Thursday, July 26, 2012

FIRSTS IN SPACE – Sally Ride, Soviet Cosmonauts, Fruit Flies, Monkeys, and NAZI V-2 Rockets

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space died recently and that set me to thinking.  If Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, who was the first woman in space?  

From the back of my mind came the face of a Soviet cosmonaut from the early 1960s.  With a little Googling around, I came up with the forgotten name to go with that face:  Valentina Tereshkova, who flew for the now-defunct U.S.S.R space program back on 16 June 1963, making her the first woman in space.  But due to Cold War politics, she faded from America’s memory.  Ms Ride flew on the space shuttle Challenger,18 June 1983, 20 years after Tereshkova flew in space. 

Despite being the third woman in space, Sally Ride is The Woman of Space to many Americans.  The real poke in the eye for astronaut women was the fact that Geraldine Cobb was the first U.S. woman to undergo astronaut testing, but the program was scrapped in 1961.  Who knows, Ms Cobb might have had the honor of being the first woman in space had things gone differently.  As an aside, Svetlanta Savitskaya was the first woman to walk in space on 17 June 1984, with a walk that lasted over three hours.

So this mania of space firsts led me to wonder as to what was the first animal in space from those primitive launches of V-2s, to Sputnik, to recent history, and I have the answers here:

- First chimp in space was Ham who flew on a U.S. Project Mercury rocket on 31 January 1961.

- First dog in space was Laika, who flew for the Soviet Union on 3 November 1957.

- First monkey in space was Albert, a rhesus monkey who flew on a captured V-2 rocket on 11 June 1948, launched by the USA.

- First insects in space – fruit flies launched in U.S. V-2 rocket 1947.  Earlier 1946 flights did not fly high enough to enter space, only ascending 38 miles.  See below.#

- First plant in space – corn launched in the same U.S. V-2 rocket that carried the fruit flies in 1947.

- Despite the Muppet Show, there never were any Pigs In Space, sorry Ms. Piggy

I’ve got to wonder, who will the first child in space be?  This comes from an old Lost In Space Fan, both the comic book and the TV show.  It’s kind of funny that monkeys, chimps, dogs, fruit flies, and even corn beat human beings into space.  Think about that next time you have corn for dinner or bat at a pesky fly!

Ham, the first chimp in space is buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, just an early missile’s shot from where Robert Goddard, inspired by H. G. Wells* and early science fiction, tested his primitive rockets and where the U.S. tested and launched captured NAZI V-2 rockets on White Sands in the late 1940s.  

Sally Ride is gone and so is the chance to meet her, but Valentinia Tereshkova is still alive and it would be really nice if some large SF convention with a good budget could get her to attend as Astronaut Guest of Honor.  I’d really like to meet her.  I’m sorry I never got to meet Sally Ride.

It’s a shame the space race during the Cold War was such a politicized affair of us versus them although that drove the U.S. into space.   It’s also a shame that Sally Ride is being made into a political statement after her death.  She flew as a human being, a woman, and an American, listed in no particular order.  She is survived her ex-husband, astronaut Steve Hawley (1982-1987) and by Tam O’Shaughnessey, her partner of the past 27 years, and by millions of aspiring astronauts that looked up to Sally Ride … as a person.
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*H. G. Wells died 13 August 1946, I don’t know if he was aware of the 1946 White Sands rocket tests or his impact on Goddard, but I’d like to think he did.

#Note:  The boundary of space is not always defined uniformly by different agencies at different times.  Such as the Karman Line 100km (62 miles) used by the Federation Aeronautic International, NASA mission control using 122 km (76) miles as re-entry altitude, and the U.S.A uses the definition of 50 miles  (80km) as space in determining who is an astronaut.  These boundaries become important when applying U.N. Space Law.

An article about animals in space
An article about outer space in general
An article about weightlessness

Monday, July 23, 2012

KEN GRIMES Has Left The Convention

On 18 July 2012 fandom lost another true fan. Dr. Kennard Allen Grimes, better known as Ken Grimes.  Ken was a well-known feature of CoastCons and in fact was an attendee of the first CoastCon, way back in 1978.  He attended while Ken was working on a degree in microbiology at USM in Hattiesburg.   Later he made it a point to travel down from Tennessee, where he made his home to attend CoastCons.

For years, he was CoastCon’s official photographer and keeper of the archive, taking photos and keeping a record of CoastCon’s activities.  Every year he traveled from Tennessee with the archive to exhibit to exhibit its arcane contents to wondering fans. He was honored as CoastCon 35’s Fan Guest of Honor this past year, for his years of support and work.

Less known about the fan Ken Grimes was the fact that he held a Ph.D. in microbiology, so he was not only a fan of SF, but was part of the cutting edge of scientific discovery.  He also played the banjo, loved bluegrass music and SF, scale models, and was a big attendee of conventions, such as CoastCon, Dragon Con and several World Cons over the years.

Ken was always there with his camera and archive and became a permanent fixture of CoastCon.  He died suddenly and his memorial service was held at Mount Olive Cemetery Funeral Home.  We will miss your quiet fannishness, Ken, our ranks are a little thinner with your passing.  I wish I had chatted with you’re a little longer, but I didn’t know this was your last attendance.

I would like to put out a request to the present sitting committee of CoastCon, Inc. to name the archive in honor of Ken Grimes.  I think it’s a fitting reminder of the perennial fan and supporter of CoastCon.


Monday, July 2, 2012

FEDORA – the hat of intrigue and danger

You might be surprised about the origin of the fedora hat as well as the hipster icon hat, the trilby.

The fedora is a hat that has remained popular off an on for about a century in all its incarnations.  But did you know that this venerable hat, so associated with 1930s adventure, P.I.s., film noir, and glamour was born from a play?  Victorien Sardu wrote a play for the Victorian superstar Sarah Bernhardt in 1882, called Fedora, which was also the name of the main character.  Sarah Bernhardt wore a hat while playing Fedora on stage and due to this, the hat became very popular and was referred to as a fedora.

Actually, the term fedora covers a variety of hat styles such as the homburg, trilby, and a variety of other hats that have no specific name but similar in style.  The hat may have grown from the mid-Victorian slouch hat, which was popular in the American Civil War.  The slouch hat was rather shapeless but could be formed by the owner.  They were considered an informal hat worn by workers.  But somehow this shapeless hat of the proletariat became stylish and the hat we know and love as the fedora.

Fedoras are one of those hats that are evocative of the 20th century and well ensconced in literature and film of the period.  The aura of danger comes from the association with gangsters, real and fictional and the later film noir genre.  The most famous 20th century film characters wearing fedoras are Indiana Jones and Humphrey Bogart’s many tough guy roles such as Sam Spade, Duke Mantee, and as the bedraggled American adventurer/prospector Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Good guys wore fedoras like Indy and Dick Tracy, but bad guys did too, like Al Capone and other gangsters.  The fedora didn’t make you good or bad, but by your deeds you were known and unlike film westerns, the color of your had didn’t predict your character’s actions.

The trilby hat also has literary and Victorian roots.  It comes from the book Trilby by George du Maurier published in 1894 and was a runaway best seller.  On a side-note, Bram Stoker may have used the hypnotism hook by of the evil mesmerist, Svengali in Trilby, when he wrote Dracula (1897), which was also a best seller.  Trilbies can be made of many different materials from hand woven wool, to snappy straw, now so trendy among hipsters.  The trilby also has associations with the Tyrolean hat, so popular in southern Germany and Austria. 


Vintage fedoras and trilbies can get quite pricy although you can get lucky sometimes and get one for a good price.  There are a number of hat makers who still make fedoras such as the classic Stetson, and the internet is full of fedoras for sale.  Always try to get the best possible quality and condition, because a good hat can last you a lifetime. 

If you find one you like but want to tweak the shape, you can reshape and reform a hat into a fedora form by using steam, but be careful not to get burned.  I have reshaped a number of hats to a more likeable form using the teakettle steam technique.  It allows you to direct the steam and work the area without wilting the whole hat.
For costuming, a fedora can make a very simple costume pop and a homburg can make a three piece suit look like a high roller.  Make sure you store your hats in a clean, dry area in your house and not in an attic, garage or basement.  Any box can make a hatbox if you don’t have an original one available.  Don’t seal up you hat in a plastic container because of the danger of mold due to condensation inside the box.  Let the hat breath a little and add a mothball or better yet, cedar chips which will keep the insects away from the delicious felt.  Believe it or not, moths are less of a hazard than crickets, who seem to just munch away wildly.  This is true of all felt and wool items, so keep your costumes and gear safe.  A fedora makes a good item for Steampunk, a Call of Cthulhu game or any RPG, as a clue or a prop.

As a companion post, see my post:   A Brief History of Trench Coats
For more adventurer hats, see also:   Pith Helmets, Sun Helmets, and Sola Topees
Slouch hats, more adventurer hats, added 28 April 2013:  Slouch Hats, Bush Hats, Big Game Hunters, andExplorers

The play Fedora  was written for Sarah Bernhardt by Victorien Sardu  is available for free download from Google Books by clicking on the link.

The book Trilby by George du Maurier is available for free download from Project Gutenberg by clicking on the link.

The book Dracula by Bram Stoker is available for free download from Project Gutenberg by clicking on the link.

This was my 100th post since starting the CoastConFan Blog.  I really appreciate the support and interest in this obscure niche blog.  I also appreciate the many bloggers who are so sharing of information and images in their blogs and posts.  I hope to continue blogging for years to come.  Thanks!                 CoastConFan

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UPDATE:  a reader sent in this amusing photo that he thought pretty much summed up the state of hat wearing today.  I must admit I used to wear a vintage (1930s) fedora but had to stop because of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie that came out in 1981.  I sure hope I didn't look quite that badly.


UPDATE 2:  I just found a scan of that photo mentioned in  the first update --

I'm the guy on the left.