11/22/63 (5×8 – 11/22/11)

1) DYING CONSPIRACIES

November 22, 1963. You’ve got September 11th. I’ve got November 22nd, a vanishing date in the memory of most Americans because — and this is impossible to believe — it’s been 48 years since someone killed our president. I had been let out of school early to get a haircut — this was 1963, after all — when I walked in and nobody was talking in Rocky’s Barber Shop. It was another 45 minutes before the radio announced that John F. Kennedy was dead and I don’t recall anyone saying anything during that time or after.

It’s a scene that couldn’t possibly be repeated today. The radio would be replaced by the TV, and we’d probably be chattering about who did it — either the other political party, or the usual suspects, we’d figure. We wouldn’t be united in our grief as we were in 1963; we’d be looking for people to blame. In other words: Life would go on. And video from a thousand different perspectives would be on YouTube in a few minutes, debunking one conspiracy theory will raising a dozen others.

Today, over at the largest institution of higher education in Minnesota, professional conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura will represent his learned side of the debate over who killed Kennedy. He’ll debate Judge John Tunheim, who chaired the declassification process of CIA and FBI files on the investigation. When a host of a b-grade reality show is the best that can be found to argue the conspiracy, the conspiracy theory is dying.

It’s existed this long partly on the optical illusion of the video of the time. Colleague Eric Ringham learned what many who’ve visited Dallas have learned since — Kennedy was an easy target:

That gridiron image stayed with me until a couple of months ago, when I had an opportunity to visit Dallas. The sniper’s nest in the Texas School Book Depository building is now recreated as an exhibit in what has become the Sixth Floor Museum. Though you can’t approach the exact window, you can go to one nearby and peer down at nearly the same angle.

As I said, Oswald could have hit Kennedy with a rock. The space isn’t like a football field. More like a baseball diamond.

In the New York Times today, Errol Morris unveils a film, “The Umbrella Man,” which , unfortunately, cannot be embedded. “If you put any event under the microscope, you will find a whole dimension of incredibly weird things going on,” investigator Tink Thompson tells Morris about the mysterious man under an umbrella on the plaza.

It’s a comment remarkably similar to a passage near the end of Stephen King’s new book, “11/22/63.”

“For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dream clock chiming beneath a mystery glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.”

2) PUBLIC RADIO HUMOR

If you’re not a real public radio fan, you won’t get any of the jokes in this parody of Radiolab, which is not necessarily suitable for the workplace.

(h/t: Micah Gordon)

On the serious side, NPR knows a lot about you, Jim Romenesko writes today. What does it do with all that information?

3) KNOW LESS, NO LESS

The more news you watch, the less informed you can become, at least if you’re watching FoxNews, a Fairleigh Dickinson University study says.

But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

4) TURKEY LOVE

It’s the rule of the farm. At some point, your animal pals have to be sent to slaughter — though it’s easier if you think of it as “processing.” Kathryn Draeger at A View From Here: Resettling Big Stone County tells the story of her turkey, who looked over the poultry flock until it was its turn.

When the Flock 1 was sent to Ashby, the turkey was at a complete loss. We put him in with our laying hens, but he would run back the quarter mile to where the flock had been pastured. He wandered around gobbling and searching our back yard for his lost flock. He was inconsolable for about a week. The windows were open to let in the summer breezes and he would walk back and forth beneath the dining room window mourning for his lost flock.

So we put him in with Flock 2- which he mightily towered over. And he became their guard and protector. Standing between the flock and any dog or human who came near. Not threatening or mean– just using his body as a barrier. When the hawk perched nearby to eye the chickens, the turkey jumped on top of a waterer and spread his big wings over the birds.

“He was a beautiful bird,” she writes.

5) THINKING OUTSIDE THE MINE PIT

If there’s one thing Minnesota has plenty of it’s abandoned mine pits. And wind. We’ve got wind. Now, Dan Haugen at Midwest Energy News reports, the two may be a solution to an alternative energy problem — how to store the power generated by wind. He reports on research from the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute.

The report specifically looks at using iron ore mining pits for pumped storage hydropower. It’s one of the oldest and most widely used methods for storing energy. Cheap or excess electricity, such as nighttime wind power, is used to pump water uphill from a lake or reservoir into a higher-elevation holding pond. When electricity demand is higher, the energy is recaptured by reversing the flow and sending water through hydro turbines on its way back down.

TODAY’S QUESTION

A video showing animal cruelty has prompted major food outlets to drop their business with Sparboe Farms, an egg supplier based in Litchfield. Today’s Question: How much do you want to know about food before it reaches your plate?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Retired Episcopal bishop John Spong has spent years forging a view of the Christian faith that challenges the beliefs and politics of traditional doctrines. In his new book he argues for a far-less rigid interpretation of the Bible.

Second hour: Talking Volumes with Chuck Palahniuk.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Midday’s series on the GOP presidential candidates: Ron Paul’s biography and his views on the issues.

Second hour: Former Sen. Alan Simpson

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: War and sacrifice.

Second hour: TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The man known as Phoenix Jones is a self-styled superhero — with no superpowers except a stubborn resolve to fight crime. He is Seattle’s real-life masked avenger and the subject of a new e-book. A conversation with the author about Phoenix Jones and others of his ilk.

  • jon

    @ # 5 – interesting Idea… Though moving that much water is bound to have some effects on the surrounding area. However, isn’t the federal government currently paying to pipe ground water up at the armory, filter it, and then pump it back down in to the aquifer? Maybe it’d make sense to just put a windmill there to pull the water up, get a filter in place on the way up, and then turbines in place on the way down.

    sure this might only be a break even on the power used to filter the water, but even a break even means less money spent on what the vikings have pointed out time and time again as the “Largest super fund project in the state” (though I’ve still not heard how they are going to clean the aquifer up in their planned stadium proposal).

    I doubt that land would be cost effective for an energy company to turn it into a wind farm, but a bit of the superfund money could probably make it happen, and then in ~80 years, when the water is clean, pull the filters out and then we’d have clean power generated right int he heart of the north metro.

  • Jamie

    RE: Stereohead

    This is hilarious and a perfect send-up! Radio Lab really bugs me for all the things they made fun of.

  • Jim Shapiro

    A conspiracy is a plan by two or more people to commit a crime.

    For some, the idea that members of our own government and security forces would conspire to commit a crime is so horrifying that they opt to accept an official story, regardless of contradictory evidence and testimony.

    Whatever gets you through the night, I guess.

  • B r as kin

    RadioLab:

    Garrison Keillor has some competition in the Perfectly-Pleasently-Pronounced, Annunciation Award.

  • Mark Snyder

    There are already two pump and treat systems in place for cleaning up the aquifer at TCAAP in Arden Hills. From what I recall of the tour I received of the treatment system when I worked there in the early 1990’s, it was expected to take 30 years to clean the water enough to meet environmental standards. So the system would likely operate for another ten years or so.

  • Cara

    The Radiolab sendup is wonderful, and seems to be about an episode called ‘Lost and Found’. A woman described how lost she’d get (absolutely and totally) by saying ‘It’s as though everything turned a quarter of a turn and I couldn’t identify where I was or anything’. I encourage listening to it.

  • boB from WA

    #3 Scary but not surprising.

  • Joanna

    I love RadioLab–this parody is hilarious!

  • tboom

    I always suspected it, now there’s proof:

    FOX news makes viewers dumber.

    Stated another way:

    Misinformation and propaganda work.