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The Pierces: Two Sisters Who Put Their Imaginations Into Their Music

A question from Turkey about solutions to America’s traffic problems. And a look at the popularity of Ferris wheels. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Barbara Klein. On our show this week:

We listen to music from the Pierces …

Answer a question about America's traffic problems …

And report about an old time amusement park ride that's become new again.

Ferris Wheels


An amusement park ride invented more than one hundred years ago is becoming popular again. Cities all over the world are building new kinds of Ferris wheels. Steve Ember tells us more about the invention that has become much more than just a popular American amusement park ride.


Ferris wheels are large circles that extend high into the air. People sit or stand in small boxes attached to the structure and are lifted into the air and back down to Earth. The first real Ferris wheel was built in eighteen ninety-three for the world's fair called the Colombian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France had been built for the Centennial Exposition in eighteen eighty-nine. Officials in Chicago wanted an exciting new structure that would interest large numbers of people as well.

American bridge builder and engineer George Washington Gale Ferris had the answer. He proposed a seventy-six meter high "observation wheel" for the fair. Some people said it could not be done. They said it was too big and too dangerous to lift people so high that they could be threatened by blowing wind.

Mister Ferris agreed to build the wheel with his own and other private money. His proposal was approved. His wheel operated for the first time at the fair in Chicago. It could carry more than one thousand four hundred riders. Each rider paid fifty cents to ride around the full circle two times for ten minutes. Reports said more than one million people rode that first Ferris wheel in the nineteen weeks it operated at the fair. People started calling it after the name of its inventor.

Today, Ferris wheels can be found in just about every amusement park in the United States and in other countries. They are usually very safe. But accidents do happen. Just this week, a passenger box turned over on a Ferris wheel in South Korea. Five people were killed in the twenty-meter fall.

Next year, China is to open two new Ferris wheels. The Tianjin Eye will stand on a bridge where cars will pass around it. And the Great Beijing Wheel will be more than two hundred meters high. The wheels are to start turning in time for the two thousand eight Summer Olympic Games.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Turkey. Nadir Telli wants to know about possible solutions to America’s traffic problems.

Many big cities in the United States have serious traffic problems. Too many cars travel on the freeways to and from the city. This heavy traffic causes delays and lots of pollution from cars that are using their engines but not moving anywhere. Many cars going nowhere is called a "traffic jam."

While many cities in the United States have traffic problems, some of the worst are in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles is a big city with a large downtown area. One of the reasons there is so much traffic is that almost everyone uses a car to get around instead of using public transportation. Many people live far from the city and drive many kilometers to work and back every day.

Experts say one possible solution to the traffic problem in Los Angeles would be to make people want to use the public transportation system of buses instead of their own cars. People say the buses should be made easier, faster, less costly and more dependable than driving a car.

One suggestion is to reduce the cost of riding the bus. People who usually drive their cars could save a lot of money on gas and parking costs. Also, Los Angeles could make the buses easier for people to use. The buses could travel to more places in the city. And there could be more special lanes on the freeways that only buses could drive in. These changes would make taking the bus faster and easier than driving a car.

The city of Los Angeles controls all of the public transportation. Some experts suggest permitting private bus companies to compete for riders. The private companies would find ways to make the buses more popular.

Other experts have said that the best way to ease traffic problems is to charge people money to drive on the freeways. These charges, or tolls, would be for the most crowded roads. The tolls would be in effect during the times of day when most people drive to work and home again. These times in the morning and late afternoon are called "rush hour." People would try to avoid driving on these roads, which would decrease the amount of traffic. Also, the money collected from these tolls could be used to improve the roads and public transportation system.

The Pierces


The Pierces are a musical band of two sisters, Allison and Catherine Pierce. These two musicians were born and raised in the southern state of Alabama, but now live in New York City. Critics are praising the imaginative songs on their latest album, "Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge." Mario Ritter has more.



That was the playfully serious song “Secret.” It is a good example of how the Pierces mix a folk music sound with creative and funny storytelling.

Allison and Catherine Pierce's parents taught them at an early age to love music and the arts. The girls grew up listening to folk rock musicians like Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel. Their parents taught them to explore their creative sides by playing music, painting and cooking. But the girls did not start their careers in music. They both worked as professional ballet dancers before deciding to work on their music full time.

Here is the song “Boring.” The sisters jokingly sing about the things they think are uninteresting. They make fun of rich people who are not thankful for what they have.


This is the Pierces' third album. But they say it is the only record they are really happy with. Catherine and Allison have said that in the past they felt like they did not have a free voice. They were asked to make music that would make money instead of making music they loved. On this record, they made music their way. We close with the energetic song “Sticks and Stones.”



I'm Barbara Klein. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Erin Braswell, 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.