Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Lesson in Dvorak’s Music

The Baldwin County Home Educators arranged a field trip to hear the Mobile Symphony Orchestra do a lesson on Dvorak and his Symphony #9 from his “New World Symphony”.
Dvorak’s works were very influenced by national American music: poetry by Longfellow (“Song of Hiawatha”) and Negro Spirituals. In return, his music has had an influence on our current American music particularly in movie soundtracks. Through each section of the music played I kept thinking of Westerns on the big screen; movies featuring Clint Eastwood, “City Slickers”, TV Westerns like Bonanza. Parts of Symphony #9 were borrowed for each of these and more.

The Mobile Symphony Orchestra show was really enjoyable. There were visuals on a screen behind the orchestra and 3 men, along with the conductor on occasion, narrated the lesson. One man read from “Song of Hiawatha” emphasizing the rhythm of the poem followed by the orchestra playing a section of the work. A fourth person, a woman on stage, sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; again followed by a section of Dvorak’s work to emphasize the influence it had on his composition.

I checked out the “New World Symphony” on the Internet and followed the site of the Carnegie Symphony Hall. There is a visual attached to each section, which is very repetitive but shows the repetitive nature of the symphony as Dvorak links each section together. It also gives a brief description of each section and what Dvorak may have been or was thinking when he wrote the piece. I recommend you listing to it. Close your eyes for a while and let your mind show you what images the songs evoke: Westerns? Literature? Gospel songs? Here’s the link:

I think Dvorak was a genius. He not only combined his Czech influence in his works but also, from looking at America at the time and hearing the American sounds, he found something else to incorporate in his music: poetry, spirituals, sounds of the industrial revolution, and the energy of the city. Additionally, there are parallels to Beethoven’s music in Dvorak’s composition, in particular some key movements and chords from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

Dvorak’s music is engraved in my mind. Can’t get it from playing in my head so I’m thankful it’s enjoyable.

It’s Lego Man Friday!

Two cool Lego Man stories were in the news today.

One, I’ve been following and love to update, is the story of Lego Man washing up on the beach at Siesta Key, FL (my former hometown). The story is that he was released from jail today is in now living with a new owner. That story can be found here:  I’m looking forward to more stories about Lego Man and what the owner (founder of the downtown Sarasota Chalk Festival) will do with the 6 foot tall Lego Man.

The other story is about some Canadian students who sent their Lego Man into space. Two students launched their Lego Man, holding a Canadian flag via weather balloon with a camera. The story and video are at this link:

Meanwhile, here at home in Fairhope, we haven’t done any Lego creations for some time, though we should. Perhaps we will try our own Lego Man project or experiment. So far, Lego Man has floated unknown miles to wash up on shore (actually several have been found around the world) and Lego Man has soared above the earth.

What’s next for Lego Man?

National Squirrel Appreciation Day

Yes, it’s that day when we go out of our way to appreciate the little critter that antagonizes me all year long.  But, for one day I suppose I can put it on a pedistal. 

Each morning these furry creatures run across my roof (single story over my bedroom) and wake me up.  They attack my bird feeder daily, eating most of the food I leave for the birds.  I did find an alternate food the birds like and squirrels are supposed to hate but squirrels adapt.  Squirrels dig in my yard.  They put little holes in the grass and garden when they hide or dig up acorns and other things.  They make a horrible screeching noise from high a-top the trees in my neighborhood.  They taunt my dog (a lab with a genetic disposition to hate squirrels), forcing her to bark at them from inside the house and chase after them in the back yard.  Then, safe in a tree the squirrels chatter at her.  If I ever plant seeds straight in the garden (as opposed to starting in the house), the neighborhood squirrels dig them out. 

All of this aside I will say that squirrels are fascinating.  There are over 200 species in the world.  One, the Eastern Grey Squirrel, resides in a nest high in tree next to my house.  I’ve had a lot of time to watch this little family sharing my yard.  I am in awe over how they climb just about anything and jump the distances from one item to another.  They hang from the bird feeder for extended periods…way too long but somehow they don’t feel dizzy from the blood rushing to their heads as I would.  If so they wouldn’t hang so long.

I keep a low bird bath near my bird feeder among the trees and love to see the squirrel visit it.  No I’ve never seen it take a bath as the birds will often do, but the squirrel approaches so hesitantly, crawls close to the ground almost underneath it, then pops it’s head over the rim and takes a drink. 

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to sketch them.  My nature journal is filled with squirrel drawings.  When I lived in Florida we had a squirrel without a tail.  It was quite agile and balanced itself as well as any other squirrel.  I have a drawing of that squirrel. 

They really are cute animals.  They’ve got big eyes and curly tails. They’re fluffy.

If you’d like to celebrate the squirrel today here are several things you can do:

Sketch one in your own backyard for your nature journal or turn it into a painting.  For smaller children there are plenty of free coloring pages on line to print out, color and hang on the refrigerator.

Put a squirrel feeder in your yard.  There are several kinds and the ones I’ve seen are mostly corn cob holders.  I’ve purchased “squirrel food” from the local pecan farmer.  That’s a bag of broken pecans, not suitable for human consumption.  The squirrels in my yard loved them.

Visit your local nature center and learn about the squirrel species in your part of the country.  There are also great DVDs and VHS shows that you can check out from the library to watch at home.  Make some popcorn for yourself and the squirrels.

Take photos of the furry friend.  The Huffington Post is having a PhotoShop Squirrel Picture Competition.  Couldn’t find out what the prize is but check it out and enter your photo.

Check out the Squirrel Appreciation Day 2012 Facebook page  The date of their day of appreciation  is in July but there are still plenty of cute pictures.

Make a squirrel craft:

Squirrel Craft

Details for this little guy are found here: has pages of squirrel crafts from knitted squirrel pin cushions to paper mache squirrels. 
Bake some cookies. You’ll need a squirrel shaped cookie cutter and icing to make your own design but go ahead and make a recipe for you and one for your dog.
And for those of you who appreciate squirrels for their tasty nourishment, there are plenty of recipes to choose from so you can have a little variety at dinnertime.  Try this recipe link for Slow Cooked Squirrel:
How will I celebrate the day?  Aside from writing about squirrels, I’ll leave out the squirrel coloring pages for children at the Y today and probably do nothing else.  The squirrel family that shares my yard has already woken me up, eaten my bird seed, dug for acorns in the grass and tormented my dog.  I’ve had enough, so I’ll just pretend it’s just another day.