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AMERICAN MOSAIC - January 11, 2002: Music by Bob Dylan/question about Amtrak/furniture maker Sam Maloof - 2002-01-10


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today we ...

play music by Bob Dylan ...

answer a question about America’s national rail system ...

and report about a museum show of handmade furniture.

Furniture Show


People can see more than sixty pieces of wonderful handmade furniture at a museum show in Washington, D-C. Shep O’Neal tells us about the furniture and its maker.


Sam Maloof (ma-LUFE) is eighty-five years old. He is the best-known designer and maker of handmade furniture in America. He believes a successful chair or table contains something of the eye, the hand and the heart. He says, “I want to be able to work a piece of wood into an object that gives something beautiful and useful to everyday life.” He also says he wants to work with materials without destroying their natural beauty and warmth.

In the furniture of Sam Maloof, experts say the age-old ideas of woodworking survive into the twenty-first century. Sixty-five pieces of Sam Maloof’s furniture are at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There are chairs for sitting, small beds for sleeping babies, desks for writing, and cabinets for storing objects. Their designs are simple and timeless. They are made of beautiful, rich-looking wood -- maple, ebony and walnut.

The most famous pieces are the rocking chairs. The rocking chair is Mister Maloof’s single most popular chair design. These rocking chairs are beautiful. They look like good art. They are smooth to touch. And they are even better to sit on. The chairs are designed to fit people’s bodies as they move back and forward on rounded bases. In Nineteen-Eighty-Six, People Magazine called Sam Maloof, “King of the Rockers.” People around the world own these rocking chairs, including three former American presidents.

Sam Maloof was born in Nineteen-Sixteen in Chino, California. His parents had come to America from Lebanon. Sam Maloof taught himself woodworking. He started making furniture in Nineteen-Forty-Nine. At the time, he did not know if he could make enough money to support himself and his wife, Alfreda.

Mister Maloof has become extremely successful. He has won more awards for design and woodworking skill than any other furniture maker. Today, each piece of his furniture sells for thousands of dollars. Sam Maloof still makes all his furniture by hand, one piece at a time. He says, “I let the wood speak for itself.”



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Japan. Takuya Yanagawa asks about the national railroad system in the United States.

The official name of America’s passenger rail system is the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. It is known as Amtrak. “Amtrak” is a combination of the words “American” and “track.”

Amtrak began service on May first, Nineteen-Seventy-One. It operated one-hundred-eighty-four trains that served more than three-hundred towns and cities. Amtrak took over the passenger operations of all but three local railroads at that time. Amtrak took over their operations later.

Today, Amtrak serves more than five-hundred stations in forty-six American states. Its trains travel over more than thirty-five-thousand kilometers. But it does not own all the track it uses. In most of the country, Amtrak passenger trains use tracks owned by railroads that carry only goods.

Amtrak operates a few special trains. One is the Auto Train. It travels every day between Lorton, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., and Sanford, Florida. The Auto Train makes the trip overnight. It carries cars and motorcycles as well as people. It is also the longest Amtrak train. It has two engines and more than forty rail cars.

Another special Amtrak train is the high-speed Acela (a-SELL-ah) Express. The Acela began service in the year Two-Thousand. It serves the northeastern United States, from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City and Washington, D.C. The Acela is Amtrak's fastest train. It travels at a speed of two-hundred-forty-one kilometers an hour.

The government has provided money for Amtrak throughout its history. In Nineteen-Seventy-Seven, Congress approved a law requiring that the rail system be self-supporting in five years. The law also created an Amtrak Reform Council to let Congress know if Amtrak was having problems meeting this goal. The council recently reported that the goal is not being met. So, in the coming months, Congress will begin debate on the future of Amtrak.

Bob Dylan, “Love & Theft”


American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan is sixty years old. He has won many awards and honors in the forty years he has been performing. And he continues to write and record music. His latest album is called “Love and Theft.” Jim Tedder tells us about it.


“Love and Theft” is Bob Dylan’s forty-third record album. He wrote all twelve songs. Critics have called them some of his best work. “Love and Theft” was recently nominated for a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

Its songs explore all kinds of American blues music. One example is a traditional blues song, “Lonesome Day Blues.”


Another interesting song on the album is a funny one that includes a few American jokes. It is called “Po’ Boy.”

((CUT 2: PO' BOY))

Bob Dylan also wrote a few love songs for “Love and Theft.” Critics have praised these songs. We leave you now with one of these love songs. It is called “Moonlight.”



This is Doug Johnson . I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

Please include your name and postal address. This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Shelley Gollust and Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Tom Verba. And our producerwas Paul Thompson.