Tag Archives: classical music

Fossil Rhythm

I saw one of my coworkers had a Saint-Saens CD and she let me borrow it. I remember dancing (using the word very loosely) to the ancient record of it my parents had when I was a little girl. I didn’t realize or remember that one of the movements was called fossils.


Apparently Ogden Nash was hired to write a series of short poems to go along with the movements. Some of them are pretty bad/badly dated. But the introduction one is excellent and I very much like the images of his fossils poem!



by Ogden Nash


At midnight in the museum hall

The fossils gathered for a ball

There were no drums or saxophones,

But just the clatter of their bones,

A rolling, rattling, carefree circus

Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.

Pterodactyls and brontosauruses

Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.

Amid the mastodontic wassail

I caught the eye of one small fossil.

“Cheer up, sad world,” he said, and winked-

“It’s kind of fun to be extinct.”


A charming reading and performance. And because I’m a sucker for the imagery: a series of fossil stamps from around the world set to the same piece. (Oh, and I want most of those stamps!)

Along the fossils theme–I visited the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits weekend before last. Had a few hours to kill before a family wedding so decided to go take a look despite everyone saying it was just a pit and not worth it.


Apparently they didn’t notice the museum you have to walk around to see said tar pits and not a one went in… It’s a nice little museum, I went in and goggled at the fossils they’ve found in the pits. They range from the huge Columbian Mammoth they have on display to the teeny mouse toes in their Fishbowl Lab to the vast quantity of dire wolf skulls on the wall…yes, dire wolves were real creatures and weren’t invented for fantasy novels….


Basically the tar pit is just that-natural asphalt. Animals would get stuck to the tar, and not all would be able to escape. Those that got stuck would attract predators and scavengers, and some of those would also get trapped. So it’s a whole ecosystem of life, predation and death from 11,000 to 50,000  years ago preserved in a smelly sticky mess! (How the La Brea Tar Pits Work for more details.)


I didn’t have enough time to take one of the tours, so I can’t vouch for those. But the atrium was lovely, and the displays were very nicely done. They have some assemblages of bird fossils and then a painting of what it might have looked like right behind it in the display case.

A short photo essay I found on the museum. (Their photos turned out better than mine!)


(Okay, the animatronic mammoth is seriously dated besides being the wrong species, but kids seemed to love it.)


So if you’re in the area and up for braving the insanity of traffic in LA, stop by and go inside. Take time to walk through the park too.

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Filed under Natural Science

On stories, spelling, and 1001 nights…

“The Sultan Shakriar, convinced of the falsehood and inconstancy of all women, had sworn an oath to put to death each of his wives after the first night. However, the Sultana Sheherazade saved her life by arousing his interest in the tales that she told him during 1001 nights. Driven by his curiosity, the Sultan postponed her execution from day to day, and at last abandoned his sanguinary design. Sheherazade told many miraculous stories to the Sultan. For her tales she borrowed verses from the poets and words from folk-songs combining fairy-tales with adventures.” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s preface to his Sheherazade score.

My friend Jenny convinced me to enter a doll in the Eastern States Exposition this year. (After two years of trying and me wimping out.) I decided to enter one of my fairytale inspired dolls, and opted for Sheherazade.  She has (possibly too) many friends. It started with the blue one, entirely Disney’s fault, that blue=genie. Then came the mix of modern comic artists and Victorian illustrators, and I had to do a multicolored rush of them, and a Sheherazade to tell the tales. She ended up taking a red ribbon at the show, so once the holidays are a distant memory I’ve got to start plotting how to get a blue one next year. (To at least color match Jenny’s many fiber ribbons. She even spun the red highlights in Sheheradade’s hair; how many dolls get custom highlights?!)

Color and shape-wise I was first influenced by the vibrancy of P. Craig Russell’s  work in the story Ramadan. (This is a story in the amazing Neil Gaiman’s  Sandman.) Then I saw the work by Mark Buckingham and Daniel Vozzo in the series Fables, not as striking as Russell’s but great movement and hints of detail. (Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a bit of a geek. These are both wonderful comics/graphic novels steeped in art, history, literature, philosophy, and the liberal arts in general and seasoned with complex story arcs and an off sense of humor.)

I like using the more brilliant colors of modern influences in my dolls, but really want to catch a hint of the delicacy of the Victorian/Edwardian illustrators.  For example, the gentleness of the fabrics in Dulac’s Sheherazade.  I also want to figure out how to make her curled Turkish slippers.

I will guiltily admit that I’ve only read the Burton translation of 1001 Nights and that only in pieces. I find a distressing number of the characters really annoying. Sinbad especially. He goes on an adventure, everyone dies but him, he marries and becomes wealthy, then gets bored and goes on an adventure and everyone dies…rinse and repeat. You’d think he’d learn…

I’d heard that a conductor I liked was going to be working with our local symphony, and how two of the pieces were interpretations of the 1001 Nights. So of course I had to go. They played Ravel’s song cycle based on three poems, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s suite , both called Sheherazade. I enjoyed them both, though I’ll confess that I’d like Ravel’s cycle better without the poems!

*note on spelling* Sheherazade and Scheherazade are two different anglicized varients of Shahrazad. It’s a Persian name that means ‘person of the city.’ I tend to use the one without the ‘c’ just because that’s what I’ve run across, like these two music pieces. Apparently with the ‘c’ is more common among certain translations, and is the one microsoft prefers.


Filed under Art, Books, Crafts