Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Music Around the Globe" from VOA

Shangaan street dancer

STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we travel around the world listening to the music from six creative and exciting albums. Some artists are well known, while others are at the start of their musical careers. The music we will listen to comes from a wide range of influences and traditions. We begin with music from South Africa that is sure to make listeners want to dance.

(MUSIC: “Vana Vasesi”)

STEVE EMBER: That was the song “Vana Vasesi” from the album “Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music from South Africa.” It features twelve songs by different artists. The Shangaan are an ethnic group living in southern Mozambique and parts of South Africa. In the township of Soweto, music producer Richard Hlungwani redefined traditional Shangaan music by making the beat much faster. New York-based radio producer Wills Glasspiegel discovered this energetic music and helped bring Richard Hlungwani’s work to a larger audience outside South Africa.

Dancing is a huge part of this music. Shangaan street dancers move their feet as fast as lightning and shake their bodies to the music’s beat.

(MUSIC- “Problema de 2”)

Ana Tijoux
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Ana Tijoux was born in France to a French mother and Chilean father, who lived in exile during the rule of Augusto Pinochet. When she was in school, she loved to study poetry, which has influenced her song-writing.

In Chile, Ana Tijoux became interested in the hip-hop music she was hearing in Santiago. She was a member of a successful hip-hop group called Makiza.

She has also made two albums performing on her own. Her latest album “1977” is named after the year she was born. Here is the title song from that album.

(MUSIC: “1977”)

STEVE EMBER: Rachid Taha was born in Algeria but grew up in France. His songs are influenced by North African music as well as rock and techno. He sings in both Arabic and French.

(MUSIC: “Ha Baby”)

Taha is known for being both a rebel and a poet. His songs often discuss the reality of living in exile and missing one’s homeland. His music has earned him many fans, especially among Arab-speaking immigrants living in France.

(MUSIC: “Bonjour”)

Rachid Taha
Rachid Taha’s latest album “Bonjour” is influenced by American rock and country music. It is the first album he recorded in the United States. He has said that he has another musical goal related to American music: to one day sing a song with country music star Dolly Parton.

(MUSIC: “Basement Bhangra Anthem”)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: DJ Rekha is the professional name of Rekha Malhotra. She was born in London to Pakistani parents but grew up in New York City where she still lives. DJ Rekha has helped introduce bhangra music to New Yorkers with her monthly music parties. Bhangra music is an ancient form of folk music from the Punjab area of India and Pakistan. This music was performed during seasonal dance celebrations. Modern bhangra music is a huge part of pop culture in South Asia.

(MUSIC: “Snake Charmer”)

DJ Rekha combines bhangra with electronic music, hip-hop and many other sounds and influences. She is helping to break barriers in a dance club industry where many DJ’s are men.

(MUSIC: “Hold You”)

STEVE EMBER: The Jamaican singer Windel Beneto Edwards, known as Gyptian, sings reggae and dancehall music. He grew up singing at his mother’s church. He was also influenced by the music his Rastafarian father listened to.

He first gained wide attention in two thousand four when he won a talent competition on Jamaican television. Gyptian most often sings love songs. He has a gentle and expressive voice that has earned him the name of the “Sexy Rasta”. One of his early hits in Jamaica, “Serious Times”, had a political message. His recent release “Hold You” is bringing Gyptian a whole new level of attention and praise.

(MUSIC: “Oursoul”)

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Hindi Zahra writes songs that combine jazz and blues music with the drumbeats of Morocco. Critics have compared her sensual voice to the American blues singer Billie Holiday. Hindi Zahra grew up in a Berber family in Morocco. Her mother sang in their village, and her uncles were musicians. The many traditions of North African music she listened to as a child had a big influence on her.

Hindi Zahra
Zahra later moved to Paris, France. She found work singing on other artists’ hip-hop recordings. She also spent years writing her own music. Her album “Handmade” shows some of the results of these song-writing efforts. She sings mostly in English, with one song in her native Berber language. We leave you with Hindi Zahra’s song “Stand Up.”

(MUSIC: “Stand Up”)

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

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. You can read and download programs on our Web site, You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

1. Rachid Taha would like to sing a song with Dolly Parton because _______ .
a: she's gorgeous
b: she can dance
c: she's a country music star
d: he likes "Hello Dolly."

2. Bhangra music is an ancient form of folk music from ___________________ .
a: China
b: Chile
c: The Punjab region of India and Pakistan
d: Algeria

3. Ana Tijoux was born in ___________________ .
a: 1978
b: 1976
c: 1981
d: 1977

4. Ana Tijoux became a member of a _______________ singing group called Makiza.
a: country music
b: hip-hop
c: rock and roll
d: Shangaan

5. Shangaan street dancers move their feet ________________ lightning.
a: as fast as
b: as faster as
c: as fast than
d: as faster than

6. Music very much influenced by Jamaican reggae is sung by Windel Beneto Edwards also known as _______________ .
a: Gyptian
b: DJ Rekha
c: Rachid
d: Hlungwani

7. The Shangaan are ______________________ living in southern Mozambique.
a: an ethnic group
b: a dance group
c: a new wave band
d: a church choir

8. Hindi Zahra has been compared to the blues singer Billie Holiday. Her music is blues and jazz and also influenced the sounds of ______________________ music.
a: American
b: South American
c: North African
d: Indian

9. ________________ sings in both Arabic and French.
a: Rachid Taha
b: Ana Tijoux
c: Hindi Zahra
d: Richard Hlungwani

10. From reading this article, you pretty much have to conclude that _______________ .
a: great music is world-wide
b: African sounds influences most musicians
c: everybody wants to sing with Dolly Parton
d: hip-hop has radically altered the landscape of world music

Hindi Zahra "Stand Up"

Standing on your two knees baby, tell me what do you need
Oh, Stand up on your two feet baby, that's how it's got to be.
You want me to be, your mother
But you know I'm too young, too young
You want me to be, your sister
But you know I'm too old, too old
You think I'm gonna raise you like a kid
But don't matter; the love I feel
It's not to show or prove, make your move,
Do what you gotta do,
Do what you gotta do,
So, standing on your two knees baby, tell me what do you need
Oh, stand up on your two feet baby, that's how its got to be
No no no no
Standing on your two knees baby, tell me what do you need
Mmm mmm
Stand up on your two feet baby, that's how its got to be.
Man I love you, and I just wanna be your woman
Your woman
Your woman
But I'm tired of your trifling ass
You play me for a fool, thinking I don't know what you're doing
Hanging out in the clubs with your fake ass crew
Standing on your two knees baby, tell me what do you need
Stand up on your two feet baby, that's how it's got to be
Standing on your two knees baby, tell me what do you need.
Ohh oohh.
Stand up on your two feet baby, that's how its got to be
Stand up,
Stand up, you got to, got to, got to
Stand up
Stand up
Standing on your two knees baby
Tell me what do you need
Ohh ohh ohh
Stand up on your two feet baby
That's how it's got to be
Stand up
Stand up, you got to, got to, got to
Stand up,
You got to raise your head, to the sky
See the love, in your eyes
You got to make a move
You got to make it through
You got to be real, to yourself
Got to make a move
Stand up
Stand up
You got to, got to, got to,
Stand up
Stand up

Monday, November 5, 2012

Using the infinitive after "too" and "enough".

"Montmartre, Paris" Vincent Van Gogh, 1886

1. enough/don't/that business/money/I/to buy/have

2. were/too/to fail/in 2008/thought/banks/The government/big

3. enough/my children/This food/nutritious/to feed/isn't

4. to bring/too/This camera/large/on the trip/is

5. sleepy/my homework/too/to finish/was/last night/I

6. to the party/was/to go/too busy/Stan

7. to go skating/frozen/isn't/The lake/enough

8. to eat/hungry/a steak sandwich/I'm not/enough

9. those mountains/is/to clear/The plane/flying/too low

10. to accept/more patients/too full/The hospital/is

11. driving/enough/to pass/You're not/fast/that car

12. funny/wasn't/to make/enough/laugh/The clown/people

13. near the ceiling/air/to stay/The balloon/too much/leaked

14. ?to finish/Did/enough time/you/the exam/have

15. to go/It was/too cold/in the river/swimming

16. strong/a camel/Nobody/enough/is/to lift

17. I'm sorry. too young/alcohol/You're/to buy

18. now/into the project/to give up/energy/to give up/put/He's/too much

19. to watch/That movie/for the children/too violent/is

20. the rabbit/enough/My dog/fast/to catch/wasn't

21. isn't/to stay up/Jimmy/enough/past 12:00/old

22. ?enough time/you/have/breakfast/this morning/to eat/Did

23. Unfortunately,/tall enough/on the basketball team/to be/isn't/Mary

24. is/to drink/for me/This tea/too hot

25. to reach/short/I'm/the top shelf/too

Monday, October 1, 2012

Active or Passive?

"Two Women" Frida Kahlo, 1929

It's sometimes hard to tell if a sentence is Passive Voice or Active Voice. Look at the subject of the sentence. Is the subject doing something or receiving an action from the verb of the sentence? Try completing the following sentences. Check your answer using the drop down menu.

1. Tom has the hallway for two hours.

2. Your car isn't ready yet. It's right now.

3. "The Great Gatsby", a famous American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

4. The patients about the quality of the food for about a week. We have to do something!

5. Unfortunately, your packages to the wrong address last week.

6. Maria will for the new position next week, and she's a little nervous.

7. Have all the decorations yet? The party will begin soon.

8. This wallet on the sidewalk a few minutes ago. Do you know whose it belongs too?

9. Jack his wrist while he was playing tennis.

10. Mary is a fine plumber. She a new sink and bathtub in our bathroom upstairs.

11. When the letter? We haven't received it yet.

12. Are the flowers now? I hope so because I would like to see them bloom in the spring.

13. A very good roofing company that roof next door. I think we should ask them to do ours also.

14. Stan's leg when he tried to ski down a difficult hill.

15. your yearly physical exam yet?

16. Who the telephone? I think Alexander Graham Bell invented it.

17. This composition much too quickly. There are too many mistakes.

18. Accidents don't happen. We just need to be very careful.

19 David basketball when he fell down.

20. I the TV while I was carrying it into the apartment. But fortunately, it still works.

21. Sonia a long time for the bus until it finally came.

22. Apple Computer huge profits from its new products: the Iphone and the Ipad.

23. There is a lot of computer technology that yet. It will be interesting to see what new computer technology is coming.

24. The coffee served at La Taza from Nicaragua.

25. The monkeys are making a very loud noise. I think they sound angry. yet?

26. Corn by many farmers in the State of Iowa.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Art and Writing in the 1920s" from VOA

"The Figure 5 in Gold" Charles Demuth, 1928

THE MAKING OF A NATION – a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

There were many changes in the social customs and day-to-day life of millions of Americans during the administration of President Calvin Coolidge.

As we saw in our last program, many young people began to challenge the traditions of their parents and grandparents. They experimented with new ideas and ways of living. People of all kinds became very interested in the new popular culture. Radio and films brought them exciting news of court trials, sports heroes, and wild parties.

However, the 1920s also was one of the most active and important periods in the more serious arts. Writers, painters, and other artists produced some of the greatest work in the nation's history. Today, we will take a look at American arts during this exciting period. Most Americans approved strongly of the economic growth and improved living conditions during the 1920s. They supported the conservative Republican policies of President Calvin Coolidge. And they had great faith in the country's business leaders and economic system.

"Polo at Lakewood" George Bellows, 1910
However, many of the nation's serious artists had a different and darker view of society. They were troubled deeply by the changes they saw. They believed that Americans had become too interested in money and wealth.

These artists rejected the new business society. And they also questioned the value of politics. Many of them believed that the first world war in Europe had been a terrible mistake. These artists had little faith in the political leaders who came to power after the war. They felt a need to protest the way the world was changing around them. The spirit of protest was especially strong in serious American writing during the 1920s. Many of the greatest writers of this period hated the new business culture.

One such writer was Sinclair Lewis. He was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Lewis wrote about Americans living in the towns and villages in the central part of the United States. Many of the people in his books were foolish men and women with empty values. They chased after money and popularity. In his famous book "Main Street," Lewis joked about and criticized small-town business owners.

Social criticism also was central to the writing of the newspaper writer H. L. Mencken, from the eastern city of Baltimore. Mencken considered most Americans to be stupid and violent fools. He attacked their values without mercy.

Of course, many traditional Americans reacted strongly to such criticism. For example, some religious and business leaders attacked Mencken as a dangerous person whose words were treason against the United States. But many young people thought Mencken was a hero whose only crime was writing the truth.The work of Lewis, Mencken, and a number of other writers of the 1920s has been forgotten by many Americans as the years have passed. But the period did produce some truly great writing.

A frame from "The Old Man and the Sea"
One of the greatest writers of these years was Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway wrote about love, war, sports, and other subjects. He used short sentences and rough words. His style was sharper and different from traditional American writing. And his strong views about life set him apart from most other Americans.

Another major writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald wrote especially about rich Americans searching for happiness and new values. His books were filled with people who rejected traditional beliefs. His book "The Great Gatsby" is considered today to be one of the greatest works in the history of American writing.

A third great writer of the 1920s was William Faulkner.

Faulkner wrote about the special problems and ways of life in the American south. His books explored the emotional tension in a society still suffering from the loss of the Civil War sixty years before. Some of Faulkner's best books were "The Sound and The Fury," "As I Lay Dying" and "Absalom, Absalom." Like Hemingway, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.The 1920s also produced the greatest writer of theater plays in American history, Eugene O'Neill.

A scene from "The Iceman Cometh"

O'Neill was an Irish-American with a dark and violent view of human nature. His plays used new theatrical methods and ways of presenting ideas. But they carried an emotional power never before seen in the American theater. Some of his best known plays were "Mourning Becomes Electra," "The Iceman Cometh" and "A Long Day's Journey into Night."

A number of American writers also produced great poetry during the 1920s. Probably the most famous work was "The Waste Land," a poem of sadness by the writer T. S. Eliot.There also were important changes in American painting during the 1920s. Economic growth gave many Americans the money to buy art for their homes for the first time. Sixty new museums opened. Slowly, Americans learned about serious art.

Actually, American art had been changing in important ways since the beginning of the century.

In 1908, a group of New York artists arranged a historic show. These artists tried to show real life in their paintings. They painted new kinds of subjects. For example, George Bellows painted many emotional and realistic pictures of the sport of boxing. His work, and the painting of other realistic artists, became known as the "Ash Can" school of art.

"Head of a Woman" by George Braque, 1909
Another important group of modern artists was led by the great photographer Alfred Stieglitz. This group held a major art show in 1913 in New York, Chicago, and Boston. The show presented modern art from Europe. Americans got their first chance to see the work of such painters as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

The show caused a huge public debate in the United States. Traditional art critics accused the organizers of the show of trying to overthrow Christianity and American values. Former president Theodore Roosevelt and others denounced the new art as a threat to the country.

However, many young American painters and art lovers did not agree. They became very interested in the new art styles from Europe. They studied them closely.

Soon, Charles Demuth, Joseph Stella, and other American painters began to produce excellent art in the new Cubist style. John Marin painted beautiful views of sea coasts in New York and Maine. And such artists as Max Weber and Georgia O'Keeffe painted in styles that seemed to come more from their own imagination than from reality.

As with writing, the work of many of these serious modern painters only became popular many years later.The greatest American designer of buildings during the 1920s was Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright believed that architects should design a building to fit its location, not to copy some ancient style. He used local materials in new ways. Wright invented many imaginative methods to combine useful building design with natural beauty.

Xanadu Gallery, San Francisco, California
Arhitect: Frank Lloyd Wright
140 Maiden Lane, near Union Square
But again, most Americans did not know of Wright's work. Instead, they turned to local architects with traditional beliefs. These architects generally designed old and safe styles for buildings -- for homes, offices, colleges, and other needs.Writers and artists now look back at the roaring 1920s as an extremely important period that gave birth to many new styles and ideas.

Hemingway's style of writing continues to influence American writers more than half a century later. Many painters say the period marked the real birth of modern American art. And architecture students in the United States and other countries now study the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The changes in American society caused many of these artists much sadness and pain in their personal lives. But their expression of protest and rich imagination produced a body of work that has grown in influence with the passing years.

You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a program in Special English. Your reporters have been Harry Monroe and Kay Gallant. Our program was written by David Jarmul. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week to THE MAKING OF A NATION.


The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.

1. This novel is "The Old Man and the Sea." The writer is ___________________.
a: Eugene O'Neill
b: Ernest Hemingway
c: H.L. Mencken
d: T.S. Eliot

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.

2. The writer of this poem is T.S. Eliot. It is called "____________________."
a: The Waste Land
b: Absalom, Absalom
c: Long Day's Journey into Night
d: Main Street

3. In one American play, several men drink all day in a bar room. They promise themselves, tomorrow they'll sober up and go out into the world and do great things. They never do. They always find an excuse for staying in the same place. The play is called "The Ice Man Cometh". it is written by _________________ .
a: Ernest Hemingway
b: William Faulkner
c: H.L. Mencken
d: Eugene O'Neill

4. Modern __________________________ are most likely to be influenced by Ernest Hemingway.
a: photographers
b: novelists
c: painters
d: architects

5. The 1920s is generally considered ____________________________ .
a: a time when artists and writers didn't produce much of lasting value
b: a time when the arts and literature supported Republican ideas and politics
c: one of the most important periods for serious artists
d: a time when literature thrived, but fine art stagnated

6. Some business and religious leaders thought that the newspaper writer H.L. Mencken was a ______________________ .
a: traitor
b: genius
c: prophet
d: hero

7. The greatest designer of buildings during the 1920s was __________________ .
a: Frank Lloyd Wright
b: Max Weber
c: Georgia O'Keefe
d: Charles Demuth

8. In his novel "Main Street" Sinclair Lewis ___________________________ .
a: has nothing but praise for small business owners in the Midwest
b: compares city and country life and concludes that living in the country is healthier
c: criticizes the federal government, especially the president, Calvin Coolidge
d: satirizes small town men and woman and their shallow values

9.A sense of loss and despair prevalent in the American South since the heavy losses of the Civil War is explored by the great novelist ___________________ .
a: Eugene O'Neill
b: Ernest Hemingway
c: William Faulkner
d: H.L. Mencken

10. During the 1920s, many serious American artists ___________________ .
a: believed in the philosophy of conservative economists
b: believed in the successful Republican politics
c: believed the country was too obsessed by money and power
d: were very excited about the promising changes in American society

Enjoy this waltz by Chopin while viewing the paintings of George Bellows from Youtube:

More about Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" from Wikipedia

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Happy Birthday, Golden Gate Bridge!" by Ted Lamphair and VOA

There’s a huge festival coming up this weekend in California. That’s not breaking news, since California may hold more festivals than any other place on earth. It throws them to honor artichokes, garlic, butter and eggs, olives, mustard, ducks, numerous ancestries, frogs that jump competitively, and swallows that fly back to an old mission from South America en masse each Spring.

There’s even a “Fungi Festival” to celebrate edible mushrooms.

But they all pale, literally, in comparison with this weekend’s bash honoring the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, which connects lovely San Francisco to an old-growth redwood forest across a narrow strait called the “Golden Gate.”

The festival will include artists’ exhibitions, vintage car and motorcycle displays, a watercraft parade beneath the soaring structure, the predictable assortment of music and dance, and, no doubt, sales of enough bridge trinkets to clog the passageway if everyone decided to discard them at once.

The reference to “Diamond Over the Rough” in the headline is meant to be clever. Emphasis on “meant to be.” The 75th is traditionally the diamond anniversary, and the “rough” refers to the churning, fast-moving water beneath the bridge, which links San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.

The strait was named by American explorer John C. Frémont in 1848. He said it reminded him of Istanbul’s Golden Horn Harbor.

How rough are its waters? Ask the half-dozen men who tried to swim it — or traverse it on a makeshift raft made of old raincoats — after escaping from the notorious federal prison on Alcatraz Island, which sits just four kilometers east of the strait.

Good luck finding them. Those few who made it as far as the cold, swift currents of the Golden Gate Strait were presumed drowned.

But legends that two or three of the escapees survived were powerful enough that a movie, cleverly titled, “Escape from Alcatraz,” was made about them.

My reference to other festivals’ “paling” in comparison to the big weekend bash is a nod to the legendary “international orange” color of the great bridge’s paint, which was specifically formulated to combat the corroding properties of the salty fog that gathers so artistically thereabouts. The legions of environmentalists in the San Francisco area would be dismayed to learn that until recently the prominent rust-fighting ingredient in this and other outdoor paint was lead.

The bridge is re-painted almost continuously, though I figure the painters will be taking this weekend off.

The distinctive dark-orange hue of the enchanting span is one reason it jousts with San Francisco’s fabled cable cars as the informal symbol of the “City by the Bay.”

When the Golden Gate Bridge was finished in 1937, a trip up the California coastline on U.S. Highway 1 no longer required a ferry crossing from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Marin County shore.

The bridge, which can sway almost eight meters in a gale — of which there are many — and will rise a couple of meters due to expansion on a hot day and drop three on a cold one, is a triumph of modern engineering, especially considering those swift currents in the 60-meter-deep water below.

And few would disagree that the Golden Gate Bridge makes the short list of the most-photographed sites in the world — alongside the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, ruins in Rome, and (I’m sorry to say) the stars in the sidewalk at Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame.”

To understand the bridge’s amazing engineering, picture an incredibly sturdy hammock, suspended between two massive support towers.

One-meter-thick cables — each a bundle of more than 27,000 wires – drape over the bridge’s towers, then stretch back to bedrock in San Francisco and the opposite shore. Each cable began with a single wire across which a spinning shuttle wheel rode back and forth, and back and forth, twisting together thousands more wires. The whole thing is a wonder of the modern world, if you ask me — or the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The finished cables support the “hammock” — the bridge’s rigid road surface and railings — suspended below.

During four years of construction, 11 men lost their lives in the swirling winds and treacherous currents. Nineteen others who fell were saved by a safety net and inducted into the informal “Halfway to Hell Club.”

More notoriously, the Golden Gate Bridge has been the site of an estimated 1,200 suicides.

After all, how does one suicide-proof a bridge that’s 2½ kilometers (almost 9,000 feet) long?

In 2008, the Times of London reported that the Golden Gate Bridge is, in fact, the most popular place in the world to take one’s life — if “popular” fits such unfortunate plunges to the frigid waters 75 meters below.

The heaviest load the bridge has carried was the weight of an estimated 300,000 people who marked its 50th anniversary by walking across on May 24, 1987. This caused the center span of the bridge to flatten out under the weight, an alarming development that explains why there will be no such mass crossing permitted for the 75th.

Singly, about 2 billion vehicles are estimated to have traversed it since it opened.

The deadly 7.1-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 severely damaged the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge around the bend on the San Francisco peninsula, but the Golden Gate Bridge came through nearly unscathed. Still, authorities thought it prudent to undertake a three-part seismic retrofit, which began in 2002. The retrofit — too complex to summarize here, not that I could very well — included an added support tower.

The fellow responsible for this remarkable structure was Joseph Strauss, [1]a dreamy engineer and poet whose previous specialties had been drawbridges and railroad spans. Included among the latter was an 89-km bridge across the Bering Strait.

That’s right: one bridge almost 90 kilometers long.

Strauss was encouraged to design a suspension bridge across the roiling Golden Gate strait, but he faced significant opposition. From ferry operators, naturally, but also from the U.S. War Department, which staffed a fortress — Fort Point — on the city side of the strait and worried that a bridge would impede shipping traffic. That fort is still in place, tucked under the southern edge of the bridge.

But Strauss got strong support from the emerging cadre of automobile enthusiasts, the auto industry, business leaders in San Francisco, and folks on the northern side of the strait who had grown weary of waiting for ferries to head over to San Francisco for a night on the town.

Strauss, though, had little to do with the artistic look of the structure, including its Art Deco streetlights, railing, and pedestrian walkway. Or its color, first thought to be gaudy but now adored as iconic. Locals persuaded the bridge authority to snazz up the bridge in vivid orange in preference to the standard dull gray or the Navy’s preferred black with yellow stripes.

The $35-million construction job took four years to finish. The opening celebration began on May 27, 1937 and lasted a week. According to one account, “the day before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed by foot and roller skate.”

An official song, “There’s a Silver Moon on the Golden Gate,” commemorated the event.

It’s fair to say that this tune doesn’t rival “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” three quarters of a century later.

Strauss, the poetic engineer, even wrote a ditty for the occasion. Called “The Mighty Task is Done,” it’s affixed somewhere on the span.

When it was completed, the Golden Gate Bridge became the longest suspension bridge main span in the world. That lasted until New York’s Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964.

And seven or eight other bridges have since surpassed them both.

My favorite additional Golden Gate Bridge detail, noted here for bridge buffs: It’s held together by 1,200,000 rivets.

I can’t for the life of me imagine who did the counting.

Beholding the Golden Gate Bridge from a distance on the day it opened, the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “a thirty-five million-dollar steel harp.”

It certainly makes beautiful music visually. My photographer-wife Carol M. Highsmith — whose images, as frequent readers know, grace the pixel space next to these ramblings today and often — is drawn, almost magnetically, to the bridge every time we visit San Francisco.

In a description that would surely annoy the International Orange crowd, she calls it “Big Red.”
Ted's Wild Words

These are a few words from this posting that you may not know. Each time, I'll tell you a little about them and also place them into a cumulative archive of "Ted's Wild Words" in the right-hand column of the home page. Just click on it there, and if there's another word that you'd like me to explain, just ask!

Hammock. A bed — sometimes one that swings — made of canvas or cloth mesh that is suspended from fixed structures by cords.

Retrofit. To add something not included when an item or structure was first built.

Golden Gate Bridge Birthday Fireworks from Youtube:

Friday, April 27, 2012

National Air and Space Museum - Udvar-Hazy Center - 2004

This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Last month, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum opened its new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy (OOD-var HAH-zee) Center in Virginia, near Washington, DC. Today we tell about this new museum for famous aircraft.The new Udvar-Hazy Center has been open for a little more than three weeks. However, it has already proven to be extremely popular. On December twenty-sixth, the road leading to the new museum was blocked with vehicles. Local television stations showed pictures of thousands of automobiles waiting their turn to enter the museum's parking area. Some vehicles were turned away. There was not enough room. The parking area was full. The new center may prove to be as popular as the main Air and Space Museum in Washington.

The National Air and Space Museum is perhaps the most visited museum in the world. Almost ten-million people visit the museum ever year to see famous aircraft. They can see the Wright Brothers famous flyer. It was the first controllable aircraft to fly with an engine. It flew for the first time on December Seventeenth, nineteen-oh-three.

Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum can also see Charles Lindbergh's airplane, "The Spirit of Saint Louis." He became the first pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone and without stopping, from the United States to France. That flight took place in May of nineteen-twenty-seven.

Near the famous plane is an orange rocket plane that became the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. Pilot Chuck Yeager made that flight in nineteen-forty-seven. Visitors to the museum can even touch a small piece of the moon. It was brought back to Earth by American astronauts who walked on the moon.The main job of a museum is to keep and protect important objects from the past so they can be studied, examined and enjoyed in the future. Displaying these collected objects helps the public understand the importance of a museum's work.

Finding room to keep a collection of aircraft has always been a problem for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. This museum only holds about ten percent of the aircraft it has collected over the years.

Another ten percent of the aircraft have been loaned to other museums. The other eighty percent have been kept in storage buildings for safekeeping. Some of them have been stored for as long as fifty years.

The opening of the Museum's new Udvar-Hazy Center has changed this. As many as three-hundred aircraft will be placed on display in the new museum. More than eighty of them have already been placed in the building for the public to see.

The new center was named for Steven Udvar-Hazy. He came to the United States from Hungary. He became very successful in the aircraft industry. He became so successful that he gave the National Air and Space Museum sixty-five-million dollars to help build the new center.

Mr. Udvar-Hazy said he wanted to give something to America for the opportunities he found here. He also wanted to pass on his love of aviation to the people of the future.

Mr. Udvar-Hazy's gift helped build the center. It did not pay the total cost. That is expected to be more than three-hundred-million dollars. This includes the design, construction and cost of moving the aircraft into the new center.

The largest of the new center's several buildings is huge. It is thirty-one meters high, almost seventy-six meters wide, and three-hundred meters long.

Visitors can see and walk near the aircraft on three levels in the main building. They can walk near the largest aircraft on the museum's floor. Smaller aircraft are hung from the ceiling. Visitors can examine them from several walkways that are about fifteen meters above the floor. They can see other aircraft that are hung near the ceiling. They can do this from walkways that are near the top of the building.

Computers at small information centers show close-up photographs of the aircraft. These photographs include pictures taken inside the aircraft. Visitors can use the computers to see the pilot's controls, passenger areas and other parts of the inside of the aircraft. In the future, these pictures will be on the new museum's computer link with the Internet.

All of the aircraft that will be on display are important to the history of flight. Some are huge. The largest aircraft in the collection was given to the museum only a few months ago. It is the Air France Concorde.

The plane landed at nearby Dulles International Airport on its last flight. It was pulled by a special vehicle to the museum.

The Concorde was one of the few passenger airplanes that could fly faster than the speed of sound. A Concorde flight from Paris, France to Washington, D-C usually took less than four hours.

The new center also has very small aircraft in the collection. One is the Boeing P-Twenty-Six-A Peashooter. The little Peashooter could hide under the wing of the Concorde. In fact, several of them could hide there.

The Peashooter was a military fighter plane. It was built in the early nineteen-thirties. It is also one of the most beautiful aircraft in the new center. Most military aircraft are not painted with bright colors. But the Peashooter has wings painted yellow-gold. The body is painted black with white strips down its side. The front is painted a shiny white.

The new Udvar-Hazy Center also holds the fastest aircraft every built. It is the Lockheed S-R-Seventy-One Blackbird. It looks like a rocket plane, but it is not. It has an aircraft jet engine, not a rocket engine. The military used the Blackbird to gather intelligence. It carried cameras, not guns. It used its great speed to fly away from danger.

The Blackbird is a large aircraft. It is painted with a dull black paint and looks like a bullet. In fact it is faster than many bullets. It could travel at three times the speed of sound.

That is about three-thousand-five-hundred-forty kilometers an hour. The last time a Blackbird flew was from Los Angeles, California to Dulles International Airport near the museum.

The United States Air Force flew it for the last time to deliver it to the Udvar-Hazy Center. That flight from California to Virginia took only one hour, four minutes and twenty seconds.

Many of the aircraft in the collection were built for military use. However, the museum is not a just a collection of military aircraft. Aviation experts say new flight technology has often been used first in the design of military aircraft. For example, the first jet was a military airplane. Civilian aircraft designers quickly used jet technology because jets are faster and cheaper.

An aircraft called the Dash-Eighty is a good example of military technology being used for civilian purposes. The Boeing Company built the aircraft. Its real name is the Boeing Three-Six-Seven—dash—Eighty.

It was designed as the first modern jet passenger aircraft. It first flew in July of nineteen-fifty-four. It does not look much different from aircraft used today by airlines around the world. Later, a similar aircraft was given the numbers Seven-Oh-Seven. The Seven-Oh-Seven was the first extremely successful passenger jet aircraft. It served as the first jet aircraft for many of the world's passenger airlines. The Dash-Eighty looks very new, not fifty years old.National Air and Space Museum officials say they expect about three-million visitors a year to the new center. Many of these visitors will be school children. The center includes schoolrooms and will provide teachers with teaching materials.

One of the center's goals will be to educate the children of the future about the importance of aviation.

Smithsonian officials recognize that it is difficult for many people to visit either of these two flight museums. In the near future, they hope to display photographs and information about all the aircraft on the Internet.

You can already visit the museum if you have a computer that can link with the Internet. The Internet address is Or have your computer search for the letters N-A-S-M.This program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Grand Canyon Discovery

This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

Today, we tell about a famous natural place, the Grand Canyon. In late September, 1540, a group of Spanish explorers led by Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas came to a stop. For weeks they had walked north across the great southwestern American desert. The land was dry. The sun was hot. They were searching for seven golden cities that they had been told about. There was not much to see on this land, just the far-away line where the sky meets the ground.

Suddenly, they came to the edge of what seemed to be a huge cut in the Earth. There seemed to be no way to walk around this deep canyon. It stretched below them into the distance, to their left and right, as far as they could see. Below them and across from where they stood were strange shapes of yellow, red, brown and black rocks and stone.

A small, muddy river appeared to be flowing at the bottom. Captain Cardenas ordered three of his soldiers to climb down the side of the canyon to see if they could find a way to cross to the other side. The three climbed about one-third of the way down. They found that the canyon was much deeper than they thought, so they climbed back up

Captain Cardenas and his group turned back to the south. Today, history recognizes them as the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, formed by the Colorado River. They had reached a place that today is considered one of the most beautiful, strange, and interesting places in the world. European explorers did not return to the Grand Canyon for more than two centuries. Instead, native peoples continued to live there, as they had for hundreds, some of them for thousands of years.

In 1776, two Spanish clergymen were seeking a way to travel from Santa Fe, in what is now New Mexico, to Monterey, California on the west coast of North America. Father Francisco Escalante and another clergyman were unsuccessful in their search. However, they re-discovered the Grand Canyon.

During the 19th century, the population of the United States was expanding rapidly to the west. The Grand Canyon was considered a barrier to travelers. Only two places had been found where the river is low enough to cross.

As settlers moved west, the United States government wanted more information about western territories. Much of the Grand Canyon was unknown. The words "Unknown Territory" were written on maps that showed the area.

In May, 1869, Major John Wesley Powell and nine others began the first full exploration of the Colorado River. They put four wooden boats into the water at Green River Station in Wyoming. They began their trip to where the Green River joined the Colorado River. Major Powell wrote in his book that they were beginning "the trip down the Great Unknown".

Major Powell had served in the Union army during the American Civil War. He lost his right arm in a battle during the war. After the war he became a professor of geology at Illinois Wesleyan University. He also studied paleontology, the science of life existing in different periods of Earth's history. And he became expert in ethnology, the study of different cultures. He was the right person to explore the Grand Canyon. He was someone who could describe the geology of the area, as well as learn about the American Indians who had begun living in the canyon as many as 9,000 years ago. Several of those tribes still consider the Grand Canyon their home.The geology of the Grand Canyon is like a history of the formation of the Earth. During millions of years, water, ice, and wind formed the canyon. Although the Grand Canyon is in the middle of a desert, water plays an important part in the way the land looks. The sun shines bright and hot almost every day. It makes the soil hard. When rain does come, it cannot sink into the soil. Instead it flows to the Colorado River.

Often, heavy rains cause violent floods along small rivers and streams that flow into the Colorado. These floods move huge amounts of soil and sometimes stones as big as houses. All of this material falls into the river and then is pushed along by the rapidly flowing river. This way the river slowly digs itself deeper into the rock surface of the Earth. The Colorado has been doing this for millions of years.

You can see in the sides of the Grand Canyon different kinds of rock at different levels. Each of the 18 levels was formed during a different period of Earth's history

The ancestor of the Colorado River began flowing about 70 million years ago. After it began flowing, volcano explosions and other natural events changed the river's path many times

About 17 million years ago, pressures deep in the Earth pushed up the land through which the river flowed. The river continued to flow through the area, cutting deeper into the rock

The Grand Canyon is 29 kilometers across at the widest place, and more than one and one-half kilometers deep. At the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where the river flows today, the rock is almost 2,000 million years old.

In 1869, not many people expected John Wesley Powell and his team of explorers to survive the trip through the Grand Canyon. No one had ever done it before.

There are many dangers on the fast-moving river. Rocks hidden under the water can smash small boats. In places where the river is narrow, the water becomes violent as it rushes between high rock walls. Also, there are rapids of fast moving water in places where the river drops to a lower level. In some places, strong currents can push a boat into rocks in the water, or against the walls of the canyon.

Major Powell knew the trip would be dangerous. When the boats came near a rapid, he and his crew would stop. Sometimes they decided to go through by rowing the boats with their oars, as they did in calm water. At other times they carried the boats and all their equipment around dangerous rapids. Major Powell wrote every day in a book about what they did and saw. This is how he described the difficulties of one day:

One of Powell's boats
"We carried the boats around rapids two times this morning... During the afternoon we ran a narrow part of the river, more than half a mile in length, narrow and rapid. We float on water that is flowing down a gliding plane. At the bottom of the narrow part of the river, the river turns sharply to the right, and the water rolls up against a rock that seems to be in the middle of the stream. We pull with all our power to the right, but it seems impossible to avoid being carried against the cliff, and we are carried up high on the waves – not against the rocks, for the water strikes us and we are pushed back and pass on with safety..."

More than three months after starting, Major Powell and his group reached the end of the Grand Canyon. Three men had left the group earlier and were never seen again. Two of the men in the group continued down the river to the sea, becoming the first people known to have traveled the entire length of the Colorado River. Today, the Grand Canyon is in a national park. About five million people visit it each year. They stop at its edge and look in wonder at a place that can create great emotions in those seeing it. Others walk down the many paths into the canyon.

Some ride rubber boats down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. River guides are experts at taking the boats through the most violent rapids. This activity, called white-water rafting, is very popular.

Generally, the trip takes about two weeks in boats that carry three or four people. Bigger boats with motors that carry about 20 people can make the trip in several days. As people float down the river, they see the many wonderful and strange shapes created by the forces of nature. They may see animals, such as bighorn sheep, and coyotes. They experience the excitement of traveling through white-water rapids, and sleeping under the stars.

The sound of the river is always present, sometimes loud, sometimes soft. After several days traveling on and sleeping near the river as it flows through the Grand Canyon, many visitors say they feel their cares and worries leave them. Their concerns are replaced by a feeling of wonder about the canyon and the powers of nature. This program was written by Oliver Chandler and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Shirley Griffith. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in Special English on the Voice of America.

1. In the early Nineteenth Century, a label on a map where the Grand Canyon was located said "____________________".
a: Colorado Territory
b: Unknown Territory
c: Western United States
d: Utah Territory

2. "White Water" is ______________________________ .
a: water in a river that's near the ocean
b: rapids or fast moving water
c: calm water in a river that is otherwise dangerous
d: a term river rafters use for taking a rest

3. Spanish explorers led by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas were looking for ___________________ .
a: Native Americans whose souls they wished to save
b: seven golden cities they had been told about
c: the source of the Colorado River
d: more information about western territories

4. The first European to see the Grand Canyon was __________________ .
a: Garcia Lopez de Cardenas
b: John Wayne
c: John Wesley Powell
d: Francisco

5. ____________________ were most important for the development of the Grand Canyon over millions of years.
a: Winds
b: Floods
c: Hot, sunny days
d: All of the above

6. The different color rocks in Grand Canyon are caused by __________________ .
a: the different types of rocks that make up the layers
b: the different minerals left behind by the water
c: the variation in weather patterns over the centuries
d: a series of volcanic eruptions

7. Ethnology is ________________________________ .
a: the study of life in different periods of history
b: the study of the evolution of rock over time
c: the study of different cultures
d: the study of pre-literate civilizations

8. When John Wesley Powell began his trip down the Colorado River, he ____________________ .
a: thought it would be easy
b: knew it would be dangerous
c: was confident that he had the right equipment
d: had several Native American guides who knew the dangers and how to avoid them

9. After the Grand Canyon was discovered in 1540, _____________________.
a: it was not seen by Europeans again for two centuries
b: the Native Americans who had lived there up to then, moved out
c: it was immediately subjected to intense exploration and analysis
d: many European-Americans decided to build homes nearby

10. The path of the Colorado River __________________________ .
a: has always remained the same
b: changed drastically 100 million years ago
c: has changed only as the result of man-made dams
d: has changed many times over 70 million years

Grand Canyon River Rafting Adventure from Youtube:

See more articles at The Explorations Index.