Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oscar Peterson Joins James P. Johnson (music)

Perhaps the first concert I ever attended with my own money was to see Oscar Peterson play solo piano at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley in 1977. The hall was mostly full and Peterson played a concert of standards in a classical concert setting. By that I mean no one was drinking, the audience was expected to stay mostly silent while the musician was playing, and Oscar Peterson wore a dark suit and talked very little if at all between numbers. I’d heard several of the Canadian pianist’s albums at that point, but his music was even more exhilirating in concert. When he came back a couple years later, I went to see him again.

Peterson died at the age of 82 this week near Toronto. Probably best remembered as the piano solo heir to Art Tatum, Peterson was the rare serious jazz musician who could be immediately appreciated by non-jazz aficionados. I remember when I was going through my first Oscar Peterson phase (I’d have his music on at loud volumes a couple times a day on my turntable) that friends would call and comment on whatever was playing in the background whenever I answered the phone. Peterson’s style was straight ahead and virtuosic. In fact, the biggest knock on Peterson, the musician, was that he didn’t do anything terribly “new”. It seemed the only thing unique about Oscar Peterson’s music was the fact that he could play faster and with greater technical skill than any other mainstream jazz pianist.

To a certain extent, it just wasn’t cool for a real jazz fan to love Oscar Peterson. Simply put, there was no learning curve to being hip to a piano player who could play so many notes so fluidly. It is true that he might have possessed equivalent technical prowess to the sainted Art Tatum, but Peterson never pushed the harmonic envelope the way Tatum would or eventually the equally virtuosic Cecil Taylor would. Just as damning for many jazz insiders, Peterson’s personal life stayed under control throughout his eighty two year life. This may account for the fact that he was one of the last surviving musicians to have played in the Jazz at the Philharmonic Series from the late 40’s. About the most reprehensible thing he ever did was to record an album of his vocals. Actually, he wasn’t a bad singer, it was more that he was much better at the instrument that ran through his fingers. Fwiw, Nat King Cole was along with Tatum one of Peterson’s early role models. The vocal album, "With Respect to Nat", homaged the influence of the great pianist who became the first black entertainer to headline a national television show.

Peterson spent most of his career being managed by Norman Granz whose musician clients generally loved him because he was one of the first jazz promoters to get his artists real money and who is sometimes reviled by jazz cognoscenti for essentially dumbing down the music. Granz often encouraged performers to play very fast, loud, and with most any other instrumentalist whose name would sell tickets. Although Peterson was a very competent jazz composer in his own right (the Canadiana Suite), the Granz connection sealed his fate to be best known as an instrumentalist. In particular, Peterson’s got cornered into his being the pianist whose technique honestly rivaled Art Tatum’s.

Having grown up in Northern California, I remember too well the succession of fast-power hitting outfielders who found themselves labeled the “next Willie Mays”. While many of them like Barry’s father Bobby Bonds had serious talent and even comparable physical skills, the label always turned out to be a burden. That said, Peterson more than established his own identity as a jazz pianist. In the days when you could measure a jazz musician’s stature by looking to see how big his bin was at the record store, Peterson’s albums for sale in any store that had any kind of jazz section always rivaled Miles Davis and Stan Getz’s. When Granz came out of retirement after selling Verve records and started Pablo Records in the mid-seventies, Peterson was essentially the house pianist. Granz did things like pair Peterson with every living trumpet player who didn’t play like Lester Bowie and seemingly released a new Oscar Peterson album every month. Fwiw, the best of those was Peterson’s duets with Dizzy Gillespie. Telarc, one of the early audiophile labels, also recorded Peterson repeatedly.

In those days, a successful jazz album might sell seven to eight thousand copies. I have no idea how many albums Oscar Peterson ultimately had his name on as a leader, but he probably had more eight to twenty thousand unit titles than any musician in jazz. There is such a thing as being over-recorded at a musical level and there were certainly times when you could hear Oscar Peterson do his thing on record and it wouldn’t move you much because, well, it wasn’t a whole lot different for three other albums you’d heard him on that same year. It wasn’t quite like Ray Bryant who often played essentially the same solo on some of his records, but Oscar Peterson was never a musical restless spirit who probed the boundaries of his music.

That said, he was the kind of musician who swung consistently and whose tone and style were almost instantly recognizable. Peterson’s style was florid, dense, and bluesy. He did not appear to be a man of emotional extremes and his music seemed to reflect that. While much of the jazz of the sixties and seventies took on an angry edge, Oscar Peterson’s music stayed upbeat. It was the sort of piano that made you smile and dance despite the world rather than an attempt to channel all of its complexity and pain.

Over the years, I literally wore out five Oscar Peterson records.

1) He recorded a series of solos for Manfred Eicher on a Boesendorfer somewhere in Germany. The albums are known as “My Favorite Instrument” and include some of the best sounding piano recording ever done. Peterson’s technique is in full force, but it’s very relaxed, intimate, and yet at points it pushes just a bit harder than his more usual albums.

Years ago, I had a girlfriend who loved jazz as well, but her tastes were more mainstream than mine. This was the album we always agreed on. I always liked the sheer physicality of his version of Ellington and Tizol’s Perdido and the near cocktail-pensive romanticism of Little Boy Blue and If I Should Lose You.

2) In the mid-sixties Granz had Oscar Peterson record several albums devoted to songs from a single Broadway show. It sounds like a terrible idea artistically, particularly for an artist who already tended to the great middle middle as much as OP, but for some reason West Side Story turned out to be maybe his best trio recording. I love the way he went up tempo with I Feel Pretty and found a way to swing it until it soared well over Natalie Wood’s roof top.

3) Peterson was generally too busy a pianist to be an effective accompanist and beside he was successful enough as a soloist that he rarely had to play backup. One of the great vocal albums in jazz was Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s series of duets (not the Porgy and Bess version though) on which the Oscar Peterson trio served as the backup band. Sometimes Granz’s attempts to match up jazz superstars either on album or stage were tasteless messes, but this one was magical. I used to use the recording of Cheek to Cheek to test stereo equipment. The gravely quality of Armstrong’s voice matched up perfectly to the almost preternatural clarity of Ella’s voice. In the meantime, Peterson’s energetic fills mesh into what may be the greatest “happy music” recorded jazz session ever.

4) Oscar Peterson and Count Basie seem like a very unlikely match on the piano because Count Basie had maybe the simples swing piano style of them all. A lot of Basie solos seem to be single notes or simple right hand chord voicings that just happen to be played at exactly the right time. Peterson, on the other “hands”could and would play more notes in a single chorus than Basie did in a fifty year career in music. Satch and Josh was yet another of the great joyful jazz albums with the two pianists throwing fours at one another over the top of the Count Basie rhythm section including Freddie Green. Peterson’s playing is an endless rush of words and Basie’s economical style was all punctuation and space. It feels like the two completed one another musically.

5) The Trio was one of at least a couple Peterson albums that used the name. This is the Pablo recording with Nils Henning Orsted Pedersen (the Danish Bassist) and Joe Pass, the guitarist in a live club setting. All three musicians are of the play a lot of notes but stay within some recognizable key school of jazz. For whatever reason, instead of running over one another a certain musicianly respect and compatibility comes across on the album on tracks like Secret Love and Blues Etude. It’s also an example of a trio pianist playing what Peterson himself referred to as “the whole instrument”.

Sometimes it’s just fun to hear three musicians swing while staying in the atmosphere.

It’s hard to say where Oscar Peterson fits into the history of the music or in some ways even into the history of jazz piano. His critics can argue persuasively that the history of jazz would be essentially unchanged had Peterson never left Canada. He never changed the boundaries of the music and his sound is closer to James P. Johnson (another one of his heroes) than it was to Tatum. Peterson, however, is the guy who provided a bridge for non-jazz fans into the music. He served well as an ambassador for those who believed that jazz could both treated seriously as concert music and that one could make a good living playing it without going “commercial”. The jazz world will undoubtedly miss Oscar Peterson. More important a lot of jazz fans, including me, would have missed the pleasures of jazz had it not been for hearing Oscar Peterson.


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ex Spit Facto (Steroids and the Spitball era)

I haven’t made it through all 400 plus pages of the Mitchell Report yet and I’m not sure that I ever will. I know that baseball is supposed to be the American past time. I assume that if the game is that All American, it should adhere to our own notions of fairness. Here it is. The Mitchell report mentions clearly that steroids were not an illegal substance in baseball until 2002 and HGH wasn’t banned until 2005. Yes, they’ve been against the rules in other sports longer than that, but all of what happened in the nineties didn’t break any baseball rules. So why is it again that we’re supposed to punish the players?

Article One Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution says that no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed. It’s a pretty simple aspect of what most of us know as the “rule of law”, a quaint notion that existed in the United States before September 11, 2001. A bill of attainder is the notion of punishing an individual or group without the benefit of trial more or less for being who they are. Ex Post Facto is the notion that you can’t make something a crime after the fact. Believe it or not, there was a time when respect for the Constitution or at least familiarity with it were considered elements of real patriotism.

Of all sports, baseball, the game of inches, has generally had the most precise rules. There are restrictions on bat size and composition. Do you remember George Brett and the pine tar incident? Pitchers are limited in where they can put their hands before throwing a pitch. There are rules about how hard you have to try to avoid being hit by a pitch. It's also not okay to use an aluminum bat in professional baseball (btw if you want an interesting comparison, look at college stats pre and post aluminum bat and compare them to the "steroids" "HGH" effect) For generations, it’s been the business of “true competitors” to seek every possible edge within the the rules. Let’s consider the way baseball handled the now illegal pitch, the “spitball.”

By making the ball slightly lopsided, the spitball gave pitchers roughly the same advantage that steroids give a hitter or, imagine this, steroids give a pitcher. The spitball originated in what most of us know as the “dead ball” era, a period when 1-0 scores and 30 game winners were the norm rather than the exception. A White Sox pitcher named Ed Walsh is largely credited with popularizing the spitball in 1906. The guy’s career ERA was 1.82 and he’s in the Hall of Fame. In fact, the spitball was so popular that Ty Cobb wrote that it was banned in 1920 because the owners wanted to see more home runs. Mmmmm….

Like steroids, there was also a safety issue around the spitball. It made the flight of the ball so unpredictable that batters and fielders sometimes got beaned. The most famous such “beaning” was the death of Ray Chapman on a pitch thrown by Carl Mays that some believe was spit-loaded with tobacco juice. (Okay, they should have banned the pitch just for being disgusting).

In any case, the major leagues did not ban the spitball entirely. Since several pitchers had built their careers around the spitter and its variations, each team was allowed to designate up to two spitball pitchers for the duration of the pitcher’s career. Burleigh Grimes was the last legal spitball pitcher in 1934. As anyone familiar with the career of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry knows, that was hardly the last time that anyone threw the spitball in organized baseball. Perry, who is white and from the south, was celebrated by many for his cunning. He went from being a guy in the Giants bullpen pre-spitter to being the first pitcher to win a Cy Young award in both leagues. Btw, NASCAR has had several mechanical cheating scandals the last couple years that have had no impact on the popularity of the drivers or the sport. In a good ole boy dominated sport, it’s generally considered something you’re expected to try.

Let me point out a couple things. In 1920, when the spitter was banned the historical circumstances resonate with the beginning of the steroids era. Most fans know about the Black Sox scandal of 1919 which coincidentally became a legal issue at the end of the 1920 season. If John Sayles (Eight Men Out) is to be believed, the balance between labor and management played a significant role in the scandal. Fewer people remember the “Federal League”, the last third major league, and various attempts at the time to establish a “player’s union.” Fascinatingly, a Federal Judge named Kennesaw Mountain Landis, is credited by some with killing the Federal league by refusing to rule in an anti-trust suit brought by Federal League owners against the two major leagues. In 1922, Congres passed a special anti-trust exemption for major league baseball as a form of “entertainment” instead of “commerce”. For an entertaining version of most of these events, I strongly recommend Troy Soos’s Mickey Rawlings Murder Mysteries, a mixture of dead ball era baseball and social history.

In 1920, the game was in crisis and it adjusted the rules, the ball,and the size of fields to welcome an offense-happy era led by former pitcher Babe Ruth and the emerging American League power, the New York Yankees. Partly because of sources, the Mitchell Report’s named names include a high proportion of players with a modern Yankees connection. One effect of juicing the ball and de-juicing the repertoire of pitches was that dead ball statistics don’t really compare to post-1920 baseball. Try this one. Who did Roger Connor play for and why should we remember him?

Baseball is not the only major sport where key statistics have fluctuated drastically. Look at the number of passing and receiving records broken in the last fifteen years in football. Try comparing Tom Brady’s current total of 45 touchdown passes in a still unfinished 2007 season to Joe Montana’s personal best of 31 or Johnny Unitas’s personal best of 32 when devensive backs were allowed even more contact. I don’t seriously believe that Brett Favre is the greatest quarterback of all time simply because he now holds virtually every passing record. I also don’t believe that Wayne Gretzky, as great as the great one is, is three times better than Bobby Hull. Even in his own time, there were people who didn’t think Wilt’s freakish scoring numbers made him the undisputed best player in basketball. Baseball’s been the one sport that’s clung to the “sacred numbers” argument.

Now that Congress is about to convene yet again on the steroids issue, I need to say something (not that anyone cares). And yes, it’s pretty weird how much more willing Congress can be to respond to steroids in baseball than it is to torture, outing CIA agents, or impeachment. Even though the Mitchell report insisted that the blame belonged to all facets of major league baseball, I find it fascinating that most of America wants to blame the players and one player in particular (Barry Bonds). In 1920, one man, the commissioner of baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was credited with saving the game because he took a tough stance on the Black Sox. In 2007, there’s one person who was responsible for setting the rules or for at least taking leadership in trying to “right” the game. That person is Bud Selig. So tell me again, why they want to prosecute players, take away their records, etc., yet there’s been no organized attempt to get rid of Bud Selig.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the game is making record profits. In 1922, Congress was wrong. Baseball isn’t entertainment, it’s a form of commerce and nothing more. Being reminded of this, makes me want to spit.

small note: It is interesting that George W. Bush was an owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989-1998. Players included Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzales, Pudge Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa all of whom have been linked to steroid use at least speculatively. The Mitchell report managed to leave out much of the Texas Rangers connection to the scandal. If everyone at all levels of the game was responsible for turning a blind eye, what's that say about the very visible owner of the Rangers during that period. Is it faintly reminiscent about warnings about Bin Laden, Katrina, the leaking of CIA agent identities from within the White House?


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rotary, Main Street, and the Soul of American Business

About a week ago, my daughter let us know that she had to be in town on Friday for something to do with her ROP retail and hospitality class. It turned out that she was getting an award from our local Rotary Club for being one of the outstanding students in a work-related class. This was a very cool thing since my kids have been very sports oriented where they’ve been lucky enough to do quite well. In any case, our daughter would just as soon not talk about regular school so it was nice to hear that she was doing more than okay. Bottom line, I got to go to a Rotary Club luncheon with her where she got her award, a check, and got to make a brief speech.

I’m not at all the sort of adult who would ever join the Rotary Club. I don’t own a business for one thing and I’m not very social. It’s not my idea of a good time to go to a lunch every month or so with fifty other people and engage in bonhomie over chicken and mashed potatoes. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never attended a Rotary Club meeting. When I was about twelve, my friend Bill’s dad took as to Rotary for their father-son’s day lunch. Mostly, I remember everyone getting fined for silly stuff and listening to a speech by a 49er linebacker of the time named Skip Vanderbundt. While it was “nice” to have gone once, I didn’t imagine that I’d ever come back, though I did later have friends who applied for Rotary club international study scholarships. Basically, Rotary was the epitome of Babbitry in which camaraderie mixed with business development in curiously suspicious fashion. To stick with the Sinclair Lewis bit, it was like being trapped inside one of the chapters in his novel, Main Street. Critics still sometimes debate whether Main Street was meant to be warmly descriptive or purely satirical. When I was a kid, I leaned to the latter. Yes, I know, I was a weird kid.

There’s a lot of talk in the political world about the difference between Main Street and Wall Street. Rotary is the embodiment of Main Street America. The walls there were covered with pennants from visiting Rotarians from all over the world. A half dozen men at the luncheon wore crab claw hats circulated to help promote a coming crab feed dinner to raise money for needy families at Christmas (I think that was it). The lunch consisted of turkey legs, string beans cooked with bacon, stuffing made with sausage, apple cobbler, and homemade lemonade. The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer that was diplomatically labeled an “invocation”, and a not very successful attempt by a woman to sing a descant over 60 Rotarians humming Silent Night.

The heart of the Rotary meeting though is the fines. The master of ceremonies spends a good half of the luncheon calling various members forward to talk about their birthdays, vacations, etc. You get fined five bucks for having a birthday and fifteen bucks for taking a vacation. The money goes into a cigar box parked at a table near the front of the meeting. Ultimately, it’s given to some sort of project devoted to the community good. Members are expected to take their “punishment” like good sports and to embellish their vacation and birthday stories with corny jokes about themselves and fellow members. In the meantime, they pretend that the fines are painful and kid around by proposing loopholes that’ll get them out of having to pay. This chapter gives the practice a high tech touch by calling on members to e-mail photos from their vacation which are put up on the screen for all to see via LCD projector. They also have wireless mikes for whenever someone has to speak.

While Rotary was once white, male, and solidly middle class or rich people acting middle class, there are a significant number of women, most of them younger business owners in the town. There was also an elegant-looking black man with shaved head who runs a local brew pub. When he got fined, he spoke with a precise east coast aristocratic accent about his “vacation” then threatened to “kill all you white people” (I’m just kidding).

Rotary here is white male culture, but it’s found a way to welcome both women and non-whites willing to participate. Rotary is admirably inclusive as long as you’re willing to wear funny hats and shoot the breeze with an unending line of older white-haired men who run local businesses, have pictures of their grandchildren, and talk about their vacations. Yes, it's a culture that tends to avoid controversy and partisan politics, but it also appears to be about building around what people in a community have in common. I'm not sure it's the best place to talk about worker's rights, reproductive choice, global warming, etc., but there are other places and venues to pursue those topics. It also doesn't seem impossible that some Rotary somehwere might take up something like local energy sustainability, universal health care, etc.

Now that I’m older and having survived both Reagan and Bush the More Terrible, I see the virtues of Rotary much more clearly. As much as Reagan and Bush supposedly appeal to Main Street America, it’s also clear to me that the truth is that they spent their political lives catering to Wall Street America. The big difference is that Main Street America as embodied in Rotary still believes in the importance of community and connection. Main Street is the place where the ultimate form of accountability takes the shape of having to appreciate the fact that your acts as a business person affect people you have lunch with, who hear about your birthday, who you vacation with, whose kids you hire for their first jobs, and who you’ll have to look in the eye on a regular basis. Franchise/mall America just doesn’t seem to work that way.

One of the more interesting moments for me was seeing the local school superintendent good naturedly get volunteered to lead the group in humming Silent Night. For some reason, it made me see that there was once an America where friendship, business, and community were intertwined and that the mix has its virtues.

Somewhere towards the end, the six kids present were given their awards by the Rotary. There was a boy who wanted to go to culinary school, another boy who showed his video built around a song by “Yes”, geez talk about feeling old, through the LCD projector, and a stylishly-dressed girl who happened to have won the prize for a woodshop class. Eventually, it was my daughter’s turn. She got up, listened to a very nice introduction by her counselor for a kid who sounded way more mature than the one who lives in our house, and then she took me by surprise. While the other kids had said a couple quick words of thanks, my daughter had prepared a short-gracious speech. She projected well into a room filled with older men in crab costumes and actually talked about how after college, she wants to give back to her own community just like it had given to her that day. This sort of thing is way more gratifying when you’re totally shocked. My kid is actually a very effective public speaker and she’d never done anything of the sort before.

Okay, I’m bragging and I need to stop. Oddly, I spent six years of my life promoting the need to use work-based learning as the path to higher education and personal growth. Somehow, it was the Rotary Club and my own daughter who somehow made me realize that I didn’t waste my time. There’s something quintessentially American about the Rotary Club culture. I might not be a member, but I hope it hangs around. America needs Main Street in ways that have nothing to do with money and business.
For one, it's rooted in the radical notion that prosperity is something that has to be shared in order for it to really happen. In the meantime, I'll just avoid it on my birthday or after vacations.


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Penn State 2007 Champs over Stanford (volleyball)

During the break after the second game of the NCAA women’s final at ARCO arena this Saturday, they introduced members of the All America team to the crowd of 13,650 people. When Jordan Larson of Nebraska’s name came up as a third team All American (they make the announcements in reverse order), the crowd responded with what had been up to that point the loudest cheer of the night. An equally loud roar for each of the five Nebraska players named to the team followed. There were a lot of people wearing red around Arco for the three days, clearly not all of them were there to root for Stanford.

The announcer pointed out that this was the second biggest crowd ever for a final four, but Arco, the home of the Sacramento Kings was clearly not full. It was more or less the crowd you’d get for a Kings regular season game this year instead of say four years ago. With Cal and Stanford within a hundred miles, I had thought that Arco might have sold out. Oddly, I suspect with either Nebraska or Hawaii in the final four, it might have. That’s pretty much where women’s volleyball stands in 2007. It’s wildly popular in certain places, but mildly obscure in some surprising spots.

Two weeks ago, I happened to attend Stanford’s second round match against Sacramento State. It was Big Game weekend and this was Debbie Colberg’s last match as a coach after a career that started twenty nine years ago with her simultaneously coaching Sacramento State and the Rio American High School girls’ volleyball team. The NCAA attendance for that match said 2,000, but I suspect that included all the people working concessions and any passerbys from the football game.

It wasn’t just the Cornhusker factor. At that point in the match Penn State was handling the number one seeded Cardinal comparatively easily, so the locals didn’t have much to cheer about. Fwiw, there were a bunch of blue shirts in the lower level on the far side of the court. They would hold up signs for “Air Wilson”, Holehouse, and in support of lions in general. If you’re wondering, a Nittany Lion is a mountain lion that lives on Mount Nittany near the Penn State Campus. This was better than Thursday night when they spent much of the time borrowing the cheer from the movie “We Are Marshall.”

The match had started with a big kill from sophomore Meagan Hodge. Penn State’s bread and butter is for Alicia Glass to zip a four to the left at about nine and half feet before the defense can get in position. Hodge or Fawcett then hammers it cross court. Throughout the night Hodge repeatedly went for a spot about two feet behind of the ten foot line and two and a half feet left of the center line. In her 26 kills, she probably found that part of the floor at least a dozen times. Fawcett tends to hit harder and more towards the center of the court. Hodge tends to change speeds more while Fawcett daresthe defense to dig in against her fastball.

Stanford has a pair of even more celebrated lefts. Both Barboza and Klineman where national high school players of the year and national number one recruits. At various times, Barboza and Klineman have both been labeled the next saviour of the U.S. National team as were their predecessors Oganna Namani and Logan Tom before them and Kristin Folkl before that. That said, the Stanford style was more or less Martina Hingis to Penn State’s Serena Williams. Barboza is still recovering from a knee injury and she generally does not get her kills by overpowering or hitting over the defense these days. Much of the time on offense and defense, she looks like a beach player wandering through the indoor game. As a 17 year old freshman, Klineman does everything well but she does not have the raw physical strength or arm speed to overpower the block. Stanford’s lefts hit plenty hard, but still rely on timing and placement to get the ball down. Penn State gets points by simply getting to the point of attack faster, higher, and harder.

One of the more interesting sources of drama was that Hodge was the number one recruit in the year between Barboza and Klineman. Rumor has it that Stanford never actually offered Hodge at least in part to leave the spot open for Klineman who some thought would be a better emotional fit for the Stanford team. Barboza tends to be the player who growls at teammates on the Stanford team on the court. Hodge had something of a reputation for the same. John Dunning may have rightly been a bit nervous about having two players on the floor playing that role. Bottom line, all four lefts played pretty well in the final, but Hodge and Fawcett ultimately had a lot more kills. Fawcett doesn’t play her own back row, so it’s a bit tricky to compare all around. Just as interesting, all four players return next year.

Throughout the first two games, Penn State’s serve receive, the one area of vulnerability, was noticeably solid. As a result not only were their lefts hitting well, Arielle Wilson and Christa Harmotto were arguably even more efficient. In the semi against Cal, the freshman Wilson hit an otherworldly .913 with 11 kills against a defense that allegedly lived for the block. In the final Harmotto’s arm would appear crane like over the Stanford block on the slide and on more than a couple overpasses to put the ball away. Blair Brown, Penn State’s freshman rightside and probably the least renowned player on their front line repeatedly converted open nets, usually from somewhere near the middle of the court. The Penn State back row defense, led by Roberta Holehouse, was also easily a match for Stanford’s. Stanford actually had 28 and 25 points in the first two games, but the matches never really felt that close as Penn State didn’t give up its lead once the games got into the teens and seemed capable of running off points at any given time.

At the second game break, I suspect everyone present was convinced that Penn State was the physically superior team. Given that Stanford had National Player of the Year and year long .500 hitter, Fouluke Akwinadero, among others, this was a pretty astonishing thing to concede so easily. It hardly seemed possible that Stanford had won in 5 when the two teams met early in the season. To be honest, I was thinking things like “Well at least the Stanford band and cheerleaders are better than Penn State’s.” (Penn State brought sort of economy versions of both to the final four). In the third game, Dunning made two interesting moves. He flipped his lineup so that Kleinman was at L1 and he switched in Alex Fisher for Erin Waller on the rightside. For the entire year, including a big kill down the line in the fifth game against USC in the semis, Waller had been a clutch player for Stanford in tight situations. While not an imposing hitter, she has very consistently hit the volleyball equivalent of the open twelve foot jump shot often at times when Stanford needed it most in a match. Through the first two games, it looked like Kehoe was pursuing some sort of game plan gone awry by repeatedly choosing to set Waller on the right against what appeared to be a solo block. It didn’t work and the difference between Brown’s .267 but much better in the first two games and Waller’s .000 may have turned out to be the critical difference in the match. Early in game three, Dunning switched to Fisher who saw exactly zero sets in the course of two games and roughly fifteen rotations. Even odder, that seemed to be the right move. With fewer options, Stanford’s attacking rhthym improved considerably and Akwinadero and Girard started to break loose.

The third game stayed roughly even until 15-13 (Stanford) when Penn State’s serve receive sprung a leak. Two nights earlier, they had difficulty with Hana Cutura’s high speed jump serve. In this match, Kehoe’s relatively harmless looking jump floater (Okay, I confess even though my own daughters both served the jump floater, I’ve never quite gotten why it works) seemed to find the hole in Penn State’s game. Kehoe broke out three straight aces off Roberta Holehouse in the midst of a 6-0 Stanford run that put the game more or less out of reach at 21-13.

On the Penn State end, the passing breakdown resulted in Glass becoming very reliant on the left, but she couldn’t get the ball out there with the same zippiness that she’d had available earlier in the match. One result was that Penn State made three hitting errors from the left (2 by Fawcett) in a seven point stretch. In the meantime, Barboza and Ailes who had both struggled in serve receive early in the match appeared to steady out. By wining the third game, 30-23, Stanford had preserved respectability.

In game four, I figured that Penn State would fix its serve receive problem and be on its way particularly after two early kills by Hodge. Hodge then missed at 2-2 and Stanford broke out to a 7-3 lead as Barboza matched Hodge with a couple kills of her own. In the semi, Barboza had struggled as a hitter despite getting the match clinching kill. There were several stretches where Kehoe repeatedly went to Barboza for the sideout and she simply could not deliver against USC at least not in the way that Asia Kaczor, USC’s twenty three year old rightside who has already played seven years for the Polish National team was delivering from the other side. In game four of the final, Barboza made the argument that she is indeed an elite hitter. She wound up with 6 of her 16 kills for the night in game 4. More significant, Fouluke had spent most of the first two and half games watching the Penn State defense find some way to get a hand on her swings whether it was Wilson’s blocking or Holehouse and Glass diving to the floor or drop shots. There were also several points where Kehoe (I say this as a Bryn Kehoe fan) simply didn’t get the ball in good position for her go to hitter to get to deliver. Suddenly, in game four Fouluke became her usual unstoppable force.

Penn State fought, but it seemed like the magic had run out. Whenever Hodge would get a kill as the team attempted to come back, she would jump two feet in the air and yell with joy. Stanford’s approach even as they seized the momentum was decidedly less emotional. At about the 10 point mark, Franci Girard, Stanford’s very slender senior middle, put down four kills on four attempt to give the Cardinal a three point lead at 14-11. After that, Klineman and Barboza went on a scoring spree sandwiched around Penn State’s serve receive struggles that included two consecutive ball handling calls against Glass that left the game 29-19 which was quickly followed by a Fouluke kill. Stanford had not only evened the match, they had scored more points than Penn State for the night on an evening that started out as a Penn State rout. Stanford hit .535 in game 4.

Stanford and Dunning deserve considerable credit for finding a way to get back in the match. I suspect though, it’s even harder to find your poise when the momentum shifts that radically, but Penn State did exactly that in game five. For some reason, Dunning did shift back to Barboza at L1 and Waller on the right for game 5. Perhaps it was a case of “Go with what got you there all season?”, but this will probably be the question that haunts Stanford this offseason. Oh yeah, Fouluke also came out for game five without her trademark goggles. I haven't googled the googles, but I assume this was an equipment issue and not a coaching decision.

Although Stanford took a 4-3 lead after another bhe by Glass and a Harmotto miss, it was clear that PSU’s serve receive had steadied out again. In fact, there was one spectacular play either in game four or five where Holehouse dove to get the serve up, Glass had to go to her knees to set and delivered a perfect four, that Hodge powered down before Stanford could even think “Wow, great serve.”

It was then Hodge, Harmotto, Fawcett, and Harmotto for kills to give PSU control of the game. During the sequence, Stanford had a point where Klineman had three straight shots from the left and couldn’t get the ball through the Lions’ defense. This “message” may have accounted for Klineman’s two critical hitting errors that derailed any semblance of a Stanford comeback. At 8-4, Glass then took over the match with two and what should have been a third attacks of her own. On the first, she looked off the defense and placed the ball in the back right corner. On the second, she took a net high pass and hit the ball at a sharp angle about three feet away from the net on the left side. A third kill from the middle was called a “throw” by the ref, though it felt like he was just showing Stanford a little mercy. Stanford’s last gasp from the left saw Barboza get blocked on point 14 and then perhaps fittingly it was Glass to Hodge on a quick overpowering four to give Penn State its second title.

Only two players who saw significant playing time in the final graduate, Kehoe and Girard for Stanford. Penn State returns all its starters. Of course, people were saying the same thing about Nebraska last year. In any case, I think the question will be whether Penn State has initiated a new more physical era at the top of collegiate women’s volleyball. This may have been the hardest hitting and highest blocking women’s college team in some time. I think too that Glass is going to cause more than a few schools to start looking for big, super strong, athletic setters again (not that they don’t do that already). Cal also has one in Lloyd as does USC with Carico. It’ll be fascinating to see what Stanford does about the setting position in 2008. While this year’s final four wasn’t Bryn Kehoe’s best tournament, she leaves with a national title as a freshman and three trips to the finals in her career. I suspect there are only a couple setters ever who can claim comparable success.

As people talk about the mix in the women’s game, I have one sobering thought. There’s a good argument that there’s not a single player in the ACC, Conference USA, and the Big West who could have started for either Penn State or Stanford except at libero. Even with this year’s top recruit, Kelly Murphy who outdueled Alix Klineman in this year’s equally exciting JO final, headed to Florida, I don’t know that the women are going to see parity any time soon.

That said, this was a great final. With apologies to Nebraska and USC, the play on the floor argued quite eloquently that these were the nation’s two best teams playing at or near the top of their games (well except for the missed serve festival early in game one) Congratulations to Penn State, the Sweater, and his staff.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

AAU and NCVA letter (NCVA)

We sent the following to NCVA this week on the matter of dual participation in AAU and NCVA. In the meantime, I'm personally looking forward to attending the final four in Sacramento over the next couple days.

Ms. Donna Donaghy
President and Executive Director NCVA
74 Dorman Av.
San Francisco, Ca. 94124

Dear Ms. Donaghy,

I’m looking forward to a successful NCVA club season and hope this finds you well. As you are probably aware, the AAU, a member organization of USAV, has been expanding its efforts to develop even more opportunities in the region for junior players. I’ve been asked the question about whether or not there is anything that expressly forbids or penalizes dual participation in both NCVA and AAU events. I’ve been through the most recent expanded NCVA handbook and while I found some enhanced penalties for various offenses, I did not find a rule that expressly prohibited dual participation. I’d just like to make sure this is correct.

I am aware that Margie Mara of the national organization has confirmed in writing that there is no national prohibition against dual participation by players, coaches, clubs, or referees. If you or your board could clarify this formally it would be much appreciated and it would help a number of clubs plan their seasons accordingly.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with one representative of the AAU and he seemed quite anxious to work cooperatively with the NCVA on behalf of promoting the sport at the junior level. Personally, I think the Northern California volleyball community will welcome anything that would expand the resources and opportunities for junior players in the region to compete with sanctioned referees and in first-rate facilities.


On Behalf of Northern California Volleyball 4 All



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The Free Lunch

I was running a little late yesterday so I tried a new Chinese restaurant a couple miles from work. New isn’t quite the right word. There’ve been three Chinese restaurants in the same spot in the last five years. The middle one which served a combination of Vietnamese and Chinese food shut down rather suddenly. Actually, it was a couple weeks after I went there for lunch with a colleague and she saw a mouse running in front of the garbage can out front. I never went back after that, but figured that I’d give the latest incarnation a chance. For some odd reason, Chinese restaurants, of all ethnicities, have a knack for odd names. This one is called “Half Moon Bay” which happens to be a town with very few Chinese people about ninety miles south of me.

The service was fine and the food was okay. In different ethnic restaurants, I have certain dishes that I order to gauge the food. With Mexican food, it’s the chile relleno. In Thai places it’s the pad thai or the green curry with chicken. With sushi, it’s the rock and roll. In southern Chinese restaurants (not that many of them anymore), I usually try the chow fun, a dish made with flat noodles and some mix of stir-fried items that either turn it into a greasy mess or serve as the equivalent of Cantonese comfort food. Anyway, their beef chow fun was okay enough that I’d consider going back, but not so good that I’d tell my wife that she absolutely had to meet me for lunch at this new place.

I get up to pay the bill and discover that I don’t have my wallet with me. I apologize to the young man behind the register and offer to leave a phone number, my mp3 player, or some other form of security. Of course, my car has about a gallon of gas in it which means that if I have no wallet and no money, then….He sees my distress and says, “Don’t worry about it. Just come back some other time and make it up to us.”

Wow, actual trust between strangers! Maybe it’s the Chinese homeboy thing, but it still felt awfully good. I mean it’s not the sort of thing you could do at McDonald’s. Well, for one, you pay first in places like that before you get your food. Still, I imagine you get my point. One of the problems with franchise America is that whoever happens to be behind the counter would give you a lecture on “company policy” and you’d go through all manner of hoops to deal with having eaten and having forgotten to bring the means to pay for the meal.

This guy, I’m pretty certain he wasn’t the owner or manager, just looked at me and more or less said, “Okay, my guess is that you’re good for it.”

As it happened, I was. I borrowed ten bucks from my work pal and drove back to the Half Moon Bay after work, happened to find the guy who had been behind the counter, and reminded him that I was the guy who didn’t have his wallet at the end of the lunch hour. He looked slightly surprised then said, “Oh yeah.”

I handed him a ten dollar bill. He started to make change ( have no idea how he remembered the amount) and I told him to keep it. I think lunch was something like seven dollars and fifty cents.

I told him, “No, don’t worry about it. I appreciate you’re having trusted me.”

In truth, I was just leaving a slightly larger than normal tip, but somehow it made me feel magnanimous.

I’ve been sick for the last four days and this made my day. It’s a funny thing about little acts of kindness, they make life seem so simple. I don’t know if you follow Dale’s adventures with the Korean Bagel Lady, but it is interesting to actually know the people who are serving you food. I’ve tried to be nice to them ever since I read Richard Wright’s expanded version of Black Boy where he talks about working in a restaurant and watching the Swedish cook spit into the soup. As a black man, Wright knew that if he said anything about it, he’d get fired instead of the cook. Anyway, whether or not I loved the food, I’ll probably have to go back to eat at Half Moon Bay a few times though with my wallet. Once in a while, I'm reminded that restaurants don't just serve food.

In the meantime, I’m trying to remember if I’ve done any nice things for strangers in the last couple days, weeks, um er months. God, this is really embarrassing :{.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Abu Zubaydah and Waterboarding

Waterboarding’s been back in the news this week because the CIA revealed that it videotaped some of its “extreme” interrogation techniques then destroyed the videotapes two years later. Leave it to ABC to come forward with a former CIA officer who confirms that they did waterboard (essentially convincing suspects they will drown until they mentally break down), but that it also produced useful information. I went to watch the video then noticed that the name of the suspect was Zubaydah, one of at least three different men who were killed or captured and identified as Al Qaeda’s number three in command. The CIA officer, Kiriakou, insists that Zubaydah, once tortured, gave up critical information.

Ron Suskind’s book, The One Percent Doctrine, strongly suggests otherwise. Suskind portrays Abu Zubaydah role with Al Qaeda as more logistical than strategic. He also claimed that Zubaydah suffered from a combination of head injuries and mental illness. The President has insisted that Zubaydah was a major capture who helped lead American intellegence to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the chief planner of 9/11.

I strongly recommend a look at Suskind’s book or at least the wikipedia article on the controversy. Why’s it matter? The CIA might not have destroyed the tape to hide the fact that they waterboarded Zubaydah, that’s something that no one really debates. The tapes might have been destroyed because they would tell the real story of the agency torturing a mentally ill man who possibly gave up information of only limited value and significance. In that light this “non-revelation” through ABC is especially interesting. If you watch it closely, it’s really being used to support the argument that torture can be an effective interrogation technique.

My question is simple. Now that the tapes have been destroyed, isn’t it interesting that we can’t make any kind of judgment about that now?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

My Life as a Pet Store

A few weeks ago our female tabby, Lucy stopped coming by to be fed on the front porch. My wife was upset. She sent me out between dinner and bedtime to check the neighborhood for the missing cat (we have three who get fed on the porch and one who lives in the house. One of the visiting cats doesn’t belong to us, he just likes to eat on our porch) It went on for about four days. One morning, I went out at seven to check the open field behind our house just to impress my wife with my devotion to the cats. To be honest, we’ve had so many cats I don’t always know their names.

On the fourth morning, my wife came into the bedroom and excitedly announced that Lucy had reappeared limping across our backyard. "Lucy's back, Lucy's back" she squealed, which may have been the most excited sound to come out of our bedroom in a couple weeks.

The cat was generally well, but something had clearly happened to her right rear leg. Mrs. Chancelucky got Lucy to the vets and after an overnight stay and a few anxious phone calls we learned that it was just a broken leg. We never got to discuss with the vet how the cat might have broken her leg. The bill, however, was surprisingly reasonable, something like $275, though my wife wouldn’t necessarily tell me if there were surcharges on top of that for various other cat saving services.

Lucy returned to the house with a green-covered cast on her leg. The vet put a heart decal just above what would be the knee. Do cats have knees? One thing I learned from this is that quadrapeds, a least cats, tend to walk around with their appendages more or less coiled. The cast had to be set so that Lucy’s leg was completely straight, in order for the fracture to heal properly. This means that the broken leg is about six inches longer than her three other legs. When she walks across the tile in the entryway, she makes sort of a clicking sound. For some reason, it makes me think of that dog in Something about Mary.

Amazingly, her mobility remains quite remarkable. A day after she got home, Lucy decided to hide underneath the couch. That little piece of fabric that covers the bottom of the frame got compromised by one of our kittens a few years ago. Lucy located it and parked herself more or less inside the body of our living room sofa. I’m not at all sure, how a three-legged cat maneuvered into such a tight space. There’s maybe four inches of clearance underneath our couch. Mrs. Chancelucky made me search the neighborhood again until we figured out where the cat had gone.

In the meantime, the cat has since jumped up on the bookshelves, on top of my digital piano, on and off our bed, and onto various counters? How the heck do you do that with a giant cast on your hind leg? Animals are rather remarkable athletes and I suspect if they had an interspecies Olympics, cats would do rather well except maybe in the water sports.

It’s now been a couple weeks and Lucy spends most of the day when we humans are out lying on top of our bed on a towel with a pink stuffed animal locked in our bedroom. My wife fears that the kitten will try to play with Lucy during the day and encourage her into one jump too many and risk breaking the leg again.

This means that the litter box has returned to the bathroom adjoining our bedroom. I don’t like them. For one, it’s really disconcerting to go the bathroom and find that the cat has had the same idea at the same time. One time I caught the kitten exploring the top of the toilet seat and seriously considered getting him back by using the litter box, but thought better of it. My wife, for some odd reason, doesn’t find that sort of thing funny at all. The other problem is that there’s always cat litter all over our bathroom floor now. It does seem like a good substitute for a carpet. It absorbs all the smells, you don’t have to vacuum, and it’s really warm for bare feet in the morning and late at night. I suppose the downside would be if the cats hang out in the house and turn your living room cat litter floor coverings into a giant litter box. Apparently, it’s also a big problem for backyard beach volleyball setups.

When we’re home, Lucy has to stay in a dog kennel (carrier) in the living room, more or less cat prison. Mrs. Chancelucky isn’t mean, she was told to do this by the vet. The kitten is on the rambunctious side. We also have the 4 gig idog who still spends time in the house. Actually, the vet first told us to take a baby crib and turn it upside down with the cat inside. We had a folding Graco baby crib from when our seventeen year old daughter didn’t walk. Lucy quickly figured out how to climb out of the thing even with a broken leg in a green cast.

The thing that’s mean and I don’t mean Mitt Romney mean is that the kennel is right next to the scratching post. After her captivity, Lucy does like to hit the scratching post before heading off to the bedroom, but while she’s inside the kitten does seem to like to come by and show off on the scratching post for her literally captive audience. In the meantime, I feel like we live inside a Petco store.

The good news is that one of these days, Lucy will get her cast removed and she can go back to her regular life. Actually, I have some qualms about this. We were walking the dog not long after Lucy reappeared and I spotted another neighborhood cat who clearly had broken a hind leg just like Lucy. Is there some crazed dog, raccoon, mythical creature who terrorizes cats? Perhaps Lucy was caught in some terrorist cat sweep and information was forced out of her by amoral information officers? Possibly, worst of all, it did cross my mind that there’s some sick human wandering our neighborhood. I think I’ve shared the story about our crazy neighbor who kidnapped our dog and tried to hold her for three thousand dollars ransom. We also have a neighbor girl (now a teenager) who kidnapped one of our cats and lied about it. On the other hand or is it paw, Lucy may have simply fallen out of a tree near the creek. I have this funny feeling that Lucy won’t go back to her regular life and may get transformed into an indoor cat though without the kennel in the living room.

For some reason, despite the impact it’s had on our household, it felt terribly flattering that Lucy did whatever she did to get back home that morning. It’s odd how species can’t exactly talk to one another, but every now and then something that looks a lot like trust appears anyway.

Chancelucky animal stories


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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

National Intelligence Estimate 2007

That darn National Intelligence Estimate. This time it says that the Iranian nuclear weapons program ended in 2003.

For the last year, the White House has been warning us that Iran is on the verge of building nuclear weapons and that they must be stopped by any means necessary. The Administration has had the basic conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate since August 2007 at the latest. During that time, the administration’s behaved as if the declassified version of the NIE was going to say exactly the opposite. Somehow it hasn’t mattered that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and that it’s semi-president for life has been jailing opposition leaders or that North Korea and perhaps even more critically Israel already appear to have bombs. Ever since, Iraq was rescued into chaos, they’ve wanted to give the impression that if only we could do to Tehran what we did to Baghdad, all our problems would be solved.

The President in particular likes to stress the danger by saying as he did on October 17, 2007 “People "interested in avoiding World War III" should be working to prevent Iran from having the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.”

This is the kind of nuanced statement that often goes uncommented upon. First, it seems that no one remembers the story some thirty years ago that a student at Princeton designed a nuclear weapon for his master’s thesis. Princeton’s a fine school, but the truth is that virtually any advanced physics student has the knowledge necessary to design a nuclear weapon. There are probably several dozen engineers and scientists in Iran who already know how to do it. I wouldn’t say it’s simple, but it’s not “rocket science” :}.

Second, no one seems to be paying attention to what the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate actually said. If you look on the last page of the public portion of the 2007 NIE, you’ll find a graph that notes the differences between the 2005-2007 versions. The second box on the left says that in 2005 the NIE projected that Iran could realistically acquire a nuclear weapon by the middle of the next decade. That’s six to ten years. Consider the fact that the Soviets started more or less from scratch after World War 2 and had a working bomb early in the 1950’s. Basically, if a big enough country sets its collective mind to it, you can build a bomb in about ten years or less from nothing. So, the 2005 report may have been really saying that Iran wanted to, but they honestly weren't far along at all. 2007's actually not that different.

The main difference between 2005 and 2007 is that the NIE two years ago believed (reading the thing is like reading a weather report. Everything’s measured in likelihoods) that the Iranians were “trying” to build a bomb. The 2007 version believes that it’s highly likely that they stopped back in 2003. In the meantime, our administration has been insisting that the Iranians were accelerating their program, a fact which virtually every other intelligence agency in the world had refuted.

President Bush this morning insisted that it makes no difference, because Iran is still dangerous and that the NIE still says that the Iranians are interested in building a bomb. He just failed to mention that they haven’t been pursuing it actively for the last four years. And this from a a man who once said, “One reason I like to highlight reading is, reading is the beginnings of the ability to be a good student.”

It’s nice that the Administration is so concerned about the future. It’s odd that they’ve never shown similar foresight when it comes to either global warming or fuel standards. The talk is that the President wants to veto the most recent attempt to require American car makers to improve fuel economy by forty percent by 2020. Not all weapons of mass destruction explode.

Condi's take on the NIE


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Beyond Ginger vs. Mary Ann

I’m afraid my interest in reality tv is beginning to show some long term negative side effects. Someone sent me this link for’s 50 Sexiest women from television history and it likely brought out my inner stalker-fanboy self. Probably because I was a lonely teenager, I immediately began thinking about all the women who got left off the list. I also remember this sort of thing was a frequent topic of conversation for college guys who couldn’t find girlfriends. We never did figure out that doing this sort of thing was exactly what scared girls away from us. Most of my alternative list comes from the sixties and seventies which has something to do with the fact that we didn’t have alternative media for fantasies of that sort back then. Anyway, any list that has Pamela Anderson at the top and Buffy way back at 50 has to be suspect enough to demand some alternatives.

There are some left off the AOL list from the “modern era” like Mischa Barton from the OC and Brooke Burke. There were also some like Lucy Liu and Jane Kozlowski from Ally McBeal who both moved the bar in their way for tv women’s looks. Still my alternatives are mostly sixties to early eighties. Also this is weird but I want to be clear that my list of “should have been includeds” isn’t based on my personal taste. It’s really more about giving some tv actress/models their rightful place in the pop culture libido. I don’t remember the fifties, so I didn’t venture into Dagmar etc. If it were my taste, I’d include Pam Dawber from Mork and Mindy and Mel Harris from Thirty Something, neither of whom looks like Mrs. Chancelucky (if you must know Mrs. Chancelucky looks vaguely like Peggy Lipton, hence the “Lucky”. I look like Clarence Williams Jr. :) if he were Asian, didn't have an afro, etc.) Also, I'm not sure what to do about shows that had minimal cultural impact like Donna Dixon (Mrs. Dan Ackroyd) from Bosom Buddies which no one would remember except that it was Tom Hanks's big break or Michelle Pfeiffer on Delta House.

1) Vanna White maybe sexy is the wrong word, but she was unquestionably a cultural icon even though she is mostly known for turning over letters. (honorable mention for Carol Merrill of Let’s Make a Deal)

2) Angie Dickinson On Policewoman she always seemed to be posing as a hooker who needed to be rescued. Angie Dickinson also comes with a terrific amount of lore that includes JFK, Burt Bacharach, and there's an unconfirmed story that she dated (shagged) Austin Powers.

3) Mary Tyler Moore People forget that her legs were featured on Richard Diamond Private Eye before America ever saw her in stretch pants on Dick Van Dyke. Of course, her very serious turn in Ordinary People wrecked all that.

4) Sela Ward I’m not sure how they missed the only reason to watch Sisters.

5) Meredith Baxter Birney tv's prototype hot mom with slightly goofy looking tv husband (think about it, most tv writers are slightly goofy looking guys). Show also had Geena Davis, Courtney Cox (would have put ahead of Jennifer Aniston on the AOL list), and Tracy Pollard. I also ran into Tina Yothers outside a Debbie Gibson concert in New York City once. (I'm just mentioning it for trivia's sake. No, I didn't go to the Debbie Gibson concert)

6) Valerie Bertinelli amazingly strong object of guys’ junior high crushes in the seventies. (there's a similar thing with Danica Mackellar from Wonder Years for the eighties which becomes Katie Holmes in the nineties. May have been preceded by Susan Dey (later LA Law) in the sixties) as cute, safe, girl next door types. All darker-haired alternatives to Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

7) Gunilla Knudson known for a single Noxzema commercial, but unquestionably a cultural phenomenon before Farah Fawcett got the job. (I also remember those Edie Adams tiparillo commercials and then later learned that she’d been married to Ernie Kovacs. Used to be that instead of trying to join rock bands, unstudly looking guys would try to make like comedians to impress women. I think Ernie Kovacs may have had something to do with that)

7) Carolyn Jones Addams Family over Pat Priest Munsters (a pre-goth's Goth) I have no idea about those rumors about Lisa Loring.

8) All the women harassed by Bob Barker on the Price is Right. I think that Diane Parkinson was the most famous, but Price is Right was the template for Deal or No Deal.

9) Why did anyone watch Petticoat Junction, it probably wasn't for Uncle Joe who didn't seem related to anyone and what kind of hotel was the Shady Rest really? That show was on for years and even survived having Lassie’s mother take over the hotel. I think having a woman doctor on premises was a good idea given what was probably happening. Come on, the town was called "Hooterville".

10) Barbara Feldon Agent 99. The AOL people went classy with Diana Rigg, but Agent 99 seemed more attainable.

11) Lindsay Wagner the Bionic Woman actually stayed on the air longer than the Bionic Man I think.

12) Bea Arthur (a test to see if anyone actually reads this)

13) In terms of tv, it's difficult to understimate the impact of Jackie Kennedy. Her tour of the White House was a huge ratings hit in its time and I don't think it was just because everyone wanted to see the White House china. I don’t like to think about what JFK was doing in the back bedrooms when Jackie was busy filming the special. (Fawn Hall and Maureen Dean were very popular during the Watergate scandal hearings)

14) Diahann Carroll, television’s first attempt to give a woman of color crossover sex appeal. OJ Wagedorn hung out at Corey’s house for a reason.

15) Veronica Hamel Hill St. Blues She even addressed the national convention of the ABA one year.

16) Joey Heatherton who is largely known for being on Dean Martin’s summer replacement series and having a featured role in any number of Bob Hope televised specials for our overseas military.

17) Jan Smithers WKRP is sort of the Mary Ann of the seventies, a bit of television reverse psychology also used with Kate Jackson (the smart Charlie's Angel) and Joyce Dewitt (Three's Company) You have no idea how many times some guy would confess over Saturday night pizza like it was some deep revelation, "You know actually I think xxxx is far more attractive."

18) Wilma Flinstone and Betty Rubble. A serious alternative to Ginger vs. Mary Ann. Jessica Rabbit had nothing on them.

Wow, I notice how white and young the list is, because most of it is sixties and seventies television. TV was awfully segregated back then. You have to go to Denise Nicholas who was never allowed to be sexy on 227. Also when they cast Asian women, like Ming Na, Lucy Liu, and Rosalind Chao, it’s interesting that they always match them with much less attractive white guys. I can’t even begin to explain Charo. Also, I think Joan Collins and Linda Evans broke ground for middle-aged women with Dynasty as did Barbara Babcock (Grace Gardner) Hill St. Blues.

If there's any interest in this thing, I may even try a guys list, even at the risk of seeming well, you know.


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