Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"IBM's Predictions for a Smarter World" from VOA

This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

Controlling a device with your mind. Powering your home with the energy of your own activities. These are two of the developments that experts at IBM think will become reality within the next five years.

The technology company has released its latest "5 in 5" report. The experts think people will soon be able to control many electronic devices simply by using their minds. Scientists at IBM and other companies are researching ways to do this in a field of science known as bioinformatics.

They say people will soon have a way to just think about calling or e-mailing someone in order to make it happen. Bernie Meyerson is IBM's vice president of innovation.

BERNIE MEYERSON: "[It's a] simple ability to command a system to do something for you without actually doing or saying anything, literally thinking and having something happen as a result that's accurate. Something with really deep capability so that a person, for instance, a quadriplegic, a paraplegic can actually utilize brainwaves to make things happen and basically run their own lives independently."

Another prediction is a way for people to power their homes and offices using energy from activities like walking or running. Bernie Meyerson says this is known as micro-electronic generation.

BERNIE MEYERSON: "For instance, you can have somebody in the third world who has access to a phone or a smartphone but doesn't have access to the power grid, which is a very common thing, and literally in a shoe has something that recovers energy from walking and can charge the battery to enable that person to actually become connected with the rest of the world."

Another prediction: passwords could soon become a thing of the past. IBM says developments in biometric technology could soon make passwords unnecessary. Some of the most common biometrics used to identify people are fingerprints, face and voice recognition, and iris scans. The iris is the colored part of the eye.

Bernie Meyerson says this technology will soon be more widely used by money machines and other devices.

BERNIE MEYERSON: "Imagine that things recognize you. You walk up to an ATM [automated teller machine]. [It] takes one look, says, Yep, you're you."

Another prediction from the experts at International Business Machines: better technology to prevent unwanted e-mail.

BERNIE MEYERSON: "The device, as you act upon it, as you eliminate mail, you don't read it, you just look at it and kill it, after a while it learns your habits and works for you as as your assistant by eliminating stuff you never wanted anyway."

The fifth prediction on IBM's 5 in 5 list is an end to the "digital divide" between those who have technology and those who do not.

BERNIE MEYERSON: "Think about the digital divide today: the haves and the have-nots, people who are and are not connected. We anticipate within five years, better than eighty percent coverage of the world’s populations by cellular to smartphones. At that point, imagine having, for instance, the ability to speak openly with anybody anywhere, anytime and any language -- real time translation. Literally, the old 'Star Trek' idea of the universal translator coming to be, and how the world would change if there were that kind of communication and openness."

And that’s the VOA Special English Technology Report. What are your predictions for the next five years? Share them at I'm Steve Ember.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"Langston Hughes" The Greatest African American Poet, from VOA

I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about writer Langston Hughes, who has been called the poet voice of African-Americans.

Langston Hughes is usually thought of as a poet. But he also wrote novels, plays, short stories, essays, autobiographies, newspaper columns, children's books, and the words to operas. He also translated into English the works of foreign poets.

Hughes was one of the first black writers who could support himself by his writings. He is praised for his ability to say what was important to millions of black people.

Hughes produced a huge amount of work during his lifetime. He also has influenced the work of many other writers. He wrote for almost fifty years.

Langston Hughes was famous for his descriptions of black American life. He used his work to praise his people and voice his concerns about race and social injustice. His work is known all around the world and has been translated into many languages.

Hughes's poetry had serious messages. He often wrote about racial issues, describing his people in a realistic way. Although his story was not often pleasant, he told it with understanding and with hope.

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in nineteen-oh-two. His parents were separated. He spent most of his childhood with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. She told him stories about their family and their fight to end slavery. Her storytelling filled him with pride in himself and his race. He first began to write poetry when he was living with her.

When he was fourteen, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to stay with his mother and her new husband.

He attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Langston was named Class Poet one year. He published his first short stories while he was still in high school.

Walt Whitman
Langston Hughes struggled with a feeling of loneliness caused by his parent's divorce. He developed a love of reading books as a way to deal with the lack of time his parents spent with him. His love for reading grew into a desire to write. He wanted to reproduce the powerful effect other writers had made upon him. Among the early influences on his writing were poets Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg and Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

After graduating from high school in nineteen twenty, Langston moved to Mexico City to live with his father for one year. His father had moved there to escape racism in America. His father did not offer much warmth to his son. Yet, Langston turned the pain caused by his family problems into one of his most famous poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." In this poem, he speaks of the strength and pride of black people in ancient African civilizations and in America.

(SOUND: "The Negro Speaks of Rivers")

Langston Hughes learned a lot about race, and about social and economic conditions while he was in Mexico. His ability to speak Spanish and his brown skin often made it easy for him to appear to be a native. Many of his works, including a play for children, deal with his days in Mexico.

During the time he stayed with his father in Mexico, Langston wrote many poems because he was always unhappy. He once said that he usually created his best work when he was really not happy.

Langston had a troubled relationship with his father from which he never recovered fully. His father did not think he could earn a living as a writer. His mother, however, recognized his need to be a poet.

Langston's father agreed to pay for his college education at Columbia University in New York City, if he studied engineering. Langston arrived in New York when he was nineteen years old. At the end of that first year at Columbia, he left school, broke with his father, and began traveling. Traveling was a lifelong love that would take him throughout the world before he died.

In nineteen twenty-two, Hughes took a job on a ship and sailed to Africa. He would later sail to France, Russia, Spain and Italy. He wrote poems and short stories during his travels. His experiences while traveling greatly influenced his work. He sent a few of his writings back home. They were published, which helped establish him as a professional writer.

Financial problems ended Hughes's travels. He tried to find work on a ship so he could return to the United States. But in Italy, he had problems finding work on a ship because he was black. In the poem, "I, Too", he noted that the American color line even reached all the way over there.

(SOUND: "I, Too")

Vachel Lindsay
In nineteen twenty-four, Langston Hughes returned to the United States to live with his mother in Washington, D.C. The poet Vachel Lindsay ate in a hotel where Hughes was working. Hughes put some poems he had written next to Lindsay's dinner plate. Lindsay gave a poetry reading later that night. He read some of Hughes's poetry, too. Newspapers across the country wrote about Lindsay's poetry reading. Hughes became known as a new black poet.

A year later, Hughes returned to New York. Through the years he lived in many places, but always came back to New York's Harlem area. Harlem was the center of black life in New York City. Hughes's creativity was influenced by his life in Harlem.

Langston Hughes returned to New York during a period called the Harlem Renaissance. It took place during the nineteen twenties and thirties. The Harlem Renaissance was a period of great artistic creativity among black people. For the first time, black artistic expression was being widely recognized. Hughes became friends with other great black writers of the time, such as Claude McKay, Countee Cullen and Zora Neal Hurston. They hoped that great art could change the racist ideas in America about African Americans.

Hughes was considered one of the leading voices of the Harlem Renaissance. He was the first poet to use the rhythms of black music. He often wrote about the everyday experiences of black working people. And he helped bring the movement of jazz and the sound of black speech into poetry.

Langston Hughes experimented with his writing. Other Harlem Renaissance writers wrote traditional poems like those of English classic poets, such as William Shakespeare. Hughes broke free with his writing and helped change literature forever.

Hughes became firmly established as a successful writer in nineteen twenty-six with the publication of a collection of jazz poems called "The Weary Blues." Hughes wrote the poems in a place in Harlem where blues music was played. He loved to write while sitting in clubs listening to blues and jazz. The title poem, "The Weary Blues," was written to be played with musical instruments. The poem perfectly expressed the desire of Langston Hughes to combine black music and speech in his poetry.

"I got the Weary Blues and I can't be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues and can't be satisfied. I ain't happy no mo' and I wish that I had died."

"And far into the night he crooned that tune. The stars went out and so did the moon. The singer stopped playing and went to bed – while the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that's dead."

Poems in "The Weary Blues" are warm and full of color. They have a sense of freedom, like that of jazz music. Langston Hughes was excited about the new form of poetry he had discovered for himself.

This Special English program was written by Cynthia Kirk. It was produced by Caty Weaver. The poetry was read by Langston Hughes and Shep O'Neal. I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on VOA when we finish the story of the life of Langston Hughes.


1. Langston Hughes's father moved to Mexico ___________________ .
a: to get away from his marriage
b: to escape the racial prejudice that was common in the States
c: to find a better job
d: to learn about Latino culture and the Spanish language

2. Langston Hughes felt __________________________ .
a: tremendous love and respect for his father
b: total support from his father
c: a large emotional distance from his father
d: that his father was too meddlesome in his life

3. Langston Hughes wrote the poem "Weary Blues". The closest in meaning to the word "Weary" is ___________________ .
a: exhausted
b: worried about danger
c: very influenced by women
d: feeling strange, alienated, lonely

4. Langston Hughes's _______________ taught him about pride in his race and heritage.
a: mother
b: father
c: uncle
d: grandmother

5. Langston Hughes was the first poet who ____________________ .
a: used rhyme in poetry
b: used jazz rhythms in poetry
c: expressed loneliness in poetry
d: used the subject of African-American experience in poetry

6. In addition to being a poet, Langston Hughes was also _________________ .
a: an electrician
b: a playwright
c: an advertising man
d: a professor of literature

7. One kind of writing that Langston Hughes didn't do was _________________ .
a: short stories
b: novels
c: children stories
d: science articles

8. As a child, Langston Hughes developed a love of books in reaction to _______________________ .
a: the lack of love he felt from his parents
b: his ambition to become a poet
c: his desire to become a successful teacher
d: his access to a fine public library

9. Because of his appearance and his ability to speak Spanish, many Mexican people thought he was ___________________ .
a: an American
b: a native
c: an indian
d: a Latin American poet

10. Langston Hughes felt that he created his best poetry when ___________________ .
a: he was listening to the blues
b: he was not very happy
c: he was in love with a sympathetic woman
d: he was in line to give a poetry reading

Three by Langston and a short bio. Blues For Peace. The Weary Blues, Night Funeral in Harlem, Juke Box Love Song

Langston Hughes, Part Two