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November 2004 Archives

November 1, 2004

Many a magic being

A menagerie of witches, black cats, angels (and their devilish counterparts), pirates, and princesses were among the 900 guests who filed past the flapper and the American Indian to take their Mandel Hall seats Saturday night. An annual tradition, the music department’s Halloween concert brought out a costumed crowd for this year’s Ring of Destiny, featuring selections from Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Götterdämmerung, and Die Walküre and Johann de Meij and Howard Shore’s music from The Lord of the Rings performed by the University Symphony Orchestra. Not to be out-spectacled by the audience, the musicians also were disguised—as elves, clowns, vampires, and what might have been a strawberry. Conductor Barbara Schubert appeared as a Viking, making a grand entrance on a wheeled longboat.

Reading from her golden shield, Schubert told the audience to expect “to meet many a magic being” in the selections, and she prefaced each piece with a rhymed synopsis describing the music’s fairytale narrative. Refusing to be distracted by false ears, lab goggles, and a young audience prone to unprompted claps and screams, the orchestra thundered through the pieces, accompanied during “Ride of the Valkyries” by the Hyde Park School of Ballet professional track dancers performing in the aisles. After the show—the first of two—the crowd gathered up its cowboy hats and prosthetic tails, streamed through a waiting throng of ghosts and goblins, and ventured out into the Halloween night.

By A.L.M.

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November 3, 2004

The price of the election


Two days before Senator John Kerry conceded the 2004 presidential race to President George W. Bush, the George J. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State hosted a debate on the two candidates' likely economic impacts.

The event, held at the Graduate School of Business' new Hyde Park Center, pitted GSB professor Austan Goolsbee—an economic adviser to the Kerry campaign—against Randall Kroszner—a 2001–03 member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. They argued to a capacity crowd of polo shirt- and khakis-wearing grad students grabbing lunch in between classes and job interviews.

An animated Goolsbee criticized Bush's fiscal responsibility during the past four years: “It would be like the week before your kid goes to college, you max out all of your credit cards.” Bush's “stimulus” policies, he said, are supposed to take effect within the next six years, but the government has signed itself up for a decade of debt. “What does it take for a president to be voted out of office?

Kroszner rejected the deficit's importance, primarily arguing that there has been little evidence that the long-term interest rate will increase. Because the country's debt-to-GDP ratio is relatively low—particularly when compared to the Reagan years—lenders know that the country won't have a problem paying deficits back, he said.

The two speakers also debated the growing Social Security crisis. With the baby-boom generation pressing the system's resources, Bush's policy would create tax-relieved personal retirement accounts that create a long-term fix, said Kroszner: “It has to be now or later, and we're willing to pay more now to save later.”

But Goolsbee argued that the 2001 stock market recession reminded people why they don't invest privately and that Bush's projections of investment returns have not been risk-adjusted. He expected Kerry to restore the 1993 Clinton tax code and use surpluses to save Social Security—a plan that Bush “hacked to pieces with bad fiscal policy.”

Two days later, with Republicans expanding control of all three government branches, Bush's fiscal policy will almost certainly be able to test the waters again.

By S.I.A.

Photo: (from left to right) Randall Kroszner (Bush), Saul Levmore (moderator), and Austan Goolsbee (Kerry).

November 5, 2004

A lesson in jumping to bird-brained conclusions

For some time tales have circulated around campus that a peregrine falcon, until recently an endangered species, had taken up residence among the Gothic towers of the main quads—the urban equivalent of cliffs and ledges. So when Mandy Collins, a Hospitals housekeeper, came to my office looking for a guy with a camera to photograph the “giant killer bird in the courtyard,” I assumed that was what she had found.

We ran down to a big plate-glass window about 10 feet away from a crow-sized, brown and white bird, perched in a tree in the courtyard next to Chicago Lying-in Hospital. Below it were a pigeon’s bloody remains. In hospitals death is supposed to occur behind closed doors, so we had taken only a few pictures before a two-man clean-up crew arrived: one to gather and prepare the prey’s feathers and bones for burial and one to protect his colleague from the predator—who promptly flew away.

Pointing a camera out the window in a busy narrow hallway drew a crowd. “This is a peregrine falcon,” I told the onlookers, “the world's fastest animal. They swoop down on other birds and knock them out of the air.”

A quick Google Images search confirmed my impression—the bird must be a peregrine falcon. But within an hour Mandy came back to tell me our bird was a Cooper’s hawk. A neurologist had pointed it out in a book. I scoffed.

We looked at the prints of our bird, the Web’s peregrine falcons, and the book. It was a Cooper’s hawk–also until recently endangered, also fond of pigeons, also a cliff dweller and pretty darn speedy—but not the world’s fastest.

Later that day, to see if the bird returned, I passed by the window. It was the same spot where I had my only previous memorable bird-watching experience, again punctuated with snap judgments. George Block, a feared, renowned, foul-mouthed, cigar-chomping, ex-Marine surgeon, swooped down on me in the hall, grabbed my arm, and dragged me to that window. I expected complaints about litter, or worse, but he pointed out the window to a big red bud tree in full bloom. Smack in the middle sat a bright red cardinal. “Look at that,” he said. “Isn’t that the most beautiful goddam thing you ever saw?”

By John Easton, AM’77, U of C Hospitals public affairs

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Photos by John Easton.

November 8, 2004

All the world's a poem


“Who will be the first man to forget a continent?” the poet read. “The great forgetters were hard at work.” Drawing the audience into a reflective trance Thursday afternoon, Mark Strand, the Andrew MacLeish distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought, gave the Divinity School’s 2004 John Nuveen Lecture.

Creating a mood sometimes grave, sometimes humorous, he led his listeners into a realm of lyrical imagery, addressing themes of transience, apathy, consciousness, desire, and death. “I am not thinking of death but death is thinking of me,” he recited from his unpublished work 2002, due out in 2006. Besides new poetry, Strand, the 1990–91 U.S. poet laureate, also analyzed passages from his Pulitzer Prize–winning Blizzard of One (Knopf, 1999) and The Continuous Life (Knopf, 1990).

A painter turned poet, Strand often crafts his verses as pictures, he said. “The idea of shaping something poetically is like painting; my intent is to first establish order.” He initially drew inspiration from artists and writers he encountered as a young man. “This has been a very rich century for American poetry,” he said, citing Donald Justice, Wallace Stevens (whose namesake award Strand won last month), Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell. “Having read these poems early on in my teenage years,” he recalled, “initiated me into the realm of imagination where I could get away from the world around me.”

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

November 10, 2004

Cleaning the stacks


On the Regenstein Library’s first floor, about 20 browsers juggle winter jackets as they leaf through dusty books. Choreographing his steps through the unforgiving, narrow aisles, one man struggles to pass a younger guy, who is engaged in an old edition of a medical text, Sudden Coronary Death. The next aisle over a girl smirks as she lifts Men of Ancient Iowa from a shelf marked “history.” Meanwhile, in a roomier corner, an older woman huddles over The Meaning of Meaning.

This is no ordinary day in the stacks. On Monday the Reg kicked off its biannual, weeklong book sale. More than 10,000 old and duplicate books create an impressive labyrinth, tucked away in Room 120.

The Monday shoppers take no chances. These early birds get first pick at the widest variety of books. And variety there is; subjects range from computer science to Judaica. As the sale’s inventory diminishes over the week, so will prices. A hardback that goes for $20 on Monday will command only $5 dollars on Wednesday. If it hasn’t been sold by Saturday, the sale’s last day, the book is free.

Proceeds benefit the library.

By Meredith Meyer, ’07

November 12, 2004

Hittite parade

“Everybody knows about Egypt. Everybody knows about Mesopotamia,” grumbled Theo van den Hout, professor of Hittite and Anatolian languages. “But we always have to explain what Anatolia is.” The occasion of van den Hout’s lament, Thursday night’s Oriental Institute broadcast of The Hittites: The Empire that Changed the World, was also an occasion for hope: “With this movie, I don’t think we ever have to explain it again.”

After a brief introduction by director and Turkish filmmaker Tolga Ornek and a warning—“You’re going to get two hours of Hittites with no breaks”—the capacity audience learned that Anatolia (which encompassed modern-day Turkey) witnessed the rise and fall of the Hittites, who reigned from 1650 to 1180 B.C. During its zenith the Hittite empire rivaled the glory of neighboring Egypt, but now it’s “an obscure footnote on the pages of history.” As a remedy, the film reanimates the Hittites’ past, exploring their rituals, economy, laws, cities, and extensive pantheon of gods, both their own and those of conquered populations. Indeed, the documentary explains, one of the Hittites’ greatest accomplishments was to absorb and perpetuate the cultures of their Near Eastern neighbors. Even after their ultimate decline, the Hittites’ legacy included religious, military, and diplomatic innovations preserved throughout the region and the world.

The film, too, had an impact. As the lights came up one audience member mused to another, “That made me want to go study more history.”


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Photos: scenes from The Hittites: The Empire that Changed the World.

November 15, 2004

Group hangs antiviolence message


“Don’t lament, get consent,” directs a laminated, orange-construction-paper sign, pinned to a clothesline. “Only yes means yes,” reads a red sheet. The two clotheslines, strung on the main quads by Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Week, each hold more than a dozen such messages. The outdoor signs draw attention to more displays that will hang in the Reynolds Club later this week, as Chicago participates in the national Clothesline Project, in which sexually abused women hang T-shirts with antiviolence messages.

Related events this week include a Center for Gender Studies discussion titled Kobe and Beyond: A Look at Sexual Assault, Race, and the Media; two Ratner self-defense classes; a talk called The Political Process and Efforts to Address Violence Against Women; and a Friday creative forum for assault survivors to create their own clothesline T-shirts.

By A.M.B.

November 17, 2004

Burning discussion


Sometimes war movies have the unfortunate trait of applying to present-day situations, as students, faculty, and other adults pointed out Tuesday night at Doc Films after watching the Italian film Burn! (Queimada), directed by Gillo Pontecorvo.

Screened as part of the Human Rights Program’s ten-part “Occupation, Colonialism, Human Rights” series, Burn! is a 1970 sequel of sorts to The Battle of Algiers (1966), but unlike the latter film’s historical, docudrama setting, Burn! tells the story of a fictional, 19th-century, Portuguese-occupied island. It chronicles ambivalent, drunken Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando), a British agent sent to Queimada to start a native rebellion against the Portuguese sugar monopoly. Ten years later he is forced to return to the island and kill the leader, José Dalores, he had mentored. The movie’s themes were provocative enough to Spaniards that, in order to prevent the film from being censored, Pontecorvo changed the island’s occupier to Portugal from Spain and dubbed Spanish-speaking natives accordingly.

The hour-long discussion afterward, led by associate history professor Dain Borges, revolved largely around the film’s historical basis. Borges argued that the movie’s plot most resembles the Cuban and Haitian revolutions of the mid-19th century, but that it also makes deliberate commentary on the Vietnamese and African decolonization movements happening around the film’s release. Students added comparisons to present-day Iraq, noting in particular the guerilla tactics.

When one student pressed Borges on why the audience needed to ground the film historically, he admitted that the movie might be best characterized as a more universal “opera of human emotions” with its powerful, if obtrusive, music and focus on facial expressions. He criticized the film’s concession to story-telling conventions, such as the natives’ dependency on a foreign white man to start a movement. “The same way it irks me that people say Indians couldn’t build the pyramids without Chinese or Egyptian influence,” Borges said, “it irks me that these slaves couldn’t start a revolution without an Englishman parachuting in.”

By S.I.A.

November 19, 2004

Keeps rainin' all the time

About 50 guests left behind gray skies and misty air for a lighter take on stormy weather inside Fulton Recital Hall Thursday. Three petite, white-haired women rode the Goodspeed elevator to the fourth-floor auditorium, humming old showtunes. The trio joined other early birds in the lobby, dishing on a recent AARP Magazine article. But once the doors opened, they abandoned talk of cancer, blood pressure, and strokes for an afternoon escape.

At the Music Department’s free noontime concert, “Stormy Weather: Songs from 1933,” the mood was more mirth than melancholy. On a stage set with greenery and a bowl of floating candles, soprano Jess Cullinan and pianist Richard Plotkin bowed and then launched into the Ted Koehler (lyrics) and Harold Arlen (music) classic. A project assistant and computer tech in music, Cullinan may not have known “why there’s no sun in the sky,” but she did explain her selections: “I chose the year 1933 for Billie Holiday”—the year of the crooner’s first recording—“and for the music,” all Top 40 hits from movies or Broadway. With that explanation out of the way, Cullinan and music graduate student Plotkin carried on, working through 13 more numbers, including “The Song is You” and “Love is the Sweetest Thing.”

Finished 45 minutes later, the duo bowed again and exited stage left. Back in the lobby the crowd lingered, avoiding what awaited them outside, weather- or otherwise.

By M.L.

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Photos: 20th Century Fox 1943.

November 22, 2004

Genocide: not a word to take lightly


With PowerPoint presentations, statistics, and photos, panelists from around the globe lectured on what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis—the unfolding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. Packed beyond capacity with students, faculty, and community members, the panel discussion took place Thursday evening at Ida Noyes Library.

Government forces and Janjaweed militia have already killed at least 50,000 non-Arab Darfurians and driven more than 1 million villagers from the country. During Sudan’s 21-year civil war, said Suliman Giddo, director of the Darfur Peace and Development Fund, the Khartoum government has tried to crush Darfurian rebels while the nomadic Janjaweed militia has worked to expel the non-Arab population from the land. As a consequence, Giddo noted, “There is no infrastructure for opposition in Sudan.”

The crisis originally stemmed from political tensions associated with the “Islamization” of the community or “the civilization project.” “The [Islamic] government wanted to force the [Darfurian] community to change its fundamental structure,” he explained.

Monitoring the humanitarian effort’s status, John Heffernan, an investigator with Physicians for Human Rights, showed images from his two-week visit to refugee camps along the Sudan-Chad border, where 200,000 refugees remain in exile. “Darfur is the size of Texas and is virtually inaccessible by outsiders,” Heffernan explained. “These people have no access to water, medicine, or adequate shelter. Unless there is outside assistance to people, they will have a difficult time surviving.”

The final panelist, Ami Henson, an officer on the Sudan Task Force at USAID, discussed the inherent tension between performing humanitarian aid and assisting human-rights investigations. “Humanitarian workers do not want to get [thrown out] of the country and lose their access to the population,” she said,” so we don’t ask certain questions that human-rights workers would.”

Above all, the panelists agreed, an accord between the government in the north and the Darfurians in the south must forge a fundamental change in ruling structure and involve more substantial action by other nations. “There has been no intervention because this is a sovereign country even though it has been recognized that there is a genocide going on,” Heffernan argued. “How much does a country have to do before it must forfeit sovereignty?”

Sponsored by the Giving Tree, the Human Rights Program, Amnesty International’s U of C chapter, the Center for International Studies, and U of C UNICEF, the discussion headlined this year’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

Photo: divinity School doctoral candidate Noah Salomon, AM'01, moderates Thursday's "Crisis in Sudan" panel discussion.

Photo by Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04.

November 24, 2004

Food for debate


Last night in a very crowded Mandel Hall, a panel of academic-gowned U of C professors solemnly weighed the pros and cons of two popular Jewish holiday foods. The ritual debate, presented by Hillel and sponsored by the Neubauer Family Foundation of Philadelphia, opened with a brief set by the University of Chicago Klezmer Band. Then Hillel’s Rabbi David M. Rosenberg welcomed all to the 58th annual debate, offering newcomers a helpful translation: the Yiddish word for “hamentashen” is “hamentashen.”

Following Rosenberg was longtime moderator and philosophy professor Ted Cohen, AB’62, who, for numerous and numerological reasons, announced, “Welcome to the 60th Latke-Hamentash Debate.” Cohen introduced the first panelist, Modern Hebrew Literature professor Menachem Brinker, who suggested using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a model for solving the far more controversial battle over the respective merits of the Chanukah potato pancake and the traditional Purim cookie.

Eschewing the political for the material, physics professor Robert Geroch showed a slide of what he claimed was the first page of Albert Einstein’s “On the fundamental significance of the speed of latke,” which, as with the first page of any scientific paper, came complete with abstract and introduction. He then demonstrated, using a giant pendulum made of a suspended bowling ball, how the hamentash defies the laws of physics.

Latkes and hamentashen were also used as symbols of the traditional rift between German and Eastern European Jews in America—SSA associate professor Harold Pollack asserted that the former prefer hamentashen and the latter latkes, laying out his points in the form of a thorough parody of Philip Roth’s [AM’55] Goodbye, Columbus. And finally, music professor Philip Gossett revealed that Italian operas were all written by a tailor named Moishe with a penchant for pseudonyms.

After the debate, audience members cast ballots in favor of latkes or hamentashen and proceeded to Hutchinson Commons to make a less intellectual and more direct comparison.

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

Photo: debate moderator Ted Cohen, AB'62, feigns ballot box stuffing in favor of his choice, the latke (bottom).

November 29, 2004

Two for the Rhodes

Two College alumni have joined the ranks of Bill Clinton, Naomi Wolf, and Wesley Clark. Announced November 20, Rhodes Scholarship winners Ian Desai, AB’04, and Andrew Kim, AB’04, along with 30 other Americans, will receive tuition and a living stipend for two years of study at Oxford University. Desai, an ancient-studies major, plans to explore the links between South Asia and Greece, both modern and ancient. Kim, a political-science major, will use his scholarship to study refugee issues and human rights. Desai and Kim bring Chicago’s Rhodes total to 39.

Beyond the University of Chicago Chronicle, Desai and Kim have made headlines in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, and an Associated Press article ran in many papers, including the New York Times.

By A.L.M.

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Photos: Andrew Kim, AB'04 (left); Ian Desai, AB'04 (right).

About November 2004

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

October 2004 is the previous archive.

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