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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 23, 2002: Tom Cruise in 'Minority Report' / South of the Border / A Question About the Rock Group R.E.M. - 2002-08-22


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Steve Ember. On our program today:

We answer a listener’s question about the rock group R.E.M. ...

Visit a popular stop for travelers called South of the Border ...

And tell about one of America’s most popular movie actors.

Tom Cruise


One of America’s top actors has another one-hundred-million dollar movie. Mary Tillotson tells the latest news about Tom Cruise.


Tom Cruise was on the cover of five major American magazines when his latest movie was released earlier this summer. It is called “Minority Report.” It is a science-fiction, mystery and action movie. It takes place in the year two-thousand-fifty-four. This is a time when special beings can see crimes like murder before they happen. Cruise plays a policeman who heads a group called Precrime. These police arrest would-be murderers before they can carry out their crime. Cruise is accused of a future murder and must hide from the other police and solve the mystery of the crime.

“Minority Report” has become Tom Cruise’s tenth movie out of twenty-four to make one-hundred-million dollars or more. Like other top actors Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks, Cruise is considered a very safe investment in Hollywood.

But, he is an investment. Tom Cruise demands about twenty-million dollars to star in a film. He also often gets a percentage of the movie’s profits. Two years ago, Cruise made about seventy-five-million dollars from his movie “Mission: Impossible Two.”

Tom Cruise has received praise along with big earnings. The National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated him two times for Best Actor and once for Best Supporting Actor. He has won two Golden Globe awards. People Magazine has included Cruise on its yearly list of the most beautiful people three times. The magazine also named him the sexiest man alive. And, last year, Forbes magazine named Tom Cruise number one on its list of the most powerful people in entertainment.

Tom Cruise is forty years old. He was born in Syracuse, New York, but moved around a lot growing up. Cruise was a member of the Roman Catholic Church for most of his life. He had planned on becoming a clergyman. But, at age eighteen, he moved from New Jersey to New York to try acting instead. Cruise now belongs to the Church of Scientology.

Tom Cruise’s next two movies are “The Last Samurai” and “Mission: Impossible Three.”

South of the Border


This summer, many Americans are traveling on the huge road system that connects the states. They can drive hundreds of kilometers across state borders without having to stop.

What happens when drivers and their families become hungry? Or when their car needs more fuel? Where can they stop for food or gasoline or just to stretch their legs after sitting in a car for many hours? One of the most famous rest areas for travelers in the United States is called “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina. Shep O’Neal tells us about it.


South of the Border is a popular rest area for people driving on the main road through the eastern United States from Maine to Florida. It is just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. During summer weekends, as many as forty-thousand American holiday travelers stop there.

Every traveler knows where it is. That is because there are huge signs, or billboards, for South of the Border, starting many kilometers away from the area. There are more than one-hundred South of the Border billboards along major roads in the southeastern United States. All the billboards are colorful. They make fun of the place and a character named Pedro. At the entrance to South of the Border is the biggest sign of all. It is a sign of Pedro that is thirty meters tall.

South of the Border is an unusual mix of the traditional American South and Old Mexico. At first, you wonder why there are so many seemingly Mexican things in South Carolina. South of the Border is nowhere near Mexico. That is part of the joke.

South of the Border has six eating places, fifteen stores and a large hotel for tired travelers. There are plenty of things to do at South of the Border. Visitors can play golf or ride a machine that looks like a cow. They can ride up a tall structure shaped liked a Mexican hat. Or they can buy a Mexican hat, fireworks and many other things.

A man named Alan Schafer started South of the Border more than fifty years ago. At first, there was only one store that sold beer. Through the many billboards and marketing efforts, South of the Border grew and became a huge success. When Mister Shafer died last year, the business reportedly was worth about fifty-million dollars.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Hong Kong. Eric Pun asks about the rock music group R.E.M.

The band was formed in nineteen-eighty. The members were Bill Berry, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and lead singer, Michael Stipe. The band formed while all four men were attending classes at the University of Georgia, in Athens. They first played together in an empty church where two of the members lived. This song is from R.E.M.'s first album, called “Chronic Town.” It is called “Carnival of Sorts.”

((MUSIC: "Carnival of Sorts"))

The name of the band stands for “rapid eye movement.” This is the movement of the eyes during the period of sleep when a person is dreaming. The band did not choose the name R.E.M. until after its first performance twenty-two years ago. During that show, the four members of the band wrote ideas for names on the floor. In the morning, they settled on R.E.M. This popular song, “Radio Free Europe,” is from the band’s second album.

((MUSIC: "Radio Free Europe"))

Since nineteen-eighty-eight, several of the group’s albums have reached number one on the Billboard list based on total sales. The band has also won several Grammy and M-T-V music awards. In nineteen-ninety-seven, drum player Bill Berry left the band after suffering health problems. The remaining members of R.E.M. have continued to release albums. The most recent, called “Reveal,” came out last year. We leave you with a song from the album. It is called “The Lifting.”

((MUSIC: "The Lifting"))


This is Steve Ember. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Caty Weaver, George Grow and Jill Moss. Our studio engineer was Eva Nenicka. And our producer was Caty Weaver.