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Ideal Neighborhoods

I recently took my brother off to college. That process was strange for me – I’m used to being the one coming and going from far-away states, but now I had to help him move into an experience that I won’t be a large part of. I certianly understand a little more about how my parents felt leaving me in the Purple Valley. But I digress.

The Residential College system in place at his university is actually in place at a wide range of higher-ed institutions. Students are randomly assigned to a house/college, then completely indoctrinated during their first week such that almost no one applies for a transfer. Each house/college also has it’s own eating area and performance space, though students are free to eat anywhere on campus.

I was struck by how much the colleges were their own units, each with a different reputation and different crazy rituals, and there’s a lot to like in this sort of program. However, the University also has physical infrastructure much better suited than Williams’s to this sort of cohesion.

As the Neighborhood Review Committee continues its work this year, let’s remember that people approach this question and debate from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds. Reading about the benefits of such a system is markedly different than seeing them in action.

What are some programs or ideas you’ve seen in place at other schools that Williams should shamelessly steal?

I was also amused when their President, during his remarks, asked all of the assembled parents to shake each others’ hands in congratulations for raising such wonderful children.


Amazing Fireflies




In my next lifetime, I want to be a math geek. In particular, one like Steven Strogatz, who has managed to make a career out of studying events like this one:

Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of male fireflies congregate in the mangrove trees and flash on and off in silent, hypnotic unison.  This display extends for miles along the river and occurs spontaneously; it does not require any leader or cue from the environment.

Wow. Sounds like something worth witnessing. And attempting to understand. Strogatz focuses on “feats of synchronization [that] occur throughout the natural world”… 

… whenever large groups of self-sustained oscillators interact.  This lecture will provide an introduction to the Kuramoto model, the simplest mathematical model of collective synchronization.  Its analysis has fascinated theorists for the past 35 years, and involves a beautiful interplay of ideas from nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics, and fluid mechanics.

But, since I am so very far from being Steven Strogatz, I would at least like to hear him speak about such things, which he will be doing, on September 16th at Bronfman Auditorium. If I could, I would be there. To me, it sounds like getting one tiny step closer to understanding magic.

The lecture on September 15th sounds wonderful as well. The focus of that one is “of his extraordinary connection with his high school calculus teacher”.

It’s about the transformation that takes place in a student’s heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself.  It is intended for a general audience, and especially anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor.  (It also includes some nifty calculus problems.)


Learn The Mountains

Each year, I try to convince the JAs that they should teach all the freshmen the words to The Mountains. I have been at this project for more than a decade, so far without success. See below for the latest iteration.

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Latin Summits

Dan Drezner blogs about Peruvian president Garcia’s pointed jibe of Chavez at a recent summit.

With the caveat that this as a speculative, half-assed generalization, it does seem that certain regions produce vastly more entertaining summits than other regions.  Latin America and the Middle East produce summit meetings with open and entertaining feuding.  Europe and the Pacific Rim, not so much. 

Why is this?  I don’t think it’s the number of “colorful leaders” — if that was true, then Silvio Berlusconi would have made the EU summits rip-roaring affairs years ago.  I don’t think it’s the degree of security tensions — East Asia has more enduring rivalries than Latin America. 

Seriously, why? 

This great answer from “mora”

Latin Summits
by Mora on Sat, 08/29/2009 – 2:29pm
I’d offer three hypotheses for why Latin summits are always more entertaining.

1. Same reason Latins usually win the Miss Universe pageants – if you watch the faces of those Latin girls versus the others, they are more open and spontaneous, less guarded than the others. Also, Latins in general don’t keep secrets well, you can usually find out the real reason for anything you want to find out by asking around in Latam. The openness and spontanaeity make for good summits.

2. Latin democracies, all formed at the same time, all derived from the Iberian culture, tend to be leader-centric. When you look at whoever runs a place like Belgium or Switzerland, you don’t see an individual of much consequence, you know he’s got a bureaucracy behind him calling the shots you know the Belgian one takes orders from the EU faceless bureaucrats and he could be here today gone tomorrow, and he doesn’t have much personality anyway, he rose through the ranks by getting along to go along. Not so with Latins whose states are very leader-centric. The OAS stance, on the Honduras issue, places far more importance with keeping the leader intact than with what the constitution may say, and it gives zero importance to the checks and balances between branches of government. To them, what a Honduran Supreme Court rules is irrelevant because the executive leader is the only government member who matters. The leader-centricity also extends to how Latins view power – in general, they think any problem can be solved by calling up the president, not working through the bureaucracy, this is often why they misread US policy and place it all on the president. Lula used to think he could call up Bush and get anything, he thought politics wa all personality, and not a bunch of policy makers at the state department setting a general course.

3. They share a common language, with the only major outlier, Portuguese-speaking Brazil close enough to be understood by the others. It’s gotta help.

        All one has to do is take point number 2 above and add the political realities of the leftist threat in Peru, the history of the shining path, and you can understand why Garcia mocks Chavez.  

    leftist and hard right threats are represented by governments or revolutionary movements in a shifting sea of power and alliances in Latin America. Normally expressed these violent and non violent power stuggles solidify as Maoist doctrine, military rule for stability and/or capatalistic expansion for growth of wealth. This turmoil spans borders very quickly and often in Latin America. 

  As Drezner mentions, there is a lot of competition in East Asia. However, Latin nations tend to have more in common in terms enemies and allies, internal and external. There is a large consolidating influence of the United States and now China. We are still in a cold war in the region that spans multiple nations in a more focused consolidated way than the struggles in Asia.

   Chavez is a regional ideological instigator. 

Garcia has a full understanding of the hypocrisy of Chavez’s ideological/ economic position, and how it relates to the threats he also faces in Peru. He uses this to his advantage in this exchange because in order to survive Latin leaders must always point to the realism of their own positions while highlighting the arrogance and abuse of their ideological competitors.

That is why.


New Biography Podcast with Liv Osthus ’96 aka Viva Las Vegas

Magic GardensI first met Liv/Viva back in 2006, when Morty S. came to Portland for an alumni event. She was there with her brother and I was there with my wife and we shared a table and laughed a lot through the entire dinner. Even back then, she mentioned that she had been playing around with the idea of writing her memoirs, a piece of information I tucked away in the recesses of my mind. She also came to our annual summer drinks party at our house, and was just as charming with the neighbors as she was with her fellow Ephs.

Last fall, I ran into her again at a book reading that her publisher had put together, and she confirmed that her memoirs were in the rewriting stage and set to come out in the fall of 09. I told her that, when they were ready, I had a new biography show I was producing, and I’d love to have her on. I can also say now that she was definitely a lot less bubbly than she had been in previous meetings, a darkness I now know was tied directly into her fight against breast cancer, which at that time, wasn’t public knowledge.

I’ve never seen Liv perform as either Viva Las Vegas or as Coco Cobra, not due to any prudery on my part (Liv gave me a promotional button after the interview which features “the 8th wonder of the world”; you’ll have to listen to find out what that is), but more due to the fact that our schedules are diametrically opposed. Still, since I have interviewed her about the book, I do kind of feel odd I have never seen her perform, so I will try to stay up late one night this fall and catch one of her sets.

Liv knows that my nickname for her is “that nice Lutheran girl from Minnesota”, a handle I gave her because when we get together, we tend to talk about pretty mundane topics, like gardening or literature. This interview was the first time we spoke in depth about her job. I will leave it to her to talk about whether she was able to get Morty and the Alumni Board to come watch her set at Mary’s after that 2006 dinner at the City Grill ;)

As one last aside, I wish I could be in studio with every guest. Face to face interviews are much more fun than doing them over the phone. The interview runs 22 minutes:


Coach Fryzel, RIP

Sad to note the passing of former Williams Coach Dennis Fryzel.

0002285100-01i-1_141148Dennis Fryzel had three careers spanning 45 years. But to those who knew him, he was, simply, Coach.

Mr. Fryzel was a college and professional football coach for 20 years, working with the likes of Bill Parcells, Nick Saban and Earle Bruce. He coached at Columbia University, Williams College, Air Force Academy, Syracuse University, University of Tampa and Ohio State University. He even did a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“He loved the game and he loved kids,” said Gayle Wood Fryzel, his wife of 44 years. “He loved knocking heads on Saturdays with the other team, trying to outsmart them.”

Vin Hoover played for Coach at the University of Tampa 1973-74. Initially the defensive coordinator, Mr. Fryzel became head coach at the age of 30.

Mr. Hoover said Coach was intense. He paced back and forth on the field. He yelled. He butted heads with players. And if he had to show an athlete how to tackle, he’d demonstrate — without gear.

Sounds like my kind of coach. I believe that Fryzel was at Williams in the early 70s. Here is the only reference to him that I could find at Williams.

Perhaps the greatest impact of Towne Field House was the growth of the winter track and field program at Williams. Coach Denny Fryzel told the Williams Record: “Largely due to our new facilities, winter track, which in past years has had 4-6 runners, will have 20 members this year.” He then called the field house “One of the finest small-college track facilities in the East.” The first indoor track meet ever held at Williams took place on January 27, 1972. Union College triumphed with a score of 56 points, followed by host Williams with 53.

Did any readers play for Coach Fryzel? Tell us your stories.

Condolences to all.


Track Book

I have completed the research and interviews for the track book. My collaborator and I need to insert the photos and get it formatted and decide which publishing option to choose. We hope to have it out some time this fall. If anyone has photos they can send us on a DVD please contact me at JoelRichardson at verizon dot net.


Tributes to Senator Kennedy

From Chan Lowe ’75.


From Derek Catsam ’93:

I grew up in New Hampshire, so Kennedy was never literally my Senator, but for all intents and purposes he was the Senator who represented me, a liberal, in a state that was during the 1980s as solidly Republican as ever there was. I was stunned when I read about his death even when it was obvious for months that this moment was coming. I had to compose myself for a second, before diving in to read and remember why Ted Kennedy was such a vital figure in American political life for four decades.

Also from Catsam:

South Africa in the 1980s might well mark the most sustained American engagement with an African issue. It is easy to forget just how regularly South Africa appeared on the nightly news (kids, ask your parents) and how many column issues the tumult occupied, especially once the Vaal Triangle uprising in the last third of 1984 set off arguably the most intense sustained period of anti-apartheid activity. And Ted Kennedy was among the voices of conscience who translated those words intom concrete action. Kennedy was not alone, nor was he even the most important driving force behind the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985. But it was one of hundreds of issues on which Kennedy took leadership in his long career. He truly was a giant in American political life.

Hamba kahle, Senator Kennedy.

From Chap Petersen ’90:

In my parents’ lifetime, the election of John F. Kennedy as President was a seminal event — a younger generation taking control of a nation’s destiny. The life and death of Robert F. Kennedy was on the same historic arc. He had a vision for the nation that was bigger and broader than it had been.

My siblings and I came of age in a different era, perhaps more cynical. The brand name “Kennedy” did not have the same magic. Those who tried to capitalize politically on that name in the last ten years have largely failed. Political dynasties do not last forever in this country and that’s a good thing.

No matter. Ted Kennedy was able to span both eras, literally. He was there when “liberalism” was all the rage. And he was there when it was hopelessly out of fashion. Either way, he fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith.

Sam Crane posts a Mencian thought:

If you want to put my words into practice, why not return to fundamentals? When every five-acre farm has mulberry trees around the farmhouse, people wear silk at fifty. And when the proper seasons of chickens and pigs and dogs are not neglected, people eat meat at seventy. When hundred-acre farms never violate their proper seasons, even large families don’t go hungry. Pay close attention to the teaching in village schools, and extend it to the child’s family responsibilities – then, when their silver hair glistens, people won’t be out on the roads and paths hauling heavy loads. Our black-haired people free of hunger and cold, wearing silk and eating meat in old age – there has never been such times without a true emperor.

Stephen Rose ’58 says health care reform was his great cause and that Kennedy was sounding the Obama message in the 1980s.

From Dan Blatt ’85:

He may have been a liberal, but, as the years passed, he did not treat his political adversaries as enemies, instead he saw many as colleagues who, though coming from different political and philosophical perspectives, were fighting the same fight, seeking to achieve the same goal–the welfare and well-being of the United States of America and its people.

He was, as we all are, flawed, but, in the hour of his passing, let us remember his strengths. And they were many.

From commenter nuts:

Ephs who respect Ted Kennedy might enjoy listening to his eulogy for his brother Bobby. I have a great admiration for Ted’s compassion, his vision of public service and his ability to express himself in a powerful way.

David Kaiser writes a fascinating essay about Kennedy in historical perspective – an extract:

But the big news this week, of course, is the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, which has affected me far more than I would have thought. Of the three Kennedy brothers who at least made it to 30 he was the one I had not studied in detail, and I had never regarded him as presidential timber. His loss is however a shock because he is the only political figure of whom I had been continuously aware for more than 49 years, since I began reading about the Kennedy family in the 1960 campaign. He has been in the US Senate since I was 15, and he is a link, in many ways, to the more distant past. I shall now try to place him generationally and historically.

Two things about Teddy stand out in historical perspective: he belonged to what Strauss and Howe called an Artist or adaptive generation–those who spend their childhoods in periods of great crisis–and he was for decades a critical figure in our national legislature who never became President. The previous analogous generations in our national life were the Compromise generation, born in the last third of the eighteenth century, and the Progressive generation, born from about 1842 to 1862. It is in the Compromise generation, I think, that Kennedy’s closest analogues can be found, specifically Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Quincy Adams from his own Massachusetts.

Continue reading here.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in thread.


August Athletics Round-Up

Several athletics-related stories of note from the last few weeks:

  • Eph championship coaches Justin Moore and Allison Swain ’01 are honored at Fenway.
  • Ashley Parsons ’10’s summer is chronicled in the New Canaan News.
  • Wendy Stone ’05 named manager of the U.S. Women’s National Lacrosse Elite Team.
  • Kevin Snyder ’09 named Director of Basketball Operations at William & Mary (joining a D-1 coaching fraternity that already includes Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen, Boston College Associate Head Coach Pat Duquette, and University of Denver Director of Basketball operations John Fitzgerald).
  • Fay Vincent ’60 is interviewed on steroids in baseball.
  • Katherine Robinson ’09 wins a silver medal at the U23 rowing world championships.
  • Finally, don’t forget to follow the coaching debuts of Dave Clawson fo Bowling Green on September 3 and Kevin Morris for UMass (where he faces a — to put it mildly — daunting challenge vs. a higher level Kansas State team, the equivalent of Williams playing UMass in basketball) on September 5.  You can listen to Clawson on ESPNU’s college football kickoff on Monday.  Speaking of daunting challenges, see if coordinator Mike Bajakian can lead his high-powered Central Michigan offense to a major upset over Pac-10 power Arizona on September 5.  More background on all three here.

John Glenn

Dialogue with John Glenn.

I confess to not watching this video, but I liked the citation for Glenn’s honorary degree.

Let’s see, there’s Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Daniel Boone, and John Glenn. A square-jawed, young Marine from the Midwest, you flew more than one hundred combat missions in World War II and Korea, returning at least twice with more than two hundred fifty bullet holes in your plane. Later, as a test pilot you set a record by racing from coast to coast in the time it takes to watch an in-flight movie. Then you became the in-flight movie, when on February 20, 1962 you rode the improbably small and fragile-looking Friendship 7 capsule three times around the Earth, while the nation watched with its heart in its throat until you returned with a splash that marked the beginning of U.S. advancement in space. Dusting the confetti from your lapels, you moved, Davey Crockett-style, to Congress where for twenty-four years you fought to reform government and to control the spread of nuclear arms. Here in academia we are trained to doubt simple stories and to question the heroic. But today we say: the heck with that! For one thing our nation surely will need in exploring its newest frontiers is the near-mythical valor embodied in the person and the name “John Glenn.”

I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Laws, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.

Any Commencement ceremony that honors an ex-Marine is fine by me. By the way, who writes these citations?

A requirement for the new Williams president should be the ability to say that last line about “appertaining thereto” with a Frank Oakley accent. Graduates of that era will know what I mean . . .


Misc News from Speak Up

Again, for the purposes of archiving, here is a round-up of local and miscellaneous news recently posted on Speak up. Additional comments are welcome.

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Senator Udall ’72 Convocation Speaker?

udall-portraitAccording to this anonymous comment, Colorado Senator Mark Udall ’72 will be the Convocation Speaker next month and, presumably, a Bicentennial Medal awardee. Can anyone confirm? Can ’10 provide more details? There is nothing at the Williams website. Most EphBlog anonymous tips like this end up being true, so, if you are a Udall fan, make your reservations now.

UPDATE: Confirmed, as expected. See below for the e-mail that went out to all seniors more than two weeks ago. We need a senior to join us an an author at EphBlog, or just to pass along this sort of news. I will save my deconstruction of the descriptions of some of the Bicentennial Medal winners for another post.

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Clarence Otis ’77 Speech

Clarence Otis Jr., Commencement Address, “Fulfilling Our Leadership Obligation.” Best part:

And, I think about educators who came into my life after Watts — about people like the late Bill Oliver, our Calculus professor my first semester, freshman year, here at Williams. I recall how, as I struggled with the material, Professor Oliver chose to believe my challenges reflected poor preparation, not poor intellect, and so he tutored me one on one after every class for the entire semester. Yet, what struck me most, the most important statement Professor Oliver made about the legitimacy of my presence at Williams was not the tutoring; it was when he had me over to his home for Thanksgiving dinner that year.

Do any readers have memories of Professor Oliver to share? I was sad that this speech did not include a description of how Otis came to Williams and a shout-out to Buster Grossman ’56.

As the leading proponent of having alumni, like Otis, give the Commencement speech, I was, overall, disappointed by this effort. With the exception of the paragraph I quoted, there was almost nothing that was Williams-specific. But reading it and being there are two different things. How was it received in person?


College Endowments and Private Equity / Venture Capital

From David: Useful article on private equity. No specific mention of Williams, but lots of good background for those interested in how the endowment does/should invest.

From hwc: Year end endowment numbers are starting to roll in. Here’s a Bloomberg article today with year end estimates from the finance people at Swarthmore, Pomona, Davidson, and Smith.

From David: Useful overview article on the venture capital industry. Williams has appoximately 10% of its endowment in venture capital. It is a very hard question as to whether or not a better number would be 2% (closer to the average of large institutions) or 20%.

Vicarious’83 asks: As a practical matter, I wonder how much flexibility the college even has to adjust its allocation to these types of investments in the short run?

Comments have been moved over from Speak Up!


Mayda Del Valle ’00 and O

Dell Valle

Spoken-word artist, Mayda Del Valle ’00  has been selected for the Oprah Power List.

Sharing company with the likes of  physicist Shirley Ann Jackson, four-star General Ann Dunwoody, artist Kara Walker, and comic Sarah Silverman, Del Valle is featured in the September issue of O Magazine.

The O Power List  is a tribute to “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts.”

The segment on Del Valle says:

“Mayda Del Valle doesn’t waste words. Or time. In 2001, at the age of 22, the Chicago native became the youngest poet and first Latino to win the Individual National Poetry Slam. Since then, her bracing style — informed by latin jazz and hip-hop —  has set off sparks on Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry HBO series and Broadway show; in May she performed at the White House at the invitation of the president and First lady.”

When O asked Del Valle to talk about what she does, she composed this poem:”

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Mike McGinn ’82 for Mayor of Seattle

John McNicholas ’84 writes:

mcginnformayor-button-150x150I wanted to let you and other members of the Williams community who read EphBlog know that Mike McGinn, ’82 is running for mayor of Seattle. Mike is a lawyer and Sierra Club member who has run a grass-roots campaign, resulting in his recent victory in a primary against the incumbent mayor of Seattle. He’s running against a local businessman in the general election in November.

I enjoy reading EphBlog. Keep up the good work.

Thanks! More from McGinn below.

Mike McGinn '82

One of Mike

(photo added by Ronit)



Physicists pontificating on politics is one of my favorite things. And Chad Orzel ’93 delivers here. Shorter Orzel: Mention the personal failings of politicians I disagree with. Ignore the personal failings of the politicians I support. See below.

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Peter Nurnberg ’09 Speech

Peter S. Nurnberg, Valedictorian, “It Takes a College.” I liked this part:

Examples of the help we received are all around us.

In the Fall of our freshman year, I remember dozens of you sitting with me every Thursday night in the math and science resource center as the class tutor, Todd Shayler — who one of my entrymates still incorrectly insists was the actor who played Stiffler in American Pie — unlocked the mysteries we needed to understand in order to solve Professor Adams’ Multivariable Calculus problem sets.

I have had the pleasure of buying Shayler lunch a couple of time and trying to share some words of wisdom about life in finance. At the time, I thought of this as part of my usual efforts to give advice to Ephs several years behind me in their finance careers. But now I can think of it as payback for Shaylor’s efforts with Nurnberg and his classmates.


Dominick Dunne ’49, RIP

Dominick_DunneDOMINICK DUNNE 1925-2009

We are sad to report the news that Dominick Dunne passed away today, 26th August, at the age of 83 at his home in New York City, after a long and brave battle with cancer. He was with his family at the time.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1925, Dominick Dunne grew up in a large, well-to-do Catholic family of six children. He was the second of six children and always had a passion for dance, theater, and Hollywood films.

Then out of his senior year at school, Dominick was called up for service in World War II, where he distinguished himself during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium by running back towards the approaching Germans to rescue two injured soldiers. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery.

On his return to the United States after the war he moved to New York and studied at Williams College. After graduating Dominick secured a position as floor manager for The Howdy Doody Showand later with Robert Montgomery Presents.

Dominick met and married Ellen Beatriz Griffin, who was known as Lenny. Together they moved from New York to Los Angeles when their first-born, Griffin, was a baby. Dominick rose through the ranks of television, becoming Vice-President of Twentieth Century Fox where produced the hit series, Adventures in Paradise.

He and Lenny spent their time socialising with the Hollywood stars of the time, including Natalie Wood, Michael Caine, Elizabeth Montgomery, Dennis Hopper, Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow. However, Dominick”s newfound success was taking a toll on his family life. He was sliding into a life of alcohol and drugs and was desperate to keep the appearance of the perfect family. His marriage ended in divorce in 1965.

The next decade saw a despondent Dominick fall from grace in Hollywood. The final nail in the coffin of his Hollywood dream was the making of the film Ash Wednesday, starring Elizabeth Taylor. Dominick was no longer welcome in Hollywood.

With his career in tatters, Dominick drove north, not stopping until he blew a car tyre in Oregon. Here he rented a small cottage in the Cascade Mountains and set about trying to reconstruct his life. While in Oregon, he began to write for the first time at the age of 50. He was commissioned to write The Winners, a sequel toThe Users, a novel about the secret life of Hollywood high-flyers. The novel was panned but Dominick was delighted simply to be reviewed by the New York Times. After six months in his Oregon cabin, Dominick resolved to move to New York and begin he new life as a writer. His next novel, The Two Mrs Grenvilles sold more than two million copies and refocused his career permanently toward writing.

However, tragedy struck in November of 1982. Dominick received a telephone call from Lenny, informing him that his only surviving daughter, Dominique, was on life support after an attack by her former boyfriend, John Sweeney. Dominick flew to Los Angeles immediately, but Dominique never regained consciousness. The experience of losing his daughter and the ensuing trial of her killer so enraged Dunne, it directed the course of the rest of his life.

Dunne’s reporting of the trial of Sweeney was his first published piece in Vanity Fair, in the March 1984 issue, and marked the beginning of a relationship between him and the magazine that lasted until his passing. He was both loved and reviled for his personal, chatty journalism style that truly went behind the scenes and reveled in its intimacy. He will be remembered for his coverage of the murder trials of O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake and Claus Von Bulow, among others.

Dominick also wrote several works of fiction, each one rapidly making its way to The New York Times best-seller lists. His last novel, Too Much Money, is due in stores this December.

He is survived by his sons Griffin and Alex Dunne, and his grand daughter, Hannah.

Click here to leave a message.


Vanity Fair‘s Dominick Dunne archive

LA Times obit

Vanity Fair obit

NYTimes obit

AP obit

Tribute from Tina Brown at the Daily Beast

Jane Hitchcock at the Daily Beast

Preview of After the Party, a documentary about Dominick Dunne’s life


Infinite Ephs Week 8 (528-619)

Greetings from Disneyland. I’m on vacation, getting to spend a little time curled up with Infinite Jest after weeks of working. In the hopes of trying to get us back to schedule, I am posting the pages for this week, but remember it doesn’t matter where you are in the book now, you can always make a contribution to our discussion. As an experiment for this week, instead of putting down talking points, I’m going to put a couple random passages from the reading and I’ll ask you to post your reactions and insights based on either the current reading or any of your previous reading (because the book is kinda all over the place, you don’t need to have read the passage in context to make a comment). So here we go:

Lenz says the Ennet graduates who often come back and take up living-room space sitting around comparing horror stories about former religious cults they’d tried joining as part of their struggle to try to quit with the drugs and alcohol are not w/o a certain naive charm but are basically naive. Lenz details that robes and mass weddings and head-shavings and pampheleteering in airports and selling flowers on median strips and signing away inheritances and never sleeping and marrying whoever they tell you and then never seeing who you marry are small potatoes in terms of bizarre-cult criterion. Lenz tells Green he knows individuals who’ve heard shit that would blow Green’s mind out his ear-sockets. (559)

And another:

Having no choice now not to fight and things simplify radically, divisions collapse. Gately’s just one part of something bigger he can’t control. His face in the left hadlight has dropped into it’s fight-expression of ferocious good cheer. He says he’s responsible for these people on these private grounds tonight and is part of this whether he wants to be or not, and can they talk this out because he doesn’t want to fight them. He says twice very distinctly that he does not want to fight them. He’s no longer divided enough to think about whether this is true. (612)

Happy reading and be sure to leave any thoughts and comments you have!


Amherst, Trinity Among Nation’s Most Douche

Bravely wading through any number of potential pot-kettle issues, Gentlemen’s Quarterly presents to its readers a feature for the ages: “America’s 25 Douchiest Colleges.”  You can see it here on GQ’s Web site in all its glory, or to get a look at how it ran in the magazine, check here.

The question isn’t whether you’re a douche bag when you go to college. We were all kind of douche bags when we went to college, if we’re going to be honest about it. No, the question for America’s youth is: What kind of douche bag do you aspire to be?

First of all, speak for yourself, GQ.  Second, um, what?  Most folks aspire to no such thing.  (As always, there are some exceptions.)

Third, at the very least they got it right.  Trinity cracks the list at No. 21, but the kicker is Amherst at No.7, though the rationale doesn’t exactly do us any favors.

Home of: The “I Went to a Small liberal-arts College in Massachusetts” Douche
Affectations: Quiet sense of superiority; intense desire to be surrounded by 1,700 people almost exactly like you; Choate soccer jacket.
In ten years, will be: Smart policy guy at State Department that no one listens to.
Douchey mascot: Lord Jeffrey Amherst.
Problem with douchey mascot: Distributed smallpox-infested blankets to Native Americans.

Hmm.  Good form on the bioterrorism reference, I suppose.  The cynics among us may claim that this is simply a name recognition problem for Williams, but I like to think GQ is onto something.


Coakley ’75 for Senate?

website_headshotCould Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley ’75 be the next Eph senator?

The death of Edward M. Kennedy immediately raises the question of who will succeed the senator — and how quickly — as Congress is embroiled in a bitter battle over plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

Outside the family, there is a stable of high-profile Massachusetts Democrats considered possible successors, from Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee; state Attorney General Martha Coakley and former Representative Martin Meehan, who retired to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell last year, but who has about $4.8 million in campaign cash left.

Coakley will almost surely run. Will she win? She has EphBlog’s my support!


Jeff Kaplan ’09 Speech

Jeffrey I. Kaplan, Phi Beta Kappa Speaker, “The Solution to the Economic Crisis.”


Michael Glier ’75 in Botswana

Michael Glier

Professor Michael Glier ’75 has updated his site with lots of gorgeous photos, artwork, and journals of his stint on the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It is part of the Antipodes segment of his ongoing project which involves “painting the landscape at opposite points of the globe.”
He writes beautifully:

The Delta is wild and to visit it is to travel back in time to the world before human ascendance. But the primacy of the landscape is an illusion. This is a national park, managed well by the government of Botswana. It is tempting to think of this place as a primal landscape—a cauldron of life that bubbles and boils on its own, assuring renewal. But it’s not. Its wildness and isolation only emphasize the fact that humankind now manages the entire surface of the earth. Every scrap. There are no redemptive Edens left. There are only parcels of wild space that are dependent on managers for upkeep.

Take a small journey of your own by visiting the entire post here, and be sure and scroll down to view his wonderful sketches.


Expedition Wrap-up

From the (last) entry of the Expedition Blog:

Many of you who attended our events got to hear us on the trip talk about how one of our goals was to provide the common narrative, the connective thread with which to bind these various events and associations in different cities together. An amazing thing about this trip, though, was seeing how, on some level, that was already done for us. Not only do we, as Williams alums, have a shared geographic past and, in many ways, a shared college experience, but also we share many things in common about post-Williams life. I don’t mean to suggest that all of us are doing or have done the same things, far from it. I guess what I mean to say is that, despite the incredible diversity of paths each of us has taken, what was instead highlighted to me are the common failures and successes, the shared narrative, the things that unite us and bring us together. Anyway, enough waxing sentimental, I just thought it was cool and, in some ways reassuring that when we heard all these different stories, we were in some ways hearing the same story. Moving on…


The 2008 Form 990 Debuts on Guidestar

The Williams Form 990 for Fiscal 2008 (viz., July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008) finally showed up on the Guidestar website yesterday, almost 14 months after the end of the reporting period.    For those, like myself, who think this document is very useful and affords more detailed insight into the finances and activities of the college, this is too long a wait.

For the last several years Williams has been filing its Form 990 with the IRS at the very outer limit of the permitted reporting window, around mid-May of the following fiscal year.   That is, the 4 1/2 month normal reporting limit,  plus the 3 month extension granted automatically on request, plus a second (and final) extension, which must also be requested by the reporting institution.   That makes the 10 1/2 months of “reporting lag.”   Add in the ca. 2 1/2 to 3  months it requires for Guidetar (and others) to acquire this material from the IRS Ogden office, and that accounts for the approximately 14 months before this material becomes “publicly visible” to interested parties on any website.

Some other colleges and universities do better, by filing earlier and themselves posting these documents on their own websites, something that will be detailed in a subsequent post in this space.

Compare the 10 1/2 month reporting delay and almost 3 month posting lag for Williams with the availability of the college’s audited financial statments, the latest of which was signed by the auditors on September 18, 2008, less than 3 months after the close of the 2008 fiscal year.  These, to be sure, are posted, albeit discretely, on the college website, although exact date of posting is not clear to me.  In fact, almost all colleges and universities I have reviewed seem to put these accounts up for their constituency to see.  But not Bennington!


JA: Junior Anonymous [Eph Diary #2]

This installment comes exactly two weeks later than planned, due to some cross-country travels and other such summertime excuses.  My apologies.  -TD

Going Home Again

I am home. 

For four whole days, crammed in between internships and travels and living life, I will exist once again within the boundaries of my hometown.  And I could not be more thrilled.

I still consider this place my “real” home, a fact that surprises me more than anyone.  When I left for college two years ago, I was one of those kids eager to leave the nest, confident that I was ready for a new adventure, a new life, a new home.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found all that and more at Williams.  But at the same time, I find myself craving this place, my childhood home, in a way that I never imagined I would.  This town, where I lived exclusively for the first seventeen-point-nine years of my life, is the backdrop to all of my memories.  This house, where I lived for more than half my life, stores all the wonderful detritus of my formative years.  This place, which I know more intimately than anyplace else in the world, is where my family is.  And so this place is home. 

Still, I recognize the signs that my concept of “home” has changed since the day I left my own small town for the even smaller Williamstown.  When I return, a phenomenon that is sadly becoming increasingly infrequent, things are subtly different.  I no longer know the television channels.  My family joined a new swim club and made the switch to organic peanut butter.  The baby sister who I SWEAR was just in diapers is suddenly taller than I am.  I don’t even know whose toothbrush is whose around these parts.  I realized this morning (in a flash of horrifying clarity) that the orange brush, which at that moment was hard at work buffing my incisors, actually belongs to my little brother.  Barf.  At Williams, I have a pack of ten toothbrushes… and I always know which is which. Read more


Aroop Mukharji ’09 Speech

Aroop Mukharji, Class Speaker, “Advice From My Father, or, the Audacity of Alumdom”


Testing: On a “Core Curriculum,” and on the curricula

Items from recent discussion on “Speak Up” about rankings, a core curriculum and other issues have been moved here. (Apologies to Eric; some experimentation may occur here).


Gun Debate from Speak Up

Most of the chat on Speak Up gets deleted after a period of time, but there was a particularly spirited debate regarding gun laws, that I thought was worth archiving. It began with a comment and link posted by Jeff Z:

“The gun bill *mentioned above BARELY failed. Eph [Mark] Udall (Colorado) one of 20 dems to vote yes. Uggghhh.”

And the rest follows below the fold.

*(article referred to at beginning of thread now linked here)

Read more


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