AMERICAN MOSAIC - Music by the White Stripes / A
question about Groundhog Day / The Key West Literary
Broadcast: January 30, 2004
Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a program in VOA Special
English about music and American life. And we answer your
This is Doug Johnson.
This week, we answer a question about Groundhog Day, coming
up this Monday. And we continue our series about music
nominated for Grammy Awards this year.
But first, we take you to a writing conference in the
southern United States.
Key West Literary Seminar
More than four-hundred people took part in a series of
literary events in Key West, Florida, earlier this month. They
explored the works of immigrant writers. Faith Lapidus tells
us about the twenty-second yearly Key West Literary Seminar.
The seminar was called Crossing Borders: The Immigrant Voice
in American Literature.丒 It examined ways in which the
writings of immigrants have enriched and changed American
literature and life. Nineteen well-known and award-winning
writers took part in the events. They represented many
different cultures and countries. These include Bosnia,
China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, India,
Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Trinidad and
Some of the writers were born in other countries and have
made the United States their home. Others are American-born
writers whose work describes the immigrant experience. The
writers took part in four days of talks, readings, discussions
and parties. More than four-hundred people who love literature
attended these events.
Bharati Mukherjee was one of the main speakers at the
Key West Literary Seminar. She spoke about her life and
her writing. She has written several books that explore
the experience of Indian immigrants in America. The other
main speaker was Amy Tan. She talked about how her mother抯
life influenced her writing. Tan is the daughter of Chinese
immigrants. She completed her first book, "The Joy
Luck Club", after a trip to China with her mother. "The
Joy Luck Club" has been translated into seventeen languages.
Elizabeth Nunez also took
part in the Key West Literary Seminar. She was born in
Trinidad and came to America for her college education. Nunez
writes about being an immigrant in America:
"I woke up one morning to find nothing beneath me. I was a
tree without roots, standing uneasy on unfamiliar ground. A
light gust of wind and I would topple down. No one, nothing
here ;friends, places, things, the very earth, the smell of
the wind, the feel of the sun; nothing I could see, touch or
taste was from the place where I was born, where I grew up as
a child, where I ended my teenage years. What fear! What
loneliness! Then it came to me: I belonged to the world."
Our VOA listner question this week comes from Mako,
Hungary. Ervin Nemeth asks about the American observance of
"Groundhog Day." Groundhog Day is observed on February
second, but only in one place in the United States. That place
is Punxsutawney, a small town in the state of Pennsylvania.
Early in the morning, a ceremony takes place on a hill just
outside the town. It stars a small animal named Phil that is
brought there to "tell" the weather.
Tradition says that if the groundhog sees its shadow on the
ground, there will be six more weeks of cold winter weather.
The tradition goes back to an old German story of Candlemas
Day, a Christian observance. The old story says there will be
six more weeks of winter if an animal makes a shadow on
Groundhog Day was first
observed in Punxsutawney in eighteen-eighty-six. Over the
years, the story of "Punxsutawney Phil" spread throughout the
country. Phil may not always be right about the weather. But
he is important to the local economy. Businesses earn a lot of
money from visitors each year.
The celebrations have become much more popular since the
movie "Groundhog Day" came out in nineteen-ninety-three. Bill
Murray stars as a television weather reporter who is not happy
with his life. He is sent to Punxsutawney to report on
Groundhog Day. Only something strange happens. He lives the
same day over and over again, until ... well, we don't want to
give the story away. The movie is even a popular subject of
study for experts from different religions.
Since the release of the movie, local officials say
thirty-thousand people or more come to Punxsutawney to watch
the real Groundhog Day.
The White Stripes
We continue our countdown to the Grammy Awards. The
American music industry will present them one week from
Sunday, on February eighth. The ceremony in Los Angeles will
include a performance by the two members of the group, the
White Stripes. And, as Phoebe Zimmermann reports, they could
go home with some awards of their own.
The White Stripes are Jack
White and Meg White. We do not know if they are brother and
sister or, as other stories say, formerly husband and wife.
But we do know they formed the band in Detroit, Michigan, in
nineteen-ninety-seven. And they like to perform dressed in red
and white clothing.
One of their songs is nominated for two Grammys: best rock
song and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal.
Here it is. The song is called "Seven Nation Army."
"Seven Nation Army" is on their newest record album,
"Elephant." "Elephant" is nominated for best alternative music
album and album of the year.
Jack White wrote all but one of the songs on "Elephant." The album also includes
a song from the nineteen-sixties by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It is called
"I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself.
We leave you with another song from "Elephant," by the White
Stripes. This one is called "Ball and Biscuit." (MUSIC)
HOST: This is Doug Johnson.
If you have a question about American life, send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name and mailing
address. If we use your question, we'll send you a gift. Our
postal address is American Mosaic, VOA Special English,
Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.
Our program was written by Shelley Gollust and Nancy
Steinbach, and produced by Caty Weaver. Our engineer was
Andreus Regis. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us
again next week for VOA's radio magazine in Special English.