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December 2004 Archives

December 1, 2004

Frolicking farce


In his revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, at Court Theatre through December 26, director Charles Newell punctuates Oscar Wilde’s verbal acrobatics with aerobic choreography. Actors pose, prance, and leap about the sets—a miniature London cityscape that doubles as Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff’s morning-room, a manor house garden with Astroturf hedges, and the same house’s library, hedges transformed with purple velour and gold braiding into bookcases and hassocks. If that’s not enough, an onstage pianist tickles the ivories on a white baby grand at the rear of the stage, underscoring key phrases to comic effect.

Subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” the play about love among English society’s leisure class delivers more than its share of one-liners, from Algy’s assessment of his own piano playing—“I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression”—to Jack (née Earnest) Worthing’s rueful realization that “it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.” Although the theatergoers have heard many of Wilde’s bon mots before, the actors garner fresh laughs.

At times it seems as if Court’s cavorting cast will take a tumble over the gymnastic set, but Earnest concludes as Fiction (at least according to the play’s requisite governess) is meant to: the good end happily.

By M.R.Y.

Photos: Lance Stuart Baker as Algernon Moncrieff and Sean Allan Krill as Jack Worthing (top); Lance Stuart Baker as Algernon Moncrieff and Cristen Paige as Cecily Cardew (bottom).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

December 3, 2004

U of Cers predict financial future


The first of the suits to arrive, Joel Stern, MBA’64, joked with reporters gathered at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Wednesday for the Graduate School of Business’s 43rd annual financial forecast. “I’ll try to be controversial, try to make it valuable,” laughed Stern, managing partner and chief executive officer of Stern Stewart & Company.

But neither he nor economics professor Randall Kroszner’s predictions for the upcoming year would rock the business world that morning, or at an afternoon luncheon with some 900 alumni and executives. With guesstimates including that the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would grow about 3.8 or 3.9 percent and consumer spending 2.9 or 3.1 percent, they painted a rosy picture.

“The economic statistics are very strong,” said Kroszner, who served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003. Dismissing negative media reports, he argued, “I think we should show the economy a little bit of respect.”

Stern agreed. Criticizing the Kerry-Edwards campaign’s claim of a sluggish economy, he noted that as of September 30 the 2004 GDP had increased about 4.5 percent. “It turns out we were very lucky this year,” despite such obstacles as soaring oil costs, which he sees dropping in 2005.

Tempering Kroszner and Stern’s good news, Marvin Zonis, professor emeritus of business administration, offered a political perspective on the financial climate. “U.S. economic competitiveness has been declining,” Zonis noted. With the country off track in Iraq and facing conflicts over nuclear proliferation in Iran and elsewhere, he argued, an even lower dollar value and slower growth seem likely.

By M.L.

Photo (top): Kroszner, Stern, Zonis (from left).

Photos by Dan Dry.

December 6, 2004

Defending NAFTA


In the middle of a packed Mandel Hall a College third-year held up a sign that read “Salinas+NAFTA=Criminal.” Several rows ahead of him, about 20 Mexican American graduate students watched the stage. All eyes were fixed on the compact, neatly dressed man at the podium—former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Salinas, a driving force behind the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), offered an unflinching defense of the 1994 law. His Friday visit was his first to the University since 1991, when he came to promote the pending agreement, and the first in a lecture series on NAFTA sponsored by the Katz Center for Mexican Studies.

Salinas commended the Katz Center and the city of Chicago’s Mexican community, the second largest in the United States. Betraying a fierce nationalism, he lamented that Mexico has continued in the past decade to suffer high numbers of emigrations at the U.S. border (According to the U.S. embassy in Mexico, the estimated unauthorized resident population from Mexico increased from about 2 million in 1990 to 4.8 million in January 2000.) “It is a fatality of geography and a destiny of history that we happened to be neighbors.”

Still, he rejected assertions that NAFTA was responsible for the emigrations, attributing them instead to the three-year-old U.S. recession, which has resulted in a stagnant Mexican economy.

By Meredith Meyer, ’07

December 8, 2004

Broadcasting trust


Poised to reinvent themselves, public-television leaders gathered last Thursday and Friday at a conference organized by the University’s Cultural Policy Center and held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. “The new world of media waits for no one,” Carroll Joynes, the center’s executive director, said in his opening remarks to a 200-member audience. Pat Mitchell, president of PBS, concurred: “Technology is rewriting and reinventing the way we do everything.” Public television, she said, must ensure its place in the new-media landscape.

That place should be a “true alternative,” Ken Auletta, media critic for the New Yorker magazine, emphasized in his presentation, challenging PBS to keep in mind its biggest asset: trust. Many panelists raised concerns about political bias, the representation of minority voices, and growing commercialization.

In nearly all of the conference discussions, money emerged as a central problem. Public broadcasting, multiple speakers noted, is grossly underfunded. As one remedy, Mitchell announced the Enhanced Funding Initiative, an expert panel formed to find new ways to put PBS on secure financial footing.

The most promising way to achieve that goal, suggested Jerold M. Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, is to form a coalition with universities, public-interest groups, and art institutions. Joining up with a museum, it seems, may be the way to keep public television out of one.

By Sibylle Salewski

Photos: Pat Mitchell, PBS president (top); the conference was held at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (bottom).

Photos by Lloyd DeGrane.

December 10, 2004

Much-kneaded break


It’s close to 1 a.m. on Sunday night; the recorded sounds of indie-rock music pulsate from a pair of large speakers. A line of students snakes through the building, spilling outside onto the rain-soaked sidewalk. They are all waiting to be served.

A scene from one of Chicago’s newest clubs? Not even close. These patrons are clutching book bags, not beers. At the University of Chicago this time of year, both sleeping and hanging out are pretty much unheard of. Tonight, or rather this morning, is different. Though finals will begin in only a few hours, hundreds of students have jammed into the Reynolds Club for the annual Midnight Breakfast, an event sponsored by the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) featuring pancakes, eggs, and sausage—and a much-needed break from studying.

This year, with grant money from the U.S. Department of Education’s drug-free schools program, the Student Care Center also offers free chair massages, given by two members of Chicago Massage Professionals. About 30 students take advantage of the seven-minute treatments, a part of the event used as a model for other colleges across the country.

As things start to wind down and the conversation switches from holiday presents back to Plato, the students seem eager to head back to the books.

By Dan Dry

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Photos: (clockwise from top-right) Martyna Dubensky of Chicago Massage Professionals gives 4th-year Matt Graham a chair massage around 11:30 pm; Christin Davis, a first-year MAPSS graduate student, works away on a take-home exam near midnight, apparently oblivious to the mass of students lined up for the Midnight Breakfast; the line stretches out the Reynolds Club door into the rain on 57th Street; while some students chow down, hundreds wait to be served; students and food-service employees serve the free Midnight Breakfast.

Photos by Dan Dry.

December 13, 2004

Apostolic art


Suspended between wooden pews and soaring stained glass, 13 abstract portraits of the apostles flank Rockefeller Chapel's stone walls. Painted in reds, blues, yellows, and grays by Swedish artist Michel Östlund, each 4-by-6-foot figure reinterprets an apostle and explores characteristics including longing, love, betrayal, doubt, and wisdom. Part of a world tour, Apostles will be shown through March 30. On February 25 Rockefeller will celebrate the exhibit with a musical program, “In the Glorious Company of the Apostles.”

By A.L.M.

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Photo (upper-right): Artist Michel Ostland at the show's opening. (photo by Dan Dry).

Bottom row photos by Amber Lee Mason.

December 15, 2004

If you direct it, they will come


Academy Award–winning director Mike Nichols, X’53, returned to the Windy City last week to begin technical rehearsals for a medieval musical comedy.

Best known for the The Graduate, Nichols has new projects on both the big screen and the big stage—one heavy, the other light. His film Closer, a look at adultery based on Patrick Marbers’s play, has earned five Golden Globe nominations, including best director and best motion picture–drama. Back in Chicago, the musical Monty Python’s Spamalot, which begins pre-Broadway previews December 21 at the Shubert, has his attention.

Nichols got his start in local theater. In a December 10 Chicago Sun-Times article he recalled attending a production of The Matchmaker while at the University. “I saw that show three times, and by the third time—about 20 minutes into the first act—I thought: Now I know what style is. It’s starting something in such a manner that what needs to happen later in the show can come straight out of that beginning. And you can’t fake it; it must all really unfold in front of the audience.”

The Nichols style—an ironic sensibility, as one film writer put it—has won a loyal following. Commanding such big-name actors as Jude Law and Julia Roberts (Closer), David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria (Spamalot) doesn’t hurt with the audience either.

By M.L.

Photo: Broadway in Chicago.

December 17, 2004

Red, white, and blah

The Renaissance Society’s latest exhibition, A Perfect Union…More or Less, portrays a decidedly disillusioned view of current government affairs. Mary Ellen Carroll’s 24-photo series (Federal, 2004) depicts a day in the life of Los Angeles’s bland federal building. Dominic McGill’s black-and-white mural (Project for a New American Century, 2004) locates war-on-terror imagery and language in a haunted forest. In one of Joeff Davis’s photographs a woman with a blank stare carries a “people of compassion” sign at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Rob Conger’s woven yarn-on-canvas mesh Greenspan Praying (2001) shows the Federal Reserve chairman in a meditative pose, hands pressed together. As a whole the exhibit reflects a confused American political identity, particularly in light of the November election, on display through December 19.

By A.M.B.

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Photos (from left to right): Joeff Davis, "People of Compassion," floor of the Republican National Convention, New York, New York, 2004; Mary Ellen Carroll, "Federal," 2004, 24 C-prints, ed. 5; Van McElwee, "Flag and its Shadow," 2003, DVD projection with sound; Dominic McGill, "Project for a New American Century," 2004, graphite on paper.

December 20, 2004

Marty Center aims to provoke e-comment


Perhaps timing is everything—on the Martin Marty Center’s Religion and Culture Web Forum, anyway. So far Bruce Lincoln’s essay “The Theology of George W. Bush,” posted a month before the election, has received the most online response. The 29 related comments—by far eclipsing the typical two, three, or four in other months—include an exchange between Lincoln, the Caroline E. Haskell professor in the Divinity School; Hugh Urban, AM’92, PhD’98, who teaches at Ohio State; and other readers. This month Divinity School professor and Martin Marty Center director Wendy Doniger writes on “The Mythology of Self-Imitation in Passing: Race, Gender, and Politics”. That essay has elicited two responses.

By A.M.B.

Photo: Bruce Lincoln.

December 22, 2004

If you need us, we'll be by the fire


With 8 degrees on the thermometer and the holidays approaching, UChiBLOGo is taking a break until January 3. In the meantime, here are some fun indoor activities. If, like in Chicago, it’s too cold in your town to go outside and make a snowman, stay inside and prepare a mummy for burial. The Oriental Institute shows you how. Or try to play “Jingle Bells” on the OI’s Artifact Timeline buttons. If art, rather than artifacts, suits you, play around on the Smart Museum’s kids page.

Happy holidays from UChiBLOGo.

By A.M.B.

About December 2004

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

November 2004 is the previous archive.

January 2005 is the next archive.

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

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