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January 2005 Archives

January 3, 2005

Happy birthday to us


The Magazine began this blog almost a year ago, one week into Winter Quarter 2004, with a dispatch from former intern Phoebe Maltz, ’05, who was studying abroad in Paris. In 2005 UChiBLOGo has come full circle. Maltz rejoins the staff as an intern in her last College year. And Northern Exposure, the thrice-weekly photograph of Hull and Cobb gates, now has a year’s worth of entries, which can be seen individually or in a new yearlong slideshow.

The slideshow marks Northern Exposure’s conclusion. This quarter the blog has a different feature in its upper-left corner: Postcards from the Quads, a staff-chosen daily image. It won’t have the same-time, same-place quality of Northern Exposure but instead will take viewers around campus, depending on where the interesting scenes are. Today’s photo, courtesy Alumni News Editor Amber Lee Mason, AB’03, shows the rain dripping off a leafless tree in Harper Quad’s southeast corner.

Coming spring quarter: UChiBLOGo gets a Web cam.


January 5, 2005

Cast away


Would-be actors streamed into Cobb Hall last night for University Theater’s winter-quarter auditions. Looking nervous, they stood in the hallway waiting to be called, reading scripts aloud either alone or with partners. Current UT members sat at tables marked with different play titles, trying to lure students into their audition rooms. Among others, directors sought casts for The Crucible, which will show 10th week; Poe, showing 8th; and Muffet’s Leap, 8th and 9th week, produced by the University’s new student-run production company, Naked Theater, based in Burton-Judson’s basement. Also being cast were the Winter Workshops, plays with shorter rehearsal times and no tech staffs.

UT audition liaison Pete Sloane, ’06, was impressed with the turnout. “The directors are happy with the amount of people showing up,” he said. The auditions, open to the public, attract mainly undergraduates. Grad students, said UT assistant production manager Sarah Nerboso, ’05, tend to be wary of the plays’ time commitments, but they “are very welcome.” Women candidates generally outnumber men, said Sloane, though female and male parts are roughly equal in number, leaving more disappointed Juliets than Romeos.

Interested in seeing your name, well, not quite in lights, but on a UT program? You haven’t missed your chance. Auditions will be held again tonight in Cobb, 7–10 p.m.

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

January 7, 2005

Poetry is cool at school


Poetry draws a young crowd these days—at least when longtime Lab Schools teacher John O’Connor, AB’86, MAT’87, has the stage. About 50 fans, many former students, packed 57th Street Books last night to hear him discuss his new book, Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing, and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom.

“I found school profoundly dull and artificial,” he began. “The sort of mission I feel I’m on is to make school as exciting as the rest of the world.”

Now at New Trier Township High School, O’Connor won praise at Lab for his inventive teaching style, particularly when it came to poetry, an oft-dreaded subject. He demystified verse by having students write about their own life experiences—and making it fun.

“I didn’t feel pressure for it to be really profound or good or anything,” recalled 16-year-old Alice Grossman, who took O’Connor’s class as a freshman and in summer school.

Like a proud parent, he believes his protégés are good, featuring their work in his book and calling on some to read. The poems accompany instructional tools, including more than 25 activities.

Rather than end with a lesson, O’Connor, looking more student than teacher in cargo pants and hiking boots, played his guitar. “Don’t you want to come back to Hyde Park?” one parent called out.

“Yes,” he said, “let’s do this every January 6.”

By M.L.

January 10, 2005

MLK events span disciplines


A keynote address by Kweisi Mfume, the recently retired NAACP president, tops a list of weeklong, campuswide Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration highlights, the University’s most ambitious celebration of the civil-rights icon to date. Mfume will speak on “living the legacy,” the week’s theme, next Monday, January 17, at noon in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

The activities, said President Don Randel and Provost Richard Saller in a December 30 e-mail, are meant to “examine and celebrate Dr. King’s message from a number of disciplines and perspectives.” The academic events include tonight’s screening of Brother Outsider: The Life of Baynard Rustin and a subsequent discussion led by associate professor Jacqueline Stewart, AM’93, PhD’99. On Tuesday longtime Hyde Park resident Roderick Pugh, PhD’49, discusses what the neighborhood was like during the Civil Rights movement. Friday explores multicultural arts with “Roots and Rhymes: Spoken Word/Open Mic” at Uncle Joe’s Coffee Shop. Saturday’s focus is community service, Sunday features Gospel Fest, and on Monday—in addition to Mfume’s talk—the SSA presents a celebration featuring Camille Quinn, AM’98.

By A.M.B.

Photo: Kweisi Mfume.

January 12, 2005

Talking and eating in the library


On a typical Tuesday evening Broadview Hall’s library contains some students hunched over laptops, a few seated around a table working on a problem set. But last night at 8 o’clock it was jam-packed with residents, there to meet with the University’s president, who just happened to be stopping by. “An Evening of Conversation about Music and Other Topics with President Don Randel” was presented by the Broadview RH and RA staff, house staff, kitchen managers, and program coordinators. Though music was the promised discussion topic, Randel assured, “I’m happy to talk about anything. Well, more or less anything.” Over coffee, tea, cookies, and fruit, he and dorm residents discussed matters from the history of musicology to Chicago’s “Uncommon Application.”

Answering students’ questions, he explained why both music and the University of Chicago play vital roles in the world. “Music has never been seen to be essential to the national defense,” said Randel, lamenting the lack of government arts, education, and research funding. Recent budget cuts in those areas, he said, would “undermine our future.” And his favorite art has such practical applications: the one necessary question to determine roommate compatibility, he said, is, “What kind of music do you like?” He added, “From that [information] you invent an entire personality.”

Randel believes Chicago’s personality is different from other elite universities. When peer-institution alumni discuss what they got out of college, he noted, they mention close friendships and spouses. Chicago alumni, on the other hand, often say the University “taught me how to think.” (They do not say, he pointed out, that they were taught “what to think.”) “We are not interested in trying to look like every other institution in America,” he said. “For the right person, [Chicago] is the only place.”

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

January 14, 2005

Classroom wizardry


Despite the presence of two dozen grad students gathered for the Divinity School’s Thursday afternoon Pedagogy and Professionalization Workshop, Swift 106, with its paneled walls and mullioned windows, looked like a classroom where the young Harry Potter would feel at home. The day’s guest—Jonathan Z. Smith, the Robert O. Anderson distinguished service professor in the Humanities in the College—even had the flowing hair and beard of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

Indeed Smith, who coordinates the Religion and Humanities program, approached his topic, “Approaching the Undergraduate Classroom,” with Dumbledore’s wry sagacity. And, like Dumbledore, he told the truth: even after decades of teaching, he still visits the classroom the day before a course begins (“I know what I didn’t know at the beginning, to check to make sure there’s chalk”). And he still spends a sleepless pre-class night rewriting the first day’s lesson plan and perusing the reading one more time. The process “does not get any easier, and it shouldn’t. It’s an awesome responsibility.”

To meet that responsibility, Smith suggested practical strategies: Keep a journal for each course, recording successes, surprises, readings that might work. Keep office hours religiously (and be predictably available at other times in a place where students can join you, “but never be distressed if no one comes”). Remember “the very first rule of teaching: assume nothing; make everything explicit,” because although professors design courses “answering our questions,” students “are listening for answers to their questions.”

For Smith, the challenge of the undergraduate classroom is also its magic: “I want to be with people who shout, ‘Eureka!’ all the time.”

By M.R.Y.

January 17, 2005

Something to crow about

Featuring dances, skits, fight scenes, and a rainbow of costumes and characters, the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association’s (CUSA) Saturday night New Year extravaganza, Big Swords, Big Guns, followed dual narratives of ancient sword masters bent on revenge and turn-of-the-century Shanghai gangs chafing at colonial British dominance. The occasionally slapstick action was interspersed with choreographed musical numbers, ranging from the traditional handkerchief dance to Plum Blossoms (Remix), a modern take on 1920s dance-hall culture.

A crowd of about 700 students, sponsors, and family members offered up hearty applause, hoots, whistles, and a few roaring laughs for the Mandel Hall spectacle, celebrating the Year of the Rooster, and received in return the good-luck blessing of a well-performed lion dance.

By A.L.M.

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January 19, 2005

An argument against nationalism


Distinguished and erudite, British journalist and historian Anatol Lieven unabashedly proffered, “America may be spreading progress in other countries, but not democracy.” Continuing the Center for International Studies’ World Beyond the Headlines lecture series Tuesday night at International House, Lieven, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former correspondent for the London Times and the Financial Times, discussed his newest book, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2004).

According to Lieven, America’s patriotic character embodies two contradictory elements: thesis—a civic nationalism espousing liberty, democracy, and the rule of law, which he calls the American creed—and antithesis, a Jacksonian nationalism rooted “in the aggrieved, embittered, and defensive White America, centered in the American South.” One reason he wrote the book, he said, “was to remind Americans of the great many critiques of America’s culture and past. Dividing American nationalism between a thesis and antithesis would qualify some belief in American exceptionalism.”

While the American creed is ultimately optimistic and universalist, Lieven continued, “the danger of the American antithesis displays the liberal imperialist sense that nothing but total victory will do, leading to unrealistic and frustrated goals.” He concluded, “America keeps a fine house, but in its cellar there lives a demon, whose name is nationalism.”

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

Photo: Anatol Lieven.

January 21, 2005

Classical piano meets art rock


Christopher O’Riley opened his sold-out show at Mandel Hall with the first song from Radiohead’s album Pablo Honey , because, he said, it is “the only pop song [he knows] in 28:3 time signature.” A classically trained pianist and host of a classical-music radio show, O’Riley’s concert did not feature the Mozart or Shostakovich pieces for which he is well-known. Instead it showcased Radiohead songs O’Riley had personally transcribed (and recorded).

Neither definitively rock nor classical, the concert drew from both genres. Dressed in all black at a grand Steinway, between songs the self-effacing host maintained a casual conversation with the Radiohead fans in the crowd about his obsession with the band. He also held a continuous dialogue with the sheet music: the audience watched his face as he mouthed lyrics and, as each song ended, closed his eyes and threw himself back.

The show was the seventh annual Regents Park Discovery Concert put on by Chicago Presents. O’Riley returns to Mandel Hall tonight to play with the Miró Quartet.

By Meredith Meyer ’06

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January 24, 2005

Road movie with a twist


The Adventures of Felix (Drôle de Félix, 2000), the second film by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau—on campus last week for a two-day Center for Gender Studies film conference—employs the familiar road-trip genre, following a young man on a quest for a father he has never met. Felix is a young Frenchman of Arab descent, gay, and HIV positive. During his journey across France he encounters characters including a racist thug and an elderly woman who not only takes him in but who also shares his love of a morning soap opera and his need for a large pill organizer. Though Felix never finds his father, he learns some lessons about paternity from a little boy, who matter-of-factly explains that his own biological father, those of his half-siblings, and even his mother’s current boyfriend are all “dad.”

After the screening, held last Saturday in Cobb Hall’s Film Studies Center, the filmmakers discussed the movie with the audience.image: uchiblogo “The film wasn’t marketed as a gay film in France,” Ducastel said, but rather as mainstream fare. Martineau added that not everyone who saw Felix in France even understood that its main character—who is seen taking medications but whose condition is never stated explicitly—is HIV positive. Another challenge, Martineau noted, had nothing to do with identity issues: France is “a small country,” so to “make France look wide” and remain consistent with the typically American road-trip flick, the filmmakers had Felix hitchhike rather than drive or take the train.

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

January 26, 2005

Broomball bombast

Ask anyone to describe modern intramural broomball and you will probably hear some combination of the words “overpaid,” “selfish,” and “immature.” The intellectual variant of ice hockey, broomball has lost its former status as the bourgeois winter sport of choice, thanks to large contracts and enormous product endorsement deals.

Broomball owes its origin to a midcentury obsession with ice sports. After hockey and skating took center stage with the Winter Olympiad, intellectuals—mainly youth at America’s top undergraduate institutions—desired an ice sport of their own, but one unencumbered by the technical and physical demands of skating. These students found their place in broomball. Unable to secure funding for equipment from athletic departments—at the time promoting only “real” sports—these students employed brooms to propel a small ball toward an opposing goal. As the sport ascended from leisure activity to organized athletic event, technologically enhanced broomball sticks came to replace the actual brooms (although historical broomball societies continue to host occasional “olde tyme” matches with brooms).

Amateur play is only the tip of the iceberg: the 15-year-old National American Continental Broomball League (NACBL) now has 20 teams in 16 metro areas (New York has four teams). Since its inception the league has seen the average player salary rise from $32,000 to $10.5 million per year, aided by a veritable explosion in attendance and viewership. Experts attribute the slow death of the National Hockey League (NHL) to broomball’s growth.

Despite the market gains, the NACBL has been rocked in recent years by steroid scandals and increasing violence on and off the ice. Fans feel disillusioned with a sport that once encapsulated sportsmanship and friendly competition. This year some 12 Chicago students are offering their own counter-narrative to this dark tale. Calling themselves the Frozen Tsunamis, this ragtag group of undergrads—one of 24 University IM broomball teams—is attempting to take back the sport’s ethical and intellectual genesis.

“Most teams are sponsored and supplied by ‘houses,’ giant multiquad entities that require their players to eat, sleep, and study together,” says Tsunami captain Sam Gill. “Most of these kids don’t even know anyone outside of their houses, which are spookily named after the corporate barons who funded the dormitories in which these broomball automatons live.”

Gill’s goal is to unite students outside the house system. Most call him idealistic, but he believes that his team’s independence might be its biggest advantage. “How did broomball start? A bunch of philosophy students with big glasses and academic scholarships decided they had the same right to ice sports as any huge, juiced-up athlete.”

Their task may seem impossible, but that’s why they call themselves the Frozen Tsunamis. They believe they can stop a tidal wave and, journalistic integrity be damned, this reporter thinks they can do it.

The Tsunamis now stand 1–1, ending Woodward House’s four-year undefeated streak Tuesday night. Their next game, against Wallace House on February 1, will determine if they make the playoffs.

By Sam Gill, ’05

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Photos: Frozen Tsunami captain Sam Gill gives a half-time pep talk (top right); Tsunami Rebecca Searl, '05, adjusts her helmet (bottom left); Woodward team members watch the game (bottom right).

January 28, 2005

Parchment mystery


On Saturday the Oriental Institute reopens its east wing, which closed in 1996 for renovations. The new gallery, Empires of the Fertile Crescent: Ancient Assyria, Anatolia, and Israel, explores ancient civilizations including the Assyrians, the Hittites, the Neo-Hittites, the Canaanites, and the early Israelites. Though most of the displayed artifacts were excavated by OI archaeologists in the 1920s and ’30s, one item was purchased by the OI in Jordan in 1956: a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which dates to 50 BC–50 AD. The parchment texts, wrapped in linen and stored in pottery jars, were hidden in the first century AD and recovered between 1947 and 1956. Many of the scrolls contain the earliest known Hebrew copies of Old Testament texts. The OI piece, translated by Norman Golb, the Ludwig Rosenberger professor of Jewish history and civilization, first praises the virtues of Torah study and humility, then decries contrary vices:

1. ..your soul .
2. ..your [hear]t, and in the teach[ing]
3. . you will [re]joice upon it and .
4. . [with] humble heart beseech Him .
5. . and haughtiness of eyes, uncircumcised heart .
6. . haughtiness of heart and anger, anger .

Recent excavations at Khirbet Qumran, where the scrolls were found, show that a controversial theory Golb has long advanced may be true. He has argued that the scrolls were not written exclusively, or even largely, by the poor Essene Jewish sect, as commonly thought, but by a variety of scribes. Ten years of digs turned up artifacts suggesting prosperous inhabitants, not the Essene, had in fact lived there.

By A.M.B.

Photos: the OI case containing the Dead Sea Scrolls fragment also contains a pottery jug similar to the ones in which the scrolls were found (bottom).

Photos by Dan Dry.

January 31, 2005

Kids' hospital opens amid fanfare

In a well-appointed tent accented by clowns and posters of young patients, the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the Comer Children’s Hospital (opening this month) featured an all-star program of local and national officials, University higher ups, big donors, and 8-year-old former cancer patient Jimmy Mohan.

Senator Barack Obama joined University President Don Randel, Illinois First Lady Patricia Blagojevich, and Congressman Bobby Rush, among others, in thanking Gary and Francie Comer, who donated $21 million toward the 155-bed, 242,000-sqare-foot building, designed to offer a warm, family-friendly atmosphere along with expanded research and treatment facilities. Gary Comer, who considers the South Side his hometown, also thanked those who would advance pediatric care. “Jimmy,” he said, “you’re what it’s all about.”

By A.L.M.

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Photos: Jimmy Mohan (left); Gary Comer (middle).

About January 2005

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in January 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2004 is the previous archive.

February 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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