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Pull of the 'Big Draw' Brings Drawing and Architecture Alive

A listener in Colombia asks about the Great Lakes.  And the music of singer and songwriter Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Faith Lapidus. On our show this week:

We answer a question from a listener about the Great Lakes…

Play music by Bright Eyes…

And report about an event called "The Big Draw."

The Big Draw


For more than thirty years, David Macaulay has been creating books about the way buildings are made. His clear and simple architectural drawings have explained the complex mechanics of buildings to generations of readers. Mister Macaulay recently visited the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., for an event called “The Big Draw.” Steve Ember has more.


“The Big Draw” started in Britain as a campaign to get people of all ages across the country to draw. “The Big Draw” had its first event in the United States last month at the National Building Museum. There were many events for children and families. Children could have their faces painted or have a drawing lesson from art educators. But the main event was David Macaulay.

He drew architectural forms on a long piece of paper that was laid out on the floor. Children and adults could add their own drawings to it. This community drawing will hang in the museum for everyone to see.

David Macaulay also gave a drawing demonstration. He sat in the large hall of the museum and slowly drew the room around him. A video projected his large piece of paper on a screen so that everyone in the room could watch. Mister Macaulay said that he is a teacher above all else. He said he likes to write and draw about things he finds interesting and does not know a lot about.

His books have taught many people about drawing and architecture. David Macaulay’s first book, “Cathedral,” came out in nineteen seventy-three. He describes in simple language how people in the thirteenth century built a Christian religious building. He explains everything from the tools they used to the way they made the tall windows.

In his book “Unbuilding” he explains how the Empire State Building in New York City could be taken apart and rebuilt. In two thousand three Mister Macaulay published “Mosque.” It tells how an Islamic religious building was made in sixteenth century Turkey. The book explores the architectural details of a mosque as well as its important social role. David Macaulay’s next book will be about the human body and how it works.

The Great Lakes


Our VOA Listener question this week comes from Colombia. Jack Ramirez asks about the Great Lakes.

The five bodies of water known as the Great Lakes are on or near the border between the United States and Canada. Lake Superior holds the most water. Lake Erie holds the least. Lake Michigan is the only one located totally within the United States. The other two are Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. The five Great Lakes are the largest group of fresh water lakes on Earth. Together, they contain about twenty percent of the fresh water in the world. There are about thirty-five thousand islands in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes control much of the weather on the land that surrounds them. In the winter, moisture picked up by winds produces large amounts of snow, especially in the states of Michigan, Ohio and New York.

The lakes also cool the air in the summer, then slowly move the heat over the area in the fall. This makes the area good for producing grapes for wine. The lakes supply drinking water to millions of people living in both the United States and Canada. In the past, industry used the Great Lakes to move products such as iron, coal, stone, grain and salt. But the amount of shipping on the lakes has decreased. Newer, larger ships are too wide for the lakes. But small boats take visitors to many of the islands for vacations.

The United States and Canada work together to improve conditions in the Great Lakes area. Officials are now working to change a treaty about ways to slow or stop the effects of climate change. They say that less ice formation over the lakes in recent years has caused lower water levels.

The areas around the lakes report environmental conditions at a conference every two years. The last one took place in November of last year. The conference report said some conditions are improving while others are worsening. For example, it reported progress in reducing air pollution, but said some poisons in the air are still a concern. It also said some native plants are decreasing while more than three hundred kinds of non-native fish continue to invade the lakes.

Bright Eyes


Bright Eyes is a band whose main singer and songwriter is twenty-seven-year-old Conor Oberst. This musician from the state of Nebraska has been making records since he was seventeen years old. The songs on his latest album “Cassadaga” deal with religion, war and love as well as personal stories. Mario Ritter has more.


The album was named for Cassadaga, a community in the state of Florida. For more than one hundred years, people have lived in this place to worship together. Conor Oberst uses his music to explore his own beliefs.

Here is the song “I Must Belong Somewhere." Conor Oberst sings about how every person and thing seems to have a place in the world.


Conor Oberst may be young, but he has already made more than six records. In two thousand five alone Bright Eyes came out with two records. By two thousand six the singer was tired and cancelled his performance tour to have time to rest and think. “Cassadaga” is the product of this time off.

Critics say that the music of Bright Eyes seems to be growing up. Some have even compared Oberst’s musical skills to the famous American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan. Here is the song “Classic Cars.” It tells about a man who falls in love with an older woman.


We leave you with another love song. “Make a Plan to Love Me” tells about a man who wants the busy woman he loves to make more time for him. He notes that life is short and they should be together now.



I'm Faith Lapidus. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

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