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AMERICAN MOSAIC - In a Galaxy Far, Far Away, 'Star Wars' Comes to an End

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(MUSIC)

HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Award winning country music …

A question from a listener about our Special English announcers …

And a report about the opening of the last Star Wars movie.

Last 'Star Wars' Movie

"Star Wars: Episode Three -- Revenge of the Sith" opened last week around the world. In the United States, it earned more money in its first twenty-four hours than any other movie in history. It sold fifty million dollars worth of tickets in one day. The film also earned more money in the United States in its first four days than any other movie – more than one hundred fifty eight million dollars. It also earned more than one hundred forty-four million dollars in other countries. Faith Lapidus has more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: "Revenge of the Sith" is the last in the series of six "Star Wars" movies. American film director George Lucas produced the first "Star Wars" movie in nineteen seventy-seven. The first three movies in the series told the story of wars among planets that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Those three movies were "Star Wars", "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Return of the Jedi". The main characters were Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the evil Darth Vader.

But George Lucas wanted to tell more stories about what happened in the years before the first "Star Wars" movies take place. He wanted to explain more about Darth Vader and his connections to the other characters. Lucas waited for years to make those movies until motion picture technology developed the special effects he wanted.

"Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace" opened in nineteen ninety-nine. It is about Anakin Skywalker, the boy who would grow up to become Darth Vader. Three years later, "Attack of the Clones" continued the story of Anakin Skywalker. It ended with his secret marriage to Padme Amidala.

The new movie, "Revenge of the Sith," tells how Anakin Skywalker turns away from the good Jedi knights and becomes their enemy, Darth Vader. It explains why his children, Luke and Leia, were separated at birth.

Critics generally said "Revenge of the Sith" is one of the best of the six movies. Some said it is the best one. They especially praised the action in the film and the special effects. However, they said it is more violent than the other "Star Wars" films and is not for young children.

So what will George Lucas do now that the "Star Wars" series is finished? He told Time Magazine recently that he is planning to produce a film about African-American fighter pilots in World War Two. And he wants to make another movie about the action hero he created, Indiana Jones.

Special English Announcers

Our question this week comes from a listener in Kabul, Afghanistan. Inamullah Mohmand asks about the announcers for Special English programs. He wonders if all of them are from the United States. And he asks which American state accent is considered the standard for English pronunciation in the United States and on the program.

These questions are complex! We decided to find out more from our announcers. Gwen Outen is one of the newest voices in Special English. She was happy to tell us a little about her background.

Gwen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But she was raised in Nashville, Tennessee. That is the traditional home of country music at the Grand Ole Opry. Gwen is the first to admit that she has a Southern, country accent.

But Gwen tries not to speak with an accent when she is on the radio. She likes to present a more neutral sound on air.

However, this does not mean that different accents are unacceptable. Former Special English announcer Mary Tillotson has a clear southern accent. And, Shirley Griffith has a very apparent northern accent that comes all the way from Canada where she was born. Shirley has lived in the United States most of her adult life. But, you can still hear the Canadian accent in words like "house" and "about."

And, now, a little about me, one of the oldest --- or, let us say, more experienced -- Special English announcers. I come from Milford, Delaware. My accent is referred to as "Eastern Shore." They call people from my area "hitiders" or "high tiders." We come from "Delware" or Delaware.

Like Gwen, I try to keep my sound neutral when I broadcast. But, my accent slips in sometimes. There are just some words I do not know how to say any other way, even on air. But, I am not going to tell you those words. I do not want you to notice in the future!

Country Music Awards

The Academy of Country Music Awards celebrated its fortieth birthday last week. The Academy presented its yearly awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gwen Outen tells us about some of the winners.

GWEN OUTEN: Each year, the Academy of Country Music honors the biggest and newest stars in country music. This year, the Academy honored singer Tim McGraw for his hit record, "Live Like You Were Dying." It was named top single record and best song.

(MUSIC)

Gretchen Wilson won two Academy of Country Music Awards -- for top new artist and best female singer. Her first album was "Redneck Woman." Here is the title song.

(MUSIC)

The Academy of Country Music's top award is entertainer of the year. The winner this year was singer Kenny Chesney. We leave you with a song from his latest album, "When The Sun Goes Down."

(MUSIC)

HOST: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our show was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

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