Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"A World Tour of Street Art" from VOA Explorations.

Street Art by Emanuel Kotzian, 2002

BARBARA KLEIN: I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with Explorations in VOA Special English. Today, we travel through city streets all over the world to explore street art, a popular and lively art movement.


BARBARA KLEIN: Street art can be found on buildings, sidewalks, street signs and even trashcans from Tokyo to Paris to New York City. This special kind of art can take the form of paintings, sculptures, cloth or even stickers. Its international presence is supported by Web sites, artist communities, books and magazines. Street art has become part of a global visual culture. Now, even art museums and galleries are collecting the work of street artists.

STEVE EMBER: It is not easy to provide an exact history of the street art movement. This kind of art has developed in many kinds of ways in places all over the world. Also, street artists usually work secretly because it is illegal to paint public and private property without permission. This secretive nature of street art and its countless forms make it hard to define exactly. And people have different opinions about the movement. Some think street art is a crime and destroys property. But others see this art as a rich form of non-traditional cultural expression.

Graffiti by Rip Iz The Wiz, New York
BARBARA KLEIN: Many experts say the movement began in New York City in the nineteen sixties. Young adults would use paint in special cans to spray their “tag” on walls and train cars around the city.

This tag was a name they created to identify themselves and their artwork. This colorful style of writing is also called graffiti. It is visually exciting and energetic. Some graffiti paintings were signs marking the territories of city gangs or illegal crime groups.

STEVE EMBER: Graffiti also became a separate movement expressing the street culture of young people living in big cities. Graffiti art represented social and political rebellion. This art rejected the accepted rules of culture and power. These artists could travel around areas of the city making creative paintings for everyone to see. The artists could become famous without being officially recognized. Sometimes this street art created a dispute between artists and city officials. Graffiti artists created their images and city officials quickly painted over them.

Mural by Keith Haring
During the nineteen eighties two New York painters who began as street artists became very famous. Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat started creating their paintings on the streets. But soon they began showing their work in art galleries and museums. This is when street art started to become part of the popular culture.


BARBARA KLEIN: Street art today takes many forms. One well known New York City street artist goes by the name of Swoon. Swoon creates detailed paper cutouts of people that she observes around her. She places these life-size images on walls in different areas of New York. For example, one of her artworks is of a little boy playing. He is turning his smiling face and seems to be running into the distance. The lines of Swoon’s drawing give energy and movement to the picture. She placed the picture of the boy next to other large graffiti images. It looks like he is running around between the different pieces of artwork.

Street Art by Swoon
Swoon did not start her career making street art. She studied fine art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. But she says she lost interest in the official workings of art galleries. She soon started taking her art into the streets.

Swoon likes how her work changes slowly after it is outside for a while. The art slowly disappears because of the effects of time, sun and rain. She also enjoys the freedom of expression which street art permits. And people enjoy Swoon’s strong and imaginative pictures. In fact, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City has bought several of her works.

"Pac Man" by Space Invader
STEVE EMBER: Many street corners in Paris, France show the work of an artist known as Space Invader. Space Invader was the name of a video game that was very popular in the nineteen eighties. This French artist uses small colorful squares of glass to make an image of a space creature. He then places these creations on buildings all around Paris. He has been arrested several times. But this does not stop him from working. He says that he is leaving a gift to the city with his art.

On Space Invader’s Web site, you can see the many other cities where he has placed his art. Space Invader has traveled to places like Dhaka, Bangladesh; Mombasa, Kenya, and Istanbul, Turkey.

BARBARA KLEIN: The streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil are also rich with artwork. For example, you can find the work of two brothers who go by the name Os Gemeos. They paint images of funny flat-faced people with orange-yellow skin. Their imaginative characters have many different forms and expressions. Art galleries all over the world have shown the artwork of Os Gemeos.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, visitors can take a street art tour organized by the company Graffitimundo. The tour guides help visitors explore many kinds of exciting street art in different areas of the city.

The street art movement in this city was influenced by the economic collapse in Argentina in two thousand one. Many artists went into the streets and began making playful and colorful art to lift the spirits of people in the city.


STEVE EMBER: Street artists have different reasons for choosing this special kind of creative act. Some artists do not approve of the profit-making business of galleries and museums. They think that these organizations disconnect art from everyday life. They also like the fact that street art stays part of the city environment.

Other artists express their political beliefs with their art. Some see street art as protesting the culture of big business and corporations. They do not like the city walls covered with advertisements that sell products. These artists see these advertisements as examples of corporate aggression. They think that if an advertisement can be on a wall, so can their art. Still other artists like the excitement of working in the streets and trying not to get caught.

BARBARA KLEIN: But some people pay a price for making street art. Shepard Fairey is a street artist who became famous for his image of Barack Obama that became popular during the last presidential campaign. But Fairey has been arrested several times for making his art. In two thousand nine, Fairey was arrested as he arrived at a party to celebrate an exhibit of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Police arrested him on several graffiti charges. Fairey said he was being punished for suggesting that public space should be filled with more than just advertising for companies.

STEVE EMBER: Shepard Fairey has also been involved in legal action with the Associated Press. The AP accused him of using one of its photographs of Barack Obama without permission. He used it to create his famous campaign poster in two thousand eight. Fairey says he used the AP photograph as a reference, but then changed it greatly for his own idealized and colorful picture of the future president.

Last week, Fairey and the AP reached a settlement. Fairey agreed to share profits from the poster and other objects with his image of Barack Obama. And he agreed not to use another AP photo without permission. Fairey and the AP agreed to work on a series of images that the artist will create based on other AP photos.

A movie about street art called “Exit Through the Gift Shop was released in two thousand ten. The movie tells about a French-born shopkeeper in Los Angeles, California. Thierry Guetta loves street art and becomes friends with its artists. He films the artists as they work. He meets the famous and secretive street artist who goes by the name Banksy. Banksy takes the many hours of film created by Guetta and makes this movie. Guetta later becomes an artist who shows his work at a very successful gallery exhibit. Critics have questioned whether parts of the movie are true. But the movie gives an interesting view of the world of street art.


BARBARA KLEIN: The Internet has had a big influence on street art. Street artists can show their work to people all over the world. Web sites like Streetsy.com and WoosterCollective.com have thousands of pictures of street art from all over the world. Also, artists and fans can communicate with each other and exchange ideas.

However, people say the Internet is not a replacement for the experience of seeing street art live. To really understand this art you have to see it in its environment. The street art movement depends on the energy and life of the city. And like cities, this imaginative and exciting art will continue to change and grow.


STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. You can see examples of street art at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The History of The English Language, Part Two" from VOA.

STEVE EMBER: This is Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program, EXPLORATIONS. Today we present the second of our two programs about the history of the English Language.


STEVE EMBER: Last week, we told how the English language developed as a result of several invasions of Britain. The first involved three tribes called the Angles, the Jutes and the Saxons. A mix of their languages produced a language called Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. It sounded very much like German. Only a few words remained from the Celts who had lived in Britain.

Two more invasions added words to Old English. The Vikings of Denmark, Norway and Sweden arrived in Britain more than one thousand years ago. The next invasion took place in the year ten sixty-six. French forces from Normandy were led by a man known as William the Conqueror.

The Norman rulers added many words to English. The words “parliament,” “jury,” “justice,” and others that deal with law come from the Norman rulers.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Over time, the different languages combined to result in what English experts call Middle English. While Middle English still sounds similar to German, it also begins to sound like Modern English.

Here Warren Scheer reads the very beginning of Geoffrey Chaucer’s great poem, “The Canterbury Tales” as it was written in Middle English.


Whan that aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heath…

Geoffrey Chaucer
STEVE EMBER: Chaucer wrote that poem in the late thirteen hundreds. It was written in the language of the people. The rulers of Britain at that time still spoke the Norman French they brought with them in ten sixty-six.

The kings of Britain did not speak the language of the people until the early fourteen hundreds. Slowly, Norman French was used less and less until it disappeared.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The English language was strongly influenced by an event that took place more than one thousand four hundred years ago. In the year five ninety-seven, the Roman Catholic Church began its attempt to make Christianity the religion of Britain.

The language of the Catholic Church was Latin. Latin was not spoken as a language in any country at that time. But it was still used by some people.

Latin made it possible for a church member from Rome to speak to a church member from Britain. Educated people from different countries could communicate using Latin.

Latin had a great effect on the English language. Here are a few examples. The Latin word “discus” became several words in English including “disk,” “dish,” and “desk.” The Latin word “quietus” became the English word “quiet.” Some English names of plants such as ginger and trees such as cedar come from Latin. So do some medical words such as cancer.

STEVE EMBER: English is a little like a living thing that continues to grow. English began to grow more quickly when William Caxton returned to Britain in the year fourteen seventy-six. He had been in Holland and other areas of Europe where he had learned printing. He returned to Britain with the first printing press.

The printing press made it possible for almost anyone to buy a book. It helped spread education and the English language.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Slowly, during the fifteen hundreds, English became the modern language we would recognize. English speakers today would be able to communicate with English speakers in the last part of the sixteenth century.

William Shakespeare
It was during this time period that the greatest writer in English produced his work. His name was William Shakespeare. His plays continue to be printed, acted in theaters, and seen in motion pictures almost four hundred years after his death.

STEVE EMBER: Experts say that Shakespeare’s work was written to be performed on the stage, not to be read. Yet every sound of his words can produce word pictures, and provide feelings of anger, fear and laughter. Shakespeare’s famous play “Romeo and Juliet” is so sad that people cry when they see this famous story.

The story of the power-hungry King Richard the Third is another very popular play by Shakespeare. Listen as Shep O’Neal reads the beginning of “Richard the Third.”


Richard the Third
Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures...

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The development of the English language took a giant step just nine years before the death of William Shakespeare. Three small British ships crossed the Atlantic Ocean in sixteen-oh-seven. They landed in an area that would later become the southern American state of Virginia. They began the first of several British colonies. The name of the first small colony was Jamestown.

In time, people in these new colonies began to call areas of their new land by words borrowed from the native people they found living there. For example, many of the great rivers in the United States are taken from American Indian words. The Mississippi, the Tennessee, the Missouri are examples. Other Native American words included “moccasin”, the kind of shoe made of animal skin that Indians wore on their feet. This borrowing or adding of foreign words to English was a way of expanding the language. The names of three days of the week are good examples of this. The people from Northern Europe honored three gods with a special day each week. The gods were Odin, Thor and Freya. Odin’s-day became Wednesday in English, Thor’s-day became Thursday and Freya’s-day became Friday.

STEVE EMBER: Britain had other colonies in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and India. The English language also became part of these colonies. These colonies are now independent, but English still is one of the languages spoken. And the English language grew as words from the native languages were added.

For example, the word “shampoo” for soap for the hair came from India. “Banana” is believed to be from Africa.

Experts cannot explain many English words. For hundreds of years, a dog was called a “hound.” The word is still used but not as commonly as the word “dog.” Experts do not know where the word “dog” came from or when. English speakers just started using it. Other words whose origins are unknown include “fun,” “bad,” and “big.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: English speakers also continue to invent new words by linking old words together. A good example is the words “motor” and “hotel.” Many years ago some one linked them together into the word “motel.” A motel is a small hotel near a road where people travelling in cars can stay for the night.

Other words come from the first letters of names of groups or devices. A device to find objects that cannot be seen called Radio Detecting and Ranging became “Radar.” The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is usually called NATO.

Experts say that English has more words that explain the same thing that any other language. For example, the words “large,” “huge,” “vast,” “massive,” and “enormous” all mean something really “big.”

STEVE EMBER: People often ask how many words there are in the English language. Well, no one really knows. The Oxford English Dictionary lists about six hundred fifteen thousand words. Yet the many scientific words not in the dictionary could increase the number to almost one million.

And experts are never really sure how to count English words. For example, the word “mouse.” A mouse is a small creature from the rodent family. But “mouse” has another very different meaning. A “mouse” is also a hand-held device used to help control a computer. If you are counting words do you count “mouse” two times?


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Visitors to the Voice of America hear people speaking more than forty different languages. Most broadcasters at VOA come from countries where these languages are spoken. International organizations such as VOA would find it impossible to operate without a second language all the people speak.

The language that permits VOA to work is English. It is not unusual to see someone from the Mandarin Service talking to someone from the Urdu Service, both speaking English. English is becoming the common language of millions of people worldwide, helping speakers of many different languages communicate.


STEVE EMBER: This Special English program was written and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And this is Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program, on the Voice of America.


1. Your English would be understood if you lived _____________________ .
a: in the Fourth Century
b: in the Tenth Century
c: in the late Sixteenth Century
d: 1000 years ago

2. The words "parliament", "jury", and "justice" come from _______________
a: Norman rulers
b: Jutes
c: Celts
d: Native Americans

3. Latin became an influence in the English Language because of the ____________ .
a: German influence
b: Roman Catholic influence
c: Chaucer's writings
d: Shakespeare's writings

4. William Shakespeare wrote ______________________________ .
a: novels
b: stories
c: film scripts
d: plays

5. "Zephirus" probably refers to ___________________ .
a: the rain
b: the train
c: the wind
d: sweet candy

6. The days Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are named after ________________ .
a: Roman Catholic saints
b: Northern gods
c: Celtic dieties
d: French words

7. The English Language ___________________ .
a: stopped growing 9 years after Shakespeare wrote
b: became complete after the founding of the colonies
c: is still growing
d: became complete after the addition of scientific and medical terms

8. ___________________ helped English to grow very fast in the 15th Century.
a: More commerce
b: Shakespeare's popularity
c: the influence of Latin
d: the printing press

9. The word "moccasin" means a kind of shoe. It comes to English from _______________ .
a: a Native American language
b: the Normans
c: the Vikings
d: Shakespeare

10. What is the shape of the "discus" from Latin? ___________________
a: It is like a ball
b: It is like a plate
c: It is like a river
d: It is like a cube

11. Shakespeare's plays were never ________________________ .
a: performed on a stage
b: made into films
c: printed in books
d: unemotional

Act 1, Scene 1 of Richard The Third. In this scene, Richard is not happy that war has ended. He can't enjoy peace because of his deformity and ugly features. "Dogs bark at me", he complains. Therefore, he doesn't want peace. He wants to be a villain (a bad guy). He shares with us his plot gain more power. It involves murder and treachery. Kenneth Branagh plays Richard, and the lines are in large blue letters.

The History of the English Language, Part One

Friday, January 7, 2011

Martin Luther King, Part Two from VOA

PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.


Today, Shep O'Neal and Warren Scheer finish the story of the life of civil right's leader Martin Luther King, Junior.


Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in nineteen twenty-nine. He began his university studies when he was fifteen years old, and received a doctorate degree in religion. He became a preacher at a church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In nineteen fifty-five, a black woman (Rosa Parks) in Montgomery was arrested for sitting in the white part of a city bus. Doctor King became the leader of a protest against the city bus system. It was the first time that black southerners had united against the laws of racial separation.

At first, the white citizens of Montgomery did not believe that the protest would work. They thought most blacks would be afraid to fight against racial separation. But the buses remained empty.

Some whites used tricks to try to end the protest.

They spread false stories about Martin Luther King and other protest leaders. One story accused Martin of stealing money from the civil rights movement. Another story charged that protest leaders rode in cars while other protesters had to walk. But the tricks did not work, and the protest continued.

Doctor King's wife Coretta described how she and her husband felt during the protest. She said: "We never knew what was going to happen next. We felt like actors in a play whose ending we did not know. Yet we felt a part of history. And we believed we were instruments of the will of God".

The white citizens blamed Doctor King for starting the protest. They thought it would end if he was in prison or dead. Doctor King was arrested twice on false charges. His arrests made national news and he was released. But the threats against his life continued.

The Montgomery bus boycott lasted three hundred eighty-two days. Finally, the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial separation was illegal in the Montgomery bus system. Martin Luther King and his followers had won their struggle. The many months of meetings and protest marches had made victory possible.

They also gave blacks a new feeling of pride and unity. They saw that peaceful protest, Mahatma Gandhi's idea of non-violence, could be used as a tool to win their legal rights.

Life did not return to normal for Doctor King after the protest was over. He had become well known all over the country and throughout the world. He often was asked to speak about his ideas on non-violence. Both black and white Americans soon began to follow his teachings. Groups were formed throughout the south to protest peacefully against racial separation.

The civil rights movement spread so fast that a group of black churchmen formed an organization to guide it. The organization was called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Martin Luther King became its president.

In his job, Doctor King helped organize many protests in the southern part of the United States. Blacks demanded to be served in areas where only whites were permitted to eat. And they rode in trains and buses formerly for whites only. These protests became known as "freedom rides. " Many of the freedom rides turned violent. Black activists were beaten and arrested. Some were even killed.

In nineteen sixty-three, the black citizens of Birmingham refused to buy goods from the stores in the city. They demanded more jobs for blacks. And they demanded to send their children to white schools. The white citizens were angry and afraid, but they refused to meet the blacks' demands. The situation became tense. Many protestors were beaten and arrested. Even Doctor King was arrested. But he was not in prison for long.

The Birmingham demonstrations made international news. Whites soon saw that it was easier to meet the demands of the protestors than to fight them. Martin Luther King and his followers had won an important victory in Birmingham. It marked a turning point for the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King recognized the importance of Birmingham. It did not mean that racial separation had ended. Some still remains today. But he felt that the battle was almost won. And he wanted to call on the nation for its support. So doctor king organized a March on Washington, D. C.

The March on Washington took place in August, nineteen sixty-three. About two hundred fifty thousand persons gathered there. They came to demand more jobs and freedom for black Americans. There were to be many other marches in Washington during the nineteen sixties and early seventies. But this was the biggest up to that time.

It was in Washington that Martin Luther King gave one of his most famous speeches. The speech is known as the "I Have a Dream Speech. " It expressed his ideas for the future. Doctor king said:

"So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize in nineteen sixty-four. But he did not live to see the final results of his life's work. He was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee, in nineteen sixty-eight.

Doctor King always felt he would die a violent death. His life had been threatened wherever he went. And he often spoke to his wife about his fears. But he never believed that his life was more important than the civil rights movement. The night before he died he spoke to his supporters. He said:

"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

(MUSIC: "We Shall Overcome")


You have been listening to the story of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior. This Special English program was written by William Rodgers. Your narrators were Shep O'Neal and Warren Scheer. I'm Doug Johnson. Listen again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

The Entire "I have a dream" Speech.

The Entire "I've been to the mountaintop." Speech.

The story of Martin Luther King Jr., Part One.

1. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of the ________________ .
a. Civil Rights Movement
b. Freedom Ride
c. Birmingham Marches
d. March on Washington

2. Before Martin Luther King Jr. started the Civil Rights protests, he was _________ .
a. a student at Morehouse University
b. a PhD candidate in Boston
c. a successful preacher
d. the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

3. The famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington was called _____________ .
a. "I've been to the mountaintop"
b. "We shall overcome"
c. "I've seen the promised land"
d. "I have a dream"

4. After the Montgomery bus lasted _____________ , the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was illegal in the Montgomery Bus System.
a. two weeks
b. more than one year
c. less than one year
d. six months

5. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that his death would probably be ____________ .
a. violent
b. non-violent
c. from a disease
d. after a long life

6. The greatest inspiration for King's style of protest came from the example and writings of ______________ .
a. Frederick Douglass
b. Walt Whitman
c. Mahatma Gandhi
d. Franklin Roosevelt

7. In nineteen-sixty four, Martin Luther King Jr. received the ___________ Prize.
a. Pulitzer
b. Nobel Peace
c. Metal of Honor
d. The Purple Heart

8. At a very early age, King demonstrated a remarkable gift for _____________ .
a. giving speeches
b. leading protest marches
c. changing the laws
d. solving difficult problems

9. Another name for this selection could be _________________ .
a. "The Civil Rights Movement"
b. "The March on Washington"
c. "The Death of a Great Leader"
d. "The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr."

10. This article is mainly about ______________ .
a. the violence in American society
b. the work of Martin Luther King Jr.
c. the struggles of black people for justice
d. the continuing battle with racism

Martin Luther King Jr: "I have a dream"