What would it be like to be a WFMU DJ on another planet? Let’s explore the possibility, using the planets of our own solar system as examples! We’ll begin with the farthest-away, newly demoted “dwarf planet.” If the four floors (and don’t forget the basement) of the WFMU in building in Jersey City was to be planted firmly on the ground somewhere in the middle of Pluto (a solid 70% rock, and 30% ice), and you were broadcasting from that building, you’d find little light, few friends, and would probably be complaining about the building’s heating system not working right. It would no doubt be remarkably lonely doing a radio show, literally billions and billions of miles away from the “WFMU 91.1 FM East Orange, WXHD Mount Hope, and wfmu.org on the web” that existed for you on Earth as a station ID only…yet now is oh so very far away (overnight shift anyone?). But whatever you do, make sure you don’t step your suicidal outer space self outside onto the deck of Studio A for a cigarette break, or step outside at all, because Pluto’s atmosphere is extremely tenuous, consisting mostly of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane (plus wear a hat, it’s 508 degrees below zero fahrenheit). But, feel free to throw on a long Stockhausen CD and go look out the studio windows pensively—Pluto seems designed for such daydream-y behavior. The glow of Pluto’s frozen methane, ethane and carbon monoxide “lakes” will look stunning from the second story atrium window as well, as they reflect sunlight coming from 3,670,050,000 miles away (give an take a million, due to Pluto’s notoriously erratic orbit path). As for Neptune…
The WFMU building would have a hard time finding foot on Neptune, the place is notoriously gassy. There’s theorized to be a loose rocky core, roughly the size of Earth, buried somewhere in all that blue air-goo, but good luck finding it in all the frozen hydrogen, helium and methane. Blech! Call for a fill-in!
Uranus isn’t much better atmosphere or temperature-wise, and appears to have no core at all. The WFMU building would just have to drift around in all the noxious fumes (83% hydrogen, 15% helium and 2% methane). And to add to the confusion, the concept of “time” is slightly askew on Uranus, as the planet’s poles are somewhat sideways in comparison to other planets in our solar system, causing the planet to sort of “roll” along it’s orbital path. Where’s the sun in the sky at any time? What time is it anyway? What day is it for that matter? Those WFMU DJs who are repeatedly late to their shows (you know who you are!) would discover an endless supply of excuses to explain their tardiness to their perpetually perturbed preceding hosts (as they float apologetically through the front door). A phrase like “Dude, chill, time is a mind trap!” makes perfectly logical sense on Uranus.
The fact that Saturn is a daunting 821,190,000 miles from Earth is made a little more comforting by the fact that radio waves—which are just another form of electromagnetic radiation that travel near the speed of light (plus more efficiently to boot, because they can pass through things)—emitting from the mass-heavy Saturn would take just roughly an hour or so to reach us here on our good ‘ole home planet (3 minute delay? What’s the point?). Doesn’t feel quite so lonely now, does it? Reach out! Just don’t do any phone interviews on your show, and don’t try to connect with a DSL line either, as it won’t last two seconds tangled in those rocky rings. But overall, at a temperature of just 220 degrees below zero fahrenheit, as well as a roughly similar day and seasonal schedule to Earth’s, things are looking warmer and all around more orderly all over ground-less, gassy Saturn. So sharpen up and answer those listener emails (but use wireless). Hell, answer the damn studio phone and take requests from Saturn (just talk really slowly). And don’t go slack on those National Weather Service Alert little ticker-tape thingies to your left in Studio A, as it will no doubt be churning out non-stop. The weather on Saturn is nuts, due mainly to the mysterious forces generated by the awesome Kelvin-Helmholtz Mechanism, which also gives Saturn it’s still-not-yet-totally-understood inner glow. Just smile and cue up some Joni Mitchell.
You may want to use the mp3 archives only while broadcasting from Jupiter. The planet’s unusually massive gravitational pull would make the task of wheeling a cart of records and CDs into the studio very difficult, if not impossible (not to mention even louder). On Earth, the average weight of one vinyl LP record (minus sleeve) is 110 grams, and the weight of an average compact disc (minus jewel case) is 16 grams. WFMU’s on-site vinyl and CD collection is estimated to be somewhere about 25,000 LPs and 45,000 CDs, which translates to a weight of about 6,063 lbs of vinyl and 1,588 lbs of CD plastic on Earth (trivia time! WFMU’s sleeve-less, case-less vinyl and CD collection weights 7,651 lbs, or almost 4 tons—probably). That translates to a combined 19,000 lbs on the surface of Jupiter, or almost 9 tons. So make your selections quick, because the weight of that (totally awesome!) record collection, and you, and the WFMU building itself, would no doubt instantly puncture right through the molecular hydrogen and liquid helium outer surface of Jupiter—another gas bag planet—then zoom right through its liquid metallic hydrogen inner layer (ouch!) and go crashing full speed right into its theorized rocky core, which is 15 times the mass of Earth’s. Oh, and did you get the latest staff email? The building’s elevator is out of order again.
Ahhh, now we’re up to Mars! The most beloved and romanticized of all “other planets.” WFMU’s building would fit snugly almost anywhere on Mars’ rocky, desert-like surface. Although the temperature of Mars can be as low as 207 degrees below zero fahrenheit in some parts of the planet, the temperature during some it’s it’s daylight side readings (similar in time-frame to Earth’s) can be a pleasant 80 degrees. So toss a long LP on the turntable and go have that cigarette out on the deck! But toke it through a space helmet, Mars’ atmosphere is only 0.15% oxygen, and is mostly carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon. Oh and make sure the water cooler tank in the kitchen has been replaced (don’t you get the feeling every week you’re the only one who ever does that… even on Mars?) because there’s only 0.03% moisture out there. Radio transmissions from Mars would take just around four minutes to reach neighboring Earth. In fact, it’s so close—why not host a live band on your show? If any typical Scientologist/bluegrass/grindcore/hip-hop performance collective with a MySpace page can make it in a crummy van all the way from Brooklyn to Jersey City on time for a taping, they can find their way to Mars. Trust me.
Who doesn’t love Venus? It’s the planet of love and beauty, after all. Wouldn’t WFMU’s building look so lovely and beautiful perched atop the Aphrodite Terra incline near Venus’ equator? Or nestling quietly, deep in the rolling hills of the Guinevere Planitia valley? Oh, look outside the Studio A windows, through the sulfuric acid clouds (just like Jersey!), there’s no moon, but there’s Earth up there! Ohh…it’s gorgeous! It’s so pretty, let’s play that Stars of the Lid CD and have some white wine during our show (but don’t mention it on the air!). Then afterwards we’ll have pancakes at the Flamingo Diner… wait, no, scratch that. OK, we’ll go look at Venus’ highly active “pancake volcanoes” instead, or maybe one of Venus’ bigger volcanoes, like the famous Sif Mons. Oooohh! But don’t stray too far, the atmospheric pressure on Venus is measured at about 90, the same as one mile below the ocean surface on Earth. Feel sluggish? Maybe it’s the 932 degree fahrenheit heat as well. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Well, no need to rush back to do next week’s show—you can take all the time vaporizing into a cloud of flame as you want, as an actual day on Venus is the equivalent of 243 days on Earth. Kind of puts the concept of “summer schedule” in a whole new light, eh? And you’re on an overnight time slot? Not smart. At least there’s finally enough time to play Eric Satie’s Vexations in it’s entirety.
So how about Mercury? Things are getting toasty! Actually, Venus is hotter than Mercury, even though Mercury is the closest planet to our sun. But wear shorts (and deodorant…please?), it’s almost 300 degrees fahrenheit. Broadcasting from Mercury would be a cinch, the WFMU building would have plenty of room on Mercury’s moon-like surface, that is if the atom blasts and solar winds don’t topple it over. But radio transmissions should be no problem. Also, sneak down to the kitchen and steal someone’s donuts during a break in your show, oh, have two…hell have the whole box—you weight about 1/3 of your present weight on Mercury! Plus, your next weekly show won’t be for another 60 Earth-length days, so eat up!
Want to broadcast from WFMU while on the Sun? It won’t be fun. The gravity and heat would cause any needle arm on a turntable to cut right through a vinyl LP, and the turntable itself, and then your feet and then the floor, etc., etc. This might actually sound interesting, but—hey cool earrings! Oh—that’s actually the flesh on your ears dripping right off of your skull.. The weight of WFMU’s on-site vinyl and CD collection would weigh a combined 207,128 lbs, due to the Sun’s super-intense gravity, and—long after it pulverizes it all into 9,980 degree fahrenheit vapor—the whole lot would plunge, along with you and the WFMU building and everything, straight down into the Sun’s core (a very speedy 356,703 mile trip!), where you would enjoy a temperature of 15.6 million Kelvin, and an atmospheric pressure 150 billion times that of Earth. You would also probably feel inspired to cue up the most comprehensive and mind-blowing Merbow retrospective show ever conceived. Oh and the elevator still isn’t working.
But what about broadcasting from WFMU inside a black hole? Well, if you could do such a thing, it’s probably best to imagine doing it as you (and the WFMU building) approach a black hole, as opposed to already being in one. The journey itself would no doubt prove inspirational, and it will be your last. Once you reach the outermost edges of the tidal pull of a black hole’s gravitational reach, the time it takes for your body to be sucked over that edge and then begin to enter the black hole itself and reach it’s center, will equal the same amount of time it takes to play three average-length pop songs. But you’d better figure out your playlist quick and cue your material carefully, because once you reach the black hole’s core and approach singularity, it and you will stop existing (at least in your present form). But it may be all in vain anyway. Have you’ve even been on a 4:30 AM overnight shift and wondered to yourself “…is anybody listening?” Well, in a black hole, they aren’t. And it’s not because your show isn’t any good. Nothing, not even radio waves, can escape the unimaginable gravitational pull of a black hole. So don’t worry, it’s not that your show isn’t any good, it’s just the physical laws of the universe (typical excuse!). But don’t let that stop you, you’ll need good music at this stage (oh, don’t play The Doors’ ‘The End,’ that’s so obvious! This is WFMU, be more imaginative!). Backing up a bit, as you cross the black hole’s gravitational threshold and go deeper into it’s center, this is what will happen: first, everything around you will become bluer, as all light shrinks to a zero wavelength, then as you near the event horizon (oh, you’re playing Lesley Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’ instead? haha! blast it!)… OK, as you approach the event horizon, soon all light would start to appear bluer, then it would quickly reach a point where the light possessed an infinite amount of energy, but zero wavelength (and not even scientists know what that would look like! But please give a play-by-play into the mic, for posterity’s sake, eh?). All of this would of course occur long after you, Studio A, the library, the WFMU building, and all those records and CDs would be stretched really long like noodles and then vaporized into the infinite. However if you could still see inside the black hole through your elongated, exploding eyeballs, and you looked away from the approaching singularity and towards the center, you would see a little round window where time would accelerate at an unimaginable speed, and you would witness the remaining entire future evolution of the universe in a microsecond flash. Lucky you! (ohhh… what happens? dish!) Who knows any of this would actually sound like. However, being a radio DJ, you might want to think about your appearance this one time around. Because if no one can hear what you’re broadcasting out of WFMU in those stretchy moments, they’ll surely be able to see you (what WFMU DJ at some time or another hasn’t suspected peering stalker-y eyes outside those vast Studio A windows?). The reason for this is an optical illusion—theoretical—created from the observational point of things being eaten by a black hole’s gravitational pull, seen from a safe distance. As you get closer and closer towards a black hole’s center, the light that you are emitting takes longer and longer to climb back out and reach that
stalker curious listener who’s watching you. In fact, the radiation you emit just before you are sucked in… that moment…that visual image of you inside the window of Studio A sitting behind the console screaming “Holy fucking shit!” into the mic (FCC violation!) will hover right there as a frozen picture to whoever may have been watching, and never actually finish reaching their eyes, ever. So wave pretty and wear your best sweater! No one may be listening, but you want to look good as you, the WFMU DJ, forever cross that event horizon and are obliterated for eternity into unknowable singularity.