Franz Schubert

Mid-March Roundup

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease – We are reading “Catching Air”, a book focused on GLIDING ANIMALS (non-bird animals that seemingly fly from tree to tree).  This is our third book by Sneed B. Collard III, whose writings on lizards and bird beaks (for heavens sakes) have made us enthusiastic observers.   As usual, the material he presents in “Catching Air” makes us feel super scholarly:

  • we now know that large eyes on animals are suggestive of a nocturnal nature
  • we now know the difference between flying, gliding, and parachuting animals
  • we now know what a patagium (vocab) is and we know how to pronounce it
  • we discussed the difference between a carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore
  • we are now among those who know where the largest, second largest, and third largest islands in the world are (the largest, of course, is Greenland – where there are no gliding animals, but there are gliding animals aplenty in Papua New Guinea, the second largest island and Borneo, third largest island) 
  • last night we read about the creepiest creepiest creepiest thing:  the air gliding snakes of Borneo     

Editing Triumph:  Hans Christian Anderson – I wanted my son to understand references that originated from Anderson’s writings, like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Ugly Duckling”, so we read from a most elegant edition of his fairy tales, compiled by Noel Daniel (published in 2013).  This book is thoughtfully organized and filled with sumptuous surprises.  There is a lot of gold ink, short informative sidebars, and each fairy tale is teamed up with its own illustrator  (the likes of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham).  THIS is the edition that anybody interested in Hans Christian Anderson should own. 

Quick Notes –

  • Hokusai:  After finishing “The Old Man Mad about Drawing” (Francois Place), learning more about Katsushika Hokusai, woodcut print master of the late 1700’s, I presented my son with 4 Hokusai poster possibilities for his room.  He selected the classic, “The Great Wave”.  Even in poster form, it is more spectacular than I had imagined.
  • Marsupials:  First of all, “marsupial” is a fun word to say.  Marsupial, marsupial, marsupial.  We finished a unit on marsupials – those mammals that nurture their newborns in mom’s front pocket – except for those marsupials whose mom’s don’t have a front pocket (which our book should have expanded upon)(editing disappointment)(sigh).
  • Compass directions:  I did a compass check with my son.  Did he know north, south, east, and west?  YES.
  • Hank the Cow Dog:  It has been years since we have read through the John R. Erickson series.  This is the ridiculousness we need to conclude each day.  We pretty much love Hank.

Complaint Department:  My son and I are studying architectural landmarks.  I am not mentioning our resource because this book could have been so much better.  I would not be giving this editor a raise anytime soon:

  • Our book provides only vague references to each landmark’s location, as if the exact whereabouts were a secret.  Seriously?  No nearby city mention?  No COUNTRY mention?  How can there not be a little map accompanying each entry?   
  • Whereas all entries are interesting, are they all really landmarks?  Are the Roman Baths of England a landmark?  Are the the buried terra-cotta army figures in China a landmark?
  • Often the book waxes on about a particular object of fascination (fabulous mosaics, a special stone, etc) associated with a particular landmark, and then does not include a photo of the object.  AAAAACK.

Nevertheless, we do have our favorite landmarks:

  • First place honors go to the hundred foot tall Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro.  Monumental simplicity.  Of interest:  funding ran low during construction, so the Vatican stepped in to assist.  Nice.
  • Second place, measuring in at 185 feet (on one side) is the relentless engineering fiasco and utterly charming Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

Story problem – a landmark at Farmer Brown’s roadside produce stand!  In the hopes of making his produce stand a tour-bus destination, Farmer Brown has commissioned a sculptor to create a 10 foot high bronze ear of corn, to be positioned near the stand.  That should get everyone’s attention!  The “artwork” will be true to actual corn proportions.  If there are 50 kernels of corn in a typical row on a corncob, each kernel must be approximately how wide in the sculpture?  (answer at bottom of post)

A)  2.5 inches     B)  5 inches     C)  7.5 inches     D)  2.5 feet

Classical Music Time – earlier in this month (MARCH), a local radio station hosted a “vote for your favorite march” opportunity.  We listen to marches every Friday night throughout the year, so my son definitely knew the three he was voting for:

  • Marche Militaire No. 1 in D major, composed as a piano four-hands piece by  Franz Schubert and first published in 1826.   Perhaps best described as a ballroom march, Marche Militaire is also effectively used in the cute-as-anything Disney cartoon of 1932, “Santa’s Workshop” (my son LOVES this cartoon – frankly, I love this cartoon).  Note:  the extremely competent pianists in this clip do take quite a bit of time to get started:

  • March of the Prague Student Legion, by Bedrich Smetana, composed in 1848.  This is a march that fills you with nationalistic pride, makes you throw your shoulders back and stand up straight.  We love the snappy pace of this particular recording.  As an added listening bonus, tucked into the middle of the march, my son and I listen for a few bars of “The Farmer in the Dell”:

  • The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme),  John Williams’ genius nod to aggression and menace.  In this film clip, John Williams conducts the LA Philharmonic Orchestra (complete with Jedi and Mr. Vader):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  2.5”)

Talking in Circles

magician-with-rings

Circles Circles Circles:  geometry review – my son knows the vocabulary of circles (radius, diameter, circumference and the concept of π) and can now find the circumference and area of a circle if given the measurement of the radius.  We are able to work in the abstract, but we’ve done our share of figuring circumference and area of of pizzas, pies, and crop circles.

crop-circle-star     crop-circle

Crop Circles!  Inspired by the “intergalactics” in “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” – a clever, original, great read for us by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners (and now we are reading “Gabby Duran – Troll Control” – get this!  A GIFT FROM ONE OF THE AUTHORS!!!! ), we wondered if there was proof of space aliens visiting planet Earth, so we took a bit of time to read up on crop circles (yay Wikipedia!) and view an array of photos.  Well, my son learned the definition of “HOAX”, but rather than be disappointed that the crop circles were not evidence of visitors from the far beyond, we decided to be mightily impressed by the precision artistry yielded by the wide brush of a tractor.  Wow.

crop-circle-simple

Farmer Brown’s Crop Circle (story problem) – Farmer Brown has revved up the John Deere tractor and crafted a crop circle in the middle of his wheat field as a fun destination for his Halloween hay-rides.  If the radius of his crop circle measures 100 feet, is the area of the circle larger or smaller than one acre (43,560 square feet)?   If the horses pull the hay-ride wagon along the entire edge of the crop circle, how many feet will they cover?  If Farmer Brown takes a photo of everybody in the center of his crop circle wearing alien masks will this be awesome? (answers at bottom of post)

hannibal-coins

Circling Back – We finished our Hannibal unit and here is what it boiled down to:  in 218 BC, from Carthage (the northern-most tip of Africa), Hannibal led his soldiers, horses, and elephants northwest to the Iberian peninsula, east over the Alps, south to Rome, and finally ended up, full circle, back in Carthage and guess what?  After 17 years of fighting, ravaging countless villages, and 720,000 soldiers dead: nothing gained.  NOTHING.

We needed music that reflected despair and regret for the families ruined by Hannibal’s insane drive to obliterate the Roman Republic.

  • “Adagio in G minor for Strings and Organ” by Tomaso Albinoni.  MUSIC CONTROVERSY:  although the piece is attributed to Albinoni, who wrote fragments of the composition in the early 1700s, apparently Remo Giazotto actually pulled the piece together in 1958.  This funereal work has been used in over 25 movies;  sort of the go-to music for weepiness.  This performance is outstanding:

  • “Serenade” by Franz Schubert, finished in 1828, just one month before Schubert passed away (SYPHILIS) (OH DEAR).  No one can be cheered by this somber waltz of death – and take a gander at this semi-creepy, gloom-filled film clip:

  • “Symphony No. 3 in F major”, movement III, by Johannas Brahms, composed in 1883. Searingly sad.  Monumentally beautiful.  (Insider note:  this movement served as inspiration for Carlos Santana’s 1999 piece, “Love of My Life”):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: smaller, 628 feet, YES this will be the highlight of the evening)

Two Different Worlds

germany globe rasputin einstein russia globe

Two Different Worlds – we are reading about the extraordinarily weird Grigory Rasputin and the extraordinarily brilliant Albert Einstein.  The two were born only 10 years apart (Rasputin 1869, Einstein 1879), but WHOA, what different worlds they lived in.  After each night’s reading, my son and I have much to discuss – first the family background, the education, and the character of each man (we haven’t gotten to their contributions yet) and then the comparison between cultures.  Grossest tidbit from last night’s reading – Rasputin’s teeth were brown. Yeecks. BTW, both sources of information are well researched, well written, and captivating.

Thinking about Letters – last night I brought out the old family dictionary, so my son could see that there is a non-electronic means of finding the definition of a word.  Then, I asked my son to guess which letter of the alphabet is at the beginning of the greatest number of words (he guessed “E”), and which letter is the beginning of the fewest number of words (he guessed “Z”). Thus begins a 13 day miniature side-study. We are counting the number of pages for each letter; two letters per evening. So, in 13 days we will know!

pluto new

Focus on Pluto – we are keeping abreast of the New Horizons spacecraft that was launched nine and a half years ago with the task of flying by Pluto, sending back images and information.  So exciting!  After traveling some three BILLION miles, the FASTEST spacecraft ever is due to pass Pluto NEXT WEEK.  It is already sending images.  We marvel once again at the brainpower that can successfully manage these far-reaching projects with such precision.

rice treats

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gearing up to make some big bucks at  the county fair – their plan is to sell 3,000 Rice Krispies Treats at their booth during the weekend-long fair. The diner chefs are working from the recipe on the back of the Rice Krispies box, which uses 6 cups of the rice cereal to make 12 large square cookies.  How many cups will the diner use to produce their goal of 3,000?   If a regular sized box of Rice Krispies can make two batches of the treats, how many regular sized boxes will be needed?  Delving into the arena of common sense:  is it likely that any grocery store would have this many boxes of Rice Krispies?

black wreath

Our music theme a few nights ago – “The Sad Song Scale”.  We listened to, and ranked these tear-jerker compositions on a sadness scale of one (“bummer”) to ten (“unrecoverable heart-crushing despair”):

  • “Symphony No. 3 in F major” (third movement), composed by Brahms in 1883.  We ranked this a most worthy 10 on our sadness scale.  SO much desolation.  This piece has been well positioned in several movies.

  • “What’ll I Do”, by Irving Berlin, composed in 1923.  Earns an impressive 6 on our scale.  Sad AND clever. That is sort of hard to pull off.  Kudos Mr. Berlin!

  • “Serenade”, by Franz Schubert.  A solid 9 on the scale.  Written in 1828, during the final year of his life, despondent because he knew he was dying of Syphilis. Blog followers know that my son and I are enthusiastic Itzhak Perlman admirers and this performance is another reason why.  Perfection.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH