Sunday, November 02, 2008

Atomic Energy




In the center of the old Yankee magazines is a centerfold. For a very nominal price you could send a self-addressed stamped envelope for an unfolded copy, suitable for framing. This one is "Old-time Lane, Parsonsfield, Maine" by George French from the September 1968 issue. Today is an "Indian Summer" day, bright in the morning it's now clouded over, but it is still warm. And the colors are of autumn.

Studs Terkel died on Friday at age 96. Terkel made oral histories. He was on the radio for over forty years and wrote books of oral histories. The Chicago History Museum has a wonderful Web page that provides lots of links to some of Studs Terkel's recordings. I feel rather pleased that his recordings are being preserved, because they are a unique window onto American history.

I often go to the grocery store on Saturdays. I listen to the radio when I do, to WYEP-FM generally. WYEP-FM is an independent community radio station which plays the adult alternative format. They stream. The weekend features long-running shows with community DJs. In the afternoon is the Soul Show with Mike Canton and Stephen Chatman. The trip to the store catches about 3 songs and some chatter and 3 and some on the way back. It's a blast for me. Partly it's the nostalgia, also a good part is the banter of Chatman and Canton. Remembering takes storytelling, and telling stories again and again.

WYEP's audience is firmly adult now. I'm fond of it because I remember when the station started in the neighborhood I lived in at the time, back when I was youthful. Nowadays the cool station probably is WRCT, at least it's the freeform station in town. But I don't receive it well where I live. Perhaps the premiere freeform is WFMU in the USA is WFMU and regardless of your musical tastes WFMU's Beware of the Blog is worth checking out.

My minimal contact with young people today suggests to me that young people know a lot about music. They seem to know what their parents like and a host of obscure players and genres of music, hence the playlists at WRCT. My favorite show is Dubmission with host Kerem and if you're into playlists the Dubmission list would be worth getting emailed to you weekly. That Dubmission is coming up on its tenth anniversary on air makes me think I don't have a clue about young people today. I still like music and lots of it.

Right now as I write, I'm listening to Last FM and I truly do enjoy being able to explore music on sites like YouTube. But there's something essential in the human voice. I'm happy there's a radio station that I can listen to that features real voices. Of course there's too much to listen to online. David Dye's World Cafe is on lots of local radio stations or you can listen by stream. This American Life produces great stories. Again the program runs on many stations and streams. There are so many great blogs too which provide great stories and music in context.

In Native tradition is the Twisted Hair, the storyteller who kept the traditions alive. Twisted Hair hasn't visited me, and that's not my tradition anyway. Although I must say that I do love Native American stories very much. Stories are nonetheless very important to people all, and there's nothing like hearing a story with ones own ears. So it is with sadness that I note Studs Terkel's passing. I will miss his humane voice.

Somewhere I lost the plot.

The title is Atomic Energy and comes from my nostalgic reading of old Yankee magazines. There's a story about Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power in the April 1968 issue. There's a short statement by members of Anti-Pollution League. I wish the black and white photos in the magazine scanned better because it's quite charming to see pictures of the regular people. Henry Peterson was chairman of the League. He was a retired from Federal Civil Service. Mrs. Thomas Panzera is pictured making phone calls with a big bottle of rubber cement on her desk. Here's the gist of the League's argument:
So far, nuclear energy is being used only on a statistically insignificant scale. The real development is yet going to happen. There will be a continuous traffic of radioactive substances from the "hot" chemical plants to the nuclear stations and back again; from the stations to waste processing plants; and from there to disposal sites. The slightest accident, whether during transport or production, can cause a major catastrophe, and radiation levels throughout the world will rise relentlessly form generation to generation.
John McCain has called for the construction of forty-five new Nuclear power generation plants by 2030 as a cornerstone for his energy policy. Blogger Dr. Ducan Black at Eschaton contends that many Republican policy positions are taken simply because "They piss liberals off." He makes a good point, but like it or not all of us are simply going to have to come to grips with energy issues.

Thankfully election day is just a few days away. I've got my fingers crossed that Obama will win. I dread having to listen to John McCain and Sarah Palin very often. But, I've enjoyed checking back at Palin as President Web site which they promise will be updated until election day. The slogan "Drill Baby, Drill!" really pisses me off; it strikes me as wishful thinking. Jim Roddey is a local Republican big wig who's often on TV. Early in the year, while the candidates were still running in the Primaries, he repeated often: There's plenty of oil and gas if only the environmentalists would let us drill for it. Roddey is one of those endangered "moderate" Republicans and has a reputation for being smart. Taking that "smart" part into account, I figured he was simply being disingenuous. The scary part is I think now he really believes it. And it would seem that such simple minded and erroneous thinking pisses liberals off only adds to his certainty! Even if Barack Obama is elected on Tuesday, they'll be plenty of Americans who think that the solution to our energy demand is just one wish away.

Earlier this year Mother Jones did a feature on the nuclear option. It's worth checking out, indeed as other reporting on the subject Mother Jones has published. For the thirtieth anniversary of mass arrest at the Seabrook, NH Anti-Nuclear protest, Mother Jones put a a photo essay of the protests. There are stories about nuclear power generation we ought to tell, if for no other reason than to disabuse ourselves of the notion that nuclear is a simple solution. The story of Vermont Yankee reveals the challenges of both "too big to fail" and what a couple of decades of deregulation has wrought. Earlier in the year journalist Christian Parenti questions What Nuclear Renaissance? Nuclear power is a long story and not one that's easily taken in.

Joe Klein of Time magazine reports:
As Obama told me in our interview, a government-propelled transition to an alternative-energy economy will be his most important initiative. Translated into Washington terms, this means a massive infrastructure and stimulus package — in the neighborhood of $300 billion, according to the current speculation. There is a back-to-the-future quality to this: it's what used to be derided as big-spending liberalism. The Beltway consensus is that the economic crisis makes it necessary now. But public cynicism about government requires that the next President builds accountability into his spending programs. That's why the Infrastructure Bank that Obama proposed during the campaign may be crucial: it would create a bipartisan board of five governors who would judge and approve all major projects.
My memory isn't so reliable, but I think that I attended Bob Marley's last concert. I can't remember the date, whether it was in 1979 or 1980. According to the Wikipedia article on Bob Marley his his final concert at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 23, 1980. I definitely saw him at that venue. Some local memory was that the concert at the Stanley was in 1979 and his last concert was at the Mellon Arena. I don't know who's right. But I do remember quite clearly, and with emotion, hearing Marley perform Redemption Song. I can't but be filled with emotion when I hear this song even today. But I've always been puzzled by the line: "Have no fear for atomic energy/because none of us can stop the time." Puzzling as that line is "Old pirates yes they rob I" couldn't be more clear.

We must engage in a genuine way with the very real problems we face today. There's no "magic bullet" that will solve our energy and climate dilemma. Bob Marley quotes Marcus Garvey's words some forty years prior to penning his Redemption Song: "None but ourselves can free our minds." That's a great responsibility. Marley surely had twisted hair, and perhaps more than any other artist of the 20th Century reminded us that our stories, our past, has great lessons for us going forward. He entreats us:
Won't you help to sing, these songs of freedom

Cause all I ever had, redemption songs

Redemption songs, redemption songs
Sing out sisters and brothers! We got lots of work to do and the work needs every one of us.

Update: Per Pingting the lyric of Redemption Song is correctly:
Wo! have no fear for atomic energy,
cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
I really like Pingting's take on they meaning of the lyric too.

1 comment:

Pingting said...

the line is:
none of them can stop the time.

Have no fear for atomic energy/because none of them can stop the time.

I've always taken it to mean that the soul is timeless~
consciousness transcends time, it can not be destroyed.

Ja Jah sit upon his rainbow throne in the sky!