlpine heads the zoology collection at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John. He said scientists removed the head and some backbones from the shark for examination. Mr. McAlpine said pictures of the animal were sent to scientists in Britain. The British scientists had requested the pictures to learn if the shark was the same fish they had observed on their side of the Atlantic.

Sharks can be identified by their individual markings and sometimes by healed wounds.

For years, the travels of basking sharks have been a mystery to scientists. Basking sharks from the northeastern United States are not seen in the winter. They seem to disappear from cool waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Yet studies published in the journal Current Biology are providing clues about the mystery.

The studies found that the sharks went to warmer waters of the Atlantic during the winter. The animals did a good job of staying hidden from sight. They swam in waters from two hundred to one thousand meters deep.

Like Americans living in cold climates, some of the sharks traveled to Florida for the winter. Others went even further south. One spent a month in waters near Brazil.

One of the investigators was Gregory Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. He says the fish probably get to eat more plankton in the warmer waters.

(MUSIC)

Today, a major threat to sharks comes from shark fin soup. The popularity of the soup has increased greatly over the years. Fisheries can earn a lot of money for even one kilogram of shark fins.

Finning, as it is called, is big business. It means cutting the fins off a live shark. Fishermen cut off the shark's fins and throw the animal back into the water. The shark then bleeds to death on the bottom of the ocean.

Many animal-protection groups and people worldwide have denounced finning as cruel. Some areas have banned this activity. But it is hard to enforce the ban in many places.

Ann Luskey is an activist for the world's sea environment. She lives on a boat and often dives to watch underwater life. Her three children took part in an unusual recording project. The family hopes the music will attract attention to the need for taking good care of the earth and its seas.

One of the recordings is a hip-hop song called "Shark Fin Soup." It urges people not to eat the soup because it threatens sharks.

(MUSIC)

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Bob Doughty. Listen again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Celebrating The Louvre in Paris" from VOA



STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we travel to Paris, France, to visit one of the most famous and most visited art collections in the world. From the twelfth to the eighteenth century, the Louvre was the home of the ruling families of France. In seventeen ninety-three the Louvre became a national museum to house the country’s treasures. The thirty-five thousand works of art in the museum represent thousands of years of human culture and come from all over the world.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: One of the most striking ways to begin a visit to the Louvre Museum is to start in its central courtyard. This is an area where past and present building traditions meet. On three sides, you are surrounded by the museum’s carved stone walls.

In the center of the courtyard, there is a huge glass and steel pyramid surrounded by water fountains and smaller pyramids. This modern addition was designed by the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. You can enter the glass building and walk downstairs to an underground visitors center.

(SOUND)

BARBARA KLEIN: The next decision is which area of the huge museum to explore first. It would take days to fully explore the museum. So we will have to settle for a few favorite works. We will explore works from the three parts of the Louvre -- the Denon, Richelieu, and Sully wings.

First, we stop to see one of the most famous sculptures in the world. It is called the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This sculpture takes the form of a woman with wings. But this is not just any woman. This is the Greek goddess of victory. She is standing on the front of a ship facing the strong island winds. The artist carved her flowing clothing with such detail it is hard to believe she is made of stone. Experts believe this statue was made by the people of Rhodes about two thousand two hundred years ago as a religious offering to honor a naval victory.







STEVE EMBER: Nearby, there is another famous Greek statue of a woman. The Venus de Milo was made about a hundred years after Winged Victory. This marble statue is widely believed to be the goddess of love and beauty. The work was named after the island of Melos where the statue was discovered in eighteen twenty. This Venus wears nothing but a cloth draped over her curving waist and legs. She is easy to identify because she is missing both arms. The statue is somewhat mysterious. Experts still do not know what identifying objects those arms might have once held.

(MUSIC)







BARBARA KLEIN: Visitors to the Louvre can watch the evolution of Renaissance art by looking at several hundreds of years of Italian paintings. The Italian artist Giotto painted “St. Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata” in thirteen hundred. Giotto painted St. Francis in a way that shows his very human emotions as he goes through an intense religious experience. Giotto explored how to represent three dimensional space using light and shade. His methods influenced later generations of artists.









STEVE EMBER: The artist Fra Angelico painted “The Coronation of the Virgin” about one hundred and thirty years later. It was made for the central area of a religious center. The painting shows Jesus crowning his mother, Mary. To help express the wonder of this moment, Fra Angelico filled the work with light and gold.

Other paintings show important political leaders and events. For example, Paolo Uccello’s fifteenth century work, “The Battle of San Romano,” shows the intensity of war.




BARBARA KLEIN: It is hard to miss the crowds of people always gathering in one room on this floor. They have come to see what is arguably the most famous painting in the world. It is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Created around fifteen oh three, this is a painting of an Italian woman named Lisa Gherardini. She was the wife of a businessman from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo. It is from him that the painting takes its other name, “La Gioconda.” The woman is sitting in a chair, looking directly at the painter. Behind her is a dreamy landscape. Experts still do not know much about this woman and her famous smile. They do not know why da Vinci painted it, or how it ended up in the collection of French ruler Francis the First. But the painting’s realism and mystery have captured the attention of viewers for centuries.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: For a lesson in French history, we turn to the seventeenth century Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens. The queen of France, Marie de Medici, hired him to create a series of twenty-four paintings. These huge and colorful paintings make a political statement about her rise to power.

“The Lacemaker” by Johannes Vermeer provides a more peaceful and personal example of Dutch art. Painted around sixteen sixty-nine, this small work shows a woman quietly at work making lace. The artist’s method of capturing the effects of light is masterful.

BARBARA KLEIN: We cannot visit a French museum without exploring examples of French art. First, we catch someone lying. Georges de la Tour painted the emotionally expressive “The Cheat with the Ace of Diamonds” in sixteen thirty-five. It shows four people playing cards, and one person is not playing fairly.

We move on to several paintings from the nineteenth century period known as Romanticism. “Liberty Leading the People” is an important work by Eugene Delacroix.

This huge painting shows the artist’s representation of a political uprising in Paris in eighteen thirty. Liberty takes the form of a strong woman holding the French flag. She is guiding the French people to fight. There are dead bodies, smoke, and the buildings of Paris in the distance.

STEVE EMBER: “The Raft of the Medusa,” painted in eighteen nineteen, is an emotional work by Theodore Gericault. The subject is based on real events. The painting shows a group of sailors struggling to survive on a floating raft after the sinking of their ship, the Medusa.

They are wildly motioning to a ship in the distance. But they seem to know that death will soon mark their future. This work was disputed at the time. Many people believed art should only show beautiful subjects. But others praised the work for its political message and modernity.

BARBARA KLEIN: Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres’ painting “La Grande Odalisque” shows a beautiful woman wearing no clothes. She has turned her long curving back to the viewer. She looks over her shoulder in a sensual way.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: We continue our visit to the Louvre with the huge collection of art from ancient Egypt, Persia and the Middle East.

“The Great Sphinx of Tanis” from ancient Egypt dates back over four thousand six hundred years. This stone statue has the body of a lion and the head of an Egyptian ruler. It expresses a sense of permanence and solidity.

Another famous ancient piece is the “Law Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon.” It is almost four thousand years old. This piece of basalt rock has been cut with words in the Akkadian language. It is one of the oldest collections of laws in human history.

BARBARA KLEIN: Two four-meter-tall sculptures stand guard on either side of a door. They are winged bulls with human heads. The sculptures are over two thousand years old. They came from a home built by the Assyrian ruler Sargon the Second in modern day Iraq.

The Louvre’s rich collection of Islamic art will soon have a new home. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia donated twenty million dollars to build a new exhibit area within the Louvre. It is expected to open in two thousand twelve.

STEVE EMBER: For the most part, the Louvre museum’s collection does not extend past works made in the mid-nineteenth century. But the Louvre recently made a special exception.

The American artist Cy Twombly is one of only three modern artists who have been asked to make a permanent piece of art for the Louvre. His work covers over three hundred fifty square meters of ceiling in a room that contains treasures from ancient Greece. The painting is like a bright blue sky with floating circular shapes on its edges.

Mr. Twombly wrote the name of ancient Greek artists in Greek letters. His aim was to honor the skillful work of ancient Greek sculptors. His painting and the Louvre Museum show the importance of celebrating art’s past and its present.

(MUSIC)

BARBARA KLEIN: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. You can see pictures of some of these works of art at our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Woody Gutherie and the Dust Bowl Refugees" from Voice of America.




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Woodie Gutherie and the Dust Bowl Refugees

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Friday, June 4, 2010

"The Herbal Pharmacy" from Voice of America.

The Tumeric Plant



BOB DOUGHTY: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a program in VOA Special English. I’m Bob Doughty.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. Today, we will tell about herbs and spices, and some of their many uses.

(MUSIC)

BOB DOUGHTY: People have been using herbs and spices for thousands of years. Generally, herbs come from the green leaves of plants or vegetables. Spices come from other parts of plants and trees. For example, cinnamon comes from the hard outer cover of cinnamon plants. The spice ginger comes from the part of the ginger plant that grows underground.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Some herbs and spices are valued for their taste. They help to sharpen the taste of many foods. Others are chosen for their smell. Still others were used traditionally for health reasons.

Some herbs and spices may be gaining importance in modern medicine. For example, natural chemicals from black pepper and the Indian spice turmeric might help to prevent breast cancer. Researchers at the University of Michigan say a substance developed from the spices could reduce the possibility of breast tumors.

BOB DOUGHTY: Turmeric is a plant. It also is used to make the spicy food seasoning curry. In the study, researchers tested curcumin, a chemical compound taken from turmeric. They also used peperine, which comes from black peppers.

The researchers combined the two compounds, and placed the mixture on breast cancer cells in a laboratory. The mixture caused the number of stem cells to decrease. Normal breast tissue, however, was not affected.

Results of the study were reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Madhuri Kakarala was lead writer of the report. Doctor Kakarala teaches at the University of Michigan’s Medical School. She also works as a research investigator for the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Doctor Kakarala says the cancer-fighting treatments known as chemotherapy do not control tumors containing cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are found inside tumors. They help the tumor continue growing without restriction. This means the disease can spread and return. The disappearance of cancer stem cells, then, is important for cancer control.

The doctor also says researchers could be able to limit the number of cells that can form tumors if they limit the number of normal stem cells. That would reduce the possibility of the disease appearing.

BOB DOUGHTY: Research involving turmeric is not new. Scientists have been studying its medical possibilities for many years. For example, researchers in Singapore completed one such study several years ago. The study was based on earlier evidence that turmeric has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. These qualities can help protect against damage to the body’s tissues and other injuries.

The researchers said turmeric has been shown to reduce evidence of damage in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. But, they said evidence was lacking about cases of Alzheimer’s in people who ate curry compared with people who did not use curry.

For this reason, the researchers designed a study that examined results from a mental-performance test of older Asian adults. The adults were sixty to ninety-three years old. None had severe memory losses. Those who sometimes ate curry, or ate it often or very often, did better on the tests than individuals who rarely or never ate curry.

(MUSIC)

FAITH LAPIDUS: The work of the Mayo Clinic and its medical experts is world-famous. The Clinic operates medical centers in three American states. Its “Health Letter” publication of November, two thousand seven provided more evidence that herbs and spices can aid health. Mayo Clinic experts said people could reduce salt use by using herbs and spices instead. Too much salt is a problem for people with health conditions like high blood pressure.

The experts said some plant chemicals are high in antioxidants. In addition to turmeric, these include cloves, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, sage and thyme.

BOB DOUGHTY: The experts also said antioxidants like garlic, rosemary and saffron have qualities that could fight cancer. They said limited evidence shows that cinnamon, fenugreek and turmeric may affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Not all studies agree that spices could help diabetes patients. But some research suggests that they could because of a suspected link between inflammation and diabetes. Inflammation is the body’s way of reacting to infection.

(MUSIC)

FAITH LAPIDUS: Researchers from the University of Georgia reported two years ago that cinnamon could help reduce blood sugar. The researchers tested twenty-four common herbs and spices. The tests showed that many of the substances contained high levels of antioxidant chemicals known as polyphenols.

The researchers found that ground cloves had the most polyphenols. Cloves were the most effective at calming inflammation of any spice or herb they tested. Cinnamon was second. Other research has shown that cinnamon gets more use in cooking than ground cloves. This means it could affect the health of more people. Still, the Mayo Clinic warns that cinnamon CANNOT replace proven medicines for diabetes.

BOB DOUGHTY: Another American study found that adding spices to meat before cooking at high temperatures may reduce harmful chemicals. Researchers at Kansas State University reported on their experiments with steaks in two thousand eight. They found a major decrease in unwanted chemicals by preparing the meat with spice and herb marinades. The study showed that this may decrease formation of heterocyclic amines, also known as HCAs. The researchers say these chemicals may cause cancer in some people.

America’s National Cancer Institute says cooking meat at very high temperatures produces the most HCAs. The chemicals form when amino acids react with creatine, a chemical found in muscles. But meats from organs and non-meat protein sources have little or no HCA.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Research on HCAs has made some people afraid to prepare meat on a grill – the place where meat is cooked on hot coals or an open fire. Cooking meat this way is a traditional favorite of many Americans during warm weather.

The Kansas State University study, however, may show a way that reduces risk for people who grill on high heat. The researchers placed some steaks in already prepared spice mixes, or marinades. The meat then was grilled for five minutes on each side at a temperature of more than two hundred degrees Celsius. The researchers also cooked steaks marinated without spices, and steaks that were not marinated. They were prepared at the same temperature as meat with the marinade mixes.

The researchers compared levels of the HCAs in all the steaks. They found the HCAs in the meat marinated in spices had decreased up to eighty-eight percent.

(MUSIC)

BOB DOUGHTY: Herbs and spices are often used because they can make food taste better. Some spices also destroy bacteria. Spices have long been used to keep food safe to eat. In the past, spices also helped to prevent the wasting away of dead bodies.

Herb and spice plants grow in many countries. For example, the Molucca Islands in Indonesia are famous for producing spices like cloves, nutmeg or mace. Vanilla comes from orchid plants growing in South America and other places with warm, moist weather.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Spices have influenced world history. For example, the Goth people of Europe defeated Roman forces in battle more than sixteen centuries ago. After the fighting ended, the leader of the Goths is said to have demanded five-thousand pounds of gold and three thousand pounds of pepper.

More recently, Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus discovered new lands while seeking to expand trade with spice-growing areas in Asia. The Italian cities of Genoa and Venice became powerful because they were at the center of the spice trade. The trade was so important to national economies that rulers launched wars in their struggle to control spices.

(MUSIC)

BOB DOUGHTY: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I’m Bob Doughty.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Lena Horne, A Star Who Broke Racial Barriers", from VOA.




BARBARA KLEIN: I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we remember the singer and actress Lena Horne. She helped break racial barriers by changing the way black women were represented in film. During her sixty-year career performing, Lena Horne electrified audiences with her beauty and rich, emotional voice. She used her fame to fight social injustices toward African-Americans.

(MUSIC)

BARBARA KLEIN: That was Lena Horne singing her most famous song, “Stormy Weather.” She sang this song in a nineteen forty-three musical movie of the same name. In the nineteen forties, Lena Horne was the first African-American in Hollywood to sign a long-term contract with a major movie studio. Her deal with MGM stated that she would never play the role of a servant.

During this period, African-American actors were mostly limited to playing servants or African natives. Lena Horne refused to play roles that represented African-Americans disrespectfully.

STEVE EMBER: But this refusal also limited her movie career. Horne was generally only offered the role of a nightclub singer. Her characters did not interact with white characters in these movies. This way, her part could be cut from the version of the movie that played in the American South. During this time, racial separation laws were in effect in the South.

Lena Horne later wrote that the movie producers did not make her into a servant, but they did not make her into anything else either. She said she became a butterfly pinned down and singing away in Movieland.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne once said that World War Two helped make her a star. She was popular with both black and white servicemen. She sang on army radio programs and traveled to perform for the troops. During one event, she noted that German prisoners of war were permitted to sit closer to the stage than black soldiers. She criticized the way black soldiers were treated by the army. These experiences led to Lena Horne’s work in the civil rights movement.

LENA HORNE: “When I went to the South and met the kind of people who were fighting in such an unglamorous fashion, I mean, fighting to just get someplace to sit and get a sandwich. I felt close to that kind of thing because I had denied it and had been left away from it so long. And I began to feel such pain again.”

(MUSIC: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York in nineteen seventeen. Her mother, an actress, was away for much of Lena’s childhood. Lena’s grandmother helped raise her. Her grandmother was a social worker and women’s rights activist.

At the age of sixteen, Lena found work as a dancer at the famous Cotton Club in New York City. After taking voice lessons, she soon began performing there as a singer.

BARBARA KLEIN: At the age of nineteen, Lena Horne moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and married Louis Jones. Her marriage did not last long. But she had two children, Gail and Edwin.

In nineteen forty, Lena Horne became the first African-American to travel and perform with an all-white jazz band. She also made records and performed at New York City’s CafĂ© Society jazz club. This was the first nightclub in the United States without racial separation. Many jazz clubs during this period had black performers. But few allowed black people to watch the shows in the audience.

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne became very popular. After performing at a club in Hollywood, California, she caught the attention of filmmakers. She soon began making movies. Lena Horne said that she was able to make movies because she was the kind of black person that white people could accept. But she said this was the worst kind of acceptance. It was for the way she looked, not for how good she was or how hard she worked.

BARBARA KLEIN: In nineteen forty-seven, Lena Horne married Lennie Hayton. He was a music writer for the MGM movie studio and was white. The couple married secretly in Paris, France. They did so because it was illegal at the time for people of different races to marry in the United States. They did not announce their marriage for three years. Lena Horne later said that she first became involved with Lennie Hayton because she thought he could be useful to her career. He could help get her into places that a black manager could not. But she says she began to love him because he was a nice man.

(MUSIC: “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne’s movie career slowed down in the nineteen fifties. But she continued recording and performing live and on television. Her nineteen fifty-seven album, “Lena Horne at the Waldorf Astoria,” became a best-seller.

She also became increasingly involved in civil rights activities. She protested racial separation at the hotels where she performed. She took action so that she and her musicians would be permitted to stay in those hotels. Black musicians at the time generally stayed in black neighborhoods.

Lena Horne also sang at civil rights gatherings. She took part in the March on Washington protest in nineteen sixty-three. It was during this event that Martin Luther King Junior gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne performed in a strong and expressive way. One expert said she was not warm and friendly like white, male singers at the time. Instead, she was a fierce, black woman.

Lena Horne once said she felt a need to act distant on stage to protect herself. She said when white audiences saw her, they were busy seeing their own idea of a black woman. She chose to show them a woman whom they could not reach. She said: “They get the singer, but they are not going to get the woman.”

(MUSIC: “I Want to Be Happy”)

STEVE EMBER: Lena Horne continued making records throughout the nineteen sixties, seventies and eighties. In nineteen eighty-one she returned to Broadway in New York with the show “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.”

The show ran for over a year, before traveling around the United States and Europe. It earned her a Tony Award and two Grammy Awards.

BARBARA KLEIN: Lena Horne died in two thousand ten at the age of ninety-two. At the age of eighty, she said this about her career: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free.” She said she no longer had to be a “first” to anybody.

She said she did not have to act like a white woman that Hollywood hoped she would become. She said: “I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

(MUSIC: “The Lady is a Tramp”)

STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts are at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Lena Horne sings "Stormy Weather" with lyrics.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Japanese-American Art During World War Two" from VOA.











STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Visitors to Washington, D.C. this summer can see a powerful exhibit that tells about a dark period in American history. The exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery is called “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946.” It shows more than one hundred objects made by Japanese-Americans.

They were forced into internment camps by the United States government during World War Two. The objects made by these detainees helped to brighten their lives during a difficult period. And, they show the strength of the human spirit in surviving terrible conditions.
(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: To understand the meaning of this exhibit, we start with a little history. In the spring of nineteen forty-two, the United States government began carrying out an executive order to imprison Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. About one hundred twenty thousand people of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave their homes and businesses. They were moved to ten rural detention centers, mainly in western states. Two-thirds of these people were American-born citizens. The government described the action as a military necessity to protect against spying or sabotage while the United States was at war with Japan.

BARBARA KLEIN: The internment program was a reaction to the Japanese bombing of the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. This event in December, nineteen forty-one resulted in the United States’ entry into World War Two.
But experts say the idea to create internment camps was also rooted in a general prejudice towards Japanese immigrants that started long before the war.

The government did not give Japanese-Americans much time to go to resettlement centers. They were forced to leave behind most of what they owned. For the first months, detainees were forced to live in temporary housing at “assembly centers.” During this time, the United States military built more permanent detention centers. Japanese-Americans would be forced to live there until nineteen forty-five when the war ended.
(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: One of the first objects in the “Art of Gaman” exhibit is a painting of a severe mountain landscape. At the base of these mountains is a detailed drawing of an internment camp. It is filled with small houses and surrounded by metal fences and guard towers.

The unidentified artist lived in this camp, the Tule Lake detention center in northern California. He did not have art supplies to make drawings. So he taped together two military command notices and drew on the back. This work is a good example of the inventive and creative ways that detainees found materials to make their art.

BARBARA KLEIN: Delphine Hirasuna organized the “Art of Gaman” exhibit. It is based on her book of the same name. She describes how she got the idea.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: "After my mom died, I was going through a box in the garage and when I looked inside, I saw this little bird pin.”BARBARA KLEIN: Delphine Hirasuna says she never heard her parents discuss their life in detention. In two thousand, she found the bird pin carved out of wood. She started to wonder what other artistic objects had been made in the camps. She wanted to know more about the objects that had been put aside and forgotten because of their painful memories.

STEVE EMBER: Delphine Hirasuna says she began to understand that the objects made in the camps were representations of “gaman.” This Japanese word expresses the idea of accepting a difficult situation with bravery and honor. The detainees made the objects to express themselves artistically and do something worthwhile with their time. Many of the objects in the exhibit were made to be useful as well as beautiful.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: “Because the only thing that was in their barrack was a metal cot and mattress ticking which they filled with straw. The first things they made were chairs, tables, someplace to put their clothes away. And then because they were there for three and a half years, as time wore on, they made things to beautify their surroundings.”

<br />BARBARA KLEIN: One example is a table made of pieces of found wood. The artist used pieces of palm tree branches to give the table nice details. Other objects made from found materials include a board for washing clothes and a set of scissors and knives. There were few tools in the camps, so some men melted pieces of metal to make tools.

The detainees were extremely inventive about finding materials. In some camps, they were permitted to explore the land to find natural materials.

DELPHINE HIRASUNA: “Two of the camps were over ancient sea beds. And they discovered that there were millions of shells on the ground. You could just scratch the earth and they said you could pick up buckets. There was a slate quarry at one of the camps. People picked up slate and carved the teapots and things.”

The pins are made of beans, seeds, shells, wood and paper

STEVE EMBER: A glass case in the exhibit holds a collection of pins that people wore on the front of their clothing. They look like flowers, until you look more closely. Detainees in two of the camps made them with small shells that they painted to look like flower arrangements. There were no real flowers for detainees to use in ceremonies like funerals and weddings. So, they would make their own flowers.

At another camp, detainees used different colored pipe cleaners to make large flower arrangements.

One extremely detailed container for holding cigarettes is woven out of an unusual material. The artist tied together pieces of string from a bag that was made to hold onions.

BARBARA KLEIN: Professionally trained artists made some of the works in the exhibit. For example, Sadayuki Uno had studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts. During the war, he was detained in Jerome, Arkansas. In the camp, he carved objects out of wood. He made four small carvings that looked like the faces of four leaders during World War Two: Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill. These carvings are very expressive and lively.

STEVE EMBER: Before the war, Chiura Obata was an art professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Mister Obata helped start an arts program for detainees in his camp. He found other professional artists at the camp to help teach. Mister Obata also kept a detailed record in his drawing book. The drawings show what life was like during the forced move and detainment of Japanese-Americans.

Several of his sketches are in the exhibit. One shows Mister Obata’s wife, Haruko, sitting on the train that took them from a temporary camp to their long-term camp in Topaz, Utah. Another drawing shows an old man bent over, trying to reach for a small dog near a metal fence. The old man was unable to hear, so when prison guards warned him to halt, he did not stop. The guards shot the man because they believed he was trying to escape.
(MUSIC)

BARBARA KLEIN: Jewel Okawachi’s parents were also detained during the war. Her father made dental devices during his detainment. She says people in the camps gave him the objects they had made as payment for his services. She kept the shell jewelry, bird pins and carved objects her parents collected over the years.
Miz Okawachi does not know the identity of the artists who created the objects. But she says she believes they would be happy to learn their work was on exhibit. And she says “The Art of Gaman” pays a welcome honor to her parents.

JEWEL OKAWACHI: “The only time I feel bitter is what it did to my parents. Because they came to this country for freedom and to make a better life for themselves and this happened.”

BARBARA KLEIN: She says many people would ask her father why he was not an American citizen, but he would never answer the question.

JEWEL OKAWACHI: “Having your freedom taken away from you is really something that is hard to forget.”

STEVE EMBER: No Japanese in the United States was ever found guilty of sabotage or treason during World War Two. But, it took more than forty years for the United States government to officially apologize for its actions. This apology resulted from a campaign organized by the Japanese-American community.
In nineteen eighty-eight the United States passed a law admitting the injustice. The act also gave each surviving victim of internment twenty thousand dollars.

Delphine Hirasuna says in her book that her aim has been to honor the experience of Japanese-Americans in the camps. She says the objects in this exhibit show their strong will and resourcefulness as well as their spirit and humanity.

BARBARA KLEIN: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange with reporting by Susan Logue. I’m Barbara Klein.
STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. You can comment on this program on our website, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

To see and read more about the art of gaman, click on the following link: Renwick: The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946