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The (Sorta, Kinda, Not Really) Weekly Debate: Radiohead v. U2

It’s been a while since I provided grist for one of our “Weekly debates.”

So I’ve been listening to the new Radiohead album, The King of Limbs, on pretty much a constant loop. It is quite excellent. For the first few measures of the opener, “Bloom,” one would not be faulted for assuming that Thom Yorke had won the struggle for the band’s direction, a struggle that has involved Yorke’s ongoing commitment to electronica versus the rest of the band (allegedly) wanting to get back to more straightforward rock roots. Indeed when Yorke issued a solo album in 2006 the band’s fans felt palpitations of fear that Radiohead would break up. But it soon sets in that Radiohead has taken a step forward with an all-too-short album of stark, spare, atmospheric, brilliant music that pushes the band forward while contributing to the Radiohead continuum.

In some ways this reminds me of similar issues involving another all-time great band that has similarly stretched itself by following electronica and yet steps away from the sort of brink that leads to a band’s dissolution. U2, like Radiohead, also tends to take a slow-and-steady approach to releasing albums, allowing years to lapse between recordings in most cases, making the release of a new album a bona fide event even in a fragmented music world. U2 releases are events because, well, they are U2. Radiohead has turned its releases into events in part because Radiohead is Radiohead, but also because the last two releases challenged the traditional model of the studios. In Rainbows came out with the famous “name your own price” download. The band released The King of Limbs early as a download as a complete shock even to loyal fans with a followup down the road in which the album will be released on vinyl with a series of extra googaws for the fanboys (and girls).

Let’s iterate to agreement that both are all-time great bands. (So, please, no “U2 sucks” or “Radiohead swallows.”) But: Radiohead v. U2: Who ya got?

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Fall in Love

What is the real purpose of Winter Study, especially for male undergraduates?

The real purpose of Winter Study is to fall in love.

You will never, ever, be surrounded by as many smart, pretty, eligible women as you are right now. Life after college is, comparatively, a wasteland. Of course, as you pass into the great beyond, you will meet other women, but they are unlikely to be as wonderful, physically and mentally, as the Eph women you are now blessed to know. More importantly, the best of them will choose mates sooner rather than latter. Exiting Williams without a serious girlfriend is not necessarily a one-way ticket to permanent bachelorhood (as several of my co-bloggers can attest), but it is not the smart way to play the odds. The odds favor love now.

It isn’t that your classes and papers, your theses and sports teams, are unimportant. But finding a soulmate to grow old with, someone to bear your children and ease your suffering, someone to give your life meaning and your work purpose — this is a much more important task than raising that GPA enough to make cum laude.

So, stop reading this blog and ask out that cute girl from across the quad. I did the same 23 years ago and have counted my blessings ever since.

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An Ephblog Announcement

A few months ago we introduced the new EphBlog board under my leadership. At the time, I issued this invitation:

“If you have ideas, complaints, or criticisms, contact one of us. We will address them. Maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but we will address them.”

It was an invitation that many of you accepted. Based on our experience since then and what we’ve heard from you, we are appointing Dick Swart to the new position of “Managing Editor.” Dick will oversee EphBlog much as a managing editor would oversee an online magazine, by helping to recruit contributions, develop longer stories, organize and schedule posts, and provide input to EphBlog authors on style, tone, and content. And by having Dick as the principal point of contact for your ideas and concerns, we hope EphBlog can be more responsive as day-to-day issues arise.

The managing editor will report directly to the board, which will continue to provide oversight. The board will also continue to be the final arbiter of major disputes and will be responsible for major policy and other changes.

Ken Thomas and Ronit Bhattacharya will continue to serve in the capacity of EphBlog Administrators. Their role will be to carry out the technical wishes of the board and Managing Editor, and we hope to use their skills to adopt a new format and layout for EphBlog in the next few months.

As always, we welcome your input and we look forward to hearing your suggestions about EphBlog.

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The Weekly Debate: Movie Comedies

I am going to step into DCat’s role today, and hopefully help fill a slow week.  Per PTC’s suggestion, let’s go with top movie comedies.  Criteria include number of scenes that made me laugh out loud on the first few viewings, rewatchability, originality, quotability, memorable scenes / characters, and how iconic the film is. 

I’ve excluded from consideration movies that are more in the realm of dark humor / drama-comedies (Dr. Strangelove, Being John Malkovich, Fargo, The Graduate would all otherwise be strong contenders, as all are among my favorite movies of all time) as well as action-comedies along the lines of Back to the Future and Midnight Run.  I am also excluding films that are unintentionally comedic, such as Battlefield Earth.  So bascially, we are talking straight-up, unambiguous comedies.  With that caveat, here goes:

1. The Big Lebowksi — an easy pick for number one.  Every scene, every character, every line of dialogue is perfect. Endlessly rewatchable.  And no other comedy has created an entire mini-economy akin to the annual Lebowski fests. 
2. This is Spinal Tap — because it goes to eleven. 
3. Flirting With Disaster — few others would rank this so high, but this movie is incredibly underrated.  Ben Stiller in the quintessential Stiller role, and an amazing supporting comedic cast including George Segal, Mary Tyler Moore, Lily Tomlin, and Alan Alda, all at their very best.  Warrants admiration despite being directed by a Lord Jeff.   
4. The 40 Year Old Virgin — endlessly rewatchable, and by far the best of the Apatow films.  Star-marking turns for Carrell, Rudd, and Rogen. 
5. Caddyshack — the Danny Noonan portions are now borderline unwatchable, but the Murray / Chase / Dangerfield / Ted Knight quartet is impossible to top.  Remains the most quotable comedy of all time. 
6. Bad Santa — so wrong, and so brilliant.  Plus, in a strange way, with a heart. 
7. Best in Show — the best of the Chrsitopher Guest-directed mockumentaries.  “Rhapsody-in-White has two mommies.” 
8. The Freshman — another chronically underrated movie.  Brando’s self-parody is incredible.  Lots of subtle, dry brilliance from comedy genius Andrew Bergman here, in a totally original film.
9. Fast Times at Ridgemont High — Spicoli remains the best stoner character ever.  And no one can lovingly mock high school better than Amy Heckerling. 
10. Groundhog Day — Bill Murray at his very best. Inventive and somehow never gets boring despite endless repetition. Watch out for that first step …
11. A Fish Called Wanda — Kevin Kline and Michael Palin are brilliantly over the top, but John Cleese’s genius drives the show.
12. Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail — needs no justification.
13. Stepbrothers — something about this movie just absolutely cracks me up. And I can’t really explain it.
14. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex …  — have to include at least one Woody Allen film, and the Gene Wilder Daisy vignette is as good as it gets, with the sperm vignette not far behind.        
15. Brain Candy — another controversial choice, perhaps, but this is the Kids in the Hall at their very best, and has a few truly brilliant sequences.  Also, a dead-on parody of the pharma industry.                                                                                                                        

Also considered, and difficult to omit in many cases: Anchorman, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, The Hangover, Old School, Animal House (I know, I know, but feels dated now), The Blues Brothers (ditto), The Jerk, Trading Places, Ghostbusters, Stir Crazy, The Naked Gun, The History of the World Part I, School of Rock (another underrated personal favorite), Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Beverly Hills Cop, Zoolander, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Clueless (dang I hate to exclude that one, but I already have one from Heckerling), There’s Something About Mary, Team America: World Police, Mighty Aphrodite.

Special mention: Freddy Got Fingered — Tom Green vehicle that is beyond bizarre, but is strangely compelling / brilliant.

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The Weekly Debate: Holiday Edition

First off, happy holidays to everyone in our little community. Ephblog is much like a typical family gathering at this time of year — there is lots of love and lots of warmth until somebody starts a fight and screws it all up.

The week’s debate is in keeping with the themes of the holiday. Basically, what is the best and worst holiday “stuff” (very writerly, that)? Here are my lists (as always, subject to change.)

BEST

5. Festivus: Because Frank Costanza kind of got right to the heart of the season, didn’t he?

5b. Grinch: The song (written for my vocal range!) and the brilliant animated special. I cannot believe this one slipped my mind in my original draft of this list.

4. Eggnog: This one will, I know, be controversial. Eggnog is one of those things, like foot fetishes and Coldplay, that some people love and that some people don’t get the love for. Count me in as loving eggnog. Starbucks eggnog latte? Hell. And. Yes. I saw an episode of Iron Chef America the other day for which the secret ingredient was eggnog. I spent the hour in a state of arousal. I suspect that the McRibbish-ly short time span when eggnog is available helps explain the allure (I think the McRib is gross, by the way). I bet I’d be sick of eggnog if I could drink it on a random Tuesday in March. But I can’t. And while I love me some alcohol, I almost never drink spiked eggnog, so I cannot even attribute its allure to some Pavlovian drunkard reflex. Weird, eh?

3. Peace on Earth Presents! Presents!! Presents!!!: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is the season of giving. And I love the look on my wife’s face when I hit a gift out of the park (largely because she makes it so very clear when I pop one out to the catcher) or the reaction on my nephew/godson’s face when he sees the bundle of loot awaiting him. (The gloriously unabashed greed of children could easily be on this list.) But I also love me some presents. Which is really a bit odd in some ways. Being a dual-professor household means that we may never get rich, but we live a pretty comfortable lifestyle. And we both grew up quite poor, so we are aware of our good fortune. But it also means that if I want something I can go out and buy it. Hell, Christmas shopping usually provides a pretty good excuse to get myself stuff. But I still get annoyed when I’m at a Christmas event where presents are going out and I’m a peripheral figure and so I know damned well that maybe one of those gifts is devoted to me and it’s likely to be something pretty much useless. That sucks.

2. Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas: So good. Just so good. I am lazy and a bit of a moron, so when I play my iTunes on shuffle — which is pretty much constantly in my office or when I am listening to my iPod — I just listen to my whole collection of music. It’s a pretty vast collection, some 20,000 songs or so, with about 300 Christmas songs on it, because a couple of years ago I got my wife an iPod shuffle on which I put all of the Christmas songs in her and my collection, which meant downloading a ton of cd’s onto the iTunes. (She loves Christmas music, and this was her second iPod — I did the same thing the year before with her favorite music on it, which I’m telling you just so that you don’t think she’s a freak.) This means that every so often in July, when it’s 110 in West Texas, “White Christmas” will pop up on my speakers. I click ahead to the next song. Unless it’s the Vince Guaraldi Trio. (Not everyone agrees with me about Charlie Brown, by the way. And as long as I’m linking stuff . . .)

1. White Christmases, the Smell of Evergreens, and the Idea of Tradition: I grew up in New Hampshire. So for me Christmas is supposed to be white, the house is supposed to smell of a real evergreen tree, needles are supposed to be everywhere, and someone is supposed to say something horrible to someone else at one of the family Christmas events, causing a death spiral of recrimination. I am in San Antonio as I write this. It’s 71 degrees — down from 84 earlier in the week in Odessa. A real Christmas tree would cost more than my car and so we have a fake tree (as does everyone whose house I’ve been in this month), which my 18-year-old self would recoil from in disgust (I’m with ya, you dorky little shit.) The only smell of evergreen comes from candles Mrs. dcat found at some overpriced shop. And it’s highly unlikely that anyone in my Mexican American wife’s family will say something horribly racist tomorrow. Sigh.

WORST

5. 90% of all Christmas music written after 1960: Oh, there is some good stuff. But let’s face it: Most of it sucks. For every good one you can point out to me I can find ten treacly blobs of reindeer poop.

4. Other Kinds of Nog: Oh Northern Oil and Gas, I hate you so much! (From the Editors: Ephblog lawyers insisted we include the following: This is intended as satire and not as an actual aspersion on the good folks at Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. “Energy. Exploration. Experience.” You had us at energy.)

3. Guilt: Did the gift I bought him equal in value the gift he bought me? Did we take enough Angel Tree cards this year? Is coming to Starbucks on Christmas Eve day to write a smartass post for Ephblog really the best use of my time during these precious days with family? Should I be sneaking off to watch the Celtics-Magic game smack dab in the middle of Christmas Day at the wife’s cousin’s house? (Answers: probably — he’s a cheap bastard; I hope so, but every one left on the tree is a little dagger; in my defense it’s a cookie-baking madhouse over there; Hell yeah I should. See — when you break it down I’m not THAT much of a prick.)

2. Christmas in October: When I’m king of the world — oh, it will happen people, and then the Festivus airing of grievances won’t be so fun for some of you — Christmas decorations, ads, or music are not allowed until the day after Thanksgiving. Period. Unless you play the Vince Guaraldi trio. Hey — a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

1. The “Controversy” over “The War on Christmas”: Ok, let’s get it straight: Christians, this is not just your time of year. Hell, you appropriated it from the pagans, moving your holiday (Christ was born in March or April or something) in order to co-opt theirs. For ages the end of the year has been a time of celebration and commemoration. Kwanzaa is “made up”? Well so is every goddamned holiday that ever existed. Hannukah isn’t actually that important a holiday on the Jewish calendar? Why do you care? I say “Happy Holidays” rather than Merry Christmas? Where to begin with this one. For one thing, the root words of “Holidays” are, guess what you ignorant troglodyte, “holy days”.  And I don’t know the religious or cultural background of everyone I run into. Maybe they are Jewish. Or Muslim. Or Wiccan. Or British (they say “Happy Christmas” — why is Fox News declaring war on happiness?) . Or maybe they worship the trees. Or maybe they know that even in the 1950s people said “happy holidays” because it’s not some liberal neologism. Or maybe I also want you to have a Happy New Year and a glorious Boxing Day. Or maybe there are a million different reasons why I say “happy holidays” and none of them have anything to do with waging war on Christmas. Now give me my damned presents, hand me that eggnog (hey, is that brandy?), turn up “Christmastime is Here,” and give me a minute, because I want to call my Mom to wish her, yes, a Merry Christmas.

And to all of you I wish nothing but the best during this holiday season, whatever the hell you call it.

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The Weekly Debate: What’s on the Telly?

I love television. Love love love love love it. Love it. And I don’t get people who don’t love television, though I know there are lots of them out there — and academia is probably overrepresented by these sad, sanctimonious souls (people who don’t like television all make sure to make that point in the smuggest tone possible, because these people are, by and large, assholes.)

In any case, the success of the last pop-culture-inspired debate leads me to believe that this could be a regular feature. I’ll call it “The Weekly Debate” knowing full well that I’ll likely never fulfill the regular demands of that grand title. At the same time, “The Semi-Regular Debate” sounds like someone trying to determine if he is going to win his battle with constipation, so let’s don’t get all technical on me.

And so this week’s debate: The greatest tv shows ever. Keeping in mind that #1 through infinity on my list could just be “sports,” my criteria is simple: It has to be a regularly scheduled television show, drama or comedy. I exclude “reality” television largely because I am not a moron. Also there are obvious blind spots here (heavily larded with post-1990 fare) and plenty of shows I simply missed (Lost) am in the middle of missing and so can still theoretically catch on to (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) or only saw intermittently (Sopranos — hey, who could afford HBO in grad school, which is where I was for the first three seasons-plus?) As with all lists of its ilk, were I to write it again tomorrow it might not look at all the same — except the top two slots, which I will fight to the death to protect.

And away we go (See what I did there?):

1. The Wire: The most gushed about show of all time also happens to be the best. There is literally nothing that I can add to the discussion about The Wire that has not already been written, but suffice it to say that seasons three and four are the greatest anything ever to be put on film. “Omar comin’, yo!”

2. The Simpsons: If I have to defend this one you and I literally have nothing to talk about. Yes, we all hate the newer ones, at least until they go into syndication and then we realize the fault might have been ours not theirs (though the hall of fame years of the 90s are unsurpassable).

3. Friday Night Lights: Any reason you have for not watching this show (and you almost certainly have not been watching this show) is wrong. Brilliantly written, beautifully acted, wonderfully shot, Friday Night Lights is nearly perfect television.

4. Arrested Development: This is yet another one that people didn’t get because people are complete idiots. Here is just a sample: Scott Baio plays the family’s new lawyer (the old lawyer? Henry Winkler) Bob Lawblaw. Bob Lawblaw, of course, has a blog. Bob Lawblaw’s Law Blog. In one storyline Michael Bluth, the main character, is dating Charleze Theron. She is mentally retarded but Michael does not know this because she is British and thus he thinks she is quirky. Tobias Funke is a “Nevernude” who thus always wears cutoff jean shorts, even in the shower. he also is an alternate for the Blue Man Group (after he gives up his career as an analyst-therapist, or analrapist.) Etc.

5. Homicide: Life on the Streets: David Simon’s progenitor of The Wire, Homicide relied on its verite style and on A+ ensemble acting, lead by Andre Braugher.

6. Hill Street Blues: Until looking at this list I never realized how much I like a really good cop drama. This was the first of its kind in its unflinching look at a world where the good guys are not always virtuous and the bad guys not always villainous.

7. SportsNight: To my understanding the first of the real dramedies and as a result a critical success but a commercial failure. You can see the roots of The West Wing (which just missed my top ten) in Aaron Sorkin’s snappy dialogue. Kickstarted a lot of careers.

8. Seinfeld: Yeah, it’s probably a cliche, but Seinfeld is still the greatest non-animated comedy of all time. From time to time at Ephblog we all should remember: Serenity Now. Speaking of which — happy Festivus, everyone!

9. NYPD Blue: I thought Andy Sipowicz was the greatest character in television history at the time largely because he led with all flaws. This is probably the first prime-time drama I watched religiously when it came out, just after college when I was in that wayward lost year that seemed to be a rite of passage for GenX.

10. All in the Family: Landmark in the 70s and still startling today. Most people knew Archie Bunker, and like our reaction to him on the show, you could be repulsed by what he had to say while still knowing this was a good man. Raise your hand if I just described an older male relative. I thought so.

Rising With a Bullet (Basically, give each of these a year or two): 30 Rock, The Walking Dead, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Children’s Hospital.

Let the TVFlaWa (TV Flame War) Begin!

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Das Racist in the Times

Since we’re already talking about music, today’s New York Times Magazine has “Questions for Das Racist,” a clever hip hop duo that is generating enormous buzz among hipster cognoscenti. Why is this Eph-relevant? By Little Three proxy. The title of the interview is “Straight Outta Wesleyan,” a reference to not only to NWA’s seminal album, but also to Das Racist’s alma mater.

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Let’s Argue About Something Fun for a Change

Spin magazine has listed its 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years.

#1? U2 Achtung Baby: An album I loved, but #1? Let the debate begin.

The rest of the top 5:

5. Radiohead, OK Computer: I cannot object to any and all Radiohead being ranked high, truthfully.

4. Nirvana, Nevermind: This is an album that is probably even more important than it is great, but either way there was no chance Nevermind was not going to be in the top 5. I was at Williams when this album nudged the world off its axis just a little bit.

3. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead: There are Smiths people and there are non-Smiths people. It’s the best of both worlds to be a Smiths person who loves the music without being a Smiths person in terms of feeling the abject loss of life’s meaning.

2. Prince Sign O’ the Times: The Purple One has not been enormously relevant for a while, but in reviewing one of his albums in the 1980s (Dirty Mind, I think) the great critic Robert Christgau wrote something to the effect of “Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home.” (Fair Use, bitches!)

Trust me — I could do this sort of glib commentary for the whole list. Thank your stars that I have a party to attend within the hour.

My own top ten list would have Radiohead , The Replacements (With Let it Be undoubtedly #1), Sleater Kinney, Whiskeytown, Pavement, the Pixies, Public Enemy, Tribe Called Quest, and Husker Du nearby. But this is the sort of exercise I could literally spend the next four days working on.

Hmmm . . . To the iTunes library!

Oh, damn — the Williams link. Um — all of these albums have been listened to in Williams dorm rooms. (Eph’d!)

Maybe “The Weekly Debate” (about fun stuff) could be a weekly feature? Next week: Does the BCS suck, completely suck, or suck more than anything has ever sucked in the history of sucking?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I will be eating Thanksgiving dinner with fellow Ephs from the classes of 1989, 1990 and 1958. Are any other Ephs at your table? Tell us about them.

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ISN Insights: The ANC (Self Indulgence Alert)

I am pleased to announce that I have begun a new regular gig writing about African affairs for the Zurich-based International Relations and Security Network (ISN). I will be contributing to their ISN Insights. My first piece for them, which is on the state of the African National Congress, has been posted.

[Crossposted at the FPA Africa Blog and dcat.]

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Personal, Adversarial and Introspective

Name the author.

What works on the web seems to be some combination of reporting and opinion that’s personal, adversarial and introspective. You make a lot of enemies, and then the politics shifts and suddenly they’re your allies. As a byproduct of this defriending and refriending process, I hope, readers get what they need to make up their own minds.

If “personal, adversarial and introspective” is not a fair summary of my 6+ years of postings on EphBlog, what would be? Suggestions welcome!

What sort of writing would our readers like to see more of at EphBlog?

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One for Ephblog —

OK. The point here is not about my teaching or not. How do we know what the completion rate ought to be for my students? So that we, the people, know what the proper investment is?

Teaching at Williams is just as challenging. Highly selected students on a common path does give a baseline. It’s the aspirations and potential of the class that count in terms of setting real goals as a teacher.

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BRIEF: Yom Kippur, from Tel Aviv

The sun has just set upon Tel Aviv and Israel. There is not a car to be heard, and you could take your chair, and put it in the middle of any freeway, and not be bothered until sunset tomorrow.

This is the day,  we set aside,  most important of all,  for the task of becoming one.

Now in every street, of Tel Aviv at least, there are bicycles, and children, conversation, and those children’s laughter,  and hope.  For now.
You will excuse me then, if I go to grab a bicycle,  and think of what it might take,  to make us at one.

שלום, سلام

כן

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Sunset, over Tel Aviv, and a sweet New Year

Twen– about two decades ago, today, a very kind sophomore dragged me to Rosh Hashanah Seder services at Driscoll (above the dining hall).

I hope today,  someone or some ones might think of making a similar gesture– especially if you know someone to whom the gesture will seem,  somehow perhaps,  the right thing to do– or just the impulse you have.

So, as such matters develop,  shalom, from Tel Aviv. (“Amuzingly enough” to me, my host, who left his door open for me– he was on the way to his parents– left his web browser open to the Wikipedia page).

There’s a picture or six of the sunset from Yafo; here’s one of the first blessings transliterated towards English in Latin characters:

Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav, lehadlik ner shel yom ha-zikkaron.

And via little bit of mixed text (with the vowels!) (read, roughly, right-to-left):

(I wish I could give you an alternate translation, but I have to go back to studying Hebrew; Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt ’97, who sometimes presents modern translations, has these short comments today but posted a much longer resources list two years ago).

Those who may be interested in audio representations can find the first day here, though it is hardly representative of the depth and variety of the traditions.

And shana tova u’metukah, and a very sweet year, to all. -Ken

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Berries & Cream Cake

This would have made a great cake for the 4th of July.  But berries are still in season, and it’ll taste just as good on the 4th of September, or the 21st of August; well, you get the idea.  As far as layer cakes go, this is on the lower end of the difficulty level – the filling and frosting are the same, and you can whip the cream in just a few minutes.  The white cream is a great backdrop for all sorts of berry decorations, so have fun!

Berries & Cream Cake

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Saturday Foodstuffs

Three words for your weekend:

Great Bacon Odyssey.

You’re welcome.

[Crossposted at dcat.]

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake

When I was in college, it was difficult to find vegetarian food that tasted good – I remember eating a lot of brown rice and feta cheese and calling it a meal.  If I had been a vegan, things would have been much worse.  Luckily, Williams has lots of vegetarian and vegan options, and the head baker here is an expert in all things vegan!

Here’s the recipe for my take on a vegan chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting.  If “vegan cupcake” doesn’t sound entirely appealing to you, don’t worry – it tastes great!  Most of your tasters likely won’t even guess that it’s vegan.

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EB on DartBlog: About DartBlog: Kudos

Since I’ve just been somewhat of a jerk to the good folks at Dartblog, I wish to point out their identity statement:

Dartblog was founded by Joe Malchow in September 2004 as Joe’s Dartblog. The weblog, a running journal of unrehearsed commentary and reportage, focuses on higher education, music, politics, literature, and whatever fancy strikes its writers at the moment they sit down to type. Jennifer Bandy, Jacob Baron, and Zak Moore joined Dartblog in the spring of 2008; Joseph Asch and Phil Aubart joined in 2009. All are Dartmouth students past and present.

The reader will forgive us that what appears in this column is on the whole hastily dispatched; it is in the nature of the Internet. We promise, though, to provide accurate data, confident reportage, a quick turnaround—and we may occasionally succeed in being entertaining. It is not, we think, a poor deal for the reader.

We are practically brothers and sisters, and we here would do well, to review parallel efforts and expressions. (Love the part about our institutions bleeding money). I hope we can find ways, to share resources and thoughts, in the future.

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Most Brilliant Opportunism Ever? Most Brilliant Opportunism Ever.

We at Ephblog do not customarily endorse products. But for a Paul the Octopus t-shirt? Hell yeah, we’ll make an exception.

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Cake

From Prof. Pacelli’s blog:

Mmmm… cake (recipe and instructions in link).

Please use the thread below to discuss all things cake related. What’s your favorite cake? Where do you stand on the controversial cake vs. pie debate?

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World Cup Final Open Thread

Place for discussion the World Cup final. What is the closest Williams connection that anyone can make to either Spain or Holland? I am stumped . . .

Those interested in my non-Eph blogging activities can go here for a discussion of the birth month of World Cup players.

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Medical School Acceptance Rates

How do the medical school admissions rates at Williams vary by GPA, MCAT score and race? We don’t know. But here is some data for the entire population of applicants.

For example, for applicants with an MCAT score between 24-26 and a GPA between 3.00 and 3.19, only 1 out of every 25 Asian applicants was accepted, compared to about one out of every 11 white applicants, one of out every three Hispanics, and more than half of black applicants with those same credentials.

I realize that medical schools practice affirmative action for Hispanic and black applicants, but I would not have expected the Asian/white acceptance rates to be so different. I wonder if the same is true for Williams applicants . . .

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In Other Media: 7th Grade Girls’ Cyberdrama

The New York Times reports on text messaging, bullying and harassment:

Middle School Misery

Meredith Wearley, Benjamin Franklin’s seventh-grade guidance counselor, was overwhelmed this spring by dramas created on the Web: The text spats that zapped new best friendships; secrets told in confidence, then broadcast on Facebook; bullied girls and boys, retaliating online.

“In seventh grade, the girls are trying to figure out where they fit in,” Mrs. Wearley said. “They have found friends but they keep regrouping. And the technology makes it harder for them to understand what’s a real friendship.”

Because students prefer to use their phones for texting rather than talking, Mrs. Wearley added, they often miss cues about tone of voice. Misunderstandings proliferate: a crass joke can read as a withering attack; did that text have a buried subtext?

The girls come into her office, depressed, weeping, astonished, betrayed.

“A girl will get mad because her friend was friends with another girl,” Mrs. Wearley said.

They show Mrs. Wearley reams of texts, the nastiness accelerating precipitously. “I’ve had to bring down five girls to my office to sort things out,” she said. “It’s middle school.”

Recently, between classes, several eighth-grade girls from Benjamin Franklin reflected about their cyberdramas:

“We had so many fights in seventh grade,” one girl said. “None of them were face-to-face. We were too afraid. Besides, it’s easier to say ‘sorry’ over a text.”

Another concurred. “It’s easier to fight online, because you feel more brave and in control,” she said. “On Facebook, you can be as mean as you want.”

“By high school, youths are developing more self-confidence, engaged in extracurricular activities and focusing on the future,” said Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University and an author of “Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard.”

“Their identity and self-worth come from external things that don’t revolve around social relationships.”

(My emphases).  This is as close to a sufficient description,   of the dynamic of EphBlog,  as I have found.

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World Cupdate

In my various travels I have moved on to spend a week in Botswana where I’ll be working with a friend and colleague at the University of Botswana as a sort of mini-fellow on a project tied to the World Cup resource allocation. My latest updates, including some musings on borders, what it means that this is “Africa’s Cup,” and the US loss to Ghana last night, are up at the FPA Africa Blog with just a bit more at dcat as well.

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USA-Ghana Live Blog 6/26

Anyone?

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6/24 World Cup open thread

After yesterday’s thrilling morning, I’m sure everyone is hard at work today, right? But in case anyone else suffered a sports injury yesterday (no, it didn’t happen in a World Cup bar), I thought I’d open a thread. Italy already trails Slovakia 1-0; Paraguay and New Zealand are scoreless.

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World Cup 6/21 Live Blog

Watching the World Cup instead of working today? Excellent! Tell us your thoughts. My challenge to Ken to identify my physical location stands. Where am I Ken? Use that IP-foo! And don’t forget the lecture on etymology . . .

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World Cup 6/21 Live Blog

There seem to be a lot of World Cup fans with an interest in futbol discussion at EphBlog. Excellent! This is your thread for today. What set of outcomes in group D is best for the US? Tell us your opinions of the games as they happen. (Also, I am looking forward to several thousand words from Ken on the etmynology and appropriate accentation of futbol. Extra points to Ken if we can use some IP foo (more etymological discussion on that phrasing as well, please) to determine where in the world I am currently located. Hint: Attending a Williams wedding tonight!

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US-Slovenia World Cup Live Blog

Watching the US-Slovenia game? Leave your comments below.

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A World Cup Post For Ephblog: Random Thoughts Edition

This is still pretty much the South Africa that I know.

Oh, sure. There are a lot more people here. And they are fucking it up for those of us who come here all the time. By being loud and idiotic, sure. And by being clueless and obvasive, yes. But South Africa adjusting to them more than they adjust to South Africa is, I bet (having never been to one of these my self) what the World Cup is about.

But in the end this is still my South Africa. I will wake up tomorrow (or in the afternoon – I’ll be up all night tonight since my buddy has satellite tv and the Celtics and Lakers start at 3– and let’s not kid ourselves that most of you imagined that satellite is not readily available in Africa)  and I’ll find a cafe. I’ll wander between shops and bars (some of which I’ll pop in to) and I’ll contact friends to arrange dinner or a drink. I’ll grab a newspaper or four and I’ll keep up on the events of the day in South Africa — politics being everything here, and most of what I do.

As I write this I am watching Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption on ESPN International, and I am seeing the arrogance of American sporting culture. JA Adande just proclaimed that the ties are why soccer will never matter, which will be a shocking proclamation to the rest of the world for whom American validation does not mean shit. On PTI Tony and Mike have been more subtle, but their opinion does not matter either. These are assholes who know nothiong about either soccer or South Africa weighing in  on the vuvuzela.

Oh, and: Let me be clear on those who don’t like the vuvuzela: Fuck you.  Seriously. Fuck you.

For years and years the Swiss cowbell and the Brazilian samba drum and the British song and chant, for fuck’s sake, the obnoxious fucking British song and chant,  have been parts of global football. Now sanctimonious prigs who are bothered by the vuvuzela are supposed to get to reign over African football?  Really? Have we not nhad enough of colonialism, neoimperialism, and general western assholery?

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