Web links related to the Back of the Book program of December 11, 2010

It's Friday afternoon, April 15, 2011, 17:49, and this Web page is finally finished. I've updated this Web page with the stuff about the plane crash in 1960, and Pickles' pre-Solstice decoration adventures, I'd previously added information about the lunar eclipse and the Solstice. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ Will we be able to cram everything we have to talk about into 55 minutes? I guess we'll all find out. Check back for updates.

Did you know that I've got a brief synopsis of many of the WBAI LSB meetings? Well, I do.

The next regular WBAI LSB meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 12, 2011, at a location to be announced.

There was a regular LSB meeting on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, the Sixth WBAI LSB was seated. The former Program Director is on this LSB, and he had sent out robo-calls telling his faithful to attend this meeting. Given his publicity campaign, and how long he was dominating WBAI's air, the turnout wasn't impressive. They disrupted though. We got to the elections but then there arose a dispute over the election of the Chair. The faction didn't want a re-vote, and their claque disrupted the meeting. So the meeting ended, but then the faction operatives held a little tea party meeting of their own. If they think they can get away with forming a rump LSB they are in for a surprise. The Chair of the LSB was physically assaulted at one point by faction operative Ralph Poynter.

At a previous meeting the WBAI LSB voted to hold its meetings on the second Wednesday of every month and/or the last Thursday of that month, subject to change by the LSB, which gives us the following schedule:

All of these meetings are set to begin at 7:00 PM.

WBAI 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.

WBAI has an official Web stream of what's on the air at any time! You can go here and pick which type of stream you want! If this stream isn't working let me know. And you can see the status of the streams at any time by clicking here. The stream was working at 1:52 AM this morning. The station has a Flash stream here, make sure you enable Javascript so it can work for you.

WBAI is archiving the programs! Just go here and you'll be able to listen to this program any time for the next couple of months. You may need to scroll up one line to see the audio archive. Let me know if you find this feature useful.

If you want to listen to any part of the WBAI archive click here to go right to the archives. When you first go to the Web page you'll only see the WBAI programs for the past 7 days. If you want to see older programs you can click on one of the “See ALL Shows” buttons. Or to see only the two shows in this time slot click here. The archives of our programs in our previous time slot are here.

For legal reasons, WBAI stopped making podcasts available as of June 28, 2010.

Back of the Book is one of the programs that you can download, as well as listen to on line.

In the table on the archive Web page Back of the Book and Carrier Wave are both in the “Show” column. The “Date and Category” column shows the date of the program. After the program I go in and write the details of the program and say which program it is. Of course I'd recommend that you just listen to both programs in this time slot!

Last year there was a Pacifica National Board meeting held in New York. Here's the Web page I did about this PNB meeting and the amazing things that went on at it.

And the PNB has also met in Houston from Friday October 9th, through Sunday October 11th, 2009. The official audio archive of that meeting is here. It was not disrupted as the New York meeting was, although some of the same miscreants got out there to say stupid things.

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. I guess those of us who didn't attend will hear about what happened at it some day.

The Executive Director of Pacifica, Arlene Engleheart, appointed another new interim General Manager of WBAI on June 24. So far there's been a Staff meeting to introduce Berthold Reimers as the new iGM, but Pacifica Management has not issued anything in writing yet. When they do I'll post a link to it.

The 2010 Local Station Board Elections Are Over!

And the results are in!

Here is the list of those elected in order of their finish:



Here's the full list of who finished in what place in the listener election.

Here's the full list of who finished in what place in the Staff election.

Thanks to all who voted for independent candidates. The Sixth WBAI LSB is almost evenly split between the independents and the former Program Director's faction operatives.

UPDATE: Voting in the WBAI listener election is officially over. The WBAI Staff election failed to meet quorum. It turns out that this was not true. The WBAI Staff election met quorum on September 30th. Why, then did the Election Supervisors extend the WBAI Staff election by two weeks? This is an unanswered question. Also, the National Election Supervisor, Renee Asteria,, wrote to me that “Approximately 200 staff ballots have been cast.” by September 30th. But the voting tally shows a total of only 89 ballots counted. We still don't know if the screwup of sending many of the ballots to the wrong ZIP code has resulted in a lot of those ballots not getting to the proper P.O. Box.

The official Web site of this election was here.

There are a lot of questions about this election. Some of those questions are: who didn't bother to proof read the ZIP codes on the return envelopes? What was the real reason why the Staff election was extended? Why were the so-called Justice and Unity Campaign listener candidates given such preferential treatment, especially when it came to on-air campaign time? There also may have been people who weren't eligible to vote as Staff who were allowed to vote in this election.

Here is a reproduction of the official E-mail from the Election Supervisors as issued on October 4, 2010.

Here is a reproduction of the official E-mail from the Election Supervisors as issued on October 13, 2010.

The 2010, election campaign has officially ended. Pickles of the North only got her ballot as of the middle of September. The ballot arrived with no booklet about the elections. And the return envelope had no stamp on it. The lack of a stamp on the envelope will affect both the Staff and listener elections, but it will potentially really affect the listener election. This, I think, favors the former Program Director's faction on the listener side a lot.

Many listeners may not even realize that they've gotten a ballot! And then they will not know who the candidates are at all, but there will be at least two names that they'd have heard on the air. And those are faction candidates.

The lack of a stamp on the envelope probably got a lot of people to NOT bother voting at all.

Okay, this election is now thoroughly screwed up like the others were.

We've Sort of Moved

Back of the Book has been moved to this time slot. We'll see how this move works.

The interim Program Director has issued notice of program changes. The evolving, relevant documents are below. We are hearing from other producers who have been told they are being moved to other time slots and having their time cut in half. One producer has been told he's off the air entirely and another producer has decided that he would rather resign than be treated in a way that he can't abide.

Some producers are lobbying heavily to retain their current time slots, and some have lobbied to get better time slots amid the chaos of this sudden program shakeup. One producer got moved, accepted it, and then got pushed out of the new time slot by another producer who had publicly quit and then successfully lobbied the interim Program Director, with the aid of four supporters, for a better time slot. The producer who got pushed out has quit WBAI.

We got a call on our answering machine from WBAI interim Program Director Tony Bates at 5:17 in the afternoon on November 1st. He said that the grid was changing and that Back of the Book would be affected. When I called back at 7:15 that evening I got his voice mail and the voice mail was full so I couldn't leave a message.

I called the interim Program Director about this again the next day. He told me that he was moving Back of the Book to 5:00 AM on Saturdays! And in this new time slot the program is only one hour long. Let's just say that we are not jumping for joy about this change in the program. It's quite a change for us, and for our listeners. And, yes, Uncle Sidney has moved his program Carrier Wave, or whatever he's calling it lately, to this same time slot and will continue alternating with us.

Here are the latest documents from Management about the programming shakeup:

Management's Original FormatsWeb Friendly Formats
First letter from WBAI ManagementFirst letter from WBAI Management
Second letter from WBAI ManagementSecond letter from WBAI Management
The new WBAI program gridThe new WBAI program grid
 The new WBAI program grid in HTML format
 Updated schedule as of 11/15/10

In the grid I do not know whose picture that is to the right of the data. Even now I don't know that these program changes are fully settled.

Of course I've had something to say about all of this. I sent this out as an E-mail on November 11th. If we don't get more listeners soon WBAI will cease to exist.

Well, WBAI is now airing Al Jazeera at 5:00 AM weekdays. So I guess we're following in that time slot. Anyone tuning in to look for that broadcast this morning is going to get a surprise.

This coming Thursday, December 16th, will mark the 50th anniversary of a sad event. On December 16, 1960, the worst plane crash disaster in history, up to that time, occurred. I saw part of it happen.

We talked about the tragedy on this program.

There are some general details about the crash on this Wikipedia page. I have to say, however, that tales of people seeing the pilots or details of the crew do not sound realistic to me. The plane was coming in way too fast for people to see anything that precisely when the falling aircraft suddenly appeared. As for the pilot dipping a wing near St. Augustine's, the same claim was made by kids from the girls' section of my grammar school. I doubt that the incident happened at either school.

Park Slope was filthy with Catholic schools in 1960.

It was a crappy morning in Brooklyn. The sky was completely overcast and there was either some sleet or wet snow coming down. There was still some snow on the ground, getting grimier by the hour, from the previous snow storm days before. I was in the 8th Grade at St. Francis Xavier's School. We were in the all boys half of the school. Brother Christopher was our teacher.

my grammar school
The Front of the Grammar School I Went to

I had grown bored with a lot of school by the 8th Grade. I was really not interested in arithmetic. I was either standing up being scolded by Brother Christopher for screwing up my arithmetic homework or an arithmetic test or something to do with arithmetic, or else I had just sat down after such a public humiliation when there was suddenly this enormous noise in the classroom. It sounded as if it were really in the classroom. Very loud noises tend to overwhelm our ability to tell where the sound is coming from, as I learned years later in the Republic of Viet Nam and through other adventures in my life. In this case the very loud roar was coming from the engines of United Airlines Flight 826 as it lost altitude and passed over the roof of our school after its mid-air collision with TWA Flight 266 about a minute earlier. We were right under the roof. It was about ten thirty in the morning.

The sound was tremendous but it shifted immediately from being right over us to coming through the window. Our classroom was on the top floor of St. Francis Xavier. So we were about 40 feet up with what I now realize was quite a view of the northern part of Park Slope. St. Francis Xavier was located in the middle of the block bound by 6th and 7th Avenues with President St. to the south and Union St. to the north.

Everybody looked out the tall windows of the classroom as the roar shifted. As it came out from right over us we could hear that it was a jet plane that was in trouble.

I had to have been looking right at it, and I have a recollection of something twisting out there in the space beyond the schoolyard, but my eyes couldn't focus in those fleeting seconds. The noise had been so loud and sudden that my eyes must have been bouncing around in my head. I never got a really clear sight of the DC-8 as far as I can recall.

And then there was a fireball. It erupted only blocks away. There was the loud sound of the impact and explosion. The fireball reached up into the cold air and formed a black, mushroom shaped cloud. My first thought was that I was witnessing the start of World War III. I thought an atomic bomb had just gone off.

By now most or all of us were standing up. Classmate Robert Costello shouted “Holy shit!” reflexively. Brother Christopher was as stunned by the crash and explosion as we boys were and took no notice of Costello's exclamation, which under normal circumstances would have gotten him a serious beating and a month in detention, if not expulsion from the school.

The United DC-8 had crashed on Sterling Place between 6th and 7th Avenues, 4½ short blocks north of us.

It didn't take long for Brother Christopher to recover and start trying to regain control of the classroom. This being a Catholic School he did the thing that was always done in serious circumstances, he started us to praying. I forget if we did a full rosary or a part of one, but we started praying for the poor souls of the people we'd just watched die in that plane crash.

I could pray in unison with the rest of the class with no thought whatsoever. So I was free to observe as we prayed that the fireball was gone but there was still a fire blazing on the roofs of the brownstones we could see in the distance. I was impressed by the fact that this large scale fire covering something like half a block of rooftops looked just like a small fire a kid might make with lighter fluid even though the flames reached 30 or more feet high into that gray sky. I realized that the silly science fiction movies I'd been watching for years had actually gotten this phenomenon right. A large fire seen at a distance looks like a small fire seen up close.

There were sirens all over the place in short order. I think that the school principal, Brother Cyprian, came up to our classroom to look out the window at the scene. Just before lunch he announced over the school-wide PA system that no one was to go over to the crash site. And some of us actually heeded this warning and didn't go. I went.

I usually stayed at school and ate lunch there, which was much cooler than going home every day. So I usually just went down to the basement to eat. I think I threw away the lunch my mother had given me that day, the peanut butter sandwich I always had, and just got in line with the kids who went home for lunch. I chose to go on the line that went up to 7th Ave. I figured I'd get a better view from up there.

The police had had almost two hours to get control of the accident scene. So we were all kept a couple of blocks away. We could see the devastation though. The tail of the United DC-8 was right in the middle of 7th Ave. That was quite a sight. It had crushed a car under it. Police and firemen were all over the place, fire hoses on top of fire hoses stretched or meandered from the fire hydrants, water leaked all over the street and there was a grave atmosphere among we gawkers.

From where I was on the closed off 7th Ave. I couldn't see that the food store on the southwest corner of Sterling Place and 7th Ave. had gotten hit. I later learned that the butcher in there had died from the crash. My mother and I used to go in there to buy food on the days when we'd walk back home from seeing some movie at the Carlton Theater over on Flatbush Ave. just off 7th Ave. So we certainly were acquainted with one of the people who'd died that day.

Waiting in line to go back up to class after lunch we noticed that not quite everyone had gotten back from the crash site yet. Brother Christopher noticed too. The missing boys arrived mere minutes late, but they got punished for their tardiness.

And then the frantic mothers arrived. Some of the kids who usually went home for lunch had just gone to the edge of the crash site with the rest of us. Their mothers were waiting at home for their precious little darlings and heard about the plane crash, and may have heard it first hand, and when their sons hadn't returned home they rushed up to the school. They charged into the classroom in various stages of panic and called for their sons. I think that some of them didn't realize that their sons were not allowed to get up from their desks without permission from Brother Christopher, so there was initial confusion. Some mothers asked the Brother for their kids, others just burst into the classroom and called out their boy's name, sometimes with a thick foreign accent. All of the boys whose mothers arrived in the classroom were called up to the front by Brother Christopher. The mothers variously scolded, embraced, slapped, cried over and hugged the still alive boys. Brother Christopher made a list, and when the mothers were all gone he lectured the boys about having caused their mothers so much worry and he issued them detentions. Anyone who'd arrived late for class and whose worried mother had come to the classroom got double detention.

When I got home that afternoon the crash was all over the news. There was the story of the lone survivor, a boy of 11 whose name I much later learned was Stephen Baltz. My mother said she'd seen an ambulance rushing past our apartment building towards the Methodist Hospital on 6th St. and she thought that ambulance was carrying the boy. Unfortunately, the medical science of 1960, was not able to save his life and he succumbed to his burns the next day.

This was one of those big events in my early life, on of the ones that taught me that we're never really safe, that something we do not expect can always happen and that people can die very suddenly even if they're just working in their store, shoveling snow or walking a dog. And I knew that I had once again lived through an event by sheer luck. That plane could easily have crashed into St. Francis Xavier's School instead of screaming over us and hitting shorter buildings 4½ blocks away.

When my father got home from work we gave him all of the details. We didn't have a telephone yet so he couldn't call from his truck driving job. We noted how close the plane had come to my school. My mother said that had it hit St. Francis Xavier's, with hundreds of kids in that school, there would have been a lot of very sad Christmases in the neighborhood that year.

I commented on the page about the 50th anniversary of this crash on The New York Times Web site a few days after this program.

An experiment has produced a really surprising result, scientists have been able to get a bacterium called GFAJ-1 to use arsenic instead of phosphorus for its various biological needs.

This experiment shows that life is not restricted to using the elements that we are used to seeing it use. One of the constraints on the amount of life that can exist on Earth is the amount of phosphorus available. Maybe on other planets there's more arsenic than phosphorus and this is a natural adaptation there. It also means that other elements that are not used by life on Earth may be common among life forms elsewhere in the universe.

The bottom line is that this experiment opens up the possibility that there are life forms in the universe that are chemically different from what we're used to seeing, and that means that there are more possibilities for life elsewhere.

We talked about the Wikileaks thing.

Hey, WBAI has started putting out a newsletter. Click here to look at it.

Pickles of the North talked about a total lunar eclipse that will begin at 1:33 AM (ET) in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, December 21, 2010. A lunar eclipse takes hours to complete so totality will occur at 2:41 AM (ET). For more details on this lunar eclipse look here.

Pickles also talked about the Winter Solstice occurring later on that same Tuesday, December 21, 2010, at 6:38 PM (ET). And for more seasonal and sub-seasonal dates take a look at this.

Chocolate story xmas display
Xmas Display at Teuscher Chocolates

So Pickles of the North and some of her gal pals were wandering about Manhattan this past fortnight and Pickles was especially taken with the displays at the (very expensive) Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland store. Oh, she does like chocolate.

Yeah, we don't believe in any of the superstitious crap that gets celebrated every December. But the solstice is a good thing to celebrate because that's about something that's really happening.

And it is good, we think, to get out during this depressing time of the year when the days are so short and sunset comes so early and take in all of the bright and fun stuff, no matter that it might have a superstitious theme attached to it.

The real celebration is of the Winter Solstice and the fact that the days will now start to get longer. And the festive decorations and other artifacts are really ancient remedies to the depression that comes over most people in the dark days of Winter. So go out and enjoy what you may no matter that the people who've provided the displays and decorations might have odd motives for making them.

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. UPDATE: The bleepin' blue board has had to add a step for folks to get onto it because it's under attack by spambots. When you click on the above link you may be asked for a username and password. Type in Username: poster Password: enternow

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

Our very own Uncle Sidney Smith, whose program Carrier Wave alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

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

You can also send me E-mail.

WBAI related links

WBAI Listeners' Web page

WBAI Management's official Web site

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The contents of this Web page are copyright © 2010, R. Paul Martin.