Saturday, December 20, 2008

Penn State repeats as NCAA women's volleyball champions

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Megan Hodge had 16 kills and Penn State ended its perfect season with a second straight NCAA volleyball championship, sweeping Stanford 25-20, 26-24, 25-23 on Saturday night.

Penn State celebrates their 3-0 win over Stanford to win the 2008 NCAA national volleyball championship, Saturday, Dec 20, 2008, in Omaha, Neb.
(AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Penn State (38-0) won its NCAA-record 64th straight match since a September 2007 loss to Stanford.

Stanford (31-4), playing in the championship match for a record 14th time, became the first team to lose in the final three years in a row.

Penn State spotted Stanford leads of 5-1, 13-8 and 16-12 before scoring 13 of the final 17 points of the first set, and the Nittany Lions never trailed in the second and third.

The second set was interrupted twice while officials straightened out a discrepancy between the official scorekeeper and referee.

The Nittany Lions won an NCAA-record 111 straight sets before Nebraska pushed them to five sets in Thursday's semifinals.

The previous four matches between Penn State and Stanford had gone five sets. But the Nittany Lions, with six All-Americans in the lineup, were able to sweep Stanford this time even though they didn't play their best. Penn State hit just .177 for the match; Stanford hit .142.

Hodge, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter, was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. She took over in the third set, trading swings with Stanford's Alix Klineman in the late going and finishing the set with nine kills.

Stanford's Foluke Akinradewo (16) takes a shot in front of Penn State's Megan Hodge (11) and Christa Harmotto (3) in the first set of the NCAA Chamionship volleyball match in Omaha, Neb on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008.
(AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

National player of the year Nicole Fawcett had 10 kills, but she hit just .029, and Blair Brown added nine for the Lions.

The national title is Penn State's third, with the other coming in 1999.

Klineman led Stanford with 15 kills and Cynthia Barboza added 11 kills and 15 digs.

Penn State setter Alisha Glass joined Fawcett and Hodge on the all-tournament team. Klineman and Barboza were all-tourney picks for Stanford, as were Jordan Larson of Nebraska and Destinee Hooker of Texas.


Omaha World-Herald Photo Gallery:

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - The Wrestler

Film Reviews: The Wrestler

Ring Cycles

by Anthony Lane
The New Yorker
December 15, 2008

Mickey Rourke as Randy (the Ram) Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s movie.

For some years, Mickey Rourke was just about my favorite movie star. This was not an easy stance to take. The body of the man’s work was dismayingly thin, and the body of good work, from “Rumble Fish” onward, could be counted on the knuckles of one fist. As for the body of the man, it swelled from taut and slender to something so bulbous and spongiform that those of us who had thrilled to Boogie, his cocky romancer in “Diner,” could only wince and look away. Yet I insist: there was a time when Rourke demanded to be looked at, catching and holding your eye no less grippingly than the young De Niro. Sweetness and menace were folded up in him—in the way that he angled himself at the world, as if both sure of his place within it and, deeper down, afraid that it might still spit him out. Hence the voice: never a bellow or a screech, nor yet a Brando-haunted mumble, but the soft croon of a conspirator; remember him as the arsonist for hire in “Body Heat,” forcing his employers to lean in close lest they miss his wicked meaning. That whisper of secrecy remained in Stanley White, with his stiff gray hair, his long coat, and his vows of judicial vengeance. Stanley was the cop whom Rourke played in “Year of the Dragon,” and everything about the project shouted overkill: script by Oliver Stone, direction by Michael Cimino, and a racial attitude that was designed to rile. But there was Rourke, holding steady at the core of the storm.

And now the voice is back. In “The Wrestler,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, Rourke is Robin Ramzinski, known to his admirers as Randy (the Ram) Robinson. The body is now a glistening mound of bruised and damaged goods, and the quiff of Stanley White has been replaced by a mop of ropy blond extensions that you could wipe the floor with. Twenty years ago, as the opening credits show, Randy was a star on the wrestling circuit, but the film follows him as he burns away. He lives in a trailer in New Jersey, except that, right now, he doesn’t; the landlord has locked him out for not paying the rent. Randy joshes with the local kids, and plays Nintendo with one of them—“a really old game,” according to the boy, who is used to Call of Duty. Such is modern senescence: to age as quickly as a video game. Randy still wrestles, but the cash is petty, and he boosts his income by heaving boxes at a supermarket. He has a friend, a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), but she has no plans to be his girlfriend. Then, there is Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), his daughter, although they haven’t met in years. When they do hook up, things improve—too fast, it turns out, as if reconciliation were more of a dream than a practical goal. They book a dinner, but Randy gets drunk, misses the date, and loses her once more. “An old, broken-down piece of meat,” he calls himself. “I’m alone, and I deserve to be alone.”

To some extent, as that speech suggests, “The Wrestler” is as simple as its title. The pathos of personal ruin is an established trope, and the trick, as demonstrated by John Huston in “Fat City” and by Martin Scorsese in “Raging Bull,” is to stop it from sliding into the sentimental. Aronofsky doesn’t always succeed in this, and there are lines in Robert D. Siegel’s script that wave their symbolic purpose in the audience’s face: “It’s your heart—you need to start taking better care of it.” So says a hospital medic, when Randy is admitted, and undergoes bypass surgery, after collapsing in the wake of a bout. It’s O.K., Doc, we get the point. But the movie, like its hero, manages to yank itself back into shape, and that, it strikes me, is mostly due to Rourke. When Randy goes home after the operation, and peels off his bandage, the camera zooms in to inspect the scar on his chest, whereas what really pinches our attention is his harmless habits: the mild, uncomplaining manner in which he pops in a hearing aid or adjusts his reading spectacles. He may be one of the last people in movies to use a pay phone. This fellow is mutton dressed as Ram, and he knows it, and, if he earns the caress of our pity, that is precisely because he never stoops to beg for it.

Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Mickey Rourke with Darren Aronofsky, the director.

There is no denying the brutality of “The Wrestler,” and some of the scenes in the ring, especially those which provoke the cardiac arrest, are hard to watch. The movie comes off as inoffensive, however, since, unusually for these times, it trades in violence cleansed of ill will. The wrestlers are a club, greeting one another as brothers in arms, or in headlocks; one of them cheerfully sells Randy almost a thousand dollars’ worth of steroids and other drugs, and, in place of the hypocritical masking that bedevils major sports, there is a peculiar honesty, almost a decorum, running beneath the overcooked beefcake and the staged aggression of the fights. “What do you want to do tonight?” one opponent asks Randy, as if inviting him to the theatre, before proposing that he enliven that evening’s bout by puncturing his rival with a staple gun. You could call them cardboard characters, pierced and flattened for the delight of the crowd, but Aronofsky cast the minor roles with real wrestlers, and you believe in every scourging of the flesh.

For all that, the best sequence in the film, even more likely to lodge in your mind than the soaring sadness of the climax, takes place not on the wrestlers’ canvas, with its carpet of blood and broken glass, but at the deli counter of the supermarket. Here Randy, needing the money, dons a protective hairnet and doles out pasta salad. He even pins on a name tag that says “Robin,” randiness being too rich for this clientele. The dent to his pride is profound, more wounding than any professional blow to the head, and the scene closes in agony, as he takes out his frustration on a meat slicer. But here’s the thing: while the job lasts, he’s pretty good at it, bringing a brief shaft of pleasure to the customers, and suffering any taunts that come his way. What Rourke offers us, in short, is not just a comeback performance but something much rarer: a rounded, raddled portrait of a good man. Suddenly, there it is again—the charm, the anxious modesty, the never-distant hint of wrath, the teen-age smiles, and all the other virtues of a winner. No wonder people warmed to Randy Robinson twenty years ago. I felt the same about Mickey Rourke, and I still do.




By Kyle Smith
New York Post
December 17, 2008

WHEN "The Wrestler" calls himself "a broken-down piece of meat," he is being too generous. He's what's left of an '80s pro-wrestling icon - markdown Rapunzel hair, a face like a tenderized orange, a voice box like a muffler being dragged down the turnpike. He lives in a trailer park in New Jersey, and not one of the nicer ones. He is played, with crumpled glory, by the ghost of Mickey Rourke.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (ne Robin Ramzinsky) has a tale of woe as pumped with cliche as the film's hero is with steroids. His girl is a stripper (Marisa Tomei), his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) hates him, his home is a trailer, his ride a serial killer's van. He's got a bum ticker. What else? Oh, he wants to pull it all together for a big rematch with his arch rival.

Yet some voodoo of craftsmanship and purity - I can't decide whether it's in Robert Siegel's original script or Darren Aronofsky's direction - makes "The Wrestler" as irresistible as a headlock. It's all been done a thousand times, but seldom done well. Aronofsky, previously an imagineer of aggressively weird pictures such as "Pi" and "The Fountain," proves a master of trailer-park realism - scuffed, funny and human.

For a movie whose element is lap dances at "Cheeques" and guys named "Mr. Magnificent" and "the Funky Samoans," "The Wrestler" is as precise with its details as a lyric poem. The fighting is brief but crucial. There are only about 12 minutes of ring action, and as shoddy as it is, it may make you see these turnbuckle clowns in a different light. How "fake" will your bruises be after you fall backwards off an 8-foot ladder onto a card table covered with barbed wire? When was the last time your pectoral muscles sustained an insult by staple gun? Compared to these guys, boxers are as soft as Camembert.

What the movie is really about is its people, the kind of citizens who affix posters of singing groups to their walls (AC/DC for Randy; Vampire Weekend for his daughter). It's about the antediluvian video game that stars (and is still played by) the Ram, and the spectators (meaty guys in football jerseys and gold chokers, a fan with an artificial leg who begs Randy to club an opponent with it) who still attend Randy's bouts. A slut in an animal-print jersey at a bar in Rahway wants to know if Randy likes to party - "like, a fireman party" - and the meaning turns out to be perfectly clear, if hilarious.

Randy is human hair metal, and hearing "Round and Round" in a bar with a pretty girl is as close to feeling good as he'll ever get, a flash of life "before that Cobain p - - - y had to come along." Another high point is a bit of random joy that comes when Randy accepts a job in a deli. Being a showman, he works the crowd: "Whatcha havin', good-lookin'?" he says to a little mole man whom he commands to drop back to catch a touchdown pass of egg salad.

Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler"

I'd call this Rourke's Oscar scene, except the whole movie is his Oscar scene. He dances with his daughter in a deserted ballroom by the boardwalk, he winces as he slices open his own forehead in a fight, he sits at a folding table in a nearly empty room trying to sell Polaroids of himself posing with fans for eight bucks.

Rourke is a landfill of a man, as brilliantly dismal as the Bruce Springsteen song (sure to win an Oscar) that closes the film. You can't cry because he's too funny, and you can't laugh because he's too tragic. As for Tomei, her street sweetness still purrs like a Trans Am, but there is a problem with her playing a fading stripper: her body. She shows us all but about three square centimeters of it, and it's in mint condition.

Thanks in part to a cleverly ambiguous ending that allows you to walk away in whatever mood you like, "The Wrestler" offers something to pretty much everyone in the audience. Much like "The Sopranos," it creates a world that might make you feel utterly at home or exhilarated by strange horrors. Maybe both.


Wins the belt.

Running time: 107 minutes.

Rated R (wrestling violence, nudity, drug abuse, profanity).

At the Lincoln Plaza, the Sunshine.

Hard Knocks, Both Given and Gotten

The New York Times
Published: December 17, 2008

This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.

Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Neither bird nor plane, Mickey Rourke’s character is a choreographed pro wrestler who offers more entertainment than sport.

Everyone knows professional wrestling is fake. Everyone knows the same about movies. In both cases the eager spectators simultaneously admire the artifice and pretend it isn’t there, allowing themselves to believe that those people down in the ring or up on the screen are truly inflicting pain on one another.

“The Wrestler,” Darren Aronofsky’s fourth feature (and winner of the top prize at the Venice Film Festival this year), cannily exploits this parallel and at the same time shows that, in both movies and wrestling, the line between reality and play-acting may be less clear than we assume. Shooting his battered hero mainly in trudging, hand-held tracking shots, Mr. Aronofsky, whose earlier movies include the brain-teasing “Pi” and the swooning, fantastical, unwatchable “Fountain,” here makes a convincing show of brute realism.

The supermarkets, trailer parks, V.F.W. halls and run-down amphitheaters of New Jersey are convincingly drab, and the grain of the celluloid carries a sour and salty aura of weariness and defeat. But the story that emerges is disarmingly sweet, indeed at times downright saccharine — a familiar parable of squandered hopes and second chances. It’s a bit phony, perhaps, but to refuse to embrace the movie’s deep hokiness would be to cheat yourself of some of the profound pleasure it offers.

Randy (the Ram) Robinson, played with sly, hulking grace by Mickey Rourke, is anything but a phony, in spite of the fact that nothing about him is quite genuine. His real name, which he can’t stand to hear, is Robin Ramsinski; his muscles are puffed up with steroids, and it’s highly doubtful that his flowing mane is naturally blond. But this careful fakery is, to some extent, what certifies Randy as the real thing, an authentic, passionate, natural performer. The description fits Mr. Rourke as well.

Back in the 1980s, both the real actor and the fictional wrestler were superstars. (A monologue eulogizing that decade and cursing the one that followed has an obvious and piquant double meaning; that the speech is addressed to the character played by Marisa Tomei, whose career hit some snags of its own in the later ’90s, makes it all the more touching.)

Mr. Rourke was a tenderhearted tough guy with a crooked smile and a gentleness that came through even tough-guy poses and bad movies. Randy, meanwhile, was a giant in the world of pro wrestling, inspiring action figures and video games and plying his brutal trade in top arenas like Madison Square Garden.

Now, 20 years later, he — Randy, that is — has been relegated to shabbier halls. He has trouble making the rent on his trailer, and his health is failing. His professionalism, however, is undiminished, and the most moving and persuasive scenes in “The Wrestler” show the Ram backstage with the men who are his comrades and rivals, working out the finer points of their routines with a warmth and respect completely at odds with the viciousness they display in the ring.

Evan Rachel Wood and Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler"

With a younger wrestler, Randy is warm and avuncular, praising the kid’s ability and urging him to stay in the game. Others, many of them played by active or retired real-life wrestlers, he refers to without affectation as “Brother.”

While the fights are choreographed, the pain and the blood are frequently real. We are privy to tricks of the trade, like the tiny bit of razor blade that Randy uses to open a cut on his face in the middle of a bout. And we witness a horrifying match involving broken glass, barbed wire and a staple gun, all of it agreed upon by the combatants.

We also understand that every fight is a miniature morality play. At one point Randy and an adversary sit in chairs, trading slaps across the face. When the designated bad guy lands a blow, the crowd boos; when he’s on the receiving end, it cheers. The basic rule is laid out succinctly by an old nemesis of Randy’s: “I’m the heel, and you’re the face.”

About that face. Mr. Aronofsky takes his time showing it, trailing behind Mr. Rourke and allowing us sidelong glances for the first few minutes of the film, before disclosing the battered, lumpy yet still strangely beautiful wreck of what we remember from “Diner” or “The Pope of Greenwich Village.” Damaged, tired, ill used as he may be — or maybe not! movies aren’t real! — Mr. Rourke is still, in the wrestling sense of the word, the face, the magnetic pole of our interest, the guy we’re rooting for.

But Randy is also, outside the ring, something of a heel. He is estranged from his daughter, Stephanie, (Evan Rachel Wood), whose anger when he tries to reconcile suggests some major mess-ups in the past. He also has a crush on a stripper known as Cassidy (Ms. Tomei), whose lap dances and friendly chitchat he interprets as signs of reciprocated interest.

The news that Ms. Tomei plays a stripper may make you roll your eyes — it may, for that matter, make them pop out of your head — but her job is more than an excuse to get exposed flesh other than Mr. Rourke’s up on the screen. Randy and Cassidy (it’s not her real name, either) are both performers, both expert at faking something the customers desperately want to believe is real. The wrestlers don’t really hate one another, and the stripper doesn’t really love you.

The fact that Randy doesn’t quite get that when it comes to Cassidy — and yet senses that they do something in common — is part of his appeal. He’s not that smart, really, but he has a genuine gift. And parts of “The Wrestler,” which was written by Robert D. Siegel, are dumb in their own way, or rather in the way that so many movies are. The Randy-Stephanie subplot is unpersuasive, and the last few twists of the Randy-Cassidy romance verge on the preposterous. But like its hero, the movie has a blunt, exuberant honesty, pulling off even its false moves with conviction and flair.

“The Wrestler” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has fake bloodshed and real nudity.


Opens on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky; written by Robert D. Siegel; director of photography, Maryse Alberti; edited by Andrew Weisblum; music by Clint Mansell; production designer, Tim Grimes; produced by Mr. Aronofsky and Scott Franklin; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

WITH: Mickey Rourke (Randy), Marisa Tomei (Cassidy) and Evan Rachel Wood (Stephanie).

Who Paid for Ellison's Hajj?

Who paid for Ellison's Hajj?
December 19, 2008
Posted by Scott Johnson at 5:51 AM

John Hinderaker wrote about the Star Tribune's puff piece by Mitch Anderson earlier this week on the pilgrimage of Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison to Mecca for the Muslim Hajj. The brief piece relied heavily on comments by Ellison spoksman Rick Jauert, who told Anderson "that Ellison paid for the journey himself." (Incidentally, the Star Tribune seems to have tinkered with the version of the story on which John commented)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, administers the House oath to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., during a re-enactment swearing-in ceremony, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007. Ellison’s wife Kim holds Thomas Jefferson’s Quran which was provided by the Library of Congress. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Today the Star Tribune devotes a second puff piece by Anderson to Ellison's Hajj The rationale for another piece on the same subject is obscure. Apparently adding weight to Ellison's greatness in the eyes of the Star Tribune, Anderson quotes Ellison: "This is just me trying to be the best person I can be."

Anderson buries the sole item of journalistic interest at the end of the article. Anderson reports: "[Ellison's] expenses were paid for by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota." Despite the fact that it was Anderson himself who previously quoted Ellison's spokesman asserting that the trip was on Ellison's own nickel, Anderson drops the subject there. As one can infer from my Standard piece "Louis Farrakhan's first congressman," this is typical of the paralysis to which the Star Tribune's coverage of Ellison has been subject.

Ellison's relationship with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota should be troubling. The MAS Minnesota stands at the center of many of the religiously inspired controversies that have roiled the Twin Cities. It was the MAS Minnesota's own fatwa, for example, that prompted Muslim taxi drivers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to refuse to transport passengers carrying liquor or accompanied by guide dogs. It is the MAS Minnesota that houses the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, the Muslim charter school operating in violation of the First Amendment. (Both of these stories were broken by my friend Katherine Kersten in her discontinued Star Tribune column.)

The Muslim American Society that is the parent of MAS Minnesota is a story in itself. The MAS was founded as the American offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is the radical Islamist organization that originated in Egypt that has put down roots in Europe and elsewhere. See Lorenz Vidino's excellent Middle East Quaterly essay on the MAS's efforts to Islamize Europe and Daniel Pipes's discussion of the MAS's American efforts.

Pipes also comments on the Muslim American Society's goals here and points out Daveed Gartenstein-Ross's important Standard column that looks at the Minnesota MAS chapter's stated goals. Gartenstein-Ross further explored the MAS's deep ties to radical Islam in a column for the Dallas Morning News.

The Muslim Brotherhood was also at the heart of the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas. The Holy Land Foundation was the chief American fundraiser for Hamas. Both the Holy Land Foundation and Hamas were created by the Muslim Brotherhood. See the Dallas Morning News article by Jason Trahan and Tanya Eiserer on the Holy Land Foundation verdicts last month.

Joe Kaufman documents the hate and support for Islamist terrorism spewed by the MAS Minnesota. Kaufman likens Ellison to other politicians such as Robert Byrd who have been involved with hate groups. Byrd was of course once an officer in the Ku Klux Klan.

Kaufman notes that unlike Byrd's, however, Ellison's associations continue while he remains in office. Ellison is perhaps more akin to such former House members as Vito Marcantonio, who became a friend of the Communist Party in Congress as a member of the American Labor Party.

Keith Ellison embodies the American left's weird alliance with radical Islam. How Ellison reconciles his Islamic faith with the Democratic Party's devout belief in homosexual rights, leftist feminism, abortion rights and every other element of the party's most radical agenda is a subject that the Minnesota media have somehow left unexplored, along with several others raised by Mitch Anderson in his two Star Tribune puff pieces on Ellison's Hajj.

We're in the fast lane to Bailoutistan

Orange County Register
Friday, December 19, 2008

"See the USA in your Chevrolet!" trilled Dinah Shore week after week on TV.
Can you still see the USA in your Chevrolet? Through a windscreen darkly.

General Motors now has a market valuation about a third of Bed, Bath & Beyond, and no one says your Swash 700 Elongated Biscuit Toilet Seat Bidet is too big to fail. GM has a market capitalization of about $2.4 billion. For purposes of comparison, Toyota's market cap is $100 billion and change (the change being bigger than the whole of GM). General Motors, like the other two geezers of the Old Three, is a vast retirement home with a small money-losing auto subsidiary. The UAW is AARP in an Edsel: It has three times as many retirees and widows as "workers" (I use the term loosely). GM has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to a million people.

How do you make that math add up? Not by selling cars: Honda and Nissan make a pretax operating profit per vehicle of around $1,600; Ford, Chrysler and GM make a loss of $500 to $1,500. That's to say, they lose money on every vehicle they sell. Like Henry Ford said, you can get it in any color as long as it's red.

In the 20th century, most advanced nations made automobiles but only America made them mythic: "Drive the USA in your Chevrolet!" sang Dinah. "America's the greatest land of all!" America had road movies. With car chases. Thelma and Louise drove their vehicle off the cliff and, unlike the Old Three, they didn't demand American taxpayers come along for the ride. But, if you didn't want to hit the open road, you could just hang around, being cool. In Chuck Berry's immortal quatrain:

"Riding along in my automobile

My baby beside me at the wheel

Cruising and playing the radio

With No Particular Place To Go."

Not if you were a European teen. Cruising was an American activity. A Saturday night out for a Brit meant hanging around at a rain-streaked bus shelter hoping the night service would show up. Even if you had a particular place to go, you had no means of getting there.

So many areas of endeavor that once embodied the youth and energy of this great land are now old and sclerotic. I include, naturally, my own industry. I loved the American newsrooms you saw in movies like "The Front Page," full of hard-boiled, hard-livin' newspapermen. By the time I got there myself, there were no hard-boiled newspapermen, just bland, anemic newspaperpersons turning out politically correct snooze sheets of torpid portentousness. The owner of The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune recently filed for bankruptcy protection. The New York Times is mortgaging its office to fund debt repayment. The Detroit Free Press is cutting out home delivery except on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, thereby further depressing sales of delivery trucks in the Motor City.

The newspapers blame the Internet, just as Detroit blames Japan. But the Japanese have problems of their own. One day they'll get theirs. That's the beauty of capitalism. Nothing is forever. The big railroad barons smoking cigars and enjoying pheasant under glass in the dining car on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe thought Henry Ford was a schmuck. Who'd want to ride around in that thing? Next thing you know, everyone's getting their kicks on Route 66:

"You'll see Amarillo

Gallup, New Mexico

Flagstaff, Arizona

Don't forget Winona

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino."

Ah, California. The Golden State! To a penniless immigrant named Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was a land of plenty. Now Arnold is an immigrant of plenty in a penniless land. What's the motto on the license plates? "Ah'll be back …for more of your money!" In California you don't have to be an orange to have your pips squeezed. The Terminator makes Gray Davis look like Calvin Coolidge. Care to terminate a government program, Governor? Hey, great idea! We'll hire 200 people to do an impact study on terminating the Department of Impact Study Regulation and get back to you in a decade. And when Gov. Girlyman has run out of state taxpayers to fleece for his ever-more-bloated bureaucracy, he'll go to Washington to plead for a federal bailout of Cantaffordya.

California! The state that symbolizes the American Dream! If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere!

No, wait, that's New York. "This is the worst fiscal downturn since the Great Depression," announced New York Gov. Paterson. So what's he doing? Why, he's bringing in the biggest tax hike in New York history. If you can make it there, you'll be paying state tax on it, sales tax, municipal tax, a doubled beer tax, a tax on clothing, a tax on cab rides, an "iTunes tax" on downloads from the Internet, a tax on haircuts, 137 new tax hikes in all. Call Albany today and order your new package of tax forms, for just $199.99, plus 12 percent tax on tax forms and 4 percent tax-form application fee partially refundable upon payment of the 7.5 percent tax-filing tax. If you can make it there, you'll certainly have no difficulty making it in Tajikistan.

Hey, and who needs to make it there when you can just get appointed there? Gov. Paterson is said to be considering appointing Princess Caroline of Kennedy to Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat. After two and a third centuries of republican experiment, America has finally worked its way back to the House of Lords.

"Friends Say Kennedy Has Long Wanted Public Role," Anne Kornblut assured readers in an in-depth Washington Post tongue-bath. She hasn't "long wanted" it to the extent of, you know, running for dog catcher in Lackawanna and getting – what's the word? – "elected," but, if you have a spare Senate seat, she's graciously indicated that she'd be prepared to consider accepting it. As lady-in-waiting Anne Kornblut pointed out, Caroline is highly qualified, being "the author of several books." It's true! She's an experienced poetry editor. She edited "The Best-Loved Poems Of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis." Jackie Kennedy wrote poems? Of course! She wrote so many poems that some are better loved than others.

See the USA from your Chevrolet: An hereditary legislature, a media fawning its way into bankruptcy, its iconic coastal states driving out innovators and entrepreneurs, the arrival of the new Messiah heralded only by the leaden dirge of "We Three Kings Of Ol' Detroit Are/Seeking checks we traverse afar," and Route 66 looking ever more like a one-way dead-end street to Bailoutistan. Boy, I sure could use a poem by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis right now, even one of the lesser-loved ones.

"I feel like I lost my country," the Hudson Institute's Herbert London said the other day, wondering whatever happened to the land of opportunity and dynamism. But I'm more of an optimist. Maybe Princess Caroline will be appointed CEO of GM and all will be well. Or maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond will put wheels on the Swash 700 Elongated Biscuit Toilet Seat Bidet.

And on that cheery note let me wish you a very Hopey Changemas.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Byzantium: Treasures of a lost empire

From The Times of London
October 21, 2008

Crosses, frescoes, carvings and silks...the Royal Academy's new show has all the swagger of a blockbuster

By Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Icon with the Virgin Psychosostria, Thessaloniki or Ohrid from the middle of fourteenth century. Consists of egg tempera and gold on wood, with a silver gild revetment.

Has the Royal Academy set itself an impossible task? When you shut your eyes and imagine Byzantium, the dome of your skull is roofed with a million glittering mosaic pieces. Your mind is suffused by a shimmering golden light.

Can a museum show capture that vision? Can we discover its glories through a series of historical artifacts when what we really hoped for was the Hagia Sophia, the epitome of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul?

The visitor must bring as much to this new Royal Academy exhibition as the curators have done. And they have brought a lot, gathering together almost 350 objects, many of which are only very rarely loaned from the museum collections and monastic treasuries to which they belong. Several will never before have been seen in this country and will no doubt, in your lifetime, never come here again. These are the myriad pieces that, like mosaic fragments, must be carefully fitted together to form the glimmering visions of your imagination.

Together they must capture the story of a vast empire that, ruled from its fabled capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), encompassed at its most extensive a long belt of North Africa, Egypt, the Holy Land, Italy and Greece, large parts of the Balkans and the southern regions of Spain. They must capture a sense of its shifting fortunes as it waxed and waned, diminished by plague, ransacked by barbarians, besieged by Muslims or enlarged and enriched by plundering conquests. They must convey its colourful, turbulent and often sensational history as a succession of 90 emperors fought (often viciously) for power, as well as the richness and diversity of its artistic output as it subsumed myriad cultures into its melting pot. Lastly the artefacts must highlight the power and importance of its spiritual vision as, with the conversion of Constantine the Great to Christianity on his deathbed, the religion that he had so radically legalised in 313 spread.

This must be one of the most ambitious and complex shows that the Royal Academy has taken on. It does not flinch from its task. Covering the period from 330, when Constantine inaugurated his “new Rome” with sumptuous festivities and chariot races, to 1453, when the glittering capital of Christendom finally fell to the Ottoman Turks, it takes nothing less than the entire 1,100-year history of the Byzantine civilisation as its time span. And on top of that it asks us to wonder how it is that this period has been so unjustly neglected, why it is that we leap from the splendours of classical antiquity to Renaissance glories, barely noticing this era, which we dismiss as the “Dark Ages”, along the way - and not least when, as the curators are keen to suggest, so many of the foundations of our own modern civilisation were laid in this era.

Unknown artist, Incense burner in the shape of a church, 10th - 11th century. Photo: Procuratoria di San Marco/Cameraphoto Arte, Venice

The show, assembling an extraordinary jumble of treasures, from coins to cutlery to processional crosses, through fresco paintings, wood carvings and embroidered silks, to ivory diptychs, brooches, icons (such as this one of St Theodore Tero) and bracelets, evokes an intriguing sense of the sprawling diversity of this civilisation. It sweeps through its history following the broadest of courses, but helping us to make a bit more sense of it along the way by ushering us into thematically organised galleries. There are sections that look at iconoclasm, for instance, or domestic lifestyle or the luxuries of court.

Unless you are already an expert, dip into a history beforehand (I loved Judith Herrin's delightfully lively and manageably brief Byzantium), invest in the splendidly illustrated catalogue, or maybe (I didn't listen to it) use the audio tour, because the printed labels will tell you little. It is all the more irritating that they are in the display cases so that exquisitely detailed objects that require minute examination are so far away that you can't see them properly, especially when the lighting is so gloomy. The truth is, many objects can be seen only in the catalogue.

But keep your focus. Each of the objects can become a metonym for something far bigger. Look at the fantastically fine ivory carving of the Veroli casket, for instance, and see it as a legacy of the luxury of the imperial court, where the Byzantine emperor sat on a gold throne, flanked by golden lions that roared and golden birds that twittered in jewel-encrusted golden trees. Astoundingly beautiful illuminated manuscripts speak of an articulate, highly literate culture that built Christian teachings on to sound classical foundations. Coins evoke a strong economy that maintained a gold standard unchanged for almost a millennium. Fabulous jewellery serves as more than mere decoration. It creates a shimmering aura of power that establishes authority throughout an empire.

Sometimes you can almost hear the music of a society whose long banquets were enlivened by dances performed to organs operated by water power, whose church services were accompanied by choirs of castrati, by unearthly chanting and the sounds of bells. You can almost smell the headily exotic scents that rise smoking from braziers or uncoil from the lips of a fish-shaped perfume flask. Sometimes, for a moment the shimmering eternity of Yeats's poem Byzantium becomes almost real again as we perceive its precious marvels. For a few moments, perhaps, we can almost stand, as a pair of 10th-century Slavic ambassadors once stood in the Hagia Sophia, and report: “We knew not whether we were in Heaven or Earth.”

And then we come back down to Earth. Thanks to the historical legacy of Montesquieu, Voltaire and the historian Edward Gibbon, the stereotype of Byzantium is of a despotic and often corrupt government of ambitious tyrants and creepy eunuchs, of a society mired in intrigue and obsessed with empty rituals and bureaucracy. It represents “the triumph of barbarism and religion”, Gibbon says.

An icon of the Heavenly Ladder of St John Klimakos from Constantinople or Sinai from the late 12th century. Consists of egg tempera and gold leaf on wood primed with cloth and gesso. The Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine and the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Sinai

Byzantium certainly has its brutal and barbarous moments. Here are stepmothers boiled alive in overheated baths, an emperor with his nose and tongue cut off to prevent him ever ruling again (he survived and returned to power wearing a golden nose patch and using an interpreter to speak) and an empress who, in her determination for power, blinds her own son in the same purple chamber in which she had given birth to him 26 years earlier.

Such grisly details seize the imagination. But they upset a balance which this exhibition now sets out to redress. Byzantium was not, as Gibbon might have us believe, a civilisation that replaced the glories of Ancient Greece with a barbarous primitivism. This show invites us to follow carefully the many ways in which an empire founded on the principles of tolerance of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who ended the persecution of Christians, adapted and incorporated the culture of the classical pagan world into its new land of Christendom. Here in a new Christian world with its saints are images of the hunt or the hippodrome races that the classical world loved. These were, after all, people who were brought up on the stories of Homer, familiar with the tales of pagan mythology. Here is the sleeping Endymion reawakened as the biblical Jonah, the beautiful Apollo resurrected as Christ.

But even more importantly, how can we see the glimmering icons of the Byzantine culture merely as a deteroriation of Classical acquirements? The icons are a numinous presence in this show. Gaze at the treasures that, for the first and perhaps last time, have travelled from the monastery of St Catherine in Mount Sinai to Britain. How vivid is the Icon of the Heavenly Ladder of St John. Here is a sort of divine conveyor belt up whose rungs the faithful ascend, constantly in peril of missing their step, falling prey to the demons who hook, shoot and pincer them from their heavenly path. Look how casually one demon strolls off with his prey. Notice how frantically the monk kicks as he plunges headfirst into a pot of hellish pitch. Feel how thankfully the topmost climber reaches out his hands to a receiving God. It may be a schematised (and apparently much restored) image, but its message is strikingly real.

As you gaze into the great all-seeing eyes of the saints (one sternly condemning, one benignly forgiving), you are looking at a form of religious expression that set out to prove itself superior to the paganism of Classical predecessors, to replace literal lifelikeness with a spiritual presence that would outlast the years. These art works become less replicas than living things.

In the 1930s, even Soviet commanders, ordered to stamp out the influences of Christianity, understood their power. They didn't simply smash them. They lined them up, sentenced them to death and then shot them. These are works that for two millennia have kept their religious power.

Drawing of Hagia Sophia - Interior

Sadly, the earliest ever icon of Christ is too fragile to travel from Sinai. But as we look into the faces of his saintly ambassadors, we are linked in an unbroken chain to the foundations of our Christian culture. Here are the roots of many ceremonial, diplomatic, legal and economic traditions that still survive in our society. And here too can be found lessons that are still relevant today.

How is it, for instance, that the Christian monastery of St Catherine survived intact through the centuries, unharmed by Arab raiders? The answer was simple. A mosque was built alongside it. Muslim and Christian cohabited in peace. The Byzantines could see the larger picture. It shimmered like their visions of glittering gold.

Byzantium: 330-1453, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London W1 ( ; 0870 8488484), from Sat until March 22

Related Links
Byzantium at the Royal Academy
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

From The Sunday Times
October 26, 2008

Byzantium: The empire strikes back

The Royal Academy has staged a dramatic show highlighting the myriad influences that made Byzantium

12th Century enamel icon of the Archangel Michael at the Entrance to Paradise is displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts, in London, on October 21, 2008. The piece is part of the 'Byzantium exhibition 330-1453' which comprises around 300 objects including icons, detached wall paintings, micro-mosaics, ivories, enamels plus gold and silver metalwork. Some of the works have never been displayed in public before. The exhibition will run from October 25, 2008 to March 22, 2009. (Getty Images)

By Waldemar Januszczak

I have been awaiting the arrival of Byzantium with a strange mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement, because these are underexplored stretches of art’s global output that are certain to offer surprises. Trepidation, because Byzantium is Byzantium: an empire notorious for its knuckle-rapping religious seriousness and its orthodoxy — a byword for the stern and the hierarchical. If ever a show appeared, by its very presence, to be criticising the way we live and think today, that show was surely going to be Byzantium.

However, I was wrong, for two reasons. First, because I had underestimated the ability of the Royal Academy’s designers to construct a sumptuous journey through this sometimes stern but always glorious religious bling. And second, because Byzantium, on this evidence, was not the cruel and controlling force for orthodoxy we have so long imagined it to be. Variety, naturalism, experiment and perhaps even tolerance were included in its make-up. In its plush, coffee-table-ish way, this stunning display finally succeeds in conjuring up a new Byzantium.

That said, how could we ever have believed in the immobile and monocultural Byzantium of legend? The timescales involved are so huge that no culture in history could have remained unchanged throughout them. The birth of the Byzantine empire is neatly dated to AD330, when the Roman emperor Constantine, having converted to Christianity, founded his new Rome on the site of the old Byzantium, on the banks of the Bosphorus, and called it Constantinople. And the empire’s end can be dated just as neatly to May 29, 1453, when the new Rome was captured by the Ottoman Turks and claimed for Muhammad. Thus, the full story of Byzantium spans more than a millennium of dense Asio-European history. A large chunk of late antiquity, the whole of the Middle Ages and a decent slab of the Renaissance can be fitted into it. Of course there would have been variety.

The trick to encapsulating the output of such a huge stretch of cultural territory successfully depends on subtraction rather than addition. Anyone can put the whole lot in front of you and say: “Make sense of that.” A harder ask is to identify the milestones and the turning points, and to construct a telling journey between them.

The first thing you see here is an inordinately large copper chandelier, in which a baffling number of crosses and candles sway like a rusty Calder mobile across the RA’s central octagon. What drama. The gigantic chandelier — the biggest, I suggest, you will ever see — manages to convey simplicity as well as complexity; heavyweight religious passion and feather-light religious joy. It dates from the 13th century, a long way into the Byzantine story. But the agenda it sets so successfully promises drama and beauty, surprises and size. And that’s what you get.

A technician works on re-assembling part of a mosaic pavement with personifications of the months from the early sixth century which is to be displayed from October 25 as part of the "Byzantium 330-1453" exhibiton at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, on October 14, 2008.(Getty Images)

Having foolishly imagined the art of Byzantium to have arrived at its start line with all its subsequent stiffnesses in place, I found it thoroughly enlightening to watch it finding itself so oddly. The show’s earliest stretch looks at the continuing influence of classical models on the new empire’s art. A Jonah being swallowed by a sea monster, carved out of marble, twists and fidgets like a miniature version of the snake-strangling recorded so momentously in the Laocoön. Marble. Movement. Male nudity. Monsters. None of it is expected. At this stage, it is predictably difficult to differentiate between the last gasps of the Roman empire and the first cries of Byzantium. A Christian mosaic displaying lively personifications of the months — February holds a duck, April a lamb — may have been inspired by “Pavlos, priest and teacher of the divine word”, but it is basically indistinguishable from its late-antique predecessors.

The true spirit of Byzantium begins appearing, instead, in the fabulous horde of carved ivories that now arrive at the show. Their first subjects — a deer hunt, Apollo chasing Daphne — are taken still from the catalogues of Roman paganism, but slowly, beautifully, the carved ivory’s potential for intense Christian messaging is discovered and explored. It may be only elephant bone, but bone is bone, and every Byzantine ivory brings an air of skeletal hush to any subject it illustrates. By the time we reach the 10th century, a fully formed Byzantine aesthetic is giving us a Christ Pantokrator who stares out at us as sternly as a High Court judge delivering a death sentence. Which the ivory seems somehow to guarantee.

Set mostly in twilight, the show does a decent job of implying the solemn religious atmospheres for which most of this art was made. But the melodrama is smartly rationed. And even the notorious Antioch Chalice, the ornate silver cup from the Met in New York that was once thought to be the original Holy Grail, is dealt with sensibly and studiously.

Byzantium’s dangerous location on a busy crossroads between East and West brought a huge variety of influences to its doorstep. Some stretches of the show appear thoroughly Muslim. Others seem to have come straight out of the saddlebags of a passing crusader from Limoges. But this aesthetic good fortune could lead quickly to tragedy. The most notorious event in the empire’s action-packed history was the violent iconoclasm that erupted in the 8th century when the emperor, Leo III, placed a ban on the manufacture of religious images. Leo, I read, was probably mimicking the nearby Muslim example — just as the Muslims had probably inherited their reluctance to worship images from Jewish converts to Islam. Whatever the origins of this terrible urge, the outcome of the image wars was startling.

When the bouts of iconoclasm finally ceased, a century later, Byzantium threw itself into the mass production of religious imagery with the enthusiasm of a released prisoner. The show has enough self-control not to drown us in the resulting flood of interchangeable icons. Their gradual unveiling is impeccably handled. But it is now that the real dangers of orthodoxy begin to show up. Strict instructions were drawn up for the presentation of Christ. Even the lines on his face were counted.

Icon with Virgin Psychosostria (L) and Icon with Christ the Pantokrator

With a sense of theatre that is to be thoroughly commended, the show culminates in a set of stupendous icons from the mysterious monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai, where nothing has changed for 1,500 years. You can mistake this firmness of purpose for stasis if you choose. Or you can celebrate it as a rare and precious display of continuity in a world that changes too readily. Over to you.

Byzantium 330-1453, Royal Academy, W1, until March 22

Paul Weyrich, 1942-2008

In Memoriam

Requiem for a General

By Hunter Baker on 12.19.08 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

The year was 1999. I attended one of those Washington meetings where the inner circle sits around the big table, while assistants (like me, at the time) take up seats on the perimeter. We were fighting for the Religious Liberty Protection Act, which we hoped would reinvigorate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment in the wake of court decisions that had undercut the cause of religious freedom.

Paul Weyrich arrived early. Even then, he was in poor health. I could see he was in pain as he walked into the room, putting a good bit of his weight on his cane. He wore suspenders and looked like an elderly man from Middle America. During the meeting, he sat quietly and listened, apparently feeling no need to dominate despite easily being the most well-known and senior person in the room.

When I heard about his death, I was shocked to hear Weyrich was only 66 years old. Nearly ten years ago in that Capitol meeting room, I would have sworn he was almost 70. The revelation of his age at death explains his face, which seemed preternaturally youthful in comparison to his burdened body when I met him. He suffered from diabetes. During the last year, a combination of complications from injury and lingering illness led to the amputation of his legs.

Many would have dropped out to rest on the memories of battles fought and victories won. Weyrich kept working until the end. One of his friends reported seeing him at a high-powered political gathering in November where he was an active participant in panel discussions.

Paul Weyrich came to Washington from Wisconsin in the 1970s as a senatorial aide, but he quickly became an organizational and policy entrepreneur of the first order. In addition to being the founding president of the Heritage Foundation, he also established the Free Congress Foundation and occupied a perennial position of leadership among religious conservatives in Washington.

Many will remember that after the 1998 elections, he penned a letter declaring the culture war lost and calling, like a modern prophet, for a welling up of new institutions and ways of life independent from a decadent mainstream society. That occasion led to one of many rounds of the press declaring the death of the "religious right" as a movement. Notably, Weyrich ended his letter with a call for further conversation and strategic planning. He never dropped out. He never stopped working and never gave in to despair.

Upon hearing of Weyrich's death, I called Judge Paul Pressler and asked for his impressions of the man. For those who don't instantly recognize the name, he was one of the prime movers behind a conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention during the last three decades. Pressler has also been heavily involved in the conservative political movement and this year is an elector for the presidential race.

The Texas judge was effusive in his praise for Weyrich. Today, few are surprised to hear that one elder statesman of the conservative movement has good things to say about another, but there are larger issues beneath the surface. When these two men were young, it would have been rare to hear a Southern Baptist offering tribute to the legacy of a Greek Catholic like Weyrich.

In fact, during those years, evangelicals and other conservative Protestants were at least as concerned with the threat of ambitious Catholicism as they were with secularist encroachments. Rare were the evangelicals who had the insight of Abraham Kuyper that Catholics were natural allies against secular cultural offensives.

Paul Weyrich is one of the people who built the bridge between those camps. Today, conservative Protestants and Catholics waste very little of their fire on each other. It is ironic to consider how much ecumenism came from the cultural and political engagement of people like Weyrich and Phyllis Schlafly (also Catholic), as opposed to the weak, pink lemonade of self-conscious efforts like those of the National Council of Churches to pull believers together. The lure of theological compromise proved much less potent than common purpose and real-life stakes.

Interestingly, when I asked a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations for his memory of Weyrich, he responded instantly, "He spoke truth to power, even when that meant disagreeing with the president in his presence." That particular phrase about speaking "truth to power" is usually reserved as an encomium bestowed upon liberal clergymen by adoring journalists. Weyrich spoke his mind knowing it would earn him no similar kudos.

It may be fitting to conclude by saying something about Weyrich as a private person. We are accustomed to viewing well-known figures in Washington as celebrities and often expect to see them surrounded by wealth and luxury, even when they are known to have strong religious sympathies. Weyrich did not use the money he raised to support a lavish lifestyle. Instead, he lived simply and labored faithfully despite pain and illness.

The loss of Paul Weyrich is a serious one. Taken together with the death of William F. Buckley earlier this year, the conservative movement has lost two leading lights. The burden lies heavy upon the succeeding generations to find some way to occupy their places.

- Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. is an assistant professor of political science at Houston Baptist University. His personal website is His book The End of Secularism will be published by Crossway in August 2009.

No mercy for Jihad Johnny

by Michelle Malkin
December 19, 2008

John Walker Lindh

If it’s December, it’s time for the Left to throw another shameless pity party for convicted American jihadist John Walker Lindh (aka Suleyman al-Faris, aka Abdul Hamid). Every Christmas season for the last four years, the Taliban accomplice and his parents have asked President Bush to pardon him. This country should save its tears and mercy for the defenders of freedom.

The further we have moved from the September 11 attacks, the cloudier our collective memory of Lindh’s case has become. Sympathetic journalists have rewritten the history, embracing him as a naive young hippie-dippie from Marin County, Calif.,who just caught in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

Others, like Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod, have proclaimed him “innocent” and lamented Lindh’s life behind bars in a federal medium-security facility. Junod criticized the government for forbidding him to speak Arabic. (Human rights atrocity!) Meanwhile, he enjoys the privilege of cooking his meals for himself and fellow inmates, working in the library, and praying to Mecca. Junod insisted that Lindh deserves more “credit for his sense of purpose or his vast reserves of will” and more “credit for what it took to get to Afghanistan, much less what it took for him to get back to America.”

In Afghanistan, I remind you, Jihad Johnny took up arms with the terrorists. His purpose was to kill Americans and his “reserve of will” accomplished the goal. He told the feds he trained with al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks and he fought alongside them after Osama bin Laden’s henchmen murdered 3,000 of Lindh’s fellow citizens on American soil. He wrote a letter to his mother expressing support for the U.S.S. Cole bombing that took 17 sailors’ lives and, despite an emphatic denial by Lindh’s father that Jihad Johnny took up arms against his country, he recounted how his rifle malfunctioned on the front lines in Takar.

Mike Spann

Finally, on Nov. 25, 2001, upon being captured and taken to the Qala I Jangi fortress outside Mazar E Shiref for interrogation, Suleyman al-Faris/Abdul Hamid/John Walker Lindh sat silent — and deliberately and defiantly chose not to tell American CIA officer and former Marine Corps artillery specialist Mike Spann about a planned Taliban prison revolt. Spann was killed in the riot.

Asked by journalist Robert Pelton at the prison if “this the right cause or the right place,” Lindh replied unequivocally: “It is exactly what I thought it would be.”

Who deserves the “credit” for “sense of purpose” and “reserve of will?” The saboteur of American freedom or the guardian?

Mike Spann’s family visited the fortress after his murder. They talked to Afghan doctors who will never forget his bravery. “They said they thought Mike might run and retreat, but he held his position and fought using his AK rifle until out of ammo, and then draw and begin firing his pistol,” Spann’s father said. “While watching Mike fight they were able to jump up and run to safety.

“They said the only reason that they, and several others, were able to live was because Mike stood his position and fought off the prisoners while enabling them the time to run to safety. The doctors stated that as they fled toward a safe haven they saw Mike run out of ammo and then witnessed him fighting hand to hand until he was overcome by the numerous Al Qada and Taliban prisoners.”

American hero Mike Spann will not get to cook dinner for widow Shannon and three young children. Mike Spann cannot curl up with a good book or go to church with his family. Pray for Mike Spann, show his family the compassion and gratitude they deserve — and may American traitor John Walker Lindh rot in hell.

Cinderella vs. the Barracuda

A perfect example of the bowel-stewing self-indulgence of elite liberalism.

By Jonah Goldberg
December 19, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

For people who think there’s no cultural divide in this country, consider the treatment of two women much in the news in 2008.

The first is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. A woman from very humble roots and with a very blue-collar life story, she worked with her steelworker and professional-fisherman husband to provide a life for their large family. She got involved in the PTA. She became mayor of her small town, then rose, by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness, to the job of governor. In a mainstream, almost romantic sense, it’s almost like she was designed by God for a Hallmark movie of the week.

But, when John McCain picked her to be his running mate, the full fury of the liberal establishment — and sizable swaths of the conservative establishment, some of whom dubbed her a “cancer” on the GOP — came down on her with a vengeance usually reserved for Klansmen and pedophiles. Don’t get me wrong: There were valid criticisms to make. But that is quite a different thing than saying all of the criticism was valid or that the intensity and volume of the criticism was warranted.

Then there’s Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, sister of John Jr., niece of Senators Ted and Robert Kennedy, granddaughter of Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, and the cousin of myriad other Kennedys and Shrivers who’ve burrowed deep into the timber of the house of liberalism. A multimillionaire from birth, Ms. Kennedy has spent most of her life on the charity-benefit and cotillion circuit. A product of the Brearley School in New York and the Concord Academy in Massachusetts before she attended Harvard and Columbia, Kennedy has made the importance of public education her signature cause.

Sweet Caroline (she was the inspiration for the Neil Diamond song) recently made it known that she would like to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s vacant Senate seat.

One could say without fear of overstating things that the liberal reaction to the inexperienced Caroline has been somewhat more gracious than the reaction to the “inexperienced” Palin. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post has devoted two columns in as many weeks to this “fairy tale” scenario in which Kennedy, our “tragic national princess,” is finally rewarded — for her years of quiet dignity, selflessly avoiding scandal and the paparazzi — with the Senate seat that once belonged to her uncle Bobby. What’s astounding about the normally sensible Marcus’s case for “the Cinderella Kennedy” (New York magazine’s phrase) is that she doesn’t really make one, at least not on the merits. Marcus doesn’t even bother. It’s all schoolgirl gushing.

The editors of the New York Times, in a more skeptical editorial, summarized her qualifications thusly: “Ms. Kennedy has much going for her. As a public figure, she carries the glamour and poignancy of her family ...” The editors then went on to describe what great liberals her dad and uncles were. That’s it.

This a perfect example of the bowel-stewing self-indulgence of elite liberalism.

Here’s a news flash: Not everyone truckles with doe-eyed awe at “America’s royal family.” Some of us don’t even like the idea of American royal families. JFK and RFK had their good points, but they don’t deserve the beatification they receive on a daily basis. As a man, Teddy Kennedy is hardly a role model, and as a public servant he’s not much better. I, for one, don’t think denying poor black kids private-school scholarships (aka vouchers) is heroic. Nor do I think his support for alternative energy, except when it might obstruct his Hyannis Port estate’s views with windmills, is admirable.

Simply, the Kennedy clan is no priestly caste, serving as the conscience of the nation, and its progeny do not deserve eternal deference.

Now, I know the comparison between Palin and Caroline Kennedy is not perfect. Each has strengths where the other has weaknesses, and the jobs of senator and vice president aren’t identical (the former actually has more responsibility, for starters).

But the comparison is nonetheless revealing. Palin’s selection triggered troughs of bile, vomited up from nearly every respectable liberal quarter. A Florida congressman, and Obama surrogate, insinuated that Palin was a “Nazi sympathizer” and anti-Semite (she’s not, but Caroline Kennedy’s grandfather was). Her by-the-bootstraps story was ridiculed by nearly every ex-debutante newsreader and avowed “feminist” in America.

Meanwhile, Caroline, with a resume perfectly suited to being a Kennedy and little else, is a Cinderella who deserves a Senate seat because, well, she just does.

Whatever Palin’s faults, Sarah Barracuda’s America has a lot more going for it than Sweet Caroline’s.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Lucas: Do Not Open

Adam Lucas on the win over Evansville.
Dec. 18, 2008

To my children, Asher and McKay: Do not open this letter until the day someone breaks Tyler Hansbrough's UNC career scoring record.

I didn't think you'd ever open this letter. On the day I wrote this, Dec. 18, 2008--yep, all the way back in the ancient `00's--I thought Tyler Hansbrough's UNC scoring record would stand forever. He'll pile up nearly 3,000 points by the time he's finished at Carolina, and I'm not sure anyone who can score like that will stay around long enough to top his total.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, left, shakes hands with Phil Ford following North Carolina's 91-73 win over Evansville in an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. Hansbrough broke Ford's all-time scoring record at North Carolina during the game.(AP)

On this day, when Hansbrough broke Phil Ford's record with a very fitting burly post move, Ford is just a name in the record book to some younger fans. It's unfathomable that Hansbrough would ever be in the same situation, but if this letter is decades old by the time you read it, you may not even remember that Asher used to wear a size-3 number-50 jersey to home games, and that McKay would shout, "There's Tyler Hans-browe-owe!" whenever she saw him on television (McKay: don't feel bad. The pronunciation is listed in the media guide and yet radio and TV announcers still mispronounce it every night).

He was more than a player to us. He was, well...hang on a second. First, I want you to understand a little bit about the player Hansbrough passed to earn the record. I was too young to see Phil Ford play live. So I asked your grandfather, my dad, about him. As you know, your Grandpa doesn't gush. But this is what he said about Ford:

"He wasn't showy, but everyone respected him. And they were scared to death of him, because no one could figure out how to stop him. My mental image of him is of him standing in the corner near midcourt holding up four fingers, signaling for the Four Corners. When that happened, we had it. The game was over. It was like Red Auerbach lighting his cigar [Note to kids: look Auerbach up on Wikipedia, if that still exists].

"But what made him a legend was the fact that he was one of us. He was so good--he was the best--but he never told anyone he was. He just went out, got the job done, and went home. He was the best I've seen."

You know your Grandpa, and you know how much he loves Carolina. He used to shoot baskets in the driveway pretending to be York Larese ("because he shot his free throws in a hurry") or Doug Moe. His dad used to give him Dixie Classic tickets for Christmas. And with that type of perspective, he calls Ford the best. Your Grandpa doesn't get nervous. He's met plenty of important people. But he still remembers the first day he got to speak to Phil Ford: "I never thought I'd have the chance to talk to someone like him. It was just unbelievable."

Here's Ford's status: he's one of the very few Tar Heels who can get a standing ovation simply by walking to midcourt, as he did after the game. He hadn't even said anything yet, and already 21,000 people were roaring. Here, in Chapel Hill, no one pointed and said, "There's Phil Ford." No, this was home. So they just said, "There's Phil."

That's the status Hansbrough will enjoy for the rest of his life. One day, he'll get that same reaction at a home game by walking to midcourt, and people my age will point at him and say to the younger fans, "That's the guy I've been telling you about all these years."

At the last home game, a girl sitting somewhere in the upper deck screamed, "I love you Tyler Hansbrough!" at the top of her lungs every time he shot a free throw. Picture that--the Smith Center completely silent except for one girl screaming his name. That's the kind of devotion reserved for rock stars, not basketball players.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (50) shoots against Evansville during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. The shot broke the all-time scoring record at North Carolina held by Phil Ford, who had 2,290 points.(AP)

I'm sure I've told you this, but my favorite image of the night he broke Ford's record didn't happen on the court. It was after the game, in a back hall of the Smith Center. He was still wearing his white game jersey and shorts, the shirt untucked. He had the night's game ball in his right hand, and he was dribbling it. He turned for just a second to offer a smile to someone sending congratulations, and he looked happy. He'd just set one of the greatest records in Tar Heel basketball history. You know where he was going? To a session with strength coach Jonas Sahratian.

That's Tyler.

You know what links Ford and Hansbrough? It's not their points. It's the way they scored them. Ford was a guard and Hansbrough was a post player, but take your Grandpa's description of Ford--he was the best, but he never told anyone he was--and you've got Hansbrough.

"Phil Ford set an example for college basketball and what a student-athlete should be and what a competitor should be and what a North Carolina basketball player should be," Roy Williams said. "For the last four years (Tyler) has set an example for what a college basketball player should be. It's a guy who can love his university and love his teammates."

He'll swear this isn't true, but when Hansbrough flew in on his recruiting visit, the shaky winds and small plane made him so nervous he had tears in his eyes. He spent most of his first year riding around campus on a bike. I don't know how big-time players get around campus these days, but in 2006 they didn't pedal bikes. The first big road trip of his freshman year, Carolina went to play Southern Cal. The team had to fly home commercial instead of the usual charter plane, which meant he had to go through the normal check-in and security procedures. I'll never forget that petrified look on his face as he said, "I don't know how to do this."

We've seen him grow up, not just as a player--by the time he was a senior, he was regularly taking and making perimeter jumpers--but as a person. Earlier this season we went to Maui, and he was so nonchalant about the long flight he even had time to help save someone's life.

See, we did have some excitement back in 2008!

I want to make sure you understand that Hansbrough was about more than points. I've seen lots of players who can score. But if I had to give you one signature Hansbrough play, it wouldn't even be a basket. It would be during his junior year against Clemson at home, when he swiped the ball away from a player allegedly more mobile than him, David Potter, and the ball trickled back across midcourt. Right at that moment, both players had an equal chance at the ball. But really, all of us in the Smith Center knew it was no contest. Hansbrough sprinted past Potter and threw himself on top of the loose ball, cradling it while flat on his back. It wasn't a championship game. It wasn't even a Carolina-Duke game. It was just a game. But that's how he played.

A quick story: in the summer of 2007, a handful of Duke players came to Chapel Hill to play a pickup game. Included in that bunch was Gerald Henderson. You probably know the history between those two. Well, a couple games into the afternoon, Henderson stripped the ball from Hansbrough. It was a clean play, a good defensive play.

Hansbrough took it personally. His eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed. He got that same look he had a whole lot of the time during the game against Evansville when he set the scoring record, when there was plenty of physical play in the post. In that pickup game, when his team threw the inbounds pass, he called for the ball like it was water in the desert. "Hey!" he shouted. "HEY!"

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Evansville's Kavon Lacey (2) watch the ball bounce away during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008.(AP)

They threw him the ball, and he waited just long enough for Henderson to get behind him. He pounded it once on the ground, and most of us on the sidelines were surreptitiously dialing 911 on our cell phones, because it was obvious we were about to have a major incident. We needed a medic, probably, and the coroner, maybe.

He took that power dribble, and then he jumped straight through Henderson, who took a semi-leap and tried to pull down Hansbrough's right arm. The big guy was oblivious to it. He shrugged off Henderson, put the ball in the basket, and then--with all of that history and all of that bad blood--he just ran back down the court.

"YEAH!" he said.

And that was it. They kept playing. Statement made, game won.

I saw every game Hansbrough played during his Carolina career, and it never got old. He was the rare creative big guy (or "Big Fella," as Williams usually called him). Some people will tell you he thrived with brute force. Don't believe them. Watch the Louisville tape from 2008 if you need evidence.

I'm not asking you to think Tyler Hansbrough is a better player than this guy who is getting ready to break his record. That's my generation's job, to think he's the best we'll ever see.

I hope I'm still around when you read this, and I hope you'll come find me. I'll probably be sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair, telling Tyler Hansbrough stories.


Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly. He is also the author or co-author of four books on Carolina basketball.

University of North Carolina Men's Basketball

NCAA Volleyball: Penn State holds off valiant NU comeback in 5-set thriller

Published Thursday December 18, 2008

The rally last weekend at Washington defied description.

The comeback attempt on Thursday night simply defied logic.

No, the NCAA-record crowd of 17,430 packed into the Qwest Center wouldn't get to celebrate what could've been the greatest upset in Nebraska history š if not the most unexpected win in the history of college volleyball itself.

But there will be no end to the way the state's diehard fans celebrate these 2008 Huskers.

AP photo/Dave Weaver

Penn State’s Megan Hodge, right, puts a shot over Nebraska’s Amanda Gates (17) and Sydney Anderson (1) during the teams’ NCAA women’s volleyball semifinal Thursday in Omaha, Neb.

Is it possible that a Nebraska loss could rank among the best matches ever witnessed in this volleyball-mad pocket of the Midwest?

If you were one of the lucky souls who saw Penn State's 25-17, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11 triumph over the all heart-and-soul Huskers, you'd probably answer that question with an emphatic yes.

"Next week, I'm not sure anybody is going to remember whether we won or lost," Nebraska coach John Cook said. "What they're going to remember is that this team this year wore the Nebraska uniform. I've never had so much fun coaching a match."

The No. 1 Nittany Lions will get the chance to go after their second straight national championship on Saturday when they take on second-ranked Stanford in Omaha. And Thursday's wild victory allowed Penn State to extend its NCAA-record unbeaten streak to 63 straight matches.

But after the 37-0 Nittany Lions stretched their NCAA-record run of consecutive wins in sets to an amazing 111 in a row, that old Nebraska magic that has carried the Huskers so far this year kicked back on into full effect.

Nebraska extended the match in set three š becoming the first team this year to take a game off a Nittany Lions club that smashed its way into uncharted territory by sweeping its first 36 matches.

The Huskers had so much fun doing it, they came right back in the fourth set and pushed the unbeatable giant to the limit.

Nebraska chopped and chopped and chopped in the fifth set until it had a 10-8 lead. But then, only five points away from sealing the impossible win, Penn State answered with a 7-1 run and refused to fall down.

"We had the chance to finish it at the end, but Penn State's a great team," Cook said. "There's a reason they're the defending champions, and they showed that in game five."

Cook's amazing 2008 team ends the season with a record of 31-3. During a year in which the Huskers were supposed to fall back down to earth, the complete opposite occurred and the program only soared to new heights.

One season after losing two national players of the year and four All-Americans in all, they weren't supposed to be in the hunt for a Big 12 title š let alone have a chance to make it to Omaha's final four.

And the team's three homegrown senior captains š Lincoln East graduate Rachel Schwartz, Amanda Gates out of Columbus and Jordan Larson from Hooper š will leave Nebraska with a school-record 127 wins over their four years and a legacy that will be tough for any future class of Huskers to beat.

"We had so many things going on, but we found a way to be great š and we never gave up," Larson said. "There were times we could've given up very easily tonight, but this team has heart, and we weren't done.

"We left it all out there."

The Huskers š like so many other teams had done this season until finally being overcome by Penn State's intense pressure š hung tough for much of set one against the Nittany Lions.

A rocket kill by Tara Mueller gave Nebraska an 8-7 advantage and brought the Qwest Center crowd to its feet. Later, a huge solo block by Larson cut Penn State's lead to 14-13 and made the arena shake and shutter with noise.
But the Nittany Lions never blinked and came back to close out the set with an icy confidence. Penn State scored 11 of the last 15 points, a surge that included four kills by Megan Hodge.

Set two started about as well as the Huskers could've hoped, and Nebraska raced out to a 6-2 lead behind a kill apiece from Jordan Wilberger and Gates, a pair of putaways by Larson and another big block off the hands of both Gates and Larson.

Penn State slowly and surely chipped away at that lead and would go up 14-13 when Arielle Wilson and Blair Brown teamed up to roof Larson's attack. That sparked the Nittany Lions to a 9-3 run that easily staked the defending NCAA champs to a 2-0 advantage.

Heading into intermission, Penn State was outhitting Nebraska .403-.169 š including a whopping .444-.129 in set two.

If the Nittany Lions thought the audience was loud in the first two sets, however, they hadn't heard anything yet.

Nebraska again had the upper hand early in set three š and this time the Huskers sent their fans over the moon by making it count. Larson moved her school-record career ace total to 186 on a jump serve that put the Huskers ahead 6-2. A kill by Lindsey Licht would make it 11-6 Nebraska, and an ace by Schwartz put the Huskers up 15-8 heading into the TV timeout.

Only three points later, a block by Sydney Anderson and Gates gave Nebraska a 17-9 lead and forced Penn State coach Russ Rose to call his first time out. A long rally that featured an amazing save by Larson was polished off by a Mueller's kill, then Hodge's attack error forced Rose to burn his second T.O. with NU ahead 19-9.

An emphatic solo stuff by Gates wrapped up Nebraska's astounding 11-1 run. A Wilberger kill would make it 24-11 š making the Huskers only the second team this year to reach set point against the Nittany Lions.

Penn State scored on three straight rallies to delay the Qwest Center celebration, but finally a net violation set off a wild outburst throughout the arena. The Huskers hit an eye-popping .407 in the third set while the Nittany Lions attacked at just a .103 clip.

The arena P.A. system blared the theme music from "Rocky" prior to the start of set four, and this miracle of a heavyweight showdown somehow ended up going the distance.

Trailing 14-10, Nebraska punched its way back into the set with an exhilirating 6-0 run . The Huskers didn't stop swinging and closed out their 25-22 win on a kill by Larson. And suddenly, the only team in NCAA history to go through a regular season without dropping a set found itself in a race-to-15, winner-take-all, set-five battle.

After Penn State took a 6-3 lead to open the fifth, three straight kills by Mueller knotted it 6-all, and another blast by the sophomore made it 8-7 NU at the change over.

But after Licht's kill gave Nebraska a 10-8 advantage, the Nittany Lions exhibited the kind of resolve that helped them survive a five-set war against Stanford in the 2007 NCAA final. Penn State kept its perfect season alive by scoring on seven of the last eight rallies, and Hodge ended the match with her 23rd kill of the night.

The red-clad crowd didn't get to exhale the cheers of joy it wanted to unleash after the 133-minute marathon, but the emotionally drained fans still offered up a deafening ovation that carried the Huskers off the court for the last time this year.

"I thought we competed hard. I was pleased," Rose said. "It's a good opponent with an incredibly tough venue to play in with 17,000 people. We feel very fortunate to have the ability to come back, play well and win the match."

Larson, the only Husker to ever average more than three kills and three digs for a career, turned in her 55th double-double at NU with 17 kills and 18 digs. Mueller finished with 15 kills, Licht added 13 more, and Gates' last match with the Huskers was highlighted by nine kills on .467 hitting and a match-high five blocks.

"It's been an exciting journey these last four years," Larson said. "I'm glad to end my career at the Qwest, in Nebraska. This is where I started, and this is where I ended. I was just a small town girl happy to be at the university. It's been a big deal."

Nicole Fawcett had a match-high 24 kills for Penn State, which now will try to lock up college volleyball's first back-to-back titles in five seasons. The last team to repeat as champs was Southern California, which won it all in 2002 and 2003.

"Nebraska is a great opponent," said Nittany Lions senior Christa Harmotto. "In those situations, that's what playing in these types of environments is all about. I thought we came together as a team. We're excited to play for the national championship."

• Contact the writer: 444-1207,


Set for a repeat

Nittany Lions down Huskers in five sets to meet Stanford in final

By Gordon Brunskill
Centre Daily Times
December 19, 2008

OMAHA, Neb. — Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament had a team rallied from two sets down to make it into the championship match.

Much to the Penn State women’s volleyball team’s dismay, it nearly happened twice in the same night to spoil the Nittany Lions dream season.

Instead, Penn State dug deep, found whatever it was that they never had to find before this season, and are still on track for their second straight title.

Penn State's Arielle Wilson, top right, and teammates celebrate after winning the 5th set of an NCAA college women's volleyball semifinal match against Nebraska in Omaha, Neb. on Thursday, Dec 18, 2008.
(AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Penn State ripped off seven of the final eight points of the match to dispatch an inspired Nebraska team in five games (25-17, 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11) in the national semifinals at Omaha’s Qwest Center before an NCAA-record crowd of 17,430.

“We had a lot of confidence in ourselves and we had to get onto that roll that we had,” said Nicole Fawcett, who had a match-high 24 kills and two big service aces. “We lost that and had to get back to believing that we could do it.”

The victory gives Penn State a chance at becoming the sixth team in history to grab back-to-back crowns, and the team gets to do it against the same team it faced in last year’s championship.

In the first semifinal, Stanford became the first team in NCAA history to rally from two sets down to advance to a final with a 3-2 win over Texas.

The title match will be played at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Unlike much of the season, the Nittany Lions relied heavily on outside hitters Fawcett and Megan Hodge, who had 23 kills. The pair combined for 113 of the team’s 151 swings.

“Did I look tired?” Hodge asked. “I felt OK. You have so much adrenaline, there are 17,000 people, tired or not you’re going to get through it because of the situation.”

Blair Brown added eight and Christa Harmotto had seven to go with four blocks. Alisha Glass also posted four blocks along with a season-high 60 assists and Roberta Holehouse had a match-high 22 digs.

Jordan Larson led the Cornhuskers (31-3) with 17 kills, Tara Mueller added 13 including some big ones in the latter half of the match and Lindsey Licht had 13 kills.

Amanda Gates led the night with five blocks and Sydney Anderson gave away 51 assists.

Maybe it’s not a perfect season anymore, but it still could turn out to be the best in NCAA history as the team captured its 63rd consecutive win.

The Nittany Lions (37-0) finally surrendered their first set of the season, ending their NCAA-record streak at 111 consecutive sets won. The streak dated back to Game 5 of last year’s championship match against the Cardinal.

“I thought the crowd made such an energy boost to Nebraska that they were always going to be in the match,” head coach Russ Rose said. “You really needed to sieze control and put them away. We did that well the first couple of games.”

That match looked eerily familiar to Thursday’s contest after Penn State watched a 2-0 lead disappear and trailed in the deciding set before finding that mysterious switch.

It looked disastrous when Brown tipped the ball into the net to give Nebraska a 10-8 lead. But then it was time for Fawcett to take command, putting down a kill and then stepping to the service line to take back the momentum.

“We needed to make sure that we weren’t going to give up points and really rely on our blocking,” Fawcett said. “At the end we really were focused. The block was able to put up a stable block and we had some great digs. It (was) the combination of keeping it going and keeping the momentum our way was really important.”

Hodge and Wilson teamed up to block Licht and Larson sent a spike long to put Penn State up for good. Fawcett then ripped in a serve that the Huskers could not contain, Hodge hammered a crosscourt kill and another Husker error finally gave Penn State match point. “Penn State forces you to play at such a high level,” Cook said. “I told our team they’re going to dare us to be great. If you just give them an inch they’re going to make you pay.”

Larson stalled the roll briefly with a kill, but Hodge hammered down one last kill to leave the Nittany Lions jumping like kangaroos around the court.

Penn State certainly could not have asked for a better way to start the night.

The team was running its offense with it usual wicked efficiency, pounding down a .403 hitting percentage over the first two sets. Fawcett polished off both sets with clean crosscourt put-aways.

“There were times in this game where we could have given up very easily,” Larson said. “This team has heart and we weren’t done. I think we left it all out there.”

Then, the wheels started coming off, with passing errors and service errors piling up like the snow outside the Qwest Center and the life breathed into the packed arena became deafening.

The third set was nothing but misery for the Nittany Lions from end to end. The team never led a point and endured an 11-1 Nebraska run to go down 22-9. The team hit .103 in the set, by far their worst performance of the season.

“(We were) rattled in that they had a big momentum shift and the crowd was on their side,” Glass said. “It was a really loud environment. But (we had) to be able to rally back and play our game again. We got into their mode and their type of style of play.”

Penn State looked mad and ready to put the match away in the fourth set, breaking to a 14-10 lead, but the Huskers broke off the next six points with two kills and a block from Larson, an Amanda Gates kill and Gates and Sydney Anderson teaming up to block Wilson. The set stayed tight until Nebraska got three of the last four points, two of which were Larson kills to set up the final-frame dramatics.

The win sets up a Penn State- Stanford championship match for the fourth time. The Nittany Lions have taken the last two.

“We never really cared about losing games because the goal was to win the match,” Rose said. “Stanford showed a lot of fight in coming back down 2-0 to Texas. We’ve had great matches with Stanford.”

Stanford 3, Texas 2

The Cardinal rallied from a deep 2-0 hole, looking shaky in the first two sets before finding their game in the third. Stanford took the match 20-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-22, 15-13.

“I don’t think we were going to let it end like that,” said Stanford’s Cynthia Barboza, who finished with 19 kills and 16 digs after not having a single kill in the first set. “We know how to fight back ---digging out of holes.”

Whatever the Cardinal was doing wrong in the first two sets, namely, having trouble passing and tracking down the Longhorns’ powerful swings, they found those skills in the third set by taking a quick 9-3 lead and never letting go.

“We kind of got hit in the mouth in Game 3,” said Texas coach Jerritt Elliott, whose team had 12 more digs and 10 more kills in the match. “We didn’t execute and it gave them life. That was a tough Pac-10 team and they’re used to being here.”

After the match was knotted at 2-2, the Cardinal again was in an early hole but rallied. Tied at 9-9, Alix Klineman put down a big kill, then scored a solo block on Ashley Engle for an 11-9 lead that would never be lost. Barboza finally put the match away by hammering a kill off the Texas block to finish the win and put the Cardinal in the championship match for a third straight season.

Stanford hit .436 over the final three sets, with only six errors, against eight errors in the first two sets.

“That’s a hard way to lose when you’re so close you can taste it,” Elliott said.

Klineman finished with 20 kills and hit .358, Foluke Akinradewo added 17 kills on .452 hitting to go with a match-high six blocks and two aces, Cassidy Lichtman gave out 57 assists, Gabi Ailes had 18 digs and Erin Waller also had two aces.