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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Time Square Birthday / Spam Jam / Mosaic Theme - 2004-04-23

Broadcast: April 23, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show this week, we answer a question about the music you're hearing. And we tell about an unusual celebration this week in Hawaii.

But first, one of the best-known places in America has just had a big birthday party.

Times Square Birthday


Times Square, in the heart of New York City, is one-hundred years old. Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut a huge birthday cake to help start the celebrations earlier this month. Faith Lapidus tells the history of Times Square.


“Times Square is New York.” Those are the words of the head of the Times Square Alliance, a coalition of area businesses. The millions of visitors to Times Square each year would probably agree. The area has one of the most recognizable names in the world. But, Times Square is not really a square. It is the name for the area around where Broadway crosses Forty-Second Street in Manhattan. The Times Square area stretches more than ten blocks north to south. The borders to the east and west are uneven. Some people call the shape of the area a bow tie.

Times Square gets its name from the New York Times newspaper. In nineteen-oh-four, the newspaper began to build its headquarters in what was then called Long Acre Square. The city’s underground train system built a stop under the Times Tower. The city renamed the area Times Square.

On December thirty-first, nineteen-oh-four, the newspaper held a big celebration in Times Square to welcome the New Year. Fireworks lit the sky. Celebrations have taken place every year since then. Now, crowds also watch a big glass ball slide down a pole as the New Year arrives.

Hundreds of businesses are in Times Square. The alliance says twenty percent of all hotel rooms in New York City are in Times Square. It says Times Square also has about six and one-half million square meters of office space. And more is being built.

Times Square used to have a lot of adult businesses and was not considered very safe. But the area has been redeveloped in recent years. In fact, businesses now have to pay a lot for space there.

Times Square is home to famous Broadway theaters. And several television companies have studios there. MTV is one of them. Times Square is probably most famous for its huge colorful signs. The alliance says Times Square is the only place in New York where businesses are required to use them.

Spam Jam


Do you know what Spam is? We don’t mean the unwanted e-mail that tries to get you to buy something. The real Spam is a meat product that has been made since nineteen-thirty-seven. It is cooked pork sold in a small blue can. The name comes from "spiced ham." Shep O’Neal reports on a celebration of Spam in Hawaii.


An event called “Spam Jam” will take place near the famous Waikiki Beach April twenty-third and twenty-fourth. This is the second year that Spam has been celebrated in the Hawaiian Islands.

You probably want to know why the people of Hawaii would choose to celebrate canned meat. That is a good question. Well, you should know that people in Hawaii eat more Spam than any other American state. Almost seven-million cans of Spam are eaten in Hawaii each year. Hawaii is really the Spam capital of the United States.

Some people believe Spam became popular in Hawaii because workers could take the little cans with them into the sugar cane fields. The heat of the fields would not spoil the meat. It was protected in the can. Maybe. But no one really knows if this was the reason.

The real question is: what are people in Hawaii doing to celebrate Spam? Cooks from some of the hotels along Waikiki Beach will each try to make great tasting meals using Spam.

A huge street party with singers and dancers will be held. This will continue for two days. Don’t laugh. Last year, more than thirty-thousand people attended the party. One lucky person will win a special prize -- a trip to the city of Austin, Minnesota. That is where the Hormel Foods company puts Spam in the little cans. The prize includes a visit to the Spam Museum.

Organizers of Spam Jam also want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. They plan to build the longest ever musubi (moo-soo-BEE). A musubi is a food made of sticky rice, seaweed and, of course, Spam. It is a favorite in Hawaii.

The organizers say the musubi will be about ninety-one meters long. It will be enough to feed one-thousand-two-hundred people. That... is a lot of Spam.

Mosaic Theme



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Osaka, Japan. Toshikatsu Tada asks about the music you are hearing now -- the theme music we play each week on American Mosaic.

The song is called “Lover’s Leap.” It is performed by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

We started to use it as the Mosaic theme about two years ago. This song is the third one used since the show began in nineteen-eighty-five.

“Lover’s Leap” is on Bela Fleck’s record called “Live at the Quick.” Let’s listen to more:


“Lover’s Leap” is an unusual song. Bela Fleck has brought together instruments that are usually not heard in combination. These include the electric banjo, French horn, oboe, bass guitar, electric drums, clarinet and steel pan. Steel pans or steel drums are commonly used to play music in the islands of the West Indies in the Caribbean.

We leave you as we began -- with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones playing “Lover’s Leap.”


This is Doug Johnson.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach, Caty Weaver and Paul Thompson, who was also our producer. And our engineer was Tom Verba.