The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.
"Vocal Fry" as a Social Link?
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Photo by Jeffrey Pott/Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0
Wouldn’t you know it. Britney Spears impact on our social culture extends beyond the worlds of music and fashion — and into the language of speech. A recent study in the Journal of Voice shows that more than two-thirds of Standard American-English speakers aged 18-25 are now incorporating what once used to be thought of as a speech impediment into their everyday speech patterns. And young, female adults living in the U.S. are more apt to use this guttural vibration in their normal speech than men.
Don’t know what it sounds like? Listen to the audio sample above. Or, pop in one of Spears more recent hits, and listen to how she sings her lower notes and how it kind of sounds like a series of dry, creaky staccato tones. Yep, that’s it.
But why? The co-author of the Long Island University study and a speech scientist, Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, speculates in ScienceNow, “Young students tend to use it when they get together. Maybe this is a social link between members of a group.”
The I know I’ll be listening to my young nieces and nephews’ speech patterns more acutely over the holiday break!
In Gabby Giffords’ Voice
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Listen to the first 80 seconds of Melissa Block’s piece on last night’s All Things Considered. And then fast forward to the final 67 seconds of the audio. What a powerful message, a powerful couple minutes of radio. To hear the contrast of the fluid voice of the Congresswoman before her brain was penetrated by a bullet in January of this year, and then witness the powerful will of her language several months later rages with hope.
Now, listen to the full ten-minute piece with Block’s interview with Representative Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, which is bookended with Gabby’s voice. The context makes her readings all the more powerful. Non?
Yes, even those of us who work in public radio are not immune to those “driveway moments” in the darkness of the early evening. What a gift.
The “People’s Historian”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
Last Wednesday was, of course, President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. And while coverage of the speech filled up the news cycle, there was another important story not to be forgotten: the passing of Howard Zinn.
Zinn was a renowned historian, activist, and author of A People’s History of the United States, which presented many of the unheard and undocumented stories of U.S. history. Zinn continued to pursue this course throughout the rest of his life, and in a 2008 interview said that he hoped to be remembered for “introducing a different way of thinking about the world.”
Last year a friend invited me to see Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States — one of a series of performances that brought the stories of A People’s History to life through public readings. Rather than bring a troupe of actors with him, Zinn collected an impressive array of local performers, with a variety of different skill levels and delivery styles. Included in the evening were reenactments of Sojourner Truth’s "Ain’t I a Woman?," Maria Stewart’s "Address Delivered at the African Masonic Hall in Boston" and Martin Luther King’s "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence."
But the part I found most stirring was a breathtaking delivery of Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" (you can watch Brian Jones performing the same speech below). On a day that many Americans were celebrating, Douglass delivered a scathing indictment of slavery in America:
"The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”
For me, this memory takes the confluence of Zinn’s passing and Obama’s address from coincidence to something more meaningful. At first, there is an irony in the fact that a man whose life was devoted to telling the stories of the oppressed was, on his death, nearly eclipsed by the first black president of the United States. And, on the eve of Black History Month, Douglass’ words remind us how far we’ve progressed since his time. It also gives a biting reminder of the problems yet to be overcome and the inconsolable history we continue live with as a nation.
(photo: Andy Dayton/Flickr)
"A New Beginning" with Muslims
Trent Gilliss, online editor
It was awful early for a lot of folk in North America to view President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Egypt. Here’s the full address — a measured 55 minutes that repeatedly emphasized common ground and mutual respect. He hit on a number of key issues, including democracy, Iraq, women’s rights, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, torture, and more. Perhaps not a bold speech, but a solid introduction of his administration’s approach to geopolitical issues.
He quoted a number of verses from the Qur’an, the Bible, the Talmud and the Torah — sometimes in a comparative fashion that emphasized his theme of common interests — and showed respect by saying “peace be upon him” when quoting Qur’anic verses. What surprised me? His incorrect pronunciation of hijab.
What questions come to mind as you listen to his speech?
Obama’s “Call to Renewal” Speech
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
This keynote address (transcript here) given by Senator Obama on June 28, 2006 at the Call to Renewal conference has come up a few times in our program — first with Amy Sullivan during the 2008 presidential election season, then later in Krista’s live conversation with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne for "Obama’s Theologian." Now, once more, it’s mentioned in Krista’s interview with Joshua DuBois. Perhaps this one’s worth a lengthy viewing … watch the entire speech here, in 5 parts (parts 2-5 below).