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February 2005 Archives

February 2, 2005

Mob scene


It was SRO in the Quadrangle Club dining room for the opening (and penultimate) night of Revels ’05, “A Mob Musical.” As with any professorial opus, there was a Latinate subtitle involved—in this case, “An Encomium to Clout and Clichés”—but this year’s incarnation of the annual faculty-produced revue was light on pomp, heavy on puns and sight gags as it took on two Chicago traditions: life in the mob and the life of the mind.

Those lifestyles meet when the son of Chicago mobster Rocco eschews the family business to enroll in the Committee on Social Thought. Turning lemons into lemonade Rocco decides to move into a new ’hood and open a riverboat casino on the Midway. First he needs to flood it—and he needs the University’s cooperation.

So Rocco and his boys make a little visit to President Randel—played with lifelike precision by President Randel himself. Rocco wastes no time in explaining to his good friend Don Michael what could go wrong if the University doesn’t do business with him, singing merrily and meaningfully: “I ask you to surmise ten years without a prize—not a single Nobel—what a dreadful tale to tell.”

Not even in economics?” Randel deadpans back.

But enough about the plot. It was only an excuse for witty lyrics set to music composed by GSB professor emeritus Bob Ashenhurst, philosophy professor Ted Cohen, AB’62, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart, and others. Among the biggest crowd pleasers was Hyde Parker and novelist Sara Paretsky, AM’69, MBA’77, PhD’77. As Detective Warshawski, testifying against Rocco in federal court, Paretsky did a diva turn in “The Queen of the Right’s Aria.” Too bad Rocco’s defense attorney was, as described in the program, “a brilliant Law School prof.”

By M.R.Y.

Photos: VP for University Relations Michael Behnke as Rocco and President Don Randel as himself (top); novelist Sara Paretsky as Detective Warshawski (bottom).

February 4, 2005

Mind over body

In the Renaissance Society’s current exhibition, The Here and Now, three sculptures by three artists address “the notion of presence—literally, metaphorically, and spiritually,” says the gallery’s educational director, Hamza Walker, AB’88, in the museum notes. Javier Tellez’s helium-balloon “base of the world,” Katrin Sigurdardottir’s high-plain mountain landscape, and Sanford Biggers’s Buddhist bowls each are “an invitation to critically reflect upon one’s relationship to the artwork as it in turn relates to its location.” Exhibited together, they create a more cohesive result, making “concrete the imagination’s bid for transcendence, giving form to the very metaphors that would then allow the imagination to go beyond the material and spatial forms of the gallery, and indeed the artworks themselves. In other words, presence of body is activated only to yield to presence of mind.”

The Here And Now runs through February 20.

By A.M.B.

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Photos (from left to right): Javier Tellez, Socle du Monde (Base of the World), 2005 helium filled vinyl balloon, 60" x 60" x 50"; Sanford Biggers, Hip Hop Ni Sasa Gu (In Fond Memory), 2005, tatami mats, pillows, inscribed Buddhist singing bowls; Katrin Sigurdardottir, High Plane 3, 2005, wood, foam, dimensions variable.

February 7, 2005

Let's talk about sex


U of Cers can go beyond the life of the mind, thanks to the second release of student-run sex magazine Vita Excolatur. Exploring the human body, the 25-page, glossy black-and-white publication features a photo essay on the University’s men’s Frisbee team, with full frontal nudity. Another section includes interviews with and pictures of Chicago’s sexiest male teaching assistants, as voted by readers: biology and math students Palak Desai and Semere Baraki.

The current issue is more provocative than the first, which came out in January, editor in chief Sida Xiong observed. The initial response to the magazine, she says, “was really positive overall, with criticism here and there.” Steve Klass, vice president and dean of students in the University, called Vita Excolatur “reasonably good” in a January 11 Maroon article, suggesting that writers should delve into health and other related topics. “I think that’s something we are going to touch on,” fourth-year Xiong said in a recent interview.

Vita Excolatur’s editors obtained Registered Student Organization status and backing from the Student Government Finance Committee. Readers can subscribe or find copies at the Reynolds Club or Cobb. The next issue is due in March.

By M.L.

February 9, 2005

Not yet the end of history


Social Sciences room 122 teemed with enough listeners to create condensation on the windows, crowded aisles, and a slew of camera flashes. They were there Tuesday afternoon to hear Francis Fukuyama, the Bernard L. Schwartz professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University, give a talk called The End of History Fifteen Years Later. In his address Fukuyama amended claims in his groundbreaking book, The End of History and the Last Man (Penguin, 1992), and discussed his newest work, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Cornell University Press, 2004).

“I think The End of History needs to be rewritten,” the scholar-prognosticator admitted. “The modernity of the liberal West is difficult to achieve for many societies around the world.” Islamic radicalism, the United States and Europe’s ideological split over the Iraq war, and the notion of politics as an autonomous machine have all clashed with Fukuyama’s original thesis that human history as a struggle between warring ideologies was at a close, with the world settled on liberal democracy.

“My thesis ended as a question,” he noted. “The theory is about modernization and the coherent processes of economic, political, and social development and interconnectedness.” Nevertheless, Fukuyama defended his ideas about modernization’s universality and liberal democracy as correlative. “Modernization is like the scientific revolution—both can break out of their cultural homeland,” he said. “However, to maintain a liberal political order, there must be a fundamental separation between religion and state formation.”

The talk was part of the 2005 John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy Winter lecture series.

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

February 11, 2005

Poetic calm


Joanna Klink seemed perfectly at ease Thursday afternoon in Classics 10, where she quieted the buzzing audience of about 50 students and faculty members with her image-laden poetry. Her poise in the crowded room reflected the calm of her verse, introduced by English language & literature assistant professor Oren Izenberg as providing a “foundation for the chaos of the world to be understood.”

Klink pronounced each word with doting attention, pausing after particularly poignant images so that the audience might fully appreciate the beauty of “air filled with moths as light as pencil outlines.” The natural environment surrounding Klink at the University of Montana, where she teaches, figures prominently in her work and informs what she called her “poetry of the North.” Antelope, flickers, and barn swallows were the unsuspecting subjects of her poems, which came from an unpublished manuscript she was “testing out” on the Classics audience.

Klink also gave a 1 p.m. lecture today in Gates-Blake 321. Thursday’s reading marked the first Poem Present event of 2005. The series continues through the spring, welcoming five more poets to campus.

By Meredith Meyer, ’06

February 14, 2005

Dangerous Liaisons

In the Court Theatre production of Heiner Müller’s Quartet, which runs through February 27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the game of scheming and seduction first told in Choderlos de Laclos’s novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses gets whittled down to the two main players: the Marquise de Merteuil and her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont.

Directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, AB’60—back for her sixth Court project—Quartet takes place not in a pre-revolutionary French court but in a “timeless, unspecified place,” interpreted by set and costume designer Kaye Voyce as a bland, double-bedded hotel room. Because Merteuil (Karen Kandel) and Valmont (Steven Rishard) play all the parts (including each other), the play involves, as Akalaitis told a Chicago Tribune reporter, “a lot of creative confusing gender-switching. They’re constantly switching from seducer to seduced as if to prove how much they deserve each other.”

An hour-long tour of the pair’s self-described “museum of love,” Quartet is about seduction as words and performance, language and theatricality, amusement and fear.

By M.R.Y.

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Photos (from left to right): role reversals: Merteuil (Karen Kandel) plays Valmont as seducer while Valmont (Steven Rishard) is the seduced Madame de Tourvel; after the fall: Karen Kandel as Merteuil and Steven Rishard as Valmont; Valmont (Steven Rishard) seduces a "virgin" (Karen Kandel).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

February 16, 2005

Life of the student


Steve Klass didn’t expect so many students to join the mostly faculty and staff audience in a BSLC lecture room Tuesday afternoon at the town-hall meeting he led on “supporting student life in 2005.” So Klass, vice president and dean of students in the University, said he’d keep his talk general, not delving too far into the bureaucratic depths of administrative officialdom. Between jokes (a cold had rendered him “a walking Walgreens”), he compared the University today with five years ago, pointing out how student life has improved—and which areas still need help.

Not so long ago, Klass said, it “wasn’t uncommon for College alums to say they had a transformative experience here, but they would never send their kids or anyone they liked here.” So, he asked, what changed? In 1994–96 a faculty, staff, student, and trustee task force recommended the University focus more on students’ well-being. An outgrowth of that report, Klass’s office was created in 2001, he said, touching on “everything outside the classroom”—student services such as the bursar and registrar, lifestyle aspects such as residence halls and student activities, and “lots of affairs”—international affairs and minority affairs, for example.

After discussing racial, gender, and “spiritual” diversity (“We still have a long way to go to meet our aspirations in this area, but we have made some progress”); planned projects such as a new dorm; the rise in athletics and student organizations; improved career services; and recent computer-system upgrades, he took questions. They ranged in topic from kosher-food offerings to graduate-student health care to the dearth of campus dating. To the last he replied with a smile and a shrug, “I’m personally not dating any students,” before turning the topic over to other administrators in the crowd, who discussed sexual-harassment policies and programs. For those questions Klass couldn’t get to, he stuck around to talk one-on-one with a short line, mostly students.

By A.M.B.

February 18, 2005

Man on a mission


Dan Strandjord, Lab’69, has become a familiar fixture on 58th and Ellis. On a mission to prevent the Hospitals from performing circumcisions, he’s been standing near the institution’s Ellis Avenue entrance, next to the University bookstore, for about two hours most weekdays since mid-June. “Circumcision is not at the forefront of medicine,” he says, referencing the motto of the Hospitals, where he says his father, the late Nels Strandjord, MD’46, had worked.

Bearing a large, conspicuous placard with a photograph of two infants, he speaks enthusiastically and candidly to interested passers-by, and hands out cards explaining his anti-circumcision platform. “Circumcising a child is a violation of human rights,” Strandjord says. Confident that listeners are getting his message, he says, “About 90 percent of the people who talk to me agree with me.”

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

February 21, 2005

Java jive


Combating Sunday’s dreary weather, the Central Javanese Gamelan & Friends of the Gamelan performed a vibrant selection of Southeast Asian court music in Rockefeller Chapel. With more than 50 ornately scrolled instruments, a collection called Sri Sedånå after the rice goddess, some two dozen musicians produced hypnotic, ringing rhythms for the small crowd and representatives of Chicago’s Consulate General of Indonesia.

A mix of traditional and contemporary pieces, the music flowed from the soran (loud) style in the opening Gangsaran Bima Kurda, named for an ill-tempered giant, to the sparse …and so she died, the pale faced girl. The penultimate composition offered a masked dance in the masculine gagah style: King Klånå frets over his love for Prince Panji’s promised bride.

Presented by the Department of Music, the concert collected more than $400 for the Indonesian Disaster Relief Fund.

By A.L.M.

February 23, 2005

Food for thought

It was hard to narrow down the materials for the Crerar Library exhibit, You Are What You Eat: Nutrition and Health, to four glass cases, says Reed Lowrie, AM’87, a science reference librarian who helped write the exhibit notes. Yet in that small space Lowrie, science library director Kathleen Zar, and reference librarian Barbara Kern fit in a feast of old cookbooks and guides, contemporary magazines and diet fads—the history of U.S. food practices from colonial America to the modern day.

The first case includes the first cookbook written and published in the United States, and it’s a mouthful: Amelia Simmons’s 1796 American Cookery; or, the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry, and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to the Plain Cake, Adopted to This Country, and All Grades of Life. (Crerar has a 1963 special limited edition.) The case also offers a taste of 19th-century nutrition reformers Sylvester Graham, the Kellogg brothers, and C. W. Post—who all believed a scientific diet rich in grains and nuts would promote health and even cure physical and mental ailments—and Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister Catherine Esther Beecher, who wrote The House-keepers Manual in 1874.

The exhibit next highlights storing and shipping advances—the ice box, canning, railroads—which accompanied some food-production shortcomings, creating the unsavory conditions detailed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) and eventually new laws. Then it’s on to nutrition today, including diet books contributed by library staff members. While the Kellogg brothers were the first to exploit Americans’ desire for healthy living, the notes say, fads such as the Atkins diet and the Coconut diet, published in January, continue to be big business. Finally the exhibit offers a practical discussion on body image and portion size, with help from BSD nutrition teacher Mindy Schwartz. Six dice, for example, equal one portion of cheese, and a deck of playing cards measures three ounces of meat.

The exhibit ends June 11.

By A.M.B.

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February 25, 2005

Gonzo neoconservatism


Nearly an hour before Christopher Hitchens was scheduled to speak Wednesday afternoon, the Social Sciences lobby was already filling up. The crowd, largely male and including several members of Chicago’s parliamentary-debate team, finally poured into room 122, where political-science professor Nathan Tarcov introduced the British speaker, who’s worked as a columnist for the Nation, Washington editor for Harper’s, and book critic for Newsday, and who recently wrote Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship and Love, Poverty, and War (both Nation Books, 2004). Hitchens, addressing the question “Can one be a neoconservative?” as part of the John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy’s 2004–05 lecture series, began by apologizing for his “Hezbollah appearance”—the international journalist’s way of noting his well-traveled air.

He chronicled his changing view of neoconservatism, starting with a “yuck” feeling. In 1989 he considered such thinkers “anti-democratic” for what he saw as their “degraded, cynical realpolitik.” (The notoriously hard-drinking writer then interrupted his discussion on Eastern Europe’s turn from communism, pouring another glass from a pitcher and saying, “This is the most water I’ve ever drunk.”) He explained his own political turn-around: petitions to stop the early 1990s ethnic cleansing in the Balkans were signed by some of his neocon enemies. When Slobodon Milosevic finally was imprisoned and the situation improved, said Hitchens, “I had to notice that, without the so-called neoconservatives, this wouldn’t have happened.”
So, can one be a neoconservative, in Hitchens’s opinion? Wrapping up, he explained the Hegelian view that a political movement only becomes genuine after it has experienced a split. Hitchens sees such a split forming between Norman Podhoretz and Henry Kissinger on the one side (which Hitchens still detests) and Paul Wolfowitz, PhD’72, on the other, more admirable one.

Following the talk he answered questions, including one from an elderly pacifist that sparked a hearty debate. Finally the cigarette Hitchens had long been waving began calling, so the evening drew to a close as he offered to take more questions—outside.

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05


Christopher Hitchens.

February 28, 2005

The butts stop here

When silence fell, the scramble erupted. Lucky players in Saturday’s large-scale game of musical chairs swiftly plopped into empty seats while the desperate leftovers scurried and scuffled for remaining spots. The atmosphere at the student-organized event, which sold raffle entries and more than 150 $5-tickets to raise $1,800 for tsunami victims, was giddy—with a healthy dollop of competition—as the Henry Crown crowd relived grade-school days to the funky beat of Zapp & Roger, Al Green, and the Incredible Bongo Band, among others. The winner walked with a $400 plane ticket to anywhere, the rest with booby prizes and sore bums.


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Folding chairs stretched around two basketball courts in Henry Crown (top left); contestants shuffle to the beat in an early round (top middle); a volunteer referee mediates a dispute (top right); players lunge for open seats (bottom left); in later rounds contestants were required to pat their heads and rub their stomachs, hop on one leg, and crab-walk (bottom middle); the final round (bottom right).

About February 2005

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

January 2005 is the previous archive.

March 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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