Monday, April 13, 2015
Dear Friends and Readers:
This is a special newsletter to announce the opening of Rocket Boys the Musical at The Legacy Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.
Opening night (already sold out) is on April 17, 2015. After that shows will be presented on April 18-19, April 24-26, May 1-3, and May 8-10. I hope that you will make plans now to go see this amazing production! To order tickets, just go to www.thelegacytheatre.org!
If you haven't heard about the musical, go to www.rocketboysthemusical.com for a taste of the music.
Here's a little background on how the musical came about. I had always thought Rocket Boys would make a good play and had it in the back of my mind to someday get around to it. But then, one day, a package arrived and in that package, I found a CD with a note that it was music written by some young people that could be the basis for a musical based on the Rocket Boys of October Sky. Quite honestly, I came very close to tossing the package into the trashcan but, at the last minute, decided to listen to the music.
It was amazing! I was nearly reduced to tears listening to the haunting melodies and made to laugh at the vigorous songs! The composers were geniuses! So I reached out and contacted Diana Belkowski and Dan Tramon, the composers, and writer Carl Tramon and told them I was in!
|The Rocket Boys the Musical Creative Team!|
From L-R: Carl Tramon, Homer Hickam, Diana Belkowski, and Dan Tramon
Now, after a three year development run at Theatre West Virginia, we are able to take the next step and that's this production in Atlanta's magnificent Legacy Theatre (actually located in Tyrone, Georgia, just south of metro Atlanta). After that, who knows? We intend to take the show as high as it will go.
Please come and join us for an evening of fun, adventure, drama, songs, tears, and laughter! We are especially pleased to announce that Broadway star Melissa Van Der Schyff will be taking the role of Elsie Hickam! I'd especially like to thank Mark and Bethany Smith, owners and operators of The Legacy Theatre, for choosing our musical for their spring run. Mark is also our most prodigious director!
|Homer Hickam with the Cast and Crew of The Legacy Theatre's|
Production of Rocket Boys the Musical!
This much I can guarantee. After seeing Rocket Boys the Musical, you will leave the theater ready to take on the world!
Keep Aiming High!
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Here Comes Pluto!
The first time I heard about Pluto was when Mrs. Brown, my second grade teacher at the school in Coalwood, West Virginia, said it was our 9th planet. As far as I'm concerned, it still is. Everything Mrs. Brown taught me has proved to be true so I have no reason to doubt her about Pluto, either.
|Homer "Sonny" Hickam about the time he heard|
about an odd little world called Pluto
Of course, Pluto is a bit different from the other eight worlds circling our sun. For one thing, it's smaller than the others and has an odd, tilted, eccentric orbit that requires 248 years for it to move around the sun. Pluto also has several moons that Mrs. Brown didn't know about. The biggest one is Charon that we think is about half the size of its host. Imagine an Earth with a moon half its size! Talk about a high tide! The other Plutonian moons, Nix, Hydra, Styx, and Kerberos, are probably just big icy rocks but we don't know for certain. That, fortunately, is about to change.
Any time I want to the see our solar system, I don't require fancy computer graphics. All I have to do is mentally hover over the Sun and watch hot Mercury, cloudy Venus, blue marble Earth, red Mars, the jumbled asteroid belt, banded Jupiter, ringed Saturn, robin-egg blue Uranus, and blue-green Neptune rolling along on their endless orbits. I can even swoop in and see most of the solar system's moons. There's our boot-printed Luna plus Jupiter's ice-bound Europa, Saturn's Titan with its methane seas, and all the rest. The reason I can picture these planets, moons, and asteroids is because I've seen pictures of them that were taken by spacecraft swinging by for a close look.
|Our Solar System (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)|
But Pluto is still a mystery. What does it and its moons look like? We won't know until a plucky little spacecraft named New Horizons soars by this summer. It should be an amazing encounter.
Sending a robot to Pluto wasn't easy but the initial steps here on Earth were perhaps the hardest. One of the scientists who fought to send a probe to Pluto happens to be a friend of mine, Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. Before Alan got involved, NASA and the United States Congress had promised to send a couple of robotic craft to visit Pluto. The first one, the Pluto Fast Flyby, was cancelled for the lack of funds. The next one, the Pluto Kuiper Express, was cancelled for the same reason. When Alan came on board, he fought hard to get Pluto back on the "great place to visit" list and he was successful. In January, 2006, an Atlas V rocket sent New Horizons hurtling into the far wayback and the adventure was on!
|New Horizons spacecraft (photo courtesy of NASA)|
|Photograph of Pluto and Charon|
taken by New Horizons, January 2015
(photo courtesy of NASA)
Besides cameras, New Horizons has an ultraviolet spectrometer that will tell us a lot about Pluto's geology. It also has devices designed to measure its atmosphere, a solar wind detector, and a dust counter. It also contains the ashes of the man who discovered Pluto, an interesting fellow named Clyde Tombaugh.
Clyde Tombaugh (photo courtesy of NASA)
New Horizons is going to reach Pluto on July 14, 2015 but, well before that, photos of the planet and its moons are going to be sent out for us to enjoy and ponder. What will Pluto and its moons look like? Although gone now to the great schoolhouse in the sky, I'm sure Mrs. Brown would be pleased to know that one of her students is going to find out!
|The Coalwood School where all the planets were taught|
Monday, December 8, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Of Chained Dogs and Careless Cruelty
As I sat in my office perched on the top floor of my house near Coral Bay on the isle of St. John, I lifted my eyes from my computer and took in the view which was spectacular and inspiring. As always, the magnificent blue sea and green forests of this magic island made me think: "What a wonderful place this is!"
But then I heard dogs barking. The way sound carries and is accentuated along the slopes of our neighborhood, it was almost as if they were just outside my window. Once begun, the barking kept going, eruptions of—what? Distress? Anger? Pain? Boredom? Entrapment? Thirst? Starvation? I had no way of knowing, just as everyone else (except perhaps their owners) who could hear them.
It is well known that there are certain sounds that cut deep into the hard-wired parts of the human brain. One of these is the sound of a crying baby. Babies who cry, our brains tell us, must be tended to. But what about barking dogs? Biologists who study these things believe that many humans respond to a barking dog very much the same as they do to crying children. Every time a dog barks, a shrill alarm goes off in our heads. Something must be done! These continual alarms sadly meant, for me, no work at my writing desk and, as the barking continued, little sleep at night. Night after night, day after day, barking and more barking.
Investigation was clearly in order to discover the source of the barking dogs and to determine if something might be done to solve their distressing behavior. My ears led my eyes toward an inholding property alongside the Johnny Horn trail in the National Park. The corrugations of the land near the Johnny Horn make it a perfect soundboard for vocalizations easily heard along our ridge. The barking was a combination of yelps, whines, and full-throated wailing. This dog (or dogs) clearly had problems.
Four-wheel drive and boots took me to the Johnny Horn property whereupon I discovered a ghastly sight, two big dogs with collars so tight they could scarcely breathe strung up on steel cables. Beside each of them was an empty food bowl and, scattered about, water bowls filled with filthy rain water, leaves, mosquito larvae, and mold. The overpowering stench of dog feces struck me full in the face. One of the dogs, a black female, had a nasty, rotten wood box for shelter although its cable made it nearly impossible to enter and the other one, a brindle pit bull, had no shelter at all. The lot was essentially a junkyard, a battered trailer in one corner, a plastic Home Depot-type tool shed nearby, rusted machinery all over, crushed plastic water jugs tossed about, and general filth and litter tossed indiscriminately everywhere. The dogs greeted me by leaping and straining against their ropes and steel tethers, not to attack but with plaintive, gurgling pleas for attention and assistance. This I provided in the form of food, fresh water, much petting and hugging, and a call to the St. John Animal Care Center.
The St. John ACC does a magnificent job of caring for animals on our island and is particularly concerned about dogs that are chained up and neglected. The ACC representative I talked to was immediately concerned and subsequently spoke to the owner of the two dogs in question. Unfortunately, the report that came back was that the ACC probably couldn't do anything about the two "Johnny Horn" dogs because said owner told them he fed the dogs. The barking and crying and whimpering continued.
I also spoke to their owner and offered to buy and foster the dogs, or to help in any way I could to relieve their distress. The response from the owner was loud anger and a growling assurance that he would care or not care for his property—meaning the dogs—in any manner he pleased. And there the matter presently rests.
Of course, I haven't given up on saving these dogs. It is not in my nature to do so but I know it won't be easy to make the change for them because the man who owns them must change his view of what it means to own and care for an animal. Cruel people are usually miserable and, I suspect, must occasionally wonder why they are so afflicted. It is my belief that their misery comes from the negative karma that continuously washes across them because of their cruelty to those who depend on them the most, their innocent animals and, usually, their spouses and children, too. I'm not certain there is such a place as Hell but I kind of hope there is, just for people such as these. — Homer Hickam, November, 2014