Thu, 30 August 2007
“The Little Red Hen? is an English fable based upon repetition, like many of the other stories we’ve done. In this case, the barnyard animals learn the importance of industriousness – that only those who share the labors also share the rewards.
We chose this story in part because Zephyr came back to us with streaks of red in his hair – from Not Back to School Camp in Oregon. He attended a weeklong session there at the end of last summer as well, and had a great time and met some great new friends that he’s been in touch with since then. Not Back to School Camp is an opportunity for homeschooled teenagers from across the country to get together and exchange experiences, talents, creative projects and annoying habits. There’s even a prom just like a regular school (Not. Well, there is really a prom, but we can't vouch for the rest.)
While he was away, mom and dad caught a ferry from Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard, an island about 20 miles offshore that’s long been a favorite vacation resort for politicians (including, of course, the Kennedys) and other celebrities. In the seventies, MV residents started a petition to have the island become our 51st state – but as of now, it’s still officially part of Massachusetts.
We spent two days biking around the island, and stayed at a campground with our tiny tent. (There was nothing tiny about the camping rates, nor anything else on the island.) In the town of Oak Bluffs, we saw the Flying Horses, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the U.S., having been built in 1876. And we thought WE’D been going around in circles for a long time!
Thu, 23 August 2007
Like the familiar tales of “Rumpelstiltskin? and “Lohengrin?, the Nigerian animal yarn called “The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise? deals with a character (the hippo) whose name is a secret, and another character (the Tortoise) who successfully guesses it. The consequences of the successful guess vary from story to story, but in this case, it results in the hippo and his descendants finding a new habitat to inhabit.
We recorded this story with guest stars Joey (age 13) and Jenny (age 11), who are our nephew and niece respectively; and Ellie (age undetermined) who’s our “adopted daughter?.
We were in Sacramento for our second cross-country flight in less than a month, this time for the Homeschool Association of California Conference.
And what a great conference it was! We presented a well-attended performance in addition to workshops on writing, sign language, physical comedy, mask making and reflections on our 15-year odyssey across America. Our programs were met with enthusiastic response, and we also had a good time attending other presentations. There were a fire twirling demonstration, a rocketry demonstration (you know how cool kids think it is to see things blow up), a skygazing session with large telescopes set up in the courtyard, a swing dance class, a dance for the teens, and a jam session for aspiring musicians, among other activities. We very much hope to return next year!
Our apologies to Libby, Hannah, Melia, and Molly, who did some great work on the FIRST version of this podcast, which we recorded with them before they all left the conference. And then, due to technical difficulties…
Dennis (the Hip Hippo) and Kimberly (the Narrator) with Ellie (Tortoise), Joey (Monkey) and Jenny (Hippolyta)
Tue, 14 August 2007
There's nothing wrong with trusting your friends, as long as you don't entrust them with responsibilities they can't handle. A certain king learns that lesson the hard way when he sticks his neck out a bit too far in "The Foolish Friend", a folktale from India.
But rather than just tell what happens from beginning to end, we start after the big blunder and do some detective work to piece together what happened. Yes it's "CSI Bombay", our retelling of the story modeled after the hit TV series "CSI Las Vegas", which Zephyr is obsessed with these days. (CSI stands for "Crime Scene Investigation").
We're coming to you from Nickerson State Park out on Cape Cod, where we're taking advantage of one of our favorite biking trails. The campground has rebuilt and regrouped after the disastrous fire that destroyed the historic headquarters building the last time we stayed here.
We just left the historic city of Salem, where we had a return engagement at the library. But we've enjoyed many other visits to this colorful town as well, a town where history seems to seep out of every crack in the pavement and clapboards.
The city is best known for something that actually happened a few miles up the road: the infamous witch trials of 1692 actually took place in Salem Village, or what is now Danvers. Nonetheless, it is the city of Salem that has become associated with the ugly episode in the public ,mind, and Salem has returned the favor by erecting a monument to the victims, and by establishing many tourist attractions commemorating the tragic events.
We have the fondest memories of being in town two years ago for Halloween (a holiday for which this town pulls out all the stops); and thanks to Zephyr's passion for "haunted house" attractions, all three of us were hired by Witch Village to help handle the onslaught of revelers. Zephyr scared the wits out of people in a "haunted house". Kimberly helped hold down the fort at the information booth. And Dennis escorted candlelight ghost walks, exploring some of the reputedly REAL haunts of Salem. When work was done well after midnight, we'd hop on our bicycles and ride to our campground on Winter Island -- in the snow one night!
It doesn't take a forensic investigation to realize that delving into the mysteries of Salem's past can be a very memorable experience.
Dennis (Investigator), Kimberly (Queen and Darwin), and Zephyr (Investigator)
Thu, 9 August 2007
Charlotte Brown was a young woman who married Capt. Nelson Cole Haley, skipper of the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan out of Mystic, CT. No doubt about that. But there is a rumor that before she married Capt. Haley, she was ditched at the altar by another man who then heaved ho aboard a whaling ship; and because of that, she disguised herself as a man and signed up as a whaler herself. Because the story is undocumented, that makes it a folktale, and therefore fair game for us to have some fun with. If the yarn is true, then Charlotte joins the ranks of several women who are known to have passed themselves off as sailors -- including some who were pirates.
We heard about Charlotte Brown Haley when we visited Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, where the Charles W. Morgan is anchored. The 105 ft. whaling vessel, built in 1841 in New Bedford, MA., still looks pretty much the same as it did when it hunted down whales and chopped them up in the blubber room. (Yuck!) You can step aboard her (If they called ships her, why didn't they let "hers" work on them too?) and see where the first mate had his own tiny berth, the second and third mates had to share one, and the rest of the crew were sardined in the forecastle. And you also can see photographs of the ship's various captains -- including Haley and his wife Charlotte.
Mystic Seaport has a number of exhibits related to ships and whaling, including a small craft display and an impressive collection of figureheads. And there are a number of activities especially suitable for younger kids, such as rope making. A troupe of three performers also presents the story of Charlotte Brown Haley at various times throughout the day.
Our version of the story is performed with two guest stars who are friends of Zephyr's: Cassia (who also assisted us two weeks ago) and Daniel, the drummer in Zephyr's band who has a mean falsetto.
Dennis (Captain), Kimberly (Narrator), Zephyr (Jack), Cassia (Mom) and Daniel (Charlotte)
Thu, 2 August 2007
Three wishes. Three oranges. Three musketeers. Three brothers. Three bears. Three little pigs. And three goats, of course. The pivotal number in folktales and fairy tales is back again with a starring role in "The Three Billy Goats", otherwise known as the "Billy Goats Gruff", a tale that seems to have originated in Poland, Norway and/or Germany. This tale is reminiscent of how some jokes are structured, with the three steps leading up to a punchline. Indeed, there are jokes based on a similar progression in physical size; and this story, you might say, has its own punchline at the end as well.
We come to you from the San Francisco Bay Area town of Walnut Creek. Yep, that's in California. We flew out from Providence for the weekend just to perform three times at the inaugural Chevron Family Theatre Festival at the magnificent Dean Lesher Center. The event was a great success, with sold out houses. We enjoy our shows in libraries and school cafeterias, but it was refreshing to perform again in a real theatre with a lighting technician and the works.
Our stage manager for the event was Zephyr's friend Libby, who is our guest voice on this week's podcast. And now we're back on the East Coast until our next cross-country flight -- two weeks from now for the 17th Annual HSC Homeschool=Education Conference in Sacramento Aug 16-19.
Dennis (narrator and biggest baddest goat), Kimberly (middle and none-too-bright goat), Libby (little goatlet in the gauntlet) and Zephyr (troublesome troll whose goat gets got)