Thursday, February 23, 2017

OVO bugs and bendy things

The ants play with their food in OVO

The red ants, the cockroaches, jumping spiders and walking sticks that crawl, roll and wiggled their way into The Maverick Center Wednesday night haven't been told that most of the things they do are, in fact, impossible to do.
People and insects don't bend that way. They can probably jump that high but to land in a heap without injury is a real trick.
To see the "OVO" show is to accept an invitation to live in the chaotic, wild world of tiny creatures for a couple of hours, a world where something wooly called a "Creatura" folds, flops over, shrinks and peers about with no discernible substance to it.
It's a world that is filled with stunts performed by artists who can walk on the tight wire bearing a chair or a cycle with no hesitation, artists who fly through the air and disappear into the floor with no apparent effort.
Acrobats swing and catch hold and release with no worry as to whether somebody is going to catch them. They're fearless.
This is a show of talent and song and dance and color.
The costuming alone is stunning, from the blue-colored, spiky insect who shows up dragging the egg he found to the green grasshoppers and spinning spiders.
The egg they've found has everybody curious along with the audience.
As they attempt to understand it, OVO becomes basically a series of inventive circus acts that defy physics.
There's really no narrative but it's fairly simple to follow the "story" if one doesn't insist on it all making sense.
The insects are curious.
The Ladybug and friends
They hop, jump, climb and dance — even sword fight with imaginary swords and war over females — without stopping.
Right off, the industrious-minded ants twirl and juggle giant kiwi and corn cobs with their feet.
They spin food discs like pizza.
Which way to bend?
A yo-yo trickster does the splits as he send the yo-yo wheels 50 feet into the air (one, two, three and four at once!).
Youngsters and teens and adults will like this although really little kids will cotton to some parts more than others.
OVO is different. It's colorful. The choreography is bold, the performers are skilled, doing tricks that amaze and make one gasp, especially in the second half.
There's plenty to marvel at, from the tarantula to the wall-climbers.
It's also a chance to see where working hard in gymnastics class can pay off someday.
OVO is in town through the 26th with tickets costing between $25 for children and $39-$135 for adults. More information available at the website: Be aware parking is $10 a car and it takes forever to get out of the lot after the show.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Scorekeeping and science

I hope I didn't dash anyone's dreams last night.
I helped judge a science fair and it was a challenge for me.
Not that I don't understand basic science and how to make a decent presentation. (I'm the kid who made a whole solar system out of salt dough and toothpicks, after all!)
But weighing the pros and cons of 10 projects that all looked to me like tons of work is difficult.
I wanted to give every one 100 points.
But there were barriers to that kind of outcome.
First of all, I was working from a smart device that was challenging me.
To be fair, I showed up late for the training so the people showing me the ropes had to hurry and gloss over the finer points.
I learned to get onto the Wifi and to pull up the judging form.
I understood there were 100 points possible and I knew I wasn't supposed to be a scary judge. I was also told NOT to give everybody the maximum points.
What I didn't know was what to do with situations like where no one showed up. After I put down a zero for those missing projects, someone made an announcement on the overhead speaker: "Please do NOT put a zero for missing projects. It messes up our system."
(When I told the guy in charge I'd already done that twice, he sighed. "It's okay. Someone always does that. I'll fix it.")
I also couldn't figure out how to put subjective impressions into numerical conclusions.
There were several projects I liked because they were more fun than most of the others. One pair of girls had made what they called a "Fidget Phone," designed to give your fingers something to do while you're waiting for a test, a lecturer to finish or a light to change.
I also enjoyed a project about using the Golden Mean to measure beauty.
I thought that was creative but did it beat the guy's 5-foot tall poster about an obscure gene that predicts cancer?
Did fish feces fed to plants mean more in the long run than whether or not distilled water froze better and harder than soft and hard water?
What about the fact that when plants were subjected to heavy metal music, they withered and died?
How about the kid who decided it didn't matter if you stayed up late the night before a test. "It doesn't affect me," he said, "or my friends." He had spent one whole evening measuring the effect.
I did my best.
I listened.
I read the boards.
I looked at the pictures and the charts.
I tried to sense whether the kids competing really learned very much from their experiements and effort.
At the same time, I tried to avoid losing the judging form into cyberspace.
We had to leave before I heard the final results and I can't help but worry a little.
What if I've nipped an Einstein in the bud?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Checking it out....

I almost didn't do it.
I felt a little sheepish as I headed to the elementary school to check one of my granddaughters out for a visit to the bakery.
She'd won a participation prize in the school art contest and couldn't wait to collect it.
Her mom hadn't had the chance to take her to get it. (Besides which she had three other children to consider who hadn't won a prize.)
So I had offered to take her.
I'm usually running around doing errands about that time and it would be easy for me to get her and take her.
But as I approached the school I began to think about what I would say if the office personnel asked me why I was taking her out.
It wasn't a wholly legitimate thing. She didn't have to see a doctor or a dentist or anything like that.
She'd only miss about a half hour of school but I didn't want to make her think I don't consider going to school very important.
Fortunately, no one asked me why I wanted to check her out.
The lady at the desk simply said, "She'll be down in a minute."
I went over to the stairs to meet her and found this 8-year-old girl flying down the hall with a huge grin on her face.
She was absolutely thrilled.
I hadn't told her I was coming so when she heard her name on the overhead speaker she was surprised.
She grabbed her backpack and headed for the door but not before telling her friends she was getting checked out.
They were all jealous, she said.
She grooved on it.
She told me it had been the most boring day of school ever up until then.
She said they weren't doing anything important and, in fact, she said usually they all got in trouble during the last part of the day. Kids would misbehave and then everybody in the class ended up having to put their heads down on the desks "when it wasn't even their fault!"
She thanked me over and over.
We had a good time.
So I'm happy I went ahead and got her. I'm glad I could spare her that heads-down experience.
The question is, what about tomorrow?