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April 2004 Archives

April 2, 2004

Weintraub's legacy


“Western civilization won’t end with the passing of Karl Joachim Weintraub, but you could be hard-pressed to prove that to a legion of his former students,” the Chicago Tribune wrote last week. Weintraub, AB’49, AM’52, PhD’57, died of a brain tumor March 25 at the University’s Bernard Mitchell Hospital. At age 79, the Thomas E. Donnelley distinguished service professor emeritus in History had spent nearly 60 years as a Chicago student, professor, and mentor. His Western Civilization course was so popular that College students famously camped on the quads the night before registration to secure a place. Known as compassionate and approachable, Weintraub, who also taught in the Committee on Social Thought, the Committee on the History of Culture, and the Humanities Division, earned two Quantrell Awards for excellence in teaching, among other honors. He is survived by his wife, Katy O’Brien Weintraub, AB’75, AM’76, PhD’87, and a sister. A University memorial service is being planned.

For more on Weintraub’s life and accomplishments, see the University Chronicle or Associated Press articles.


April 5, 2004

Lead poet's society


“What is a poet?” the 78-year-old man asked. Then, providing his own answer, Robert Creeley recited a few lines of verse.

Billed as “the greatest living American poet,” Creeley—visiting campus last week as part of the University’s Poem Present lecture series—used poetry, sometimes his, sometimes others’, to help answer questions about the art form posed by students and professors. During his one-hour talk, he touched on big-picture themes including life and death, careers, and friendship.

“Poetry is an extraordinarily useful companion,” said Creeley, professor emeritus at the State University of New York, Buffalo, seated at a small table before an audience of about 50 in Classics 10.

For Creeley—founder of the Black Mountain Review and friend to such luminaries as Allan Ginsburg, Charles Olson, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams—peer collaboration is vital to the craft. “Poetry is a team sport; you can’t play it all by yourself,” he said. “It’s like gypsies. You know each other in the world.”


April 7, 2004

The writing on the walks


Deciphering the hieroglyphics chalked along heavily traveled quad thruways can stump even the most dedicated pedestrian reader. Today the most enigmatic messages were the scattered Qs skirting Cobb Hall’s main entry, which revealed their significance only by association with another stark sidewalk missive: “www.ChicagoQuill.com.” The Chicago Quill, an online student-run journal, launched last Friday (and edited by Magazine intern Phoebe Maltz, ’05), takes as its totem a gothic Q and promises an environment where, much like campus paths, “any and all voices will be heard.” But the Quill presents a more legible format, offering politics, arts, and culture along with the Inkblots section—a “rapid response center” for reader views “too long or formal to be a comment, but not long enough to be an article.” With student-penned stories ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to tongue-in-cheek diet advice, the Quill strives, as its mission statement commands, “to further the great conversation.”

Response so far has been encouraging. According to executive director Zachary LeVasseur, who perched outside Cobb this morning trading Jolly Ranchers for e-mail addresses, the Quill received inquiries from 30 potential contributors and 40,000 hits in its first 72 hours online—attributable to both its chalk campaign and a College list-host message.

Also hitting the streets later this month is the Chicago Scholarly Review (not available online), which will publish undergraduate research papers in the humanities and social sciences. Founded by fourth-years Margaret Ryznar and Natalie Brown, the CSR garnered 70 submissions for its first seven-article issue.


April 9, 2004

Brooding over the bourgeoisie


After a year in Germany working on forthcoming books about Hegel, Nietzsche, and modernist aesthetics, Robert Pippin on Thursday delivered the 2004 Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture. An eager crowd of professors, alumni, and students squeezed into Max Palevsky Cinema to hear his talk: “Bourgeois Philosophy? On the Problem of Leading a Free Life.”

Why are intellectuals and philosophers continually dissatisfied with modern society? Pippin, the distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Philosophy, and the College, responded to his rhetorical question by chronicling the history of the bourgeoisie, people originally despised as philistines and poseurs: bourgeois (literally burg-dweller) referred to merchants and skilled craftsmen who held no noble status but lived within the manor township walls. Their growing affluence “gave them access to high culture but absolutely no idea what to do with it,” Pippin said, explaining that many philosophers from Rousseau onward assumed an aristocratic disdain for bourgeois mediocrity and phony fashionableness—effectively adopting a bourgeois self-hatred.

While this self-hatred swept French thought, Pippin said, the German Romantic philosophers (Kant, Hegel, and later Nietzsche and Heidegger) grappled with the issue of freedom. The meaning of freedom in a consumerist society, he argued, must be more than the ability to do and get what you want; the German Romantics insisted that real freedom is liberty from the things we want, a triumph over low habits and inclinations.

Joseph Liss, ’04

April 12, 2004

Faith and eggs


Traditional signs of Easter abounded as boys in miniature navy suits, girls in butter- and mint-colored sundresses, and ladies in magenta bonnets with flower-clad brims arrived at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Sunday morning. The building also was gussied up, thanks to white lilies in lavender pots, soft-hued banners draped from the ceiling, and pastel hard-boiled eggs hidden among pews.

While similar scenes played out around the country, Rockefeller’s service seemed unique to the place as Dean Alison Boden preached on the struggle between intellectualism and faith, touching on both the life of the mind and the life of the spirit.

Such age-old issues gave way to lighter fare as kids gathered in the basement post-service, attaining a simpler state of enlightenment by finding those eggs.

(top) Churchgoers file out of Rockefeller after Sunday's Easter service. Photo by Todd Stoessell. (bottom) Children gather in Rockefeller's basement before the Easter egg hunt. Photo by Todd Stoessell.

April 14, 2004

Talk to me

Campus lecture titles, advertised online and on tacked-up flyers, reflect a scholarly smorgasbord. A few invoke popular culture, others are matter-of-fact, but all testify to the wide-ranging research and thought at the University. Some recent and upcoming offerings:

* Legalized Abortion, Unwantedness, and the Decline in Crime, by Chicago economist Steven Levitt
* Working in the Shadow of the Step Pyramid: Insights into Burial Practices in Middle Kingdom Saqqara, by University of Pennsylvania Museum Egyptologist David P. Silverman, PhD’75
* Studies of Human Islet-Derived Endocrine Pancreas Precursor Cells, by National Institutes of Health scientist Marvin Gershengorn
* The Homintern: Critical Anxieties about Homosexual Influence on the Arts in Cold War America, by Northwestern University historian Michael Sherry
* Uncovering Deep Throat: Media in the Political Realm, by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bill Gaines
* Watching the Photocycle of Photoactive Yellow Protein—One at a Time, by chemistry graduate student Jason Ming Zhao
* The Dynamics of Authority in Islam: Imams, Ikhtilaf, and Isnad, by visiting assistant professor Scott C. Lucas, AM’98, PhD’02
* Molecular Decision-making Networks: Deoxyribozyme-based Circuits and Automata, by Columbia University professor Milan Stojanovic
* The Baseball Culture of Superstition, by Whittier College religion professor Joseph Price, AM’79, PhD’82

And our favorite…

* Queering Brad Pitt: The Struggle Between Gay Fans and the Hollywood Machine to Control Star Discourse and Image on the Web (date has been changed to May 14), by Committee on Cinema & Media Studies lecturer Ronald Gregg


April 16, 2004

Playing defense


Click on thumbnails for full view. When a top U.S. Defense official visited campus Wednesday, U of Cers arrived in droves to hear him speak. Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for policy, drew a crowd that nearly filled Palevsky Theater. Feith, a chief architect of U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, ranks third in the Department of Defense under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, PhD’72.

President Bush, argued Feith, departed “radically and boldly” from previous policy when he decided to rely on armed forces, not only the FBI, in the war on terror. For Bush September 11 “meant that we’re at war.” The enemy—“a far-flung network of terrorist organizations and their state and nonstate supporters”—is a nontraditional one that, Feith said, the country is fighting in three principal ways: disrupting and attacking terrorist networks, protecting the homeland, and engaging in a “battle of ideas” to prevent terrorist ideologies from spreading. Aiming to “defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life as a free and open society,” he said, the United States acknowledges that, realistically, it will never fully eliminate terror worldwide.

After Feith’s talk, organized by the University of Chicago Political Union and funded by the College Republicans, some audience members—noticeably all male despite the coed crowd, and mostly critical of the Bush administration—lined up to ask questions. They grilled him on weapons of mass destruction; the link, or lack thereof, between Iraq and Al Qaeda; and the Iraq war’s death toll. Feith refuted charges that the administration lied when claiming Iraq had WMDs, calling the assertion “at worst a failure, not a lie.”

Phoebe Maltz, ’05

Guys line up to grill Feith. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith addresses the Max Palevsky crowd.

April 19, 2004

Top o’ the building to you

One o’clock on a June-hot April afternoon is not the best time to uncork the Chianti. But at the Friday topping-out ceremony for the new Interdivisional Research Building (IRB), University officials and researchers took a few ceremonial sips, emulating Enrico Fermi’s team’s toast after the first controlled nuclear-chain reaction. They were also celebrating a milestone at Chicago: with 425,000 square feet of research space, the $200 million IRB will bring researchers from the Biological and Physical Sciences together under one roof.

The ceremonial raising of the IRB’s final girder mingled medieval tradition with 21st-century goals. Before a massive crane lifted it into place, construction workers, researchers, students, and administrators lined up to autograph the steel expanse. A timeline of medical and scientific milestones—from 1904, when Alexis Carrel developed early organ-transplant methods, to 2004, when NASA’s Mars rovers carried an instrument using Chicago-invented techniques—looked toward the future as researchers added questions they hope IRB scientists will answer. Here’s one: “Can we watch a biomolecule functioning in the cell in real time?”

Then the beam rose, carrying American and POW-MIA flags—and a potted fir. The last was a remnant from medieval Europe, when carpenters placed a tree atop a new wooden building to seek the forest god’s blessing on the structure and its inhabitants.

After the beam was eased into place, workers and guests adjourned for a hard-hat picnic in the shade of the work-in-progress building. Meanwhile, flags and tree stood tall above 57th Street. Eventually a layer of fireproof flocking will cover the timeline, signatures, and questions. But science will march on.


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Photos (left to right):Faculty and grad students add graffiti that ask science's big questions. After placing the IRB's final beam, workers release it from the crane's cable. Five floors below the beam, the topping-out crowd enjoys a picnic in the shade.

Photography by Dan Dry.

April 21, 2004

The dating game

Conventional wisdom says of U of C dating, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” The adage bore fruit in two recent campus events, timed in confluence with Chicago’s budding spring, which is driving the quirky student body outdoors and, perhaps, into one another’s arms.

One celebration of Chicago-style mating debuted last Wednesday in Max Palevsky Theater. A collaboration between Fire Escape Films and the Order of the C, the student-produced film Eliminate Your Date spoofed popular reality-dating show Elimidate, featuring undergraduate encounters staged at local hangouts, where contestants chose one lucky suitor after whittling down a field of four or five. While the raucous audience settled in, some eliciting giggles by shouting “penis” and others bemoaning the scene as “high school revisited,” the box office declared the show—executive produced by Clair Baldwin, ’04—sold out, even as the line snaked its way out Ida Noyes’s west entrance. Once the film rolled, the crowd watched four vignettes of self-conscious students flirting and fawning for the camera, inducing roars of laughter and the occasional “boo.” But while the unlucky inevitably were “elimidated,” all seemed to have a good time, some jokingly pursuing show host William Connors, ’04. Looking on as Connors attempted to disengage his fans, one contestant declared, arms wrapped around his own chosen lady, “I guess everybody’s a winner.”

Upping the odds of success two days later, about 80 graduate and College students took advantage of Speed Dating, which promised 20 five-minute “dates” along with pizza and beverages in Ida Noyes’s Cloister Club. Organized by Remedy Cuba, a medical-school group raising funds to distribute pharmaceuticals in Cuba, the event drew students who described the standard U of C social scene as “introverted” and “desolate.” As Nelly’s Hot in Herre thrummed through the awkward pre-event mingling, one student worried that he “might be losing the ability to chase ladies; I study too hard.” But when the round robin began, chitchat swelled and few participants had trouble filling five minutes, no matter how odd their partner.


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Photos (from left to right): Speed dating students get five minutes to chat. The right look can go a long way in five minutes. Helpful students point out empty seats at the sold-out Eliminate Your Date showing.

April 23, 2004


A miniature wheel of fortune lent some color to a gray Thursday afternoon in Hutchinson Courtyard. The Student Steering Committee of The Chicago Initiative, the University’s $2 billion capital campaign, tempted passersby with free ice cream and a chance to spin the wheel for prizes, including Chicago Initiative–emblazoned mugs, pencils, and mouse pads. To educate students about the campaign, which recently hit its $1 billion halfway point—the official announcement was today—staffers also handed out novelty $1 billion bills containing background information about the campaign.

While most participants played along, some skeptics noted that they would graduate long before the University would see the billions' benefits. Steering Committee members were quick to remind the pessimists that though they wouldn’t be here to enjoy the fruits of the campaign directly, the value of their Chicago degree depends upon the University’s future reputation, which is what the Initiative hopes to ensure.

Joseph Liss, ’04

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Photos by Dan Dry

April 26, 2004

Chicago convenes—and continues


Seconds after Edgar Jannotta, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, announced that the $2 billion Chicago Initiative had passed the halfway point, maroon and white balloons showered the leadership supporters, alumni, and friends who had gathered Friday afternoon in the International House Assembly Hall to mark the accomplishment. At $1,017,097, 261 the two-year-old campaign has received gifts from 77,000 donors, including 43 percent of the University’s alumni body.

After the balloons, participants were showered with faculty-led panels, tours of new campus facilities, classes in the undergraduate College, and a reception at the Oriental Institute. Then came the grand finale: dinner for 500 in a transformed Rockefeller Chapel, where a floor built over the pews created a venue as magical as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts dining hall.

After 107 guests were inducted into the Harper Society Founders Circle, recognizing cumulative gifts of $1 million or more to the University, President Don Randel conferred the University of Chicago Medal on Life Trustee Marion Musser Lloyd, honoring her five decades of leadership and service.

By 9 o’clock Saturday morning, Rockefeller Chapel was taking off its party clothes. Balloons gone, the I-House Assembly Hall had a full house for the keynote address of a student-organized conference, Consolidating Democracy in Mexico. With simultaneous translation available and television cameras rolling, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior Santiago Creel Miranda discussed election reform and then fielded insistent questions from migrant workers seeking the right to vote in Mexico’s elections from abroad.

It was business as usual at Chicago.


Photography by Dan Dry.

April 28, 2004

First to dig, first to return


Seventy-one years after the Oriental Institute made Chicago the first U.S. university to mount an archaeological dig in Iran—at Persepolis, the ancient Persian Empire’s capital—OI researchers are setting another precedent. Led by OI Director Gil Stein, a delegation will travel to Tehran in early May with 300 cuneiform tablets—the first return of loaned antiquities since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

At a press conference held today in Stein’s office, media types jockeyed for views of tiny clay tablets similar to those stored in the conservator’s office, already carefully packed and sealed for customs. Giving back the tablets, part of a huge, almost uncountable cache estimated at 15,000 to 30,000 pieces, loaned to the OI for study and publication in 1937, also signals the probable renewal of joint Chicago-Iranian projects; at the invitation of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization, the OI has drafted a five-year research agreement. This fall the OI became the first U.S. institution allowed back in Iran when senior research associate Abbas Alizadeh’s team began digging in Khuzestan.

And what makes the tablets so special? Oriental Institute Librarian Charles Jones admitted that when they were first discovered, the hope was that they would be “the royal archives of the great kings of Persia.” They turned out to be much more “pedestrian”: record after record documenting rations distributed to workers and travelers. But, as OI professor Matthew Stolper pointed out, when researchers began the arduous task of translating the Elamite texts, they learned much about the administrative systems that allowed the empire to flourish.

The OI returned two groups of tablets and fragments to Iran around 1950, and more shipments will follow. Asked how many pieces await analysis, Stolper hesitated, then hazarded a guess of 10,000 to 15,000.


Photo: OI professor Matthew Stolper (left) and librarian Charles Jones show the Iranian tablets (top). Stolper, Jones, and OI director Gil Stein talk to reporters (bottom).

April 30, 2004

Sushi seminar


Thursday evening Chicago students washed their hands, got their fingers wet, and arranged rice on seaweed. Undergraduates Chuk Moran, ’05, and Luba Kontorovich, ’06, led the sushi-rolling seminar in an overflowing Bartlett Lounge, while event leader Annie Sheng, ’06, explained the ingredients, purchased both in Chinatown and at the Hyde Park Co-op. Participants and onlookers packed around a large table to observe the demonstration and then to have a go at preparing (and consuming) such sushi basics as cucumber and California rolls. The finished products, though not quite the sleek cylinders of sushi bars, still delighted their creators. The lounge was so crowded, however, that at least one sushi lover, unable to muscle her way to the sushi-making table, climbed the stairs to the Bartlett dining hall for a pizza slice.

The lesson, organized by the Culinary Club, was part of PanAsia 2004, an annual ten-day Asian- and Asian-American festival. Aside from “Sushi Rolling with Chuk and Luba,” this year’s PanAsia included lectures, films, and other events exploring relevant issues.

Phoebe Maltz, ’05

Photo: Chuk Moran, ’05, demonstrates sushi-rolling motions while Luba Kontorovich, ’06, chops ingredients (top). The ingredients were bought in Chinatown and the Hyde Park Co-op (bottom).

About April 2004

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in April 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2004 is the previous archive.

May 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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