Gustav Holst

…and in conclusion

– Farewell 2018 – 

Books that made the biggest impact with my son this past year –

books best 18

  • “The Erie Canal” by Martha E. Kendall  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Violin Maker” by John Marchese  (surprisingly interesting)
  • “The Cities Book”, a Lonely Planet book  (the lengthiest book we’ve ever tackled, but worthy of our perseverance)
  • “The War that Saved by Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (we learned so much about the daily struggles of British civilians during WWII)
  • “The Right Word (Roget and his Thesaurus)” by Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet  (the most beautifully illustrated book we read this past year)

What we are reading now – 

space book

“Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guide to Dinosaurs” – well researched, cleverly organized, hilarious.  And now we know:

  • the complexity of dealing with dinosaur fossils (which we learned have been found on EVERY continent)
  • the main types of dinosaur skeletal structure (lizard hipped and bird hipped)
  • dinosaur IQ (really, really low.  really low)
  • how dinosaurs became extinct (FREAKY HEARTBREAKER)
  • to mull on:  dinosaurs lived on the earth for 150 MILLION YEARS (becoming extinct 65 million years ago), yet the first dinosaur bone was not officially recognized and identified until 1824.  So, it is interesting to consider that (for example) our USA founding fathers had no idea that their world was once anything other than as they experienced it.

“Professor Astro Cat’s SPACE ROCKETS” by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman.  My son and I like to keep abreast of current outer space exploration – astronauts, telescopes, space probes – but we have never considered how astronauts, telescopes, space probes actually get into outer space.  This book has the answers  (and who can’t be fascinated by the engineering genius of space rockets?  And we keep laughing about the very first earthly inhabitants to journey by rocket to outer space (FRUIT FLIES) (we actually want more info about the fruit flies – how many did they send?  did they reproduce?  how many came back alive?).  The book’s content is really pared down, but the information comes across clearly (and we haven’t gotten this information anywhere else), so KUDOS Walliman and Newman ONCE AGAIN).  

BTW – the books of Ken Jennings and Walliman/Newman always make a big impact with my son.

dog santa hat

Story Problem – Early in December, Le Fictitious Local Diner cordoned off their parking lot and hosted a Holiday Pet Parade, complete with diner-made treats baked for all participants and a photographer to commemorate the event.  50 families each brought a pet dressed in holiday finery.

  • If 80% brought a dog wearing a Santa hat, how many dogs in Santa hats were in the parade?
  • If one family brought a turtle wearing teeny reindeer antlers, the turtle was what percentage of the parade?  
  • If 8 families brought cats wearing doll sweaters, what percentage of the parade was causing a snarling uproar? 
  • If there were exactly 50 pets in the parade, and the pets were either dogs, cats, turtles or birds, how many parakeets in cages with twinkly lights were in the festive procession? (answers at bottom of post)

Sweet Endings (actually, SUITE endings) – last night’s classical music listening:

My son and I always enjoy a piece of classical music that takes us by surprise with a non-traditional ending –  such as Elgar’s “The Wild Bears”, Smetana’s “The Moldau”, and John Williams’ “The Imperial March”.  To bring 2018 to a sweet ending we chose compositions with quirky conclusions from three different suites:

  • The Dove, from Ottorino Respighi’s orchestral suite, “The Birds” (1828).  A somber, reflective piece with a most delicious, elegant swirl of an ending:

  • Mercury, from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets” (1916).  Mercury, the Messenger God, zooms erratically all over the universe and at the end of the short piece, quietly fades away with an utter lack of fanfare:

  • On the Trail, from Ferde Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” (1931).  We found an excellent recording from the NY Philharmonic that accompanies an engaging video featuring the Grand Canyon MULES.  But back to the music –  the abrupt ending is perfection:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:  40 dogs, 2%, 16%, 1 parakeet

Meanwhile…

city book

Around the world in perhaps 150 days – my son and I are working our way through Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book” (thoughtful Christmas gift from sister –  Lonely Planet books are so A+).  There is a two page spread for each of the 200 cities showcased , and we are managing one or two destinations per evening.  Ten categories define each city, but alas, most are of little interest to my son, so here is how we are using this book:
1- we find the city on the globe.  I am dismayed to report that there are several cities of significant population that I have previously never heard of, like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (5 million) or Lahore, Pakistan (almost 9 million).  For shame!  So I learn along with my son and I just keep appreciating the opportunity.

globe

2- we find out how old the city is.  (eye-opener)
3- we read about the location’s “weaknesses” (beastly hot/spotty electricity/toxic smog levels)(always worth a side conversation).
4- we read about the city’s exports.  If the city produces enough of something to supply the city residents and the product is good enough to export, like coffee, oil, silks, and Siamese cats (!!!), we want to know about it.
And lastly, I should mention this book is quite large and weighs a lot.  I let my son guess how much it weighed.  He guessed 10 pounds, my husband guessed 2 pounds, I guessed 40 pounds (and ta-da! the book weighed in at 7.5 pounds on the cooking scale).  “The Cities Book” can be our new go-to device for pressing flowers or flattening out a curled document.

president book

Meanwhile, back in the USA – we are pretty much loving every page of Ken Jennings’ “Junior Genius Guide to U.S. Presidents”.  Frankly, we are planning on reading everything this super clever author publishes (we have read “Maphead” and his “Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”).  We like to know quirky info like:
– James K. Polk accomplished all of his campaign goals in his first term!  Commendable, but at what cost?  (He quit after one term and died three months later.)  Jennings suggests that Polk’s time was spent “working, not having fun, working more”.  (It would be so interesting to get a glimpse of the family dynamics of his childhood.) (It looks like mirth and relaxation were not encouraged.)
– James Garfield came from the most economically deprived upbringing. He was 19 before he ever heard a piano!  He was 23 before he tasted a banana!
– Woodrow Wilson was the only president (so far) to earn a PhD.

herbs

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – Farmer Brown has all the seed catalogs out, anticipating planting a large herb garden once the winter frosts have passed.  He wants to purchase 40 heirloom seed packets at $4 per packet from the “It’s About Thyme” company and 25 seed packets at $5 each from the “To Bee or Not To Bee Heirloom Seed Company”.  If Farmer Brown budgeted $250 for his herb garden, will he have enough money buy all the seed packets? (answer at bottom of post)

NY Phil

Well, listen to this!   I have recently enlisted the assistance of personal trainer “Brute” (not his real name – smirk).  Brute promised that I could work out to my choice of music.  Yay!  So I said, “classical” and was met with the most puzzled expression.  (Seriously?)  To make it simple, I said I would be happy to listen to any recordings by the New York Philharmonic, to which Brute responded, “Hmmm, I have never heard of that band.”. (Seriously?) AAAAAAACK.  See? This is what happens when school systems are forced to cut funding from the music curriculum.  My son selected three pieces that he decided even a new classical music listener could love, and I found a recording of each by the New York Philharmonic:

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, composed around 1916.  The standard by which all scary aggressive music must be judged:

  • “The Radetzky March” , composed by Johann Strauss, Sr, in 1848, commissioned to commemorate Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz’s victory at the Battle of Custoza (Oh yeah, the Battle of Custoza)(?????).  This is just the dandiest of marches, maybe THE BEST MARCH EVER:

  • “Masquerade”, a waltz composed  in 1941 by Aram Khachaturian (as incidental music for a play of the same name).  Delicious, dark, depraved.  Yikes, it is all here:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: NO)

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

Working for Peanuts

carver stamp

We begin our botany unit:  “George Washington Carver – Ingenious Inventor”, another “Graphic Library” book, this one by Olson/Tucke.  (These books are pretty fun, formatted comic-book style, including a surprising amount of interesting information.  Not bad, not bad at all).  Anyway, George Washington Carver, FATHER OF THE PEANUT INDUSTRY, has won our hearts:  he was focused, deep thinking, moral (vocab), inventive, industrious, and profoundly generous.  But back to the botany angle: Carver ended up with three patents for peanut oil utilization (hardly representative of his many many many inventions and contributions).  We spent a few minutes wondering what Carver’s scientific response would have been to the present day widespread peanut allergy crisis.  We also decided that we wanted to know more about other botanists (vocab), so books on Gregor Mendel and Luther Burbank have been ordered.

soda sharing

Story problem time – the SUMMERTIME SWEETHEART SODA SPECIAL at Le Fictitious Local Diner:  Hoping to entice the after-movie date crowd, the diner has run a midnight ice-cream soda special (a large-sized soda with two straws and a side of fries) every Friday and Saturday, since June 1st.  Well! This has been so popular that the diner went through two boxes of straws (1000 straws to the box) in June alone!  If the special is priced at $5.00, how much did the diner gross on the special in June?  If the cost per serving works out to $2.00, how much did the diner net from this special in June?  Extraneous question: if a box of 1,000 straws costs $17, what is the price per straw (round up)? (answers at bottom of post)

gabby book

New fiction reading:  We are intrigued by  “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.  This book is original and refreshing, with new concepts and vocabulary all over the place.  The introductory adventure involves a movie production (so new words: set, line, soundstage, props);  subsequent adventures involve INTERGALACTICS.  Adding to this, protagonist Gabby Duran, is a high schooler intent on being an orchestra soloist with her French Horn (and consider us admonished via the internet; we’ve learned that this instrument is properly referred to as the HORN, not the French Horn).  So, do you expect us to let it go at that?  Our choice for classical music listening last night focused upon compositions that showcased the HORN.  We wanted to appreciate the deep, comfortable, warm echo-y sound of Gabby’s horn.

Our inspiration for classical music listening last night – Gabby Duran’s French Horn:

– George Frederick Handel’s Water Music, Movement 2, from Water Music Suite No. 2, composed in 1717 to humor King George I, who desired music for a concert on the River Thames.  My son and I love this jaunty full-of-energy fanfare:

– Gustav Holst’s Venus, from The Planets, composed in 1916.  “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”, begins with a horn solo, and the horn provides the backbone for this L O N G dreamy movement (just a teeny touch boring compared to the rest of the planets in the suite) (but very restful, if you need to fall asleep) (and sort of sad, too) (OK! Not our favorite, but still a good “front and center” for the horn):

– Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, first written for piano in 1899, then orchestrated by Ravel in 1910.  This is a slow processional dance, with the horn taking center stage for the introduction. An excellent choice for anyone seeking background music for a good hard cry:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: $5,000, $3,000, 2 cents per straw)

Ranch Report

IMG_1535

Ranch Report – this past week I spent two remarkably interesting days at the most wonderful gigantic cattle ranch smack in the middle of Texas (thanx to LynxAC: hostess/friend extraordinaire).  I brought back photos and observations to share with my son:
–  first of all, the calves are so so cute.
–  the responsibilities of running a ranch are endless – purchasing, transporting, weighing, feeding, watering, and branding the cattle, keeping animals healthy, keeping the calves with their moms – it just doesn’t end.  Good thing the scenery is so spectacular.
–  the speed limit in mid-Texas is 75 MPH.  Not that any self-respecting ranch truck is going that slowly. “Thundering down the road” sort of says it.
–  there are no bushes growing around ranch buildings, because shrubbery provides places for snakes to hang out.  We never stepped outside before scouting for snakes.
–  internet connections are not to be counted on…like there is any time for internet meandering.
–  this visit gave us a new appreciation of everything Farmer Brown (of the Farmer Brown story problems) does to maintain his farm.
–  YES! The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.

math shark

When the cat’s away – when I am gone, my husband takes over the studies and stories hour.  He and my son concentrate on math activities and this past week they enjoyed measured success using a “Math Shark”, which can ask questions about decimals, fractions, and percentages, as well as basic computations.

Cleopatra

But now that I am back – topics that are keeping us captivated:
–  Eugene Bullard (Larry Greenly’s book: A+)
–  Cleopatra (Diane Stanley/Peter Vennema’s book: A+)
–  Animal eyes and vision (“Eye to Eye” by Steve Jenkins) (too early to give it a grade, but so far, we are learning a lot!)
–  book concepts: the preface and the epilogue. (vocab)
–  new science concept “breaking the sound barrier”.

Story Problem Answers!  Finally!  Thanx to a request from attentive reader FDB, answers to story problems will be posted at the bottom of each post, underneath my signature. Starting today!

lantern

Speaking of Farmer Brown – a story problem from this past week: For an upcoming evening gathering, Farmer Brown is going to light his long driveway with lanterns. If he places a lantern on both sides of the drive every 20 feet, and his driveway is a quarter of a mile long, how many lanterns will he need?  If each lantern costs $8.00 (including tax and shipping), how much will Farmer Brown be spending? (Don’t forget!  The answer is at the bottom of this posting!)

March Madness follow-up (see our previous post, “The Business of March”) – my son’s final two march favorites were:
–  “Colonel Bogey March”, composed in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts
–  “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme), composed in 1980 by John Williams for “Star Wars, Episode V”
with the winning nod given to “The Imperial March”.  Great footage:  John Williams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, complete with appearance by Darth Vader:

stars at night

Background music for star gazing in the Lone Star State  

–  “Mercury” from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets”, composed in 1916.  Mercury, the messenger god, flits all over the place and the music flits all over the place.  This is probably one of our top twenty favorite pieces.  It is just so different.

–  “Clair de Lune” from Claude Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque”, published in 1905.  This clip features the great pianist Claudio Arrau, who was 88 when this was recorded!

Now here is something fun!

–  “The Star Trek Theme” straight from the late ’60’s TV show.  Composed by Alexander Courage, the minute-long theme was originally titled, “Where No Man has Gone Before”. Deliciously eerie.

–  Then we listened to a fully orchestrated version (“Star Trek in Concert”) performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2013.  Gorgeous!  We wonder if composer Alexander Courage ever dreamed that his short quirky piece would be performed by such an esteemed orchestra.  Whoa.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story Problem answers:  132 and $1,056.00

Back in the Saddle Again

geneautry

Annnnnnnd, we’re back!  Since our last post, we have read about Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii (so refined, educated, and loyal to her people) and Genghis Khan of Mongolia (so unrefined, so uneducated, so loyal to himself. In his defense, the living was pretty uncertain on the Mongolian steppe (vocab) in the 13th century.  We get the impression that there was no lack of unrefined, uneducated, and untrustworthy yurt (vocab) dwellers.  My son and I are SO glad we didn’t live then and there.  So glad.)

marley door knocker

Current fiction – we loved learning about Charles Dickens last month, so we decided to tackle “A Christmas Carol”.  So far, the book’s conversational style is a delight, although I need to interpret countless phrases and concepts on every page: door knocker, counting-house, Bedlam, workhouses, melancholy, tavern.  This is not a problem!  Bring it, Mr. Dickens.

Current non-fiction

human body book

Reading only one page a night from Peter Grundy’s captivating book, “HUMAN BODY” gives us plenty of thought-provoking information. Example: on the page about the sense of smell, we learned that a human has 15 million olfactory receptors (vocab), most dogs have 1,000 million olfactory receptors, BUT a bloodhound has – GET THIS – 4,000 million olfactory receptors.  So this led to a little discussion about why bloodhounds are the dog of choice for finding lost people, followed by a discussion about how people get lost.  Graphics? Genius.

france map     map book     escargot2

We are also reading through “MAPS”, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.  What a joy this gigantic book is.  Again, one page a night is plenty.  As we begin each new country, we find it on our globe, then we treat ourselves to the jillions of darling hand-drawn illustrations.  Last night we spent time with the page on France and ended up discussing whether or not we would consider eating escargots.

jackolantern

Our story problem: Farmer Brown’s Halloween – Farmer Brown is giving glow-in-the-dark bracelets for Halloween instead of candy. He can purchase 300 bracelets for $24. How much will each bracelet cost?

glow in dark bracelets

If he gives the first 50 trick-or-treaters one bracelet each, but gives the next 100 children 2 bracelets each (because he really doesn’t want to end up with a bunch of bracelets at the end of the evening), how many bracelets should he give to the final group of 10 trick-or-treaters (so he doesn’t end up with any bracelets)?

Scary Music for Halloween

  • “Dance Macabre”, by Camille Saint-Saens, composed in 1874.  The clock strikes midnight on Halloween, calling the dead to arise and dance until dawn.  This splendid video showcases a most skilled youth orchestra from Poland.  Well worth the view to watch for the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and orchestral bells – instruments of perfection for evoking the sounds of rattling skeleton bones.

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets”, composed by Gustav Holst in 1914.  This is the poster child for menacing music.  We love this particular video – it is a simulation of a rover landing on Mars.  We’ve probably watched this 10 times.

  • “Masquerade”, movement 1 (the waltz), from a suite written by Aram Khachaturian in 1941.  This video is a full-blown production number, dark and decadent, just like the music.  For some reason, it is a bit out of focus, but this only adds to the Halloween creepiness.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH