Web links related to the Back of the Book program of 10/18/99

It's Tuesday, 10/19/99 12:47:30. Remember when I said during the program that I was experiencing some sort of illness over the previous two weeks? Well, one listener called up and suggested that I'd been poisoned by Malathion. I don't think so, however, because we kept the windows closed and all. In any case, it's happening again. So I'm not necessarily getting this page as updated as I might. I'll keep hacking at it though.

Sadly, we have to report the sudden death of Jean Shepherd. I'd planned a program about some recent disputes regarding willpower, and the relation of that to free will and the recent discovery that macaque monkeys grow new brain cells daily. I never got to that topic because of the Shepherd reminiscence. Next program for that. But I may also be putting some things up here from the mail that I have. So, as usual, visitors are advised to look in on this page over the next few days for updates.

As usual it's something of a crap shoot as to whether or not the Web cast of tonight's program is going to work. But here are your choices:

Paul Williams of UFO Desk is arranging for this feed. And we thank Porus dot com for this feed.

“Emmanuel Goldstein” of Off The Hook is maintaining this feed.

Jean Shepherd

In the wee hours of Sunday morning I saw the Associated Press report of the death of Jean Shepherd, live radio “raconteur” from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

I listened to Jean Shepherd for years. I certainly didn't agree with him on everything, but he was definitely doing something on radio that I'd not heard anyone else do. Ironically, I first ran into Shepherd on TV, when I was a kid. I used to watch the Long John Nebel Show on WOR-TV, Channel 9 in New York City. As I said, I was a kid and Long John used to have on all sorts of odd stuff, like programs about UFOs. One night my mother and I tuned in to Channel 9 early and I saw this weird guy doing odd things. It was Shepherd. His TV program only lasted a few weeks. But I ended up listening to him on the radio, and did so intensively through the sixties until I got drafted in January 1968. I even listened to Shepherd a bit during the early seventies, but other obligations, like the gay liberation movement and a sex life, took up that odd time slot from 10:15 to 11:00 PM weeknights that Shepherd occupied.

It has to be said that Shepherd was a homophobe. I think it was mostly part of his trying to be cool all the time. “Cool” was one of the afflictions of his era, and it still is for many people. In the '50s through middle '70s the majority of people definitely did not consider being gay to be “cool.” I recall listening to Shepherd as a kid and wincing whenever he got to something where he would start to put down gay people or make fun of us. Oh well, we must all take each other as we are, warts and all.

Jean Shepherd has definitely been an influence on me in doing radio. I don't do the type of show he did, where he mostly recounted the stories of his fictional characters, but he did tell stories live on the radio, and so do I. Besides the prepared stories, he would also sometimes talk about things that he felt strongly about. He used the medium of radio very well in these segments of his program, and that bears a strong resemblance to what I try to do now.

Shepherd was also a HAM radio operator in his youth, and his talks about the now primitive electronics of the thirties and forties fascinated me. Any time he had to mention a serial number or a license plate or anything like that he would almost always use the sequence “6SJ7” in it. This was a type of old radio tube manufactured by a variety of companies. I almost bought a bunch of them twenty odd years ago, just as a nostalgia thing.

The thought occurs to me that Long John Nebel died some years ago, now Shepherd. Not surprisingly, there are entire lineups of “old time radio” that have no one left alive. But that was before my time. Now I'm seeing the people I used to listen to go. One sobering thought is that there will come a time when entire WBAI lineups are no longer alive.

There's a memorial page shaping up right now for Jean Shepherd, with all of the A.P. stories about his life.

I should mention that Max Schmid has tapes of old Shepherd programs for sale. Max called me after the program to point out my failings on a couple of points:

  1. There really was a product called “Sweetheart Soap,” it just wasn't one of his sponsors! He got into trouble with WOR Management for doing commercials for Sweetheart Soap as a joke in order to get loads of people to go into stores and order this product.
  2. The book I, Libertine, whose title he made up on the air, actually got onto the New York Times Best Seller List from Shepherd's hyping it on the air and getting his listeners/co-conspirators to ask for it in bookstores. After it hit the Best Seller List, Shepherd and Theodore Sturgeon actually wrote a book of that title.

I attended Fall Internet World '99 on October 6, and I must say that it was not a great thrill. Nothing tremendous, and it was all about many “dot coms” trying to make a buck. There was a lot of money grubbing and not much in terms of real interest to anyone who's interested in the Internet for something other than mundane commerce. I may be talking more about it on the next program. Plans for tonight's program are thrown a little off kilter by the death of Jean Shepherd.

The Pacifica National Board is going to be meeting in Houston, Texas later this month. They're in the midst of stealing the Pacifica Foundation. You might want to send them a message about what you think they should do or not do.

During the program I read a piece from Newsday about the school districts in Georgia painting over part of the illustration of the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

In the Muscogee County, Georgia schools they had teacher's aides going through all 2,300 copies of the fifth grade American history textbook, painting over the part of the illustration that contains George Washington's watch fob because they figure that the fob, which you can barely discern in the painting I link to above, looks like the father of our country's cajones on his leg. The Superintendent of the Muscogee County school district feared what fifth graders' reactions might be to this illustration.

This is another indicator of how stupid our country is becoming! This painting, a really fantasized version of the historic event, was painted in 1851, and has since been reproduced in generations of school textbooks, newspapers, magazines and lithographs, and the painting has been shown on TV tons of times. The original painting hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (But don't tell Rudolph Giuliani!). In the previous 150 years it hasn't been found to be “suggestive” of anything that would stimulate ten year olds in a bad way. It's been used as one of the icons of patriotism in the United States of America. And however you feel about patriotism you have to admit that the people who push it are very unlikely to be involved in some vast conspiracy to play bait and switch with General George Washington's gonads.

Are these school districts saying that children have suddenly become less capable of handling a possible misimpression than the six previous generations that have viewed this painting? Or is it just that the people in charge are now always looking for an excuse, no matter how outlandish or concocted, to be seen as protecting children? Everybody's a damned politician these days.

Not all Georgia school districts are slopping paint into their textbooks, some school districts have removed the page carrying this illustration from the book. Maybe this will have the actual effect of teaching the kids about what it means for something to go into the “memory hole.” Oh my, can we say “hole” to grade school kids anymore? Or is this entire flap just a big conspiracy to get them thinking about holes? Quick! Glue the Web pages together!

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.

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

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