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Music Mash-Ups | Mashed-Up Data | Train Travel in U.S.

Dana Demange and Daniel Kirch



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week …

We answer a question about train travel in the United States …

Play some “mash-up” music …

And report about new computer software that mixes two different Web sites.

Mashed-Up Data

Have you ever heard of mixing together different Web sites? To mash-up something is to cut it up and mix it together. Mash-up Web sites are a new software technology combining the information and services of two Web sites. These new programs are changing the way companies and individuals use the Internet. Barbara Klein tells us more.

BARBARA KLEIN: Many Web sites can tell you about crime rates in an area. Other Web sites can show you maps of an area. But what if you wanted to have a map that shows all of the recent crimes in your area? This is exactly what a Web site developer named Adrian Holovaty decided to make.

He combined the information from a Chicago, Illinois police department Web site with an online map of that city. His Web site has become a popular example of the useful services mash-ups can provide.

There are many other mash-up examples. One mash-up Web site shows a map of New York City covered with flags. Each flag represents a theater. You can see the name and time of every play being presented in the city. You can also see the names of nearby restaurants where you can eat before or after the show.

Another mash-up shows streets all over the United States that have strange or funny names. If you know of an unusual street name, you can add it to this Web site.

Volunteer computer programmers lead the mash-up movement. These people are taking control of the Internet in new and creative ways. They often take information from the Web sites of large companies such as Google and Yahoo. At first, these Web site companies did not want people using their maps and information. But now, companies like Yahoo permit mash-up creators to gather information more easily. These companies see mash-ups as a free form of research and advertising.

Some companies are even starting to develop new software to make mash-ups easier to build. But not all companies want to invest in this software. Some business experts think mash-ups are a temporary movement. They say mash-ups are fun and interesting, but do not add value. Others say mash-ups represent a valuable experiment. They say mash-up technology might be the future of the Internet.

Mashed-Up Music

HOST: The term “mash-up” can also mean a new kind of musical experimentation. Mash-ups combine the music from one song with the singing from another. But this kind of musical creation has caused much debate. Bob Doughty has more.

BOB DOUGHTY: Deejays are musical professionals who create and play popular songs. A few years ago a young man who calls himself Deejay Reset experimented with the song “Debra” by the singer Beck. Using digital software and his computer he made changes to the song. He then added the voice of musician Jay-Z. He also added some other sounds, such as the beat of drums. The result was a whole new mash-up song called “Frontin’ on Debra.”


Beck liked this new version of his song. Soon, people could buy Deejay Reset’s song online.

However, some mash-up deejays have gotten into trouble. Record companies own the original songs that the deejays change. These companies threaten legal action against people who use their music without permission. Mash-ups represent the complex nature of copyright law.

Here is the mash-up of “I Wanna Dance with Some Bono.” It combines the voice of Whitney Houston with the music of the band U2.


Today many people use digital technology to make mash-ups. They can post their songs on the Internet for the world to hear. Mash-up fans around the world exchange songs on the Internet. Some radio stations even have special mash-up programs.

We leave you with “A Stroke of Genius” created from songs by Christina Aguilera and the Strokes. Critics say this popular mash-up is better than the original songs it combines.


Train Travel

HOST: Our listener question this week comes from Taiwan. Chiu Hsien-Cheng asks if it is true that train transportation is not popular in the United States.

Most people like driving their own cars or flying in an airplane to get from one city to another. A study from the United States Department of Transportation found that train transportation is unpopular compared with cars and airplanes.

Officials of the department studied how many miles Americans traveled using different ways of transportation in two thousand one. Only trips longer than fifty miles, or eighty kilometers, were part of the study.

Fifty-six percent of all miles were traveled in a personal vehicle. Forty-one percent were traveled in an airplane. Two percent were traveled in a bus. And less than one percent of miles were traveled in a train.

Amtrak is the national provider of train transportation in the United States. In the past ten years the number of its passengers increased by eighteen percent. In two thousand four, Amtrak had about sixty-nine thousand passengers a day on average. During the whole year, twenty-five million people rode Amtrak trains, more than ever before.

Although the number of passengers increased, it is still very low. In countries such as France, Germany or Japan, more people use trains. These countries also have nationwide systems of high-speed trains, which the United States does not have.

There are several reasons why many people do not like to ride trains. Americans love to drive their own cars. On high-speed roads, cars can travel as fast as trains. These highways connect all major cities. Many travelers like to be independent. When they use their own cars they can decide when to travel.

In addition, many buses travel between major cities. Bus travel is much less costly than train travel.

In a huge country like the United States, distances between cities are great. In some cases, riding a train from one city to another may take more than a day. Airplanes can carry passengers over long distances much faster. People who do not want to sit in a train for a long time decide to fly. For many people, saving time is the most important thing.

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our show was written by Dana Demange and Daniel Kirch. Caty Weaver was our producer.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.