Rocketfest!!!

08/28/2012 at 4:43 pm | Posted in 1904, General Nerdery, How to this-or-that, Just for Fun, News & Explanations | Leave a comment
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I am doing a very special thing this week.  I have been excited about it for months.  But I have not communicated my excitement to you guys yet.

ON LABOR DAY I AM GOING TO SPACE CAMP.

I am taking with me some of my favorite people:  Molly Lewis, Ken Plume, Joseph Scrimshaw, Phil Plait, George Hrab.  We are trucking over from Dragon*Con Monday morning.  We are there going to present the live audience in Huntsville, AL with a variety show of terrifically geeky sciencey entertainment, and we will be streaming the show LIVE FROM SPACE CAMP TO YOU.

How to watch: tune in to http://spacecamp.com on Monday Sept. 3rd at 2pm Central.  Facebook event here (share it!).

by Len Peralta

Here’s the why of this event.  It’s a fundraiser for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Scholarship Foundation.  That’s a fancy way of saying we’re raising money to send more kids to Space Camp.  There will be stuff you can order, special goodies from Thinkgeek and Space Camp, and everyone who donates $10 or more online during the live stream will be entered to win a bigger prize from Thinkgeek. (Thank you Thinkgeek!)  Of course you can just donate too, that’s an option anytime at http://spacecamp.com/rocketfest.  But I hope that during this livestream we can flood the gates a little.  I want to demonstrate to the folks at USS&RC that the internet is full of people who want to support them.

When I was young, I was totally the scholarship kid at horse camp.  I begged and begged my parents, but they couldn’t afford it.  When I finally got to take my swim test, saddle up for early morning trail rides, and take my first crack at archery, it was thanks to anonymous strangers who helped to provide scholarships.  So there’s a big soft spot in me where summer camp is concerned.  It’s not just camp, it’s a big deal for a kid.  It’s CAMP.

And this is not just CAMP, it’s SPACE CAMP.

Science has been on my mind this year.  I know, I’m a liberal arts nerd, I don’t have much right to step into the science nerd realm.  [Insert rant about the overstated divide between “fuzzy” and “techie” and how early a girl is forced to choose.]  But in light of Curiosity’s landing, our little Mars invasion — and in light of the shuttle’s last landing and Sally and Neil leaving us — I feel more and more urgency about science education.

No, not education, excitement.  Science Excitement needs to become a national priority.  We need a tiny bit of moon landing feeling back.  A few of us experienced an incredible thrill as Curiosity landed.  I want to know how to spread that feeling, to make it more universal and less niche.  Because that sentiment is what would help to reorient the U.S. toward invention, discovery, research and development as a public prerogative.

I feel strongly about this (and I’m late to the game, I know, a lot of you have been fighting this fight for decades).  And I don’t know how I can do anything to change national sentiment as an individual.  But this seemed like a good little place for a singer-songwriter to start.  So here I go.

On Labor Day I hope you’ll tune your computer to SpaceCamp.com at 2pm Central and watch our little show, have a look at Rocket Park, even if it’s just on in the background while you barbecue on the deck.

And if you are within driving distance of Huntsville, I’m talking to you Dragon*Con attendees, consider bringing the family out for the day — Space Camp is throwing a field day from 10am-5pm, complete with rocket launches and bubbles and science demos.  The price of admission gets you our show and everything else in Rocket Park.  How cool is that?  Come sit on the lawn and have a picnic among rockets and be entertained.  We definitely need a live audience, so bring the kids and come play.  Make a pilgrimage to Space Camp! Especially if you’ve never been.  You know you want to!

Last: please, tell everyone.  Tell the whole internet.  This is just a little tiny thing but let’s get some eyeballs on it.  I’ve worked hard to pull it together and I really hope it will be half as beautiful as in my head.  Point people to info at http://spacecamp.com/rocketfest, and RSVP or share the Facebook event here.  If you can possibly blog about this or otherwise publicize it — DO.  The official press release is below.

Stars and stars and stars to all of you — writing from Cincinatti at 3am between concerts —

Marian

P.S. If you are in Huntsville or Atlanta, and you could Minion for me and the other entertainers, we need two volunteers to come along and help out for the day.  We can provide round-trip transport from Atlanta, and lunch.  Write to marian@mariancall.com if you are interested in going to Space Camp to help.  Sound/web/social media skills a plus, we’ll need some of that.  Loving Space Camp a double plus.

++++++++++++++

ROCKETFEST
LABOR DAY 2012

When:          Monday, September 3, 2012, 9am – 5pm, entertainment at 2pm Central
Where:        U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL, streaming live at http://spacecamp.com   
What:            Rocketfest, a fun filled day of music and family entertainment

On Monday, September 3, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center will host ROCKETFEST.  With your paid admission to the Space Center on Labor Day, the whole family can enjoy a fun-filled day.  There will be family activities on site like rocket launches, bubbles and science demonstrations;  attendees can win prizes from Thinkgeek and enjoy a special concert and variety show in the park.

The entertainment lineup (2pm) will feature nationally renowned musicians George Hrab, Molly Lewis, and Marian Call, along with science and geek culture icons Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, Ken Plume and Joseph Scrimshaw.  All entertainment will be exciting and family-friendly.   The festival performance will be streamed LIVE on the web at http://spacecamp.com.

The event is a fundraiser for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Scholarship Foundation. For more information or to donate, check out http://www.spacecamp.com/rocketfest.

The USSRC is home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, The Davidson Center for Space Exploration and world-class traveling exhibits.  It is also the official visitor’s information center for NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center.  To learn about all of the exciting programs and activities at the USSRC, go to www.rocketcenter.com.  The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

Press Contact:    Tim D. Hall, timh@spacecamp.com  (256) 701-0916

The Hot Place: Texas

04/06/2011 at 4:42 am | Posted in 49>50, Stories from the Road | 2 Comments
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(Photos to go along with this blog are at Flickr.com/mariancall.  Earlier blog posts linked & listed in this entry here.)

For an Alaska-dweller I spend lots of time in Texas.  I have a lot of fans there, I have family there, and I must admit: I love Austin.  I know I know, loving Austin is passé and uncool already, but know what?  I don’t care.  Avocados are 5/$1, they sell hot sugared pecans by the side of the road, and there’s live music and street fairs everywhere — well-attended too, people come out and support local.  I just avoid SxSW and snooty “industry” types and eat a LOT and I’m good.  So despite its reputation and its insecurity issues, I usually enjoy my time in Texas.  (When they aren’t shooting me with airsoft guns between the eyes, like they did on my first tour there.)

Bryan Ray and I drove very late from Oklahoma after I did this shiny breakfast interview to head “home” where I’d stop for a full week.  I recall getting out of the car at 1am and doing jumping jacks to stay awake at the gas station — which is a great way to attract some Texas homeboy attention. “You in need of assistance ma’am?” asked a would-be cowboy.  I couldn’t think of a good way to say, “No, I just want to do jumping jacks,” so I’m pretty sure I hid behind a trash can until his hat went into the convenience store.

We pulled in exhausted and in the morning I woke up in familiar surroundings — for the first time since I left Fargo, ND, I recognized something!  I knew where my coffee shops were at!  I could navigate without a GPS!  Almost.  So visiting Austin is a dream.

I could also afford a couple of concert-free days to play Ingenious with Dad, drink lots of tea and eat lots of peaches, and actually hear other people sing.  I drove out to Kerrville Folk Festival, a sort of beautiful remote hippie folkie lovefest in the Hill Country.  I’ve always heard only wonderful things about Kerrville, and sure enough the performances we enjoyed were completely stellar.  I ran into Randall Williams whose wise words in 2007 helped direct my career more than he could ever suspect.  And I found Raina Rose, a favorite singer-songwriter of mine, hanging around the music shop playing guitar with friends and strangers.  So I knew a grand total of two people.

Funny though — I didn’t quite fit in with the straight folk crowd.  My songs don’t have repeating choruses that everyone can harmonize to around the campfire.  And not having grown up with the culture myself, I didn’t know the music everyone else knew.  I didn’t have a guide to show me around, and a couple people asked me if I was from New York. “Um, no, Alaska.” “Well you look like you’re from New York City.” I hid behind a trash can again until their hats went away, thinking, “But I was so careful to wear dirty Texas hill country clothes!”  I wandered around the campsites and numerous hippie buses, and thought how strange it is that I lived on a hippie bus for half a year — full-time in fact, through the winter, hard-core hippie bus-living.  Yet I totally failed to gel with this crowd.  I was too metro, too fast, too uptight, too techie, and too New Yorkish.  (Incidentally this is also my social obstacle in Alaska, where so many of the awesome people are chill and outdoorsy and carry djembes and guitars on their backs.  Wonderful folks. Me no fit.)

Kerrville Folk Festival

Ah well, you can’t win them all.  I returned to Austin, bought Hadestown at Waterloo Records, drank beer, played more Carcassonne, watched some Pixar movies, and felt more like me.  And tried not to be too disappointed in my awkwardness around the nice folky hippies I would so like to befriend. #toouptight

The next morning (if memory serves), I got a phone call that expanded my working definition of ‘surreal.’

“Good morning, this is Paul of PaulandStorm. We do this thing called w00tstock and everyone has been recommending you.”

I hid behind a trash can but this is a less effective tack when you’re on the phone.

For the most part I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, because my renown and fan reach were insignificant compared with the rest of the lineup.  But I failed. “I really don’t have that many fans,” I told Paul.

“Well, you have the right ones,” he replied.

There’s no disagreeing with that.  My fans are amazing.  So I signed on for w00tstock 2.4: SDCC.  Then I packed to leave Austin and head Into the West.

***********************

Well, mostly west.  First I drove south.  SOUTH TO SPACESHIPS!

A friend of mine from college is now awesome enough to be designing launch/abort/reentry suits for astronauts.  She’s an adorable & sweet engineer who can do her job in killer heels.  Geek girls FTW.  She & her husband threw a house concert, populated almost entirely by NASA folks, and I could not have been more excited.

Some audiences are harder to play than others — it took me some time to learn that certain groups, such as engineers, astronauts and Saskatchewans, do not respond with quite as much laughter or applause or engagement or Zombified passion as, say, SDCC attendees.  Thankfully the Midwest had prepared me for my engineer audience and I managed to navigate the stoicism.  Afterwards I got to learn just a very little bit about what’s been happening with NASA’s funding and why — but don’t ask or argue with me, I’m not an expert.  Just a curious party.

The next morning I got to go to Johnson with my host and hostess.  Not for the tram tour, for the REAL tour.  The photo blog describes my visit better — you can find the set here on my Flickr with captions.  GUYS THEY HAVE SPACESHIPS THER EFRO REALS

In fact as I was touring robotics with my host, he asked if I wanted to get in the Lunar Rover. “You mean the spaceship?” I asked. “We usually call them rovers or modules…” he said. “NO!” I replied, maybe only in my head. “You are making spaceships.  Don’t ever lose sight of how freaking incredible that is.”

What blew my mind the most was the age of their infrastructure and the incredibly tight budgets they have to work with.  Still using the same everything from the sixties — buildings in need of renovations, ancient furniture, no chance to redesign older elements with newer synthetic materials…sometimes it was a little hard to stomach.  NASA’s research has historically given humanity so many things for so little investment.  I’ll spare you the political rant I want to write here — I’m sure you can imagine how it goes.  Grr Argh.

My tour over, I left Houston with one mission: to warn you all that there is a Cylon device inside the Lunar Rover.  I didn’t put it there.  Not my job.

Cylon Device

****************************

Dallas would be my last stop on the way out of Texas.  There are a number of other worthy cities, but Dallas had two things I wanted to see: Kristina Morland and Jayne Cobb.

Kristina Morland made one of my desert island discs, Pidgin Music.  It’s one of those CD’s I have bought seven copies of for everyone I know.  I asked her to open for me at Poor David’s Pub — and as I remembered, she’s not much for live performance.  But glory can she write and arrange, and hallelujah can she sing.  I’ve worn out that disc.

I didn’t have as much time as I wanted in Dallas, so I coordinated a sort of happy hour with some fans ahead of the show.  The minutes were too few, and like at all geekish fan gatherings, it started awkwardly, but I tell you what:  I really love my fans.  Given a half hour and the right topic they are so warm and funny, and yes it’s awkward, but as I learned at Kerrville — maybe awkward people are just my people.  I don’t think I fit with the cool kids.

But the uncool kids had a great time that night.  We rocked Poor David’s, which is a really fantastic TX venue — I hope they’ll let me back.  My heroes play there, folks like Sarah Harmer and Kasey Chambers.

And a real honest-to-gods hero showed up, too. Jayne! The man they call Jayne!

Jayne Cobb

Yes, this is his actual head and his actual plaque.  Zippy wantsta go to the crappy town where he’s a hero.

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