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April 2005 Archives

April 4, 2005

Caution: words at play


One look at the playbill for director Charles Newell’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties—running at Court Theatre through April 24—and you know you’re in for an evening of poetry, pastiche, and puns. The notes feature jokey typefaces, snippets of quotations, and free-association references to the play at hand.

The action takes place in the wandering mind of Henry Carr, a real-life figure although he didn’t have quite the life that Stoppard has given him, a minor official in the British consulate at Zurich shortly after World War I. The play opens as Carr, now in his dotage, recalls the famous men he has known or thinks he has known: Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, and modernist author James Joyce.

The real-life Carr did know Joyce, suing him after a Zurich performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which Carr played “not Earnest—the other one,” Algernon Moncrieff. Stoppard uses that tidbit to structure his play, borrowing and revamping key scenes and plot devices from Earnest.

Which brings us to Court’s “other one,” its fall 2004 production of Earnest. Not only do key members from that cast appear in corresponding roles in Travesties (Lance Stuart Baker, who plays Carr, was Algernon, while Sean Allan Krill, who plays Tzara, was Earnest), but a similar frolicking choreography adds to the circus-like and circular movement of Stoppard’s own “Trivial Comedy for Serious People.”



Hey kids, let’s put on a show: Jay Whittaker as James Joyce, Lance Stuart Baker as Henry Carr and Heidi Kettenring as Gwendolen in Court Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Travesties (top); Algernon and Earnest by any other names: Lance Stuart Baker as Henry Carr and Sean Allan Krill as Tristan Tzara in Court Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Travesties (bottom).

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

April 6, 2005

Gestalt grammar

04-06-05_image-1_thumb 1.jpgJon Trowbridge, AB’91, SM’92, has been a fugitive alumnus. “It took years but somehow I’ve eluded the Alumni Association,” he says. “They no longer ask me for money, but I never get the Magazine either.” Now Trowbridge has stepped out of obscurity and back onto the University’s radar to introduce Gnoetry—with a hard “g”—to the campus community. With cocreator Eric Elshtain, a PhD student in the Committee on the History of Culture, he presented their four-year-old invention Monday to a Franke Institute for the Humanities audience of about 20 poetic-minded students and faculty.

Gnoetry, born of a conversation between the two friends “one morning over bad coffee and French toast,” creates a space where “humanities and math overlap,” Elshtain says. A computer program analyzes the language of out-of-copyright texts, including Heart of Darkness, Huckleberry Finn, and Notes From Underground. Software written by Trowbridge then reconfigures the analyzed language into a prescribed poetic form, including blank verse, Renga, or Tanka.

Because Gnoetry uses complete texts rather than random lists of words, it maintains the essence of the original work, Elshtain says. So when Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class gets Gnoetry-ed, the result, he supposes, “is as if we said, ‘Hey Veblen, could you write us some T-shirts?’” For proof he referred to Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country, which produced the line their glances met in a mist of bargaining and hyperbole—a phrase that struck Elshtain (and the audience) as a “pretty accurate distillation of Wharton’s writing.”

Meredith Meyer, ’07


Eric Elshtain (left) and Jon Trowbridge.

April 8, 2005

In with the new new

04-08-05_image-1_thumb 1.jpgOn Tuesday a panel of writers parsed the “new new journalism” in a packed room at International House. As part of I-House’s Global Voices lecture series, Robert Boynton, Leon Dash, and Alex Kotlowitz came together to promote Boynton’s book, The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft (Vintage, 2005).

Pulling from personal experience, the trio illuminated new new journalism, which builds on the tradition of narrative nonfiction associated with Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer while maintaining strict journalistic standards. For example, Dash talked about reporting a Pulitzer Prize–winning series on adolescent childbearing for the Washington Post (which formed the basis for Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America [Plume Books, 1997]). The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign journalism professor explained that he tried to build a relationship with subjects that would allow him to get beyond their “public face.”

To help others get there, Boynton, director of NYU’s graduate magazine-journalism program, offers tips in his book including how practitioners like Dash and Wall Street Journal veteran Kotlowitz write, report, and organize their notes.

David King, AM’04


Alex Kotlowitz, Robert Boynton, and Leon Dash at International House.

April 11, 2005

More space, more Gothic grandeur


Kicking back on a sunny Friday afternoon, the College Admissions invited a few campus friends over to luxuriate in their new space. Recently installed in Rosenwald Hall—the GSB’s former digs—after vacating an outgrown Harper Memorial Library suite, Admissions occupies the smartly appointed, and generously large, first floor and lobby, pushing the Department of Economics to the building’s second and third floor.

The move provided for airy interior spaces that still have that new-office smell. A grand, green-walled reception area, where NYSE’s Trading Post No. 12 used to be, is not quite complete: campus-networked computers are still to be installed for prospies looking up classes. Though Admissions head Ted O’Neill will miss the magnolias that used to burst into bloom across his Harper windows, he’s happy to be in the thick of things in his southwest corner office, with a view of kids “hanging out” on the quads.



An ornately carved doorway leads from Rosenwald's lobby to Admissions's interior offices (top); admissions head Ted O'Neill in his new southwest corner office (bottom).

April 13, 2005

On the road again

04-13-05_image-1_thumb.jpgA behemoth invaded campus Monday. The conspicuous, neon-green and blue RV spent the afternoon on the main quads as part of a cross-country tour promoting Road Trip Nation, a project that sends college students seeking post-graduation guidance to interview inspirational people nationwide. The goal is to give the students—and later viewers—a glimpse of life’s professional possibilities.

Monday evening Road Trip Nation organizers gave a Doc Films advance screening of a PBS documentary about last summer’s travels. The nine students in the film included U of Cers Erica Cerulo, Diana Dravis, and Candace Elliott. During their five-week trek across the southern part of the country the students, now College fourth-years, interviewed, among others, Hugh Hefner.

Though the application for summer 2005 excursions has passed, through July students can apply for grants financing their own small-scale road trips.

David King, AM’04


Road Trip Nation organizers and the U of C students who
participated last year promote the program Monday on the quads.

April 15, 2005

The tax man commenteth

04-15-05_image-1_thumb.jpgThink the economists in the house filed their tax returns months ago, or at least requested extensions? One tax expert, GSB professor Austan Goolsbee, filed April 12. He used Turbotax and got a “big refund,” he says. “I should have filed earlier.” Here are some observations by Goolsbee, the author of Investment, Overhang and Tax Policy and other tax-related papers.

* What are some common mistakes people make when filing taxes?
Hiding their income. Actually, the two most common mistakes are putting the federal check into the state envelope (and vice versa).

* Any advice for non-economics types on filing?
If you have any schedule C income, check out a solo 401(k) that allows you to make potentially large contributions to a retirement account tax-free.

* Any interesting new rules or allowances this year?
The phasing out of deductions is really irritating.

* Best tip(s) you’ve learned?
Start earlier next year.



Goolsbee giving the 2000 GSB commencement address.

April 18, 2005

Desert-island dreams

04-18-05_image-1_thumb.jpgIf Charles Lipson, professor of political science, were marooned on a deserted island, he would want Mozart, Robert Johnson, and the Rolling Stones along with him—or at least their music. He also would want all the history books he’s long been meaning to read and reread, and a lot of Snickers bars and cans of diet Dr. Pepper.

Armed with a soda in one hand and a pair of reading glasses in the other, Lipson spoke to about 20 students and faculty in the Reynolds Club about what is important to him, as part of the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel–sponsored brown bag forum “What Matters to Me and Why.” Even more important than candy bars were learning, humor, and free discourse.

“The first thing I treated myself to when I got my PhD was a good reading chair,” Lipson said. “It’s not like a chair at the Boston opera that says, ‘Sit up!’ It says, ‘Relaaax,’” he cooed in his Mississippi accent. At home, he said, he surrounds himself with books, his shelves heavy with history and political-science texts. “Soon [my bookshelves] will say, ‘Enough.’”

Despite his scholarly profession, Lipson maintains that his tastes are “anything but highbrow.” He is a sucker for American pop culture, especially if it can make him laugh. “If I had to do without the Daily Show or the New York Times, it would be a close call. If it were the Simpsons or the New York Times, it would not even be close.”

Meredith Meyer, ’07

April 20, 2005

Mr. Sandman

04-20-05_image-1_thumb.jpgNeil Gaiman, creator of the cult comic series Sandman, noted last night that a Web site measuring celebrity has labeled him “niche famous.” But judging by the sold-out audience that filled the Court Theatre to watch his interview with Gretchen Helfrich, host of Chicago Public Radio’s Odyssey program, the niche has grown quite large.

Gaiman, visiting the University as part of the Presidential Fellows in the Arts series, has experimented with many media, including graphic and traditional novels, television, and film. “I have long held the theory that the next thing I do should be completely different from the last. But then I look back and [my projects] are all lined up like soldiers, leading to the same thing.” It’s not quite clear to the author what that thing is, but his fans clearly enjoy it. When Gaiman read a passage from his new novel, Anansi Boys, in which the character Fat Charlie woke up hungover one morning, feeling like “his eyes were too tight in his head,” and “not only were they too tight in his head, but they must have rolled off in the night and reattached with roofing nails,” the college-age audience nearly heaved with laughter.

Although Gaiman specializes in creating fantastic stories in ordinary settings, he does not consider himself an escape artist. “Fantasy is not to create a different world, but it is a route back in to this one,” he said. “It is that wonderful feeling of coming home after being away awhile.”

Meredith Meyer, ’07

April 22, 2005

Earth day(s)

04-22-05_image-1.jpgThe University brought Earth appreciation up a notch this year, expanding what’s usually a day of activities into a week’s worth. Chicago’s annual celebration of environmentalism kicked off April 15 with a panel discussion on climate change, featuring Divinity School Professor William Schweiker, PhD’85, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s David Doniger, and University of Wisconsin’s David Bromley. A talk on environmental-science careers and a screening of the documentary The End of Suburbia followed on Monday and Tuesday. The festivities concluded Friday. A planting excursion was planned but, throwing her weight around, Mother Earth made that difficult. Besides the rainy weather, the ground won’t be ready until May.


April 25, 2005

Jack flash

04-25-05_image-1_thumb.jpgThe Graduate School of Business’s 53rd annual management conference was a winner: the April 22 event attracted 1,000 alumni and other businesspeople, many of them drawn by a lunchtime conversation with Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric and author (with wife Suzy Welch) of the current bestseller Winning.

As attendees lunched in the Fairmont Hotel’s Imperial Ballroom, GSB Dean Edward A. Snyder, AM’78, PhD’84, pressed Welch for highlights: “Jack, your book has four parts and 20 chapters. We’ve got some people here who don’t have much time—what should they read?”

“It depends on what you need,” Jack shot back. For readers in crisis mode he recommended the chapter on crisis management: “Get out of the denial phase fast.” Readers in a merger situation should check out the mergers and acquisitions chapter—and remember that “[A]fter a merger, the brilliant resisters are dead.” He drew laughter with another recommendation: “And there’s a great chapter about how to work for a lousy boss.”

Lousy bosses, in Welch’s view, are those who “lack candor,” who “think it’s unkind to tell employees what they’re doing wrong,” and who pay more attention to budgets than dreams. In his straight-from-the-gut style, Welch dissed both corporate loyalty (“I do not find loyalty to be a great corporate virtue—only winning companies count”) and CFOs (“Why people want to hang around with finance grunts is beyond my imagination”).

Conversation finished, guests headed to the Gleacher Center for an afternoon of panel sessions, from GSB professor Marvin Zonis discussing “Déjà Vu All Over Again: Foreign Policy Challenges in the Second Bush Term” to “Where is Consumer-Driven Health Care Going?”—a panel sponsored by the Chicago GSB Public Policy Roundtable Alumni Group.



GSB Dean Ted Snyder interviews former GE CEO Jack Welch.
Photo by Dan Dry.

April 27, 2005

Fever pitch


Blazing along the base paths and firing heat past opposing hitters, the women’s softball team is the hottest thing to hit the South Side since the Great Chicago Fire. The nation’s 12th-ranked squad got off to a fast start en route to a 20–7 record. This past Sunday the Maroons rebounded from a tough 1–6 stretch by cruising past the overmatched Lawrence Vikings in an afternoon doubleheader.

In the first game Chicago phenom Hannah “Hannibal” Roberts dazzled her adversaries with an encyclopedic array of pitches. A four-hit, ten-strikeout masterpiece vaulted the College third-year to the top of the team’s all-time shutout list. The second game saw second-year Petra “Petrol” Wade exact no less mercy on the Vikings, surrendering only one unearned run as she torched fastball after fastball at the hapless Lawrence batters.

Even when the visitors managed to put the bat on the ball, they frequently found Maroon defenders swarming over the diamond. Junior third-baseman Kayti “Web-Gem” Fuhr lit up the highlight reels, making a spectacular catch in foul territory in the first game and picking a hotshot out of the dirt in the second contest. At the opposite corner, junior first baseman Rachel “Stretch” Cohen consistently scooped out low throws.

But don’t think these women of spring are all defense. The team pounded out 19 hits over the two games, outscoring Lawrence 7–1. In the balanced line-up, nine different players hit safely. Standout Dominique “Dominator” Marshall, a first-year, showed her versatility in the second game by adding a textbook bunt to two singles.

With three road contests remaining, including two against top-ranked Washington University in St. Louis, the team is looking for a strong finish to a season already drenched in Maroon blood, sweat, and tears.

Sam Gill '05


Hannah Roberts prepares to fire strike three at the Lawrence hitter (top); the teams congratulate each other after a Maroon sweep (bottom).

April 29, 2005

Reading material


What does it mean to use a book, rather than read it? Exploring this question through a wide collection of old and unusual texts, Book Use, Book Theory: 1500–1700, a Special Collections Research Center exhibit on display through June 15, focuses on the book as a material object and practical tool. Prominent among the displays are eye-popping anatomies, intricate sky maps, and other illustrated works, including the anachronistic Greatest of All Time: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (Taschen, 2004), a book so large it’s “almost unmovable.” Nestled among these are smaller treasures, such as an intricately embroidered Bible and a tiny Latin medical guide, only a few inches square.



William Cowper (1666-1709). The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, with Figures Drawn After the Life by Some of the Best Masters in Europe. Oxford: for Sam. Smith and Benj. Walford, 1698. Rare Book Collection, From the Collection of Mortimer Frank.

About April 2005

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

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