Saturday, November 12, 2005

Nudes, ducks, chopsticks, ants, the "Ode to Joy." In related news, "Granny is swimming across her pool."

Two days ago we mentors got a pep-talk about stretching our kids, so yesterday I took 10-year-old Menticia two places we'd never been before.

First, we went to the brand-new Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. High point for me: Mayan and African masks and statues. Low point: a row of video pieces - for instance, of a shlumpy grumpy white-haired lady dressed like a wood sprite with (perhaps) a tiara and a magic wand, and green slippers - or flippers - on her feet, barking like a dog, and then there was the long black and white movie of a guy in a business suit standing still in a rain forest (or maybe just a rain-foresty set) staring silently at the camera.

In a different room we both marvelled equally at a totally huge angry-looking rubbery head mounted on the wall. Very realistic huge ears and lips and gigantic beard stubble! And such an irritable expression!

Menticia, far less judgmental than I, read many of the captions throughout the exhibits, inspecting most installations thoroughly. She gave the nudes, however, a wide berth. Nobody in her household sees anybody else naked, not even she and her 11-year-old sister, who sleep together in the same bed. There were more male private parts on display than she was ready for.

After the museum we went to the big pond in Duke Gardens and Menticia methodically tried to scare every one of the many, many ducks into the water. They were not easy to scare. It was fun to watch.

We saw a patient and calm Great Blue Heron scanning the shallow waters from an arched bridge over the pond - here is a picture of the selfsame heron taken a while back by Jaime Tafoya.

Then we saw unbelievably colorful Chinese Ducks - this picture of the selfsame ducks was taken by Matthew Cromer.

Then we were hungry, and following the do-what-we-don't-usually-do plan, we went to Banh's Cuisine (Vietnamese and Chinese) and had Ginger Shrimp. Menticia, applying the same methodical approach she uses in duck-scaring and, in general, to the acquisition of all new skills, was very good with chopsticks.

Last week we had begun translating Oye, Hormiguita (Listen, Little Ant); when we got back to my place after lunch yesterday we finished. Oye, hormiguita turns out to be a cliff-hanger, witness Menticia's translation of the last page: "Should he squish her or should he let her live? That's something only the boy can decide. Let's leave him there with his foot in the air. Do you think he should let it down?"

Menticia spotted my huge library of English/Spanish picture books and gobbled about half a dozen. I gave her a few to take home because she likes reading to her little sister.

She's only got two chapters to go in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so we made a plan to go see the movie next week when it gets to town.

She wanted to stay long enough for us to go out to dinner, so to round out the afternoon she asked me to teach her "Ode to Joy" (she called it something else) on the piano. Why? I dunno. I think maybe she wants to learn it for a talent show at school. OK, so she learned it.

Then, on the way to dinner, I turned on the cd I had in the car: L'integrale by Boby LaPointe. Alice Kaplan, a French professor at Duke who sang soprano in my "Solstice Assembly" vocal ensemble back then, had played a LaPointe song for me about twenty years ago - it made me laugh so hard I cried. It's called "From Two to Two" and it's about French people learning to speak English. I'd bought the imported 2-cd set on the strength of that one song.

Yesterday, then, this wonderful and unexpected surprise: Menticia, who is studying French at school, instantly loved and started to obsess on this very song. She replayed it about eight times in a row, trying to learn it on the fly. She complained the words were going by mighty fast. "Granny is swimming across her pool." Here is the mp3 for you...
From Two to Two

And as a great bonus, the album cover, by Frédéric Rébéna, is one of my alltime favorites. This is only about 25% of it.

If you want to have this kind of fun, be a mentor!

Update: More French Humor.

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At 4:20 PM, Blogger kenju said...

Love the music and the album cover!
Menticia is a lucky girl to have you.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Ron Hudson said...

I loved your post and the link to More French Humor. If you are a fan of French Folk music and humor, you would possibly (although maybe not) enjoy Georges Brassens. His lyrics are quite humorous in a French lay-philosopher and/or sexual deviate way. Worth investigating!



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