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March 2005 Archives

March 2, 2005

Paintings of a different color

William Bailey and Giorgio Morandi both painted still lifes of vases and other common household items. Mark Rothko and Josef Albers both painted square or rectangular blocks of solid color. But overlapping subject matter does not equal overlapping content, argued poet Mark Strand, the Andrew MacLeish distinguished service professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Tuesday afternoon in Foster Hall.

Showing slides first of Bailey’s and Morandi’s work, then of Rothko’s and Albers’s, Strand attempted to demonstrate that sometimes “differences outweigh the similarities” between “ostensibly similar” works. A Bailey still life resembles “a royal family portrait,” static and conclusive, while a comparable Morandi painting produces what Strand called “the odd feeling that the objects are together and holding still for a pleasing instant.”

If the difference between the still-life painters manifests itself in the viewer’s reaction, the contrast between Rothko and Albers lies in how they approached their art. Rothko called one painting Orange and Yellow but insisted color wasn’t important, urging viewers to “disregard color.” (“If Orange and Yellow is not about orange and yellow, what is it about?” Strand asked.) Albers, on the other hand, freely experimented with and appreciated color. And unlike Rothko, “there was no admission on Albers’s part that he ever wept when he painted.”

During the question and answer period Strand was accused of favoring Morandi over the other artists he discussed. But, he assured, “I like them all equally.”

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

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From left: Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (The Blue Vase), 1920. William Bailey, Table with Ochre Wall, 1972. Mark Rothko, Orange and Yellow, 1956. Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: With Rays, 1959.

March 4, 2005

Economics unzipped

03-04-05_image-1.jpg“You put naked in the title and they show up,” joked Charles Wheelan, PhD’98, author of Naked Economics. And show up they did. A line of students formed outside Stuart 103 an hour before Wheelan, a Harris School lecturer, and economics professor Allen Sanderson were slated to discuss “College Undressed: the ‘Naked Economics’ of Student Life,” sponsored by the student-run Chicago Society. As the crowd squeezed into the lecture hall, it became clear that the room would not accommodate everyone, and a number of fans were turned away with the promise of a rain check.

Sanderson, armed with 200 index cards on which students could write their names to enter a door-prize lottery, was pleasantly amazed that he might not have enough cards. “I can’t imagine that at any other University 200 students would show up on a Thursday night in the penultimate week of the quarter to talk about economics.”

He and Wheelan gave the audience some bare-bones commandments for living economically: Don’t take a job during the academic year that pays less than $10 per hour. Don’t get married in December, but do plan children in that month, for tax purposes. And never tell a potential employer the starting salary you want, even if the employer insists. For particularly unscrupulous planners, Sanderson suggested to “go and visit your grandma on December 30, 2010,” and if she is near the end of her life “stand on a hose or something” to expedite her passing before the relaxed estate-tax legislation runs out.

By Meredith Meyer, ’07


Charles Wheelan, author of Naked Economics.

March 7, 2005

One-woman show

03-07-05_image-1_thumb 1.jpgWith wild curly hair and sleek black slacks, playwright, actress, and NYU professor Anna Deveare Smith told personal stories about race and gave acting tips to about 40 students in the Reynolds Club’s cozy third-floor theater. On campus as the first Presidential Fellow in the Arts, Smith—known for playing National Security Adviser Nancy McNally on the West Wing but who’s also been nominated for a Pulitzer, won Obie awards, and received a MacArthur “genius” fellowship—held the afternoon conversation before a Mandel Hall evening performance last Tuesday.

During the talk Smith told about having a “pleasant” conversation with a cabdriver in her hometown New York when he suddenly yelled “Nigger!” at a truck driver blocking his way. Smith, who is African American, said, “You shouldn’t talk like that.” First of all, she said, “you could get killed.” Second, “I don’t think you have any idea what my people have suffered and done for this country so people from all over”—including the driver, whose nationality she couldn’t pinpoint—“can come to this country.” The driver apologized profusely. But for Smith the incident demonstrated that U.S. race relations are far from fixed, especially when she told her Romanian doorman the story and his well-meaning response was, “And where is he (the cabdriver) from?”

Smith performs monologues based on the thousands of people she’s interviewed, from Anita Hill to a Korean shopkeeper whose store was destroyed in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, using the person’s exact words and mimicking his or her voice and mannerisms (her Studs Terkel is dead-on). When she first started performing in the 1980s, she said, “I was very uptight about all of this.” Unlike many black artists, she didn’t write about “my kitchen” from her Baltimore childhood or growing up in segregation. Instead she wrote sympathetic Jewish and black characters in Fires in the Mirror, a play about the violence that erupted in Crown Heights, New York, after a Hasidic driver hit and killed a 7-year-old black boy. Because her work hasn’t followed the traditional black artist’s path, she said, black audiences and media have been ambivalent toward her. But she believes African American intellectuals, rather than drifting to area studies or “the black table,” should “make it hard for people to find you.”

By A.M.B.


Anna Deveare Smith (left) and discussion moderator Jacqueline Stewart, associate professor of English language & literature, take questions in the Reynolds Club third-floor theater.

Photo by Dan Dry

March 9, 2005

Dawn of a dorm

A handful of students gathered Monday afternoon in the dimly lit Judson Lounge as Steve Klass, vice president and dean of students in the University, announced the architects selected to design an undergraduate dormitory in the lot behind Burton-Judson. The Boston-based firm, Goody Clancy, was chosen for its experience in urban planning and historic preservation, and for its “philosophic and intellectual” approach to design, said Elaine Lockwood Bean, associate vice president of facilities services. Goody Clancy has designed buildings for institutions including Harvard, Georgetown, Dartmouth, Yale, and Princeton.

The façade of the new dorm and dining hall will draw on the “exceptionally varied palette” of building materials in surrounding structures, including the eclectic neighborhood architecture, the Gothic Burton-Judson dormitory, and the Mies van der Rohe–designed Social Service Administration building, according to Lockwood Bean. The University expects a schematic by July and has projected a tentative $104 million budget for the project.

Student input has played a prominent role in the programming phase, underway since November 2003. Two focus groups, consisting of undergraduates with differing housing experiences, and surveys distributed to second-, third-, and fourth-years have helped guide the initial planning stages. Privacy ranked as students’ principal concern, which didn’t surprise Cheryl Gutman, deputy dean of students for housing and dining services. “We have more single rooms on campus—now about 50 percent—than any other campus I can think of,” Gutman said. Students also prized quiet for sleep and study, the surveys showed, and relative proximity to laundry facilities and campus.

By Meredith Meyer, ’07

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March 11, 2005

Prints for the people

03-11-05_image-1_thumb.jpgThere’s Peter Paul Rubens’s Supper at Emmaus and Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Last Judgment. Not the originals, mind you, but prints of the iconic works. Don’t be disappointed. Prints have their own artistic value, argues the current Smart Museum exhibition, Paper Museums: The Reproductive Print in Europe, 1500–1800.

Including prints by Pieter van Sompel after Rubens and Giulio di Antonio Bonasone after Buonarroti, the exhibit of about 100 paper images explores the role reproductive art played in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. Imitating works by others, the prints not only helped to promote those artists but also gave the public access to paintings, sculptures, and other pieces once available only to wealthy travelers or collectors. The copies, suggest curators Rebecca Zorach, AM’94, PhD’99, assistant professor of art history, Johns Hopkins’s Elizabeth Rodini, PhD’95, and the Smart’s Anne Leonard, constitute art in their own right.

The exhibition runs through May 15 and then travels to New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, where it opens in September.

By M.L.


Left: Pieter van Sompel after Peter Paul Rubens, Supper at Emmaus, 1643, Etching. Right: Willem van Swanenburg after Peter Paul Rubens, Supper at Emmaus, 1611, Engraving. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago. Purchases, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions.

March 14, 2005

The play's the thing

Putting together the classics—Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, for example—or creating a one-of-a-kind comedy—like Off Off Campus’s Mild Mild West—takes more than a stage and some players. Photographer Lloyd DeGrane scouted out some University Theater types, who presented the aforementioned shows along with seven other productions last quarter, breaking a sweat, if not a leg or two. This week the house has gone dark as cast and crew members study up for their recurrent student roles; but after finals has its run, the show must go on. Look for Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Sophocles’s Electra, and new student pieces this spring.

By A.L.M.

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Third-year Peter Sloane designs lighting for UT's production of Poe, written and directed by third-year Caitlin Doughty (left); Cobb 103 rehearsals for The Crucible(middle); writer/director Caitlin Doughty (black shirt) leads Poe's cast in a chant for focus (right).

March 16, 2005

Argonne gets new director

03-16-05_image-1_thumb.jpgAfter a six-month national search, University of Chicago astrophysicist Robert Rosner has been named Argonne National Laboratory’s new director, effective April 18. Succeeding Hermann Grunder, director since 2000, Rosner has served as Argonne’s associate lab director for physical, biological, and computing sciences and as its chief scientist since 2002. He is also the William Wrather distinguished service professor in astronomy & astrophysics.

Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman has approved the appointment. For more information, see the News Office’s full report.

By A.M.B.

Photo by Lloyd DeGrane

March 18, 2005

Not so fast out of Dodge

That last final, both dreaded and eagerly awaited. While most students finished their exams earlier this week, those who had to stick it out until Friday were still trickling in and out of classrooms this morning, cramming until the last hour or trying to find Zen.

The 40-degree weather allowed Samantha LaPeter, a second-year Divinity School master’s student, to study for her Greek final at a picnic table outside Cobb. Oliver Roeder, a second-year College student, sat alone in Cobb 214 a half hour before his 10:30 a.m. linear-algebra test, eyes on his textbook. With three finals and a paper, plus his parents in town from Des Moines this week, he hadn’t yet had time to prepare for this one. And Nicholas Boterf, a fourth-year classics major, was early to his Antigone final because “the TA e-mailed that it was at 10,” but apparently it wasn’t. “I probably should be studying,” he said, “but at this point I almost need to detox.” And while Roeder takes off for Tallahassee to visit his girlfriend after his test, Boterf will hit the books again. “I’ll probably take a nap, hit Chipotle with my friends, and then tomorrow it’s B.A. paper crunch time.”

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Divinity student Samantha LaPeter studies for her Greek final (left); classics major Nicholas Boterf detoxes before his Greek final (right).

March 21, 2005

Sign of the times

03-21-05_image-1_thumb.jpgBesides the greening grass, the chirping robins, and the tulip shoots poking up with increasing assurance, the quads have been graced with yet another sign of spring: our ducks have roosted. Arriving at Duck Island just a few days ago, in time to inaugurate the season, the pair of mallards enjoyed a Monday morning swim in a recently thawed Botany Pond, as passersby alternately cooed and quacked.

We’re hoping that the chummy couple will produce another brood of fuzzy ducklings, marking, as last year, the progression of summer, and, with the young ducks’ departure, the advent of fall.

By A.L.M.

March 23, 2005

Odes to the peasantry

03-23-05_image-1_thumb.jpgFor centuries the French had considered rustic life part of their national identity. As the Industrial Revolution forced peasants to flee the countryside for market-friendlier cities, artists and folklorists feared—correctly—that a central piece of the country’s character was fading. They invaded the rural lands to document the dying way of life, whether accurately or pastorally romanticized; several artists, for example, omitted the machines that eased workloads, and the fact that so many peasants had deserted the country for more lucrative urban centers.

The Smart Museum exhibition Shepherds and Plowhands: Work and Leisure in the Nineteenth Century, on display through April 24, assembles etchings, lithographs, and an Impressionist oil painting in an account of the era. Ironically, the exhibit notes observe, the works often were collected into expensive books cherished in middle-class and aristocratic homes.

By A.M.B.


Leon Augustin LHermitte (1844-1925), Boy and Girl in Spring Landscape, date unknown, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Myron E. Rubnitz. 2002.49.

March 25, 2005

The dean remembers

03-25-05_image-1_thumb.jpgWhen Wayne C. Booth, AM’47, PhD’50, was named dean of the College in December 1964, he had a grand ambition: to recreate the Hutchins College. But things didn’t turn out the way he’d planned.

In a lecture videotaped at Chicago’s Alumni House this week—to be added to the Alumni Association’s Mind Online Web page later this spring—Booth, the George C. Pullman distinguished service professor emeritus in English language & literature and the College, explained that his academic vision failed to win campus approval because he forgot the importance of “precinct” politics in institutional affairs. Before he could try again, the changing tide of national politics hit the quadrangles.

As sit-in followed sit-in, Booth found himself torn between support for the protestors’ anti-war stance and his institutional duties. In his journal entries he recorded his feelings of hypocrisy, failure, and the occasional moment of accomplishment. When black students occupied the Administration Building, he managed to convince the Chicago policemen who’d been sent to the scene that they were not needed. When he sat back down on the hallway floor, for the first time since he’d arrived, a student spoke to him: “Mr. Booth, would you like an apple?”

By M.R.Y.

March 28, 2005

Rockin' the chapel

03-28-05_image-1_thumb.jpgA cultural performance, staged poetry, and an ethics conference highlight Rockefeller Memorial Chapel’s ecumenical range of upcoming events. Monday night the award-winning Turkoman Folk Music Ensemble dances to and plays music of the Caucasus region, while a daytime exhibit shows off Turkoman silver, instruments, and costumes. Friday night the Chicago group Schola Antiqua presents Murder in the Cathedral: Music for St. Thomas à Becket, an all-vocal concert written to honor the English archbishop, killed in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Next Tuesday, April 5, the Becket-athon continues as Second City cofounder Bernie Sahlins, AB’43, directs a staged reading of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. And right in time for tax deadlines, the April 13–14 Global Ethics Conference: The Search for Common Ground brings together Temple University professor Leonard Swidler and other leading scholars to address “the question of the existence of a shared, global ethic.”


March 30, 2005

Magazine spring break

Though not really on spring break, we are in lovely San Diego for the CASE Editor’s Forum through Friday. While we’re gone, here are some other U of C blogs to check out:

Economist Gary Becker and Law School lecturer Richard Posner have created the Becker-Posner blog, exploring economics, law, and policy.

Political scientist Daniel Drezner discusses national and international affairs on his blog.

Magazine intern Phoebe Maltz, ’05, publishes “the best Francophilic Zionism in the blogosphere” on What Would Phoebe Do?

We know we’re missing some, so please write and let us know your favorite University-related Web log. Then return here Monday at 3 p.m. for your regularly scheduled UChiBLOGo posting.

About March 2005

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

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