9.17.2013

At the Field Museum

"Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux" closed earlier this month. We made it out to the Field Museum in time to see that and were able to catch "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence," as well. A recent lecture series had reminded us of an old Field fave -- the permanent exhibit "Evolving Planet" -- so we also spent time there. 

9.16.2013

The Girls Rule! School: A sneak peek at 2013-2014


Although we've sorted our academic years into three terms for the last few years, we are forced to adopt a semester approach this year, as Miss M-mv(i) will graduate at the end of May 2014 and is planning to work over the summer, accept an internship, or both.

(In truth, Miss M-mv(ii) will also have met all of her graduation requirements, but we have already agreed to call this her junior year (when her same-age peers are sophomores), so the plan is simply to dual enroll at the local college next year. She, too, is planning to work this summer, and both girls plan to swim long-course season, too.)

So our terms will sort into fall semester (mid-August to end of December) and spring semester (January to late May).

Our reading plan includes:

Shakespeare studies:
The Merry Wives of Windsor
King Lear
Henry IV, Part I (review / revisit / reread)
Henry IV, Part II (review / revisit / reread)
Henry V (review / revisit / reread) *

Plays (other than Shakespeare's works):
Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmond Rostand) *
Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)
Hedda Gabler (Henrik Ibsen) *

Other works:
Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
The Iliad (Homer)
The Odyssey (Homer) 
All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
■  The Bible (as literature)

Non-fiction:
The Narrative of Frederick Douglass
Night (Elie Wiesel)
Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor Frankl)
Hiroshima (John Hersey)
Letters to a Young Scientist (Edward O. Wilson)

* Studies to include a live performance.

Yes, I've always been rather oblique about precisely what we're doing and what we're using for other subjects, which this year include trigonometry and pre-calculus, world history, science (animal behavior / ornithology and physics, respectively), and Spanish.

And I will continue to be so.

As for adventures, we already have many planned:

■ Our Chicago Shakespeare Theater subscription includes Cyrano de Bergerac, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Road Show, Gypsy, and Henry V.

■ We will see Wicked again, this time in Chicago. We also have tickets for "Broadway in Chicago" productions of Evita and The Phantom of the Opera. (Holy eighties, Batman!)

■ Timothy Edward Kane will reprise his role in An Iliad at the Court Theatre this fall. Color us stoked!

Madame Butterfly at the Lyric? We're in.

I will endeavor to be a little more active here than I have been, as I know a few readers are interested in how the high school years unfold for families who choose a less conventional path.

9.15.2013

Girls Rule! School reading list, 2012-2013

Shakespeare studies:
Hamlet (read and reread) *
Henry V
Julius Caesar (review / revisit / reread) *
Measure for Measure
Henry VIII *
Richard III
Much Ado about Nothing
Macbeth (review / revisit / reread) *
The Comedy of Errors
Othello (reviewed / revisited, then decided to reread) *

Plays (other than Shakespeare's works):
Three Sisters (Anton Chekhov) *
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard)
Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett)
No Exit (Jean-Paul Sartre)
Oedipus Rex (Sophocles)
Elektra (Sophocles) *
The Misanthrope (Molière) *

Novels:
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (H.G. Wells)
Animal Farm (George Orwell)
Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie)
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes)
Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Notable non-fiction:
Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (Richard J. Maybury)
Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Physics for Future Presidents (Richard A. Muller) [Miss M-mv(ii)]
Essential Animal Behavior (Graham Scott) [Miss M-mv(i)]

Poetry: 
■ Poetry 180
■ Poetry Out Loud
■ “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
■ “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (T.S. Eliot)

* Studies included seeing a live performance.

Girls Rule! School field trips and adventures, 2012-2013

Theater:
Crowns at the Goodman Theatre
Three Sisters at the Steppenwolf Theatre
Sunday in the Park with George at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Hamlet at the Writers' Theatre
Equivocation at the Victory Gardens Theater
Black Watch at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Broadway Armory)
Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass Theatre
Les Miserables at the Cadillac Palace Theatre
A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre
The School for Lies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Julius Caesar at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Sweet Charity at the Writers' Theatre
Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
■ "Exploring Henry VIII" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (discussions and rehearsal
)
Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (yes, *blush* four times)
Oklahoma! at the Lyric Opera

The Misanthrope at the Court Theatre
Wicked at the Uihlein Hall / Marcus Center (Milwaukee) 
Macbeth at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival  

Music:

■ Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony Orchestra 
■ Frank Vignola (guitar) at SecondSpace Theatre
■ Chris Thile (mandolin) and Brad Mehldau (piano) at Chicago Symphony Center

■ Open rehearsal for donors: Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti and featuring Maurizio Pollini (piano)
■ Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony Center

Opera:
 
Elektra at the Lyric
La Boheme at the Lyric
 
Giulio Cesare, a live broadcast of the Met performance at the movie theater 

Museums:
■ Volo Auto Museum
■ The Art Institute  of Chicago
■ Cantigny: The First Division Museum and the Robert R. McCormick Museum
■ The Field Museum

■ Lincoln Park Zoo
■ "Picasso and Chicago" at the Art Institute of Chicago
■ "Art in Bloom" at the Milwaukee Art Museum

■ Art Institute of Chicago: "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity"  

Other:
■ Yankees v. White Sox
■ "Wild Encounter" (marine mammal training) at the Brookfield Zoo
■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley
■ Miss M-mv(i)'s first violin recital
■ Weekly volunteer gig coaching young swimmers
■ Weekly piano (both Misses), violin (Miss M-mv(i)), and guitar (Miss M-mv(ii)) lessons and daily practice

■ Chicago Wolves hockey game
■ "Beluga Encounter" at the Shedd Aquarium
■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley 
Volo Bog State Natural Area
Thirteen winter season swim meets: five rec team (including the conference meet) and eight USA Swimming (including last-chance time trials for regionals, a conference meet, and regional championships)
■ Work: Miss M-mv(i)'s regular assignment as a lifeguard and both Misses' as substitute swim instructors
■ A piano performance / evaluation at [insert college name here]
■ Driver education course
■ Lifeguard certification course (Miss M-mv(ii))
■ Stroke clinic
■ Miss M-mv(i)'s second violin recital
■ Swim camp at [insert college name here]
■ Architectural tour (from Navy Pier)
■ Behind-the-scenes tour for Chicago Symphony Orchestra donors

■ Behind-the-scenes tour at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival
■ White Sox v. New York Yankees
■ Bristol Renaissance Faire
■ Six summer season swim meets: two rec team and four USA Swimming (including three two-day LCM meets and the state Swimming Summer Regional Championship Meets)

9.14.2013

The Girls Rule! School: Final term of 2012-2013


As I mentioned here and here, the Girls Rule! School operates year-round. Our academic year begins in August, and for the last few years, our studies have sorted themselves into three terms of unequal length: August through December (five months), January through April (four months), and May through July (three months). Rather than taking an extended break of any sort, we generally enjoy relaxed periods of study that usually coincide with the winter holidays, the conclusion of winter swim season, and the conclusion of summer swim season. (For us, "relaxed" means, minimally, math-music-literature, but also includes wrapping up aspects of independent study projects, working on neglected art pursuits, and taking additional field trips, particularly those related to birding or nature study.)

For a number of reasons, our third and final term of our 2012-2013 academic year concluded in mid-August. Here are a few fun highlights:

LITERATURE
Shakespeare studies: 
■ Richard III 
■ Much Ado about Nothing 
■ Macbeth (review / revisit / reread)
■ The Comedy of Errors 
■ Othello (review / revisit / reread) *  

Novels: 
The Metamorphosis
(Franz Kafka)


Poetry:
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools
Poetry Out Loud

 
FIELD TRIPS AND OTHER ADVENTURES 
Theater:
Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (yes, again and again and *blush* again)
Oklahoma! at the Lyric Opera

The Misanthrope at the Court Theatre
Wicked at the Uihlein Hall / Marcus Center (Milwaukee) 
Macbeth at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival  

Music:
■ Yo-Yo Ma at Chicago Symphony Center

Museums:
■ Art Institute of Chicago: "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity"


Other:
■ Miss M-mv(i)'s second violin recital

■ Swim camp at [insert college name here]
■ Architectural tour (from Navy Pier)
■ Behind-the-scenes tour for Chicago Symphony Orchestra donors

■ Behind-the-scenes tour at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival
■ White Sox v. New York Yankees
■ Bristol Renaissance Faire
■ Six summer season swim meets: two rec team and four USA Swimming (including three two-day LCM meets and the state Swimming Summer Regional Championship Meets)

9.13.2013

Kafkaesque

Inspired by our reading of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis earlier this summer.

8.31.2013

Othello: The Remix

Sorry for the spotty image quality.

Othello: The Remix was slated to close Sunday, July 28, and the Misses wanted to go to the closing show. Heck, we all did, but in the original plan, we would have still have been downstate for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. That's 3.5 hours, one way, and our second festival play was scheduled to run until four. We thought it was cutting it much too close and settled on one of the last Remix shows -- Thursday, July 25.

On July 18, though, we learned that the the run had been extended for one more week! We quickly swapped our tickets for the final show, which was August 4. Woot! Woot!

Yes, it was our fourth time. No, it didn't get old. Yes, they were even more amazing on the closing afternoon.

Related links, clips, reviews: here, here, here, here, and here.

7.01.2013

Bits and bobs, or, Where we've been

 Wicked
Wicked returns to Chicago this fall, but with so many plays, concerts, meets, and college visits already clamoring for spots on the calendar, I thought, Gosh, I sure wish we could see it this summer. So we drove up to Milwaukee to catch the tour there. What a show! Review and related article here and here.

Summer swim season
The Misses, who attended swim camp earlier this summer, have been competing in long course USA Swimming meets this sesson in addition to their team's rec meets. At this writing, Miss M-mv(i) has regional cuts in the 50 free (LCM and SCY) and the 200 breaststroke (LCM and SCY), and she is .03 and .05 seconds off in the 100 breastroke and the 100 free (LCM), respectively. And Miss M-mv(ii) earned a regional time in the 200 backstroke (LCM). It's still uncertain whether the swimmers from our team will participate in the championship meets, but the Misses are pleased with their progress.

Movie recommendation
Joss Whedon's Much Ado about Nothing is worth the buzz and praise. All of us loved it!

Biking
We're enjoying one or two rides each weekend -- nine to thirteen miles each -- but with work, studies, swim practices and meets, and lessons (piano, violin, and guitar), we're having trouble squeezing family rides in during the week (although we hope to remedy that once summer swim season and its early morning practices conclude in three weeks).

6.15.2013

River and Lake Architectural Tour

It rained during the entire drive in. And it was still raining when we parked. We stopped by the ticket booth to confirm our reservation. And it rained on. We picked up coffee and went to wait in line. It stopped raining... and began again. But the weather began to break about two-thirds of the way into the tour, around the Sears Tower (because no one calls it Willis Tower). And we had a terrific time. No, really. We had a blast.

After we changed into dry clothes and had lunch, we went to see Othello: The Remix for, yes, the third time. While waiting in the lobby, we met GQ and rode up the elevator with him and with his brother, JQ. (The Q Brothers wrote and are part of the five-man crew that performs the "ad-rap-tation" of Othello.)

So cool. So very, very cool.

6.04.2013

Shakespeare in eleven steps

1. Begin early.
The Misses M-mv (now fifteen and seventeen) met the bard in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V ("O Kate! Nice customs curtsey to great kings"), but they fell in love with him (yes, at six and eight) during a Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A rappin' Puck.
A show-stealing Bottom.
The grace and wonder of that stage.
The fact that the actors met the audience in the lobby.

They became hooked -- for life.

(On the other hand, their older brother met and became hooked on Will during the same CST production (staged a few years earlier) of Dream but didn't fall in love until a few months later, when he watched Julius Caesar, with Jason Robbards as Brutus and Charlton Heston as Mark Antony.)

2. Provide an adequate introduction.
When the children were young, we would, prior to watching a live or filmed performance, read aloud from an abridgment (e.g., Charles and Mary Lamb, E. Nesbitt, Beverly Birch, Bruce Coville, Adam McKeown -- the latter two being particular favorites here). That gave us the basic plot and, often, the key subplots. As they grew older, they appreciated a more detailed synopsis of the play prior to watching. For this, we heartily recommend Boyce's Shakespeare A to Z; The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More.

3. Watch.
Shakespeare wrote plays, not novels; that is, his works were meant to be seen and heard, not read -- at least not at first. While I prefer live theater, that's more easily said than done for some folks, given travel, time, and/or budgetary considerations. In my experience, then, a well regarded film is preferable to an amateur-ish "Shakespeare in the Park" production. Bad theater, no matter how well intentioned, is just bad theater.

4. And watch again.
A different production. A live performance and a film. Two different films. Whatever arrangement works.

5. Read.
We read the unabridged play to the accompaniment of a quality audio production. The Arkangel recordings are excellent, but a few of our favorite audio productions include Naxos (King Lear, King Richard III, and The Tempest), Caedmon (Twelfth Night), and BBC Radio Presents (Hamlet).

6. Read closely.
Not younger students necessarily, but older students, yes. After reading / listening to the the play, dive in -- deeply. Get in the text. Swim around. Read aloud to one another. Revisit passages that were memorable in performance. Review speeches that others have deemed noteworthy and discover why.

7. Keep a commonplace book.
We copy passages that "speak" to us and share our entries. How fascinating to see what someone else deems worthy of preservation.

8. Supplement and discuss.
Don't overdo this with younger students, but take it as far as their abilities and interests allow with older and/or advanced students. Among our favorite resources:

Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare (Volumes One and Two).
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.

Boyce, Charles. Shakespeare A to Z; The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More.
Epstein, Norrie. The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard.
Goddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespeare (Volumes One and Two).
Lomonico, Michael. The Shakespeare Book of Lists.
O’Toole, Fintan. Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life.
Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (The Teaching Company).
--. Shakespeare. The Word and the Action. (The Teaching Company.)

9. Review, revisit, reread.
Return to the plays again and again. And again. You will discover something new on every viewing and every reading.

10. Memorize.
For most plays, I ask the Misses to choose a passage for memorization, but we have memorized wide swaths of Shakespeare over the last decade simply through repeated viewings and readings / "listenings." Obviously, too, the nature of a family-centered learning project (as opposed to a more conventional learning environment) allows for many, many everyday conversations that are colored by bardolatry. What we use, we own. It's really that simple.


11. Enjoy!
Don't be afraid to have fun! Enjoy!
 
The Misses M-mv were onto something all those years ago, when their Ken nodded to Barbie and assured her that nice customs curtsey to great kings. Using Barbies or Little Ponies or puppets or whatever to illustrate plot twists or illuminate intent... well, that's just child-like genius at work. Harness it to help your young viewers understand the intricacies of A Midsummer Night's Dream or the intrigue of Hamlet.

And your older students? Well, the Misses also illustrated the works, another way to come to grips with the plays and to make them their own. Even as they grew older, they continued to find value in marrying their love of art and their love of Shakespeare.


For example, eight years ago...

Posted Image 
And last year...
 
Posted Image

From Harold Bloom:

Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is. The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind's reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us, in part because he invented us....
________________________

What we've covered in the last few years:

Academic year 2009-2010
Julius Caesar
Much Ado about Nothing
Romeo and Juliet *
As You Like It *
The Tempest *

Academic year 2010-2011
Twelfth Night
Romeo and Juliet (review / revisit) *
Henry V
Macbeth *
The Merchant of Venice *
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Winter's Tale *

Academic year 2011-2012
Henry IV, Part I
Henry IV, Part II
The Tempest (review/revisit)
Coriolanus
The Taming of the Shrew *
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (review / revisit) *
Timon of Athens *
Othello *

Academic year 2012-2013
■ Hamlet *
■ Henry V
■ Julius Caesar (review / revisit / reread) *
■ Measure for Measure
■ Othello (review) *
Henry VIII *
Richard III
Much Ado about Nothing (review / revisit / reread)
Macbeth (review / revisit / reread) *
The Comedy of Errors *

Academic year 2013-2014
King Lear
■ Hamlet (review / revisit / reread)
■ Henry V (review / revisit) *
■ The Merry Wives of Windsor *

The rest of 2013-2014 is TBD.


* Studies include seeing a live performance.

5.27.2013

And still more adventures

Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
As I mentioned here, we so loved this CST production when we saw it in early April that we decided to return. It may not have been the finest bit of planning to choose a Saturday evening performance on the holiday weekend (since the theater is located on Navy Pier, a huge tourist attraction), but the show was even better than the first time and certainly well worth braving the crowds. (Reviews here and here.)

The Misanthrope at the Court Theatre
Earlier that afternoon, we attended a terrific performance of The Misanthrope. As I mentioned, we read Molière's play in anticipation of seeing The School for Lies (a retelling of The Misanthrope) at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. While we greatly enjoyed that, we appreciated seeing "the original" -- particularly this cleverly staged production. (Review here.)

■ We also had time for two 9.3-mile bike rides* and a three-mile walk at the Volo Bog State Natural Area this weekend.


* Which puts us at only 78.3 miles so far this biking season. We've been walking a lot more, though, so, as they say, it all works out.

5.24.2013

Semicolon hosts "The Saturday Review of Books." Consider participating this week.

5.20.2013

Reading life review

Number of books read in 2013: 43
Complete list of books read in 2013 can be found here.
Number of books read since last "reading life review" post: 7
_____________________________


The 5th Wave (Rick Yancey; 2013. 480 pages. Fiction.) The comparisons to The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and The Road (Cormac McCarthy) caused me to hope for much more than this novel could deliver.

Very Good, Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse; ed. 2006. 304 pages. Fiction.) Precisely the palette-cleanser that was needed.

Animal Man, Vol. 1 (Jeff Lemire; 2012. 144 pages. Graphic fiction.) Not sure I quite grasp the significance of "The New 52" (being still rather new to graphic works), but Lemire (the genius behind Sweet Tooth) brought me to this.

Saga, Vol. 2 (Brian Vaughn; 2013. 144 pages. Graphic fiction.) Since it collects Issues 7 through 12, I'm giving myself credit for this one. The local comic shop persuaded me I couldn't / shouldn't wait for Vol. 2. Heh, heh, heh.

 ■ Life Itself (Roger Ebert; 2011. 448 pages. Memoir.) I had meant to read it sooner... personal, folksy, insightful, rambling, poetic, and poignant.

 ■ So Much for That (Lionel Shriver; 2011. 480 pages. Fiction.) All but the glittering rich are a health crisis away from financial ruin. This excellent novel -- about marriage, friendship, illness, death, and "The Afterlife" (no, not that one) -- ably explores this fundamental truth. Highly recommended.

Richard III (William Shakespeare ((1592); Folger ed. 2005. 352 pages. Drama.) With the Misses.

Act I, Scene iii
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.

5.18.2013

Semicolon hosts "The Saturday Review of Books." Consider participating this week.

5.17.2013

Further adventures

Henry VIII at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
After seeing the rehearsal, we were certainly anticipating the play -- and were not disappointed. Ora Jones as Katherine of Aragon and Scott Jaeck as Cardinal Wolsey were the standouts. Reviews can be found here and here.

■ Oklahoma! at the Lyric
We actually purchased our tickets for this on the way home from La Bohème in late January. Spectacular! Not your typical Lyric Opera fare, this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic benefitted from the full orchestra, grand voices, and larger-than-life treatment. We loved it. Reviews here and here.

Yo-Yo Ma and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Musicians
This was our third time seeing Ma, but all of us agreed that the real star of the evening was the CSO's Yuan-Qing Yu, who played in both Dvořák's American String Quartet and Beethoven's Septet.

The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald's novel figured prominently in our studies last term; in fact, Miss M-mv(i) is still knee-deep in the author's collected letters, and Mellow's biography of the Fitzgeralds is on my nightstand. Because we love the book and because we thoroughly enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, we were beyond excited about his new film, so Mr. M-mv took us to the first show in our area when it was released. As we exited the theater, Miss M-mv(ii) dubbed it "Gatsby for Dummies," and for the most part, our assessment goes downhill from there: The color palette was distracting; the computer-generated effects (e.g., Nick's garden path) were obvious and often silly, as was the text on the screen; for that matter, the narrative framing device did not work (i.e., Nick is changed, matured, resigned by his experiences -- not broken). And so on. None of us expected the movie to be the book, but we expected... better. Two bright spots: the anachronistic soundtrack worked for us, and Leonardo DiCaprio was, as always, magnetic.

Upcoming adventures:

■ We so loved Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater that we're going to see it again later this month.

■ And we'll also head to the Court Theatre for The Misanthrope. Earlier this academic year, we read Molière's play in anticipation of seeing The School for Lies (a retelling of The Misanthrope) at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. We thoroughly enjoyed The School for Lies, but we're looking forward to seeing "the original."

5.12.2013

Spring recital

Earlier this month, we attended Miss M-mv(i)'s second violin recital. (She has been studying violin for a year now.) In the image above, she and her accompanist, Miss M-mv(ii), are tuning and warming up. If the image looks familiar, the program was held in the same venue (and the same dresses) in November.

5.06.2013

Reading life review


Number of books read in 2013: 36
Complete list of books read in 2013 can be found here.
Number of books read since last "reading life review" post: 6
_____________________________

Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You (Joyce Carol Oates; 2013. 288 pages. Fiction.) Suicide. Emotional abuse. Cutting. Divorce. This is twenty-first-century "problem novel" if ever there were one! More about JCO here.

Dare Me (Megan Abott; 2012. 304 pages. Fiction.) Looking for "television in print," I stumbled on this psychological study of cheerleaders and their new coach. Got what I came for.

The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life (Robin Stern; 2007. 288 pages. Non-fiction.) Background information for a fiction piece.

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked (James Lansdun; 2013. 224 pages. Non-fiction.) From Amazon's description:
... Give Me Everything You Have chronicles the author’s strange and harrowing ordeal at the hands of a former student, a self-styled “verbal terrorist,” who began trying, in her words, to “ruin him.” Hate mail, online postings, and public accusations of plagiarism and sexual misconduct were her weapons of choice and, as with more conventional terrorist weapons, proved remarkably difficult to combat. James Lasdun’s account, while terrifying, is told with compassion and humor, and brilliantly succeeds in turning a highly personal story into a profound meditation on subjects as varied as madness, race, Middle East politics, and the meaning of honor and reputation in the Internet age.
Harvest (A.J. Lieberman; 2013. 128 pages. Graphic fiction.) A grisly journey into the underground world of organ transplants.

The Guilty One (Lisa Ballantyne; 2013. 480 pages. Fiction.) The conclusion is apparent in the first fifty pages, but the secondary story was a taut psychological study.

5.03.2013

Semicolon hosts "The Saturday Review of Books." Consider participating this week.

4.30.2013

Adventures, we've had a few (more).

"Exploring Henry VIII"
As I mentioned here, earlier this month, we had the opportunity to see a working rehearsal of Henry VIII, which opens tonight at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) and will run through June 16. We are certainly looking forward to seeing the polished production in May!

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
In that same entry I mentioned that last week, we attended an open rehearsal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti and featuring pianist Maurizio Pollini (Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467). The 2.5-hour program also included Beethoven's Consecration of the House Overture, Op. 124; Schumann's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97 (Rhenish); and our favorite piece of the day -- Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, Op. 27, which was inspired by two Goethe poems.

Chris Thile (mandolin) and Brad Mehldau (piano)
The week prior to that, we saw Thile and Mehldau at the home of the CSO. Most people would not think of pairing bluegrass and jazz, but Thile and Mehldau are onto something with this complex conversation between the two music traditions. The Chicago papers were surprisingly brief in their remarks, but here's a review from the duo's stop in Boston.

Giulio Cesare
Have you checked out FathomEvents.com yet? Among other programs, they promote live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera's productions, including the current David McVicar production of Handel's 4.5-hour opera, Giulio Cesare, which stars Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra (although the absolute showstopper is Alice Coote in the "pants role," Sesto -- listen here). The broadcast was shown in a movie theater one town over on a Saturday on which all of us were available. Woot! It was terrific! And may I just add that as much of a privilege as it is to see productions at the Lyric Opera (in fact, we're heading to another next month), movie theater seats are eversomuch more comfortable than seating at the Lyric. Heh, heh, heh.

The second case erupted.

4.29.2013

The Girls Rule! School: Another progress report

As I mentioned here, the Girls Rule! School operates year-round. Our academic year begins in August, and our studies sort themselves into three terms of unequal length: August through December (five months), January through April (four months), and May through July (three months). Rather than taking an extended break of any sort, we generally enjoy relaxed periods of study that usually coincide with the winter holidays, the conclusion of winter swim season, and the conclusion of summer swim season. 

For us, "relaxed" means, minimally, math-music-literature, but also includes wrapping up aspects of independent study projects, working on neglected art pursuits, and taking additional field trips, particularly those related to birding or nature study.  During our relaxed period of study this term, however, the literature leg of our math-music-literature model was shortened somewhat to more fully accommodate independent study projects and to allow for the time demands of both the driver education course (four days weekly for two hours each day; four weeks) and the lifeguard certification program (thirty-six hours of classwork over a two-week period (not to mention the assigned reading)). 

With the second term of our 2012-2013 academic year drawing to a close, then, I find myself reviewing our progress, which included (admittedly) only sporadic work with Destinos (Spanish) but also continued excellence in history, math, logic and philosophy, and science (the latter of which included the girls' ongoing self-directed study in animal behavior and physics, respectively).

Here are some highlights:

LITERATURE
Shakespeare studies: 
Julius Caesar (a reread) 
Measure for Measure
Othello (review only)
Henry VIII

Novels: 
Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) 
Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) 
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick) 
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Poetry:
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools
Poetry Out Loud

FIELD TRIPS AND OTHER ADVENTURES 
Theater: 
Julius Caesar at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Sweet Charity at the Writers' Theatre
Othello: The Remix at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
"Exploring Henry VIII" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (discussions and rehearsal)

Music:
■ Frank Vignola (guitar) at SecondSpace Theatre 
Chris Thile (mandolin) and Brad Mehldau (piano) at Chicago Symphony Center
Open rehearsal for donors: Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti and featuring Maurizio Pollini (piano)

Opera:
La Boheme at the Lyric Opera
Giulio Cesare, a live broadcast of the Met performance at the movie theater

Museums:
■ Lincoln Park Zoo
■ "Picasso and Chicago" at the Art Institute of Chicago
"Art in Bloom" at the Milwaukee Art Museum


Other:
Chicago Wolves hockey game
"Beluga Encounter" at the Shedd Aquarium
■ The Vera Meineke Nature Center at Spring Valley 
Volo Bog State Natural Area
Eight swim meets: two rec team (including the conference meet) and six USA Swimming (including last-chance time trials for regionals, a conference meet, and regional championships)
■ Work: Miss M-mv(i)'s regular assignment as a lifeguard and both Misses' as substitute swim instructors 
■ Weekly piano (both Misses), violin (Miss M-mv(i)), and guitar (Miss M-mv(ii)) lessons and daily practice
■ A piano performance / evaluation at [insert college name here]
Driver education course
Lifeguard certification course (Miss M-mv(ii)) 
Stroke clinic 

4.28.2013

Reading life review


Number of books read in 2013: 30
Complete list of books read in 2013 can be found here.
Number of books read since last "reading life review" post: 6
_____________________________

Henry VIII (William Shakespeare (1613); Folger ed. 2007. 352 pages. Drama.) With the Misses. Henry VIII will run April 30 through June 16 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, so we had planned to read the play in April ever since CST's 2012/2013 season was announced. But we pushed it a wee bit ahead on our planner when we received an invitation to attend a rehearsal held earlier this month. (I know, right? Squeeeeee!) Before the rehearsal, we were treated to a discussion hosted by Bob Mason and Chris Plevin, during which we learned how the incomparable Barbara Gaines distilled from the play three key relationships, eschewing pageantry for intimacy; how her vision is being interpreted by the production team; and even how CST productions, including this one, are cast. We then headed to the main theater. The actors had only just that afternoon moved from their initial rehearsal space to the stage and were reworking the blocking in Katherine of Aragon's (Ora Jones) divorce trial scene. After rehearsal concluded, director Gaines indulged participants in a Q&A. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

(Related aside: This month, we also attended an open rehearsal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Ricardo Muti. The program included a piano concerto featuring Maurizio Pollini. I know, I know, right? Again, squeeeee!)

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald; 1925/1980. 182 pages. Fiction.) With the Misses, in anticipation of the film. This was a reread for me, and I found the prose even more beautiful this go-'round.

p. 36
Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
p. 58
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. 
p. 59
"Suppose you meet somebody just as careless as yourself?"

"I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's why I like you."
p. 81
A phrase began to beat in my ears with a heady sort of  excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."
p. 97
It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
p. 131
Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete.
p. 165
At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn't move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested -- interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which every one has some vague right at the end.
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell; 2011. 336 pages. Fiction.) Light, sweet, well-written. More here.

Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight; 2013. 400 pages. Fiction.) A bona fide page-turner. Smart and entertaining. EW's review can be found here.

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers (Margaret George; 1998. 960 pages. Fiction.) This probably counts as my "chunkster" this year. Phew. It was a little... plodding, but I enjoy the subject and so stuck with it.

Picasso and Chicago: 100 Years, 100 Works (Stephanie D'Alessandro; 2013. 112 pages. Non-fiction.) In anticipation of our trip to see the exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Related entry here. Also, some "lightweight" reading on the artist:

And Picasso Painted Guernica (Alain Serres; 2013. 52 pages. Juvenile non-fiction.)
Pablo Picasso (Artists in Their Time) (Kate Scarborough; 2002. 46 pages. Juvenile non-fiction.)
Picasso: Soul on Fire (Rick Jacobson; 2011. 32 pages. Non-fiction.)