• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 16/Grade 11, 14/Grade 9, and 13/Grade 8.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2012 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

More learning by ear

Laura asked me to find some more podcasts for her so I thought I’d list some of the goodies we’ve come across lately:

Dr. Temple Grandin is giving interviews to help publicize her latest book, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals; she was on CBC’s “Quirks & Quarks” science show last week, speaking with host Bob MacDonald (there’s a link on the page to download the program on mp3).  Dr. Grandin is giving a talk at our agricultural college in a few weeks and the kids are looking forward to hearing her.

Poking around at iTunesU, I learned that the following new-to-me items are available:

– The New-York Historical Society has its public programs from the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers series available as podcasts

–  The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History offers podcasts of historians’ lectures: Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals”, as well as Joseph Ellis, James McPherson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jill Lepore, Arthur Schlesinger, Eric Foner, and Richard Carwadine.  Upcoming podcasts include Walter Isaacson on Ben Franklin and Kenneth Jackson on the New York in the Gilded Age. The Institute has more for teachers and pupils of American history here.

– If you scroll down the main iTunes U page at iTunes, you’ll see they have “Spotlight” sections, for both Abraham Lincoln and Charles  Darwin.  The Spotlight section for Lincoln includes some of the NYHS lectures as well as some podcasts/videocasts at Stanford University, including one by Simon Schama on The Abolition of the Slave Trade.

– The Spotlight section for Darwin includes podcasts from Stanford U. on “Darwin’s Legacy”; Cambridge University’s “Darwin College Lecture Series”; Case Western Reserve’s videocasts for their 2008-2009 “Year of Darwin” lectures; and Arizona State University’s Darwinfest/Darwin Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring E.O. Wilson and others.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art podcasts, including “Episodes for Families” (with Aesop’s fables, an Anansi tale, etc.); and various talks connected to exhibits, including Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware”; Philippe de Montebello on the face in medieval sculpture; the story of Hatshepsut.  The Met’s page at iTunes has a longer list of available podcasts and videocasts.

Our new favorite family magazine

abbck

Sometime last fall at the grocery store I was surprised to find a new magazine, BBC Knowledge — “for the curious mind: science . history . nature”. The layout is rather busier than I like and the articles not as in depth as Smithsonian‘s, but the magazine is packed with all sorts of interesting articles, with something for everyone; I’ve found at least one science article that was rather racy for the kids, so reading ahead isn’t a bad idea if you have younger keen magazine fans at home.  And the magazine staff is doing a terrific job finding experts in all areas, especially those with new books, to write on what they know.  So in a nutshell, a magazine with lively coverage of timely subjects, and more often than not suitable for kids.

The first issue (October 2009) featured the cover story, “How to Build a Planet” and one of Arthur C. Clarke’s last interviews.  The second issue (December 2008) featured articles on the “small world” (aka “six degrees of separation”) theory, sloths, and Simon Schama on United States history and politics; you can read the second issue online for free.  The third issue (February 2009) featured the cover story, “Lincoln’s Legacy” (“From Abe to Obama”…), the rise of the superscraper, and classicist Mary Beard, author of the new The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, on the “A-Z of Pompeii”.

The fourth issue, for April 2009, is now on sale, featuring (only a tad late) Darwin 200 and Robert Burns.  For Darwin, the magazine offers a 22-page evolution special with a Richard Dawkins interview, Carl Zimmer on “Evolution in Action”, PZ Meyers on “Is evolution dead?”.  The issue also includes biographer Robert Crawford on Robbie Burns and Democracy.

One of my favorite features so far is “World News in Context”, two pages of informed commentary from The Independent‘s David Keyes accompanied by a map, brief timeline, and several suggestions for further reading.  This month it’s Georgia (the country), last issue it was Zimbabwe.

BBC Knowledge comes out six times a year, and the cover price here in Canada is $5.99. Which means that it’s cheaper for me to pick it up at the store each time rather than subscribing at $37.45 annually or $74.90 for two years.

Poetry Friday: The February hush

The February Hush
by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911)

Snow o’er the darkening moorlands,
Flakes fill the quiet air;
Drifts in the forest hollows,
And a soft mask everywhere.

The nearest twig on the pine-tree
Looks blue through the whitening sky,
And the clinging beech-leaves rustle
Though never a wind goes by.

But there’s red on the wildrose berries,
And red in the lovely glow
On the cheeks of the child beside me,
That once were pale, like snow.

From my copy of Into Winter: Discovering a Season by William P. Nestor, illustrated by Susan Banta (Houghton Mifflin, 1982, out of print); the poem was originally published in Afternoon Landscape: Poems and Translations by William Wentworth Higginson, 1889.

For more Poetry Friday fun, head over to Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books, where Karen is hosting today’s roundup.  Thank you, Karen!

*  *  *  *

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was an American Unitarian minister, Transcendentalist, writer, Civil War soldier, abolitionist, and supporter of temperance, labor rights, and the rights of women. A particularly good online biography is here, as part of “Notable American Unitarians”.  Col. Higginson born on December 22, 1823 at Cambridge, Massachusetts, the descendant of a Puritan minister who emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the grandson of Stephen Higginson, a member of the Continental Congress.  Higginson attended Harvard and was a schoolmaster for two years after graduating in 1841.  He returned to Harvard to study at its Divinity School.  Higginson proved to be too liberal for his first church, the First Religious Society (Unitarian) in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and was asked to leave after two years.  An admirer of the writings of William Lloyd Garrison and Lydia Maria Childs, Higginson was one of the “Secret Six” who supported John Brown in his raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. During the Civil War, Higginson served the 51st Massachusetts Volunteers as captain, leaving this post to serve as colonel for the first black Union regiment, the First Carolina Volunteers (33rd Infantry Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops), comprised of escaped slaves.

Higginson was an early champion of Emily Dickinson, and the two enjoyed a 23-year-long correspondence; their relationship is the subject of a new book, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple (Knopf, 2008). After the poet’s death in 1886, her family asked Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd to edit and prepare for publication Emily Dickinson’s first collection of poetry.

From the time of the Civil War, Higginson published a number of works — poetry, biography, memoirs, essays, and history, including his Young Folks’ History of the United States; in 1875, The New York Times called the book one “which no American boy or girl can fail to read with pleasure while he or she learns from it all of the essential facts in the progress of the country”. Higginson was poetry editor at The Nation for 26 years, and wrote a regular column for Harper’s Bazaar, “Women and Men”, on equality of the sexes.  A selection of his letters can be found here, though none to Miss Dickinson survive.  One of his first books was a volume of collected natural history essays, Outdoor Papers, each originally published in The Atlantic.  Higginson sent one copy of the book to Charles Darwin and another was found in the Dickinson family library.

Higginson died on May 9, 1911, at the age of 87 at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Magnificent Activist: The Writings of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, edited by Howard N. Meyer

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple (Knopf, 2008)

Army Life in a Black Regiment: and Other Writings by Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The Complete Civil War Journal and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, edited by Christopher Looby


“Deep, recurring human truths”

Reading through The Guardian online last week I came across the news that UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, an atheist (and also one of the directors of The Poetry Archive), has “called for an overhaul of the school curriculum to reverse the ‘depressing’ trend which threatened to leave future generations unable to fully understand the works of Milton and Shakespeare or even more recent writers such as TS Eliot”:

Mr Motion, who holds a chair in creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, said that he had struggled to teach Milton’s Paradise Lost to undergraduates because they had no concept of the fall of man.

“These were all bright students, very hard-working, all with good A-levels, but their knowledge of the great ancient stories was very sketchy,” he said in an interview.

“So when the time came to talk about Milton, I found very few knew there had been a civil war. As for the Bible, forget it, they just about knew who Adam and Eve were.”

He insisted that while secularist ideas had put many people off studying the Bible, parents who do not believe in God should have nothing to fear from their children learning about the Bible.

“If people say this is about ramming religion down people’s throats, they aren’t thinking about it hard enough,” he said.

“It is more about the power of these words to connect with deep, recurring human truths, and also the story of the influence of that language and those stories.”

And he warned that growing ignorance of the great stories of the Bible as well as classical mythology was becoming an increasingly serious handicap for those studying literature.

“Many of my students stumble into vaguely mythological stories in their writing,” he said.

Read the rest of the article here.

Here’s the perfect example of what you can do with a little book learning, not to mention a great deal of craft and patience: retired farmer Alec Garrard’s 12′ by 20′ model of  Herod’s Temple; as Mr. Garrard notes, “I have an interest in buildings and religion so I thought maybe I could combine the two and I came up with the idea of doing the temple”.  A detailed slide show of the model is here.

*  *  *

Polymath Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: A Historical Look at the Old and New Testaments

The Bible: A Biography, Islam: A Short History, and A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong

Biblical Literacy: The Most Important People, Events, and Ideas of the Hebrew Bible by Joseph Telushkin

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t by Stephen Prothero

World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored & Explained by John Bowker (DK Publishing)

The Bible Literacy Project

Mark your calendar

From PRWeb:

The official 50th anniversary of The Elements of Style is April 16, 2009, and an event to celebrate the occasion will be held in New York City with a panel of writers and journalists discussing the power of the “little book,” featuring acclaimed writers Roger Rosenblatt, Roy Blount Jr. and Barbara Wallraff, columnist for The Atlantic. In addition, the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University, keepers of the papers of E.B. White, will host an exhibit in Olin Library to coincide with the anniversary. Materials include White’s typewriter, handwritten notes, photographs and more. …

The best-known and best-selling book about writing ever published, more than 10 million copies of The Elements of Style have been sold since its first publication in 1959. The original Boston Globe review, quoted in the front of the commemorative edition, still holds true today: “No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume.”

In 1957, E.B. White rediscovered the brief guide to clear English writing style that had been self-published by William Strunk, Jr., a favorite writing teacher during White’s undergraduate years at Cornell University. White, an acclaimed editorialist and essayist at the New Yorker and the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, expressed his admiration in a New Yorker article. When an editor at Macmillan persuaded White to revise and expand Professor Strunk’s 43-page book, that essay served as its introduction, and the book often known as “Strunk and White” was born. White later revised the book twice, in 1972 and 1979, and a fourth edition appeared in 2000 with a foreword by White’s stepson, writer Roger Angell.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, fourth edition

Call me cranky, but I don’t feel the need for a 50th anniversary edition, even if it is black leather-bound and gold-embossed and includes ” ‘fifty years of acclaim’ from leading literary figures past and present”, or even for an illustrated edition.  I would, though, suggest hardcover over paperback, to hold up to repeated readings. And I like the idea of an exhibit with Andy White’s typewriter, though I suppose Prof. Strunk’s typewriter or pencil is too much to hope for.

I’ll also admit to some curiosity about Mark Garvey‘s Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, coming out in October from Simon & Schuster.

aebw
* * *
Associated links:

Strunk without White, the 1918 edition

Andy White ’21 at Cornell

“Romeo and Juliet” starring Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer, and directed by George Cukor, the 1936 MGM version for which William Strunk served as literary consultant

Writing that endures

From Jonathan Darman’s recent article on biographer Robert A. Caro, “The Marathon Man”, in the current issue of Newsweek:

By training, Robert Caro is a journalist. By profession, he is a biographer, among the most highly acclaimed living, thanks to his four books—three volumes on Johnson and a saga about the New York public-works titan Robert Moses. But in his daily life, Caro more resembles a scientist, driven by the principle that you understand something only by observing it, watching it with great concentration and for a long time. In his New York City office, where everything has its particular place, he works long hours, seven days a week, poring through interview transcripts and primary source notes, working slowly and deliberately on books he publishes, on average, once every 10 years. His meticulous routine is sometimes painful, he says, but necessary. Only by gathering as many facts as possible, cataloging them, cross-checking them and sitting with them at great length, can he choose the right words to re-create the past inside his readers’ heads. Words matter to Caro. “I have always thought,” he told me this winter, “that in nonfiction, the level of the writing has to be as good as any novel if it is going to endure.” …

The story of Robert Caro is the story of a man who set out at a young age to produce writing that would survive. A close look at his research and writing process offers lessons at a moment when it seems that nothing endures. Does Caro’s obsessive work life — ruled by diligence, deliberateness and desperation—offer hope for the printed word? Or is Caro the last of his kind?

Robert Caro has always needed more words. Growing up on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1930s and ’40s, reading was his haven; as a student at the Manhattan prep school Horace Mann, he devoured all six volumes of Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” At Princeton in the ’50s, he wrote his senior thesis on Ernest Hemingway, who believed ideas were best expressed in as few words as possible. (Caro’s essay ran 235 pages.) Working as a cub reporter for the Long Island tabloid Newsday, he learned that, while editors would technically limit the number of words he could write, when it came time to measure his stories, they would count only lines on the page. So Caro peppered his typed prose with tiny carets, squeezing every inch of available white space.

Oh, and no computer (though he does have a website).  Read the rest here.

A Robert A. Caro bibliography:

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1975 Pulitzer Prize for biography)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, Volume 1 (1982)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent, Volume 2 (1990)

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, Volume 3 (2003 Pulitzer Prize for biography)


Selling (to) girls

Admission: Laura does have two American Girl dolls, just about all of their clothes, a nightgown for herself (now hitting mid-calf), the movies, and all of the hardcover collected historical stories, from Felicity to the WWII one (Molly?).  But I’ve always been aware of the marketing angle, one of the reasons we try to avoid licensed products and the movies and books that serve as vehicles for the consumption; we also talk to the kids about how they make good targets for companies. So I was interested to read the article “Marketing American Girlhood” by Elizabeth Marshall at the current issue of Rethinking Schools Online:

Some might argue that American Girl is not as bad as other materials on the market, or as offensive as Barbie or Bratz dolls. This argument misses the key features of what makes this phenomenon so insidious: how corporations play on the feminist and /or educative aspirations of parents, teachers, girls, and young women and turn these toward consumption. American Girl is less about strong girls, diversity or history than about marketing girlhood, about hooking girls, their parents and grandparents into buying the American Girl products and experience.

I have more thoughts but not more time right now, having just emptied out the fridge for a big cleaning.

Related posts:

Made You Look (December 2006), which mentions Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown

Hot to trot tots and their pole-dancing mamas (March 2007)

Other worthwhile links:

Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet B. Schor, which I think first heard about from Hornblower at HMS Indefatigable; I seem to recall that Ms. Schor appears in the documentary “How the Kids Took Over” which is good to watch with the whole family

Two CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) programs: on the radio, “The Age of Advertising” with Terry O’Reilly; and on television, “Marketplace”

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has lately taken on the Scholastic book club, asking it to “put the book back in book club” — which means making room by taking out the “M&M’s Kart Racing Wii videogame, the Princess Room Alarm, Monopoly® SpongeBob SquarePants™ Edition computer game, lip gloss and a Hannah Montana bracelet”.  I applaud the idea of a commercial-free childhood, but in this day and age it seems wiser, as a parent at least, to put one’s energies into commercial-proofing the kids.

Darwin 200: Day 6: Time for presents

It’s Mr. Darwin’s birthday, but we get the presents.  Last April The Guardian put up its seven-part online Science Course, in partnership with the Science Museum in London; where, by the way, entry is free, so that’s another present.

The Guardian‘s Science Course: Part I, The Universe; Part II, Life & Genetics; Part III, The Earth; Part IV, Humans; Part V, Energy; Part VI, Building Blocks; and Part VII, Experiments for Kids

From Part II, Life & Genetics, “Evolution and Darwin” by Tim Radford, with a good look at the life of a scientist:

He had, at the time, no idea of how living things passed their characteristics from one generation to the next, or how any modifications could happen. He was not the only prophet of evolutionary theory, but he is the one whose name will be forever linked with it, and that was because Darwin backed up a great, but incomplete idea, with a huge body of highly detailed evidence. Some of it was gathered on his voyage around the world on HMS Beagle, but most of it was assembled painstakingly through decades of observation, note-taking and inquiry, quietly at home in his study and garden at Down House in Kent. There were no “eureka moments”, dramatic pronouncements or a search for the limelight.

He probably first began to wonder about descent with modification in about 1838. He spent the next two decades simply thinking about creatures and how they varied. He wrote thousands of letters, to gardeners, foresters, naturalists, geologists, explorers, curators and keepers, asking questions, and then asking supplementary questions. He wondered about why coral atolls formed and what strange specimens pigeon fanciers could breed, the enormous variation in the domestic dog, the effect of earthworms on the ground in which they lived, and the life cycle of the barnacle.

And from Part VII, Experiments for Kids, to help children become scientists, Gabrielle Walker writes in “Get Stuck In!”,

One of my favourite scientists from history is the wonderful and chaotic Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen. He didn’t know what oxygen was, but he did know that if you mixed it with hydrogen in a bottle and then put a flame to the neck you got a satisfyingly loud explosion. He used to carry little tubes of the mix around in his pocket. When giving a lecture he would whip one out and light it to make his audiences jump. He was insatiably, exasperatingly curious.

Science has moved on since the 18th century, and these days it’s harder to stumble across fantastic new gases, but the principles Priestley followed still hold true. Real science isn’t about textbooks, it’s about experiments that are surprising, exciting and — yes, even a bit dangerous.

Doing them means taking risks, getting stuck in, finding out for yourself — using your imagination.

Kids should do scientific experiments too, for the same reason that they should write stories as well as reading them or do sport as well as watching it. Experiments encourage kids to be curious, creative and confident. Jokes make us laugh because the punchline takes us by surprise. The best experiments do the same.

So take this guide and use it, and may it show you many new ways to make yourself and your audience jump. Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”

I couldn’t agree more, either with Ms. Walker or Mr. Emerson, and I think Mr. Darwin would, too. And also Mr. Priestley — who was a friend of Mr. Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus and fellow Lunatickwhile we’re at it. Celebrate the bicentennial with some proper noisemakers, experiments, and big bangs, won’t you?

.

adday5

Poetry Friday II: Be Mine

excerpt from
Love-songs, at Once Tender and Informative –
An Unusual Combination in Verses of This Character

by Samuel Hoffenstein (1890-1947)

Maid of Gotham, ere we part,
Have a hospitable heart –

Since our own delights must end,
Introduce me to your friend.

—–

If you love me, as I love you,
We’ll both be friendly and untrue.

—–

Your little hands,
Your little feet,
Your little mouth –
Oh, God, how sweet!

Your little nose,
Your little ears,
Your eyes, that shed
Such little tears!

Your little voice,
So soft and kind;
Your little soul,
Your little mind!

—–

Had we but parted at the start,
I’d cut some figure in your heart;
And though the lands between were wide,
You’d often see me at your side.

But having loved and stayed, my dear,
I’m always everywhere but here,
And, still more paradoxical,
You always see me not at all.

from American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse, compiled by John Hollander

* * *

Samuel (Sam) Hoffenstein was born in Lithuania in 1890, emigrating to the United States at the age of four with his family.  After graduating from Easton College in Pennsylvania in 1911, he found work as a staff writer for the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. By 1912, he was in New York City, working for The New York Sun, where he started as a reporter and worked his way up to drama critic.  It was around this time that Sam Hoffenstein wrote and published his rather gloomy first volume of poetry, Life Sings a Song (1916) and left The Sun to work as a press agent in the city. Life was followed by his first book of light verse, Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing in 1928, and Year In, You’re Out in 1930.  The following year, Sam Hoffenstein moved to Los Angeles to work in the talkies.

In 1933, Hoffenstein helped Cole Porter and Kenneth S. Webb compose the musical score for The Gay Divorce, the stage musical (Fred Astaire’s last Broadway show) that became the film The Gay Divorcee, the first film to make the classic romantic pairing of Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  Hoffenstein and Webb would win an Academy Award for the score.

Hoffenstein wrote scripts for a variety of movies, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Fredric March (1931), for which Hoffenstein was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Adaptation, with Percy Heath; Love Me Tonight (1932); The Great Waltz (1938); The Wizard of Oz (1939), uncredited; Tales of Manhattan (1942); Phantom of the Opera with Claude Rains (1943); Laura with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews (1944), for which Hoffenstien was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay, with Jay Dratler and Elizabeth Reinhardt; and Cluny Brown (1946).

Sam Hoffenstein died of a heart attack in Los Angeles in 1947 at the age of 57, three days after his final volume of verse, Pencil in the Air, was published.  His Time Magazine obituary noted,

Died. Samuel Hoffenstein, 57, master writer of satiric light verse (Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing); of a heart attack; in Los Angeles. A wry-writing favorite of Manhattan’s wry-minded literary set in the late ’20s, Hoffenstein (who had written, I’d rather listen to a flute in Gotham, than a band in Butte) disappeared into Hollywood as a scenario writer, later explained: “In the movies we writers work our brains to the bone, and what do we get for it? A lousy fortune.”

I’ll end with some lines from some of his best known lines, from the 1928 Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing,

Poems of Passion Carefully Restrained So as to Offend Nobody: II

When you’re away, I’m restless, lonely,
Wretched, bored, dejected; only
Here’s the rub, my darling dear,
I feel the same when you are here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Darwin 200: Day 5: Poetry Friday

acdpoems

A twofer, featuring excerpts from an 1802 poem by Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin; his last work, the volume was published posthumously. You can find the entire work here.

The Temple of Nature:
Or, The Origin of Society:

A Poem, with Philosophical Notes

by Erasmus Darwin

Canto I
Production of Life

I. BY firm immutable immortal laws
Impress’d on Nature by the GREAT FIRST CAUSE,
Say, MUSE! how rose from elemental strife
Organic forms, and kindled into life;
How Love and Sympathy with potent charm
Warm the cold heart, the lifted hand disarm;
Allure with pleasures, and alarm with pains,
And bind Society in golden chains. …

V. “ORGANIC LIFE beneath the shoreless waves21
Was born and nurs’d in Ocean’s pearly caves;
{27} First forms minute22, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume; 300
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.

“Thus the tall Oak, the giant of the wood,
Which bears Britannia’s thunders on the flood;
The Whale, unmeasured monster of the main,
The lordly Lion, monarch of the plain,
The Eagle soaring in the realms of air,
Whose eye undazzled drinks the solar glare,
Imperious man, who rules the bestial crowd,
Of language, reason, and reflection proud,
With brow erect who scorns this earthly sod,
And styles himself the image of his God;
Arose from rudiments of form and sense,
An embryon point, or microscopic ens!

“Now in vast shoals beneath the brineless tide,
On earth’s firm crust testaceous tribes reside;
Age after age expands the peopled plain,
The tenants perish, but their cells remain;
Whence coral walls and sparry hills ascend
From pole to pole, and round the line extend.

Read the rest here, if you have the time.

*  *  *

And something charming I came across for the younger set, thanks to The Ethical Palaentologist, from a 1980 book called Hocus Pocus Diplodocus: The Entire History of the Universe in 21 Poems by Tom Stanier:

Mister Darwin wrote a book
(The Origin of Species).
Let us look at life, he said,
In all its bits and pieces.

Find the rest of the poem here.

*  *  *

Darwin’s Ark: Poems by Philip Appleman, illustrations by Rudy Pozzatti (Indiana University Press, 2008); this is a new paperback edition (originally published in 1984) with prints by Rudy Pozzatti.  Stephen Jay Gould says of the book, “Philip Appleman has captured the elusive themes of Darwin’s worldview and translated them into items of beauty that also provoke thought.”  Prof. Appleman has also written novels, including Apes and Angels, and is the editor of the Norton critical edition of Darwin, first published in 1970 and considered by Dr. Gould to be “The best Darwin anthology on the market”.


*  *  *

Finally, the poet Ruth Padel has just published a biography about her great-great grandfather, Darwin: A Life in Poems (in the UK, Chatto & Windus, February 5, 2009; in the US and Canada, Knopf, late March or early April 2009, and the Chatto & Windus edition with the nicer cover should be available in Canada as well).

You can recent reviews at the Financial Times (“an imaginative and dynamic response to a man who changed the way we understand ourselves”) and  The Economist:

As the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth on February 12th approaches, it is good to welcome a biography which is relatively small, but in no way superficial or scanty. Ruth Padel has achieved this feat by writing her great-great-grandfather’s life in a sequence of often quite short poems. Through her verses she seeks to capture the “voice” of Darwin, thus performing a difficult act of literary ventriloquism. Ms Padel, who often writes about animals, embeds many of Darwin’s own words—from his books or his letters—in her poems, and the results tend to give the sense of being jointly authored. Sometimes she shapes entire gobbets of quotation into her own poetic passages. If this seems to be a bit of sly plagiarism, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels more like a deft act of collaboration between the living and the dead, one melding easily with the other. …

And why are poems a good way of illuminating a life such as Darwin’s? The best lyric poems—think of Keats or Shelley, for example—are moments of epiphany, a sudden opening out onto magic casements. And Darwin, throughout, was in the grip of something very similar: a terrible, destabilising sense of wonder. He sensed intimations of the marvellous everywhere he looked. All the sadder then—and this is something that Ms Padel does not explain—that, later in life, the man who carried with him on the Beagle a copy of Milton’s “Paradise Lost”* found that he could no longer enjoy poetry.

By the way, as part of American Public Media’s “Speaking of Faith” program, “Evolution and Wonder: Understanding Charles Darwin”, you can listen to a discussion of Darwin’s fondness for Milton’s poem and his description of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Kelly Herold, who established Poetry Friday, is hosting today, so head over to her blog, Big A little a, for the complete round-up.  Thanks for hosting, Kelly, and thanks especially for Poetry Fridays.

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“One of the wonders of the day”

“What did you think of the inaugural?  That rail-splitting lawyer is one of the wonders of the day.  Once at Gettysburg and now again on a greater occasion he has shown a capacity for rising to the demands of the hour which we should not expect from orators or men of the schools.  This inaugural strikes me in its grand simplicity and directness as being for all time the historical keynote of this war; in it a people seemed to speak in the sublimely simple utterance of ruder times.”

Charles Francis Adams Jr. in a letter to his father, Charles Francis Adams Sr., Abraham Lincoln’s minister to Great Britain, upon reading the text of Lincoln’s second inaugural address.  Adams Jr. knew what he was talking about regarding the Gettysburg campaign, where he had served as Brevet Brigadier General of the Fifth Massachusetts Volunteers and fought with distinction at the Battle of Aldie.

Darwin 200: Day 4: The Big One

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Illustration by Carl Buell at Olduvai George

Many thanks to Mr. Buell for sharing, and hat tip to Michael at The Dispersal of Darwin

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Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

(many happy returns and a tip of the old hat as well to The New Yorker and Mr. Tilley, both of whom are 84 years young this month):

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“Abe Tilley Lincoln Builds a Cabin for His Friend” by Dailyode

And, as Laura noted, it’s a cabin not divided…

Another Lincoln-inspired entry, and another

But sadly not, as far as I could see ·(and I whizzed through the 42 different pages of entries), a monocled Charles Darwin in a top hat peering at a finch…

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200 Years of Abraham Lincoln at NPR

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Other Farm School Lincolniana:

“The best Abe Lincolns” (children’s biographies)

More “Lincoln Monuments”

Poetry Friday: Old Abe in the marble and the moonlight

The Lincoln bicentennial: New and newish children’s books

A head-start on the Lincoln Bicentennial

Poetry Friday: For Abraham Lincoln

Big Birthday Bash week: February 12

Darwin 200: Charles Darwin’s Day

(Previously posted last year as “Funny, you don’t look a day over 198″, with some updates and revisions)

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“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
Charles Darwin

A very happy 200th birthday, and a big Valentine’s smooch, to Charles Robert Darwin, born February 12, 1809.

(And to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, too, who was born on the same day, in 1884; interestingly, she and her father shared a lifelong interest in human evolutionary biology, and she went on to study the growing field of molecular genetics.)

To celebrate this year, Farm School offers a highly subjective, not at all comprehensive Charles Darwin bibliography and list of resources for the entire family, with serious and lighthearted offerings; remember, I’m not a trained scientist or a biologist, just a very amateur naturalist who likes to read.

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Science historian and songwriter Richard Milner performs a one-man musical show about Charles Darwin, “Charles Darwin Live and In Concert”.  Find him in concert or lecturing at a venue near you.  Milner has been a guest on WNYC (and here‘s his WNYC visit the other year). If he won’t be close by, check the website for a CD or to book the show.  And Milner is also the author of the forthcoming Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z, with a preface by his longtime friend Stephen Jay Gould and foreword by Ian Tattersall (University of California Press, March 2009).

The Darwin Exhibit

The Darwin exhibition, called variously “The Evolution Revolution” and “Big Idea” is at its final stop, at London’s Natural  History Museum, from November 2008 through April 19, 2009. The exhibit opened in New York in 2005 at the American Museum of Natural History, whose website for the exhibit is still up, with a good list of resources. The exhibit, the “most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled on Darwin and evolution includes rare personal artifacts”, has been organized by The American Museum of Natural History in New York, with Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum; Boston’s Museum of Science; Chicago’s Field Museum; and the Natural History Museum, London, to commemorate the bicentennial. The London Natural History Museum has a good mini website on evolution.

Books for children

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton

Darwin: With Glimpses into His Private Journal and Letters by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin, April 2009)

What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granström (Frances Lincoln, March 2009)

What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer (National Geographic, January 2009)

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman (Candlewick, January 2009). Publishers Weekly starred review here.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (Holt, December 2008).  Charles and Emma gets a starred review in the January/February 2008 issue of The Horn Book, and in Publishers Weekly here. Ms. Heiligman’s husband is author Jonathan Weiner, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time.

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer (Harcourt, January 2009); historical fiction about the young Darwin, just setting sail for adventure.

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor (HarperCollins, April 2009). The author of My Side of the Mountain, Julie of the Wolves, and other children’s classics for more than 40 years “traces the evolution of a species of giant turtles on the Galapagos Islands from millions of years ago to the present”.

Animals Charles Darwin Saw by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Zina Saunders; to be published April 2009 by Chronicle Books as part of Ms. Markle’s intriguing new series (Animals Christopher Columbus Saw, Animals Robert Scott Saw)

Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial by Jen Bryant (no relation, I believe, to William Jennings…)

The Tree of Life by Peter Sís

The Voyage of the Beetle: A Journey around the World with Charles Darwin and the Search for the Solution to the Mystery of Mysteries, as Narrated by Rosie, an Articulate Beetle by Anne H. Weaver, illustrated by George Lawrence (University of New Mexico Press, 2007)

The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution Told in Five Chapters by Jay Hosler (author of Clan Apis). A comic book by Hosler, a biologist and cartoonist, about the Victorian naturalist’s attempt to explain evolution to a family of mites living in his eyebrows. No, really. Something for the whole family to enjoy. Really and truly. Here’s more from Dr. Hosler on Charlie Darwin: Charlie and Darwin Saves the World.

The Adventures of Charles Darwin by Peter Ward (Cambridge University Press, 1986); chapter book about life on the HMS Beagle as told by a young cabin boy

Inside the Beagle with Charles Darwin by Fiona MacDonald, illustrated by Mark Bergin

Who Was Charles Darwin? by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Harrison

The Beagle and Mr. Flycatcher: A Story of Charles Darwin by Robert M. Quackenbush; apparently out of print in the US (though not in the UK) but worth searching out at the library because Quackenbush is always fun

Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kristan Lawson (Chicago Review Press)

Charles Darwin: A photographic story of a life by David C. King (a Dorling Kindersley biography)

Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer

Life Story: The Story of Life on Our Earth from the Beginning Up to Now by Virginia Lee Burton

Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story by Jennifer Morgan, illustrated by Dana Lynne Andersen

The Cartoon History of the Earth series by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly, published by Kids Can Press; including the titles The Birth of the Earth and The Dawn of Life

Eyewitness: Evolution by Linda Gamlin (Dorling Kindersley)

From DK, Evolution Revolution: From Darwin to DNA

The Tree Of Life: The Wonders Of Evolution by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Judeanne Winter Wiley

We’re Sailing to Galapagos by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Grazia Restelli (Barefoot Books)

The Evolution Book by Sara Stein; out of print but worth checking the library

Evolve or Die (from the Horrible Science series), by Phil Gates

Evolution by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Aliki (Harper, 1989); out of print but well worth finding for the very young

Around the World with Darwin by Millicent Selsam, illustrated by Anthony Ravielli (Harper &  Row, 1961); you can’t go wrong with Millicent Selsam

Books for older children and adults

The Voyage of the HMS Beagle by Charles Darwin, first published in 1845

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (first published in 1859); new illustrated edition, edited by David Quammen

The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin (1871); there is also a new concise edition with selections and commentary by Carl Zimmer (see below)

The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin (1872)

From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books (Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals), by Charles Darwin and edited by Edward O. Wilson

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, edited by Nora Barlow

The Portable Darwin, edited by Duncan M. Porter and Peter W. Graham (from the Viking Portable Library series)

The Norton Critical Edition of Darwin, edited by Philip Appleman (third edition, 20001), first published in 1970 and considered by Dr. Stephen Jay Gould to be “the best Darwin anthology on the market”.

Origins: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1822-1859, edited by Frederick Burkhardt, with a foreword by Stephen Jay Gould.  New anniversary edition published by Cambridge University Press in June 2008.

The Beagle Letters, edited by Frederick Burkhardt, with an introduction by Janet Browne

Evolution: Selected Letters of Charles Darwin, 1860-1870, edited by Frederick Burkhardt, Alison Pearn, and Samantha Evans; with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough. New anniversary edition poublished by Cambridge University Press in June 2008. This volume and the foregoing are a distillation of the late Professor Burkhardt’s 15 volumes (to date) of Darwin’s correspondence.

The Triumph of the Darwinian Method by Michael T. Ghiselin (Dover, 2003)

Charles Darwin: Voyaging and Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, by Janet Browne; Browne’s two-volume biography. She has also written a “biography” of Darwin’s best-known work, Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography (from the Books That Changed the World series)

Darwin’s Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It by Loren Eiseley. Out of print. Find it.

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution by David Quammen

Charles Darwin: The Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man by Tim Berra

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, edited by Stephen Jones, Robert D. Martin, and David R. Pilbeam; with a foreword by Richard Dawkins

The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins

River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life by Richard Dawkins

Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World by Paul D. Stewart

Darwin for Beginners by Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon

Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould

The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth, edited by Stephen Jay Gould

The Richness of Life: The Essential Stephen Jay Gould, edited by Stephen Rose, with a foreword by Oliver Sacks

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould

The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson

The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth by E.O. Wilson

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

Evolution: Society, Science and the Universe, edited by Andrew C. Fabian; with essays by Stephen Jay Gould, Lewis Wolpert, Jared Diamond, Freeman Dyson, and others (Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith by Philip Kitcher (Oxford University Press)

Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science by the Working Group on Teaching Evolution, National Academy of Sciences

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives by David Sloan Wilson

What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr; Dr. Mayr’s speech, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought”, is here.

Evolution by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu (translated by Linda Asher), with photographs by Patrick Gries

From So Simple a Beginning: The Book of Evolution by Philip Whitfield (Macmillan, 1993); out of print

Just A Theory: Exploring The Nature Of Science by Moti Ben-Ari; not specifically about evolution but very useful

Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, edited by Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis, with a foreword by Edward O. Wilson (Belknap Press, February 2009)

Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z by Richard Milner, with a preface by Stephen Jay Gould and foreword by Ian Tattersall (University of California Press, March 2009).

The Young Charles Darwin by Keith Stewart Thomson (Yale University Press, February 2009)

Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated, edited by Dusha Bateson and Weslie Janeway (Glitterati, November 2008)

Darwin: Graphic Biography, a comic book/graphic novel by Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne (January 30, 2009)

Darwin’s Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England by Steve Jones (Little, Brown, January 2009 in UK, March 2009 in Canada); an excerpt in The Guardian, and reviewed in The Economist.  Steve Jones is the author of Darwin’s Ghost.

Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution by Adrian Desmond and James Moore (Houghton Mifflin, January 2009); reviewed in The Economist

Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin’s South America by Eric Simons (Overlook, January 2009)

Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science, and the Visual Arts edited by Diana Donald and Jane Munro (Yale University Press, April 2009); a “lavishly illustrated book” published to accompany an exhibition organized by the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, in association with the Yale Center for British Art

by Charles’s great-great-granddaughter, Darwin: A Life in Poems by Ruth Padel (Knopf, March 2009).  Ms. Padel is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London. She will read from the new book, and converse with geneticist Jonathan Howard, at “Darwin, Poetry and Science”, chaired by Randal Keynes, at the Royal Society, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, Somerset House on Monday, 9 February 2009 at 6:30pm.

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Books by science writer and reporter Carl Zimmer:

Virus and the Whale: Exploring Evolution in Creatures Small and Large, edited by Judy Diamond, with Carl Zimmer, E. Margaret Evans, Linda Allison, and Sarah Disbrow; published by the National Science Teachers Association, 2006. An activity book for teachers and their students, which includes parents and their students.

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Carl Zimmer’s companion guide to the PBS series of the same name (see below)

At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea

Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins

Mr. Zimmer has a ScienceBlog, The Loom: A blog about life, past and future. Not only is there lots of good stuff to read, but he has a regular feature, Science Tattoo Friday, where some of the tattoos are so fascinating and attractive (such as the Copernicus/scientific revolution ones) that I sometimes forget how much I dislike tattoos.

Coloring Books

Galapagos Islands Coloring Book (Dover Coloring Books); for young children

The Human Evolution Coloring Book by Adrienne L. Zihlman (HarperCollins); this one is similar to Wynn Kapit’s books (on geography, physiology, and anatomy) and is not for younger children.

Book lists

PZ Myers at Pharyngula has some of the best online prehistory/evolution reading lists in a variety of categories — “for the kids”, “for the grown-up layman”, “for the more advanced/specialized reader”, etc. (scroll through the comments for more titles).

Coturnix’s book list for adults; he’s moved recently, and is now at ScienceBlogs with A Blog Around the Clock

Magazines, Journals & Articles

The January 2009 issue of Scientific American, entitled “The Evolution of Evolution”; articles include “Darwin’s Living Legacy” and “Testing Natural Selection with Genetics”; Scientific American also offers on February 12, 2009 a special Darwin Day podcast

Scientific American‘s 2002 article by editor John Rennie, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” (including the hoary old chestnut, “Evolution is only a theory”)

New York Times profile of E.O. Wilson, “Taking a Cue From Ants on Evolution of Humans” (July 15, 2008)

Guardian profile of E.O. Wilson, “Darwin’s natural heir” (February 17, 2001)

Verlyn Klinkengborg’s New York Times column, August 2005, Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution” and his editorial today, “Darwin at 200: The Ongoing Force of His Unconventional Idea

On Film

“Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life”, a one-hour BBC One documentary special narrated by Sir David Attenborough, 1 February 2009; Sir David is described in this BBC press release as “a passionate Darwinian”.

Speaking of the BBC, the Beeb is hailing Darwin this year as “The Genius of Evolution” with a variety of special presentations

Evolution” (PBS), narrated by Liam Neeson. There is also a companion volume, Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer (see above); and the PBS program website, with some projects and links for “Teachers and Students”

Dr. Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man”(BBC, 1973), new on DVD (five disc set)

“Growing Up in the Universe” on DVD (two disc set, region-free); Richard Dawkins’s 1991 five one-hour lectures for children, originally televised by the BBC as part of The Royal Institution The Christmas Lectures for Young People, founded by Michael Faraday in 1825.

NOVA: Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution” (PBS)

NOVA: Genius: The Science of Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Galileo” (PBS)

“Inherit the Wind” starring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly; based on the play, Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

On the Big Screen I: The film “Creation”, starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connnelly, based on Annie’s Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter and Human Evolution (published in 2001) by Randal Keynes, Darwin’s great-great-grandson. The movie is adapted from the book by John Collee (Happy Feet and Master & Commander) and directed by Jon Amiel (The Singing Detective). To be released in the autumn of 2009.

On the Big Screen II?: a film adaptation by Chase Palmer of the recent book Evolution’s Captain: The Story of the Kidnapping That Led to Charles Darwin’s Voyage Aboard the Beagle by Peter Nichols (a bargain right now at Barnes & Noble, by the way).  Not much news on this one lately, so it may have fizzled.

Music

Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “Princess Ida”, first performed in 1884, features the song “The Ape and the Lady” (see the accompanying illustration by Gilbert himself below).  You can listen to a 1924 HMV D’Oyly Carte recording; and here are the lyrics from “The Ape and the Lady”,

A Lady fair, of lineage high,
Was loved by an Ape, in the days gone by
The Maid was radiant as the sun,
The Ape was a most unsightly one.
So it would not do ;
His scheme fell through,
For the Maid, when his love took formal shape,
Expressed such terror
At his monstrous error,
That he stammered an apology and made his ‘scape,
The picture of a disconcerted Ape.
With a view to rise in the social scale,
He shaved his bristles, and he docked his tail,
He grew moustachios, and he took his tub,
And he paid a guinea to a toilet club
But it would not do,
The scheme fell through
For the Maid was Beauty’s fairest Queen,
With golden tresses,
Like a real princess’s,
While the Ape, despite his razor keen,
Was the apiest Ape that ever was seen!
He bought white ties, and he bought dress suits,
He crammed his feet into bright tight boots
And to start in life on a bran new plan,
He christened himself Darwinian Man!
But it would not do,
The scheme fell through
For the Maiden fair, whom the Monkey craved,
Was a radiant Being,
With a brain far-seeing
While a Man, however well-behaved,
At best is only a monkey shaved!

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Richard Milner (see above) as “Charles Darwin: Live and In Concert”, and also on CD.  At the website, you can listen to excerpts of “When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish” and “I’m the Guy Who Found Natural Selection”.  The New York Times recently discovered Dr. Milner and has a related science blog post by John Tierney for a science song contest offering “a prize to the Lab reader who comes up with the best lyrics to be sung by Charles Darwin or any other scientist, alive or dead.”

“Origin of Species in Dub” by the Genomic Dub Collective. Yes, that would be reggae. Not just a CD and MP3s, but a DVD too and online videos. And a bonus track, “Dub fi Dover”, to celebrate the outcome in the Dover, Pennsylvania trial. Truly amazing.

Charlie is My Darwinby the Torn Rubbers, official theme song of The Friends of Charles Darwin ; and a bonus,The Darwinian Theoryby John Young, C.E. (to the tune of the Scottish ballad, The King of the Cannibal Islands)

British composer Michael Stimpson is working on a classical piece,Into the Unknown, to celebrate the life and work of Charles Darwin.

Timothy Sellers’ band, Artichoke, released a CD several years ago, 26 Scientists, Volume One: Anning — Malthus; the lyrics and a clip of the song about Darwin, who beat out da Vinci and Doppler for the fourth letter of the alphabet, are here. The CD is $10 at the band’s website and you can buy or download the disc at CD Baby, where you can also read more about it from Timothy Sellers, who was also interviewed by The New York Times.

“Evolutionation” by Dr. Art the Singing Scientist (to the tune of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication”), from the CD “Bio-Rhythms III”

Professor Boggs in his Mad Science Factory sings “Evolution (Not So Scary)”; you can listen to a clip here.

By the way, in my search for Darwinian music, I found something MASSIVE, for those who like to learn, and teach, with music. It is in fact called MASSIVE: a database for “Math And Science Song Information, Viewable Everywhere”. The database, which is maintained by Greg Crowther and is part of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library,

contains information on over 2500 science and math songs. Some of these songs are suitable for 2nd graders; others might only appeal to tenured professors. Some songs have been professionally recorded; others haven’t. Some are quite silly; others are downright serious.

A delight, which you can also listen to all day, all week, all year at MASSIVE Radio — many thanks to Greg Crowther and the band Science Groove for putting it all together. Read more about them here.

Finally, sung to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Model Major General” and inspired by Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements”, here is Amadan’s I Am the Very Model of a C – Design – Proponentsist

The Darwin Day website has a variety of audio files, some from the sources mentioned above

HMS Beagle

Project Beagle website and theBeagle blog

If you or your kids get inspired by Project Beagle and want to build your own — ship, that is — you can, with the HMS Beagle plastic ship model kit (1:96), made in Germany by Revell; “features detailed hull with gunports, deck with hatches, masts, yards, 2 anchors, stairways, sails, railings, wheels, cannon, lifeboats with oars. Also included is yarn for rigging, flag chart and display stand with name plate. Measures 16″ long and 11 3/4″ high.”

HMS Beagle: Survey Ship Extraordinary by Karl Marquardt; part of the Anatomy of the Ship series by Conway Maritime Press, which includes volumes on the Endeavour, Bounty, and Bellona.

Out and about online

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ask a Biologist

Becoming Human website

The Charles Darwin Forum

The Charles Darwin Has a Posse sticker page, from Colin Purrington. Because you can never underestimate the power of a well-placed sticker or bookmark. As I noted in my 2005 Posse post, “As Darwin himself said, and as you can be reminded daily from a bookmark, ‘Doing what little one can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as respectable an object of life as one can, in any likelihood, pursue’.” Colin also has a Charles Darwin/Posse store at Cafe Press where you can outfit yourself completely for the festivities.

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online: “This site contains Darwin’s complete publications, thousands of handwritten manuscripts and the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue ever published; Darwin Online also hundreds of supplementary works: biographies, obituaries, reviews, reference works and more”, including MP3s for your listening edification and pleasure.

Cambridge University’s Darwin Correspondence Project, founded in 1974 by Frederick Burckhardt (see below), with a remarkable online database with the complete, searchable, texts of around 5,000 letters written by and to Darwin up to the year 1865. The project continues despite Professor Burckhardt’s death last fall at the age of 95.

More Darwin at Cambridge, with the Darwin 2009 Festival. Charles Darwin began at Christ’s College Cambridge as a student in 1827, at the age of 18. Four years later he sailed forth on the HMS Beagle. Of his years at university, he once wrote, “The only evil at Cambridge was its being too pleasant.”

Darwin Day Celebration website, with links, events, and other items leading to a celebration of the great man’s bicentennial on February 12, 2009.

Darwin200, a bicentennial project from the Natural History Museum in London, England

Darwin at Downe, his home and neighborhood

Who knew that Darwin had a rose? The gorgeous David Austin series, which sadly doesn’t grow in my chilly garden, includes the Charles Darwin rose, which you can see here.

The Dispersal of Darwin blog, with a long list of Darwin links

Encyclopedia of Life

Evolve2009, commemorating the occasion in and around San Francisco

Colin Purrington is also the force behind the Evolution Outreach Projects page, which includes a wealth of educational and amusing links

Evolved Homeschooling blog — “A collection of evolution and science resources for the secular homeschooler”, webring, and Cafe Press shop

More shopping, over at EvolveFish’s Darwin Day shop

You can join the Friends of Charles Darwin, gratis. FCD has a long list of science and Darwin blogs

National Center for Science Education, and the Center’s page of resources; the NSCE has a new page on the Darwin Bicentennial in the News

Nature Podcast: Darwin

New York Times “Times Topics” page on Charles Darwin

New York Times “Times Topics” page on Evolution

The Panda’s Thumb; Panda’s Thumb Darwiniana links

The Species of Origin

Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science (NY Academy of Sciences)

Understanding Evolution website, created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology; lots of resources for educators and children

Toys for the young and young at heart

(I haven’t ordered from any of the following companies so you’re on your own)

Charlie’s Playhouse: “We make games and toys that teach kids about evolution, natural selection and the work of Charles Darwin”, including a giant timeline floor mat, giant timeline poster, ancient creature cards, and a great selection of t-shirts

Thames & Kosmos Milestones in Science kit

Evolving Darwin Play Set

Charles Darwin bobblehead

Charles Darwin finger puppet

Charles Darwin “Little Thinker” plush toy

Charles Darwin and friends in the Oddfellows Scientists Collection

Charles Darwin fridge magnet

Charles Darwin jigsaw puzzle

Highly evolved Lego: model of the HMS Beagle, Darwin aboard ship, the man, the man in the lab, Origin of the Species

From the Farm School archives

Readers and scientists celebrating Darwin, new books for children

Just a theory, celebrations at Cambridge University

Radio Darwin, radio and television celebrations at the BBC

“Part of nature”, Desmond Morris salutes Charles Darwin as a “Hero for our age”

Science resources for The Coalition On The Public Understanding of Science’s Year of Science 2009. Guess what’s up for February?

Celebrating Christmas with Colin Purrington’s Axis of Evo project

Banned Books Week 2008

The new anti-intellectualism plus scientific illiteracy equals the perfect storm over evolution

Arabella Buckley and Darwin

Lincoln and Darwin together again (2008)

Charles Darwin and Sir David Attenborough, in cold blood

Funny, you don’t look a day over 198 (the original February 2008 version of this post)

I typed this all by myself with my opposable thumbs, a post for the creation museum carnival (May 2007)

Project Beagle (March 2007)

Celebrating Darwin Day: Many happy returns (February 2006)

Charles Darwin Has a Posse (December 2005)

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If you have any additional suggestions or recommendations or corrections (links have moved around by themselves, disappeared, etc. more than once), please add them to the comments below. Thank you!

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“The best Abe Lincolns”

The Horn Book Magazine has a new special feature about the best children’s biographies of our 16th President, from picture books for the youngest readers to titles for young adults.

If you have time to go to the library to find some new reading before tomorrow, go!

Darwin 200: Day 3 III: More Radio Darwin

CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition program finally has available for online listening their show from last Sunday, February 8, which includes ” ‘Darwin’s Ghost,’ a collection of interviews, characters, songs, poems and other stimulating bits about the legacy of Charles Darwin”, and other “debate, discussion and dissection of Darwin” with Brian Alters, Director of Evolution Education Centre at McGill University and the Tomlison Chair in Science Education; poet Ruth Padel, Darwin’s great-great-grandaughter; biologist and Roman Catholic Kenneth Miller; Adam Gopnik on his new book, Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life; as well as selections from Richard Milner’s songs.

Darwin 200: Day 3 II: From a common origin

My father, the Old Curmudgeon, sent me Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s current article for The New Republic, “Charles Darwin, Conservative? Two hundred years later, the right still misunderstands him”.  From which (with a few links I’ve added):

Polls, particularly in the United States, tell us that many conservatives still distrust Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The bicentennial of his birth should be a fitting occasion for the right to take another look at a man who contributed immensely to some ideas that it holds dear.

Darwin was not an atheist but a Victorian believer. He was not a proto-Marxist but a liberal, which in 19th-century Britain meant someone who favored individual liberty over big government. Darwin was an admirer of John Locke and Adam Smith, two of the greatest thinkers of freedom. And although he was influenced by Malthus, whose writings on overpopulation were later used by critics of capitalism to justify collectivism, Darwin used that political economist’s ideas in biology, not political economy.

Darwin did not set out to deny God. Anyone who has read The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man or his correspondence is immediately struck by how careful Darwin was to avoid what we would today call an “ideological agenda.” But this diligent student of nature did make one shattering discovery: not the theory of evolution itself, which had been proposed many times and can be traced back to the Greeks, but the fact that evolution is a random process of natural selection whereby certain variations that become well-adapted to the environment are gradually preserved through hereditary transmission. Ultimately, all species have a common origin.

This finding posed a cataclysmic challenge to the established church, comparable to the re-examination of Aristotle in the 12th and 13th centuries or the displacement of the Earth from the center of the universe in the 16th and 17th centuries. But unlike the teachings of Aristotle, which were absorbed by the church through Thomas Aquinas, and the findings of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, which were reconciled with religion by rational Christianity and Deism, Darwin’s books have remained anathema to many believers. The pope finally accepted his teachings in the 1990s and the Anglican Church recently apologized to him. But for millions of Christians, Darwin remains unacceptable. …

Read the rest here.

Darwin 200: Day 3: Teach Evolution

ateachevol

Colin Purrington is also the force behind the Evolution Outreach Projects page, which includes a wealth of educational and amusing links

National Center for Science Education, and the Center’s page of resources.  And, the NCSE’s latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach — a new journal to promote accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience — is now available online.

Ask a Biologist

Encyclopedia of Life

Scientific American’s 2002 article by editor John Rennie, “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” (including the hoary old chestnut, “Evolution is only a theory”)

Two UK projects for schoolchildren as part of Darwin200:   Survival Rivals and The Great Plant Hunt

Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science by the Working Group on Teaching Evolution, National Academy of Sciences

Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science (NY Academy of Sciences)

Understanding Evolution website, created by the University of California Museum of Paleontology; lots of resources for educators and children

Evolved Homeschooling blog — “A collection of evolution and science resources for the secular homeschooler”, webring, and Cafe Press shop


If you need more resources for teaching evolution, there’s always my old post from last year,

Funny, you don’t look a day over 198

A new home education adventure

I just read over at the I.N.K. blog — Interesting Nonfiction for Kids — that one of our family’s favorite nonfiction authors, Steve Jenkins and his family has plans to travel and begin home schooling. (This week, Steve’s Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution has pride of place on our coffee table along with some other favorite titles to help us celebrate Darwin 200.)  As he writes in his latest post [the added link is mine],

After school is out this June, my wife (and co-author) Robin and I, along with our 10-year-old son, are planning to travel for a year, mostly in a VW camper we recently acquired. This is a trip we’ve been planning for a long time. It began as a sort of escapist fantasy, then, after our two oldest kids left home for college, it began to seem increasingly feasible.  …

What does this have to do with a nonfiction writers’ blog? A couple of things. The trip presents an opportunity to create some sort of record (a book?), perhaps exploring the same experience or place or encounter from three different perspectives. With that in mind, we’ll try to make lots of notes and photos and sketches — book fodder.

Another, more pressing concern (still tangentially related to I.N.K) is the home-schooling component of the trip. Robin and I have settled, for the moment, on a kind of free-form curriculum. At its core is lots of reading — books of Jamie’s choice, which will be mostly fiction, and books we add to the mix, including non-fiction relevant to the places we are visiting.

And just when I’m hoping that Steve and his wife (and co-author) Robin Page will be sharing their adventures by blog, he makes a request or two,

Seriously, I’m guessing lots of you have great ideas and information about home-schooling — or, in this case, road-schooling. Or books we should take along. Or ideas about helping a child with a year’s worth of reading and writing.

So, if you don’t mind, let me know what you think. Feel free to be critical of our educational plans. And if you have links or other resources shoot them over. If I get good stuff, I’ll share it with everyone in a future blog.

You can read the rest of the post, share your thoughts, and learn about Steve’s recommendation for a digital microscope hereJoVE‘s already there…

Darwin 200: Day 2: Highly evolved toys

Some educational, others just for fun:

Toys for the young and young at heart

(I haven’t ordered from any of the following companies so you’re on your own)

If you or your kids get inspired by Project Beagle and want to build your own — ship, that is — you can, with the HMS Beagle plastic ship model kit (1:96), made in Germany by Revell; “features detailed hull with gunports, deck with hatches, masts, yards, 2 anchors, stairways, sails, railings, wheels, cannon, lifeboats with oars. Also included is yarn for rigging, flag chart and display stand with name plate. Measures 16″ long and 11 3/4″ high.”

Charlie’s Playhouse: “We make games and toys that teach kids about evolution, natural selection and the work of Charles Darwin”, including a giant timeline floor mat, giant timeline poster, ancient creature cards, and a great selection of t-shirts

Thames & Kosmos Milestones in Science kit

Evolving Darwin Play Set, more amusing than scientifically accurate

aevolvingdarwin1

Charles Darwin bobblehead

abobblecd

Charles Darwin finger puppet

Charles Darwin “Little Thinker” plush toy

Charles Darwin and friends in the Oddfellows Scientists Collection

aoddfellows

Charles Darwin fridge magnet

Charles Darwin jigsaw puzzle

Yet more CD jigsaw puzzles

Highly evolved Lego: model of the HMS Beagle, Darwin aboard ship, the man, the man in the lab, Origin of the Species

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