Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ray Bradbury, the Kingston Trio, and the High Frontier

I like looking at space exploration books from different eras--the 1950s anticipation of manned space flight and space travel, the 1960s vision of lunar voyages, and the subsequent decades with the benefit of actual experience and history to create bigger and bolder visions and predictions.

In the 1970s, with mankind having orbited the earth, traveled through space, and landed on the moon multiple times, visionary thinking began creating the next generation of more realistic, achievable scenarios for the evolution of exploration off the home planet. Colonies in Space, by T.A. Heppenheimer (Stackpole Books, 1977), is an example of such visionary thinking and prediction.

The book's subtitle is A Comprehensive and Factual Account of the Prospects for Human Colonization of Space. As science fiction of earlier decades gave way to fact, accomplishment, and a new reality, it might seem ironic that a science fiction writer, even the iconic Ray Bradbury, was asked to write the introduction to the book.

I think Bradbury was chosen for a couple of reasons. It would have been easy to get an expert in some aspect of space exploration to write a scenario of the future. But the defense of such endeavors needed more than just compelling scientific fact. Defending the notion of space colonization against the critics, Bradbury summons "the literary/aesthetic," as important a tool as scientific fact in the toolbelt of the visionary.

Bradbury also serves as a reminder that it wasn't that long ago that these recent accomplishments were the stuff of science fiction and fantasy. The sci-fi writer offers a bridge between the two eras of fantasy and fact and serves as a reminder to highlight what can be accomplished in a relatively short time with the fusion of imagination and will.

Martian Chronicles: Ray Bradbury, by Les Edwards

Bradbury titled his Introduction to Colonies in Space, "The Life Force Speaks--We Move to Answer." Written for this 1977 publication, it could not feel more timely today more than 30 years later. "Colonies in space?" he parrots the naysayers. "Yes, of course," he answers the question. "Why not? Let's move. Let's go there. Let's do the job." He then recites a list of arguments, by rote, about having too many problems on Earth to deal with first. In spite of many valid arguments, he declares:
"The Life Force speaks to all of us. We should, we can, we must listen. Because wouldn't it be terrible to wake up one morning and discover, without remedy, that we were a failed experiment in our meadow-section of the Universe? Wouldn't it be awful to know that we had been given a chance, a testing, by the Cosmos, and had not delivered--had, by a loss of will and a flimsy excuse at desire, not won the day, and would soon fade into the dust--wouldn't that be a killing truth to lie abed with nights?"
In the next paragraph, he writes perhaps my favorite passage, realizing one day what opportunity we once had and squandered:
"Our failed imagination tossed our seed onto the infertile sands of a barren river bottom on a lost world named Earth."
If that's not a powerfully ominous sounding message, then it begs another reading.

As Mr. Bradbury nears his final paragraph, he pleads, "We must become citizens of the Universe." He then applauds the author of this book, Colonies in Space, concluding:
"Mr Heppenheimer is keeper of the key, opener of the gate, tender of the gardens we will toss to space and inhabit with proper proportions of sorrow and joy. He offers you citizenship in the Universe. How can you refuse?"
I know a lot of people who would take these words to heart--the civil service and contractor work force at NASA's Johnson Space Center, where I used to work. And that's just for starters. The American government may see things differently, as Bradbury lamented with the administration in power during the time he wrote this Introduction. Both sides of the argument of going back to the moon or to Mars make valid points, whether in 1977 or 2010. It doesn't hurt, though, in either time period, to have Ray Bradbury's thoughtful, inspiring words trying to tip the scales in your favor. By the way, Ray Bradbury will celebrate his 90th birthday later this summer on August 22nd.

Now how about the Kingston Trio, as mentioned in the title of this post? How do they figure into Mr. Heppenheimer's book?

First, a little background. The Kingston Trio folk music group became an icon of American music in the late 1950s with the release of their first album (pictured) and the huge hit, Tom Dooley. They were very instrumental (pardon the pun) in elevating the folk music revival of that era. My parents had this album and I remember, as a child, listening to it over and over again. Tom Dooley was always my favorite. A movie version about the character in the song was made in 1959 and starred Michael Landon , later of Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie fame. I had an opportunity to meet him a few years before he died and told him, aside from Bonanza, Tom Dooley was the role I always associated him with. He smiled at my revelation, or maybe winced.

So, riding the crest of their popularity, in 1962, Kingston Trio member John Stewart wrote the song, The New Frontier, also the title of their third album, to honor President John F. Kennedy and his vision for the young space program. Flash forward to 1977 and the publication of Colonies in Space. President Kennedy's vision for missions to the moon had been realized and Stewart teamed up with author T.A. Heppenheimer to rewrite The New Frontier for the next era of space exploration. They titled this new version, The High Frontier. I can't find anything to indicate that this version was ever recorded. Below are the lyrics for both versions.

The New Frontier
written by John Stewart

Some to the rivers and some to the sea.
Some to the soil that our fathers made free.
Then on to the stars in the heav'ns for to see.
This is the new frontier. This is the new frontier.

Let the word go forth from this day on.
A new generation has been born.
Born to the task to keep us free,
but proud of the rights of the home country.
This is the new frontier. This is the new frontier.

Let us begin for it shall take long.
Let ev'ry man sing out freedom's song.
Not for ourselves that we take this stand.
Now it's the world and the freedom of man.
This is the new frontier. This is the new frontier.

The day will come. It's got to be.
The day that we may never see.
When man for man and town for town
must bring the peace that shall resound.
This is the new frontier. This is the new frontier.


The High Frontier
written by John Stewart and T. A. Heppenheimer

Some to the rivers and some to the sea,
Some to the soil that our fathers made free,
Then on to the stars in the heavens for to see,
This is the High Frontier, this is the High Frontier.

Let the word go forth, from this day on
A new age of mankind has begun.
Hope will grow for the human race!
We're building a colony deep in space!
This is the High Frontier, this is the High Frontier.

Let us begin, for it shall take long,
Let everyone sing a freedom song.
Not for ourselves that we take this stand,
Now it's the world and the future of Man.
This is the High Frontier, this is the High Frontier.

The day will come, it's going to be,
A day that we will someday see
When all mankind is reaching out
Without a limit, without a doubt!
This is the High Frontier, this is the High Frontier.

Colonies in Space, by T.A. Heppenheimer, is offered online courtesy of the National Space Society at

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Peanuts and D-Day

Today is D-Day. I opened up the Sunday paper this morning, the comics were on top, and the first thing I saw was the Peanuts strip featuring an old photo of General Dwight D. Eisenhower talking to the troops on the eve of the D-Day invasion.

I had seen this picture before--it's famous--but not in this color-altered form. And I wondered what it had to do with Charles Schulz' Peanuts comic strip. At the bottom of the half-page photo was the image of Snoopy in Army uniform. I understand the significance of D-Day (I've been to Normandy and visited Omaha Beach), but I was unaware of any connection of Charles Schulz to D-Day and why he would have worked Snoopy into a comic strip to commemorate the day.

I have the book, Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown: Celebrating 30 Years in the Comic Strips and 15 Years on Television (Random House, 1979), by Lee Mendelson in association with Charles M. Schulz. I looked through it for some answers or clues.

Toward the end of the book, I found some pictures of Schulz when he was in France with the Army during World War II. This was a good clue. He had served in France during World War II, though the date given is 1945, a year after the D-Day invasion and also the year that the war ended.

Further research revealed on several sites that Schulz was a World War II buff and held D-Day in particular reverence, so much so that he donated $1,000,000 to the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia. The Web site provides some good background and a telling quote from Schulz about his feelings toward D-Day:
"I believe D-Day is the most significant day for mankind in modern history."
Of the troops that preceded him in the invasion of Normandy:
"Their hard-fought victory set the Nazis on their heels and eased the way for the rest of us. I am proud to help in any way I can to make the long overdue National D-Day Memorial to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of the allied forces a reality as quickly as possible."
Beginning in 1993, Schulz observed the D-Day anniversary in his comic strip each June 6 (except for 1995) until 1999. The Eisenhower photo with Snoopy ran in 1998. Schulz refers to this particular strip as drawing the most interest of all his D-Day strips:
"Of all my D-Day cartoons, this Sunday page created the most interest from readers, who remarked that it was often the only reference to that momentous day of June 6, 1944, in their newspapers. Most gratifyingly, I heard from those in the picture and still with us, family members, and friends of the men talking with General Eisenhower.

The photograph itself was taken just before these men of the 101st Airborne Division parachuted into Normandy. According to Wallace, who was the youngest lieutenant with the number 23 on his chest, he had just been asked by Ike where he was from.

"Michigan, Sir."

Ike brought up his thumb and said, "Go get 'em, Michigan."
I followed Peanuts and Charlie Brown through the 1960s and bought many of the books that came out during that decade about Charlie Brown and the gang. I gradually quit reading most comic strips and by the 1990s I had no idea Schulz was honoring the D-Day vets. I'm glad my local paper reprinted a classic for this unforgettable day in history.

For more about Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts, visit the Schulz Museum online at

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Wartime surgeon created a publication first

Many book collectors like collecting firsts, such as first books of authors or first printings of authors' works. I have collected and sold many of each. I've even had a publisher's first book. However, finding the first publication on a particular subject is pretty rare, but I believe I have one of those, too (of which, farther down).

Browsing the Web for anything on collecting subject firsts led me to Steve Trussel's site, which could keep you busy for weeks checking out all the book-related links, but here's one pertinent to this post, which expands on my initial thoughts about firsts:
This link is to a collection of essays and articles by the late New England antiquarian bookseller, Robert F. Lucas.

Here is the book mentioned earlier that qualifies as a first publication in a subject area. The Brenthurst Papers, edited by Jack Penn (Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg, 1944) is the first academic journal of plastic surgery in the English language. There is an interesting history lurking between the covers.

The reminiscences of a plastic surgeon during World War II was published in The 1978 Annals of Plastic Surgery (Ann Plast Surg. 1978 Jan;1(1):105-15.). Following is the Abstract for that article:
The experiences of the author while an Officer in the South African Medical Corps are related. During the battle of Britain he was attached to the R.A.M.C. and observed the work of pioneers in modern military plastic surgery. On his return to South Africa, he set up the Brenthurst Military Red Cross Hospital for Plastic Surgery and dealt with many thousands of allied battle casualties--South African, British, French, and Polish. The injuries treated included aircraft and tank burns, facial destructions (particularly the nose and eyes), extensive facial fractures, and limb amputations. Various procedures are mentioned. The first plastic surgical journal in English, The Brenthurst Papers, was produced describing these innovations.

Excerpted from Wikipedia about Dr. Penn:
Penn was born in Cape Town in 1909. He served in World War II as a major, 7th Field Ambulance, where he trained in plastic surgery and helped in London with war casualties in need of plastic and reconstructive surgery. He returned to South Africa, where he founded and was commander in charge of the Brenthurst Military Hospital. Dr. Penn, at the age of 35, was appointed first professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand.

His academic positions included visiting professorships at Oxford, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Ann Arbor, UCLA, New York, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hiroshima, Tokyo, and the Taiwan Army Medical Centre.

Penn resigned from the University in 1950 to found his own clinic, which he named the Brenthurst Clinic. Penn originated innovative techniques in plastic surgery, notably the Brenthurst Splint which was standard for many years for jaw fractures.

In 1956 Penn was the moving force behind the establishment of the Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and he was elected unanimously as its first president.

He helped to initiate plastic and reconstructive surgery in other countries, including Israel (during the 1948 war), Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), Kenya, Gabon (then French Equatorial Africa, at the invitation of Albert Schweitzer at Lambarene), Japan(assisting Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims) and Taiwan.

Penn was also responsible for the first academic journal of plastic surgery in the English language, the Brenthurst Papers, and he authored many professional papers, editorials and book chapters in this field.

To top it off, it appears that Dr. Penn signed this book. The inscription is from "Jack." Surely that is Dr. Penn, a remarkable man who had a remarkable career as a plastic surgeon. His innovative work led to the creation of a bound collection of journal articles, remarkable in its own right as the first of its kind in the English language.