Web links related to the Back of the Book program of October 11, 2004

It's Sunday night 10/24/2004 20:02:26 and this page is finished. We got to all of the below stuff along with some other things on this program. We're also still caught up with the mail, the electronic versions of which are below.

The WBAI Local Station Board (LSB) will meet next on Thursday, October 28th, at 6:30 PM. I don't know where we're meeting, and no one else may know yet either. The venues should be posted at wbai.org.

WBAI now has a program schedule up on its Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

Our colleagues from Off the Hook now have both a RealAudio streaming web cast operating, and a new MP3 stream. The MP3 feed is now the preferred feed. Both feeds were working at 11:22 PM last night.

The Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI, has revamped its Web site and now has something called the Pacifica Lounge where you can post messages about Pacifica, WBAI and other Pacifica radio stations. This may be a good thing, and of course there are other, long term fora in which to participate.

WBAI also has a forum on its Web site now. You have to register to post messages, but anyone may read the messages.

Brand new is the Pacifica Internet Radio site.

Here's a heads up: We'll be pitching on Back of the Book during the program of October 24/25. If you're one of the listeners who tapes the program you might consider sending a check in to the program ahead of time. A regular one year subscription is $25. You are free to send more if you want. Another option might be for those of you who usually don't listen to the program live to tune in live for the first 20 or 30 minutes of the program so you can pledge live. Either way, any contributions will be appreciated.

So you can send a check made out to “WBAI/Pacifica” to:

R. Paul Martin
Back of the Book
120 Wall St. 10th floor
New York, NY 10005

Speaking of Pacifica, it looks like there is going to be something like a merger in the future. Some folks disparage the Bleepin' Blue Board, but it frequently has the best news coverage about WBAI and Pacifica.

Here's a new reason to learn how to pronounce the former Soviet sub-state of Kyrgyzstan — they've had to arrest some guys who were trying to sell weapons grade Plutonium there.

This is probably the biggest issue of the early 21st century: nuclear proliferation. All sorts of people and groups are trying to obtain nuclear weapons. And some of them are nuts enough to use them the minute they get them.

One related issue is radioactive material that won't make a fission bomb, but which can be used to make a “dirty bomb.” The former Soviet Union wanted to keep its planes from crashing into mountains and so they put beacons on many mountains throughout the former largest nation-state in the world. But they didn't want to have to really deal with these beacons. They didn't want to have to have people going to up installations on these mountains, so they just made stand-along beacons that were powered by the radioactive element Cesium 137. This element produces a good amount of heat as it decays and was able to power beacons for decades. After the Soviet Union collapsed, however, nobody paid any attention to these things and it's not even know where all of these beacons were. Even if the beacons have gone silent the Cesium 137 is still highly radioactive. So a great deal of this stuff is just lying around Asia waiting for people with bad motivations to scoop it up and make use of it.

The Mistakes we Make

On this program we brought back our feature of reading from that 1898, book named The Mistakes we Make edited by Nathan Haskell Dole.

This book is an early version of books that compile lists of things or correct common misapprehensions. Some of those books have gone on to sell enough copies to get onto the New York Times Best Seller list. This book had no chance of ever getting on that list because the Best Seller list didn't exist until October 6, 1935. And, speaking of best seller lists, Publisher's Weekly didn't start one until 1912.

As usual, quotations from the book are set off by a green background.

Apologies do not imply Faults — George the Third when told that Bishop Watson had published “An Apology for the Bible,” remarked that he did not know that the Bible needed an apology. The king did not realize that the word is also used in the old Greek sense of defence. Hence a Christian apologist is one who defends, not excuses; he does not admit the existence of fault in the Bible which he defends. The “Evidences of Christianity” are for the same reason technically called apologetics.

I think it was in the later years of grammar school that they taught us about the word “apology” and how it got used in religion class. And anybody who's ever read it knows that the Bible has a hell of a lot to apologize for.

I've seen this word definition mistake made a lot. In fact I've seen it done in debates involving Pacifica issues a number of times. Very distressing that some people who will have a voice in what happens to the Pacifica Foundation are as uninformed as George III was.

“Saint” and “Holy” — The famous mosque at Constantinople was not called so for any “saint” of the name “Sophia.” The church was originally dedicated by Constantine the Great to “sacred or holy wisdom,” Hagia Sophia; that is, to Christ, as the personified wisdom of God. Among other instances where “Saint” does not mean “saint” but “holy” we have St. Sepulchre, Protestant churches at London and Cambridge, St. Croix River in Wisconsin, and Sainte Chappelle at Paris, built by St. Louis to receive and enshrine the crown of thorns. St. Mary, when used for Roman Catholic churches means “holy” Mary, as the reverence there paid her is much greater than the word “saint” would imply.

Constantinople, which was located in the Ottoman Empire in 1898, is now Istanbul and it's located in Turkey. There's even an old song about it. We had a little discussion about how people take over other people's territory, and about how the Turks invaded the land we now call Turkey and only took it over in 1453, a mere 39 years before Columbus sailed to what we now call “The Americas.” Some conquerors are politically correct and others aren't.

Of course we had quite a giggle over the idea of building a church to house the “crown of thorns.” Guys were selling all sorts of silliness like this as religious artifacts in the Middle Ages. By far the most sold item was a piece of “The True Cross.” It was while we were laughing at this that Pickles of the North revealed that when she was little girl her mother had in her jewel box a tiny vial which contained a little sliver of “The One True Cross!” So it was still being sold in Quebec in the 1950s. In fact the selling of pieces of “The One True Cross” was so brisk throughout the millennia that this cross would have been pretty damned gigantic! How many metric tons of wood have been sold as being part of this thing? Amusingly, at least some parts of the Catholic Church are still maintaining that these hunks of wood are exactly what some Medieval hucksters claimed them to be!

Oh, and about that crown of thorns, it was sold by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to King Louis IX of France. Looks like old Baldwin II laughed all the way to the bank! I wonder if King Louis IX ever traded his cow for any magic beans?

Another relic, and to my mind the most amusing one, that was sold a lot in the Middle Ages was the “Sacred Prepuce of Christ.” This was supposed to have been the foreskin of Jesus H. Christ which would have been removed during his circumcision, which Roman Catholics celebrate on January 1, of each year. Pickles said she was glad that there was only a sliver of wood in her mother's jewel box!

Archimedes and his Circles — It is undoubtedly a historical fact that Archimedes met his death when the Romans under Marcellus attacked and captured Syracuse, 212 B.C. But the story that he was engaged in mathematical work, and was busy contemplating circles drawn in the sand when a Roman soldier appeared, may or may not be true. “Do not disturb my circles!” the philosopher is said to have exclaimed, but the soldier struck him down. This is a pretty fiction. So also is the story of his great burning glass which burned the ships of the Romans in the harbor. The circumstances are impossible. The story that he said, “Give me a pou sto and I will move the world,” is another invention of later days.

First, the phrase pou sto means “where I may stand,” and the quote as I always heard it was, “Give me a lever long enough, and a place on which to rest it, and I will move the world.”

Archimedes was one hell of a great mathematician. But when I first read a history of him years ago I was immediately skeptical. The Romans did invade and take over the city-state of Syracuse in 212 B.C.E., and I'm sure that the citizens of that city appealed to the really bright guy Archimedes for help in resisting the siege, and I'm sure he did have a number of logical suggestions that helped them out, including some defensive works that were designed to trap the attackers. But when I read about Archimedes burning the Roman ships as they entered the harbor by use of a mirror my BS meter pinned. The idea above that he used a lens to do it is even wilder because the technology to make a large enough lens to do that is pretty sophisticated wouldn't exist for thousands of more years. It's also a fact that shaping a piece of glass to be big enough to focus that much sunlight on enemy ships at some distance would take months, if not a year to accomplish.

I also wondered about this guy just relaxing at home with his mathematics while the Roman legions sacked the city. Either Archimedes had an absolutely inhuman power of concentration or this part of the story is also BS.

What isn't BS is that Archimedes was a really great mathematician. And his stature has gotten greater in only the last few years. Archimedes' contributions to the approach of mathematics towards the calculus has been well known for a long time. From an examination of a surviving copy of Archimedes' book The Method it appears that he may actually have gone all the way and invented the calculus some 1,800 years before Newton and Leibnitz did! all of history would have been different had this been followed up on. Archimedes was also apparently the first person to tackle the mathematical topic called combinatorics, which is most often applied in computer science. Hell of a bright guy!

We got through the mail again, and here are the E-mails.

Subject: 09-27-04 “Fried Milk”
Date: Sun, 26 Sep 2004 23:34:23 -0800
From: Bill from Avenue J
To: rpm@glib.com

Thanks for another great show, R. Paul. Your story about dashing to hand in your election forms was an inspiration to all of us who get a thrill out of finishing a term paper or your tax return by the skin of your teeth. Some people ride roller coasters; I procrastinate on paperwork.

One of your missive-writers mentioned they chose the handle “Fried Milk” and suggested it is a neologism. Actually, this is a real dish, available at Chinese restaurants. It is a sort of pudding made of evaporated or condensed milk, thicked with cornstarch, deep fried and served as a dessert. Kind of a bite-sized, fried version of flan. It's called “jou shin nai,” which translates to “fried fresh milk.” Pretty good, but not as good as the fried ice cream that is available at any hoity-toity bistro in the city.

Bill from Avenue J

Subject: Horseshoe crab
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 11:23:13 -0400
From: Steve
To: rpm@glib.com

Hello Mr. Martin --

Thought you might enjoy the attached article from SCIENCE.


Well, I can't post the page Steve sent in due to copyright regulations, however it references two Web pages about our pals the horseshoe crabs. This is a page about horseshoe crabs from the University of Delaware. And here is an entire site dedicated to horseshoe crabs.

Subject: Greetings again, R. Paul
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 2004 06:49:45 +0200
From: Milky
To: rpm@glib.com

I went down to WBAI the other day to take photographs. That was NOT very fun for me, since I'm very shy, and I had to crawl through the caverns of Wall Street besides. How is it that it's so dark and claustrophic over there? It must have been noon, but everything was in shadows, and don't tell me it's because of the buildings because most of Manhattan is perfectly well lit.

Anyway, I took some pictures of the lobby with my disposable camera, since I was too shy to ask to see the studios. Mistake number one. I also now realize that I made a further mistake...you see, I took pictures of the little table in the lobby with the block letters “WBAI” on it, right? There's an American flag on the wall, and right above it...well...I don't know who the hell that portrait is of, since I didn't bother to ask! I wanted to upload the pictures I took to www.wikipedia.com, an online encyclopedia, for their article on WBAI. However, I know that someone's going to end up asking who the heck that guy in the photo is, so, please, R. Paul, enlighten me. I don't care if you email me, send me a letter, or tell me on air (I'd probably be asleep anyway). Just don't make me come back to the studios, I'll probably wet myself. Between talking to strangers and walking down Wall Street...

Wall Street is so dark in the middle of the day because it's a narrow, old street, originally set up at least 300 years ago, which runs east to west and it has very tall buildings on either side of it. Similarly narrow and ancient streets are similarly dark.

The photograph is of the late Samori Marksman who was a Program Director at WBAI. There used to be photographs up there of Paul Wunder and Chet Jackson who were also producers and Paid Staff at WBAI when they died.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even now that the gag rule has been lifted. However, there is the Internet! There are mailing lists which you can subscribe to and Web based message boards devoted to WBAI and Pacifica issues. Many controversial WBAI/Pacifica issues are discussed on these lists.

Probably the most popular 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 and official announcements are frequently posted there.

You can look at the NewPacifica list here, and you can join the list from that Web page too. If you subscribe to the “NewPacifica” mailing list you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list.

There is the option to receive a “digest” version of the list, which means that a bunch of messages are bundled into one E-mail and sent to you at regular intervals, this cuts down on the number of E-mails you get from the list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.

This list also has a Web based interface where you can read messages and from which you can post your own messages.

There is also the more WBAI specific “Goodlight” Web based message board. It is sometimes referred to on Back of the Book as “the bleepin' blue board,” owing to the blue background used on its Web pages. This one has many people posting anonymously and there's also an ancillary “WBAI people” board that's just totally out of hand.

When the computer in Master Control is working we sometimes have live interaction with people posting on the “Goodlight Board” during the program.

And then there is the historic “Free Pacifica!” list, which has been used to help organize resistance to Pacifica Management hijackers since the mid-90s. It's become a low volume mailing list because it's been eclipsed by some of the newer, more technologically advanced, lists. Just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. This is a mailing list only, it doesn't have a digest option nor does it have a web interface.

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 are copyright © 2004, R. Paul Martin.