One day, back before the turn of the century, I received a phone call from a noted academic who had just written another book, one he thought would be of general interest. Might he be able to arrange an interview on WSKG? The book was certainly well written and important, but a short interview would likely be too skimpy. Certainly it would not give ample opportunity to discuss the subject matter and also learn a bit about the writer who, after all, was a neighbor to many of our listeners. That phone call launched a new program we called OFF THE PAGE. It premiered in January of 2000 with a panel discussion of science-fiction now that a new millennium was dawning.
Since then the fortnightly series has spent an hour with more than 300 writers (including the gentleman who made that initial phone call), discussing novels and history and society and science and music and zombies and baseball… About the only thing the programs had in common was that the author lived and wrote in the WSKG service area in New York and Pennsylvania.
We also opened the phone lines and the e-mailbox and invited listeners to join in the discussions, and when we started live streaming on wskg.org we began to hear from listeners across the nation and overseas. The literary map of the Southern Tier/ Finger Lakes/ Western Catskills is certainly detailed with talent. For the final program in the series I’ve excerpted a few programs that can serve as a sample of the range of topics and quality of guests over the past fourteen years.
-- Bill Jaker
“The Horse, the Wheel and Language” by David Anthony, professor of archeology at Hartwick College in Oneonta. Dr. Anthony describes the research into the origins of Indo-European languages spoken from Iceland to Iran and even speaks a bit of Proto-Indo-European. (15 April 2008)
“The Mighty Queens of Freeville” Amy Dickinson pays tribute to her mother and all the women of her Tompkins County community whose wisdom and life experiences are reflected in Amy’s nationally-syndicated advice column. (12 May 2009)
A special program for the 100th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain originated from the porch at Quarry Farm in Elmira, his in-laws’home where Twain spent many summers and did some of his best known writing. Before a live audience, Twain experts Michael Kiskis of Elmira College (now deceased) and Ann Ryan of Lemoyne College debate Twain’s religiosity. (8 June 2010)
Poets Liz Rosenberg of Binghamton and Jay Leeming from Ithaca had never met prior to their visit to OFF THE PAGE, and they struck it off wonderfully. Liz reads one of her Binghamton poems, “Charity” and Jay reads “The Barber”. (20 April 2004)
In “Earth: A Tenant’s Manual”, Dr. Frank H.T. Rhodes, the president emeritus of Cornell University returns to his calling as a geologist with cautionary chapters on the strain to our natural environment and the depletion of resources. (18 September 2012)
Tim Wiles, director of research at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, was co-author of “Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’”, published on the 100th anniversary of the national pastime’s anthem. Tim tells about the history of the song by Jack Norworth and Al Van Tilzer, plays recordings from as early as 1908 and sings a 1927 verse about a female baseball fan accompanied by a chorus of women from the WSKG staff. (13 May 2008)
Dianea Kohl is a psychotherapist in Ithaca and author of six books including a trilogy based on the therapeutic value of crying. She speaks about the reasons for frustration in love and the value of primal therapy. In a new follow-up to her 2008 visit to OFF THE PAGE Dianea sums up the personal value of sharing her story.
Michael Kammen was one of America’s preeminent historians, Newton C. Farr Professor of History and Culture at Cornell and author of more than two dozen books. In 1973 “People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization” won the Pulitzer Prize for history. His study of art controversy in the USA, entitled “Visual Shock”, prompted one critic to call him “an historian of the American psyche.” In the broadcast of 9 June 2007 he places art controversy in a contemporary context. Dr. Kammen passed away in November of 2013.
Local history is an essential part of life in any community and the visits of local historians to OFF THE PAGE usually attracted interest beyond the places they wrote about. The city of Binghamton is the subject of a monumental two-volume history called “Bygone Binghamton”. Authors Jack Edward Shay and Betty Casey present a sample of their research speaking about shopping districts along Clinton Street and downtown. (5 March 2013)