Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham Museum of Art’

— 1 —

Well, this is…unusual.


It’s not the mere fact of snow. We’re not Texas, which got hit Thursday night. We do get snow here in Alabama and throughout the Southeast, just…not usually in early December. Our snow (and more treacherously, ice) comes in January and February.

But here it is:


When my son brought home Rumors of Snow on Friday earlier in the week, we both scoffed. Even the forecast called for no more than 10% chance of precipitation today. Well, I guess we hit that 10%.

Early yesterday evening, the schools announced a two-hour delay, and across the land, prayers were sent up that this was only a warning shot, a placeholder for something bigger and greater to come.

And they got it.

Now, here’s my ritual warning to hardy Midwesterners and New Englanders: Don’t mock us. It may seem silly to cancel school for, um, an inch (maybe) of snow, but listen: we don’t have masses of snow-clearing equipment around here ready to send out and blanket the county. It’s hilly – mountainous even. An inch of snow in the early morning falling on Alabama hills and mountains, with only minimal salt or ploughs at the ready is not the same as an inch falling in on the flat, fully prepared land of northeastern Indiana.

Although I will say, there’s no ice with this – the roads are just wet. They could easily be driven. But it is supposed to snow much of the day so eh, why bother? It’s Friday….


 — 2 —

And it’s the Immaculate Conception! Time for this annual gift from me – and the Monkees – to you.

I toss the same general post up every year. I don’t care. No need to search my brain for heartfelt spiritual metaphors from Daily Life™. When we have the Monkees!

Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera;
Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera,
Dios guardo el lobo de neustra cordera.

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisola hazer que no pudiese pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

Riu, riu chiu…

Este qu’es nacido es el gran monarca,
Christo patriarca de carne vestido;
Hemos redemido con se hazer chiquito,
Aunqu’era infinito, finito se hiziera.


River, roaring river, guard our homes in safety,
God has kept the black wolf from our lamb, our Lady.
God has kept the black wolf from our lamb, our Lady.

Raging mad to bite her, there the wolf did steal,
But our God Almighty defended her with zeal.
Pure He wished to keep Her so She could never sin,
That first sin of man never touched the Virgin sainted.

River, roaring river…

He who’s now begotten is our mighty Monarch,
Christ, our Holy Father, in human flesh embodied.
He has brough atonement by being born so humble,
Though He is immortal, as mortal was created.

River, roaring river…

And the Kingston Trio:

More from Fr. Steve Grunow on the song and the feast.

— 3 —

It’s a good day to buy a .99 book on the Blessed Virgin, don’t you think?

— 4

You might recall that my 7th grade homeschooler and I are reading The Yearling. He’s got a couple of chapters to go, but I finished it last night and was just about as wrecked as I was when I read it in 7th grade and solemnly declared:

I repeat what I said a few weeks ago: if you’ve never read The Yearling – do. In a way it’s a young people’s book, but it did win the Pulitzer Prize. The writing is lush and some of the most powerful, evocative descriptive language you’ll find – and I’m a reader who normally – I admit – skips through landscape descriptions. I didn’t want to do that with Rawlings’. It’s a powerful, painful and true coming-of-age story.

As he reads his “school novel” – along with his leisure reading he’s always got going, I toss in some short stories and poetry a couple of times a week. This week he read “The Reticence of Lady Anne” by Saki and “The Death of a Government Clerk” by Chekov. He declared that he saw the twist of the first one coming well before the end, but was quite surprised by the second. The Chekov indeed gave us more to talk about. It’s short, amusing and ironic. The theme we dug into is: Okay, you’re worried and stressed out. But in your anxiety about that thing, are you missing the real thing that you should be worried about?

–5 —

Earlier this week, we took an afternoon at the Birmingham Museum of Art. You might have heard me rave about our local treasure before, but bear with me. It’s a very fine museum, with a solid collection that changes it up just often enough to stay fresh. There’s no admission charge, so if you’re a local you have no excuse not to visit regularly.

My son has been reading a lot about Japanese history, so we took time to revisit the very good Asian collection.

Take a look at this. Read the placard and enjoy the little rats fashioning the mallet. It’s a charming piece.

I’d seen this painting of St. Bernardino of Siena before, but never really stopped to study it. This time I did, and discovered that this was not simplistic hagiography. It’s something else – I’m not sure what – a commentary on the varied attitudes we bring to these moments? An observation of a scene? I don’t know if you can see it, but see what you can of the individuals gathered – they’re not all listening, in fact…most of them aren’t. I’m particularly taken with the boy hanging on the platform, and the friar slouched behind the preacher….taking a nap.

— 6 —

Watching: Tonight we finish Lost, and I am of two minds about it. I’m sorry that we’ll be done – this has really been one of the best things the three of us have done together, apart from traveling. I’ll be sorry to leave this Lost crew behind, once again. But…it will be just a bit of a relief to free up some brain space and not have 75% of the conversations around here start with…”So what is that other reality all about???”

Maybe I’ll read a book?

Image result for sawyer reading lost

I did watch all of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel last week and I wouldn’t recommend it. I had watched the pilot in the spring, found it annoying and disappointing and predictable, but decided to give the series another chance.  Well, that was aggravating. Not quite at a hate-watch level, but more at the: I really want this to be better, so I’ll keep watching hoping that happens. It didn’t. Very pretty to look at with rich period detail, but generally superficial both in human terms and in relation to the culture it purported to present. I’ve never watched Image result for amazing mrs. maisela nanosecond of The Gilmore Girls, so I didn’t come to it as a fan of that show, but I was very open to the concept – upper-class 50’s Jewish housewife discovers a flair for stand-up comedy – but what emerges is not recognizably authentic in any way. I wasn’t watching people, I was watching a script being recited and cultural caricatures being embodied. Mad Men had its weaknesses, but the one thing it did right was the character of Peggy Olson, who began the series as a mousy, naive secretary, and ended it as a confident copy-writer, a transformation that was earned and authentic every step of the way. I wasn’t expecting that level of work here, but I was hoping for something a little closer than I got.

— 7 —

Bambinelli Sunday!


I just noticed that The Loyola Kids Book of Saints is priced at $7.25 on Amazon at the moment. I don’t know how long that will be the case – but there it is, if you’re interested.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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— 1 —

Well. That was a week.

Drive back and forth to Kansas, then come back to work on a project that came my way a IMG_20171104_174016.jpgbit more than a week ago, and I took it on, knowing that it was due today (11/10) and I’d be traveling for four days in the middle of it.

Done! Last night! Ahead of schedule!

So where was in Kansas and why? I blogged about it on Monday – at Benedictine College in Atchison, a strong contender for my now-junior-in-HS’s matriculation in a couple of years. The journey there and back lasted from Thursday afternoon to Sunday evening, with various stops along the way, including the City Museum in St. Louis and the Truman Library. As I said, check out the travelogue here. 

 — 2 —

So, yes, one short-term project completed, and now several months of work of a different sort ahead of me, as well as whipping up a final draft of that Loyola book. And other things.  I’m learning a lot. About…things.

— 3 —

Today’s the feastday of St. Leo the Great.  Here’s a good introduction to this pope from Mike Aquilina.

The Tome of Leo on the nature of Christ.

He’s in The Loyola Catholic Book of Saintsunder “Saints are People who are Strong Leaders.”


"amy welborn"

— 4

On the homeschool front? The usual. The “special” classes are over now, which frees up time, although next week, he’ll be going to a special homeschool frog dissection and a daytime Alabama Symphony concert, so yes, we keep busy – especially since basketball has started up again. He finished Tom Sawyer, read a couple of short stories early this week – “The Necklace” and “To Build a Fire,” and has moved on to The Yearling. Which I read when I was about his age. And…I guess I liked it.

Well, no guessing about it. I vividly remember reading The Yearling and just….being torn up by it.

(And yes, Amelia is wrong. My full name is Amelie. I imagine that whomever my mother ordered the bookplate from just couldn’t imagine such a foreign name being bestowed on a true American child.)

— 5 –

We’ve done a bunch of science stuff at home this week, mostly simple demonstrations involving steel wool, alum crystals and candles. Not all together, I hasten to add. Next week I’ll do a more comprehensive Homeschooling Now post, because I do enjoy writing about all of those rabbit trails.

— 6 —

We did fit in a little jaunt to our wonderful Birmingham Museum of Art. There’s free admission, so we have no excuse not to go regularly. There’s been a fairly recent shift in administration, and it shows. There’s a new sort of brightness and cleaner feel to the galleries, and I really do think some of the description cards have been rewritten – even those on the pieces I’ve seen several times seem different – more informative, less fussy.

The occasion for our visit was a special exhibit focused on Asian art and the afterlife. It was a small exhibit, but with very interesting and even engaging pieces presented well.

As we poked our heads in the Renaissance and Baroque galleries, I noticed a piece I had never seen – it must have just recently been brought out. It’s a Spanish Baroque wood polychrome statue of St. Margaret of Corona, and it’s….breathtaking. Look at this photograph (I didn’t take it – mine didn’t turn out, and so this is from the Museum’s website.). Do you see? The detail and the natural feel are almost startling to behold.


Image: Birmingham Museum of Art.

Go here for more views and more information. 

— 7 —

St. Nicholas day is less than a month away….and don’t forget Bambinelli Sunday!


St. Nicholas pamphlet. 

St. Nicholas Center website. 


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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When I feel the need to write something in this space, but can’t quite focus or mentally manage one of ideas on my huge list, I fall back into homeschooling reporting. I find that it exercises the writing reflex, but in not in a stressful way, and it has the added benefit of providing me with reassurance that yes, I am accomplishing things.

Not that I’m not writing other things. I have a Living Faith set due on Thursday – which I finished earlier today (I was in today, by the way), and work on the book continues apace. I’m not going to meet my first personal goal of having it done by 11/1, but I will get it done before Thanksgiving, which was my second-best goal. (Contract says 12/15, by the way, but I want to get it done before then.)

And no, I’ve not forgotten that objective of getting an e-book out of the Guatemala trip. I hope that after this week, I can return to that.

Anyway…about that homeschooling:

  • The unschooling goal is sort of working. Any holdup is due to the fact that there’s been so many extra activities happening since the beginning of September: Boxing and piano lessons every week – which won’t end – and then 2-hour science center classes on Tuesday and 2-hour photography classes on Thursdays. So that means that any sort-of-formal structured learning gets crammed into Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and usually just Monday and Wednesday, since Friday is turning out to be “Hey mom, can we go somewhere today?” day.
  • But we’ve had the last of the science center classes, so that frees up more time on Tuesdays. Photography class runs for the rest of October.
  • Math: Prealgebra with the Art of Problem Solving continues apace. He’s on chapter 3, working on number theory – first prime factorization, now least common multiples.
  • He wanted to learn Spanish this year, so he’s doing so. I hunted around for a decent curriculum, found what I thought was one, but I HATE IT.  Specifically, I HATE the “whole language” pedagogy. I am going to blog about this one, because it deserves a post, but wow, this is challenging. Especially since, you know, I don’t speak Spanish. I’m pretty good with languages though – I can manage French and did Latin up through two years of college, and I did take 8th grade Spanish! And helped one of my older sons learn middle-school Spanish in preparation for 8th grade, but still. This program I picked out it a hot mess, confusing and not at all intuitive, even though that is supposed to be the point – it’s supposed to be “intuitive.” It’s not. Or at least it just makes no sense.
  • Do you wonder what I’m talking about? Here’s a small example from today: introducing a construction that requires use of indirect object pronouns without ever mentioning what these new words are, defining them, or translating them. “What are those words?” “Um…I’m guessing they’re indirect object pronouns, but let’s go on the internet and see” Five minutes later, after we both read through an excellent, clear explanation on a web page – “Why can’t the book be that clear?”
  • No lo sé. Sorry.
  • He does listen to one of the local Spanish-language radio stations all the time, though, and we went to the local FIESTA last weekend, so there’s that.


  • If he ends up not going back to brick-and-mortar school, though, this is going to have to be outsourced. He has a strong interest in Central America (for some reason) – the culture, the history and the nature – and so Spanish fits.
  • He’s read Animal Farm and Of Mice and Men. Yes, the latter is rough with a lot of cursing, and it’s definitely not a cozy readaloud, but it was a good choice for him to read. Short, but meaty. It was an easy entry to discussions about expressing themes in fiction, as well as discussions about history (the Great Depression) and geography (Steinbeck’s California).
  • I knew it was a good choice when we were discussing the first chapter and, without being prompted or asked, he started going back over Steinbeck’s descriptions of the river bed in those early scenes – the rabbits coming down to the sandy bank in the early evening, the snake’s head emerging like a periscope from the water. Those and other images stuck with him to the point he wanted to share them. It was a good opportunity to discuss what makes evocative description.
  • He’s got his own reading going on, always, but the next “school” book will be The Old Man and the Sea. We’re doing short works right now – it offers more of a sense of accomplishment. For everyone.
  • Read and discussed “To a Mouse” by Burns before he read Of Mice and Men. 
  • He memorized the poem “Bird of Night” by Randall Jarrell. 
  • History/Geography reading has been of his own choosing from our books and library books. Topics he’s read about this week have included Assyrians, the Aztecs, Indus River civilization, the origins of the Vietnam war, and short biographical entries on a few presidents..
  • Watched a few videos from The Kids Should See This and other sources, mostly on science topics: whether or not jellyfish sleep, birth of a kangaroo joey, etc.
  • Read this article and did a bit more research on whistled languages.
  • He did some quizzes of his choice from this website, and then some presidents’ quizzes that I found. Continued working on memorizing the list of presidents.
  • Religion: focus is, as per usual, on saint of the day and Mass readings of the day and the discussions that flow from that. He served at a convent retreat Mass this past Saturday and heard an excellent homily from Fr. Wade Menezes. 
  • Monday, we discussed the Nobel Prize that had been announced that day – Physiology. We haven’t had time to discuss the others, but will try to knock of that teachable moment on Friday, I guess.
  • Talked a little bit about John Cage, for some reason. I think he was on a playlist I was listening to on Spotify, and it prompted a memory and a question from music camp.
  • Going to see the symphony do Brahms Symphony 1 on Friday.
  • He did a homeschool session on clay  at the Birmingham Museum of Art today.
  • Today in his “go read some nonfiction something anything for a while” he came out and said he’d been reading about Siberian reindeer herders in, I think, National Geographic. He asked what Anthrax was. (Because the reindeer had contracted it and infected their keepers, who ate their meat raw). So he researched that for a while.
  • If you’re following along, you know that aside from his own interests, which are considerable,  his history work – such as it is – is focused on participating in the history bee again. The qualification test for that is in January. He qualified last year without much preparation, so he’s not super intense about it, but I am using it    hoping that it inspires a little more formal/disciplined study. To that end, I’ve purchased a couple of outlines of US history and he’ll be going through those with a highlighter, making sure he knows the basics.
  • Music: He’s going to be playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor at a recital in a couple of weeks. He’s learning the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Sonata #1 and starting to review the 3rd movement of Kabalevsky’s Youth Concerto, which he sort of learned last year but never well enough to perform. It’s a goal for this year. We’re contemplating the organ. Sort of.
  • He and I working on this piece, just for fun: Satie’s “Three pieces in the shape of a pear.”  Most of it is easy enough for me. We both enjoy playing it – it’s different.
  • I blew his mind when I showed him this article about John Tyler’s two living grandsons. Imagine being alive in 2017, and your grandfather had been born in 1790 and was the 10th president of the United States. Crazy. He kept bringing it up all day.
  • One trip to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for photography practice, then a jaunt to a short but interesting and varied walking trail, one which I knew existed but could never figure out how to access until I finally just asked someone. There. Done.
  • IMG_20170929_135025.jpg

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Well, let’s do a Daily Homeschool Report, shall we?

  • What serendipity. Today was the feast of St. Zita, the patron saint of Lucca – one of the cities in Tuscany we will probably be visiting soon.
  • I say “probably” because TUSCANY YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY.
  • (Can’t decide where to go)
  • So anyway, that was a fun discovery. We read about St. Zita, then looked up Lucca-Santa-Zita-dá-o-manto-ao-mendigo-211x300Zita images both on the general Internet thing, as well as Instagram, where we could find Zita/Lucca related images from right now.
  • I pointed out to him that the sanctity of St. Zita, who was a household servant,  illustrates an important truth: What matters in life is not worldly values of success or achievement, but holiness. This truth is expressed in the Church’s celebration of those the world considers “lowly” and not only talking nicely about them, but holding them up as models worthy for imitation.
  • In what other context in life on this planet do you find servants and beggars held up as role models for all, including the wealthy and powerful?
  • Prayer.
  • Observation from the couch: I was thinking about the things we eat and how weird it is that fruit want to be eaten. Nothing else – not leafy things or vegetables or animals want to be eaten, but the whole reason for a fruit is to be eaten and then the seeds spread around by the creatures afterwards.
  • Huh.
  • And then a narrative about some tree in Borneo the fruit of which orangutans are crazy about, consume like made and aid in the propagation of as a consequence.
  • Cursive practice can be delayed no longer. I dug out a book I’d forgotten we have – practicing cursive through wacky sentences. We’ve been practicing cursive through Catholic thoughts for two years, so time to change it up.
  • Math was just review from 6th grade Evan-Moor books.  The great news of the week has been that Beast Academy 5B has been released. Finally! We should get it tomorrow, but won’t start until Monday. I think we will be out of pocket all day Friday, so might as well just wait.
  • History – he finished reading the chapter on the buildup to the civil war in the Catholic Textbook Project book, did the workbook pages, then we watched three Hip Hughes History videos – on the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision. Love them.
  • Latin review of prepositions that take the ablative case.
  • I had suggested a wandering about town afternoon, starting with the Botanical Gardens.  Well, the gardens are right across the road from the Zoo, so when we reached the vicinity, you can guess what happened.  I had thought that after his 6-week Zookeeper’s class, he’d be done with the zoo for a while, but apparently not. So I took the zoo fork, not the garden fork and then…
  • We saw an owl. Sitting on a fence not far from the zoo entrance, and I did wonder if he had escaped. I have never seen an owl outside of captivity before – heard plenty of them, but never saw one.  He was just sitting there, looking, as owls do. We swung around and parked in a shopping center parking lot and slowly walked across the road, hoping to get a close look, but before we could get there…whoosh – he was gone. We searched a bit, but didn’t see him. Still – it was pretty exciting just to see him for that short while.
  • Once in the zoo, I got a tour of the classes’ activities and work. They did things like fed the Komodo dragon (while the animal is kept in another enclosure, they placed dead rodents around the main cage – burying some a little bit under leaves and so on – and then the animal was let back in to dig up his dinner; they raked up debris in one cage, formerly used for storks, and transferred it to another used for some other bird. Things like that.
  • We spent some time with the cassuwary, which he had pet during the class – the bird was in a box they place him in to examine him (they are dangerous), and the kids were allowed to touch the back of the bird.
  • We then grabbed lunch and took a quick trip to the Birmingham Museum of Art – it’s free, so it’s an easy field trip. At this point in the day (evening), I don’t remember much about our conversation, but just know that it was the typical stroll through the Renaissance galleries, then up to the native American and Asian galleries, all the while him conversing and narrating and observing. I hardly say anything.
  • There was a group sitting in front of the prized Bierstadt being talked at by a docent, but the odd thing was that some in the group were blindfolded and others were wearing goggles of some sort or another. I had no idea what they were doing, but later decided that they must have been doing this kind of tour to increase empathy for the visually impaired. 
  • The most interesting piece was a recent acquistion – a large screen depicting the Battle of Ichinotani. Very well presented, clearly explained, and beautiful to examine. 
  • An extra note from yesterday: I sent him outside to find flowers so we could compare stamen/pistel/stigma, etc, and one of the lovely things we were able to see was in very carefully tearing apart a small wild violet from the yard, under the microscope we could see the tiny glistening pearly ovules. Very interesting.

"amy welborn"

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  • Very late start today. Super Tuesday Hangover, I believe they call it.
  • Prayer: Scripture readings, just a bit of clarifying talk about the Law, etc.
  • First rabbit trail:  He had asked me yesterday or the day before: “What is that music that goes daaah-dah-dah-DAAAH-daaah-daah-dah-dah-DAH- dah – dah?” 
  • You know. That one.
  • No, seriously, he hummed it correctly. Ride of the Valkyries, I said. Wagner. Don’t know which opera. Not a fan.
  • (Um, Die Walküre – duh)
  • He perked up. “The Valkyries! They’re the ones that take the dead heroes to Valhalla!”
  • So today, he was listening to the piece and asked about the context, so I pulled up a summary of the opera and that particular part – the opening of Act 3, and we watched a video of a bit of it, then watched a video of someone playing a piano adaptation.
  • Copywork.  I found a book I’d forgotten I owned – another old Catholic textbook, this one called Prose and Poetry for Enjoyment.  It’s excellent.  The kind of good Catholic-centered textbook you used to find in, er, Catholic schools, plus get the title – teaching kids to ENJOY literature instead of just finding themes, picking out antagonists and making plot charts? Huh.
  •  I picked a story by Heywood Broun – “The Fifty-First Dragon” – you can read it here –  and pulled the following sentence from it for copywork today, and then tomorrow I will dictate it to him and he will write it correctly.
  • Even when they told him that the lances were padded, the horses no more than ponies and the field unusually soft for late autumn, Gawaine refused to grow enthusiastic.
  • I thought it was a good sentence for reinforcing the role of the comma. Always such an issue.
  • We then talked about the story itself – the power the dragon-fighter thought the word had and why he failed to learn from his victory.
  • Almost done with Beast Academy – a few more challenging questions to write equations about the height of the rectangular prism when you know height and width and someone’s age when they are 6 years younger than someone and 2 years older than someone else…that kind of thing.
  • Then….he read a couple of intro chapters in an easy intro to the War of 1812 from the library, we talked about that.
  • Latin – go over the next set of prepositions.
  • Writing and Rhetoric – he finished reading the introductory material in the chapter, which contrasted  “unclear” and “improper” in terms of writing.  This is all leading up to teaching refutation.
  • The afternoon happened elsewhere.  Art museum, first (remember ours is not the Met, but it’s very good, and it’s always free). We spent some time in the Vodou flag exhibit, the Asian, African and contemporary art – and the one hall of pre-Columbian which sadly, never changes.
  • Going to the museum always provides an excellent opportunity for him to mull over things out loud and talk about things he’s learning and thinking about, and explaining the intricacies of pre-Columbian cultures to me (talking about the impact of the Olmec today). Spent some time sitting in front of the prize Bierstadt. He talked about the challenges of painting something like this and then mused on possible pathways for climbing the peaks.
  • Library to get volumes of the Seven Wonders series – there’s a new one coming out next week and he wants to re-read them all before that.  He also found a new Amulet volume and grabbed that.
  • Stop by Samford for 30 minutes of practice on a better piano.
  • Home – bb game rescheduled for tonight.
  • Timeframe at home only: 10:30-12:30.  To end of piano practice: 10:30-3:30.

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It was a quick trip to the ATL with youngest son, since Brother is camping it this week….and discounted at every turn thanks to local memberships…

Zoo Atlanta recently opened a new reptile and amphibian house, so I thought we’d go see it. (half price w/Birmingham Zoo membership, thanks)  From the age of the panda bears, I judged it had been about a year and a half since our last visit and then my son reminded me of the Halloween hijinks going on at that last visit, so yes, a year and a half.

It’s a smallish zoo for a big city, but it’s nicely done.  Aside from the reptiles and the pandas it’s most noted for its gorilla group, which is indeed substantial and quite interesting to watch.

The reptile house is high-ceilinged and well-lit. The new thing in zoos is to put the descriptions on mounted tablets, which is great for being able to offer more information, but problematic because, well, printed placards don’t require electrical connections and don’t break.

"amy welborn"

One of the charming elements of the old reptile house were the large panels mounted on either side of the doors, depicting the roles of these creatures in cultural history.  It would be a shame not to repurpose them in some way.

"amy welborn"

Keep cool, friends.

Fighting traffic we swung by the Varsity so my son could have a very late lunch – the food is mediocre at best, but it’s an institution and a tourist mecca, so why not.


Then fight more traffic to get to the High Museum of Art. (My Atlanta son said, “What are you doing up there? Don’t you know there’s a Rolling Stones concert at Georgia Tech tonight?” Er, no.) Our Birmingham Museum of Art membership would get us either free admission to the permanent collection or half price admission to the special exhibits. But since that is folded into the regular admission price, it meant, we would have spent half-price to visit the whole thing instead of no-price to visit half. Got it?

Now, I want to see the special exhibits – particularly the photos by Gordon Parks – but we were getting pressed for time – it was 3:45 and they closed at 5, so I opted for a free swing through the permanent collection, which we had seen before, but again, not for a couple of years.

I enjoy any museum visit, as does my son, but honestly, the High always leaves me a little aggravated.  The layout is confusing – it’s spread out over two, sometimes (depending on the special exhibits) three buildings and a first-time visitor might do some wandering before figuring out how to get from one to the other.  In addition, it’s a bit expensive (almost $20/adult), but I suppose that is justified by the fact that the special exhibits are included in that ticket – no bait and switch as you sometimes find at museums of all kinds in regard to special exhibitions. Third, the permanent collection is small for the major (only?) art museum in a city the size of and with the aspirations of Atlanta.

Honestly? The permanent collection of our very own Birmingham Museum of Art can hold its own very well, thanks against what the High has on display in its permanent galleries.  Yes, the special exhibits have given the High a slight edge in the past – we’ve seen Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring as well as some great Venetian masters and a good Dali exhibit there – but that permanent collection? Come to Birmingham and see something comparable….for free. 

Anyway, back to Atlanta.  This is one of the pieces that caught my eye this time:

Jacque David

It’s a terracotta maquette – a model – for a larger bust of the great French artist Jacques Louis-David, which is in the Louvre. Notice the distended left cheek?  It turns out that David had been injured in a sword fight as a young man, and the wound developed into this disfiguring tumor.  You can read about it here and here.

I was also intrigued by Hail, Mary by Luc-Olivier Merson. 

Luc Olivier Merson

You can read an awkwardly-translated but still interesting article about the 19th century artist here.  He did everything from paint to design stamps and currency to design mosaics for Sacre-Coeur, and he does seem to dance on the edge of kitsch, but I don’t know…at least he’s trying to say something about something. I mean…

merson flight into Egypt

MFA, Boston.

Okay, then back through the traffic to have a great meal with Oldest Son at the Carroll Street Cafe. Back to Birmingham with a fantastic, if at times unnerving lightening show to the south of I-20. Today? Piano lesson and pool. Tomorrow…who knows….

"high museum of art"

Los Trompos – on the plaza in front of the High Museum. 

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……talk about St. Raymond of Penafort. Big discussion of canon law  KIDDING.  Also Andre Bessette, and the Oratory of St. Joseph, naturally.

….copywork, Sandburg’s  Fog. They each read it aloud a couple of times first.  Talked about the imagery.  Discussed what haunches are. Some hilarity ensuing from that.  After copywork, read Chicago and watched a video interpretation.  Talked, again, about the imagery. Pulled out a map, discussed the historical importance of Chicago’s location, which led to all kinds of rabbit holes regarding the Great Lakes, Antarctica, and as per usual, Mexico.  Whenever a map is in use,  we always end up in Mexico, somehow.

…bit of drawing exercises.

….Math.  Nailing down those percentages, reviewing division. 

In between all of this, regular trips were being made outside into the 15 degree weather.  I know, that’s nothing. I’ve been there, believe me.   They blew soap bubbles and watched them freeze.  Took a hammer to some frozen water in a pail just for the heck of it.   Decided to do an experiment re/freezing.  Filled containers with equal amounts of water, discussed various potential adulterants.  Settled on liquid soap, salt and a shot of my homemade vanilla extract.  It was the only alcohol in the house (I made it with vodka), but as I’m typing this, I’m remembering that of course we have rubbing alcohol, so that was stupid of me.

Discussion of the definition of “control” and “hypothesis.”  Results?  Soapy water froze first, then unadulterated, then who knows because it was forgotten before dark.  I guess I could go out and look at it right now, but you know what?  I’m not.  The exciting thing that happened was that the 12-year old called me out to see something, and when we got out to the back, he was amazed because in the fifteen seconds he’d been away from it, the surface of the plain water had frozen – just like that.

(Various internet rabbit holes into the definition of freezing, diagrams of frozen water molecules and then the ever popular liquid nitrogen subgenre. 9-year old remembered and talked about some of the liquid nitrogen demonstrations he’s seen at McWane.  One of the videos on the sidebar was about mercury, so then that rabbit hole was followed.  Chemical symbol (Hg) was learned, properties were learned about and seen, and stories were told my mother about how – back in the day when people still used mercury thermometers – it was a thing for kids to sometimes bring one to school and then break it on purpose, necessitating an evacuation.  This usually occurred during exam week, just as, when I was in college, bomb scares were routinely called in during those times as well.)

Took a noontime break to run downtown to listen to a very good, and brief (less than 30 minutes) talk on one of the Birmingham Museum of Art’s prized holdings, Albert Bierstadt’s Looking down Yosemite Valley, California.  It was direct and basic enough for the boys to get something out of it and not be bored (I don’t think).  Before we left, we detoured at looked at a couple of pieces in the Renaissance room, and then upstairs to visit our friends the samurai armor and weaponry, as well as some of the other Chinese and Japanese pieces.  Just a quick trip this time.

"Birmingham museum of art"

(Excited about the Delacroix exhibit starting soon. )

Back home, I broke out one of my recent risky purchases.  The Great Courses was running a sale before Christmas, so I bought a couple, including this one on Greek and Roman Technological innovation.  (and believe me, it was an excellent sale.  I think I paid less than $60 for the course.) The previews looked good – the professor seemed engaging and it’s far more than a talking head, with plenty of animations and models used.  Plus, it’s a topic in which the boys are interested and since they’ve actually seen some of the structures in person, from the Temple of Concord in Agrigento Sicily, to the Pantheon to Pont du Gard , and we’ve talked so much in our own way about topics like Roman urban planning and construction – it made sense.

Well, it went over well. Just the right length, the professor is, indeed, engaging, and it’s not at all over their heads.  They liked it.  Plus there’s a little book so I can keep track and reinforce concepts and vocabulary.  Phew. We’ll watch a couple of those a week and discuss.

A couple of rabbit holes from this – he was explaining some Greek catapult thing (I hope they retain more than I do) and showed how the “springs” were made from animal tendons.  I paused it and said, “Do you know what tendons are?”  We had a fifty percent passing rate, so we broke and talked about tendons and ligaments and the difference between them.  Mr. Sports knew about ACL’s and PCL’s, but we looked up some diagrams and got more specific – and then talked about the meaning of the words “lateral,” “anterior” and “posterior,” using the position of those ligaments to help understand and enforce.

It’s the kind of day I like.  All over the place, constantly engaged, talking, asking questions and finding answers.

And Mexico. Always Mexico.


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