Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
Music from Stevie Wonder…A question from a listener about the cartoon Peanuts…And a report about a new way to buy stamps in the United States.
Personal Postage Stamps
Mailing a letter in the United States requires a postage stamp issued by the federal government. Now, Americans can create their own postage stamps on their computers. Phoebe Zimmermann explains.
A company called Stamps dot com has just started a year of testing to see if Americans want to create their own Photo Stamps.
Last year, the company invited people to send family pictures that would be turned into legal postage stamps. The service seemed popular. The company received eighty-three thousand pictures. People bought almost three million stamps from Stamps.com.
But a problem developed. The company had to reject some of the pictures because of ownership questions. Some people tried to play tricks. They sent orders for stamps showing the pictures of well-known criminals. As a result, sales were suspended.
Recently, Postal Service officials approved another testing period for Photo Stamps. This time, the company has restricted what kinds of pictures it will accept. For example, it will not accept pictures that are objectionable or insulting.
Also, it will not accept pictures of famous people. These include actors, politicians, world leaders or convicted criminals. Company workers are now trained to recognize such pictures from history and news events. They are also looking for any pictures protected by copyright, such as works of art.
So, now, anyone in the United States can get a picture of their baby, wedding, family holiday or pet on a real postage stamp and use it to mail a letter. The stamps include a postal service mark and one that protects it against criminals who would try to make illegal copies.
Stamps ordered from Stamps dot com cost more than two times the amount of those bought from the post office. But Postal Service officials believe that Photo Stamps may get more Americans to send letters through the mail instead of using Internet e-mail.
Our question this week is about the famous American comic strip called “Peanuts.” Erfan Arabfakhri of Iran wants to know more about its creator Charles Schulz and “Peanuts” characters Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty.
Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in nineteen twenty-two. He drew “Peanuts” for almost fifty years. It first appeared in American newspapers in nineteen fifty. The comic strip was about children and animals. It still is. Adults are never seen. By nineteen ninety-nine, “Peanuts” appeared every day in more than two thousand six hundred newspapers around the world.
People love the “Peanuts” characters because they show the failings and strengths of all human beings. For example, Charlie Brown makes many mistakes. In fact, he rarely gets anything right. But he never stops trying. Charlie Brown continues to trust people even when they fail him repeatedly. His relationship with his friend Lucy is a good example.
Lucy promises Charlie Brown that she will hold a football for him so that he can kick it. But as he quickly runs toward her and extends his foot, she pulls the ball away. Charlie Brown flies up in the air and lands flat on his back. Lucy does this every time. She never gives Charlie Brown a chance to kick the ball.
Charlie Brown leads a baseball team that always loses. And he loves a little red-headed girl who does not appear to feel the same way about him. But he remains hopeful.
Peppermint Patty is another member of the “Peanuts Gang.” She loves sports and Charlie Brown. She is the only one who calls him “Chuck.” Peppermint Patty does not do well in school. She tries to find the easy way to pass tests. She is often caught sleeping in class. But this does not seem to affect her strong belief in herself.
Charles Schulz was similar to both characters. Like Peppermint Patty he had difficulty with his school work. Like Charlie Brown he was not very good at sports. And, as a young man Schulz experienced the unreturned love of a red-headed woman.
Charles Schulz was married two times and had five children. He announced his retirement in nineteen ninety-nine because of poor health. His final daily comic strip appeared in newspapers on January third, two thousand. He died a month later at the age of seventy-seven.
The Peanuts Gang can still be seen in newspapers around the world. It is now called “Classic Peanuts.” No new strips have been created since Charles Schulz stopped working. Mister Schulz did not want anyone else to draw “Peanuts.”
Stevie Wonder Video
|"What the Fuss" is the first single from the album "A Time to Love," to be released in June.|
Stevie Wonder released a music video last week designed especially for blind people. The song is called “ So What the Fuss.” Gwen Outen tells about the project and plays some of Stevie Wonder’s music.
The music video itself is not unusual. It shows scenes of city life. Teenagers sit and laugh on the front steps of a house. Young people dance at a party in an apartment nearby. People push a broken car out of the street. And, of course, Stevie Wonder plays the piano as he sings.
But, there is also the voice of rapper Busta Rhymes. He describes the action in the video.
(MUSIC AND SOUND)
This special sound over video recording is called video description technology. Experts at a public television station in Boston, Massachusetts developed the idea in nineteen ninety. They wrote the narration for the new music video.
Stevie Wonder is blind. He says ten million blind or low vision Americans are not able to enjoy watching music videos. Now he says all his fans will be able to enjoy his video.
Prince plays guitar on “So What the Fuss.” The group En Vogue sings back up.
The song will be on Wonder’s new album, “A Time To Love,” to be released next month. It joins thirty-five other Stevie Wonder records. Here is one of his early hits songs, “Up-tight (Everything’s Alright).”
In nineteen seventy-six Stevie Wonder released one of his best-loved albums, “Songs in the Key of Life.” We leave you now with a popular song from that recording, “Sir Duke.”
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program.
Our show was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.