Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sputnik I

Let’s hop once into into the Wayback Machine and set the dial for October 4, 1957. When we arrive we see the smoke billowing from beneath the rocket. A moment later it begins rising into the sky. And at the very tip of the rocket is the satellite that started it all.

Sputnik 1 was the world's first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. Launched into a low altitude elliptical orbit by the Soviet Union, it was the first in a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race within the Cold War.

Sputnik-1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year. This was an undertaking by 68 nations and involved exploration into the arctic, the sea, and outer space. Sputnik helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere.

During its journey, the satellite traveled at 18,000 miles per hour. It emitted radio signals which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on October 26, 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on January 4, 1958 as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after traveling about 37 million miles and spending 3 months in orbit.

Today's video contains a documentary of the program. As mentioned earlier, it was a bit of a surprise to American that the Russians had beaten us to the punch. A month later, Russia launched Sputnik II, carrying a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, and she became the first living creature launced into space.

I remember well those fall and winter evenings when the sky was clear and the millions of stars winked in the heavens. It wasn’t unusual on those nights to see Sputnik travelling across the night sky. If you spent time gazing at the stars and looking for Sputnik, leave a comment and tell us about it. I can't be the only one who remembers it.

Can I?

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Blog

After writing yesterday's article, I realized it had brought back a lot of memories. And I also realized that one helping of Disney just wasn't enough. So I decided to create a new blog. I hope you'll visit it occasionally, and I promise to keep it interesting.

The new blog is all about Disney — the history, the characters, the organization, the movies and the music of Disney through the years. And it's a kid-friendly site, so don't worry about your children or grandchildren visiting. They won't find anything there you wouldn't want them to see or read about.

The first installment on the new site is more or less a recap of what I posted here last night with a little more personal information added to set the stage. But I'll post something new on there tomorrow. I'm also planning on having giveaways occasionally for Disney-related merchandise. So, if you love Disney, you're going to love this new blog.

I hope you'll visit, and please feel free to leave comments. We bloggers thrive on them.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guys and Dolls

This was a huge musical hit in the fifties. It was released in 1955 and starred Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and, well, I'll let Ed Sullivan explain it. Just listen to the video trailer above.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Am I Blue?

Set the Wayback Machine for October 23, 1958. This is the day, way back then, when a Belgian cartoonist named Peyo introduced a new set of characters to the Johan et Pirlouit story La flute a six trous. Now, I have no idea what those words mean because the only French I know is the fries at McDonalds. But we’re talking about The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs).

In case you don’t remember, Smurfs are a fictional group of small (only three apples tall) sky blue creatures who live in Smurf Village. No one really knows where it is except that it’s located somewhere in the woods. Peyo introduced these creatures to the world in a series of comic strips, making their first appearance in the Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou on October 23, 1958. The English-speaking world perhaps knows them best through the popular 1980s animated television series from Hanna-Barbera Productions, fittingly called The Smurfs. (Brilliant.)

They had the mission of recovering a magic flute, which required some sorcery by the wizard Homnibus. And in this manner, they met a tiny, blue-skinned humanoid creature in white clothing called a "Schtroumpf", followed by his numerous peers who looked just like him, with an elderly leader who wore red clothing and had a white beard. The characters proved to be a huge success.

With the commercial success of "The Smurf empire" the merchandising of Smurf miniatures, models, games, and toys began in 1959. Entire collecting clubs have devoted themselves to collecting PVC Smurfs. You can probably find some of these items right now on ebay if you’re interested. And who isn’t?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Slightly off topic...

The "K" is silent, like in "pants."

And if that makes about as much sense as the Edsel did, the remainder of this post is probably not going to be what you're expecting or what you're used to finding here either.

For the first time, we're heading slightly off subject. But it's necessary in order to fulfill a prior obligation. A while back, I volunteered to participate in the Absolute Write October Blogroll. I have been a member of this fabulous writing group for a few years and have found them to be an excellent resource for anyone who writes, whether it be poetry, literary fiction, young adult novels, or even blogs like this one.

If you're a writer, or an aspiring one, you will find this group to be a veritable plethora of talent that is always available to provide information and encouragement. You can find them at, and I encourage you to do so.

So, while this post is not going to be about the fifties, you still might find it to be of interest if you're curious in the least about this writer. My assignment in this endeavor is to pick up where the previous blogger left off. That writer was Harriet You can find her blog at She is an excellent writer, and I'm certain you will enjoy reading her posts. In fact, all of the participant links are listed in My Favorites along the right sidebar. Scroll down, and you'll find them.

Harriet's installment in this blogroll involved the difficulty of starting the writing process. Just for the record, I am in total agreement with her opinion. For me, starting has always been the most difficult part. While it would be redundant to simply repeat what she has said, I’m going to take it in a slightly different direction, as least from a medium standpoint.

In addition to working all day, blogging half the night, and writing and marketing middle-grade novels, I am also a wildlife artist ( At least I used to be. I haven't dipped a brush into paint (except to touch up a stone chip on the bumper of my Corvette) since 1995. I have sold several of my prints at wildlife art shows and several more through e-bay listings. I used to devote more time to it. When I was actively painting, four of my paintings finished in second place (darn it) in state duck stamp competitions. My greatest achievement was coming in 12th in the Federal Duck Stamp Competition out of 489 entries. Limited edition prints of my paintings are currently in collections in 24 states. My last painting was a marsh wren I painted for my mother and gave to her as a Christmas gift shortly before she died. It remains one of my favorites.

But I'm rambling. Let me get back to the subject I’m supposed to be covering. Starting that final painting was the most difficult part of the whole process. If you go to my Wildheart Gallery website you will notice a quote at the top of the home page that pretty much sums up what we’re talking about here. It says simply, “Finishing a painting is easy. It’s that first stroke that’s difficult.”

This might begin to make sense if I give you a brief rundown on my typical starting procedure. At the time I was painting, I had a studio in my basement. It consisted of a drafting table, a stack of cold pressed illustration board, a mug filled with paintbrushes, an Iwata airbrush, an air compressor, an X-acto knife and lots of blades, numerous bottles of acrylic paint, a roll of paper towels, a ceramic pot filled with q-tips, and multiple wildlife reference books I had collected over the years. There was generally a work-in-progress sitting on the drawing board, waiting for me to start in again. And, even though the initial start was difficult, the subsequent starts were equally hard.

On one particular Saturday I went downstairs to continue my work on a Wood Duck painting. It was almost finished but, being the perfectionist that I am, there was always something that wasn't quite perfect and required some additional attention. I am a creature of habit, and I always had to have a Dr. Pepper when I painted. That's important for you to know because it plays a part in how the events took place.

Before going downstairs I had made a quick trip to Quik Trip to get a fountain drink in a plastic cup. It was summer and, as you know, plastic cups collect condensation. It clings tenaciously to the surface until gravity decides it’s heavy enough to act upon. At that point it slides down the cup, gathering additional bystanders along the way, until it reaches the bottom of the cup and drops off. I realize you don't need a lesson in physics, but you'll understand the reason for the explanation momentarily.

If you take a look at my painting to the right, you will notice water drops on the duck’s chest. I had painted those water drops the previous evening, but I had forgotten about it. I walked up to the drawing table, plastic Dr. Pepper cup in hand, and gazed down at my painting.

When I saw the water drops on the duck’s chest I immediately thought they had dripped off the cup. And, in case you don’t know, acrylic paint is water-soluble. My eyes immediately riveted on those water drops, and I thought to myself, “Oh, my God! I’ve ruined it.”

Frantically, I reached for the roll of paper towels to try to salvage some portion of the work I had poured into that painting. Suddenly, and with the greatest relief, I remembered painting those drops on there the previous evening. After my heart rate slowed back down, I actually felt rather proud that I had managed to paint those water drops to look realistic enough to fool myself into believing they were real.

I realize I have wandered slightly from the initial purpose of this post, but let me tie it together by telling you this. Before I begin a painting, or start again on a painting in progress, I look for any excuse to delay the inevitable. I used to stand at my drawing table and think about starting a painting. I would carefully select a brush from the mug, twirl it around thoughtfully, and try to think about what I should paint. Then I would look down at the floor and decide that it just had to be swept before any painting could be started. And if my Dr. Pepper was more than half gone, or less than half gone, well, you can’t start a painting without a full and fresh Dr. Pepper. So a trip to Quik Trip was necessary. Obviously.

Some would consider that procrastination. I will admit that I used to procrastinate. I used to, but nowadays I just don’t have the time for it. I may be able to in a few weeks. Check back with me.

Thank you, dear and faithful readers, for allowing me to stray from the theme of this arena. And I promise I'll have more fifties and nostalgia information on here tomorrow. Meanwhile, it seems only appropriate, though somewhat shameless, to let you know that limited edition prints and artist's proofs of the Wolf and the Wood Duck, and others, are available on my Wildheart Gallery site. In addition, there is currently a Wood Duck listed on e-bay that you could probably steal if you act quickly. No pressure.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Rosemerry, you’re up.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lollipop 2

Since so many of you liked this song, and the movie reference, I've decided to leave it on here for another day. If you haven't read the article, I hope you'll scroll down. And be sure to click the video on the right to hear that old song once again.

I will mention one thing you might have an interest in. If you're a blogger, or if you like giveaways, check out the link below. With our economy in the swamp (quite unlike it was in the 50s) everyone needs a little extra. Whether it's money, understanding, or appreciation. In my case, it's sleep (and money). So if you know anyone who is having a giveaway on their blog, or anyone who likes to enter giveaways for free, pass the address along.

I'll have something new (and old) for you tomorrow. I think you're going to like it. A lot.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Even BIGGER Giveaway!

This giveaway provided me with a dilemma. When I saw 94 entries from the same party, I thought to myself that it wasn't quite fair to the rest of the entrants. Then I realized that I had set up the rules, and those rules were followed. There didn't seem to be any fair option except to carry out the giveaway the way I had set it up and to let the chips (or the Chipotle) fall where it may.

I plugged the numbers into to get the winning number. It turned out to be the entry in the #3 position. So, congratulations to Debbielynne for her winning entry. If the winner will send me an e-mail at, with your mailing address, the Chipotle Gift Card will be on its way shortly thereafter. Enjoy.

So here comes the next giveaway. We're raising the stakes this time, and learning from our previous mistakes. The winner of this giveaway will receive a $20 Gift Card from WalMart. So, since it's worth more, you're going to have to do a little more work. Here are the rules:

One entry per person. Multiple entries from the same party will be deleted.

You have to make a comment about this site. What you like. What you don't like. What you'd like to see more of, or less of. Whatever. It's your opinion and I'd like to hear it.

The contest will not end until at least 100 entries have been received, or until 12:01 AM on October 31st, whichever comes later. That will give you time to get to WalMart to buy up a bunch of that Halloween candy that will probably be on sale by then.

Finally, I'm sure everyone knows why we have these giveaways. Obviously, if we have more traffic and more income, we can offer more and bigger giveaways. And that's all I have to say about that.

So enter now, and feel free to pass this blog address along to anyone you wish.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Giveaway. Giveaway. Giveaway!

Don't you love free stuff!

Yes, my friends. Since you've been coming on here to read all of this stuff, it's time to give you a little more incentive to keep coming back. I have, right here, a beautiful little Gift Card. It's worth a whopping ten bucks and it's good at your local Chipotle Restaurant. (Yummy!)

All you have to do is make a comment to this post. Just click that comment thing at the bottom and comment on anything you'd like. But we're going to change it around a bit this time. You can still enter as many times as you'd like, but the entries won't end until we have 100 comments. So tell your friends and neighbors to enter, too, so we can get those numbers up. Again, the winner will be decided by a random drawing.

I've made the commenting easier. You don't have to have a Google account now. Just click on "Name/URL" and you can put your own website or blog link in the comments section for others to click on. What a deal. If you click on "Anonymous" be sure and put your e-mail address in the comment so I can notify you if you're the lucky winner.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Beginning

Do you ever stop to wonder how this whole computer universe began? Let's hop in the Wayback Machine, set the dial for 1951, and take a look at the UNIVAC I.

Look! There's Walter Cronkite.

The UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the first commercial computer made in the United States. In the years before successor models of the UNIVAC I appeared, the machine was simply known as "the UNIVAC". I wonder if they used a similar system when naming Preparation H. Was there a Preparation G?

See those four people to the right? Click on it to enlarge. Deer in the headlights?

The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win.

Originally priced at $159,000, the UNIVAC I rose in price until they were between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000. (They were selling a lot of them to the government.)
UNIVAC I used 5,200 vacuum tubes and weighed 29,000 pounds. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 14 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8.5 feet high.

The girl pictured above is hypnotized
by the wonder of it all.

The girl on the right is
searching for the
Control-Alt-Delete thingy.

So if you get weary carrying your laptop back and forth to work or around the house, be grateful someone figured out how to compress that UNIVAC I equipment into a much smaller and lighter package.

We've come a long way, baby!