Talks from Cassettes from the Radio

Prompted by a suggestion to examine what “talks” I rate as favorites, I can think of a few that stand out. 2015 offers an overflowing river of talks and podcasts; for the most part I’ve not dipped a toe. At home, I’d rather read a physical copy of Harper’s Magazine, read through a never-ending Instapaper queue, read fiction or watch films.

In the Summer of 2001, my then-roommate Yong introduced me to a talk by anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldecott. We lived in Brooklyn, and Yong would drive us in his beat down Buick to far-off Queens destinations for Afghani sweets or fried vegan Caribbean foodstuffs. On these trip we listened to the radio, usually WFMU or WKCR, but occasionally Yong would reach into his glove compartment for a well-played cassette tape onto which he had, many years before, recorded a talk off WBAI. Over the next two years I listened to portions of this talk many times, often zoned, half-reading the street signs or watching the street lights blink by as Caldicott outlined the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. We subjected other passengers, friends & lovers, to this talk, but they often complained of the depressing nature of Caldicott’s message: she spoke of impending nuclear doom, of the mad men in control of humanity’s fate, of the chilling decisions society has made up to this point, and what we may have ahead of us if we continue down the path of “nuclear madness.” So it was most often just Yong & me, riding the streets, listening.

I never made a dub of this cassette and haven’t thought about it in a long time. Cursory searches turn up some potential sources on the Pacifica Radio Archives, but many of these carry the warning:

This recording is currently on a 1/4” reel tape and has not been digitally preserved.

I reached out to Yong to see if he still has the cassette, but haven’t heard back. He lives in Seoul, running an art gallery & bar called Satellite / 새틀라이트. He may eventually respond, and perhaps with a digitized version of his copy from the radio. I wonder if the exact provenance of Caldicott’s talk is less important than the memory of the actual cassette tape. And the memory of the cassette itself is subsumed by the memories of our decade-plus-old experiences of driving around the boroughs, listening, and convincing others to listen.