Sunday, January 27, 2013

"The First President of The United States" from VOA

Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

The United States declared its independence from Britain on July fourth, 1776. The new nation was a loosely formed alliance governed under the Articles of Confederation. All this changed when a new plan of government, the Constitution, went into effect on March fourth, 1789. There was much to be done to make it work. The machinery of government was untested. Strong leadership was needed. Today, Harry Monroe and Kay Gallant tell the story of America's first president, George Washington.

Many historians believe there would never have been a United States without George Washington. He led the American people to victory in their war for independence from Britain. He kept the new nation united in the dangerous first years of its life.

Washington had a strange power over the American people. His name still does. During his lifetime, he was honored for his courage and wisdom. After his death in 1799, he became almost god-like. People forgot that he was human, that he had faults and made mistakes.

For well over one hundred years, Americans found it difficult to criticize George Washington. He represented the spirit of America -- what was best about the country.

Recent historians have painted a more realistic picture of Washington. They write about his weaknesses, as well as his strengths. But this has not reduced his greatness and importance in the making of the nation.

The force of Washington's personality, and his influence, was extremely important at the Philadelphia convention that wrote the new Constitution. Had he not agreed to attend, some say, the convention would not have been held. Later, as the first president, he gave the new nation a good start in life.

Washington was able to control political disputes among officials of the new government. He would not let such disputes damage the nation's unity.

Washington often thought of the future. He wanted the first government to take the right steps.

He said, some things may not seem important in the beginning, but later, they may have bad permanent results. It would be better, he felt, to start his administration right than to try to correct mistakes later…when it might be too late to do so. He hoped to act in such a way that future presidents could continue to build on what he began.

Washington had clear, firm ideas about what was right and what was wrong. He loved justice. He also loved the republican form of government.

Some people had difficulty seeing this part of the man. For Washington looked like an aristocrat. And, at times, he seemed to act like one. He attended many ceremonies. He often rode through the streets in a carriage pulled by six horses. His critics called him "king."

Washington opposed rule by kings and dictators. He was shocked that some good people talked of having a monarchy in America. He was even more shocked that they did not understand the harm they were doing.

Washington warned that this loose talk could lead to an attempt to establish a monarchy in the United States. A monarchy, he said, would be a great victory for the enemies of the United States. It would prove that Americans could not govern themselves.

As president, Washington decided to do everything in his power to prevent the country from ever being ruled by a king or dictator. He wanted the people to have as much self-government as possible. Such government, Washington felt, meant a life of personal freedom and equal justice for the people.

The 18th century has been described as the age of reason and understanding for the rights of people. Washington was a man of his times. He said no one could feel a greater interest in the happiness of mankind than he did. He said it was his greatest hope that the policies of that time would bring to everyone those blessings which should be theirs.

Washington was especially happy and proud that the United States would protect people against oppression for their religious beliefs.

He did not care which god people worshipped. He felt that religious freedom was a right of every person. Good men, he said, are found all over the world. They can be followers of any religion…or no religion at all.

Washington's feelings about racial oppression were as strong as his feelings about religious oppression. True, he owned Negro slaves. But he hated slavery. "There is not a man alive," he once said, "who wishes more truly than I to see a plan approved to end slavery." By his order, all his slaves were freed when he died.

From the beginning, George Washington was careful to establish a good working relationship with the Congress. He did not attempt to take away any powers given to the Congress by the Constitution. By his actions, he confirmed the separation of powers of the three branches of the government, as proposed in the Constitution.

The Congress, too, was ready to cooperate. It did not attempt to take away any powers given to the president by the Constitution. The Congress, for example, agreed that President Washington had the right to appoint his assistants. But Congress kept the right to approve them.

Washington asked some of the nation's wisest and most able men to serve in the new government.

Thomas Jefferson
For Secretary of State, he chose Thomas Jefferson. At the time, Jefferson was America's representative to France.

While Congress was considering Jefferson's nomination, Washington heard of threatening events in France. He learned that a mob had captured the old prison called the Bastille. Washington was worried. The United States had depended on France for help during its war for independence. And it still needed French help. A crisis in France could be bad for America.

The information Jefferson brought home would prove valuable if the situation in France got worse. Washington also thought Jefferson's advice would be useful in general, not just on French developments.

For Secretary of the Treasury, Washington chose Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had served as one of Washington's assistants during the Revolutionary War.

For Chief Justice of the United States, he chose John Jay. Jay helped write the Federalist Papers, which are considered the best explanation of the Constitution ever written. Two delegates to the Constitutional convention were named associate justices of the Supreme Court: James Wilson and John Rutledge.

Edmund Randolph

For Attorney General, Washington wanted a good lawyer and someone who supported the Constitution. He chose Edmund Randolph of Virginia. It was Randolph who proposed the Virginia Plan to the Philadelphia convention. The plan became the basis for the national Constitution. Randolph refused to sign the document, because he did not believe it could be approved. But he worked later to help win Virginia's approval of the Constitution.

President Washington named his assistants, and the Congress approved them. The president was ready to begin work on the nation's urgent problems. And there were many.

One problem was Spain's control of the lower part of the Mississippi River. American farmers needed to use the river to transport their crops to market. But the Spanish governor in Louisiana closed the Mississippi to American boats.

There also were problems with Britain. The United States had no commercial treaty with Britain. And Britain had sent no representative to the new American government.

Equally urgent were the new nation's economic problems. Two major issues had to be settled. One was repayment of loans made to support the American army in the war for independence. The other was creation of a national money system. Both issues needed quick action.

Finding solutions would be the job of President Washington's treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton will be our story next week.

Our program was written by Harold Braverman. The narrators were Harry Monroe and Kay Gallant. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION, an American history series in VOA Special English. Our programs are online with transcripts, MP3s and podcasts at You can also learn about the history of the series itself. THE MAKING OF A NATION was first broadcast in 1969, ten years after VOA started Special English.


1. The commander-in-chief of the American Army in the Revolutionary War was _____________________ .

a: Abraham Lincoln
b: William Howard Tell
c: George Washington
d: Thomas Jefferson

2. The United States Constitution becamse the law of the land in ________________ .
a: 1776
b: 1789
c: 1863
d: 1781

3. George Washington became the first president of the United States in ___________________.
a: 1776
b: 1789
c: 1800
d: 1801

4. When George Washington was president, most Americans ________
a: hated him
b: respected him
c: thought he was king
d: preferred his role as army general

5. George Washington ___________
a: wanted to be a strong authority
b: didn't want the United States to have a dictator
c: wanted the United States to become a monarchy
d: wanted the United States to be a divided country

6. Before George Washington died, he _________ .
a: became president of the United States
b: wrote an order to free all of his slaves after his funeral
c: was the leader of the American forces from 1775 to 1781
d: all of the above

7. In 1789, George Washington attended the Continental Congress meetings in ___________ .
a: New York
b: Washington D.C.
c: Philadelphia
d: Boston

8. George Washington respected the powers of the U.S. Congress because _____________ .
a: they agreed with him
b: he didn't want the office of president to be too strong
c: he knew they would declare war if he asked for it
d: it was more powerful than the Judicial Branch

9. George Washington chose Thomas Jefferson as his Secretary of State because _____________ .
a: he wanted the best people to help him solve the country's problems
b: he felt that Jefferson would be a tough negotiator
c: Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence
d: Jefferson was a very wealthy landowner

10. Washington chose as the first Treasury Secretary ______________ .
a: Abraham Lincoln
b: Thomas Jefferson
c: Benjamin Franklin
d: Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"The Fir Tree" by Hans Christian Anderson

A long time ago, there was a pretty green little Fir Tree. The sun shone on him; he had plenty of fresh air; and around him grew many large pine trees and fir trees. But the little Fir was not satisfied. He didn't think of the large sun and the fresh air. He wanted to be a big tree like the others.

Sometimes the little children living in the houses near by came into the woods to play. "What a nice little Fir!" they said. But the Tree didn't like to hear them talk this way. He didn't like to be called "little." By the time he was a year old, he had grown taller. Another year passed and he was even taller. "Oh, if only I were as tall as the other trees," he thought. "Then I could spread out my branches and look out into the wide world. The birds would build nests in my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could bend gracefully just like the other trees."

The Tree sighed, taking no pleasure in the sunbeams and the birds and the red clouds that sailed above him morning and evening. In the winter time, when the snow lay white and glittering on the ground, a hare would often come leaping along. Sometimes he jumped right over the little tree, and that made him very angry. But by the third winter, the Tree had grown so large the hare had to go around it. That made the Tree feel better. "The most delightful thing in the world," he thought, "is to grow and grow and be tall and old."

In the autumn, the wood cutters came and cut down some of the largest trees. This happened every year, and the little Fir Tree, which was not so little any more, was frightened. How he trembled as the magnificent trees fell to the earth with a great noise. After the branches had been lopped off, the trees looked so long and bare that it was hard to recognize them. Then they were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of the woods.

"What becomes of them?" the Fir Tree wondered.

In spring, when the Swallows and the Storks came, the Tree said to them, "Do you know where they have been taken?"

One of the Storks nodded his head thoughtfully. "As I was flying here from Egypt, I met many ships with tall masts and they smelt of fir. You may feel proud of them, they looked so majestic."

"If I were only old enough to fly across the ocean!" sighed the Tree.

"Rejoice in your youth!" said the Sunbeams.

"Rejoice in your growth!" And the Wind kissed the Tree; the moisture touched him; but the Fir didn't understand.

When Christmas came, many young trees were cut down. Their branches were left on them when they were laid on the carts, and the horses pulled them out of the woods. "They are no taller than I," complained the Fir Tree. "In fact, one of them was much shorter. Why are they allowed to keep all their branches? Where are they going?"

"We know! We know!" twittered the Sparrows. "We have looked in the windows in town below! We saw the trees planted in the middle of the warm rooms and ornamented with the most splendid things - with golden apples, with gingerbread, with toys and hundreds of lights!"

A tremor ran through the Fir Tree. "And then? What happens after that?"

"We did not see anything more, but it was very beautiful."

"Ah, perhaps I will know the same magnificence some day," the Tree rejoiced. "If Christmas would only come! I am as tall as the trees that were carried off last year. Oh, if I were only on the cart now! If I were only in the warm room with all the splendor! Something better, something still grander, is sure to follow - but what? How I long, how I suffer! I wonder what is the matter with me!" "Rejoice in us!" said the Air and the Sunlight, "Rejoice in your own youth!"

But the Tree did not rejoice. He grew and grew. He was green both winter and summer. "What a fine tree!" people said, and toward Christmas he was one of the first to be cut down. The axe struck deep, and the Tree fell to earth with a sigh. But he was not happy; he could only think how sad it was to be taken away from the place where he had grown up. He knew that never again would he see his dear old friends, the little bushes and flowers around him; perhaps he would never even see the birds again or the hares. And he didn't like it, at all.

The Tree was put on a cart with several others and taken away. When he came to himself again, he was being unloaded in a big yard, and two servants in handsome clothing carried him into a beautiful living room. The Fir Tree was stuck upright in a tub filled with sand; but it didn't look like a tub, because green cloth was hung all around it, and it stood on a large, bright carpet.

A tremor ran through the Tree. What was going to happen? Several young ladies decorated it, aided by the servants. On one branch they hung little nets made of colored paper and filled with sugar-plums. On the other branches they hung gold apples and walnuts which looked as though they had grown there. Then little blue and white and red candles were fastened to the branches. Among the branches there were dolls which looked like people. The Tree had never seen anything like them before - and at the very top there was a large star of gold tinsel. It was really splendid - too splendid for any words to describe.

"Just wait till evening!" everybody said. "How the Tree will shine this evening!"

"Oh, if evening would only come!" thought the Tree. "If the candles were only lighted! What will happen then, I wonder. Will the other trees from the forest come to look at me? Will the sparrows beat against the windows? Perhaps I'll take root and stand here winter and summer covered with ornaments!"

Suddenly both the folding doors opened, and in rushed the children, with the older persons following more quietly. The little ones stood quite still, but only for a moment. Then they shouted for joy, and the room echoed with their shouts. They began dancing around the Tree, pulling off one present after another.

"What are they doing?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now?"

The candles burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out, one after another. Then the children were given permission to attack the Tree, and they rushed upon it so violently that all its branches cracked. Then the children went on playing with their beautiful toys. No one even looked at the Tree, except the old nurse; who looked in among the branches to see if there was a fig or an apple that had been overlooked.

"A story! A story!" the children cried, dragging a little fat man over toward the Tree. He sat down under it and said, "Now the Tree can listen, too." The man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who fell downstairs and, yet married the princess anyway. The children clapped their hands. The Fir Tree stood quite still, thinking, "Who knows? Perhaps I shall fall downstairs, too, and marry a princess!" And he looked forward to the next day when he hoped to be decked out again with lights and toys and bright tinsel. The next morning the servants came in.

"Ah, now the splendor will begin again!" thought the Fir.

But no. The servants dragged him out of the room, up the stairs into the attic and there, in a dark corner, they left him. "What can this mean?" wondered the Tree, and he leaned against the wall lost in thought. Days and nights passed, and nobody came near him. When at last somebody did come up to the attic, it was only to leave some trunks. There stood the Tree quite hidden. There stood the Tree quite forgotten.

"It is winter outside!" he thought. "The earth is hard and covered with snow. I could not be planted now. These people are really very kind. They have put me up here under shelter until spring comes! If only it were not so dark and lonely here! Not even a hare! I liked it out in the woods when the snow was on the ground and the hare leaped by; yes, even when he jumped over me. Ah, but I did not like it then."

"Squeak, squeak!" said a little mouse, peeping out of his hole. Then another little mouse came and they sniffed at the Fir Tree and ran in and out among the branches.

"It is very cold," said the mouse. "Except for that, it would be nice here, wouldn't it, old Fir?" "I am not old," said the Fir Tree. "There is many a tree much older than I." "Where do you come from?" asked the mice.

"Tell us about the most beautiful place in the world. Have you ever been there?"

"I know of no such place," said the Tree. "But I know the woods where the sun shines and the birds sing." Then he told of the time when he was young, and the little mice had never heard the like before.

"How much you have seen!" they said. "How happy you must have been!"

"I?" said the Fir Tree, thinking it over. "Yes, those really were happy times." Then he told about Christmas Eve, when he had been decked out with beautiful ornaments.

"Oh," said the little Mice. "How lucky you have been, old Fir Tree."

"I am not old, " said he. "I came from the woods only this winter."

"But what wonderful stories you know!" said the mice, and the next night they came with four other little mice who wanted to hear the stories also. The more the Fir Tree talked about his youth, the more plainly he remembered it himself, and he realized that those times had really been very happy times.

The little mice were so pleased, they jumped to the very top of the Tree. The next night two more Mice came and to hear the Tree's stories.

At last the little Mice stopped coming, and the Tree sighed. "After all I liked having the little mice listen to my stories, but that is over now. When I am brought out again I am going to enjoy myself."

But when was that to be? Why, one morning a number of people came up to the attic. Trunks were moved and the Tree was pulled out and thrown down on the floor. Then a man drew him toward the stairs, where the sun shone.

"Now life begins again," thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam, and then he was out in the yard. Roses hung over the fence and lindens were in bloom.

"Now I shall enjoy life!" said the Tree, and spread out his branches. But unfortunately, they were all withered and yellow. He lay in a corner among weeds and nettles. The golden star was still on the tree, and it glittered in the sunlight.

In the yard some children were playing, the same children who had danced around the Fir Tree at Christmas time. They were glad to see him again, and the youngest child ran up and tore off the golden star.

"Look what is still on the ugly old Christmas Tree!" said he. And he trampled on the crackling branches.

The Tree looked at the beautiful garden and then at himself. He wished he had stayed in his dark corner in the attic. He thought of his youth in the woods, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little mice.

"It is over," said the poor Tree. "Had I but been happy when I had reason to be! But it's over now."

Then the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces for firewood. When it flamed up in the fireplace, it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a shot.

The children went on playing in the yard. On his chest the youngest wore the gold star which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. But that was over now, the Tree gone, the story finished.


1. The Stork said that probably the large Fir trees became ____________ after they were cut down.
a: masts of ships
b: lumber for houses
c: timber for railroads
d: material for wagons

2. The mice were very interested in ______________________________ .
a: the Fir tree's stories
b: the food still to be found among the Fir tree's branches
c: using the Fir tree to make better nests for themselves
d: cutting up the Fir tree for firewood

3. The Sunbeam and the Wind tried to persuade the Fir tree to ____________________ .
a: become a Christmas tree
b: become a
much larger tree
c: make space for birds' nests
d: rejoice in his youth and his growth

4. When Christmas Eve comes, the Fir hopes ______________________ .
a: the candles are lighted
b: the other trees come to look at him
c: he takes root there and stands winter and summer covered with ornaments
d: all of the above

5. The little Fir tree was ____________________ with his life in the forest.
a: completely satisfied
b: somewhat satisfied
c: not very satisfied
d: contented

6. The main theme of this story could be summed up in the author's advice: ____________ .
a: always keep your objective in mind and work toward that objective
b: take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to improve yourself
c: live fully in the present moment
d: take pleasure in your memories of the past

7. The Fir tree didn't like it when the children called him ___________________ .
a: an old Fir
b: a little Fir
c: a splendid Fir
d: an ugly Fir

8. When the men took the Fir tree to the attic, the Fir tree felt _________________ .
a: sad and lonely and angry
b: fully satisfied
c: grateful to the people for waiting until spring to plant him again
d: grateful to be given an opportunity to relax after all the excitement of Christmas Day

9. The hare was able to jump over the Fir tree _______________________ .
a: after the Fir tree had grown
b: when the Fir tree bent over
c: when the Fir tree was being cut down
d: before the Fir tree had grown

10. The children attacked the Fir tree because on its branches there were ____________________ .
a: candles
b: presents
c: needles
d: stories

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Nam June Paik: Video Artist" from VOA

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I’m Shirley Griffith.

MARIO RITTER: And I’m Mario Ritter with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Nam June Paik is widely considered one of the first video artists. Today, video art is a rich and popular field in modern art. But in the nineteen sixties, the use of television and television images to make art was very new and revolutionary. Nam June Paik helped turn the moving image into a common tool for artists to use as a form of expression. Today his works can be seen in the permanent collections of museums around the world.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One place to experience the art of Nam June Paik is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. There, visitors can see several of his works. One is a huge neon and video sculpture called “Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii.” The sculpture was created in nineteen ninety-five. It is made up of three hundred thirty-six televisions, fifty DVD players, and over one hundred seventy meters of neon lighting.

The work measures about twelve meters wide and over four meters tall. The televisions and neon lighting form the shape of a map of the United States.

MARIO RITTER: Name June Paik used video imagery to represent each of the fifty states. For example, he chose to show parts of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” to represent the state of Kansas. Images from the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior are used to represent the state of Alabama. The many bright images move very quickly in a disorderly and energetic way. The sculpture shows how media images defined Nam June Paik’s understanding of the United States and its many cultural expressions.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Another of his works at the Smithsonian American Art Museum is called “Megatron/Matrix.” It has two hundred fifteen television screens that play videos. Each television shows fast-moving images of Korean folk traditions, modern dance and the nineteen eighty-eight Olympic games in Seoul. Larger moving images flow across the screens of each television, creating a magical effect.

An earlier work by Nam June Paik is called “The more the better.” He made this work to mark the Olympics in Seoul, where the work was shown. This video sculpture makes use of over one thousand televisions. They were placed one on top of another in a circular shape. The sculpture looks like a huge layered birthday cake.


MARIO RITTER: Nam June Paik was born in Korea in nineteen thirty-two. His family fled their country during the Korean War and moved first to Hong Kong, then to Japan. In college, Mr. Paik studied art and music history at the University of Tokyo. Later, he moved to Germany to study music at Munich University. There, he met the American composer John Cage. Mister Cage was known for his experimental music and for using everyday sounds in his art. He had a big influence on the young Korean artist.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Nam June Paik became part of an art movement known as Fluxus. Fluxus artists created works that were experimental, playful, and combined different art forms. Mr. Paik organized art events that combined his interest in experimental music with theatrical performance. He moved to New York City in nineteen sixty-four.

The year before, he provided artwork for a show in the West German city of Wuppertal. The show was called “Exposition of Music: Electronic Television.” His work was said to be made up of thirteen televisions in a room. Some of the televisions were turned off. Some had no picture. And others showed bent, changed images. Mr. Paik created those images by placing magnets near the television.

MARIO RITTER: One reporter described the Wuppertal show as a hugely important moment in art history. Jim Lewis of said it marked the first time video images were freed from television. He said that television images were no longer only the property of governments or broadcast companies. Video could be used by anyone, and it could be a material for artists.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Another development helped expand the possibilities of video art for Nam June Paik and others. This was the release in nineteen sixty-five of the Portapak, made by Sony Corporation. This handheld video camera was light and easy to carry. It was also far less costly than movie and television cameras used by industry experts. The handheld video camera permitted anyone who could buy one to become a producer of images. This device helped open up the world of video to more artists.

In nineteen seventy, Nam June Paik and a friend invented a video synthesizer device. This helped him to change and move video tapes and television programs to create the fast-dancing images that are part of his work.


MARIO RITTER: Nam June Paik is well known for his huge, complex video works that involve many televisions. But the National Gallery of Art in Washington is currently holding an exhibit that shows a different side of the artist.

Harry Cooper is the head of the National Gallery of Art’s modern and contemporary art department. He organized this exhibit. He says an important part of the artist’s message was to reject the blind acceptance of television and its images. Instead, he says, Nam June Paik wanted people to take an active role in the media that is so much a part of modern life.

HARRY COOPER: “Behind all this was really a kind of political and cultural idea that we shouldn’t just be consumers of experience, we should be producers of experience. We shouldn’t just watch the world go by and accept the media images that we’re given. And we shouldn’t even just criticize them, but really try to make our own images. So it is a very democratic idea of being activists in the world of images.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The National Gallery’s exhibit includes twenty works by Nam June Paik.

The main work is called “One Candle, Candle Projection.” Every morning, a museum worker lights a candle. A video camera sitting nearby records the candle all day as it slowly burns. About ten different projectors direct the image of the candle on different walls in the room. Some projections of the candle are small, other are very large. Some are high up on the wall, another is low to the ground. One image shows the burning candle in red, green and blue.

Harry Cooper of the National Gallery of Art says the work is both simple and complex.

HARRY COOPER: “In some ways it’s classic Paik. That is, very complicated. Lots of stuff to look at, sometimes almost a kind of visual overload. But at the same time, we have this very simple image of a candle and that’s all there is to look at.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Mister Cooper says the work is a reminder of Nam June Paik’s interest in Zen Buddhism and in meditation.

HARRY COOPER: “So, there is this other side of Paik which is very quiet, very calm. Really the opposite of what we think of as the world of media that he was immersed in. So for me, ‘One Candle’ puts these two extremes and takes them together.”

MARIO RITTER: Nam June Paik also made a series of works called TV Buddhas. One of these can be seen at the National Gallery exhibit. It is called “Standing Buddha with Outstretched Hand.” The work is made up of a nearly life-size metal statue of Buddha. Nearby, a video camera records his image. The Buddha is facing four televisions placed one on top of another. Two of the televisions show an image of the statue taken by the video camera. The two other television screens show colorful moving images.

The exhibit also includes several works by Mr. Paik that have rarely been exhibited - his drawings.

HARRY COOPER: “It turns out this is one way he came up with ideas, making notes to himself, playing on paper with ideas and materials. For me, these different kinds of drawings all have to do with his thoughts about television, what kind of thing it is, what kind of medium it is.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Mister Cooper says many people have seen the exhibit. He says he often finds visitors sitting on the floor, looking at the walls and just “hanging out” and enjoying the art.

HARRY COOPER: “People have been surprised to see this aspect of Paik’s work focused on because they are used to seeing the big banks of televisions with a lot of dancing and twisting images. I wanted to present a different kind of work that is more meditative. So I think people come out, you know, hopefully a little surprised and with a larger view of what he was all about.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Nam June Paik died in two thousand six. But his works continue to influence new generations of artists and art lovers.


MARIO RITTER: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Mario Ritter.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. For pictures of the art of Nam June Paik, visit our website at You can also read and listen to our programs and get podcasts. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. Nam June Paik's Wuppertal show is an important moment in art history because __________________ .

a: it was the first time a Korean artist's works were shown in Germany
b: it showed that video could be a material for artists, not just a medium for broadcast companies
c: it was the first time several televisions could be seen at the same time
d: it was one of the best television shows in the city of Wuppertal

2. The political and cultural message behind Nam June Paik's work encourages viewers ________________ .
a: to reject passive acceptance of television images
b: to view as much television as possible
c: to cut television watching from their experience as much as possible
d: to protest television's imposition of cultural stereotypes

3. The invention of the ____________________ greatly advanced the possibilities in Paik's video presentations.
a: flat screen Television
b: Portapak
c: Motion Picture Camera
d: Electronic guitar

4. Many of Nam June Paik's works originated as ____________________ .
a: nationally broadcast TV series
b: drawings where he played with ideas
c: observations of candles and buddhas
d: using parts of broken TVs found in junk yards

5. The idea of using television in works of art was very new in _______________ .
a: the early part of the 21st Century
b: the 1960s
c: the end of 2010
d: the year after its invention

6. "Visual Overload" means ___________________________ .
a: too little to look at
b: over simplified images
c: the equipment is much too heavy and cumbersome
d: there is too much to look at

7. _______________________ would probably not like Nam June Paik's ideas about television.
a: Contemporary artists
b: Contemporary museum curators
c: Contemporary political candidates
d: Contemporary art critics

8. In "The Electronic Superhighway", Nam June Paik uses a group of televisions to represent _________________________ .
a: a freeway system connecting New York to California
b: a huge service station
c: images of different motels and camping grounds
d: a map of the United States

9. Images of Korean folk traditions are exhibited in a work called "______________ ."
a: "Megatron/Matrix"
b: "The Electronic Superhighway"
c: "The More the Better"
d: "The Candle Projection"

10. "Fluxus" was the name of a _____________________________ .
a: group of artists devoted to mixed art forms
b: group of John Cage's students
c: museum in New York City
d: a work of art comprising over two hundred television sets

The Electronic Superhighway

How Television Works

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Day For The Workers - Edcon Publishing

Since 1882, Labor Day has been a time for parades, picnics, and speeches.

Someone you will read about: Peter J. McGuire

Something you will read about: Labor Day

Near the end of summer, we celebrate a holiday in the United States. Many workers are not at their jobs on that day. But the day is meant to remind us of all that workers have done to make our nation great. The holiday is called "Labor Day." Years ago, many people knew the strain of poor working conditions. Men, women, and young children worked for twelve or more hours a day in factories and shops. Their hours of work brought them little money. Old pictures show the sad and tired faces of the workers of that time.

One boy among the workers who would trudge to and from work each· day, was Peter J. McGuire. Peter was eleven years old when he started working in a furniture factory in New York City. The money this young boy would earn was needed to help support his nine brothers and sisters and their parents. Peter's parents were unhappy about their child
leaving for work each day instead of going to school. The parents worked hard, but they never had enough money to pay the rent and to buy the food needed for their large family. Many children worked at machines to earn money for their families.

As Peter grew older, he became a carpenter. The skills needed for this job were taught to him when he started his work in the furniture factory. A group of carpenters had banded together. They hoped to win higher pay and better working conditions. Peter had great interest in the aims of the carpenters' group, and he joined them. He was able to perform many services for the members. In a few years, the carpenters chose Peter to be president of their group.

Peter was not pleased with the way most workers were treated. Many of them suffered the strain of long hours at their jobs. Many of them were not paid well. As Peter
watched tired workers trudge home from their work, he had an idea. He thought of a plan that might change the workers' lives. He would remind people in New York City that workers help keep our country strong. The workers, too, would realize how needed they were. Peter's plan was to introduce a new holiday. The day would remind everyone that workers actually help to preserve our land and its people. In September 1882, Peter announced the new holiday and called it "Labor Day."

On that September day, ten thousand workers marched through New York City. Bands
played for the marching workers, who wore red, white, and blue. As the marchers paraded through the city, crowds cheered them. At the end of the march, a great picnic was held for the workers and their families. Speeches were made, food was eaten, and games were played. Peter J. McGuire's idea had been a good one. The workers and their families ·felt pride in themselves that day.

A few years later, workers from many states gathered at a meeting. They had heard about the great parade and the picnic that had been held in New York City. They, too, were in favor of a special day to honor workers. A suggestion was made that the Labor Day holiday should be introduced to other parts of the United States. People who had been at the meeting returned to their homes. They told workers in their states about what had been done in New York City.

In five states, people agreed to introduce the holiday as a reminder to everyone of the good that workers do. By 1894, more than half the states celebrated Labor Day. It was during that year that the President of the United States declared that the first Monday in September would be known as Labor Day - a national holiday.

However, more than a holiday was needed to improve the lives of workers. They had done much to preserve our nation. They had helped to make it great. Now laws were needed to actually change their working conditions. New laws were made. Children were no longer allowed to work at dangerous jobs. Working hours were shortened. Workers earned more pay for what they did.

Peter J. McGuire and others like him helped people realize that workers must be treated fairly. Many years have passed since that first Labor Day took place in New York City. Many changes have been made in factories and shops. But we still keep the custom of celebrating Labor Day with parades and speeches and picnics. We continue to do so because we know how important the workers of our nation are to us.

"A Day for the Workers", Comprehension Check

1. Years ago, many workers ______ .
a. spent twelve hours a day at their jobs.
b. had parades and picnics every day.
c. were paid well for the work they did.
d. had safe, comfortable working conditions.

2. Peter J. McGuire's first job was ________ .
a. in a shop.
b. in a furniture factory.
c. in a carpenters' group.
d. in a clothing factory.

3. Peter's parents _______ .
a. wanted Peter to work.
b. sent all their children to work.
c. were unhappy that Peter had to work.
d. did not work.

4. Peter learned how to be ________ .
a. a teacher.
b. a marcher.
c. a shopworker.
d. a carpenter.

5. Peter became the president of ________ .
a. a carpenters' group.
b. a marching band.
c. a furniture factory.
d. a strong nation.

6. Peter wanted all workers to know that ________ .
a. they were not happy.
b. they were helping the United States.
c. they should march every year.
d. holidays were important days.

7. Peter introduced the holiday called _______ .
a. Memorial Day.
b. Workers' Day.
c. Labor Day.
d. Flag Day.

8. The holiday was first introduced to the people of _______ .
a. Boston.
b. New Jersey.
c. Washington.
d. New York City.

9. Another name for this story could be ________ .
a. "The Beginning of a Holiday."
b. "The Worker."
c. "The City's Day."
d. "The President's Day."

10. This story is mainly about
a. how children worked in factories.
b. how Peter J. McGuire helped workers.
c. what marchers wore in a parade.
d. how to get a better job.

Peter J. McGuire in Wikipedia

The History of Labor Day from Youtube

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving

Our story today is, "The Devil and Tom Walker. " It was written by Washington Irving. Here is Shep ONeal with our story. Storyteller: Before we begin our story, let us go back three hundred years to the late sixteen hundreds. In those years, one of the most famous men in the world was Captain William Kidd. Captain Kidd was a pirate. He sailed the seas, capturing any ships he found. He and his men took money from these ships. Captain Kidd hid this money in different places.

Captain Kidd was captured by the English in Boston, Massachusetts and executed in the year seventeen-oh-one.

From that time on, people all over the world searched in many places for Captain Kidd's stolen money.

The people who lived in Massachusetts in the seventeen hundreds believed Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure near Boston. Not far from Boston was a small river which ran into the Atlantic Ocean. An old story said that Captain Kidd had come up this river from the ocean. Then he buried his gold and silver and jewels under a big tree.

The story said that this treasure was protected by the devil himself, who was a good friend of Captain Kidd.

In the year seventeen twenty-seven, a man named Tom Walker lived near this place. Tom Walker was not a pleasant man. He loved only one thing -- money. There was only one person worse than Tom. That was his wife. She also loved money. These two were so hungry for money that they even stole things from each other.

One day, Tom Walker was returning home through a dark forest. He walked slowly and carefully, so that he would not fall into a pool of mud.

At last, he reached a piece of dry ground. Tom sat down on a tree that had fallen. As he rested, he dug into the earth with a stick. He knew the story that Indians had killed prisoners here as sacrifices to the Devil. But this did not trouble him. The only devil Tom was afraid of was his wife.

Toms stick hit something hard. He dug it out of the earth. It was a human skull. In the skull was an Indian ax.

Suddenly, Tom Walker heard an angry voice: "Don't touch that skull!"

Tom looked up. He saw a giant sitting on a broken tree. Tom had never seen such a man. He wore the clothes of an Indian. His skin was almost black and covered with ashes. His eyes were big and red. His black hair stood up from his head. He carried a large ax.

The giant asked, "What are you doing on my land?" But Tom Walker was not afraid. He answered, "What do you mean? This land belongs to Mr. Peabody."

The strange man laughed and pointed to the tall trees. Tom saw that one of the trees had been cut by an ax. He looked more closely and saw that the name Peabody had been cut into the tree. Mr. Peabody was a man who got rich by stealing from Indians.

Tom looked at the other trees. Every one had the name of some rich, important man from Massachusetts. Tom looked at the tree on which he was sitting. It also had a name cut into it -- the name of Absalom Crowninshield. Tom remembered that Mr. Crowninshield was a very rich man. People said he got his money as Captain Kidd did -- by stealing ships.

Suddenly, the giant shouted: "Crowninshield is ready to be burned! I'm going to burn many trees this winter!"

Tom told the man that he had no right to cut Mr. Peabody's trees. The stranger laughed and said, "I have every right to cut these trees. This land belonged to me a long time before Englishmen came to Massachusetts. The Indians were here. Then you Englishmen killed the Indians. Now I show Englishmen how to buy and sell slaves. And I teach their women how to be witches."

Tom Walker now knew that the giant was the Devil himself. But Tom Walker was still not afraid.

The giant said Captain Kidd had buried great treasures under the trees, but nobody could have them unless the giant permitted it. He said Tom could have these treasures. But Tom had to agree to give the giant what he demanded.

Tom Walker loved money as much as he loved life. But he asked for time to think.

Tom went home. He told his wife what had happened. She wanted Captain Kidd's treasure. She urged him to give the Devil what he wanted. Tom said no.

At last, Misses Walker decided to do what Tom refused to do. She put all her silver in a large piece of cloth and went to see the dark giant. Two days passed. She did not return home. She was never seen again.

People said later that Tom went to the place where he had met the giant. He saw his wife's cloth hanging in a tree. He was happy, because he wanted to get her silver. But when he opened the cloth, there was no silver in it -- only a human heart.

Tom was sorry he lost the silver, but not sorry he lost his wife. He wanted to thank the giant for this. And so, every day he looked for the giant. Tom finally decided that he would give the giant what he wanted in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure.

One night, Tom Walker met the giant and offered his soul in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure. The Devil now wanted more than that. He said that Tom would have to use the treasure to do the Devil's work. He wanted Tom to buy a ship and bring slaves to America.

As we have said, Tom Walker was a hard man who loved nothing but money. But even he could not agree to buy and sell human beings as slaves. He refused to do this.

The Devil then said that his second most important work was lending money. The men who did this work for the Devil forced poor people who borrowed money to pay back much more than they had received.

Tom said he would like this kind of work. So the Devil gave him Captain Kidd's treasure.

A few days later, Tom Walker was a lender of money in Boston. Everyone who needed help -- and there were many who did -- came to him. Tom Walker became the richest man in Boston. When people were not able to pay him, he took away their farms, their horses, and their houses.

As he got older and richer, Tom began to worry. What would happen when he died? He had promised his soul to the Devil. Maybe. . .maybe. . . he could break that promise.

Tom then became very religious. He went to church every week. He thought that if he prayed enough, he could escape from the Devil.

One day, Tom took the land of a man who had borrowed money. The poor man asked for more time to pay. "Please do not destroy me!" he said. "You have already taken all my money!"

Tom got angry and started to shout, "Let the Devil take me if I have taken any money from you!"

That was the end of Tom Walker. For just then, he heard a noise. He opened the door. There was the black giant, holding a black horse. The giant said, "Tom, I have come for you." He picked up Tom and put him on the horse. Then he hit the horse, which ran off, carrying Tom.

Nobody ever saw Tom Walker again. A farmer said that he saw the black horse, with a man on it, running wildly into the forest.

After Tom Walker disappeared, the government decided to take Tom's property. But there was nothing to take. All the papers which showed that Tom owned land and houses were burned to ashes. His boxes of gold and silver had nothing in them but small pieces of wood. The wood came from newly cut trees. Tom's horses died, and his house suddenly burned to ashes.


Announcer: You have heard the story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." It was written by Washington Irving. Our storyteller was Shep ONeal. Listen again next week at this same time for another AMERICAN STORY told in Special English on the Voice of America. This is Shirley Griffith.

"The Boarded Window" by Ambrose Bierce

Our story today is called "The Boarded Window." It was written by Ambrose Bierce. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.

In 1830, only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, Ohio, lay a huge and almost endless forest.

The area had a few settlements established by people of the frontier. Many of them had already left the area for settlements further to the west. But among those remaining was a man who had been one of the first people to arrive there.

He lived alone in a house of logs surrounded on all sides by the great forest. He seemed a part of the darkness and silence of the forest, for no one had ever known him to smile or speak an unnecessary word. His simple needs were supplied by selling or trading the skins of wild animals in the town.

His little log house had a single door. Directly opposite was a window. The window was boarded up. No one could remember a time when it was not. And no one knew why it had been closed. I imagine there are few people living today who ever knew the secret of that window. But I am one, as you shall see.

The man's name was said to be Murlock. He appeared to be seventy years old, but he was really fifty. Something other than years had been the cause of his aging.

His hair and long, full beard were white. His gray, lifeless eyes were sunken. His face was wrinkled. He was tall and thin with drooping shoulders—like someone with many problems.

I never saw him. These details I learned from my grandfather. He told me the man's story when I was a boy. He had known him when living nearby in that early day.

One day Murlock was found in his cabin, dead. It was not a time and place for medical examiners and newspapers. I suppose it was agreed that he had died from natural causes or I should have been told, and should remember.

I know only that the body was buried near the cabin, next to the burial place of his wife. She had died so many years before him that local tradition noted very little of her existence.

That closes the final part of this true story, except for the incident that followed many years later. With a fearless spirit I went to the place and got close enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it. I ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy in the area knew haunted the spot.

But there is an earlier part to this story supplied by my grandfather.

When Murlock built his cabin he was young, strong and full of hope. He began the hard work of creating a farm. He kept a gun--a rifle—for hunting to support himself.

He had married a young woman, in all ways worthy of his honest love and loyalty. She shared the dangers of life with a willing spirit and a light heart. There is no known record of her name or details about her. They loved each other and were happy.

One day Murlock returned from hunting in a deep part of the forest. He found his wife sick with fever and confusion. There was no doctor or neighbor within miles. She was in no condition to be left alone while he went to find help. So Murlock tried to take care of his wife and return her to good health. But at the end of the third day she fell into unconsciousness and died.

From what we know about a man like Murlock, we may try to imagine some of the details of the story told by my grandfather.

When he was sure she was dead, Murlock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. He made a mistake now and again while performing this special duty. He did certain things wrong. And others which he did correctly were done over and over again.

He was surprised that he did not cry — surprised and a little ashamed. Surely it is unkind not to cry for the dead.

"Tomorrow," he said out loud, "I shall have to make the coffin and dig the grave; and then I shall miss her, when she is no longer in sight. But now -- she is dead, of course, but it is all right — it must be all right, somehow. Things cannot be as bad as they seem."

He stood over the body of his wife in the disappearing light. He fixed the hair and made finishing touches to the rest. He did all of this without thinking but with care. And still through his mind ran a feeling that all was right -- that he should have her again as before, and everything would be explained.

Murlock had no experience in deep sadness. His heart could not contain it all. His imagination could not understand it. He did not know he was so hard struck. That knowledge would come later and never leave.

Deep sadness is an artist of powers that affects people in different ways. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, shocking all the emotions to a sharper life. To another, it comes as the blow of a crushing strike. We may believe Murlock to have been affected that way.

Soon after he had finished his work he sank into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay. He noted how white his wife's face looked in the deepening darkness. He laid his arms upon the table's edge and dropped his face into them, tearless and very sleepy.

At that moment a long, screaming sound came in through the open window. It was like the cry of a lost child in the far deep of the darkening forest! But the man did not move. He heard that unearthly cry upon his failing sense, again and nearer than before. Maybe it was a wild animal or maybe it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep.

Some hours later, he awoke, lifted his head from his arms and listened closely. He knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the body, he remembered everything without a shock. He strained his eyes to see -- he knew not what.

His senses were all alert. His breath was suspended. His blood was still as if to assist the silence. Who — what had awakened him and where was it!

Suddenly the table shook under his arms. At the same time he heard, or imagined he heard, a light, soft step and then another. The sounds were as bare feet walking upon the floor!

He was afraid beyond the power to cry out or move. He waited—waited there in the darkness through what seemed like centuries of such fear. Fear as one may know, but yet live to tell. He tried but failed to speak the dead woman's name. He tried but failed to stretch his hand across the table to learn if she was there. His throat was powerless. His arms and hands were like lead.

Then something most frightful happened. It seemed as if a heavy body was thrown against the table with a force that pushed against his chest. At the same time he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor. It was so violent a crash that the whole house shook. A fight followed and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe.

Murlock had risen to his feet. Extreme fear had caused him to lose control of his senses. He threw his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which fear may turn to insanity; and insanity incites to action. With no definite plan and acting like a madman, Murlock ran quickly to the wall. He seized his loaded rifle and without aim fired it.

The flash from the rifle lit the room with a clear brightness. He saw a huge fierce panther dragging the dead woman toward the window. The wild animal's teeth were fixed on her throat! Then there was darkness blacker than before, and silence.

When he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the forest was filled with the sounds of singing birds. The body lay near the window, where the animal had left it when frightened away by the light and sound of the rifle.

The clothing was ruined. The long hair was in disorder. The arms and legs lay in a careless way. And a pool of blood flowed from the horribly torn throat. The ribbon he had used to tie the wrists was broken. The hands were tightly closed.

And between the teeth was a piece of the animal's ear.

"The Boarded Window" was written by Ambrose Bierce. It was adapted for Special English by Lawan Davis who was also the producer. The storyteller was Shep O'Neal.