Following Trails

Departures, and turning sudden corners.

This was played as a game on Facebook (at Radical Unschooling Info) on July 9, 2015 and that link might work if you would rather read it in that context.

Sometimes if you're in a lull you can play a game with the world, a little like free-association, but more like flipping a coin to see which way to go at an intersection.

Today, there are 1,649 people subscribed to Just Add Light and Stir by feedburner. In 1649, Charles II was being and not being King of England, and the House of Commons proposed the disbanding of the House of Lords. A city came and a city went. In what's now Mongolia, Urga (which meant "palace") was created. But fairly recently (1924, so recent for that city) the name was changed to something that means the city of the red heroes, or so. A city (small city) named Castro, in Italy, which had just recently been spruced up and modernized was razed to the ground by the Pope's little army, for personal reasons.

"Together with the ruins of the Argentine city of St. Ignatius, Castro is the world's only western archaeological site of the 1600's." (read that here: FARNESE AND ITS HISTORY, and I could go and read about St. Ignatius, in Argentina to see what happened there, but I'll eat breakfast instead).

This doesn't have to do with Just Add Light and Stir, except in the random connection I picked up and followed, which lead to history and trivia, and when there isn't going to be a test, there is no such thing, really, as trivia. I know a little more than I knew before.

Don't hesitate to follow little trails, and to quit when something else is more interesting. What other kinds of trails have people here followed? I'll add a couple of my own below.

Sandra Dodd:
I have followed a particular actor or writer or director, to watch movies or TV shows he was involved with.

It's a sort of "collect the whole set," only I never cared if it wasn't all of them. Three or four seem like "a set."


I like the look of movies by Franco Zeffirelli, if they're set in the Middle Ages or Renaissance. They're like a series of paintings, as though any frame could be stand-alone art. Maybe I like his art directors or cinematographers; haven't followed those trails to find out.

Sandra Dodd:

I've followed Ninja Turtles trails for Kirby's benefit when he was a kid, and brought back books printed in the UK, where they were totally re-edited without nunchuks [in the books and toys, they gave Michaelangelo swords (I saw), but in the videos they just edited stuff out (I've read).]

I found him a calendar that was from Mexico, with other Ninja Turtle art he'd never seen.

Sandra Dodd:

In India, they make plastic versions of the clay water pots they made for a long time. Before plastic, they were metal.

Where I live (and I don't know whether it's all of my ancestry's neighborhoods, too), we have plastic buckets that are like the metal buckets we had before that were the same shape as the wooden buckets that were made way before my time.

We also have plastic jugs, like for milk and for maple syrup, that are like things that were made of glass before, that were like things made of pottery before that.

hand pumps, siphons, water containers [also, later, Plastic copies of metal copies of...]

Sara St. Clair:

When I was in college, my campus mail box number was 1889. I vaguely recalled that Washington became a state in 1889, and every time I walked down to the student union building, I thought of it. Later, reading books (as an adult, for fun) on other historical events, I was able to place the founding of Washington into historical context with the rest of the world.

And that has more to do with how people form timelines of history in their heads, but for me it started as a mail box number that became a date I sort of claimed as my own special year.

Colleen Prieto:

The past couple weeks, we're following a comedy trail. We came across an old George Carlin video on YouTube, which Robbie (age 12) found incredibly funny. So we added a couple George Carlin DVDs to our Netflix queue, and watching those led me to remember how funny I thought Steven Wright was back in the day - so we found one of his DVDs on Netflix as well. Watched that the other night - totally different style than Mr Carlin 🙂- and now today we have a Whoopi Goldberg DVD arriving, for something totally different again.

Meanwhile, I have Sister Act in our queue in case Whoopi is a hit 🙂 and Robbie is trying to come to terms with the idea that he's going to see Guinan (from Star Trek Next Generation - one of his favorite shows, and another connection/trail link...) before she was Guinan, doing stand-up comedy. He's really looking forward to it!

Sandra Dodd:
Following a Whoopi Goldberg trail is going to go all directions! 🙂

She's great. My kids liked her in a movie called "Bogus," when they were young. We used to rent it on video tape. I LOVE Sister Act. I should watch Soap Dish again. She's in that and so is Kevin Kline

I first saw Kevin Kline in The Pirates of Penzance, so I always want him to sing and dance in every movie, but he irritatingly doesn't much, but he did in "Dave"—broke into "Oklahoma," I think it was, when nobody was looking. Dave's a good movie.

There's a thing that goes around facebook that says you can tell a lot about a person by where they recognize Tim Curry from. I had seen it a few times over several months. Two days ago, my husband mentioned it to me. Yesterday, I was fixing breakfast for our resident six-year-old girl, Devyn, and she was watching a video on YouTube that started to sound more and more familiar, and then I heard Tim Curry. The Wild Thornberries! 🙂 [For me, Rocky Horror Picture Show first. For some people, when he was on Roseanne. For my friend Barb, Hunt for Red October.]

Anna Black:
My daughters recognise him from the old Annie movie.

Jillian Frank:

Oh! The old Annie movie. I don't know which came first for me, Clue or Annie, but those were my first encounters with Tim Curry. More recently, I found out that he read my favorite book series (The Abhorsen Chronicles -Sabriel, Lireal, and Abhorsen) for the audio recording of them. (Books are written by Garth Nix, in case you're looking for a fantastic fantasy series. Fantastic.)

Sandra Dodd:
I know there are people who have a lot of knowledge of the history of something they use or like—saddles, bicycles, house construction, tools, some class of musical instruments or another (recorders, pianos, guitars); of cooking tools or ingredients, or of a particular ingredient; a song, an author, the manufacture of books or records; an author, or of a genre. Nearly anything you touch has a history, and some trails to follow. Ball point pens Felt tip pens. Ink! I got a note and antique post card from friends in The Netherlands, and while that was wonderful (a painting of kids with a wheelbarrow, by a famous artist), what was REALLY exciting was the ink! The note was written with a fountain pen or dip pen, and the ink had a depth and reflectiveness I'd never seen. I asked right away. It's Sailor Ink, from Japan.

Sailor Jentle Yama-dori Ink Review

That reviewer wrote "beautiful shading and some red sheen," of an ink that was teal.

That could lead to the history of pigments, in paints.

And that could lead to color theory and how fully different it is in stage lighting than in solid-on-paper.

People who understand this sort of curiosity will have an easier time unschooling. If this is new to you, play with it—follow some trails.

I went to admire this again. It's too expensive for me, and I'm not doing calligraphy anymore, but the idea that it exists and that I recognized it as something amazing from seeing it on paper (at my house, on paper sent from The Netherlands) still makes me smile.

You don't need to share these interests with your kids. The practice of your own explorations and seeing the value in random connections will help you appreciate your children's wonderful finds.

Anna Black:
Oh Japanese ink! I've seen it and ground it up from the ink stone. I first saw it in an anime film called Ranma about 17 years ago; a character wants to write something and instead of pulling out a pen he kneels down and starts feverishly grinding an inkstone.

It's a funny moment developing this character - insisting on tradition among his more ordinary high school friends.

Anna Black:
While re-watching the series Deadwood lately I got interested in finding out which characters were based on real people.

According to Wikipedia Al Swerengen, Seth Bullock, Sol Star, the Reverend, Dan and Johnny were all real people. Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock and Charlie Utter of course.

In the show, the Reverend suffered from a brain tumour and was murdered by Al, in real life he was murdered by Native Americans, there was a photo of him looking a lot like the actor who played him.

Then I read all about Calamity Jane's life, death and motherhood and thought about how much the Doris Day film left out.

Sandra Dodd:
I remembered a site that had something special about each number up into a couple of hundred years ago. WELL! They've kept on going!

1649 is a "Leyland Number." The explanation for what that means went beyond my interest or ability, but some here might care.

"The first few Leyland numbers are 8, 17, 32, 54, 57, 100, 145, 177, 320, 368, 512, 593, 945, 1124 " says this page: Leyland Numbers

And the list-of-numbers page is What's Special About This Number?

I went there because of something I'm writing for tomorrow, about Learn Nothing Day.

Sylvia Woodman:
My kids have been playing a video game that explores how disease spreads which we bought because someone on FB mentioned that Steam was having a Summer sale so we went to browse....and one of the tricky parts of the game is to get the disease to spread to Greenland, which was a place I had honestly never thought about before.

So I googled it and read some articles and found out about the relationship between Greenland and Denmark, which led to some articles (some quite sad) about colonialism, but other threads lead me to language origins and how there are two types of Greenlandish depending on whether you are from the East Coast of Greenland and the West Coast of Greenland. How Greenland is considered to be "above the tree-line" which means it is so far north that no trees can grow there.

And now we are trying to imagine what it might be like to have the sun go down sometime in October and not rise again until February....And the northern lights....And I found a lovely book about a woman who spent a lot of time in Greenland on Amazon, and I'm wondering what seal tastes like (the kids have no interest in trying it but might be open to reindeer stew if I can find some ingredients....it must be similar to venison, right?)

Jenny Cyphers:

I've done a lot of theater tech stuff, but until recently I'd never done set painting. Mixing colors for sets is interesting. I'm learning a lot from a woman who has done it professionally for years. Two things written above made me think about it. She worked on the set for Sister Act. Mixing color pallets for a set is interesting because you do need to account for how it will be lit. Stage lighting changes the color dynamic a lot. You also need to account for costuming because whatever an actor wears on stage needs to not overly stand out and not overly blend in. This applies to all the actors and their various costumes. That's something I've always paid attention to, but now I bounce them off the background and the general set, just as much as I pay attention to the costume itself.

Jo Isaac:
We watched the movie The Help together, a while ago - it led to a trail on information about Martin Luther King Jr, and the civil rights movement in the US. Not long after, we watched X-Men Days of Future Past - Magneto was in prison for the shooting of JFK...that led to a trail of information about JFK and theories on why he was shot, which led back to Martin Luther King and civil rights....it was very cool - two unrelated movies leading to related trails about history in a different country to ours. We both learnt a lot

Sandra Dodd:
Once Marty and I went to the movies. He was 13 or 14—an afternoon showing, and no hurry to get home. So at the end, I wanted to sneak into another theater to see a Lord of the Rings preview or some such, and we sat, and the next movie started, and we decided to stay if they didn't throw us out.

This movie, unrelated (except by mid-19th-century timeframe), had three things in common with the one we had just paid to see: A large but portable plate-camera being used outside; a personal journal shown open with a drawing on one side and writing on the other; a person of European descent who could speak a native-American language.

"The Missing" is the one we paid to see, because friends of ours had worked on it and we wanted to see what we could recognize, because it was filmed near us. "The Last Samurai" was the one we ended up sneaking in to.

Sandra Dodd:
Today I learned a connection between England, WWI, fashion, and South Korean perverts (not all of them, a particular type).

Burberry, an English coatmaking company (since branched out) the designers of trench coats and other famous coats) has its name in a Korean phrase. They use "Burberry" in it, and it is "Burberry man" and means a flasher, naked under a coat. "Flasher" is the everyday American term. "Exhibitionist" is more technical.

It's not a very useful connection, but I did flash on (not FLASH-flash) James Burke and wondered if he knew. Keith just yesterday ordered a James Burke "Connections" DVD from Netflix. I told Keith those are some of the first things ever to be on Netflix, but he didn't care. He likes DVDs. What an old-fashioned guy.

And this week I've been listening to "At Home: A Short History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson, talking about a house he lived in a village in Norfolk, in England, for a long time, and explaining every room and feature in terms of the length and breadth of history (as he is wont to do), and I thought of how much like the James Burke series this was—Connections, and The Day the Universe Changed.

I doubt Bryson's definition of "private" will extend to trench coats outside of schoolyards in South Korea, but if it does, I hope he knows they named them for Burberry's.

From the inside

From the outside, unschooling may look like no chores, no bedtimes, no education, no discipline, no structure, no limits, etc. But from the inside, it's about learning, relationships, living with real parameters, partnership, navigating turbulence, making connections, joy, curiosity, focus, enthusiasm, options, following trails, fun, growing understanding, opening doors...
—Debbie Regan

photo by Ve Lacerda

Thinking Sticks: Playing with Ideas
(a connections blog by Sandra Dodd)



Jubilation and Triangulation,
about "The Pirates of Penzance," sci-fi space shows, video games about triangles, and the word "hypotenuse" coming up over and over.