Currently browsing posts filed under "Pop Culture"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

Webb ’61, RIP

From the Washington Post:

Charles Webb, whose novel ‘The Graduate’ inspired a Hollywood classic, dies at 81

With its Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack, mordant dialogue and bursts of sexual tension, “The Graduate” was a generational touchstone, launching the movie career of Dustin Hoffman, earning director Mike Nichols an Oscar and turning a character’s one-word piece of career advice — “plastics” — into a punchline.

Based on a novel by Charles Webb, the 1967 film foreshadowed Hollywood’s turn toward a more youthful audience and made more than $100 million at the box office, drawing rave reviews for its story of a disaffected college graduate (Hoffman) who is seduced by a married woman (Anne Bancroft) and falls in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross).

But for all its success, Mr. Webb largely distanced himself from “The Graduate,” which featured a Buck Henry and Calder Willingham screenplay that lifted much of the dialogue from his book. “It’s something that I cannot shake,” he once said of the novel. “It has defined my whole life. I just want to run away.”

EphBlog knows the feeling!

The whole obituary is amazing. See below the break for more.

Read more


Wendy Rhoades is an Eph


Sadly, we have fallen behind on our pop culture coverage of All Things Eph. Fortunately, we have news! Wendy Rhoades (played by Maggie Siff), a key character in Billions, is a graduate of Williams. The screen shot above is from the opening episode of season 2. Here is a close up of the diploma:


1) Alas, this does not look like an actual Williams diploma. How about some attention to detail, Showtime set director Christina Tonkin Noble?! Perhaps someone at Williams can get her a proper diploma?

2) Does anyone have the backstory? In general, Williams is not picked out randomly to serve as a character’s undergraduate school. Some writer making a decision is an Eph or knows someone who is.

3) The last few strong female fictional characters with degrees from Williams include Carmen Lowell from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, CJ Cregg from West Wing, Meg Powers from Long May She Reign, Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, Kaitlin Cooper from The O.C., and Lucy Montgomery from As The World Turns.

4) Other examples? And, no, male nurse Gaylord Focker ’95 does not count . . .


Which Sports Teams Should We Root For?

What sports teams should Ephs route for? As always, EphBlog takes the view that, in all areas, you should route for the person/organization most closely associated with Williams. Even Republican Ephs should, for example, vote for Democratic Senator Chris Murphy ’96 to be re-elected.

When it comes to sports, my suggestions would be:

Football: The New England Patriots, largely run by team president Jonathan Kraft ’86, a former Williams trustee and heir apparent in the Kraft Group, which owns the team. That the Patriots are also geographically close to Williamstown is also a plus. Is there another football team with a meaningful Eph connection?

Baseball: The Yankees (in the American league) and Pirates (in the National League) are both owned by Eph families, the Steinbrenners and the Nuttings. What other baseball teams have Eph connections?

Basketball: The best I can do is the San Antonio Spurs, whose assistant coach is Will Hardy ’10. Other suggestions?

US Soccer: Perhaps the New England Revolution, also owned by the Kraft family? Dan Calichman ’89 is an assistant coach at Toronto FC. I think there are some Ephs associated with the expansion franchise Los Angeles FC. Others?

On hockey and more international leagues (La Liga? Premier League?), I have no suggestions. Help us out, readers!

And, this evening, go Patriots!



Things I did not know about the world of Harry Potter:

The number of countries that have their own magical school is minuscule compared to those that do not. This is because the wizarding populations of most countries choose the option of home schooling. Occasionally, too, the magical community in a given country is tiny or far-flung and correspondence courses have been found a more cost-effective means of educating the young.

There are eleven long-established and prestigious wizarding schools worldwide, all of which are registered with the International Confederation of Wizards

And one is Williams College!

From the Berkshires to Boston, the muggle world welcomed the revelation Tuesday that “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling had chosen the state’s highest peak as the site of an ultrasecretive school of magic, “hidden by forest, cloud and spell.”

A new story Rowling released on tells the background of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded in the 17th century on the summit of Mount Greylock in the Berkshires.

OK, not exactly Williams per se, but we have a much better claim than Amherst. Perhaps some of the Harry Potter fans among our readers can chime in with a compare and contrast.

Long (!) time readers will recall our discussion 10 (!) years ago about mapping the Harry Potter houses to the then-new-and-now-defunct neighborhood system: here and here. Lots of fun reading there for a long holiday weekend. Happy Fourth!


CJ Cregg an Eph

Thanks to Sam Alterman ’18 for pointing out that West Wing press secretary CJ Cregg is an Eph.


Star Wars Week: Episode 5

And here’s the final Episode of EphBlog’s Star Wars Week as pop culture stops in anticipation of the release of Episode VII. But who are we kidding? If you’re interested in these posts, you’re probably at the theater right now!

Steven Miller isn’t the only Star Wars fan lurking around the Williams Science Quad. Perhaps not surprisingly, game developer and computer graphics designer Morgan McGuire is one as well. According to a tipster, McGuire regularly cites to Star Wars films in class, “likes” Star Wars media online, and even uses examples in his coursework. Thus, students in McGuire’s CSCI 374, Computational Graphics, learned about how George Lucas drew upon World War II dogfight footage as the baseline from which outer-space fighter scenes were scripted and created.

And back in his student days, McGuire wrote about the computer graphics techniques employed in Episode II, based on a graphics conference presentation:

One of the highlights of Star Wars Episode II was the “Yoda fight” where the 800 year old little green Jedi trades in his cane for a light saber and takes on the villainous Count Dooku. A team from ILM: Dawn Yamada, Rob Coleman, Geoff Campbell, Zoran Kacic-Alesic, Sebastian Marino, and James Tooley, presented a behind-the-scenes look at the techniques used to animate and render the Yoda fight. When George Lucas revealed the script to the team just two days before shooting began, they were horrified. At the time, the team was still reviled by Star Wars fans for bringing the unpopular animated character Jar Jar Binks to life in Star Wars Episode I. Now they were expected to take Yoda, the sagacious fan favorite, and turn him into what George Lucas himself described as a combination of “an evil little frog jumping around… the Tasmanian devil… and something we’ve never seen before.” The scene obviously required a computer generated model because no puppet could perform such a sword fight. Their challenge was to somehow make the completely CG Yoda as loveable as the puppet while having his spry fighting style still seem reasonable.

They began by creating a super-realistic animated model of Yoda based on footage from Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. This model is so detailed that its eyes dilate when it blinks and it models physical ear-wiggling and face squishing properties of the original Yoda model. Interestingly, puppeteer Frank Oz disliked the foam-rubber character of the original model and wanted the animators to use a more natural skin model, but Lucas insisted on matching the original, endearing flaws and all. To develop a fighting style for master swordsman Yoda, the animators watched Hong Kong martial arts movies both old and new. Clips from these movies were incorporated directly into the animatics—early moving storyboards of test renders and footage from other movies used to preview how a scene will look. The SIGGRAPH audience had the rare treat of seeing these animatics, which will never be released to the public. The Yoda fight animatic was a sci-fi fan’s ultimate dream: the ILM team took Michelle Yeoh’s Yu Shu Lien character from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and inserted her into the Yoda fight scene in place of the Jedi. In the animatic, a scaled down Michelle Yeoh crossed swords and battled Count Dooku using the exact moves and motions that Yoda does in the final movie.

Also earning shout-outs before Star Wars week wraps up:

Biology lecturer Derek Dean (favorite soundtrack: The Empire Strikes Back)

History Professor Karen Merrill, in whose tenure the Savvy Spender’s Guide to Williams was published, featuring wisdom from Yoda himself.

And then there’s Fred Wiseman ’51, the great documentary filmmaker. As the Boston Globe described him a few years ago:

Frederick Wiseman looks rather like Yoda. He’s a small man whose ears stick out and whose face narrows as it descends from a vast forehead. His skin is wrinkled and his eyes, like Yoda’s, have seen it all.

His dwindling hair can flare, in the tradition of Einstein and David Ben-Gurion. His clothes are an afterthought — a red shirt under a blue sweater, rumpled gray khakis, and comfortable slip-ons. The man has other priorities.

Is that true? You be the judge:

Photo by Suzanna Kreiter, in the Boston Globe

Photo by Suzanna Kreiter, in the Boston Globe


Star Wars Week: Episode 4

For our fourth installment of Star Wars Week at EphBlog, we look at some of the expertise and opportunities at Williams to study, well, not Star Wars, but its influences.

Williams is well-supplied not only with expertise in Star Wars matters, but in the influences that helped shape Star Wars as well.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you probably know that R2-D2 and C-3PO owe their existence and role in the story to Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress. And for those with an interest in Kurosawa, Professor of Comparative and Japanese Literature Christopher Bolton teaches COMP/JAPN 153: Japanese Film, which was offered to Williams students this fall. (A 200-level version of this class has been offered previously). Or, for students on campus for Winter Study, Robert Kent ’84 has taught a series of Winter Study classes based on Aikido. Some of these courses, such as 2013’s PSCI 16, Aikido & The Art of Persuasive Political Speech, have featured a Kurosawa component. And in the not-too-distant past (most recently, Spring 2011?), English Professor Lynda Buntzen taught ENGL 404, Auteur Cinema and the Very Long Film. One presumes that the film viewing took place outside of class! And then there’s John Sayles ’72, who was, in part, set on the course to his storied directorial career under the guidance of English Professor Charles T. Samuels. Professor Samuels reportedly introduced Sayles to international film, including Kurosawa.

Another great influence on George Lucas was The Searchers, the underpinning of Luke’s journey in Star Wars. This film was centrally featured in the Spring of 2015 in Professor Mark Reinhardt’s syllabus for American Studies 201: Becoming and Unbecoming Americans: An Introduction to American Studies. The film kicked off one of the course’s three units: “Cartographies of Citizenship,” serving as an appropriate gateway to, among other things, Frederick Jackson Turner, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Kanye West. Relatedly, before entering journalism and then embarking on a series of perhaps-fictional adventures around the globe, Adam Bloch ’06 authored an honors thesis on Revisionist Westerns and U.S. History, under the guidance of Karen Merrill, in which he analyzed The Searchers (and other great, revisionist Westerns) with remarkable insight. And director John Ford’s work is featured as an influence in ARTS 315, Realisms.

Finally, in building the mythological structure of the Star Wars universe, Lucas drew heavily on the work of Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist. Evans Lansing Smith ’73, chair of the Mythological Studies department at Pacifica Graduate Institute, is one of the preeminent scholarly experts in Campbell, and editor of the recent Campbell collection Romance of the Grail. Another Eph who has written about Campbell is Samira Martinhago Custodia ’13, whose honors thesis, Dystopia Dreaming: Examining Gender and Heroines in Young Adult Dystopian Literature, places its analysis in the context of Campbell’s hero and myth archetypes.

Addendum: It’s well-known that Lawrence of Arabia was also a major influence on Star Wars (all that sand!), but I don’t have anything to write about from an Eph perspective. If anyone has any ideas, let me know in the comments!


Star Wars Week: Answers to Episode 3

As we covered in Episode 3 of EphBlog’s Star Wars Week, questions from the Star Wars universe have featured heavily in Williams Trivia matchups over the years. Here are the answers to yesterday’s highlighted questions:

Question: Luke Skywalker did a dip in this healing substance in The Empire Strikes Back. A war for control of the production of this substance was a major part of the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. What is it?
Answer: Bacta.

Question: When Ben saw side-by-side footprints, how did he know the tracks were NOT made by sandpeople?
Answer: Sandpeople always travel single file to conceal their numbers.

Question: This particular military unit in the Star Wars expanded universe played an integral part in the fall of the Imperial capital Coruscant. It also features in its own video games.
Answer: Rogue Squadron.

Question: Near the beginning of Star Wars, Luke is seen playing with a model. What is it a model of?
Answer: A T-16 Skyhopper.

How well do you know your dialogue? Either give the response or describe the situation for the following quotes:

Han: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” and “I have a really bad feeling about this.” (situations)
Answer 1: In the original, Star Wars movie, as the walls of the trash compactor are about to close in
Answer 2: In Return of the Jedi, as the Ewoks prepare to roast him over an open flame.

Situation: Luke and Han shooting at fighters from the Falcon. Luke makes his first hit and is jubilant. Give Han’s response.
Answer: “Great, Kid. Don’t Get Cocky!”

Han: “Never tell me the odds.” (situation)
Answer: In The Empire Strikes Back, chased by TIE fighters into an asteroid field, C-3PO tells him “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”

Han: “I’m out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.” (what news prompted this response?)

Answer: Return of the Jedi, after being informed that Luke is now a Jedi Knight.

Situation: “Jedi.” Awaiting clearance by Death Star to proceed to moon of Endor. Han: “Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.” Chewie (one assumes) asks how to do this. Give Han’s response.
Answer: “I don’t know. Fly casual.”


Star Wars Week: Episode 3

Links to Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.


Trivia time! Anyone who has played Williams Trivia knows that Star Wars questions often feature heavily. Here’s a quick helping of past questions (answers will follow tomorrow).

Luke Skywalker did a dip in this healing substance in The Empire Strikes Back. A war for control of the production of this substance was a major part of the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. What is it?

When Ben saw side-by-side footprints, how did he know the tracks were NOT made by sandpeople?

This particular military unit in the Star Wars expanded universe played an integral part in the fall of the Imperial capital Coruscant. It also features in its own video games.

Near the beginning of Star Wars, Luke is seen playing with a model. What is it a model of?

How well do you know your dialogue? Either give the response or describe the situation for the following quotes:

Han: “I have a bad feeling about this,” and “I have a really bad feeling about this.” (situations)

Situation: Luke and Han shooting at fighters from the Falcon. Luke makes his first hit and is jubilant. Give Han’s response.

Han: “Never tell me the odds.” (situation)

Han: “I’m out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur.” (what news prompted this response?)

Situation: “Jedi.” Awaiting clearance by Death Star to proceed to moon of Endor. Han: “Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.” Chewie (one assumes) asks how to do this. Give Han’s response.

Video bonus: The submissions in response to the following January, 2014 Trivia question: Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, we’d like you to act out a possible plot summary for the next Star Wars film, using only characters from other non-Star Wars related Disney properties.


Star Wars Week: Episode 2

Part 1 of the series here.


“Star Wars” takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far away,” but is produced by Hollywood in the here and now. Who is the most prominent Eph connected to Star Wars? Likely Jonathan Headley ’89, recently named as Treasurer of the Walt Disney Company, which purchased LucasFilm and the associated Star Wars properties back in 2012. In contrast to the press release linked above, Ephs might appreciate the unofficial take of fanblogger John Frost, however:

In his new role, Headley will be responsible for picking up Bob Iger’s laundry, walking Pluto twice a day, replacing Oxford commas, and repairing holes in the Storybook Circus tents at Walt Disney World.

As a freshman at Williams, Headley’s entry was Williams D (just before asbestos removal, and midway between the 1970s and 1990s renovations), along with future IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman ’89. Here’s Headley’s freshman facebook photo:

Headley Freshman Facebook



While at Williams, Headley double-majored in Computer Science and Economics — the perfect preview for his future career at Disney (and where he no doubt rubbed shoulders with many other Force-heads).  Outside of class, he was a part of one of Williams’ notable Men’s crew teams, spending many hours commuting to and from Lake Onota. As a senior, racing in this boat at the Head of the Charles, Headley was involved in a long-remembered collision at the Weeks Footbridge:

Williams College Club Eight Entry, Head of the Charles Regatta, 1989, via Sport Graphics

Williams College Club Eight Entry, Head of the Charles Regatta, 1989, via Sport Graphics

I know Headley was back at Williams as recently as last year for reunion, his 25th. If “Episode VII” is the success that Disney hopes, perhaps he’ll be stepping off the shuttle at his next visit with a flourish of trumpets and his own Star Wars theme playing in the background.


Star Wars Week: Episode 1

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on Friday and is rapidly consuming the cultural oxygen. EphBlog is not a Force-free zone, and so we’re featuring a series of Williams College/Star Wars crossover posts.

Let’s start with EphBlog contributor and Associate Professor of Mathematics Steven Miller. As part of the Winter Study course Mathematics of Legos, Prof. Miller has spearheaded the world-record construction of a Lego model of a Super Star Destroyer, bringing the record into Eph hands last January:

A team of 59 Williams College math students and about 10 Williamstown Elementary School students managed to assemble a 3,152-piece LEGO Star Wars model — the Super Star Destroyer — in 9 minutes and 31 seconds…

It was compressed pandemonium. In the center of each table there seemed to be a spinning tumbleweed of a dozen hands slapping small plastic bricks together again and again.

After 9 minutes, 31 seconds, the universe’s most dangerous Imperial battle cruiser was intact and ready for flight.

Williams College freshman Kent Blaeser, of Boxford, said he heard about last year’s attempt before he had even applied to Williams, and it helped attract him to the school.

“It’s a college where they do cool stuff and projects like this are a prime example,” he said. “I’m glad I go to be part of this, and that we got to break the record this year.”

“And who doesn’t want to break a world record,” added Williams freshman Jack Lee, of Larchmont, N.Y.

Assembly of the Super Star Destroyer.  Credit: Record Photo Editor Christian Ruhl.

Assembly of the Super Star Destroyer. Credit: Record Photo Editor Christian Ruhl.

Prof. Miller’s Mathematics of Legos page also features this X-Wing, that he describes as having been built “from the bucket of LEGO bricks I saved from my childhood.”

X Wing

Prof. Miller’s course highlights the wonderful nature of Winter Study. It’s true that a full semester mathematics course on combinatorics could incorporate a Star Wars themed speed-build project, but that would be an unlikely main goal. And a full semester course couldn’t use the lure of Lego construction as effectively to engage students from outside the Mathematics and Statistics department — something that can be done during Winter Study.

As Prof. Miller explained:

The Winter Study class “is a chance to reach a different audience and teach students something they might not have thought of earlier,” says Miller, who runs a popular math riddle website ( and works with the SMALL Undergraduate Research Project, a nine-week summer program at Williams that brings together undergraduates from around the globe to investigate open research problems in mathematics. “I want students to be exposed to some types of thinking that are not on their radar screens. Some things, in the real world, nobody would do the way they’re taught in books.”

But back to Star Wars. Just how big is that “real-world” Super Star Destroyer that they built the model of?
People obsessed with Star Wars put a lot of time into questions exactly like that. One good estimate is from a blogger at, which pegs it at about 13.5km in length. So if you set the nose down on the Williams Inn, facing west, and laid the Super Star Destroyer more or less along Route 2, the tail would be about 1000 meters past the Hairpin Turn, overlooking North Adams.

Anyone have some Photoshop skills to illustrate that?


Commencement Week Round-Up

In honor of commencement, several stories of note from recent weeks related to this week’s ceremonies and/or the graduating seniors:

  • Be sure to read this Williams feature highlighting some of the future plans for this year’s graduating class.   Great to see so many seniors interested in serving their country and/or the world.
  • Another must read: this interview with senior Mopati Morake’11, who has clearly thought deeply about higher education.
  • Talented writer Andrew Triska ’11 will be finishing his novel after graduation.
  • Of course, for baby boomers, the most famous “graduate” of Williams is Benjamin Braddock (the novel was written by Eph Charles Webb shortly after his own graduation, and although Williams is not mentioned in the movie, he does wear a purple-and-gold tie).  Apparently a new adaptation hones closer to the novel.
  • One of my favorite Williams traditions is the Olmstead Award for Secondary School Teachers.  Read about this year’s recipients here.
  • Congratulations seniors, and enjoy what should be a wonderful weekend highlighted by tremendous Commencement speaker Cory Booker.

Strange Williams Sighting

Thanks to the tipster (who chooses to remain anonymous) who pointed out that the Williams fight song makes a strange appearance in the 1954 Titantic film, immediately prior to the iceberg collision.  Go to 1:30 of this video to hear the song.   I am still waiting for the deleted scene from James Cameron’s Titanic, in which Leo DiCaprio sings “The Mountains” while freezing to death, to be posted on YouTube. 

Here is a bit of trivia … what Eph closely connected with this movie is almost certainly responsible for this inclusion? Presumably, he associated imminent doom with the fate that annually befalls the Amherst football team …


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?


College Condemns Classroom Sex Show … WSJ

From the Wall Street Journal

“CHICAGO—Northwestern University reversed course on Thursday and condemned a live demonstration of sex in a classroom, after defending the act earlier in the week.

“Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said in a statement. “So am I.” He said the university was launching an investigation”.

Thanks to jfw for his email heads up. PST prevents more timely posting.

Original EphBlog post by Ronit and following discussion here. Prediction of one discussant proves correct.


Pop songs (modern music corner) #1

Tired of debating the merits of flogged out classic songs and middle age alternative music? Sick of arguments about the reasons for a pole being on top of an ice cream cart? The modern music corner strives to take a look at some of what youth is listening to that is produced today. How about we blog about some tunes in the top ten for a change?

Today’s song is Bottoms Up currently #27 on the charts, peaking at #6.

The fast transitions and flash images in this video are not to me liking. However, the style, the music, and the way in which Trey Songz and Nicki Minaj put together an interesting “male v female” exchange to state the obvious reality in the form of critique and criticism is really amazing. Talent.

Like or dislike?


Idiot’s Books second only to Lennon/McCartney…

Robbi and Matt

at least in Slate’s mind. Ephs Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson (both ’97) have been mentioned before on ephblog as a wonderful duo who write and publish their own prints/books/posters (I own that one)/witty things of all types (including this t-shirt that my girlfriend has promised me for two straight special occasions and failed to deliver). They’re also good people and have a great blog that you should read. It’s fun and Matthew jumps over entire mountains in it.

Anyway, check out Slate’s four part series starting here. It’s a fascinating look at both the creative process and a family. Congrats!

Also worth a direct link: the fun flash graphic description of their writing process here.

Someone who knows how to play with images, please fix the image size.


Purple Cow Hits the Big Time

Be sure to check out this Boston Globe article describing how the Purple Cow was selected to join more prominent mascots (heck, some had even been to mascot CAMP) for filming of an ESPN commercial.  Hint: it has something to do with Lee Corso’s experience at College Gameday.  Needless to say, I can’t wait to see the commercial itself: ESPN ads rarely misfire.  Tons more on James Dunn ’10’s experience filming the commercial, including great photos, here.


“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


Williamstown Bachelorette

I’m elevating this from Speak Up! — did you know the new “Bachelorette” is from Williamstown. Ali Fedotowsky, 25, is a native townie who attended Clark University in Worcester and now hails from San Francisco, where she recently left her job at Facebook to star in the latest season. Besides watching the show, you can keep up with her on her blog at, but apparently not on Twitter.

I’ve heard a report that there were some Ephs who knew her when she was in high school — maybe someone from the class of 2002, when she graduated Mount Greylock?

Or someone who liked to graze on fajitas at Desperados? Anyone know more?


History Through Film

Some time ago I mentioned a couple of classes that I am teaching that drew interest from some readers here at Ephblog. One of these classes is “American History Since 1945 Through Film,” which I am offering in our truncated Maymester term. Generally speaking I know Maymester (and summer classes generally) can be of limited utility, especially for history classes where reading and writing is so central. But when I have taught Maymester classes rather than adapt one of my regular courses, I have designed classes specific to the format — four hours of class four days a week for three weeks.

A history through film class fits especially well into this format. My plan is going to be to lecture for a half hour to an hour at the beginning of each class to provide the historical context. Then we will watch the film. Then after a quick break we will discuss the film within its historical context, trying to draw out both the historical questions being raised as well considering the film on its own terms as a movie. Here is a snapshot of what the class will look like: Read more


The physics of Avatar

Joseph Shoer ’06 explains.


The Physics of Space Battles

Incredible article by aerospace engineer Joe Shoer ’06 in Gizmodo:

We have the fighter-plane engagements of Star Wars, the subdued, two-dimensional naval combat in Star Trek, the Newtonian planes of Battlestar Galactica, the staggeringly furious energy exchanges of the combat wasps in Peter Hamilton’s books, and the use of antimatter rocket engines themselves as weapons in other sci-fi. But suppose we get out there, go terraform Mars, and the Martian colonists actually revolt. Or suppose we encounter hostile aliens. How would space combat actually go?

Continue reading here.

(h/t Daniel Klein ’06)


Picture of Moore and Scandal Name/Song

mooreFirst, this is the only picture of Professor Bernard Moore that I have been able to find. (He is on the left. Source is Williams Record.) A Williams faculty member suggested to me that Moore may have actually avoided having pictures of himself taken (e.g., here) because he was concerned that someone might recognize him and, thereby, discover his various frauds. Can anyone point to other photos?

Second, can we settle on a scandal name and graphic, as we did for Nigaleian, Mary Jane Hitler and Willy E. N-word? See this morning’s discussion. Leading suggestion (with two votes!) seems to be “Catch Moore If You Can.” (Hat tip to Batman.) (The graphics possibilities are fun.) Moore’s cyclist hobby might prove relevant. I wish that there were some way to incorporate his lousy teaching and suspect academic work, but there is only so much we can squeeze into a scandal name. Moore is, obviously, the Leonardo DiCaprio character in the movie poster. But who is chasing him? Ephraim Williams? EphBlog? A purple cow? Give us your suggestions in the comments.

Third, Jeff has produced the perfect scandal song, based on Mrs. Robinson.

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

We failed to know a little bit about you for our files
Forgot to help us learn about yourself
Look around you, hardly any sympathetic eyes
Please depart the grounds and head back home

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes
Put it in your bank with your false gains
It’s a little secret, just a faculty affair
Most of all, you’ve got to hide it from the kids

And here’s to you, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams loved you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
Falk bless you please, Mr. Bernard Moore
Williams held a place for those who stray
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

Sitting in the Congress on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it, you lose

Where have you gone, James McGregor Burns
A college turns it’s lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)
What’s that you say, Mr. Bernard Moore
McGregor Burns has left and gone away
(Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

But, with his permission, I think that we could improve the lyrics a bit by incorporating some more specific references to his various Williams activities. The chorus and the last stanza are perfect.

UPDATE: I only just realized how much of a genius Jeff is! Mrs. Robinson is, of course, appeared in the soundtrack of The Graduate, which was based on the book by Charles Webb ’61. We can combine this song with the slogan by just having it as “Catch Mr. Bernard Moore.” Thoughts? Assignment for better lyrics goes to Seth Brown ’01 of Rising Pun.

Below the break is the full Record article on Moore from October 29, 2008. (The Record archives are busted, so this was retrieved from the Google cache.) The article meets the Record‘s usual high standards in terms of investigative reporting. (Read: My daughter’s middle school paper produces harder-hitting copy.)
Read more



Greg Crowther ’95, left us a gem on “Speak Up”. He says:

I just posted a blog entry that is partly about Bill Bowerman, one of the great track coaches of the 20th century. The book I’m reading about him, “Bowerman and the Men of Oregon” by Kenny Moore, opens with the following quote: “A guru gives us himself and then his system; a teacher gives us his subject, and then ourselves.” Quick, what’s the Williams connection?

You guessed it — it’s a line from Adam Gopnik’s essay on Kirk Varnedoe, as previously featured on EphBlog. I was shocked (and pleased) to run across this quote again, since I only read about two books per year. Anyway, the Bowerman book is a great read for those interested in sports mentors and the like.

I have been stopping by Greg’s site ever since Ronit posted this lovely piece by him a while back. He writes about running, and in this essay in particular, a type of training called “HARD/EASY”. He cites Coach Bowerman as an early sourceadvocate of this principle, and quotes writer Kenny Moore on the man:

“Take a primitive organism,” Bowerman would say. “Any weak, pitiful organism. Say a freshman. Make it lift, or jump or run. Let it rest. What happens? A little miracle. It gets a little better. It gets a little stronger or faster or more enduring. That’s all training is. Stress. Recover. Improve.”

Read the whole thing. Like all good writers who write about their passion, Crowther’s words will inspire you to yours, whatever that may be.


“We wuz robbed!” …

kane poster

Well, it had to happen. What with all the pr, promo, and publicity behind movie releases, not to mention budgets that look like the cost of a day in Afghanistan, the “Best Picture” category of The Oscars will be increased from five nominations to ten for this years’ awards.

So what is the tenuous hook to ephdom besides Charles Brackett?

I think the moaning is already starting for the thumbs up/thumbs down results of the popularity of posters and their efforts.

“We wuz robbed” will echo against the virtual columns of EphBlog and rebound into the comments sections with the vigor of sonar seeking that damned U-boat!

So, in anticipation I looked up the history of what happened between 1934 and 1945 when the voting was stabilized at 5 nominees for Best Picture.

The Best don’t always win! Well, no surprise. Big Budgets have been their own self-fulfilling reward in the Hollywood from the studio system until our very day!.

In 1934 ( a momentous year for this writer) and 1935, 12 pictures were nominated each year.

1934 The Winner: “IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT”, The Pack: “The Barretts of Wimpole Street”, “Cleopatra”, “Flirtation Walk”, “The Gay Divorcee”, “Here Comes the Navy”, “The House of Rothschild”, “Imitation of Life”, “One Night of Love”, “The Thin Man”, “Viva Villa!”, and “The White Parade”.

1935 The winner 1935 The Winner: “MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY”, The Pack: “Alice Adams”, “The Broadway Melody of 1936”, “Captain Blood”, “David Copperfield”, “The Informer”, “Lives of a Bengal Lancer”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Les Miserables”, “Naughty Marietta”, “Ruggles of Red Gap”, and “Top Hat”

Not bad selections from great fields!

1939 saw “GONE WITH THE WIND” as the winner from a great field including “Dark Victory”, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, “Love Affair”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Ninotchka”, “Of Mice and Men”, “Stagecoach”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Wuthering Heights”. I don’t give a damn!

But 1941 saw Roddy McDowell and a Wales setting with more double LLs than Peruvian ruminants with”HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY” beating “Citizen Kane”!

“Citizen Kane”, for crying out loud! “We wuz robbed”!, The 1941 other also-rans: “Blossoms in the Dust”, , “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”, “Hold Back the Dawn”, “The Little Foxes”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “One Foot in Heaven”, “Sergeant York”, and “Suspicion”

So get ready for wailing and gnashing of teeth when Price Ronithouse announces the standings early next month.

It should outdo Titanic.


134.79% Return!

Fun smackdown of Jim Cramer, P ’13.

Recently, my email has been full of all sorts of Cramer-Spam, with stories about all these great stock picks he made. Here’s a sample of bullet points from emails from “Jim Cramer (”:

* Model Portfolio Outperforms S&P 500: 134.79% Total Average Return*
* On January 20th, I bought Goldman Sachs at $60. When it hit $85 on January 28th, I trimmed my shares, locking in a 41% gain

Notice his example picks have an average return well above anyone’s hurdle rate, with returns of 30% to 134.79% (love than .79). It’s funny when people sell penis enlargement pills online for $50 because its silly and not a lot of money, but as John Stewart noted, the stock market isn’t a game. This is disgraceful and CNBC should be aware this makes them part of his scam. It simply isn’t plausible that 30%+ returns are representative, and they know that, and suredly would say they didn’t mean every return is this high, but it’s like lottery ads saying ‘anyone can win’—true enough, but highly misleading.



Revolutionary Road

This thread on College Confidential mentions a Williams reference in Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. [Source here. Click to enlarge.]


The more times that Williams is mentioned in the same sentence as Princeton, the better.


Card Check

Jim Cramer, P ’13, argues that card check is the most important issue facing US companies.

Best line: “Look for the union label and sell!”


Due to Start at Williams College


Thanks to Jeff for pointing toward this article from the Daily Mirror.

Princess Eugenie made another solo foray into her royal duties yesterday as she attended a function at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground along with club star Frank Lampard.

HRH was there to support the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association Dragon Football Team and support her friend, businessman and socialite David Tang.

Her first official royal engagment was in February last year at a cancer ward for teenagers in Leeds.

Apparently, Eugenie, plans to spend some time over the summer working for her mother’s Children In Crisis charity before going to university in the autumn.

The sixth in line to the throne, she’s spent a gap year doing a bit of travelling around the globe and is due to start at Williams College in Massachussetts this autumn.

It’s a private college that specialises in the arts but her attendance has sparked rows about how much it would cost in royal security protection officers.

That’s not consistent with this note from Richard Palmer, Royal correspondent on the Daily Express, telling us that “Eugenie is definitely NOT coming to Williams.”


1) Was Princess Eugenie accepted into the class of 2013? My guess is Yes. If she had not applied and been accepted, I would wager that Williams officials would not have gone out of their way to have a private meeting with her her mom, the Duchess of York, last month.

2) Has Princess Eugenie sent in a deposit to save her place? My guess is Yes. Even if she and her family are unsure about next fall, sending in a deposit is a cheap way to keep options open.

3) Will Princess Eugenie be attending Williams in the fall? I have no idea. “Due to start” seems fairly definite. Why would reporter Jody Thompson write this if it weren’t true?

4) Other articles about the event (here, here and here) don’t mention Williams.

UPDATE: By the way, is “a private college that specialises in the arts” the sort of branding that we are looking for? (Thanks to Rory for point that out and to LG for the correction about her met with Williams officials.)

UPDATE II: Only EphBlog gives you this kind of inside scoop.

At the moment, 556 members of the class of 2013 have had accounts created on the Williams network. None of them are named Eugenie. Take from that what you will.

Seems like no Princess Eph.


Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Pop Culture"

Follow this category via RSS