Thu, 22 March 2007
"What Other People Think", a story from the Grimm Brothers, warns about the dangers of paying too much attention to naysayers. It's a yarn that can be found in many variants in many cultures, usully with hilarious results.
We perform this tale with the aid of some special guest stars: Wylie, Nash and Trina, all teenage friends of Zephyr's in North Carolina, as we spend a couple of weeks in and around Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
Winston-Salem is the combination of the cities of Winston and Salem, which joined forces in 1913. Salem was settled in 1766 by members of the Moravian sect, who are still active in the community. This part of the double municipality includes Old Salem, a living history center that features many historic buildings that have been preserved/ restored/ whatever they do to them.
And (shhh!) it may be a well-kept secret, but if you're an avid cyclist and you do some poking around, you'll find an excellent scenic bike trail around Salem Lake, as we did.
Dennis (the Dad), Kimbery (the Donkey) and Zephyr (the Son) Goza
Thu, 15 March 2007
"Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree"... It's been the title of a hit song, and a popular saying associated with several folk-type stories about returning convicts, soldiers and others. It probably inspired the current custom of posting stickers of yellow ribbons to show support for troops. But chances are it all started with an Irish tale about a leprechaun. And it may originally have been a red garter rather than a yellow ribbon. (Come to think of it, did you know that leprechauns themselves originally were dressed in red rather than green?) This week we present "Clever Tom and the Leprechaun", a classic yarn about a fellow who thinks he's about to snag the treasure of one of the Wee Folk, but is not quite as clever as he thinks.
We come to you from Montgomery, Alabama, a city rich in history. Currently the state capital, it was also the site of the first Confederate White House. It was the home of country music legend Hank Williams, and legendary novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. (While stationed here in the army in 1919, Fitzgerald met his future wife Zelda--an encounter that inspired his short story "The last of the Belles").
But it was the city's role in the civil rights movement that really secured its place in modern history. In 1955, a 42-year-old seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, as African-Americans were expected to do at that time (a refusal motivated in part because she'd had a previous incident with the same driver), and after being arrested, agreed to become a guinea pig for a court case testing the city's segregation of the buses. The arrest sparked a year-long boycott of municipal buses, and a civil rights drive headed by a 26-year-old Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thu, 8 March 2007
Do they give tornadoes names as they do tropical storms? We'd like to propose the name Tappin for the tornado that we recently dodged in Alabama.
Tappin the Land Turtle
"Tappin the Land Turtle" is an African-American fable about a turtle whose family was hungry because times were so hard. But he noticed that the uppity eagle had plenty of food for his babies. So he asked the eagle about this, and enlisted the eagle's help in finding more food. But when he incurred the eagle's displeasure, he ended up on a magical adventure that brought him even more abundance than he'd anticipated.
It's a tale that goes back to the days of slavery and incorporates several reminders of that era: the hunger, the separation of "higher" and "lower" classes (the turtle and the eagle) and the dream of a life of plenty, symbolized bt the cornucopia-like dipper. In some versions of the story, Tappin returns to the Sea King and receives an enchanted cowhide, which, as it turns out, whips everyone (like the overseer on a plantation) and causes the markings on Tappin's shell, like those on every turtle thereafter.
Hiding from Tornadoes in Alabama
We thought about this story because we were rather like a turtle ourselves when the tornado whipped through. We'd just performed a couple of shows in Ozark, AL., and heard that severe storms were on the way. Keeping abreast of the developments by listening to the radio, we realized that the twister would bypass us, but we could get hit by hail. So we took refuge under the canopy of a car wash--our own turtle shell. (But we weren't the only ones who got this idea.)
We were thoroughly impressed by the work done by the staff of local radio station KMX, who handled the crisis calmly and efficiently, providing up-to-the-minute information and putting in some very long hours. Visit the station's website for the local take on the disaster, and some information about how you can contribute to relief efforts.
George Washington Carver Trivia
We also talk about Dr. George Washington Carver, a former slave who settled in Alabama and became one of the world's great scientists, despite not even obtaining a high school education until his twenties. How many products did Dr. Carver derive from the peanut? The answer may astonish you!
And be the first to hear the news about an upcoming Roller Coaster Tycoon project that Zephyr is working on for the web site.
Dennis (Eagle/King), Kimberly (Narrator) and Zephyr (Tappin) Goza
Thu, 1 March 2007
Celebrating Read Across America Week
We're in Georgia, but we're talking about Springfield, Massachusetts, home town of Dr. Seuss--some of the things and people he saw there growing up figured in his books, thinly disguised. Mar. 2 is his birthday, so we wanted to pay tribute to him by performing one of his stories. Unfortunately, we can't afford the royalties; so we opted instead to do a Seuss-like story: Robert Browning's verse retelling of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin". Like a Seuss book, the tale features colorful characters, animals, a fanciful plot, a valuable lesson, and most important of all, catchy and light-hearted rhymes.
Pied Piper of Hamelin
The Pied Piper legend is much older than Browning, dating back to 13th Century Germany. The earliest known reference to it is a depiction on a church's stained glass window around 1300. It includes a likeness of the notorious musician and a group of children, and apparently refers to a real tragedy that either caused a number of children to lose their lives or leave the city. (It may have been a flood, an avalanche, or a plague. Or the piper may have been a real person who actually lured them away. Nobody knows.) The story has been popular for ages, and has been the subject of at least eleven films, beginning in 1903.
Robert Browning (1812-1889) was, like his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of the great poets of the Victorian Era. His line "Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be" was borrowed by John Lennon for his song "Grow Old with Me". Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote the famous line "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" to her husband. Browning's version of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" was written in 1842. Robert Browning is one of the few poets who ever lived who never supported himself by any other means but writing poetry. He also had the distinction of being the first person ever to have a recording of his voice played after his death.
Dr. Seuss was born to German immigrant parents (Seuss actually should be pronounced to rhyme with "voice".) in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. Before becoming a successful children's author, he drew political cartoons and worked in advertising--his slogan for a popular pesticide, "Quick Henry, the Flit!", became a popular catchphrase for many years. Among his other achievements, apparently, was coining the word "nerd". Although he was one of the most popular children's authors ever, he had no children of his own.
We've finally left Florida behind after spending about a month there, and are heading north. During the past week, Zephyr put in the last of his appearances at Universal Orlando, where one can find a tribute to Dr. Seuss.
Another great tribute is the Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden (catinthehat.org), beside the Springfield Library. We talk about visiting it a few years ago, and getting soaked in a Seussian downpour. And we also have a listen to a musical tribute, the song "Seuss on the Loose" by Mr. Billy. (misterbilly.com).
Share Your Ideas
What are you doing to Celebrate Read Across America week? Visit nea.org for more ideas and leave your comments here.
Dennis (the Mayor), Kimberly (narrator) and Zephyr (the Piper) Goza