Disney

Old Business

blue-barrow-map

An old name is a new name – How did this bit of news pass us by?  My son and I just learned that the citizens of Barrow, Alaska voted this past October to change the city’s name back to its ancient traditional name, Utqiagvik!  (Doesn’t everybody know that we love knowing stuff like this?)  The town has been called Utqiagvik – meaning “place for gathering wild roots” – for the past 1,500 years but has been officially “Barrow” since 1825.  Apparently, the governor of Alaska has until mid-December to rule on the name change.  Will the governor want to mess with the decision of the people in America’s northern-most city?  We are standing by!

Animals of yesteryear – our current course of study:  “Lost Animals – Extinction and the Photographic Record”, by Errol Fuller.  Fuller’s research is thorough and each chapter follows a particular species from it’s heyday to its regrettable demise (mostly there are a LOT of bird species that are no longer with us) (and we really wish color photography had been around before the pink headed duck of the Ganges River became extinct).  Last night we read about the thylacine – a species that was in existence when my son’s grandparents were children.  The stories captivate, stay with us, and I think make us more aware and maybe worried for the distant future of every healthy animal we see.

betsy

Well, here is an OLDIE – we are enjoying “Understood Betsy” written by Dorothy Canfield Fisher 1917.  This classic shows up on many recommended reading lists, and I was finally persuaded to give it a try after reading a mini-bio of Ms. Fisher on the always informative “Focus on Fraternity” blog (franbecque.com).  Happy surprise!  This book presents a wealth of information about how things were 100 years ago, there is a dash of adventure, and a pervasive advocacy of self sufficiency which should put this book on a required reading list for parents and teachers.

cloth-napkins

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is bringing back an old tradition for the month of December: cloth napkins.  They are going to see if it is more economical to rent cloth napkins or to purchase napkins and have them laundered by a service.  The diner goes through 200 napkins daily.  Cloth napkins rental price:  200 napkins for $25.  The laundry service charges $10 to wash and press 200 napkins, but the diner would have to purchase two days worth of napkins first (at a cost of $3 per unit).  If the diner decides to use cloth napkins for December, should they rent or own/pay for a laundry service?  What is the least they can spend for this festive endeavor? (answers at bottom of post)

The music theme this past week:  PARODIES (vocab) – When I was in 5th grade, my friend Pam received the best-record-album-ever at her birthday party: Allan Sherman’s “My Son the Nut”.  I absolutely collapsed in laughter just looking at the album cover (Mr. Sherman, up to his neck in assorted nuts); I did not believe that anything could be more screamingly hilarious (hey folks, this was the early 1960’s – simpler expectations).  On top of a great album cover, THE CLEVER PARODIES!   What fun, some 45 years later, to share this listening experience with my son.

my-son-the-nut

This past week, we matched up a few songs from “My Son the Nut” with the classical compositions from which they were inspired:

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”:  the lyrics were written to a theme from Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” (1876).  “Dance of the Hours” was also used in Disney’s “Fantasia” of 1940.

“Hungarian Goulash No. 5”:  the lyrics were written to Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” (1869). Gustavo Dudamel conducts in this video – and you know how I feel about Mr. Dudamel.  MERCY.

“Here’s to the Crabgrass”:  the lyrics were written to Percy Grainger’s “Country Gardens” (1918).  This performance by the Hastings College Wind Ensemble really scoots along.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers: the diner should definitely rent the napkins, renting will run $775. Purchasing napkins and paying a laundry service will cost almost twice as much.)

26 Candles!

candles

My son celebrated his birthday this past week!  Among the wrapped presents, two spectacular books:

wonder-garden-book

“Star Talk” by astrophysicist and consummate showman, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  So far – tremendously engrossing; last night we read about why astronauts grow taller in space (due to lack of gravity) (and apparently this is NOT good for bone density), the night before we learned how long it would take to travel to Mars via current space travel technology. (3 years).  Full of quirky facts and explanations, this is exactly the type of book we like to spend time with.

“The Wonder Garden” by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom focuses upon animal life in five distinct habitats (vocab) around the world.  We are in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest (located it on the new globe/another birthday present!) chapter.  Gross fact from last night: the green anaconda NEVER STOPS GROWING.  Ewww ewww ewww.  Aside from that, this book is a jewel. The obsessively decorative artwork is first rate, the book is well written and the excellent research is apparent.  Learning materials were NOT this captivating when I was in school.

horseshoe

Story problem – Farmer Brown recycles used horseshoes!  Farmer Brown has 6 horses and is filling up a barrel with used horseshoes.  He has found a craftsman who would like to purchase the horseshoes and turn them into “good luck” wall art items.  If each horse gets fitted for new shoes every other month, how many used shoes will Farmer Brown have in the barrel at the end of a year?  If he is able to sell the used shoes to the craftsman for $10 each, how much money will he collect by the end of a year?  If it costs $125 to shoe one horse, how many horses could be shod from the money earned from selling the old shoes? (answers at bottom of post)

blacksmith

Speaking of horseshoes – our poem for the evening was “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1840), which led us to look at and talk about anvils (vocab) and bellows (vocab), which led us to our music theme:

Plink, clank, plink – the anvil as musical instrument!  What a most satisfactory listening experience:

anvil

The Anvil Chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of 1853, “Il Trovatore” (The Troubadour).  This song of the gypsies praises hard work, good wine, and gypsy women.  For my son, I emphasized the hard work and the unique sound of the sledge hammer hitting the anvil, and sort of didn’t mention the good wine and gypsy women.  Outstanding production:

The Feuerfest (fireproof) Polka, composed in 1869 by Josef Strauss, brother of waltz king, Johann Strauss II.  This is probably one of our top ten favorite classical pieces; we like to anticipate each anvil clang.  In this linked video Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic WHILE “playing” the hammers and anvil.  Adorable, and kind of spellbinding.

– Finally, “Heigh Ho” from Disney’s 1937 blockbuster, “Snow White”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Larry Morey.  Anvil plinking all over the place.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 144,   $1,440,   11 horses)

Club Gustav

eiffel-tower

And so it begins:  a few nights ago, my son and I started reading, “The Eiffel Tower – Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea” by Cooper/Bock.  Hmmm; the book’s facts differ slightly (actually markedly) from what the Wikipedia entry has to say about the tower and who’s idea it was.   Regardless, I knew we would be interested in the construction of the Eiffel Tower – all of those triangles – and the fact is, Gustave Eiffel was a brilliant, innovative, experienced architect and engineer.  We also looked at some of his bridges, and his structural plan for supporting the inside of the Statue of Liberty.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that we had never listened to anything by Gustav Mahler, so I started listening to a LOT of Mahler (a LOT because each and every piece is SO long), selecting compositions to share with my son.  And all of a sudden, I thought: we have two “Gustavs” already, why not have this week be all about spotlighting noteworthy “Gustavs”?  So we added:

gustave-the-croc kiss-klimt planets

  • the art work of Gustav Klimt – we admired 12 of his landscapes (via a large calendar).  We couldn’t stop looking at “Forest of Birch Trees” and “Island in the Attersee” (both 1902).  We also spent time looking at every detail of his most well known painting, the shimmering richly patterned, gold-leafed “The Kiss” (1907).
  • a review of the music of Gustav Holst, a composer we are familiar with.  We listened to a few movements from “The Planets”, his Morris Dance Tunes, and the march from his “First Suite in E flat for Military Band” (we like listening for the monarch reviewing the troops).
  • then, HOLY CATS, a short study of Gustave the Crocodile of Burundi (we located teeny Burundi on the globe).  Oh, this is so sad: according to Wikipedia, “The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation”.  Well, I am sure Gustave is not helping.  So far, this 60 year old, 25 foot-long, bullet-proof baddest croc of them all, has killed 300 people.  He is THE WORST.  He is INFAMOUS (vocab word of the night).

Our music theme last night: what else? Gustav, Gustav, Gustave and Gustavo –

mahler dudamel holst

Mahler, Dudamel, and Holst

  • we listened to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, movement III, composed about 1890.  There are a lot of moods and themes in this 10 minute movement – lush harmonies, frenetic rhythms, the lure of the exotic melody, and do we hear birdsong?  Conducted by the sizzling Gustavo Dudamel:

  • we can hear Gustav Holst’s messenger god flitting willy-nilly all over the universe.  We have probably listened to the “Mercury” movement  from The Planets (composed in 1916) about 45 times.  It just doesn’t get old.

  • and for Gustave the Crocodile we listened to, “Never Smile at a Crocodile” from Disney’s 1953 movie “Peter Pan”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Jack Lawrence.  What’s not to like?

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

The Larger Picture

Looming Large:  Hannibal and Elephants

elephant with hannibal

“Hannibal Crossing the Alps on an Elephant” by Nicolas Poussin (1620-ish)

About Hannibal – we are reading from the Wicked History series, “Hannibal – Rome’s Worst Nightmare”.  Hannibal Barca:  an ambitious warrior with strategy skills perhaps surpassing history’s most effective military leaders.  We are currently reading about Hannibal’s most outrageous achievement – crossing the Alps with 100,000 soldiers and 40 elephants.  Interesting fact – when all was said and done – the Alps crossed and the war with Rome over (this would be the second Punic war – and isn’t PUNIC is such a weird word?) – only 1 elephant remained.  (HEARTBREAK)  (but isn’t the painting elegant?  We LOVE it and we’ve ordered a poster of it.)

My son and I wanted to know more, so we also read “Unsolved Mystery: Where did Hannibal get his War Elephants?” from the Ancient Origins website (ancient-origins.net).  This excellent short article: highly recommended.

hannibal

About Elephants – we are reading from Cheryl Bardoe’s book, “Mammoths and Mastodons – Titans of the Ice Age” (titan – vocab).  Absolutely text-book worthy.  A mini-mini sampling of what we’ve learned:

  • elephant (mammoth/mastodon) tusks are “ringed”, similar to a tree trunk.  Layers of ivory are added every day and reveal all sorts of stuff, like the elephant’s age, whether the female gave birth, food consumed, and the climate.
  • The remains of Columbian mammoths have been found in Texas!  It seems so strange to us that these prehistoric creatures have walked where we walk.  Crazy.

goldberg calendar

Large Pictures – Here is an abrupt change of topic:  my son and I love looking at the ridiculous inventions of Rube Goldberg.  However, Goldberg’s illustrations are so detailed, it is difficult for two people to absorb everything while sharing a book.  So, we have found a most useful vehicle for enjoying the engineering shenanigans of Mr. Goldberg:  a wall calendar!  A big calendar page is the perfect size for us to appreciate every nuance of Goldberg’s contraptions.

waitress in frame

And more large pictures! (at Le Fictitious Local Diner) – A large picture frame (3′ x 4′) has been installed on the wall next to the cash register at Le Fictitious Local Diner to showcase EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH.

If the diner employs 3 excellent cooks and 5 efficient and really nice waitresses, over the course of 4 years, how many times might each employee be designated as “employee of the month”?  If the recognition comes with an honorarium (vocab) of $50,  how much will the diner budget for this per year, and how much should each employee accrue (vocab) over the course of the 4 years?  Lastly, if the diner spends $15 to get a glossy print of each EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, how much will the diner spend on the photos in a year? (semi-trick question:  some employees may be declared EOTM more than once in a year, and there is no need for duplicate photos, no sir, not at $15 a print).  (answer at bottom of post)

elephant brown

The Elephant in the Living Room – music to celebrate the largest terrestrial (vocab) animal:

  • Baby Elephant Walk, composed by iconic American composer Henry Mancini in 1961 for the movie “Hitari”.  This piece won a Grammy in 1962.

  • Pink Elephants on Parade, from the 1941 Disney movie, Dumbo, composed by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington.  This movie segment received a bit of bad press, as many thought a film for children should not glorify hallucinations resulting from the mixing of the elephant’s water with champagne.  Ya know, this footage IS sort of disturbing.

  • The Elephant, from Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, composed in 1886.  The orchestra’s double bass perfectly matches the heavy lumbering steps of the elephant.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

(story problem answers:  6 times,   $600,   $300,   $120)

Inventors Invent

rube goldberg

Patents and Inventions – every night for the past few weeks my son and I have looked forward to opening Travis Brown’s book, “Popular Patents”.  We’ve read about patents issued for the adding machine, barbed wire, the moveable-frame beehive, billiard balls, bottle caps, cannons, the safety elevator, fertilizer, frozen foods, glass bottles, helicopters, and the zipper.  What we love is that each story has some crazy angle (like how zippers were called “hookless fasteners” until an order for 150,000 units were  placed by the Goodrich Company for their “Zipper Boots”).  And we continue to notice how EVERY single story reveals inventors that carry patents for MULTIPLE non-related items.  They cannot seem to stop: inventors invent!

patent books and toilet

Speaking of Fertilizer (first US patent for artificial fertilizer granted in 1859) – we read through (OH MY GOSH) “TOILET – How It Works”, meticulously illustrated by David Macaulay.  This is a quick little book that can give EVERYBODY a basic knowledge of their toilet and a HUGE appreciation for every city’s wastewater treatment plant (on behalf of all clueless citizenry, thank you wastewater treatment plant workers) (possibly a type of employment that might be worse than being a middle-school bus driver).

AA006323

Yoohoo!  Vikings!  We are reading through another Graphic Library (think glorified comic book) offering, this one about the Vikings, “Lords of the Sea – the Vikings Explore the North Atlantic”.  My, these were a hardy people.  We are finding it interesting to put the Viking explorations to North America in timeline context with the likes of Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower Pilgrims.  And BTW, we’ve learned that Vikings never wore helmets with horns.

falcon book

Reading for fun – My husband and I enjoy the screenwriting of Anthony Horowitz (think “Foyle’s War”), so when I found out that he wrote for the young adult level, I knew my son and I would want to give this a try.  We have started his book, “The Falcon’s Malteser”.  Lots of things to explain to my son as we read along (starting with the title), but this is a very fun, very clever detective novel. Perfect level for my son.

chef hatchef hatchef hat

Who’s Cooking at Le Fictitious Local Diner? (story problem) – in August, the diner is offering two week-long (Monday through Friday) cooking camps; one for 7th and 8th graders and one for high school students.  The class fee is $200 per student and includes lunch every day and a chef hat. There is room for 10 students in each camp.  If it costs the diner $4 for each lunch, and $50 for cooking materials for each student for a week, and a chef’s hat costs $6 each, how much will the diner spend on each camper?  At the end of camp, how much will the diner have netted? (answer at bottom of post)

Only Fun Music Allowed (our classical music theme last night) –

  • “Dance of the Hours” (note:  this piece has a LONG 2 minute intro –  the high voltage fun begins about 7.5 minutes into piece), from the opera “La Gioconda” (1880) by Amilcare Ponchielli.  Even though this music was hilariously and successfully used in Disney’s “Fantasia” and Allen Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, we were sorry to learn that “La Gioconda” is actually a heart-wrenching tragedy.  But anyway:

  • “Chicken Reel”, written in 1910 by Joseph Daly (and used in several animated cartoons to depict rollicking farm life), and arranged for orchestra by LeRoy Anderson in 1946.  Anderson had so much fun with this – beginning with the ridiculously grand aggressive Paso Doble introduction. Great piece:

  • “The Pink Panther”, the iconic Henry Mancini piece composed in 1963. (My son and I love the triangle action.) This short film clip showcases Henry Mancini as conductor, as well as bits of Pink Panther cartoon magic:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answers:  $76, $2,480)

Well Played!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wishing Wells – Did my son know what a wishing well was? No!  So we opened up the iPad to see what Wikipedia and Google Images had to say and show us (seriously there isn’t much to know; if you know what a wishing well is, then you pretty much know everything there is to know about the concept).  But wait!  We thought this was noteworthy: during the course of the year, Disney properties accumulate around $18,000 in coins from their various wishing wells and fountains.  That is a LOT of wishes!  The money is donated to charity. Nice.  (And now my son knows exactly what to do the next time he encounters a wishing well.)

fish pastels

We’re still drawing – we decided that Monday nights should be “official drawing with pastels nights”, and we are still being inspired by the “20 ways to Draw a Jellyfish” book. Basically, my son selects the color, I hold the pastel and then he grasps my wrist and guides my hand.  The activity has my son’s full focus, it feels quite therapeutic, and we are getting a bit of hand-eye coordination going on.  Drawing the sea-life inspired us to listen to the very short “The Aquarium” by Camille Saint-Saens (composed in 1886) (and BTW, used during the prologue of the “Beauty and the Beast” movie).

Farmer Brown’s story problem – Back to wishing wells! Did you know that there is a wishing well on Farmer Brown’s ranch? Inspired by the Disney corporation, once a year Farmer Brown cleans out of the bottom of the well and donates all of the coins to the local elementary school music program, to help purchase instruments.  This year, Farmer Brown recovered 185 quarters, 100 dimes, 220 nickels, and 236 pennies.  How much was Farmer Brown able to give to the school?  If the cost of a decent recorder instrument is $8.00, how many recorders can the school purchase with Farmer Brown’s gracious donation?

recorder horizontal

What’s a recorder?  My son didn’t know.  So we learned that the slender wooden instrument (sort of like a VERY simplified clarinet) (sort of), was quite popular during the Renaissance. (No present day Renaissance faire aiming for authenticity should be without wandering musicians playing recorders.) AND here comes an interesting related factoid: when King Henry VIII died in 1547, seventy-three recorders were found among his possessions. He was obviously quite a collector of many things (we briefly discussed his many wives).  But back to the recorder – it is now an instrument of choice for children’s musical programs (probably due to the fact that a recorder of adequate quality can be made of plastic, so is economically feasible).

Music of the recorder – this music is so much better than we were expecting!!!  We want to try to play a recorder – we’ve already ordered one from Amazon.

  • Sopranino Recorder Concerto in C major, movement 1 – composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1728. Lively!

  • Ode to Joy, from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1824) – Apparently “Ode to Joy” is a basic learning melody for the recorder, so we found a video that showcases a group of very serious young potential musicians.

  • Greensleeves – this old, old English folk tune was even mentioned in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (1602), giving documented proof that this is indeed music of the Renaissance.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

780 Pairs of Saddle Shoes

Did ya miss me?  The past week my husband was visiting relatives and I was mired in single parenthood and there was no brainpower left to reflect upon what my son and I were learning together.

But, finally, a few free hours –

Saddle Shoes: One of the books we are reading mentioned somebody polishing up their saddle shoes.  I don’t believe my son has come into contact with anyone sporting saddle shoes, so we had to Google image said 50’s footwear. There are 39 pages of photos of saddle shoes.  Not a lot of variation, folks.  39 pages?

 saddle shoes 1 photos saddle shoes 2 saddle shoes 3

We finished an outstanding Nobel Prize unit: Thanks to a well-written book, “The Nobel Prize”, by Michael Worek, we are conversant with the prize categories (medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics), the basic set-up of the prize system, and we read about some of the more notable Laureates. The book ends with a chronological listing of the prizes. So, GREAT BIRTHDAY CARD IDEA!!! Along with the usual felicitations, why not include the list of the Nobel Prize Laureates from the year that the birthday honoree was born?

nobel book

Novel update: We decided that the two novels we were reading (“Under the Egg” and “The Absolute Value of Mike”) were too complex to be read at the same time. We decided to take a break from both books. My son chose an old favorite, “While Mrs. Coverlet was Away” as our current novel. When we conclude this book, we will return to either the Egg or the Mike book, but one at a time.

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem: Last night found Farmer Brown packing up crates of oranges to sell to sea captains interested in the prevention of scurvy.  We talked about Farmer Brown’s price per crate ($3.00), how many oranges were in each container (100), the subsequent cost of each orange, and how much a sea captain could make if he sold individual oranges for a quarter.

Our Classical Music theme was “All in the (ridiculously gifted) Family”:

  • The father, Johann Strauss, senior: “Radetzky March”: a glorious march, easily confused with the work of John Philip Sousa.
  • The brother, Josef Strauss: “Feuerfest Polka”:  we LOVE this piece and we refer to it as the “Blacksmith Polka” because it is accented with what sounds like a hammer hitting an anvil. This just has to be the inspiration for “Heigh-Ho” from Disney’s “Snow White”.
  • The Waltz King, Johann Strauss, junior: The Thunder and Lightning Polka”: take a gander at “Unter Donner und Blitz Polka” (“The Thunder and Lightning Polka”).  The conductor, Carlos Kleiber, is having way too much fun with this piece.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH