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UCLA Cross Section Interview- April 13, 2011

This is an interview I conducted last week for UCLA’s Cross Section TV show. It is with Mark McGurl, Professor of English at UCLA, talking about his book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, which is published by a client of mine, Harvard University Press.

This is the first interview I’ve done for TV and it was a blast. I should know in a few weeks if this episode will get picked up by UCTV.


“Live-Blogging” Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS. Yankees v. Royals

I really wasn’t going to do another one of these.

Simply really. The last one got a lot of positive feedback and, frankly, in a lot of ways, I’ve moved away from baseball (and most other professional sports) to soccer and college athletics, so why not quit while I was ahead? But the death of George Steinbrenner has made me want to “live blog” this particular game: Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees, October 14, 1976. For George, this was his first real triumph as Yankees owner: the first time the Yankees had been to post season in twelve years. For me, it was a watershed game. This was the first Royals team I followed avidly, and the amount of civic pride in their accomplishment was just insane. This particular game started my life lessons that, no matter how much a nine year old wants to believe, sometimes his heroes don’t win. And so, off we go to a chilly October night in the Bronx….

Read more


New Invisible Hand Podcast on… Statistics (and breakfast with Kane & Swart)

So, my wife and I had breakfast this morning here in Portland with both Dave Kane AND Dick Swart and in between my shameless monopolizing of the conversation, which I apologize for publicly here in this forum of forums, Dave asked if I would post more of my content on Ephblog. This made me laugh a little, because the current episode of The Invisible Hand deals with statistics. I promised Dave I would mention him in this post, but also state that he does not necessarily endorse this episode (he hasn’t heard it yet). I teased him that, as Williams’ most celebrated statistician, his rub would help the show.

This book, How To Measure Anything, is a fantastic book on how to think about measurement, particularly those things that may be thought intangible by those looking for answers. You will hear me early on decrying my own statistical training, which was a collision of my undeveloped cerebrum and their antiquated pedagogy. That’s not a mix to ensure success. The show runs 35 minutes. TIH 109- How to Measure Anything

Now then, you may be wondering what breakfast was like with these two Eph titans. Well, they almost ordered exactly the same thing (eggs over easy, bacon) but Swart got pancakes and Kane got sourdough toast. Drinks were orange juice, milk and a latte. For all my talking, I was rewarded with extremely interesting business ideas from both of them (I will one day tell the story of little Jimmy Vuvuzela, Hedge Fund Manager from the Lower East Side), but the highlight was seeing Dick perform a one man pantomime of Verdi’s “La Traviata”, quite a feat in a crowded dining room. And for those who remember my last meal with Swart, yes, he wore THOSE shoes again.

I had a great time and if you ever have a chance to have a meal with either Dave or Dick, I highly encourage you to go. It was a blast.


The end of an era. RIP George Steinbrenner, ’52

I haven’t been on Ephblog for a while, but I saw this photograph of Mr. Steinbrenner proudly wearing his Williams hat, and felt compelled to add a personal reminiscence.

When I first started to follow baseball as a boy in Kansas City (the outskirts i.e. countryside), the Royals seemed to be locked in an eternal struggle with the Yankees and given the general midwest sentiment that Manhattan is just a stone’s throw away from Gomorrah, I grew to not like the Yankees very much, particularly that not particularly nice man who seemed to fire his manager depending on whether it was a day that started with “T” or not. George Steinbrenner in my early baseball development stood as a sort of Eastern ogre, constantly angry, yet with a team that seemed to own the Royals in the post season. I can’t deny that one of my biggest thrills was watching him storm out of Royals Stadium in the 1980 playoffs after the Yanks gave away a game to the Royals, with the ABC cameraman following him up the stadium stairs and Howard Cosell adding to the drama by explaining “exactly what was going on in Steinbrenner’s mind”.

Once I got to Williams, I started to hear all of the “urban myths” around his time as an Eph and came to realize that 1) he was probably the best known alumnus of Williams and more importantly, 2) he was the best thing to happen to baseball in a long time. Yes, he could get a little out of control. Yes, he carried grudges; I’m fairly certain that Dave Winfield won’t be shedding many tears today. But in a sport that has become even more corporate and staid as I’ve gotten older, George provided drama and comedy, real human features that made the game fun to follow. And, Big George won, once he started to develop the farm system again and stop thinking that the keys to success were high priced free agents.

When he bought the Yankees in 1973 from CBS, quite a few people thought he was mad: Yankee Stadium was in horrible shape and the team, quite frankly, sucked. He leaves this world as the owner of one of the world’s most valuable sports teams and an American legend. Thanks for everything, George, from an appreciative fellow Eph. Do me a favor though. If you run into Billy Martin up there, go a little easier on him this time ;)

Chris Gondek ’90


New UC Press Podcast with Darra Goldstein

In keeping with my promise to post all Williams related info on EphBlog, here is a podcast interview I did yesterday with Professor Goldstein about Gastronomica, the food magazine she edits for the University of California Press.

As for my own show, Episode 100 of The Invisible Hand will be posted on Valentine’s Day. It’s with Tom Keene, the host of Bloomberg’s On The Economy.


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:


“Live-blogging” Game 5 of the 1969 World Series

For those of you who weren’t aware, old baseball games are available for purchase on iTunes. As a goof, I started to write down some impressions of one of these games, which eventually turned into this post. If you don’t like baseball, don’t bother reading, but I tend to think of this as a version of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, in which you can learn a lot about American social history while having a laugh. Also, it is a bit long, but it was a momentous game in baseball history. Enjoy! Read more


Shameless Self Promotion (with a Williamstown connection)

I started a new podcast back February about biographies, cleverly called The Biography Podcast. It comes out twice a month a focuses on recent biographies. I wanted to have multiple episodes out before I started to do some promotion, but the most recent one has (kind of ) a Williamstown connection. It is with Shawn Levy, the film critic for The Oregonian, talking about his latest biography, Paul Newman: A Life. I am not sure if Paul ever did the Williamstown Theater Festival, but I know his wife, Joanne Woodward, appeared in several plays there. Previous shows have focused on everyone from the Victorian architect Auguste Pugin to the strip tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee to the guiding force behind The Wall Street Journal, Barney Kilgore.

Anyway, hope you like it. Tell your friends!

The Biography Podcast: Paul Newman


twitterhood podcast with Dylan Tweney ’91

During the stellar 2008 edition of the annual Lord Jeff beatdown, err, Williams/Amherst game, Dick Swart asked me why I don’t post to Ephblog more often. It goes back to my natural hesitation to promote a show I do on Ephblog if the only connection to Williams is, you know, me. Well, not this time, as I do not only my first interview with an Eph that is not reunion related, but with a guy who literally lived across the hall from me on the third floor of Williams C in 1986-7, and that is Dylan Tweney of

Now, about this new show, twitterhood. I’ve been playing around with Twitter for only a couple of months, though, thanks to posts from Dylan and Stephen O’Grady ’97, I’ve known about it for a lot longer. I came up with the idea for the show in the men’s locker room of my gym, stunned that nobody had ever thought to talk to the people who use Twitter. Chronologically, Dylan was the first twitterhood interview I conducted, though he is the third to be posted, the previous two being with Cyan Banister and Guy Kawasaki. Future shows will be with Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out/Geek Factory and Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America. It’s a weekly show, so if you use Twitter and have a good story, drop me a line.

And for those wondering, I haven’t dropped the Biography show, it just got moved to a Jan 2009 start, and yes, I am very happy that The Invisible Hand has been on the front page of iTunes podcasts since last Tuesday. BTW, if you know of a media buyer who’d be willing to hear a test run of a pitch in return for a decent bottle of Oregon red, let me know ;)


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

(L to R) Dick Swart '56, Chris Gondek '90

Dick Swart, ’56 and Chris Gondek ’90, Portland, OR November 8, 2008


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1958 Howie Abbott

And in the final episode of this series, I speak with Howie Abbott and we discuss just how big Williamstown actually is, why being on Disciplinary Probation does not lead to potato peeling, and what it meant to “get lucky” in Williamstown every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night.

This is the end of this series, and I certainly hope you’ve had as much fun listening to the interviews as I’ve had conducting them. I hope both the classes of 1958 and 1988 have a great time next week at the reunion and I am very sorry I won’t be able to attend.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Tom Smith

In this final episode in the class of 1988 reunion series and penultimate episode in this project, I speak with Tom Smith, who is currently Associate Professor of Chemistry at Williams. Learn about stair diving in Hubbell House, why non-Ephs don’t understand why we will start up a conversation with anyone wearing Williams gear, regardless of age or location, and the heartwarming story of a young man from Vermont who went to Williams even though his early memories of the place would drive most right thinking football fans away forever.

The last episode of the project is set to be recorded next week, as I have run into a scheduling issue with the guest, so don’t be saddened if there is no show immediately following this one.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Lisa Mandl

In this penultimate episode of the Class of 1988 series, I speak with my other JA, Lisa Mandl. Find out about the cultural and meteorological differences between Williamstown and Vancouver, BC, how she met her husband (though we are getting only her side of the story) and Lisa clears up one of the little mysteries of my Freshman year. Also, both she and Jody Abzug mentioned the infamous Brews and Screws party at Tyler (which had to change it’s name due to administration policy) Does this party still occur?

And yes, Lisa, your ability to ask penetrating questions is still functioning admirably, as I and my wife have been chewing over your observation (not included in the podcast) that my JA’s were from Kansas City and Vancouver, and I married a woman from Kansas City and honeymooned in Vancouver. Thanks loads. ;)


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1958 Phil Wilcox

In this episode of Eph Interviews, I speak with Phil Wilcox about moving from Denver in the 50’s to Williamstown and driving the backroads of New England. Whit Stoddard and Lane Faisal make their first appearance on the show. 


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Jody Abzug

In this episode, I speak with Jody Abzug and learn about life as an Art History major, the irony of her rugby nickname, and the incidental parts of Williams life that she misses.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1958 Lou Lustenburger

This is interview 15 out of 20, and in this episode, I speak with Lou Lustenburger and learn about the Dragon Wagon, why going swimming in Lasell is much nicer than being interrogated by the President of Amherst, and the benefits of keeping a portrait of Winston Churchill in your law office.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Carter Zinn

In this episode, I speak with Carter Zinn, the CC President from 1987-88, about the efforts to address race relations during his time at Williams, and, on a less serious note, why a 2 gallon tub of low cal Italian salad dressing can be a very dangerous thing for a Freshman to have.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1958 Chet Lasell

In this episode of Eph Interviews, I speak with Chet Lasell about Professor Bob Waite, the press hoopla over his fraternity’s decision to admit African-Americans and the joys of sportswriting for The Berkshire Eagle in 1957, a magical autumn for the Williams football team.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Scott Berman

Ah, the class of 1988. They graduated my senior year, and in this installment of the show, I speak with Scott Berman, who helped throw a rather infamous party in the Infirmary, a party I remember attending. Human sexuality classes, the hour of power and wandering in the outback, it’s all here.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1958 Ed Hughes

This episode of the series is with Ed Hughes, in which we learn about putting ringers in touch football games on the Freshman Quad and what happens when you have to feed your entire fraternity on a Sunday.


Eph Interviews Podcast Class of 1988 Katie Kent

In today’s episode of Eph Interviews, I speak with Katie Kent, class of 1988 and currently Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Williams. Learn about her memorable first day in Williamstown and what it’s like to be a faculty member at the college you attended.


Eph Interview Podcast Class of 1958 Jack Kent

In this episode, I speak with Jack Kent and learn about the location of the now vanished Williamstown train station, the lectures of Philosophy Professor Bill Miller and a lost opportunity to go trout fishing with Frankie Todd.

If you like these shows, get ready for one a day for a while. I’ve got a lot of interviews scheduled. For instance, tomorrow, I’ll be talking with Jack’s daughter, Katie Kent ’88, who teaches English at Williams.


Podcast interview: Charles Morris, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown

I mentioned in the post on my own blog that I enjoyed this interview very much, although I don’t think we ever addressed what is the real strength of his book, which is explaining the crisis in layman’s terms. I know here on Ephblog, SIV’s, laundering tranches of sub-prime mortgages through credit rating agencies and credit-default swaps are old hat, but for those of us who don’t deal with this on a daily basis, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown is a good primer by a bearish market observer. I know he enjoyed the interview, and I am thinking about having him back on later in the year.

I mention in the interview that there were a lot of questions I just never got to. Among those questions were:

Possible reform of credit rating agencies and whether the SEC, as Comissioner Cox maintains, already has the power they need to reform them without further action.
Whether, given the nature of money in the political system, the real push for reform would have to come from the financial institutions themselves, since if they’re not interested, they can gum up the works pretty well.
The symbolism of the return of the 12 month T-Bill.
Whether the too big to fail mantra of banks signals the actual, if not rhetorical end, of free market capitalism.
Whether this talk about the IMF setting rules for Sovereign Wealth Funds is just a bunch of balloon juice.

Feed for Eph Interviews podcast

I’ve been talking about the feed for a while, but it has taken me a while to get around to it. If you want to subscribe, the URL is


Hopefully, a link will appear on the sidebar of Ephblog, so once this post is off the front page, people will still be able to access it.


Update: Ronit asked if I would create a Feedburner account for this feed. Your wish, as they say…

The new feed is feed:// This will allow me to get some stats, as well as make it easier to integrate into Ephblog.


Eph Interview Podcast Class of 1958 Jim Murphy

Two in a row? Yes, and in this installment of the class of 58 reunion series, I speak with Jim Murphy. Learn about sheep shearing, the “Fiji Fun House”, motorcycles and how a man’s fortune can turn on a rainy day.


Eph Interview Podcast Class of 1958 Jim Conlan

As I work my way through the class of 1958, I had a chat with Jim Conlan about how different the campus was on weekends when women were around, as well as how to prepare for a pop quiz in Art History.

I do have another interview that I will be posting tomorrow. I’ve been buried with publisher work, as well as doing my May episode of The Invisible Hand. Of course, the April episode engendered no controversy here on Ephblog, so I may post the May one as well ;)


Eph Interview Podcast Class of 1958 Bruno Quinson

This interview is with Bruno Quinson, Class of 1958, in which we learn about the seductive power of Red Sox baseball games, Wall Ball and acting in French. 

Bruno was also extremely helpful in suggesting Ephs to contact. I have to complete interviews with 10 members of the class of 1958 by the reunion, and May is going to be a tricky month for me, with a bit of travel. Will I be able to do it?


Eph Interview Podcast Class of 1958 Joe Young

For my money, one of the best things about both Ephblog and these podcasts is getting to know the men I like to call the “Eisenhower Ephs”, those members of classes from the 50’s. Here on Ephblog, we have the Shirley Temple like sunniness of Frank Uible and the dry wit of Dick Swart (Hope you were able to stay warm last weekend, Dick. That’s an Oregon inside joke) The podcast has already featured David H.T. Kane and in this episode, I speak with Joe Young, the current class secretary for 1958.

For any high school seniors who sweated out the Williams application and kept vigil all winter, please note that not everyone had the experience that Joe had getting into Williams, but it does reinforce the power of fortuna, as the Romans would say, in daily affairs;)


Class of 1988 Podcast with Nicole Melcher

The latest in the 1988 Podcast series is with Nicole Melcher, College Council VP in 1987-88, fellow Kansan, and one my J.A.’s (I will hopefully be interviewing my other J.A., Lisa Mandl, quite soon) Talking to your J.A. for the first time in about 20 years is an intensely nostalgic experience, and what you are hearing is about 10 minutes of what was an hour long conversation. Thank you Dave, for helping me get back in touch with Nicole and Lisa.


Class of 1988 interview with Katie Kessler Chatas

Yet another alum podcast, this one with Katie Kessler Chatas. Learn about the weather, bad haircuts at The Clip Shop (Wow, it’s been a while since that business crossed my mind) and the tacky 70’s party at Mission Park. Do they still have that one?


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