Thu, 26 April 2007
"Acqua alle funi!". It's Italian for "water to the ropes", and it's taken from a story about taking a courageous stand and speaking up when everyone else is afraid. It's a tale rather similar to The Emperor's New Clothes, but this one is true.
It happened in the Sixteenth Century in Rome, when Pope Sixtus the Fifth decided to have an enormous obelisk moved to a new location in St. Peter's Square, under the direction of architect Domenico Fontana. A worker named Bresca di Bordighera exhibited a great deal of courage and perhaps saved many lives. His descendants are still honored today.
We learned of this story while visiting Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., just outside Chicago. Founded in 1967, Fermilab (named after Nobel Prize winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi) is a huge research complex dedicated to studying the composition of matter with the aid of "particle accelerators", which smash subatomic particles so scientists can get a look at their innards.
Fermilab occupies 10 square miles formerly occupied by farms, and by the defunct village of Weston. Some of the barns and other buildings have been preserved to use for storage and social events.
Also in Chicagoland, we visited Ahlgrim Acres, a funeral home in Palatine. Wait a minute? Why on earth would we go to a funeral home? Why, to play miniature golf, of course. No joking; for the past 42 years, the basement of this establishment has featured a 9-hole miniature golf course, as well as shuffleboard, ping pong, pinball and other amusements. All open to the public, free of charge! And it's a very challenging and fun golf course, designed in a haunted house motif, complete with spooky sound effects.
Dennis (Domenico Fontana), Zephyr (Bresca) and Pope Kimberly the First and Last.
Thu, 19 April 2007
We bring you the story of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, about whom many legends have been handed down. Pele is identified with Mauna Loa, the biggest volcano in the world and one of the most active.
According to tradition, Pele is accompanied by a white dog, which she sends out to warn people that Mauna Loa is about to erupt. Supposedly, rangers spotted such a dog before the eruption of 1959, but were unable to locate it afterward. (No word on anyone seeing the canine before the volcano's most recent eruption in 1984.)
It's been said that anyone removing volcanic rock from Mauna Loa (a violation of law) will be cursed with bad luck. This is one reason we thought the tale of Pele would be suitable for Earth Day, an event designed to remind us that we all must respect nature or bring misfortune upon ourselves.
The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and was the result of years of effort, spearheaded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who first proposed the idea in 1962, getting a favorable response from President Kennedy. While the first year's event was observed by 20 million people, it is now observed each year by about 500 million worldwide. The date, April 22, may have been chosen in part because it is the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day.
The legend about lava theft from Mauna Loa, rather than being an ancient tradition, is actually of modern origin: it appears to have been invented by a park ranger. Which is appropriate, since we're also commemorating National Park Week (April 16-22). Accordingly, we discuss some of our favorite national parks and some of the memorable experiences we've had exploring them.
Dennis "Namakao", Kimberly "Pele" and Zephyr "Kamohoali'i"
Thu, 12 April 2007
This week's story is "Beauty and the Beast", an immensely popular folk tale that first appeared in print in France bout 250 years ago. Like most popular folk tales, the story has many versions in many different cultures. It has inspired a number of novels, plays, films, a TV series and a Nintendo game (Donkey Kong). The most successful film adaptations were the 1946 French movie directed by Jean Cocteau, and the 1991 Disney musical edition. "King Kong" was also based on this legend.
The Disney animated feature, of course, has been transformed into a successful stage musical, and we recently attended an outstanding production of it at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, featuring some of Zephyr's friends in the cast.
Drop Everything and Read! On April 12th stop what you are doing and read for 5 minutes to celebrate Drop Everything and Read day.
Zephyr, by the way, has finally left North Carolina and caught up with us in Chicago, just in time to complete Act!vated Storypark, a new fun activity feature which will be on our website (soon!) based on some of our folk tales, and created with Roller Coaster Tycoon.Happy Listening,
Dennis (father), Kimberly (Beauty) and Zephyr (the Beast)
Thu, 5 April 2007
"The Ghost and the Rock" is our retelling of storyteller Jim Flanagan's retelling of a ghost story about Gettysburg. We met Jim at a PTO Convention in Valley Forge, and he allowed us to use this tale, called "The Shadow in the Back Yard", from his book "The School of Scary Stories". This little yarn, which takes place in the present,but involves a classic ghost story motif, makes an important point about respecting and preserving history.
Bicycling through History
And history was very much a part of our experience this week in Pennsylvania, as we (Dennis and Kimberly) took in about 80 miles of territory on our bikes while Zephyr was practicing and performing with his band in North Carolina.
First, there was Valley Forge itself: we toured on bikes through the park where General George Washington's troops spent a miserable winter in 1777-78 defending the area from British invasion. Although Washington himself, and his wife Martha, were considerably more comfortable in the house that served as the army's headquarters, and which today is open to the public.
Then we pedaled from the town of Plymouth into downtown Philadelphia and had our lunch by Independence Hall, where delegates spent a sweltering summer in 1776 hammering out the beginnings of the new nation. The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution were all signed in this picturesque building that recently guest-starred in the movie "National Treasure". We also dropped in to visit the fabled Liberty Bell, just across the street.
On to Lancaster, where we joined our first ever group bicycle tour for a quaint ride through the countryside, past many Amish farms.
And then there was Gettysburg, the site of another important military operation in another landmark war, nearly a century after Valley Forge. And whereas the soldiers at Valley Forge had to deal with insufficient clothing in a bitterly cold winter, the soldiers at Gettysburg wore stifling wool uniforms in the middle of July. It was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, killing about 50,000 troops. No wonder there are so many ghost stories in the area. And with those wool uniforms, no wonder the ghosts are so restless!
Dennis ("dad" and "son") and Kimberly ("mom", "daughter" and "geologist") Goza