Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We listen to music from singer Andrew Bird…
Answer a question about International Left-Handers' Day…
And in sports, a home run record for Barry Bonds.
Barry Bonds Home Run Record
Major League Baseball has a new king of home runs. This week Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants broke the record set by Hank Aaron. Faith Lapidus has our story.
First of all, here is a simple description, for anyone not sure how the game of baseball is played.
A pitcher throws a ball toward a catcher. In front of the catcher is a batter. The batter tries to hit the small, speeding ball with a narrow bat and then run to first base. If the batter hits the ball, and a player from the opposing team catches it or throws it to first base before the batter gets there, the batter is out.
Sometimes the ball flies high over the walls of the field then no one can catch it…except maybe a lucky fan in the crowd. Now the batter can safely get to first base, and second, and third and back to home plate. The batter has scored a run, but not just a run, a home run -- one of the most thrilling plays in the game.
This helps explain all the attention over Barry Bonds breaking the career record set by Hank Aaron.
In nineteen seventy-four, Hank Aaron hit his seven hundred fifteenth home run to break the record held for many years by Babe Ruth. Hank Aaron went on to hit seven hundred fifty-five home runs before he retired in nineteen seventy-six.
Now Barry Bonds has done better than that. Some baseball fans are excited for him. But others have been yelling "cheater" or "steroids" when he goes to bat.
Many people suspect him of taking drugs to improve his performance. They think he lied four years ago during a federal investigation into illegal steroid sales by a San Francisco laboratory.
News reports said he told a grand jury that he did take a substance to improve his health but thought it was flaxseed oil. Barry Bonds denies ever having knowingly used steroids.
His former personal trainer is in prison for refusing to answer questions about the case. The investigation continues. And, so does the suspicion.
Major League Baseball banned steroids in two thousand two. The question now is what would happen to Barry Bonds' record if he is ever proven to have taken steroids? Pete Rose was banned from baseball in nineteen eighty-nine for gambling on games. But his record as all-time hits leader still stands
Our VOA listener question this week is from Iran. Mohammed Sadegh Poladtan asks about an international holiday called Left-Handers Day.
International Left-Handers Day is Monday, August thirteenth. The International Left-Handers Day Web site says the Left-Handers Club started the holiday in nineteen ninety-two. It wanted left-handers around the world to celebrate. And it wanted to bring attention to the everyday problems of people who use their left hands.
One of these problems is difficulty using equipment and tools, like scissors. In general, most tools and equipment are made for people who are right-handed. The Left-Handers Club tries to educate designers and manufacturers to consider the safety of left-handed people when producing their products.
Another problem is that many societies have considered it bad to be left-handed. Some teachers and parents have tried to force children who used their left hand to use their right one instead.
Scientists do not really know why some people are left-handed. They have believed the reason is genetic. Researchers in Britain recently identified a gene that helps confirm this. Scientists at the University of Oxford reported their discovery in the publication Molecular Psychiatry.
They say the gene increases the chance of being left- handed. It appears to play an important part in deciding which part of the brain controls different activities. In right-handed people, the left side of the brain usually controls speech and language. The right side controls feelings. However, the opposite is often true in left-handed people. Scientists believe the gene is responsible for this. The gene showed a link with left-handedness in nine to twelve percent of the population. About ten percent of people around the world are left-handed.
Here is an interesting fact from the Left-Handers Club Web site: five out of the last six American presidents have been left-handed. They are Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
The Left-Handers Club wants everyone to know that left-handed people may be a little different from those who use their right hand. But they want left-handers to celebrate these differences on International Left-Handers Day August thirteenth.
Andrew Bird is a skillful singer and songwriter who also plays the guitar, violin and glockenspiel instruments. This singer from the state of Illinois is even known for his extraordinary whistling abilities. He has explored just about every kind of musical tradition with his nine albums. Barbara Klein has more.
The music of Andrew Bird is hard to define. He combines many kinds of musical styles into richly poetic songs. Bird started studying classical music as a small child. He also studied violin performance in college. His first records were heavily influenced by early jazz and swing music. Here is the song “Simple X” from his latest album “Armchair Apocrypha.”
Andrew Bird gives an excellent live performance. The sounds are so rich, it is hard to believe there are not several musicians on stage. To do this, Bird records himself playing musical instruments one at a time. He plays these recordings over and over and layers them together to make a complex arrangement. Every performance is a little bit different with this method. Here is the energetic song “Darkmatter.” Listen for Andrew Bird’s expert whistling noises.
We leave you with the song “Scythian Empires.” Andrew Bird says he was influenced by maps of the ancient world showing how people and civilizations change and move. The song tells about the beginnings and endings of ruling groups throughout history.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Dana Demange, and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.