Monday, October 26, 2009

A Scary Story to Get You Into the Halloween Spirit



VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein. October thirty-first, this coming Saturday, is Halloween. Millions of children will dress as ghosts, witches, skeletons, superheroes, princesses -- all sorts of costumes.

VOICE ONE:

Then, with parents usually nearby, they will walk through their neighborhoods. They will go door to door, yelling "trick or treat." This threat of a trick, all in good fun, quickly brings a treat, usually some candy. Then the trick-or-treaters will go off to the next house.

VOICE TWO:

But, you know, there is a reason people in ancient times were careful to honor evil spirits and the dead with a night of their own. The masks that people wore on All Hallows' Eve were meant to hide their identity, so they would avoid a most frightful trick. But now, do you want to know a story that is even scarier than that?

VOICE ONE:

Do you mean the story of my mother? That story? It makes me shake just to think about it!

(SOUND)

VOICE TWO:

Faith's mother lived in a small town in New York State when she was a girl. The fall season was beautiful in the Adirondack Mountains, but it was very cold at night.

VOICE ONE:

There was a girl named Arial at my mother's school. She was popular but not very nice. She told stories about people. She ruined them with her gossip.

Missus Hart was a very kind teacher at the school. Everyone liked her.

VOICE TWO:

"Class ... "

VOICE ONE:

she said one morning early in the new school year,

VOICE TWO:

"... we have a new student, Pearl Dew from Kentucky. Please welcome her."

VOICE ONE:

Arial saw an easy victim in Pearl. And my mother says Pearl was very strange. She was so thin and her skin was so white you could almost see through it. She had long black hair. It reached so far down her back, she had to bring it around the front so she would not sit on it. She did not look healthy.

VOICE TWO:

Arial did not help the situation for Pearl, did she? No, she made the situation worse. Soon terrible stories about Pearl and her family were going around the school. Kids were saying that her father had murdered a family of five back in the hills of Kentucky, but got away with it.

VOICE ONE:

Yes, Arial started that rumor. She said Pearl's father had buried them deep in the wilds of the mountains, so their bodies were never found. No one could prove he killed them. Arial also told a lie about Pearl's mother. She said the mother knew about the murders and could not live with the truth, so one night she threw herself off a mountain.

Everyone believed Arial. They all knew that Pearl did not have a mother.

VOICE THREE:

"She fell by accident. She loved walking in the hills. She would never leave me. It was an accident. My father's not a murderer. That family -- he didn't even know them. No one knows what happened to them. Why do you say these things, Arial? Please, stop. What did I ever do to you?"

VOICE TWO:

When Pearl would ask her to stop, Arial would just laugh. Or she would act frightened. "Don't get your Dad after me, Pearl," she would say.

VOICE ONE:

Yes, although Pearl's father was apparently not the threat that Arial needed to worry about.

Weeks went by, and October came. People put pumpkins on their porches and hung skeletons or ghostly shapes on their front doors.

The children at school noticed a slow change in Pearl that month. She began to talk a little more. Sometimes you might see a little smile, or hear a quiet laugh. In late October, she sent out twelve invitations for a Halloween party. My mother got one. So did several of her friends. Pearl even invited their teacher.

VOICE TWO:

But not Arial?

VOICE ONE:

No, no, not after all that torture Pearl had to suffer from Arial.

VOICE TWO:

But Arial did not understand that reasoning. She was angry. In fact, it was the first time anyone saw her speechless. She was so filled with rage, she could not put a sentence together.

VOICE ONE:

But that did not last long. Arial told my mother that she planned on attending the party anyway. She said she did not need an invitation.

The night of the party was cold enough that you could see your breath. My mother dressed as a ghost, so she could wear a heavy coat under her white sheet. It was difficult to get to Pearl's house. She and her father lived in an old house in the valley of a mountain. There was a footpath, but parts of it got a little rough.

VOICE TWO:

But they all got there safely?

VOICE ONE:

Well no. They never got to the party at all. My mother said all the guests first met at her house. They decided it would be best to walk to the party as a group. So they started along, dressed as witches and zombies and the like. It was fun, she said, playing little tricks to scare each other along the way. The group entered the woods near Pearl's house. The kids were excited, happy to be going to a party. They could see the lights in Pearl's house in the distance below.

VOICE TWO:

So what happened?

VOICE ONE:

Well, the kids and Missus Hart, their teacher, saw a woman ahead of them walking very close to the edge of the path. Missus Hart quickly reacted.

TEACHER:

"Oh my god -- she's going to fall! We have to warn her. Miss! MISS! Run ahead, kids. Oh, no!"

VOICE ONE:

It was too late. The woman went over the edge. Yet she did not fall. She was floating in the air. She had her arms held out.

WOMAN:

"Come to me, child, come to me, my little girl."

VOICE ONE:

All of a sudden two girls come crashing out of the woods and across the path. The girl in front is clearly Pearl. Her black hair is flowing like wings of a dark angel. But who is she pulling behind her?

TEACHER:

"Pearl, STOP! You'll fall off the cliff. You'll kill yourself. Who is that with you? PEARL!!

VOICE ONE:

Pearl stops and looks toward the floating woman.

WOMAN:

"Come to me, child. Come to me, my Pearl."

VOICE ONE:

My mother shined her flashlight at Pearl and the girl behind her. And there for an instant a look of insane fear stared back at the group from the face of Arial.

(SCREAMS)

VOICE ONE:

Well, after that night, no one ever found any sign of Pearl or Arial. Pearl's father also disappeared that night. The house had been decorated for a party that never took place.

(SOUND)

At the cemetery in town, there are headstones for Pearl and Ariel in graves that hold no remains. My mother says she visits sometimes when she goes back to her hometown. She told me that the last time she was there, she noticed something for the first time. If you mix around the letters of Arial's name -- spelled A-R-I-A-L -- it spells "a liar."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Faith Lapidus. Transcripts and podcasts of our programs can be found at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Voice of America Presents, "The Way People Communicate Has Changed Over Time."

The Telegraph



VOICE ONE:

I’m Barbara Klein.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we begin a series of three programs about the Information Age. Our first program tells about the history of communications.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Communicating information always has been extremely important. Throughout history, some information has had value beyond measure. The lack of information often costs huge amounts of money and, sometimes, many lives.

The Battle of New Orleans
One example of this took place near New Orleans, Louisiana. Britain and the United States were fighting the War of Eighteen Twelve. The Battle of New Orleans is a famous battle. As in all large battles, hundreds of troops were killed or wounded.

After the battle, the Americans and the British learned there had been no need to fight. Negotiators for the United States and Britain had signed a peace treaty in the city of Ghent, Belgium, two weeks earlier. Yet news of the treaty had not reached the United States before the opposing troops met in New Orleans. The battle had been a terrible waste. People died because information about the peace treaty traveled so slowly.

VOICE TWO:

From the beginning of human history, information traveled only as fast as a ship could sail. Or a horse could run. Or a person could walk.

People experimented with other ways to send messages. Some people tried using birds to carry messages. Then they discovered it was not always a safe way to send or receive information.

A faster method finally arrived with the invention of the telegraph. The first useful telegraphs were developed in Britain and the United States in the eighteen thirties.

The telegraph was the first instrument used to send information using wires and electricity. The telegraph sent messages between two places that were connected by telegraph wires. The person at one end would send the information. The second person would receive it.

Each letter of the alphabet and each number had to be sent separately by a device called a telegraph key. The second person would write each letter on a piece of paper as it was received. Here is what it sounds like. For our example we will only send you three letters: VOA. We will send it two times. Listen closely.

(SOUND)

VOICE ONE:

In the eighteen fifties, an expert with a telegraph key could send about thirty-five to forty words in a minute. It took several hours to send a lot of information. Still, the telegraph permitted people who lived in cities to communicate much faster. Telegraph lines linked large city centers. The telegraph soon had a major influence on daily life.

The telegraph provided information about everything. Governments, businesses and individuals used the telegraph to send information. At the same time, newspapers used the telegraph to get information needed to tell readers what was happening in the world. Newspapers often were printed four or five times a day as new information about important stories was received over the telegraph. The telegraph was the quickest method of sending news from one place to another.

VOICE TWO:

On August fifth, eighteen fifty-eight, the first message was transmitted by a wire cable under the Atlantic Ocean. The wire linked the United States and Europe by telegraph. This meant that a terrible mistake like the battle of New Orleans would not happen again.

Reports of daily news events in Europe began to appear in American newspapers. And news of the United States appeared in European newspapers. Information now took only a matter of hours to reach most large cities in the world. This was true for the big cities linked by the telegraph. However, it was different if you lived in a small farming town, kilometers away from a large city. The news you got might be a day or two late. It took that long for you to receive your newspaper.

(SOUND: KDKA first broadcast)

VOICE ONE:

On November second, nineteen twenty, radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania broadcast the first radio program. That broadcast gave the results of a presidential election.

Within a few short years, news and information could be heard anywhere a radio broadcast could reach. Radios did not cost much. So most people owned at least one radio. Radio reporters began to speak to the public from cities where important events were taking place.

Political leaders also discovered that radio was a valuable political tool. It permitted them to talk directly to the public. If you had a radio, you did not have to wait until your newspaper arrived. You could often hear important events as they happened.

VOICE TWO:

Some people learned quickly that information meant power. In the nineteen thirties, many countries began controlling information. The government of Nazi Germany is a good example.

Adolph Hitler, German Chancellor, 1930s
Before and during World War Two, the government of Nazi Germany controlled all information the German people received. The government controlled all radio broadcasts and newspapers. The people of Germany only heard or read what the government wanted them to hear or read. It was illegal for them to listen to a foreign broadcast.

VOICE ONE:

After World War Two, a new invention appeared -- television. In industrial nations, television quickly became common in most homes. Large companies were formed to produce television programs. These companies were called networks. Networks include many television stations linked together that could broadcast the same program at the same time.

Most programs were designed to entertain people. There were movies, music programs and game programs. However, television also broadcast news and important information about world events. It broadcast some education programs, too. The number of radio and television stations around the world increased. It became harder for a dictator to control information.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

In the nineteen fifties, two important events took place that greatly affected the communication of information. The first was a television broadcast that showed the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States at the same time. A cable that carried the pictures linked the two coasts. So people watching the program saw the Pacific Ocean on the left side of the screen. They saw the Atlantic Ocean on the right side of the screen.

It was not a film. People could see two reporters talk to each other even though a continent separated them. Modern technology made this possible.

VOICE ONE:

The other event happened on September twenty-fifth, nineteen fifty-six. That was when the first telephone cable under the Atlantic Ocean made it possible to make direct telephone calls from the United States to Europe. Less than six years later, in July, nineteen sixty-two, the first communications satellite was placed in orbit around the Earth. The speed of information greatly increased again.

VOICE TWO:

By the year nineteen hundred, big city newspapers could provide people with information that was only hours old. Now, both radio and television, with the aid of satellite communications, could provide information immediately. People who lived in a small village could listen to or watch world events as they happened.

A good example is when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Millions of people around the world watched as he carefully stepped onto the moon on July twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine.

People in large cities, small towns and villages saw the event as it was happening. There was no delay in communicating this important information.

VOICE ONE:

A few years after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, the United States Department of Defense began an experiment. That experiment led to a system that could send huge amounts of information around the world in seconds. Experts called it the beginning of the Information Age. The story of that experiment will be our report next week on EXPLORATIONS.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Barbara Klein. You can read scripts and download audio on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. In 490 BC, the city of Athens, Greece learned of the Greek victory over the Persians at the port town of Marathon because _____________________ .
a: they saw the event on television
b: they learned of the event by telegraph
c: a bird was sent to Athens with a message tied to its left talon
d: a messenger ran for twenty five miles to deliver the news

2. The following innovation created the fastest speed of information: _______________________ .
a: the first telephone cable was placed under the atlantic ocean
b: the first communications satellite was placed in orbit
c: the first marathon race was held in San Francisco
d: a cable carrying TV signals was stretched coast to coast

3. After radio and television stations around the world increased, ________________________ .
a: Adolph Hitler became more famous
b: it became harder for a dictator to control information
c: Joseph Stalin tuned in to Voice of America
d: Dwight Eisenhower's wife decided to play the piano professionally

4. The invention of the telegraph greatly increased the ____________________ business.
a: cell phone
b: newspaper
c: stage coach
d: local farm

5. A government that controls all of a country's sources of information can ______________ .
a: become very powerful
b: become a source for free speech
c: be easily overthrown
d: be vulnerable to attack

6. The decline of support for the Vietnam War in the 1960s can be attributed to ____________________ that war.
a: telegraph messages about
b: radio broadcasts about
c: telephone conversations about
d: television coverage about

7. The first radio broadcast in 1920 _____________________________ .
a: was a commercial
b: was a soap opera
c: gave the results of a presidential election
d: was a situation comedy

8. Many soldiers died in the Battle of New Orleans _____________________ .
a: after a peace treaty had been signed
b: before a peace treaty had been signed
c: on the same day as the signing of a peace treaty
d: because they disagreed with the peace treaty

9. The telegraph would not have been possible without the invention of ________________ .
a: electricity
b: steam ships
c: locomotive
d: wind turbines

10. A family living in a rural part of the United States before 1920 would probably hear that day's news ___________________ .
a: the same day
b: two days later
c: a few hours later
d: in a couple of months

This is a 1939 film introducing the new communication devise called television. It was made by RCA.



"The Information Age, Part Two"


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Story of Jack Benny, a Famous TV Comedian


VOICE ONE:

I’m Sarah Long.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell the story of Jack Benny. He was one of America’s best-loved funnymen during the twentieth century.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Jack Benny was one of the most famous names in show business for more than fifty years. He started as a serious musician, before he discovered he could make people laugh.

Jack Benny became famous nationwide in the nineteen thirties as a result of his weekly radio program. His programs were among the most popular on American radio, and later on television.


Jack Benny won the hearts of Americans by making fun of himself. He was known not as someone who said funny things, but as someone who said things in a funny way.

VOICE TWO:

Jack Benny was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February fourteenth, eighteen ninety-four. His parents, Meyer and Emma Kubelsky, were religious Jews. They had moved to the United States from eastern Europe. They named their first child Benjamin.

Benjamin Kubelsky and his family lived in Waukeegan , Illinois. Benjamin was a quiet boy. For much of the time, his parents were busy working in his father’s store. As a child, Benjamin, or Benny as his friends called him, learned to play the violin. Benny was such a good violin player that, for a time, he wanted to become a musician.

VOICE ONE:

While in school, Benny got a job as a violin player with the Barrison Theater, the local vaudeville house. Vaudeville was the most popular form of show business in the United States in the early nineteen hundreds. Vaudeville shows presented short plays, singers, comedians who made people laugh and other acts.

Benny worked at the Barrison Theater -- sometimes during school hours. He left high school before completing his studies. The piano player for the theater was a former vaudeville performer named Cora Salisbury. For a short time, she and Benny formed their own performing act. Later, he and another piano player had their own act.

At first, Benny changed his name to Ben K. Benny. However, that name was similar to another actor who played a violin. So, he chose the name Jack Benny.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The United States entered World War One in nineteen seventeen. Benny joined the Navy and reported to the Great Lakes Naval Station. He continued using his violin to perform for sailors at the naval station. In one show, he was chosen more for his funny jokes than for his skill with the violin. That experience made him believe that his future job was as a comedian, not in music.

VOICE ONE:

After leaving the Navy, Benny returned to vaudeville. His performances won him considerable popularity during the nineteen twenties. He traveled across the country with other well-known performers, including the Marx Brothers.

In Nineteen Twenty-Seven, Benny married Sadie Marks, a sales girl from the May Company store in Los Angeles. Missus Benny soon became part of the traveling show. She used the name Mary Livingstone.

Jack Benny appeared in a few Hollywood films, but then left California and moved to New York. He had a leading part in the Broadway show, “Vanities.”

VOICE TWO:

Benny made his first appearance on radio in Nineteen Thirty-Two. He was invited to appear on a radio show presented by newspaper reporter Ed Sullivan. Benny opened with this announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Benny talking. There will be a short break while you say, who cares?”

However, many listeners did care. Within a short period, Benny had his own radio show. It continued for twenty-three years.

ANNOUNCER: “The Jack Benny Program, starring Jack Benny, with Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Rochester, Dennis Day, and yours truly, Don Wilson ... ”

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Jack and Lucille Ball
Jack Benny developed a show business personality that had all the qualities people dislike. He was known for being so stingy he refused to spend any of his money, unless forced to do so. He always was concerned about money. For example, he would put on a jeweler’s glass to examine the diamond on a wealthy woman he had just met.

In another example, a robber points a gun at Benny.

(JACK BENNY PROGRAM)

ROBBER: “This is a stick-up.”

BENNY: “Mister, put down that gun.”

ROBBER: “Shut up. I said this is a stick-up. Now, come on. Your money or your life.”

(LAUGHTER)

ROBBER: “Look, bud. I said, your money or your life!”

BENNY: “I’m thinking it over.”

(LAUGHTER / MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

On his shows, Jack Benny often spoke of his appearance, especially his baby blue eyes. As he grew older, he always claimed to be thirty-nine years old.

Benny was known as a comedian with great timing. He seemed to know the perfect time to tell a joke and when to remain silent. The way he looked at other actors and his use of body movements were world famous. He also was skilled at using his violin to make people laugh.

VOICE ONE:

Jack Benny was one of the first comedians who was willing to let other people share some of the laughs. He rarely made jokes that hurt other people. Instead, he would let the other actors on the show tell jokes about him.

Many of the actors in Benny’s show became almost as famous as he was. They would criticize Benny’s refusal to replace his ancient automobile. They made fun of the pay telephone that he added to his house.

This is a telephone discussion between Benny and his trusted employee, Rochester.

BENNY: “Hello …”

ROCHESTER: “Hello, Mister Benny. This is Rochester …”

(APPLAUSE)

BENNY: “Rochester, I’m in the middle of the program.”

ROCHESTER: “I know, boss, but this is very important. The man from the life insurance company was here about that policy you’re taking out and he asked me a lot of questions.”

BENNY: “Well, I hope you answered them right.”

ROCHESTER: “Oh, I did. When he asked me your height, I said five-foot-ten.”

BENNY: “Uh, huh.”

ROCHESTER: “Your weight, one-hundred-sixty-four.”

BENNY: “Uh, huh.”

ROCHESTER: “Your age, thirty-nine.”

BENNY: “Uh, huh.”

ROCHESTER: “We had quite a roundtable discussion on that one.”

(LAUGHTER)

BENNY: “Wait a minute, Rochester. Why should there be any question about my age?”

ROCHESTER: “Oh, it wasn’t a question. It was the answer we had trouble with.”

(LAUGHTER)

VOICE TWO:

Eddie Anderson as "Rochester"
Jack Benny said: “The show itself is the important thing. As long as people think the show is funny, it does not matter who tells the jokes.” He also made fun of the paid announcements broadcast during his radio show that were designed to sell products. They often provided some of the funniest moments in the show.

Most performers never would make fun of the businesses that helped pay for the show.

VOICE ONE:

Over the years, Jack Benny did well financially. In nineteen forty-eight, he moved his show from the National Broadcasting Company to the Columbia Broadcasting System. As part of the agreement, CBS paid more than two million dollars to a company in which Benny had a controlling interest.

Much later, the Music Corporation of America bought Benny’s production company. Benny received almost three million dollars in MCA stock shares.

In real life, he was the opposite of the person he played in his show. He was known to be very giving and someone people liked having as their employer. He also could play the violin very well.

VOICE TWO:

Jack Benny entered the new medium of television in nineteen fifty. Five years later, he dropped his radio program to spend more time developing his television show. At first, his appearances on television were rare. By nineteen sixty, the Benny show was a weekly television program. It continued until nineteen sixty-five.

Benny appeared in about twenty films during his life. A few became popular. But most were not. In nineteen sixty-three, Benny returned to Broadway for the first time since nineteen thirty-one. He performed to large crowds.

VOICE ONE:

Jack Benny received many awards during his lifetime. The publication “Motion Picture Daily” voted him the country’s best radio comedian four times. In nineteen fifty-seven, he won a special award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the best continuing performance. He also won the Academy’s television award for the best comedy series in nineteen fifty-nine.

Perhaps the one honor that pleased him most was that his hometown of Waukeegan named a school for him. This is was special honor for a man who had never finished high school.

VOICE TWO:

Jack with Fred Allen
Jack Benny continued to perform and to do a few television specials after his weekly series ended. He died of cancer on December twenty-sixth, nineteen seventy-four. His friend, comedian Bob Hope, spoke at the funeral about the loss felt by Benny’s friends and fans. He said: “Jack Benny was stingy to the end. He gave us only eighty years.”

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by and produced by George Grow. I’m Sarah Long.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. The most popular form of show business in the early 1900s was ___________________ .
a: radio
b: vaudeville
c: movies
d: ballet

2. Benjamin Kubelsky chose the name "Jack Benny" because _____________________ .
a: it sounded funnier than his original name
b: it was a better name for a comedian
c: another actor had a name similar to Ben K. Benny, a name Benjamin Kubelsky originally wanted
d: it was the name of a famous violinist

3. Jack Benny realized he was meant to pursue a career as a comedian when ________________________ .
a: he made his parents, Meyer and Emma Kubelsky, laugh
b: his friends in high school said he was the funniest person they had ever met
c: he was given a job in radio as a comedian
d: he was performing as a violinist for sailors a naval station and they liked his jokes better than his music

4. When Jack Benny grew older, he always said he was ____________ on his program.
a: very stiff and had joint pain
b: completely broke
c: thirty-nine years old
d: he was much smarter and wiser than younger people

5. Jack Benny, at a early age, wanted to be a ________________________ .
a: musician
b: comedian
c: worker in his father's store
d: piano player

6. Before he discovered he could make people laugh, Jack Benny was a ________________________ .
a: serious musician
b: aggressive door to door salesman
c: show business producer
d: rabbi in a Jewish Synagogue

7. The slang word "Stick-up" means _________________________________ .
a: a stingy person
b: a robbery
c: an assault with a sharp pointed object
d: "your money or your life"

8. The honor pleased Jack Benny the most was that ____________________ .
a: his home town named a high school after him
b: he was voted the country's best radio comedian four times
c: he won an award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
d: in 1959 he was given an award for the best comedy series

9. Jack Benny's wife, Mary Livingstone _____________________________ .
a: was one of the members of Jack's radio show cast
b: unlike Jack Benny, never changed her name
c: appeared with Jack in the Broadway show, "Vanities."
d: was one of the owners of the May Company store in Los Angeles

10. When Jack Benny went on the road with a vaudeville act during the 1920s, ________________________ .
a: he had a difficult time attracting audiences
b: he traveled with other well-known performers, including the Marx Brothers
c: he was immediately discovered by Hollywood talent scouts who award him movie contracts
d: he found several musicians while traveling who joined him to create a jazz band

Here's a 25 minute excerpt from one of Jack Benny's TV shows.
It's from the Internet Archive.




Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe, Born in 1809, From Voice of America




(This program was broadcast in 2009)

VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. This year is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of writer Edgar Allan Poe. The United States Postal Service is honoring him with a stamp. And several museums in cities where he lived are remembering him with plays, readings and other events. This week on our program we explore his life and the continuing influence of his work.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Edgar Allan Poe wrote stories and poems of mystery and terror, insanity and death. His life was short and seemingly unhappy.

He was born Edgar Poe on January nineteenth, eighteen hundred and nine in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were actors. He was a baby when his father left the family. And he was two when his mother died. At that time they were in Richmond, Virginia.

Edgar went to live with the family of a wealthy Richmond businessman named John Allan. John Allan never officially adopted him as a son, but the boy became known as Edgar Allan Poe.

He attended schools in England and in Richmond. He also attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He was a good student. But he had a problem with alcohol. Even one drink seemed to change his personality and make him drunk. Also, he liked to play card games for money. Edgar was not a good player. He lost money that he did not have.

John Allan refused to pay Edgar's gambling losses. He also refused to continue paying for his education. So the young man went to Boston and began working as a writer and editor for monthly magazines.

VOICE TWO:

Poe served in the Army for two years, before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point to become an officer. He was dismissed from the academy in eighteen thirty-one after six months. By then he had already published three books of poetry.

He began writing stories while living with his aunt in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. In October of eighteen thirty-three, he won a short story contest organized by a local newspaper. He received fifty dollars in prize money and got a job editing the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He published many of his own stories.

In eighteen thirty-four, Poe married his cousin Virginia Clemm, the thirteen year old daughter of his father's sister. They moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in eighteen thirty-eight. There, Poe served as editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and continued to write.

He published many of his most frightening stories during this time. These included "The Black Cat," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Pit and the Pendulum."

VOICE ONE:

Edgar Allan Poe did something unusual for writers of his time: he used a narrator in a story to describe what was happening. A good example is the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart."

The narrator claims that he is not mad, yet reveals that he is a murderer. He has killed an old man for no apparent reason. He cuts up the body and hides the parts under the floorboards of the victim's house.

Police officers arrive after getting reports of noises from the house. The murderer shows them around the house and is proud of the way he has hidden all the evidence. But he begins to hear a sound. The others in the room cannot hear it.

READER:

Yet the sound increased -- and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound -- much a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath -- and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly -- more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men -- but the noise steadily increased. Oh God what could I do? I foamed -- I raved --I swore. But the noise continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder!

VOICE TWO:

Edgar Allan Poe is also remembered for the kind of literature known as detective fiction. These are stories of an investigator who has to solve murders and other crimes.

In fact, Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of the modern detective novel. His fictional detective C. August Dupin first appeared in his story "The Murders In the Rue Morgue" in eighteen forty-one. Dupin also appeared in two later stories, "The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter."

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, wrote about Poe's influence on other crime writers: "Each may find some little development of his own, but his main art must trace back to those admirable stories of Monsieur Dupin, so wonderful in their masterful force, their reticence, their quick dramatic point."

VOICE ONE:

Jeff Jerome is the curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. He says Poe's influence can also be seen in the work of H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock, to name a few. Poe's influence extends to plays, movies, operas, music, cartoons, television, paintings -- just about every kind of art.

Poe's creation of the detective novel is recognized by the Mystery Writers of America. The writers group presents the yearly Edgar Awards to honor the best detective and suspense books, movies and TV shows.

An award also goes to an individual, organization or business for working to continue the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. The award is named for Poe's most famous work. This year, the Edgar Allan Poe Society and the Poe House in Baltimore will receive the Raven Award.

VOICE TWO:

Edgar Allan Poe became famous after "The Raven" was published in eighteen forty-five. The poetry is rich in atmosphere. The rhythm suggests music.

The narrator of "The Raven" is a man whose love has died. He sits alone among his books late at night. He hears a noise at the window:

READER:

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
Merely this, and nothing more."

VOICE TWO:

The man finds a large black bird and asks it questions. The raven answers with a single word: "Nevermore." At the end of the poem, the man has quite clearly gone mad from grief:

READER:

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted -- nevermore!

VOICE ONE:

The sadness and horror in Poe's writing might lead readers to suspect a disordered mind. Yet people who knew him reported him to be a nice man. Some even called him a real gentleman.

His wife died in eighteen forty-seven. Virginia Clemm Poe had suffered from tuberculosis for many years. At the same time, Poe's magazine failed, and so did his health. He died on October seventh, eighteen forty-nine, under mysterious conditions.

He was found in a tavern in Baltimore. He did not know where he was or how he got there. He was dressed in rags. He died four days later in a hospital. He was forty years old.

VOICE TWO:

Over the years, historians and medical experts have tried to explain the cause of Poe's death. Some say he killed himself with drink. Others say he developed rabies from an animal bite. Many in Baltimore believe he was beaten by local criminal gangs.

Every year about two thousand people visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. And every year on January nineteenth -- Poe's birthday -- people watch for a man dressed in black to appear. His face is covered. He places a bottle of French cognac and three roses on the grave.

No one in Baltimore really wants to know the visitor's identity. They prefer that it remain a mystery, much like Edgar Allan Poe himself.

VOICE ONE:

Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Doug Johnson was our reader. To hear the short story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, listen at this time Saturday for the program AMERICAN STORIES. And join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Comprehension Check

1. "The Tell Tale Heart" is about an insane ___________ .
a. policeman
b. old man
c. murderer
d. housekeeper

2. Edgar Allan Poe was raised by ___________ .
a. a rich businessman
b. a single mother
c. an actor father
d. an insane aunt

3. Edgar Allan Poe didn't have a problem with ____________ .
a. alcohol
b. gambling
c. debts
d. poetry

4. Edgar Allan Poe died in a hospital in __________ .
a. Baltimore
b. Washington D.C.
c. Boston
d. San Francisco

5. Poe used the fictional detective ____________ in several stories.
a. Sherlock Holmes
b. August Dupin
c. John Allan
d. Jeff Jerome

6. Poe's poem, in which the narrator speaks with a bird is called "___________."
a. Nevermore
b. The Bluebird
c. The Pigeon
d. The Raven

7. Edgar Allan Poe's influence can be seen in the works of ________________ .
a. Alfred Hitchcock
b. William Shakespeare
c. Leonardo da Vinci
d. Walt Whitman

8. Poe wrote poems and stories about _____________ .
a. Love and Separation
b. War and Peace
c. Mystery and Horror
d. History and Science

9. Another name for this selection could be _____________ .
a. "Alcoholism"
b. "Twentieth Century Fiction"
c. "A Great American Writer"
d. "Halloween Stories"

10. This selection is mainly about _____________ .
a. "The Tell-Tale Heart"
b. the life of Edgar Poe
c. unhappy writers
d. gambling and drinking

"The Raven" with captions and music from Youtube:




Thursday, October 1, 2009

"George Gershwin, Part One": One of America’s Greatest Composers, from Voice of America.

"Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin


VOICE ONE:

I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the life and music of one of America's greatest composers, George Gershwin.

(MUSIC: "Rhapsody in Blue")

George Gershwin
VOICE ONE: That was the opening of "Rhapsody in Blue," composed by George Gershwin. Gershwin lived only thirty-nine years. Yet, in that short time, he wrote hundreds of unforgettable popular songs. He wrote some concert works, such as "Rhapsody in Blue," that are still performed today. And he wrote what many consider to be the most beautiful American opera, "Porgy and Bess."

VOICE TWO:

George Gershwin was born in New York City in eighteen ninety-eight. His parents were Russian Jews who had immigrated to the United States. George and his two brothers and sister had a close, happy family life. George liked playing games on the streets of New York. He liked exploring the city. He did not like school or studying.

While exploring the city, George heard jazz and blues music spilling out of public drinking places. However, he did not become seriously interested in music until he heard another boy playing the violin in a concert at his school. George began to take piano lessons. His teacher was a fine classical musician. He immediately recognized George's unusual ability. The teacher wrote about him to a friend: "I have a student who will make his mark in music, if anybody will. The boy is a genius, without doubt. "

VOICE ONE:

George studied classical piano. But his strongest interest continued to be jazz and popular music. At the age of fifteen, he left school and went to work in the music business. The New York City street where most music publishers had their offices was called "Tin Pan Alley."

The phonograph and radio had been invented in the late eighteen hundreds. But it would be many years before there were musical recordings or regular radio broadcasts. Tin Pan Alley publishers needed another way to sell new songs. So, they employed people to play the piano to do this.

VOICE TWO:

The piano players played the songs all day long to interested singers and other performers. George Gershwin was one of the youngest piano players in Tin Pan Alley. Soon, he was considered one of the finest there. He was already writing his own songs. He succeeded in getting one published when he was only eighteen years old. It had a long title: "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want 'Em."

VOICE ONE:

George Gershwin was now a real composer. The rest of his life was an unbroken record of success. He wrote song after song. His ideas were so endless that he was not even troubled when he once lost some music he had been writing. "There is plenty more where that came from," he said.

George Gershwin had his first big hit in nineteen nineteen, when he was twenty-one years old. It was a song called "Swanee." A popular entertainer, Al Jolson, sang the song. "Swanee" was made into one of the first musical recordings. George Gershwin was suddenly famous. Here is Al Jolson singing what became his trademark song, "Swanee."

(MUSIC)
Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya
My dear old Swanee.
I'd give the world to be among the folks in D-I-X-I-E-ven though my mammy's waiting for me,
praying for me down by the Swanee.
The folks up north will see me no more when I get to that Swanee shore

(he whistles like a bird)

I love the old folks at home
Swanee - how I love ya, how I love ya
My dear old Swanee. I'd give the world to be among the
folks in D-I-X-I-E-ven though my mammy's waiting for
me, praying for me down by the Swanee.
The folks up north will see me no more when I get to that Swanee shore

VOICE TWO:

Music critics note that "Swanee" is not like most of George Gershwin's music. Later, he wrote true love songs. Some were light and funny. Some were full of intense feeling. Many of these songs were written for the popular musical theater. One of his most emotional love songs never became part of a musical play, however. It is called "The Man I Love." Here is a modern recording by Maureen McGovern.

(MUSIC)

George and Ira Gershwin
VOICE ONE: George Gershwin's older brother, Ira, wrote the words to that song. As George became famous, Ira wrote the words to more and more of his songs. The two brothers were very different. Ira, the writer, was quiet and serious. George, the musician, was outgoing -- the life of any party. But George wrote better songs with Ira than with anyone else. It is impossible to imagine many of George's songs without Ira's perfectly chosen, often surprising words.

One of many examples is the song "They Can't Take That Away From Me." The Gershwins wrote the song for dancer and actor Fred Astaire for the film "Shall We Dance." That was George and Ira Gershwin's first movie musical. Here is Fred Astaire, followed by a later version sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next week as we continue the story of the music of George Gershwin on People in America in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. 1.George Gershwin’s parents were _______________________ .
a: Russian Jewish immigrants 
b: gypsies from Italy
c: Greek Americans
d: Irish leprechauns

2. The Gershwin family lived in __________________________ .
a: Philadelphia
b: Tegucigalpa
c: Chiquimula
d: New York City

3. George Gershwin’s first piano teacher said _________________________ .
a: George was a horrible brat
b: George had great musical talent
c: ,“I love America”
d: George had stolen the teacher’s lucky pen

4.
The music publishing business was located in “Tin Pan Alley” in ___________________ .
a: Buenos Aires 
b: Rio de Janeiro
c: Antofagasta, Chile
d: New York City

5. George Gershwin published his first song _________________________ .
a: in 1981
b: when he was 18
c: after World War II
d: in a cemetery

6. The most popular version of George Gershwin’s first big hit, “Swanee,” was sung by ___________________ .
a:  Albert Einstein
b: Albert Schweitzer
c: Al Jolson
d: Ali Baba

7. Which of the following sentences is true?
a: Ira Gershwin was George’s baby brother 
b: George Gershwin didn’t really like music
c: Ira Gershwin wrote the words to some of George Gershwin’s greatest songs
d: George Gershwin said the devil told him what songs to write

8. Ira Gershwin was a serious man, _________________________ .
a: and so was his brother George 
b: while George was very outgoing
c: but his father didn’t like him
d: and he later became a dentist in Schenectady, New York

9. George Gershwin wrote many of his famous hits _____________________ .
a: for the musical theater
b: when he was in the army
c: in the temple
d: after he was dead

10.George Gershwin’s first musical starred ______________________ .
a: Enrique Caruso
b: Winston Churchill
c: Fred Astaire
d: the Beatles



"Summertime" from Porgy and Bess; Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, from Youtube:



Summertime and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush, little baby; don't you cry.

One of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing
And you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain't nothin' can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin' by.

One of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing
And you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain't nothin' can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin' by.


George Gershwin, Part Two