My son and I are “Looking Upward”, zeroing in on a favorite topic: OUTER SPACE.
(“Looking Upward” is also the title of a 3-movement suite composed by America’s “March King”, John Philip Sousa, in the early 1900’s. Suite movements: “By the Light of the Polar Star”, “Beneath the Southern Cross”, and the piece we listened to several times (because we couldn’t believe our ears), “Mars and Venus”. I am afraid this movement found us engaging in some Sousa smack talk. Sousa’s “Mars and Venus” is one of our “classical” music postings on this page.)
Here’s what helped us look upward –
“Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space” – We learned so much from the Dr. Dominic Walliman/Ben Newman book of 2013, and we are loving every page of their revised edition (2022): the brighter color palette, the seriously cool, clever, sharp graphics (I am not sure if you can tell, but we are mesmerized by the design work in this book), the latest information on space travel, space apparel, SPACE JUNK (OMG), ridiculously frightening black holes, telescope findings, and captivating imaginings about the future. A+ all over the place.
DK’s Smithsonian “Behind the Scenes at the Space Stations” – Great companion resource to the Professor Astro Cat book. We’ve learned about the International Space Station’s giant robotic arm (Canadarm 2, almost 58’ long, designed/built by the Canadian Space Agency), the Chinese space station (Tiangong – translates to “Heavenly Palace”), NASA astronaut pins (!), gravity training (my son gave this a “yes”, it is a vehement “NO” from me), and launch rituals.
NASA’s “Spot the Station” web page – something fun! NASA provides a global map and pinpoints the up-to-the-minute location of the ISS. We have been logging onto “Spot the Station” twice nightly: first, before we start our studies and then right before we listen to music (so, about a 45 minute time gap). Every single night, it is a magical shock to see how far the Space Station has traveled in such a short amount of time. (spotthestation.nasa.gov)
Internet Search #1: Question of the evening: How long does it take for an astronaut to journey from Earth to the International Space Station? (answer at bottom of post)
Internet Search #2: Question of the evening: With astronauts from several countries crewing the ISS, what language is used to communicate with each other? (answer at bottom of post)
Story Problem: Local Diner Plans Dinner Dance – The local diner is making plans for their first ever “Dancing Under the Stars” event, scheduled for mid-summer’s eve (Saturday, June 24, mark your calendars). The diner’s back deck, which can accommodate 200 seated guests, will be festooned with thousands of twinkly lights and simply everyone in town is making reservations. $25 per person will include star shaped hors d’oeuvres, dinner, desert (star shaped cookies), and dancing to the rhythms of local band, “Keyboard Dave and the Star Tones”.
- If the diner budgets $10.00 per person for appetizer/meal/dessert, $300 for the twinkly lights, $500 for the band, and $200 for the clean-up team, and if all 200 tickets have been sold, will the diner make a profit?
- If “Keyboard Dave and the Star Tones” play so well that they deserve a hefty tip, can the diner make a profit if they pay the band an extra $200? (answers at bottom of post)
We’ve also been reading –
“Crossing in Time” – Here is a topic new to us: ship building. Gifted writer/story teller/superb technical illustrator, David Macaulay, takes us from the invention of the steam engine to the construction of the grand passenger ship, SS United States (which won the Blue Riband – “riband”: archaic form of the word, “ribbon” – for crossing the Atlantic with highest average speed). This is the ship that would bring the author and family from London to New York in the late 1950’s. The book ends with a heart breaker: whereas the good ship RMS Queen Mary has enjoyed glamorous retirement as a destination event venue, docked in Long Beach, California, the equally luxurious SS United States has found itself docked in obscurity, on the Delaware River, basically unloved since it was withdrawn from service in 1969. It was purchased by a conservancy dedicated to its renovation but alas, nothing so far. So wrong.
“Maizy Chen’s Last Chance” – Lisa Yee’s engaging and important read is filled with layers of themes that provoked conversations (meaning me yammering on and my son resignedly listening): racism, poker, friendship, independent thinking, the interplay of multiple generations, and fortune cookies. We would read anything Lisa Yee writes.
“The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” – C.S. Lewis’s classic, published in 1950. Ooooooh, good vs evil all over the place. And since reading this, we cannot believe how many times we have overheard somebody referencing Narnia. My son gave a definite yes to reading the next in the series.
“Matilda” – After finishing “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” we started reading Roald Dahl’s “Matilda”. About half way through, Matilda tells her teacher that her favorite book is “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. Serendipity! This was a terrifyingly delightful read as we watched our sweet protagonist outsmart stupidity and triumph over tyranny. Role model.
Classical Music for our Solar System –
Mars, The Bringer of War – movement 1 from Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, “The Planets”, composed between 1914 and 1917. (Performance note: we love the precision of the tapping violin bows.) Holst was fascinated by astrology, so his suite musically depicts the Roman Gods for whom each planet was named. Holst’s Mars is aggressive, relentless, intimidating. Get out of his way –
Venus, The Bringer of Peace – movement 2 from Holst’s “The Planets”. Nearly 9 minutes of etherial mystery and dreaminess. As in each movement, Holst successfully transports us to the destination that has captured his focus –
And now, oh dear, Sousa’s take on Mars and Venus:
Mars and Venus, from John Philip Sousa’s 1902 “Looking Upward”. Sousa jams a jumble of themes into this 7 minute movement, but we didn’t hear anything that would convey us to Mars and Venus. Mr. Sousa! Please! What were you thinking? All we can hear is CIRCUS MUSIC –
- the jolliest circus parade music
- a few fanfares
- tightrope walker music
- the bittersweetness of dismantling the circus when the show is over
- train-on-the-tracks rhythms (maybe the circus ensemble is packed up and heading toward the next town?) –
Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Astronaut travel question: An astronaut is able to travel from Earth to the ISS (approximately 250 miles) in as little as 4 hours.
Astronaut language question: All crew members need to have a working knowledge of English, but the two main languages in use aboard the ISS are English and Russian.
(Story Problem answers: 1). yes and 2). yes)