Back of the Book — November 23, 2013

It's Friday night, December 20, 2013, 22:36, and this Web page is finished. I've updated what we did around Doctor Who and I'd previously updated this page with a bit of what I'd said regarding the Kennedy assassination, along with what we didn't get to about Comet ISON and with a little piece about a trip to Coney Island that Pickles of the North and I made this past fortnight. The original top of this page follows the arrow. ⇒ We are going to be such wrecks for this program! I don't know that I've ever done a radio program this sleep deprived before. I have had to deal with an LSB meeting that went late last night. I've not had proper sleep for days. We'll talk about a couple of 50th anniversaries, and more. Maybe we can bring some different perspectives to some of it. We'll also try to squeeze in some mail.

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

I have also posted a whole lot of the minutes of the Pacifica National Finance Committee. I'm a member of that committee because I'm the WBAI LSB Treasurer.

The next regular WBAI LSB meeting will be on December 11, 2013, at a location to be announced.

The WBAI LSB met on last night, Friday, November 22, 2013, at 388 Atlantic Ave. in downtown Brooklyn.

We had a very tiny Treasurer's Report at this meeting. Here's a written Treasurer's Report I had posted for the meeting.

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 newly revamped Web site. The site has gotten many of the individual program pages together to provide links and such, so check it out.

Because WBAI was forced out of its studios by the flood waters' destruction of the building's electrical system we still have this alternate, temporary stream for the radio station! I do not know how long this emergency stream will be up for. If this stream isn't working let me know.

New WBAI stream! WBAI has put up an experimental stream for the Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This is a brand new, experimental stream. So if you have one of those devices you might try the link out. And let us know how it works for you one way or the other. That way the folks implementing it can iron out any kinks in the system.

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. There is also another version of the archive here.

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.

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 Saturday Morning With the Radio On 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!

The Pacifica National Board (PNB) met in Manhattan the weekend of October 1-3, 2010. The audio has been posted for the first day of the meeting, the second day of the meeting and the third day of the meeting.

President John F. Kennedy White House color photo portrait
President Kennedy
photo credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House

Of course we talked about the Kennedy assassination which occurred 50 years ago yesterday.

The first question is always “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” I was in a class in high school, in Brooklyn. I think we were in an English class, but I'm not sure, in my old age.

As I recall, we first got an announcement over the school's public address system late on that Friday afternoon from the Principal of St. Francis Prep, Brother David. He said that there was a news report that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.

Now John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the office of President of the United States. His candidacy had been a big deal when I was going to Catholic grammar school in 1960. And when he won the Presidency over Nixon that year it was an even bigger deal. All of the Catholic School boys were supposed to be inspired by him and were supposed to aspire to be as great as he was. Of course there was no mention of his doing things like screwing around with Marilyn Monroe. The general public didn't know about that.

The Principal told us to pray for the President. So all of St. Francis Prep prayed for President Kennedy's recovery. He was already dead, of course, but this was not known till later on.

I think the class resumed after the prayers. I'm not really sure. Later on in the period though Brother David came on the PA system again and told us that President Kennedy was dead. And again, we started praying, this time for his soul.

Among Roman Catholics generally, in those days, most people were assumed to go to Purgatory after they died. I don't know what the Roman Catholic Church is doing about Purgatory anymore. When I was Catholic, Purgatory was basically Hell on a temporary basis. People who weren't quite totally free of minor sins when they died went to Purgatory and were tortured in fire until they'd paid for their sins. You could free what were constantly referred to as “The poor souls in Purgatory” by various prayers dedicated to those suffering decedents. So that would basically be what we were doing when we prayed for the late John F. Kennedy that afternoon. And that pretty much blew that period that day.

After school the track coach told us that it was a terrible tragedy, “But life goes on,” and we would indeed have track practice that day. And we did.

From Friday afternoon November 22, until Monday morning November 25, all TV shows were preempted. There was nothing on TV but repeated coverage of the assassination, retrospectives of Kennedy's career, interviews with people about Kennedy, and adrenelated news reporters trying in some way to cover something that everyone else hadn't covered already on what was probably the biggest story they'd ever report on in their lives.

So I was bored. And I looked out the window that Saturday night. Lots of kids were bored with no TV. Two high school boys in the apartment across the street from me were in one kid's room, and I watched them playing the game “rock breaks scissors.” And then one of them got up, pulled down his zipper and very obviously put what he had taken out of his pants up to the face of the other boy, who proceeded to move his head around in a certain way that told me exactly what they were doing. Then they switched places and I got a much better view of the action. Attempts at buggery followed. Yeah, not everybody spent that entire weekend praying.

On Sunday morning I was half asleep in bed. My parents were in the living room of our apartment watching that boring TV fare. Suddenly there was a commotion. My parents had been watching live TV coverage as Lee Harvey Oswald was being taken from one jail to another. And of course they saw Jack Ruby shoot and kill him.

two views of the bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital, November 22, 1963
Two Images of the Not So “Magic” Bullet
image credit: President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

In the decades since the events of November 22, 1963, we've had lots of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. I didn't really buy into them. What came to be known as “the lone gunman theory” mostly made sense to me. The “President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” aka The Warren Commission, had issued its report months after the assassination, but I did have some concern over what became known as “The Magic Bullet.”

I've seen bullets after they've been fired and come to rest. They're usually mangled and frequently smashed to pieces or even flattened, depending on what they'd hit. This bullet looked totally undamaged, as if it had never been fired at all, and it was referred to as being in pristine condition by the press and by the people who were pushing conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. I have to say that I never really got into the entire Kennedy assassination controversy. So I did not look into any of the evidence or the things people said about it very deeply. I had only a passing interest in the conspiracy theories.

My qualms about the “Magic Bullet” got cleared up recently when PBS ran a program on the assassination and focused on the Carcano Model 91/38 carbine, the sort of rifle that Oswald had used, and the “Magic Bullet” that has been surrounded by so much controversy.

In fact, as can be seen from the photograph above of Warren Commission Exhibit 399, aka CE 399, the bullet is far from pristine. The nose is dented in a couple of places, and the view from the rear of the bullet on the right shows that it is quite deformed.

Also, in the PBS program, they fired a Carcano of the same model, using the same kind of ammunition that Oswald had used in it and the bullet passed through a full three feet of pine boards without breaking up, and after that the bullet looked better than CE 399 above.

So this cleared the one thing that had nagged at me for all of these years. Yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter and the only conspiracy was inside his head.

Mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald taken November 23, 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald - Assassin
photo: Dallas Police Department

Oswald appears to me to have been one of those people whom I refer to on occasion as a “leftoid.” These are usually people who present themselves as ultra-leftists and who get off on one-upping others who claim to be leftists. They will take political positions that are really bizarre at times, and this seems to me to be done in order to gain personal attention, especially when they take stances that fly in the face of reality, like claiming that Pol Pot never had anyone killed, or that the Soviet Union never signed a treaty with Nazi Germany in 1939, that contained codicils regarding the mutual invasion of Poland, or that everyone in North Korea has as much to eat as they want. The list of political positions that exist in denial of reality seems endless.

Early in my life I had never known such people, but as I've lived over the decades I have seen any number of leftoids and I have seen them be very destructive, both self-destructive and destructive of others. So I can easily believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, truly a leftoid, could do something as bizarre as prepare for and go through with the assassination of the President of the United States.

I think that some adherents of conspiracy theories around the Kennedy assassination are themselves in denial because they know that such people exist and they are uncomfortable with the fact that some people they know and with whom they may share some views and organizational affiliations are really capable of such acts.

In the years between 1960, and 1963, I regularly bought knives from a mail order house named Thoresen. My parents were mostly all right with that. That mail order catalog also had rifles for sale. One of the cheapest ones was the Carcano 6.5 mm rifle. My parents were not all right with my getting a gun. But I wonder if I'd have ended up getting a visit from the feds had I bought one like that. Immediately after the Kennedy assassination rifles disappeared from the mail order catalogs, at least the ones I got.

So there you have it, I think Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy. I think it was something he did for his own psychological reasons, and I think the proof of his guilt in this matter is solid. And how different the world might have been had President Kennedy not been murdered that day. We might never have had as much involvement in the Viet Nam War as we did, all sorts of other things might have gone better too. One person can make a difference, one way or another.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the debut of the British TV series Doctor Who. We talked about that a bit on this program. We could have gone to a friend's place and watched the 50th anniversary episode hours after this program, but we'd been up for a long time and so we held to our plan of going home and collapsing right after we got done with the program. We'll probably see the episode some time in our lives.

The Doctor Who series had an inauspicious beginning. It debuted the day after the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Hardly anyone was watching what was supposed to be a children's science fiction program that day. Everyone was focused on the events of the day before.

Luckily, the BBC repeats everything, they especially repeated stuff in the '60s. So a week later the Doctor Who rerun was actually seen, and it was able to generate an audience.

Thus started a TV series that provided many adults of today with stories about how they would watch Doctor Who from behind the couch in order to see what was happening, but escape the possible attention of the program's villains, like the Daleks.

Over time the series got to be a bit less of a total children's show and became more of a science fiction TV series that adults could watch. There have been spinoff series from the program, some of which really were for children, and one of which, Torchwood was definitely for adults, with sex scenes and mass murder themes occurring throughout that series.

So Pickles of the North and I have seen a large portion of the Doctor Who episodes out there, and we hope we'll be able to see more.

It's late Autumn now. We got to this sub-season at 1:22 PM Thursday afternoon. The Winter Solstice will occur on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:11 PM. We are scheduled to be on the air earlier that day! For more on the dates of the seasons, and sub-seasons, look at this chart.

Comet ISON on November 19, 2013
Comet ISON on November 19, 2013
image credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO/Cameron McCarty

We unfortunately did not get to this topic on this program. Well, we have a 55 minute program and there were other things to talk about. There's a better chance that we'll get to this topic on the next program, assuming we have a next program. These are perilous times at WBAI and we on Back of the Book have never taken the prospect of a next program for granted.

Comet ISON may be visible an hour before dawn today. Dawn is at 6:52 AM in New York City today, that means that Comet ISON should be visible above the eastern horizon during this program.

Here's a NASA photograph of the comet, officially designated “C/2012 S1,” that was taken using a 20-inch telescope at the Marshall Space Flight Center in New Mexico. Going in towards the Sun Comet ISON is not a spectacular sight. However, the comet will be going very close to the Sun, and it will be closest to the Sun on November 28, 2013, Thanksgiving Day for those of us in the United States of America.

Nobody knows that will happen to Comet ISON as it rounds the Sun on its one and only trip into the inner Solar System. It is, after all, largely ice. Comets have been recognized as being essentially “dirty snowballs” for the past 62 years or so as determined by the work of astronomer Fred Whipple. The calculated orbit of Comet ISON tells us that it comes from the Oort Cloud, which is the very outermost part of the Solar System.

So when you have a conglomeration of dust and various gases held together by ice of more than one sort you can see why the fate of such a thing passing very close to the Sun is difficult to predict.

Comet ISON is of a class of comets referred to as “Sun grazing” because they pass so close to the surface of the Sun, which at a temperature of about 5,778° K. (about 5,505° C. or about 9,941° F.) is going to be pretty rough on ice. It is not unusual for Sun grazing comets to have all of their ices, which consist of water ice, carbon dioxide ice and the ices of various other gases, to be totally vaporized by the encounter and end up leaving only some scattered dust following the orbit of what had been a comet. Some Sun grazing comets are even drawn right into the Sun and are swallowed up by it.

Comet ISON is making its one and only visit to the inner Solar System, and it is not likely to actually crash into the Sun, but there is no guarantee that it will come away from its encounter with the huge ball of hot plasma with any of its ices intact enough to have it still be something that could be called a comet.

If, however, Comet ISON does manage to survive that hell ride around our local star it may come out of the encounter in spectacular fashion. It may have had enough of its ice sublimated to gas to be a truly spectacular sight in the night sky for December. Or it may never come out from its close encounter with the Sun as a comet at all, and only some dust may travel back to the outermost reaches of the Solar System.

The exact behavior of newly discovered comets is notoriously difficult to predict. Not enough is ever known about the composition of the comet itself to allow more than an educated guess about how it will look in the night sky of Earth. The Comet Kohoutek of 1973, was dubbed “The comet of the century” before it got anywhere near the Sun. It turned out to be nowhere near as spectacular as had been predicted, and hyped, by some. I have since then always kept this experience in mind when I hear that yet another comet is being predicted to be a spectacular sight in the night sky. I would not feel at all bad if Comet ISON turned out to be the real deal though. We'll see.

Pickles of the North and I have had a really difficult time trying to see Comet ISON in its less than spectacular approach to the Sun. Between bad weather making it impossible to see anything above the clouds at all and other things keeping us from getting to see the sky during the short period of time when the comet could be seen some mornings, we have just missed out on getting a view of it prior to its encounter with the Sun.

UPDATE: We updated this topic on our next program. Click here to go to that update.

Pickles of the North freezing outside Nathan's
Pickles of the North, Cold and All Alone at Nathan's

So this past fortnight we went to Nathan's on Surf Ave. in Coney Island. Yeah, we got more of those great coupons for 99¢ hot dogs.

It was a cold and quite windy day. We were bundled up for it, but it was still quite a Wintry blast when you were outside.

We had expected the weather, what we were surprised by was the fact that when we got to Nathan's they had not set up the tables and chairs inside yet.

Usually, after the Summer season is thoroughly over, Nathan's sets up tables and chairs inside the store so that people can eat in there. In years past we've seen this happen on or about October 15. Well, not this year.

We were there on November 14, and, as I said, it was a cold and windy day. There were no tables and chairs set up. They didn't even have the little tables set up inside where you can stand up and eat. The choice was either eat your fast food somewhere else or try to accommodate the inhospitable interior. Some people were eating from the flat tops of the trash containers, and some were eating at or sitting on the counters in the part of the store where the cash registers were not being used. Hardly a comfortable way to eat.

Pickles of the North and I took another option, we ate outside. I really was not going to stand for an entire meal. I do eat rather slowly and so it would involve a lot of standing still, which I was never good at and which I'm a lot worse at in my old age.

So we ate outside on the Nathan's Patio, as they call it, on the other side of Schweikert's Walk. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, along with some hungry birds. It was a pretty tough meal with a stiff breeze blowing the cold air across us the entire time. Hot dogs became somewhat warm dogs rapidly. Hey, but the ice they'd put in my drink lasted for the entire long meal.

We'd asked the Manager of the Nathan's why they didn't have tables and chairs set up as usual, and she said that they would do it when it got cold out. Jeez! She must not have been outside that day, it was damned cold already.

We're hoping that they set up the tables and chairs in there soon so we can eat comfortably at Nathan's in the off-season, as we've done for years. Pickles was so inspired by the experience of eating in that cold wind tunnel that she is not going to eat at Nathan's again until they get the tables and chairs set up in there, or until Spring brings warm enough weather that eating outside is more pleasant.

There are a lot of issues that are considered hazardous to talk about on the air at WBAI, even though the gag rule was lifted in 2002. 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.

One popular list the “NewPacifica” mailing list. Founded October 31, 2000, this list is sometimes lively and as of mid-2011, has 687 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 Saturday Morning With the Radio On alternates with us, has a blog these days. You can reach his blog here.

We like to stay interactive with our listeners. Here are the various options for you to get in touch with us.

You can also send me E-mail.

And now you can even reach me on Twitter Twitter logo

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 © 2013, R. Paul Martin.