Welcome to American Mosaic from VOA LearningEnglish.
I’m June Simms.
Last week, the show was all about the Oscars. Thisweek we talk about the host of that ceremony,comedian Ellen DeGeneres. She broke an Internetrecord last Sunday and she’s making history in Chinatoo.
Then, we tell about a museum in Virginia that helps tell the story of slavery inAmerica and now has an Academy Award connection.
"We Crashed And Broke Twitter"
Sunday night, Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Academy Awards in Los Angeles,California. It is Hollywood’s top awards event and many entertainers hope to be asked to host. Jim Tedder tells us how DeGeneres did and about her newbroadcasts in China.
Ellen DeGeneres has to be pleased with her Oscar performance last week. She did exactly what producers ask for --- bring in a big television audiencewithout creating any societal debates. Last year, Academy Awards host SethMacFarlane made jokes about female body parts than many people did notfind funny.
DeGeneres as host won a larger television crowd. A reported 43 millionpeople watched the broadcast. That is two-and-a-half million more peoplethan 2013. DeGeneres also stuck mainly to her style of warm and friendlyhumor instead of insulting jokes. One exception may be a comment she madeearly in the show. She suggested that singer/actress and ceremony attendeeLiza Minelli looked like a man trying to look like a woman.
DeGeneres also made a move that was very popularamong Oscar goers. She ordered pizza for several of the actors and other moviemakers in the audience. Actors Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrencewere among the pizza eaters. Director Martin Scorsesealso took a piece.
Although many in the crowd laughed, the pizza wasalso eaten up quickly. The Oscars ceremony has astrong rule barring any food from the event. Those whoattend get very hungry. Few people have much time to eat before the event. Ittakes most attendees hours to fix their hair and makeup, and dress for theevent.
Then, stars must take their time walking the so called “red carpet” into theDolby Theater where the ceremony takes place. Fans, photographers andmembers of the press line the carpet. All expect, and get, attention from theOscar goers. So by the end of the ceremony most people have not eaten inmany hours.
But the most talked about moment that night in Los Angeles had to be EllenDeGeneres’ “selfie.” A selfie is a picture one takes of oneself for placementon the internet. Ellen DeGeneres took her smart phone out into the audience. She got close to actor Bradley Cooper and asked others to join in for theselfie. Lots of stars jumped into the picture including some 2014 Oscarwinners, like Jared Leto and Lupita N’yongo.
Ellen DeGeneres then posted the photo to Twitter. The post was retweetedmore than two million times within hours. Later, in the show, DeGeneresexcitedly told the crowd: “We got an email from Twitter and we crashed andbroke Twitter. We have made history.”
Many television critics have noted that the phone DeGeneres used for theselfie photograph was a new Samsung. Samsung was a major corporatesupporter of the Oscars.
Ellen DeGeneres made Twitter history last Sunday. She is also makingbroadcast history in China. Her popular daily television talk show now can beseen in China. American and Chinese companies jointly announced the movein January.
People can watch “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on the Chinese online videoservice Sohu Video 48 hours after it is shown in the United States. Theservice shows it with Chinese subtitles.
VOA recently spoke about the news with Larry Namer. He is the head of acompany that makes television shows to be shown in China. He also createdthe E! Entertainment Television channel. He told us many American televisionprograms can now be seen in China.
“We’ve been there for about five years now. We’ve seen what’s called anopening up, of the new acceptance of other countries, and we think it’s justcontinuing the trend that we’ve been noticing. It’s not really all that surprisingfor us quite honestly.”
Mr. Namer believes Ms. DeGeneres will be successful in China.
“There are certainly cultural differences between American culture andChinese culture. I wouldn’t profess myself to be an avid follower of the Ellenshow, although I do watch it on occasion when I’m in the US. But a lot of herstuff seems to deal with human values and feelings and I think her stuff ispretty universal. My gut feel is that it will do rather well there. I think a lot ofChinese people will be able to relate to her and what she talks about.”
I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.
Slavery Museum Linked to Oscar Winning Movie
“Twelve Years A Slave” is based on the writings of Solomon Northup. It wonthe 2014 Academy Award for best motion picture.
Mr. Northup was captured and sold into slavery in 1841.His kidnapper was a well-known slave trader namedJames Birch.
Mr. Birch owned property in Alexandria, Virginia wherehe would imprison the men, women and children beforetheir sale. The large property was called a slave pen.
Today, all that remains of the slave pen is one building. It has been turned into a museum about slavery. At theFreedom House Museum visitors get a close look atwhat slaves experienced.
Julian Kiganda is the supervisor of the museum. She says she cannotimagine how the captured felt about the possibility of never seeing theirfamilies again.
“Seeing that African-Americans had experienced on a regular basis, theseparation of family. That for me was just so heartbreaking.”
Most of the slaves picked tobacco on local farms. They were also sold tocotton farmers farther south.
Audrey Davis is the head of Alexandria’s Black History Museum. She saysslaves came from many different places.
“They were coming from a variety of places, and then being held in the slavepens until they were shipped out, or until someone was buying them directlyfrom the pen, and then they would be brought out for inspection.”
James Birch’s slave pen was one of the most profitable in the country. Therewas a kitchen, an eating area, a hospital and a space for exercise.
The traders knew that slaves who looked healthy would sell for higher prices.Ms. Kiganda says some traders would even give slaves new clothes.
“The tailor shop would create the clothes that the slaves would wear at themarket so they would look expensive. The slaves, they would actually try toget rid of these clothes as soon as they could because they did not want to bereminded of being sold at market.”
Ms. Kiganda says slaves were sold for as much as four times what thetraders had paid for them.
“People would pay 1200 dollars for a slave, back in those days, which is theequivalent of almost 30,000 dollars in today’s money.”
Jacquelyn Nordorf visited the museum from California. She says it is scary toimagine slaves crowded against the museum walls.
“It saddens me but it is our history. It was scary to be in a place where theslaves were actually kept and these people were sold for their lives.”
The victims were chained together and shipped to markets in North America.Sometimes after sale they were forced to walk long distances to farms.
Visitors to the Freedom House Museum are permitted to touch the slavechains. Ms. Kiganda explains why.
“We felt it was important for people to have the ability to actually feel thesethings and feel the reality of what happened here.”
The Northern Virginia chapter of the Urban League owns the building. TheUrban League is an organization that works to empower African-Americans.Cynthia Dinkins is the Chief Executive Officer of the chapter.
Ms. Dinkins says she and other workers feel the presence of the dead in themuseum. Ms. Dinkins says they have seen and heard things they cannotexplain.
“I felt something brush against me, but I didn’t feel threatened at all. Andthey’re like, oh no, yes, yes, we’ve experienced things like that, doors openingand closing, footsteps.”
The slave pen was closed during the American civil war. The city of Alexandriasurrendered to U.S. government soldiers in 1861. The slave pen was turnedinto a prison used to jail disobedient government soldiers and rebel soldierswho were captured.
I’m June Simms. Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver.
Do you have a question about American life, people or places? Send an e-mailto email@example.com. We might answer your question in a futureshow. You can also visit our website at learningenglish.voanews.com to findtranscripts and audio of our shows.
Ellen DeGeneres is known for her love of popular music. She’s quite thedancer too. We leave you with a song from “Ellen’s Playlist.”