All right, it's Saturday, 12/16/2000 09:47:43 and I think I'm finished putting together this page. WBAI is still in turmoil over the firing of the General Manager, I'm in favor of just getting ready for what's next. I've added a few things to this page, including some links and the E-mail that was read on the air. I think the page is done, although there are no guarantees.
So Pacifica Management has officially fired WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler, effective December 31. For more on the current Pacifica Crisis look at the Pacifica Theft page.
WBAI was being Web cast when I checked it out at 10:17 PM last night. So you should be able to hear the Web cast from porus.com.
When I went on the air no one knew what was going to happen with the Supreme Court and the mess that we're calling the Presidential Election of 2000. Well, that's certainly gotten cleared up!
As I've said before, Bush and Gore are both creeps and I don't like either one. But this is going to go down in history as The Stolen Election of 2000. The United States Supreme Court has certainly blown off any fiction it was entertaining about it not being a hotly partisan political entity by this decision. Here's a little question and answer about the Supreme Court's role in this charade.
Michael Moore has something to say about this election and its theft. He's also looking to appeal to the consciences of the members of the Electoral College. Somehow I don't think this will sway any of them. Gore has previously said that he wouldn't accept any changed votes in the electoral college, but maybe he's changed his mind now that he's been cheated.
I guess the song will have to be rewritten to be Hail to the Usurper. I'm certainly not feeling much like calling George W. Bush the president. I think I'll call him a thief, or a usurper. Maybe I'll look for some other things to call this obvious imbecile, assuming that I'm still on the air when he's occupying the office.
Interestingly, Florida has a pretty good Freedom of Information law and everyone agrees that someone or some organization or more than one organization will be able to do a count of the ballots that the Supreme Court of the United States kept from being counted. I've heard that Bush's lawyers are trying to have the ballots sealed so this can't happen. Gosh, if Bush really thinks he won what is he worrying about?
Of course the loss of many previously Democrat votes to Ralph Nader and the Green Party should certainly shake up the Democrats and make them realize that they've drifted too far to the right. Or it might just be ignored by them.
Amazingly, the Supreme Court has ruled decently for a change and has rediscovered that there is indeed a Fourth Amendment to the Constitution! They have banned traffic roadblocks for the purpose of looking for drugs.
WBAI is now under attack by Pacifica Management. They've officially fired WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler effective December 31, 2000. Most see this as the prelude to an attempt to change WBAI into something bland and apolitical.
There have been enormous problems with General Manager Van Isler. For the past 13 months the Union has been trying to get Management to renegotiate the Contract.
This Web site is full of memos, letters and protestations regarding the actions of both Pacifica Management and WBAI Management. What a bunch.
There are a couple of message boards that have got some comments on the topic of the current WBAI crisis. Here's one. Here's another.
Pickles of the North and I have been looking around in the stores and in a crappier store we found one of the stupidest things anyone's selling. It is a hoot, but who the hell would want to keep this thing on their wall for more than a day or so?
We did get to a bunch of the mail on this program. There was some paper mail, which we can't put up here so easily. And then there was the E-mail, which we present below.
This first missive concerns a theory about the three plane crashes we've had in recent years of aircraft that had taken off from JFK airport. I don't buy it, but it's not a nutty theory. I'd need more to be convinced.
Towards the end of the Presidential Campaign there was a burglary at the Democratic Party National Headquarters in New York city. Some notebook computers were stolen which had a lot of information on their hard drives. The cops dismissed it as a simple theft, but I raised the question of another Watergate. I speculated that in the last 28 years perhaps they'd gotten the technique down better. The following letter is in response to that.
Your discussion of pencils was, to me anyway, fascinating. Like you, I loved getting all the school supplies and I disliked ruining all that lovely clean paper with my mediocre dribblings, be they verbal or graphic.
A few years ago, Henry Pietrowski wrote a history of the pencil called, ironically enough, The Pencil. Henry David Thoreau's family fortune was made in the manufacture of pencils though this is just another of those venerable old New England companies that no longer exists. I am old enough to remember when pencils and pencil stubs were hoarded and one sharpened them with a razor blade to make them work right down to the last inch; even now, I use pencil extenders for that same purpose, or to hold chalks and Conte crayons when drawing. YOu mentioned them; if you want one, they are available at either Pearl Paint or The Art Store on Bond Street, between Broadway and Lafayette and cost only a couple dollars each.
Sharpening with a razor blade or knife is what the real professionals do. I still do on occasion, but I have also become lazy in my old age, as you will see below. Still, a modern, high quality pencil with the right point can accomplish amazing things. My grandfather taught me how to do this, circa 1962; here he employed his used razor blades and could get any kind of a point he desired on his pencil with a few deft strokes. Done properly, such a pencil will last far longer than one mechanically sharpened. For almost forty years now, I have sharpened pencils with single edged industrial grade razor blades and I have cut myself only once that I can recall. I have never managed to get the virtuoso style points my grandfather did, so I guess this is a lost art. If you want to practice this, X-Acto knives, however, are certainly safer.
As I looked at the seemingly endless list of pencils available in the websites to which you linked , I noted with some mock horror that I use most of them for one thing or another and as I look across my desk, I find no fewer than three Keiller marmalade crocks full of unused pencils: Cretacolors, Derwents, Contes, Schwann Stabilos, Koh-I-Noors, Pentalic Woodless (es), Berol Draughtings, Eberhard Faber Designs, General's Carpenters, Prismacolors, VeriThins and these are those which I can identify without looking closely while confining my discussion to wood cased pencils - of which there must be a hundred on my desk and three times that many put away. I also have a fetish for buying mechanical pencils and lead holders of every variety. The best clutch lead holders I have found are the mustard colored Koh-I-Noors and I frequently use these for silverpoint drawing by cutting the tines from an old fork and inserting them into the throat of the Koh-I-Noor lead holder. This is a superb drawing instrument if there ever was one. Unfortunately, this lead holder is over eight dollars now, but I have never known one to break as it is all metal. Koh-I-Noor also makes the pencil extenders I have - and I must have a half dozen of them floating around this apartment.
Now, everything is mechanized. Lately I generally use a Panasonic electric pencil sharpener which gives a perfectly conical point, and even though they say to not use chalk in it, I do. I am on my third one in two years because fragments of chalk got stuck in the cutters. Another problem is that the opening is not nearly wide enough for the Conte pencils, so I must whittle them down a bit, then insert them into the Panasonic, or sharpen them the old fashioned way. In the former case, it is not very aesthetic, but it does work.
Sadly, run of the mill pencils are no longer as good as they used to be. Many of them come from China where the graphite is of highly variable ( read “generally rotten”) quality and the wood is not wood at all, but “woodette” made from sawdust and glue, molded to shape. The biggest problem is that the leads are not dead center, which is all right in China where people are more likely to sharpen them with a knife, but not good when used with a hand or electric sharpener - the leads will invariably break. The best general user pencils you can find are the Swiss pencils: Caran d'Arches which are painted with a spectrum, starting at red - by the time you reach blue, you should use an extender or start in on a new one. They cost about a dollar each, but they last longer, give better results. They are hard to find but well worth their premium price.
The Caran d'Arche pencil also has real graphite in it, which is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Most of the leads are not even true graphite any more, but a graphite and polymer mixture. These started as the so-called “bonded lead” which had a certain amount of flexibiliy in the lead, preventing excessive snapping while using the pencil. At first, bonded leads were just wax coated, but now plastic is everywhere in the lead, at least in cheaper pencils. At the same time, there are mechanical pencil leads with polymers in them that one can actually bend in the fingers. It is an amazing sight when you first see it, and these Pentel and other high quality Japanese leads are true technological achievements.
As Pietrowski noted in his book, old pencils are hard to come by. They exist, and they are found, for example, in carpenters' tool boxes but, for the most part, the dealers who sell such things are interested only in the tools and tend to discard the pencils. I really doubt if there are many Thoreau pencils left in any condition, let alone a wrapped, unused dozen. Ah well, just another aspect of our past with which we have lost touch.
A good radio show, R. Paul Martin. I hadn't written you for five or six years. Maybe I will just shut up now and retreat into my little part of the world for another five or six years.
Next we got a couple of E-mails from North American Shirley. What she's referencing by “hump day” has nothing to do with my violation of Section 130.38 of the New York State Penal Code. It's about the Sundays when Back of the Book does not air.
I'm glad that Karl likes the program enough to go to this much bother. Seth sent me information a couple of years ago on a machine, I think it's the same one, that records very slowly on regular cassettes. Taping the program and listening to it later, sometimes much later, may be a trend. I see from my Web site statistics that more people access this site in the afternoon and evening than during the program. Of course I have no idea what percentage of listeners time shift the program. When it becomes a majority, maybe I should change the way I do the program!
The next E-mail references the October 2, 2000, program, and gives the author's impression of what Pacifica Management wants to turn WBAI in to.
Regular listener, correspondent and contributor Seth actually sent me a pencil extender for the October 2, 2000, program. The following couple of E-mails are from him.
I guess this next E-mail belongs in our “Better late than never,” category. Unfortunately, this exhibit with Alan's work closed in November. This is part of why I really need to get completely current with the mail on the program!
Hmmm, should I tell you what option #7 is? It is amusing to find it on this company's phone options list. Of course if you call ANY 800 number the recipient of the call gets your phone number. I don't know if these folks would call you up and try to sell you something if you called them. I tell you what, I'll reveal what option #7 is but I'll type it in invisible cyber ink! Either highlight the area between the section (§) marks using your mouse or keyboard or press ctrl-A to reveal the truth about option #7 § Option #7 asks, if you want to hear a duck quack. If you then press 7 you hear what sounds like a duck call, as opposed, IMO, to a real duck.§
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.
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