Web links related to the Back of the Book program of February 2, 2004
If you have a good quality air check of this program please contact me at email@example.com about it. I completely screwed up mine.
It's Saturday night 2/14/2004 23:36:07 and this Web page is done! So we had a Groundhog Day program! We covered the stuff below and we also read a bunch of the mail. Most of this page was written after the program, but don't be too bothered if some of it has a different tense from most of it.
If you're a Listener Sponsor or a Staff person you need to cast your vote immediately! The Elections Supervisor must receive your ballot before this Thursday February 5! That means that you'd better get your ballot mailed in by Monday, although I suppose that if you mail it in Brooklyn, and really like to procrastinate, you can wait until Tuesday.
Okay, the only thing that counts now is the fact that Pacifica is finally running elections! Find out more details regarding these elections here. These elections will determine what will happen to the Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI, and what will happen to WBAI from now on.
Mr. Roger Manning from the listener group Coalition for a democratic Pacifica New York (CdPNY) attended and has posted his notes from the most recent interim Pacifica National Board meetings, along with other documents on the group's Web site.
As of September 15, 2003, the Pacifica Foundation has new bylaws! More about that here.
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. Here's a schedule made by a listener who has Web links for various programs and producers.
Our colleagues from Off the Hook now have both a RealAudio streaming web cast operating, and a new MP3 stream both of which were working at 10:54 PM last night. The MP3 feed is now the preferred feed.
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.
Jack Paar died this past fortnight. He was 85 years old. I spoke about him on the program.
For some reason which I don't really recall I got to stay up later as a kid than most of my contemporaries. I used to stay up until about 11:30 PM most nights. In the old days the WNBC-TV news at 11:00 PM was only fifteen minutes long, ending with the late Tex Antoine's weather report where he dressed his “Uncle Weatherby” character, a two dimensional cut out on which miniature items of clothing and umbrellas could be stuck using magnets, for the next day's weather.
After that The Tonight Show came on the air. Since my parents didn't start pestering me to go to bed until about 11:30 I got to see the first fifteen minutes of The Tonight Show. I remember watching it when Steve Allen was the host. Jack Paar took over the program in the Summer of 1957, I was nine years old.
Steve Allen had left The Tonight Show early in 1957, and there'd been various other people doing it in the interim. I always thought that Allen's version of The Tonight Show was done along the same lines as the Ernie Kovacs Show of the early 1950s. When I was a kid I really liked Kovacs' program, he was nutty and inventive. Kovacs actually made me laugh as a kid whereas most comedians didn't. Kovacs and Allen relied on doing a lot of their own comedy routines and made variety shows that featured them, for the most part, doing sketches and interacting with other comics.
Paar could do comedy, but he was completely different from Allen and Kovacs. He would do a monolog at the top of the program and it was usually full of irony and examples of how Paar wasn't the most macho guy in the world.
I got to liking Paar. Some of his jokes went over my head, but enough of them didn't that I was able to enjoy his monologs.
He developed his own set of regular guests, and some of them were really odd people whom you never saw anywhere else.
I recall that Alexander King was one of these. He was an artist and writer who lived in The Village. He'd been arrested for drug use earlier in his life and he was quite the Bohemian, at least to me when I was a kid. There was a big scandal around him that I may be mis-remembering these forty plus years on. I remember his coming on The Tonight Show and announcing that he'd just gotten married again, at age 72. But the Library of Congress, where his papers are collected, gives his dates as 1900-1965. in any case, he'd just gotten married — to a 24 year old woman. My parents were scandalized that this, as apparently were most viewers, but I didn't get it. To me king and his bride were just adults and in my mind all adults were pretty much equal at that point. “Robbing the cradle,” wasn't a concept I got yet.
Since Paar came on in the Summer of 1957, I think I got to stay up later than usual for his first month of programs. Of course if my parents did something like fall asleep during the program, something I never did, I'd just sit there and watch it to the end at 1:00 AM. But I frequently had to go to bed before the program ended. Too bad, I got a better education from Jack Paar's Tonight Show than I did in school in those days. I certainly paid closer attention to Paar and his guests than I did to my teachers in school.
At some point there was a newspaper strike in New York City and the 11:00 PM TV news programs all seized the opportunity to expand to a half hour format. This reduced The Tonight Show to an hour and a half starting at 11:30. When the strike ended the TV news programs all kept that extra fifteen minutes, and they haven't given it back since.
A guy named Cliff Arquette used to come out dressed up as a character named Charlie Weaver. He would sit on Paar's desk and read letters from his mother in Mount Idy. Charlie weaver would always start out reading the letters the same way. His fictional mother would begin, “Things are fine in Mount Idy,” there'd be a pause, and then he'd say, “She goes on.” It became quite a signature for Arquette. He published a book of these letters at one point, and it was one of the few books my parents ever bought. Arquette was also a Civil War historian. He had studied a great deal about it and had a museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with dioramas featuring figures he'd carved himself.
A French singer named Genevieve was another regular. They used to hand her baseball scores to read aloud from the newspaper in her rather thick French accent. She knew nothing about baseball, of course, and would stumble through the scores with Paar and his other guests giving her helpful hints about what she was reading. After a while they started giving her phony baseball scores to read and putting in bizarre things to get her completely confused about what the hell baseball was about. I recall that once she was showing Paar how to dance some French dance or another and they got up and he put his arms around her and she pushed his hands onto her ass because that was the way one danced this dance! It was an interesting illustration of how a culture that didn't worship Puritans might do things. Maybe that was in the days when The Tonight Show was still live.
I always liked the program best when it was happening live, even the time when some disheveled drunk walked onto the stage in the middle of something Paar and a guest were doing and started saying hello and standing about as part of the program. That's certainly something you wouldn't have happen today, and if it did you wouldn't see it on the broadcast.
Paar also had his regulars on because they were entertaining, not just because they had something to sell, as is the case with just about all talk show guests these days. Sometimes he'd have them on and they wouldn't have done anything at all since the last time they'd been on and that's when they would get into those guests' lives. His show just seemed more interesting to me than the ones we have today.
And of course he had his battles with people. Right wing journalist Walter Winchell and Paar were just flat out enemies. Dorothy Kilgallen, who did a newspaper column for the Journal-American and who was a regular on the What's My Line? TV game show really disliked him and at one point got him to cry on his program as he related a column in which Kilgallen, who had even less of a chin than I do, referred to his 12 year old daughter Randy as having a “buffalo butt.” Kilgallen died in 1965, after an unfortunate mixing of alcohol and sleeping pills.
Of course Paar's most celebrated battle was when Ed Sullivan, who had a big deal prime Time variety program on CBS, told everyone that if they appeared on The Tonight Show, where they were paid “scale,” a bit over $300 then, they would be blackballed from The Ed Sullivan Show which paid thousands of dollars for an appearance. Paar went on that night, all tearful again, and said that he'd told all of the booked guests that they didn't have to show up that night because he didn't want to hurt their careers, and he was lamenting that maybe this was the end of the program. But various guests showed up anyway, in defiance of Ed Sullivan's clout, and some big name guests who hadn't been booked showed up just to show some solidarity with Paar against the big bully Ed Sullivan. I felt pretty good while watching that program. And I never forgave Ed Sullivan.
Of course there was the incident of the joke Paar told one night, after they started airing the program on tape instead of live, that involved the use of the phrase “water closet.” I didn't even know what the hell a water closet was! Most American adults probably didn't either. So some NBC bureaucrat censored the words “water closet” and Paar got very upset, and cried again, and quit the program. He returned a month later though, after things got straightened out with NBC.
Paar was very much a person of his time. He was in the midst of the Cold War and he interviewed Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba days after the revolution. Castro's affiliation with the Soviet Union wasn't known yet, and Paar was goofing around with him. Years later Paar related how, in looking at film of those interviews, he'd been horrified because Castro could have had him killed for joking around with him as he had done.
So Jack Paar's late night program was a very important thing to me between the ages of nine and fourteen. The relatively free form format, as opposed to the hucksterism we get today, was more open and generally more interesting. Most of the talk shows today are like watching a very long set of commercials with a few tidbits cleared by PR flacks thrown in to keep it from being completely boring. Jack Paar did better.
We read some more from that 1898, book named The Mistakes we Make edited by Nathan Haskell Dole. In honor of Groundhog Day we concentrated on myths about animals this time. The excerpts have a light green background to set them off from my blatherings.
This first bit even gives us a helpful hint about what to do for an overheated pooch.
“Mad Dog!” — A rabid dog never foams at the mouth. A fit, usually brought on by over-exertion in running, will sometimes produce this effect; the remedy should be cold water to the animal's head. The name “hydrophobia” means the fear of water, and the belief that mad dogs dread water having become general, the sight of a dog eagerly lapping water and even plunging into it leads people to exclaim, “He drinks! There is no danger.” Yet burning thirst is one of the characteristics of rabies in its early stages.
The above was written in 1898, Louis Pasteur's rabies vaccine was first experimentally used in 1885. From what I've read rabies was quite a public terror before the vaccine was produced. It's hard for us to imagine how different a world that was when rabid dogs were not uncommon and when whole neighborhoods would go crazy over rumors of an animal acting oddly.
This next assertion is a bit contradictory. The camels cited lasted six to seven days before they died from lack of water. That's a pretty long time, I'd say. The idea that it's best to give them water at least every other day doesn't mean that they're not able to hold out for an extraordinarily long time.
The Ship of the Desert — The camel is usually cited as the most notable example of ability to endure thirst. Sir C. Rivers Wilson says that none of the camels that had been without water from six to seven days on the march to Abu Klea survived, and that to keep them in good condition it is necessary to water them at least every second day. There is no truth in the statement that the camel carries a water reservoir in its stomach, or that the Bedouins, if they are near death from thirst, kill the camel and drink the water stored in the stomach. in the desert these fables are unknown.
As anyone in 1898, would have known, Sir C. Rivers Wilson was a British officer who took over the “Desert Column” that was fighting its way through the Sudan in 1884-85, in an attempt to relieve the famous, or infamous, General Charles “Chinese” Gordon at Khartoum. They arrived two days after Khartoum had fallen and Gordon had been killed.
Mice and Marmots — If one wants a type of abstinence from water the common mouse may be chosen. They have been known to live in a warm room for three and a half months without having any drink, and, while while eating heartily of dry maize and grass seeds, to seem quite equal to prolonging their water-fast for a month of two more. The seals in Bering Sea go without food or water for three or four months, subsisting on their own fat; and bears, while hibernating, of course neither eat nor drink. It was at one time supposed that the prairie dog in the Western deserts went long without water, but it has been recently discovered that the intelligent little creatures dig wells so deep that they reach water level. The prairie dog, though it barks, is not a dog, but a rodent; belonging to the same family as the woodchuck.
It may be well here to add that the “shrewmouse” is not a mouse or akin to a mouse. Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon screáwa from the verb scearfa, to gnaw. Neither does it in biting cattle cause any peculiar malady. In the same iconoclastic spirit we may dispel any lingering notion that a guinea-pig is a pig, or that it comes from Guinea. It is a rodent, and its home is South America.
Well, I looked up this part about wee mousies being able to last a long time without water and apparently it's true! Something else I hadn't known. Of course this relates to wild mice, not pets that people keep cooped up in a cage or something where they only get what food people give them. In that case they do need water all the time. But mice can apparently get the water they need from the food they eat, provided they can get food that has enough water in it. Some species of desert mice never drink water for their entire lives.
I wonder if guinea pigs were a new kind of pet in 1898? Or was that still in the future then?
You can't say you don't learn stuff on Back of the Book!
On the last program we reported about a Listener Candidate in the current elections being disqualified. Well, he's been un-disqualified! There are some definite irregularities going on in this election. The WBAI faction currently in charge is getting away with a lot.
On the last program we talked about that moron Bush making a mess of things and dooming the Hubble Space Telescope. There has been such an uproar over this that there's at least some reconsideration being given to letting this tremendously important scientific instrument just fall into the sea. I am not optimistic.
On the program I speculated about the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity maybe discovering why that planet has so many surface features that look like massive amounts of water have flowed but with other evidence showing that there may never have been enough water to make that much of a flow. Could it be that in the extremely dry conditions on Mars that the soil reacts to wind forces in such a way that it just looks like water has flowed through an area? The way the ground looked after Opportunity deflated its air bags gave me that thought. Maybe the electrostatic charges on the soil particles make it act a lot like the cohesion and adhesion of water molecules does here on our wet planet.
I spoke on the air about the “Novarg” or “mydoom” worm that's going around, if you think you may have been infected by it then check this out.
We got to some of the mail on this program. Below we present the E-mail which was read. And I'll just remind everyone that some folks don't want their mail read over the air or posted here, and we honor that. This was the case for this program. If you send us mail that you don't want read over the air make sure you say that right at the top of the message whether it's written on paper on in an E-mail.
The first E-mail we read was taken out of order because it requested that we take an action regarding the bleepin' blue board and the address I give for it on the air.
Here's the chronological next E-mail from our current backlog. It references our 2003 Winter Solstice program.
I shall refrain from making any remarks about half-asses I may know.
I'm guessing that they've fixed this by now, but if anyone else runs into this sort of thing you should contact the folks in charge of the WBAI Web site.
And I hope Matthew's father does send me some pencils! I love to get pencils!
One of our listeners who sends us short text messages on his cell phone sent the following.
The punchline for the above is an animated graphic of a hamster or something moving around on a computer mouse. It looks like the tiny beastie is being amorous with the computer peripheral. Since I'm not sure of the copyright on that graphic I'm not posting it here.
You're quite welcome, Albert.
Our next, and final, missive relates to an E-mail exchange which the writer didn't want read on the air, but this one was okay to read.
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.
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