Web links related to the Back of the Book program of August 20, 2001

*SIGH* it is Saturday afternoon 9/1/2001 17:20:11, and this Web page is finally done. Good thing too because I have to start getting the next one ready right away! This program actually completed the fifteenth year of Back of the Book on the air. The next program, on September 3, will be the 15th anniversary program! Of course we have to hope that we're not taken off the air before the next program. We talked about a variety of things on the program including crummy boy scouts, old subway trains and some issues that relate to cosmology, and we did get through a bunch of the mail backlog. So below you'll find a mixture of tenses and what E-mail I got through, along with a little updating of other areas.

Here is the latest on the theft of Pacifica.

Here's my take on the current WBAI and Pacifica crisis.

And remember, there's still a gag rule at WBAI.

There have been some developments in the listener lawsuits, as well.

Some listeners are convinced that only open elections will provide a long range cure for the Pacifica Crisis. Here's an election proposal.

Our colleagues from Off the Hook have a RealAudio streaming web cast operating. For a while they were trying to provide a new, permanent MP3 stream but the link to the MP3 stream now just gives you the RealAudio stream. At 8:22 PM last night this feed was working.

So some dinosaur footprints were recovered from the Red Fleet Reservoir, in Utah.

The fossilized footprints, dating from the Jurassic period some 190 million years ago, were pried up out of the ground and thrown at a buoy in the reservoir by some Boy Scouts. Divers had to search under water to retrieve the stone impressions, and the divers were thrilled to recover 90% of them.

Maybe these Boy Scouts were just having some good, clean Utah Boy Scout fun, or maybe what they did was informed by the anti-gay stand of the Boy Scouts of America. After all, the condemnation of gay people is in Genesis and Leviticus, and the age and presence of these footprints knocks the entire Genesis fantasy right out of the box.

The “Redbird” subway cars I've been riding in for so many years are being replaced with new R142 cars. Where I've sat will soon be the basis for a coral reef.

Some very odd things have been said about Amy Goodman at WBAI over the past couple of months, and some of them have been said on the air. Here's a link to an open letter from some folks who want to clarify the role she played in an event.

I'll be continuing on with talking about cosmology tonight, as I did on previous programs. As it turns out there have been a couple of new developments that relate to this topic over the past fortnight that really amount to breaking news.

The first is that some scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey say they have detected some of the first light that streamed through the universe after the cosmic “Dark Ages.” They have scientific papers here, and here.

The second is that an international team of astrophysicists has tentatively offered evidence that over the course of about 12 billion years the fine structure constant has been, well inconstant, i.e. that it's changed by 0.0000001%. If proven, this minute variability would affect all other constants, including the speed of light. This could get really interesting. The current values of these constants are as they have been for our lifetimes. This work would affect estimates of how things were back when the Big Bang happened and so it has a direct impact on cosmological theories.

I got to some of the mail on the program. I read through a couple of paper bound missives from listeners, and got through some more E-mail.

Fernando has shown up again with more of his long E-mails. I've ceased reading Fernando's entire output on the program, skipping through his E-mails on the air, and now I'm going to not bother with some of his E-mails at all. The one below was postponed from an earlier program because it was too long to fit in the time we had left and because we'd already had enough Fernando that night.

I've been wondering for a while now if Fernando is simply a troll. Below he gives us yet another urban legend, this one about Bill Cosby. Thanks to another listener for correcting it.

Subject: On The Matter Of Censorship,
Date: Wed, 9 May 2001 20:41:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: Fernando
To: RPM@glib.com

Dear R.Paul Martin,

I am a regular listener to your broadcasts and I have e-mailed you previously on occasion. Now normally, you and I are quite different in terms of political and social philosophies. I tend to lean to the conservative side of issues and I am indeed a Republican, the party of Lincoln. I believe, however, that I may have found an issue in which we may both see eye-to-eye. It concerns the subject of censorship, a topic I have written you on in the past. Did you know that?

On May 4, ABCnews.com reported that Warner Bros., who own the Cartoon Network, were planning on running a marathon of Bugs Bunny cartoons which they billed as “historic television event.” The specific carttons which this event was going to showcase were seldomn-aired shorts which have not been shown in years or have been edited heavily due to their politically-incorrect content.

Many of these episodes featured racial stereotypes and slurs. In one episode, Bugs distracts a gang of blacks by throwing dice at them. It is my guess that in the forties, the blacks gambled heavily. In another episode, Bugs calls an eskimo a “big baboon.” This one, I feel is a stretch as Bugs often called his pursuers different names and the eskimos are no longer around to be offended by this. This matter is of particular significance to me as I am a professional cartoonist.

Initially the Cartoon Network intended to air this marathon at night to avoid minors from being warped into a pack of rascists by these cartoons. These episodes were also going to carry disclaimers. Warner Bros., however got cold feet, and pulled the marathon altogether. At present, there are no plans to EVER air these shorts again. Is this right, R. Paul? How do you feel about this?

I, for one, am opposed to this sort of censorship. I had planned on taping this marathon and I have even begun pricing VCR's on e-bay. This is not the same type of gratuitous blaphsemy the Brooklyn Museum loves to parade about in hopes of seizing attention and headlines. These cartoons while indeed showing some insensitive material, are never the less , indicative of the mindset of the time. The attitudes caricatured by Bugs Bunny were commonplace when these cartoons were produced. They need to be viewed in their proper context and I do not feel that any public service is being committed by locking them away. Are we ever going to see these again? Please, Martin, I can't have this. Is Warner Bros. afraid of being accused of circulating rascist propaganda? Some of these stereotypes are so out-of-date, I doubt many people would catch the references. This is particularly true of children. Blacks aren't openly shooting craps anymore in the street.

Did you know that Bill Cosby has done something similar to the Little Rascals? “The Cos” bought the rights to the Little Rascals library and has locked them away indefinitely. He feels that they are racially offensive. Now this I can't understand at all as The Little Rascals depicted little white kids and black kids playing together and getting along fine. Isn't this the goal of race relations after all? What can we do about this?

On another matter, R, I have a question concerning the WBAI on-air staff. I met a guy who told me that Sydney Smith got his start as an elevator operator at WBAI. Is this true? Was this guy right? How did Smith do this? As always, I will continue to listen. I hope we are on the same page on the Bugs Bunny matter, R. This is political correctness at its ugliest.

all my best,
Florham Park, NJ

Of course I deplore censorship, but we also have the fact that insulting people on purpose about their race is pretty awful as well. Not everyone at WBAI seems to feel this way, however. If the government stops the Bugs Bunny cartoons I'm against that. If the owners of the Bugs Bunny cartoons want to edit them, or bowdlerize them if you will, it's their right.

As for Uncle Sidney Smith, what really happened was that he did radio on WBAI for a few years and then got promoted to elevator operator. That's more like how it works at WBAI.

In the below E-mail Fernando complains that I spent 46 seconds talking about something, and then goes on to send rambling E-mails that take fifteen minutes to wade through. I commented a bit about the old Doctor Who program, which I used to watch on American TV years ago. As for airships, they are gone because they were slower and much more difficult to control than aeroplanes and then there was that spectacular end of the Nazi's Luftschiff Hindenburg LZ-129 on May 6, 1937. The airships ain't coming back to compete with jets, folks. I skipped Fernando's historical musings entirely.

Subject: Broadcast of May 14, 2001
Date: Tue, 15 May 2001 19:59:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: Fernando
To: Rpm@glib.com

Dear R,

I enjoyed your most recent broadcast very much. As a fellow fan of science fiction, I can appreciate your fondness for Doctor Who although I, myself, did not care for it. Here in my native New Jersey, Doctor Who would air on a television station that supported itself through public donations. Periodicly, this station would hold telethons where they would beg the public to send them money. I never sent anything but I know a guy who used to volunteer his time to man the phones during these telethons and you could see him on television in the background answering a phone. It was really him. He used to wear a very tight Doctor Who T-shirt and glasses. Who is your favorite Doctor, R? I don't care for the show, but I would have to say Tom Baker did a very respectable job.

During the letters portion of your last broadcast, you read a letter from a man named Sergio who spoke of New Jersey as an center of agriculture in times past. I enjoyed this very much. In my hometown of North Arlington, New Jersey, there were many strawberry farms right up until the fifties. The town was also the sight of America's first air show in 1909. It was called an “aero carnival.” Did you know this? They had airships there which at one time were thought to be the future of mass transportation. In fact, the Empire State Building's tower was supposed to feature a platform at which airships would dock and people would board or disembark like a train platform. I saw this on the History Channel. Did you? Is that not a crazy idea? I imagine it gets very windy up there and one careless moment would cost MANY lives. What happened to airships, R. Paul? Why did they fall out of favor? Was it due to the Hindenberg, which incidentally exploded in New Jersey? A guy outside my house once told me that the airships stopped being viable because we could not synthesize enough propane lithium to make them practical.

It may interest you to know, Martin, that North Arlington during the seventeenth and early eighteenth century was nothing more than a route Dutch travellers took to get from one place to the other. There were many Dutch settlers all across what is now New Jersey and New York. These Dutch folks came from Holland.

One Dutch settler named Arent Schuyler was travelling through what would become my hometown when he had one of his slaves clear a spot where he could make camp. Schuyler was very wealthy and travelled in a caravan with a few slaves. This one slave turned over a rock and discovered that it was greenish blue. This was an indication that the ground was rich in copper. Schuyler immediately opened a mine right on the spot which greatly increased his fortune.

According to local lore, Arent Schuyler was so grateful to the negro who uncovered the copper that he offered him anything he wanted. The negro asked for a coat like Arent's, a lifetime supply of tobacco, and to work for Arent for the rest of his life. This black guy was already old. Understand? Arent was surprised that this was all the slave wanted and asked if there was anything else. The negro thought about it and asked for “a little more tobacco.”

I don't know if this story is true or not but it does serve to charmingly illustrate that the slave/slave-owner relationship was not the hostile situation Alex Haley would have us believe. R, in the Dutch language, “arent” means “eagle.”

The town of North Arlington was founded right on top of these mines, R. Paul. The shafts are still there and may be accessed through the Meadowlands on which North Arlington bordered. You might remember in the late eighties or early nineties, N.A. received some publicity when sinkholes began forming all over town. Apparently, parts of the town would collapse into the old mine shaft. People would wake up and find their backyards were now a huge hole. I was in college at the time, but if that had happened to me, I think I might brown myself.

There are also rumors of a secret tunnel that runs underneath the Passaic River and comes up in an unknown location possibly in Bellville. It is believed that at some point Schuyler discovered silver on his property and that this was being mined in secret and smuggled out through these secret tunnels. Apparently, if Schuyler had disclosed the discovery of silver on his property, the English Crown would then seize the whole operation. Is this really how it worked? Why silver?

If I may offer a point of criticism, R. This week you spent FORTY-SIX seconds discussing the absence of a clock in your studio. Please, R. wear a watch. Do not waste valueable airtime griping about this trivial stuff. Spend a buck and get yourself a good watch. I wear one. Have you ever worked with Joey Reynolds?

I hope this has been of interest. I truly enjoyed your broadcast and hope to continue doing so. I still laugh when I think of that “Dracula Land” in Romania. I have to check that out.

Look forward to listening again,

Florham Park, NJ

In our next E-mail, Zigman keeps us abreast of the latest changes at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. I did not get to his E-mail on the June 25, program, but here it is. As for the song, it's kind of special to me and I don't play it often.

Subject: A Note and a Fwd: [NGLTF Press] Lorri L. Jean named NGLTF Executive Director
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 16:43:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: zigman
To: rpm@glib.com

Dear R. Paul,

I got this today (Gloomy Monday, 21 May, 2001) and thought you could read & comment on this during your “Pride Parade” show.

Which reminds me, could you please play “In my life” by The Beatles more often than once a year?? I hope I speak for the other 17+ listeners in saying that we really like that song. It doesn't even have to be the Beatles version, is a damn bloody great song!!!!!!!!

Love to you and the amazingly tolerant Miz Pickles del Norte!!!


P.S: I hope you agree that President Bartlet (The West Wing) was right on the money when he told the super-stition: “Haec credam a deo pio? A deo iusto, a deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem. Tuus in terra servus,nuntius fui. Offcium perfeci. Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem.” Which translates to: “Am I really to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? To hell with your punishments. I was your servant here on earth. And I spread your word and I did your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you.” I think all of us who have seen people who have died from AIDS, cancer and other “ailments” have screamed these words, and are glad to see our REAL PRESIDENT say them.


Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 14:06:55 -0400


For those who care, the full story is here.

There are a lot of issues that we can't talk about on the air at WBAI. But there is an Internet list called “Free Pacifica!” which you can subscribe to, and these issues are discussed there. If you subscribe to it you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

If you want to subscribe to the “Free Pacifica!” list just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. Could open your eyes a little bit.

The above list has occasionally produced a high volume of E-mail because of the attention that these issues have drawn. If you would prefer to subscribe to a low volume list that only provides announcements of events related to these issues then subscribe to the FreePac mailing list.

Another list that's sprung up is the “NewPacifica” mailing list. This one is very lively and currently includes over 400 subscribers coast to coast. Being lively, of course, it sometimes also gets a bit nasty. All sorts of things are happening on this list. With that warning in mind, you can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too, although you'll have to deal with Yahoo! to do so.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. This one has a great many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary board that's just totally out of hand.

The “Goodlight” Web based message board has expanded to cover all Pacifica stations.

My voice mail number at WBAI is 212-209-2996. Leave a message.

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

Free Pacifica Web site

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page and subsequent Web pages on this site are copyright © 2001, R. Paul Martin