Sputnikfest 2014


Rahr-West Art Museum - click HERE for more info!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

 “I Saw Elvis.  He Sat Between Me and Bigfoot on the UFO.”  T-Shirt Saying
In 1962 Elvis’s career was on a meteoric rise.  Return to Sender was released that year and Elvis began filming his 12th movie, “It Happened At the World’s Fair.”  (An interesting bit of trivia – check the film trailer to see Kurt Russell’s debut as a youngster kicking Elvis in the shin.  Kurt would later play Elvis in a 1979 TV movie directed by John Carpenter) 
The hit Elvis song Burning Love was used to wake up the astronauts on the Skylab space station in 1974.  The Elvis Today Blog says that Hound Dog is actually the "most played" Elvis song in outer space. 

Aloha from Hawaii was broadcast live via satellite in 1973.  And at this year’s Sputnikfest you will be able to see Elvis live (sort of) at the site where another satellite, Sputnik IV crashed to Earth. 
Why Elvis?  Why not?  Sputnikfest has always strived to feature “Wacky Tacky Fun” – and isn’t there something more than a little tacky about even the best Elvis impersonator?  Yes – Sputnikfest 2013 will feature a performance by an Elvis impersonator.  Bigfoot is not on the bill.  See you on September 7.  Planet Terry

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The weather in Manitowoc on St. Patrick’s Day was a bit chilly, but the mid-forties temperatures didn’t stop Miss Space Debris, “Queen of All that is Sputnik” from making a traditional parade appearance in the back of a convertible for the annual Manitowoc St. Patrick's Day Parade.  
Miss Space Debris is a title awarded at each year's Sputnikfest by a committee of judges who review potential candidates on a list of qualifications, including a talent competition.  See photo below of part of the 2012 Sputnikfest Miss Space Debris talent competition - what appears to be a female Gorn is at the microphone with two other Miss Space Debris competitors waiting at left.  The finalist with the country & western attire sang a rather impressive take off of a Patsy Cline classic, telling the story of Sputnik IV with “I Fell To Pieces.”  See also the Coneheads observing from the front row of the audience.  The winner of the Miss Space Debris title agrees to help promote Sputnikfest at events, such as Manitowoc’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the next year.  Watch for Her Space Debri-ness this Summer at various venues leading up to this year's Sputnikfest on September 7, 2013.  Planet Terry

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Pius XII, whose Papacy ran from 1939 to 1958, was sometimes called the “Technology Pope” and his enthusiasm for science is well-documented.  Here is a photo of him viewing the night sky through the telescope at the Vatican Observatory (yes, the Vatican has its own Observatory!) on the night Sputnik 1 was launched. 
In 1951 Pope Pius XII issued an Apostolic Brief proclaiming the Archangel Gabriel as Heavenly Patron of Telecommunication, saying “To the wisdom of God, our admiration is due for those many inventions of modern science that make it possible for men to use electricity to communicate with one another at a distance.  Admirable is the Divine Wisdom which empowers them to telegraph their messages to those at a distance; to converse by long distance telephone; to broadcast their information over the ether waves; to transmit by television and make present what is actually happening far away.”  One old definition of “ether” is “the region of space beyond the earth's atmosphere” – and this Papal proclamation appears to be a clear endorsement of satellite technology. 
Brother Guy Consolmagno , Senior Vatican Scientist, Papal Astronomer, and curator of the Papal meteorite collection says “God is bigger than just humanity. God is also the god of angels” and even goes so far to say that said that he would be” delighted if we encountered intelligent aliens and would be happy to baptize them.”
The Roman Catholic Church got its 266th Pope this past week – Pope Francis.  Pope Francis is the first Pope to come out of a Jesuit seminary.  A writer on the Jesuit blog, Catching Fire, notes “Ever notice how science fiction writers who want to portray a religious figure in space tend to pick Jesuits?”  He goes on to point out a particular science fiction novel “The Sparrow” – which has recently been optioned as a mini-series for TV by AMC. 
So - what about it?  With his Jesuit background and the way he has already demonstrated a tendency to break with tradition, why not “The First Pope to Visit Sputnikfest”?  We could even have a special ceremonial hat made up just for the occasion!  Planet Terry

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a head, you must wear the right sort of hat.”  (Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek writer and philosopher – author of the novel Zorba the Greek) 

As anyone who has attended Sputnikfest knows, the right headgear is essential.  The basic item of head wear is the aluminum foil hat – inexpensive, easy to construct, and able to block mind control rays emanating from alien spacecraft or patrolling black helicopters. 

But, when you are ready to move your Sputnikfest wardrobe to the next level – a one-of-a-kind Sputnikfest Helmet is in order.  The exact choice of materials and design is completely up to you, but the basic components are a sturdy helmet and some sort of television antenna of the old “rabbit ears” variety.   For the example shown here we started with a vintage safety helmet that looked to be fiberglass construction, picked up at a garage sale for a few bucks.  The antenna used for this project was not vintage – but rather was an RCA digital converter antenna picked up at a local thrift shop for another couple bucks.  The antenna was dismantled and various parts were attached to the helmet with the help of miscellaneous hardware from a well-stocked junk drawer.  Several coats of silver paint, a strategically placed shiny metal spring, and some Sputnikfest logo decals finished the project off.  
So – start working on your own unique decorative headwear!   Start checking your local garage sales and thrift shops for the right materials and channel your inner Sputnik.  You have plenty of time between now and September 7, 2013 – we hope to see you in Manitowoc showing off your own headwear handiwork!  Planet Terry

Saturday, March 2, 2013

If Sputnikfest had a soundtrack – I think it might sound something like this.  A little spacey and a little retro, and a lot of funky fun.  Les Baxter (1922 – 1996) was a musician and prolific composer whose varied body of work included singing with Mel Tormé, conducting for Capital Records, doing film scores, and creating theme music for Sea World amusement parks.  He is even credited with writing the “Whistle Theme” from the Lassie TV Show.   
One of Les Baxter’s works* that caught my attention when I was doing some Sputnikfest related research a while back was “Space Escapade.”  Most of the tracks on the album remind me of theme music from one TV show or another from when I was kid (yeah, that was a long time ago) but what really got me was the album cover.  I actually “borrowed” it as an image for a Sputnikfest promotional PowerPoint presentation a few years back. 
(*there is some controversy regarding him being credited with this work, in that some people have made a case that it was actually ghost-written under his name by another noted composer – Nelson Riddle.  As for me … don’t know, don’t care, I just know I like the music)
The album was released in 1958 – the year after Sputnik 1 was launched.  The music was an attempt to tap into the nation’s fascination with outer space and the album art certainly captured the mood of the times, if a bit whimsically.  One website notes that the record has sold for decades based on the album artwork alone.  Its “astronauts with space cocktails and Martian chicks with go-go boots” make Space Escapade a sort of Holy Grail for album collectors.  Current listings on eBay for nice examples of this vintage album list for between $150 and $200.  Even copies in less than perfect condition sell for close to $50. 
But, don’t despair.  You no longer have to spend big bucks or even own a turntable if you want to enjoy this album.  More than 50 years after the initial LP release, Space Escapade was released on CD.  I’ll be picking up one of the CD’s to include in a “Space Pod” prize package for this year’s Sputnikfest.  (See a previous post about the Sputnikfest Space Pods)  In the meantime, you can find most of the tracks from the album on Youtube – just search “Les Baxter” and any of the track titles.  The album notes advise that with the aid of this recording you can “drift into the future's lovemist with Les Baxter and make a spaceliner escapade by earthlight, tongue firmly fastened in cheek.” 
Sounds a lot like Sputnikfest!  Join us in Manitowoc on September 7 for a "Space Escapade" and “drift with us into the future’s lovemist … tongue firmly fastened in cheek.”  Planet Terry