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November 2005 Archives

November 2, 2005

Where the sidewalk begins


This week fences enclosed the quads’ western walkways as workers dug up the old slabs and began laying new ground—sandstone, to be precise. Since Monday the workers have arranged the assorted-sized rectangular tiles less than halfway from the Administration Building to the center circle. What takes so long, said Nick Guerra, a Ward Contracting and Building Restoration laborer, is figuring out “how to work a pattern.” After Guerra preps the underlying sand “nice and flat,” the stone layers place the tiles, and then another worker sweeps more sand over the tiles to fill in the cracks. While the full main-quad project is scheduled through December 16, Guerra estimates another five days for this path—the widest of the five currently being repaved—to reach its center-circle goal.


Photo: Workers set the tiles.

November 4, 2005

Penetrating matters


Peanut butter and jelly. Ketchup and mustard. The eyeball and the phallus. As they used to sing on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong—or does it?

It turns out that the eyeball and the phallus turn up together quite a lot in images from 1st- and 2nd-century Rome, Shadi Bartsch, the Ann L. and Lawrence B. Buttenwieser professor of classics, informed her audience at Thursday evening’s undergraduate classics convivium. Often the phallus is attacking the eyeball: Bartsch showed a slide of a 1st-century Roman mosaic in which an eyeball is surrounded by hostile assailants such as a crow, pitchfork, snake, scorpion, and the phallus of a well-endowed dwarf. These images were placed at home entrances. In addition, upper-class Roman boys wore phallic amulets around their necks, and Roman generals returning victorious from battle had a giant phallus strapped under their chariots—all tactics to ward off the evil eye. The evil eye is penetrative, Bartsch said, so they used a “homeopathic remedy,” fighting it “with other things that penetrate.”

The ancients thought of vision as tactile, believing either in intromission, in which objects give off tiny particles that penetrate the eye, or extramission, in which the eye emits rays or “pliant sticks” that “grope” objects and transmit information back to the eye. In their “shame culture,” shame came from being looked at and judged by other people, rather than a more contemporary “guilt culture,” with its concepts of conscience and personal responsibility. The “poisoned penetration” of someone’s hostile eye, Romans believed, could make a person very sick or even kill him.

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: Shadi Bartsch

November 7, 2005

Deathly celebration


The victims of the Ciuadad Juarez, Mexico, murders all have certain traits in common, activist Lu Rocha said at this past Friday’s Day of the Dead celebration. They were female, slender, with dark complexions and brown hair, relatively young—many were in their teens or 20s—and poor. They were factory workers, waitresses, and students. Such women, Rocha said, are “a dime a dozen” in Mexico. Lacking economic or political clout, they can disappear without consequence for their murderers. More than 400 women have been abducted, raped, mutilated, tortured, and killed since 1993. Since the killings began, there have been 18 arrests but only one conviction, and even that conviction is suspect, Rocha said, considering recent evidence of torture-induced confessions. Rocha, who for three years has worked at Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a Juarez organization of victims’ families that seeks justice and an end to the brutal murders, urged the Hutch Commons audience not to forget these women and to write letters to Mexican President Vicente Fox and other government officials.

“It’s very bittersweet, the Day of the Dead,” Rocha said. The Mexican holiday, celebrated November 1 and 2, honors the lives of the deceased, from friends and family members to victims of national disasters. Though the focus of Friday’s commemoration, female victims of Latino violence in the U.S. and Mexico, lent the event a sobering tone, it retained some joy: Nahualli, a Mexican ceremonial dance troupe, kicked off the night by performing several traditional dances; guests were then treated to a free Mexican dinner.

The event was sponsored by Student Government and cosponsored by MeChA, Organization of Latin American Students, Amnesty International, Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women, Rape Victim Advocates, and South Side SAVE.

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: The dance group Nahualli performs.

November 9, 2005

Race debate


More than 300 students, faculty, and staff members (along with a generous helping of reporters) crowded into Hutchinson Commons Tuesday night for two hours of soul-searching over a dorm party whose theme and theatrics have roiled the campus and made headlines across the country. On October 14, a group of students in Max Palevsky’s May House hosted what they called a “straight thuggin” party, encouraging guests to come in hip-hop dress. Less than 20 students attended, but when pictures turned up online showing revelers in gold chains, sideways baseball caps, pants sagging below their underwear—one even wore handcuffs and carried a bottle in a paper bag—complaints about the party’s racial tilt rose to a clamor. In a letter e-mailed to the entire University community, President Don Randel deplored the “distressing episode” and urged a thorough reckoning of the issues it raised. Meanwhile, reporters from the Maroon, the Chicago Tribune, local television stations, MTV.com, and elsewhere swarmed the campus. The party made the op-ed pages of the Trib and the Chicago Defender.

Tuesday night, more than one administrator alluded to a routine “thoughtlessness” among whites on campus when it comes to race. English professor and newly appointed Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues Kenneth Warren likened the situation to “being among neighbors who are quite willing to turn down the music once you bang on the door, but who are incapable of the kind of forethought that would have modulated the music in the first place.” Office of Minority Student Affairs Director Ana Vazquez put University race relations in starker terms. Out of 400 graduate and undergraduate responses to a monthlong student-life survey ending October 5, Vazquez said, 65 minority students reported suffering racial and ethnic discrimination, and 51 said they “have had to de-emphasize their race in order to fit in.”

Passing microphones back and forth, students took up the debate, posing questions and positing theories about the broader meanings of the dorm party and campus reaction to it. One student rejected political correctness but said, “What I am asking my peers to do is think about how the stereotypes you have about minorities on campus affect the decisions you make. Just think about it.”

Economics major Ken Jones was exasperated that some of his white classmates didn’t seem to grasp the party’s offensive nature. “This is problematic,” he said, “and I’m tired of having to explain my feelings to the majority. … You intellectualize racism now.” Second-year Kristiana Colon seconded Jones’ frustration. “Race is something that white people can choose to deal with or not,” she said. “We don’t have that choice. The responsibility should not be mine to disabuse you of your ignorance.”

Provost Richard Saller asked the crowd to consider why last month’s party “resonated in the way it did.” Several speakers noted how the outcry was sharpened by the fact that African Americans make up only four percent of the College student body, and that the campus abuts several struggling black neighborhoods. Pointing to growing investment in improving schools and safety in the surrounding communities and measures on campus aimed at heightening racial sensitivity, administrators said the University is moving in the right direction. “I would not have accepted this position [at the Office of Minority Student Affairs],” said Vazquez, “if I did not believe there was a framework to build off of and a commitment” to resolving racial divisions.


Photo: Students and others mill about the Reynolds Club before the meeting.

November 11, 2005

Small feasts


Chicago may be the city of big shoulders, but when it comes to magazines, Chicago poets have kept their publications small. The city’s “little” (as opposed to mass market) magazines have a long history of disseminating poetry throughout the nation. The current Special Collections exhibit, From Poetry to Verse: The Making of Modern Poetry and City Lights Pocket Poets Series, draws on the Regenstein Library’s modern poetry collection to examine the “highly risky endeavor” that poetry magazine editors have undertaken in Chicago and elsewhere.

Harriet Monroe put the city on the poetry map in 1912 when she launched Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. Securing funds from city businessmen and civic leaders, Monroe solicited poems from a range of writers, including Ezra Pound. The magazine’s first “foreign correspondent,” Pound introduced Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, the 1913 Nobel laureate in literature, to Poetry’s pages. Poetry was the first to publish Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. Today the publication receives more than 90,000 submissions each month. In 1936, after her death, the University received Harriet Monroe’s poetry library, her personal papers, and the editorial files of Poetry magazine.

Students at the University launched their own magazine, Chicago Review, in 1946. The editors’ mission was to “present a contemporary standard of good writing” and to compensate for the “exaggerated utilitarianism” they saw in postwar American universities. The Review achieved national infamy in the late 1950s, when then-editors Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, AM’52, published excerpts from William Burrough’s Naked Lunch. Facing censorship from the University, the editors created an independent journal, naming it Big Table at Jack Kerouac’s request. Though short-lived, Big Table had lasting impact, publishing Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” and John Ashbery’s “Europe.”

The Special Collections exhibit runs through February 12, 2006.

Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Harriet Monroe (top) and an early copy of Poetry (bottom).

November 14, 2005

Homegrown laws


Scanning the audience, a security guard’s gaze fell on the back of the Law School’s Glen A. Lloyd auditorium. The guard bounded up the aisle and approached a student in the audience. “Sir, your laptop,” the guard commanded, gesturing outside. The student reluctantly toted his laptop into the hall, where government agents had directed the rest of the audience to leave their belongings before U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ November 9 talk.

His physical security ensured by the horde of guards in the theater, the attorney general had more lofty concerns to ponder. Gonzales told the packed audience that he fears a “growing tendency” among some Supreme Court justices to cite foreign law in their decisions.

Referring to foreign law presents two primary problems, Gonzales asserted, reading closely from a prepared text. First, there is the “problem of selection.” By picking and choosing which foreign laws to consider, the court, Gonzales said, “can be seen as looking over the heads of the crowd and picking out its friends.” The other issue, he said, is undermining the court’s legitimacy and “our sacred text, the Constitution,” by referring to other countries’ precedent instead of America’s.

Although “we must be open to good new ideas whatever their source,” he urged that these ideas be expressed through the political process and not through the courts. Questioning how the “standards of anyone other than the citizens of the United States could decide the will of the people,” Gonzales insisted that his statements must not be “mistaken as isolationism.”

Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Law School Dean Saul Levmore introduces Gonzales.

November 16, 2005

Anna Karenina, expatriate


“Tolstoy understood human consciousness better than anyone who ever lived.” That fearless claim comes from an authoritative source: Gary Saul Morson, one of the foremost American experts on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and the author of books on Nikolai Gogol and Mikhail Bakhtin. Last week Morson, the Frances Hooper professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University, traveled south to talk to Chicago students and faculty about Anna Karenina’s suicide in Tolstoy’s 1877 novel. Morson supported his superlative praise for Tolstoy and overturned some popular misconceptions about the novel, especially about Anna’s tragic heroism.

Calling Anna a “genre expatriate from romance who has been placed in a work antithetical to romance”—that is, in a thoroughly realist novel—Morson presented material from a book he is writing about the philosophical climate of Russian literature. In Morson’s reading, Anna’s “interpretive totalism” is what leads inexorably to her death. Her single-minded faith in love, which befits a romance character but is pure hell on one who resides in a realist work, plunges her into isolation and paranoia. Tolstoy, said Morson, rued all forms of totalism, from romantic love to utopianism, and Anna’s fate illustrates the dangers of such kinds of all-or-nothing thinking.

In standard readings, Tolstoy is thought to foreshadow Anna’s suicide with two other deaths: the watchman’s fall in the train station in Part 1, and the death of Vronsky’s race horse Frou-Frou in Part 2. Tolstoy believes in contingency, not fate, Morson argued, so these scenes can’t be said to prefigure anything. Frou-Frou’s death is pure accident; Anna’s is an act of will. As for the watchman, Morson warned against reading his death as foreshadowing—perhaps the most arresting insight of his talk. Noting that the narrator delves deeper and deeper into Anna’s own consciousness as the end of her life approaches, Morson pointed out that she explicitly recalls the incident and reacts with a choice—“she knew what she had to do.” The character, not the author, fulfills the omen. Anna provides her own foreshadowing, and fate has nothing to do with it.

Laura Demanski, AM’94

Photo: Morson after his talk.

November 18, 2005

Gothic gore

Hamza Walker, AB’88, associate curator of the Renaissance Society, told the audience at the Sunday opening of All the Pretty Corpses that the Goth-inspired exhibit was appropriate for a campus where an older version of “Goth looms large.” The show brought together eight artists whose work shares elements of “mysticism, anger, mourning, horror, aggression, angst, apocalypse, and the post-human,” according to the museum’s Web site. A dropped ceiling stained with beet juice and coffee hovered over the stream of visitors entering the gallery.

During the artists’ talk the man responsible for the ceiling, Jay Heikes, was reluctant to discuss his work. “I don’t know how much I want to talk about Pat’s tumor,” he said, referring to his inspiration for the piece—his friend’s struggle with a brain tumor. The artist did divulge that the purple beet juice to him represented “being beaten” and the coffee suggested the “grit” of daily life. Heikes was ambiguous about his place in the dark exhibition because while the work “refers to a bloody, traumatic incident,” he said, “I like to think of it as a daydreaming, contemplative” piece.

Other artists were more comfortable with their position in the show. Tony Tasset constructed a stone grotto filled with melting, blood-colored candles as a memorial to “some generic tragedy,” in response to what seem to him “like very dark times.”

All the Pretty Corpses runs through December 23 and features the work of Jeremy Blake, Ellen Cantor, John Espinosa, Heikes, Kacy Maddux, Sterling Ruby, Steven Shearer, and Tasset.

Meredith Meyer, ’06

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Photos (left to right): Grotto by Tony Tasset; Amorphous Law by Sterling Ruby; 150% by John Espinosa.

November 21, 2005

A little night music


“Could you draw those drapes, please,” Andrea Holliday, AB’80, directed the Fulton Recital Hall manager, referring to the curtains framing the stage’s rear window. With that the soprano, enveloped in a full fur coat, her hair curled and piled atop her head, announced in front of ten or so early audience members, “I am going to go put my dress on,” and exited Goodspeed Hall’s fourth-floor theater.

Ten minutes later Thomas Wikman, Holliday’s husband and accompanying pianist, ventured out to the hallway calling, “Andrea, the hour has come.” Time proved a relative concern for Holliday. Outfitted in a dark velvet evening gown, she initiated her concert, Night Songs at Midday, with four arias about nighttime, including “Chere Nuit,” written by Alfred Bachelet for soprano Nellie Melba, to whom peach melba and melba toast are also dedicated. Holliday rounded out the recital with a challenge to her pianist husband. Offering four songs by Tchaikovsky, she explained to the audience of 20 or so, “Tchaikovsky was not really a pianist and so did not show them a lot of mercy.”

Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Wikman and Holliday perform.

November 23, 2005

Snacks from the Land of the Morning Calm

Pick Hall’s first-floor lounge overflowed with dried seaweed, or kim, and cooked rice, or bab, this past Thursday at the Korean Language Program’s annual Kim Bab Day. Every kim bab has these two components, and cooks add kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), soy sauce, sesame seeds, vegetables, or meat, based on personal preference. Generally speaking, said Hi Sun Kim, a lecturer in the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department, the sushi-like Korean roll does not feature raw fish. Kim bab are a near-ubiquitous snack in Korea, often called the Land of the Morning Calm.

Donning plastic gloves, about 55 attendees—Korean-language students and their guests—spread a thin layer of rice over dried seaweed sheets. Packing in spinach, egg, carrots, fish cakes, and yellow pickled radish, they rolled up the sheets, sliced the rolls into individual kim bab, and devoured them on the spot or took them away in Ziploc bags. An hour into the lunchtime event, the supply of both gloves and rice ran out. Soon afterward, so did the Choco Pies (a contest had been planned for who could make the prettiest kim bab, with the winner taking home a box of Choco Pies—no one complained about its cancellation). As the event came to a close, remaining diners divided the leftovers among themselves, some saying they would use them to make bibimbap, a Korean dish mixing rice, meat, vegetables, a whole egg, and hot sauce.

The Korean Language Program’s other annual events include Dduck-kuk Day, a New Year’s celebration taking place in February (the lunar new year), and Korean BBQ Day, which usually takes place in the spring.

Hana Yoo, ’07

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Photos (left to right): Students work away; the ingredients; the finished product.

November 28, 2005

Eat, eat.

Two nights before Thanksgiving, the University played host to another long-standing and food-related tradition in a packed Mandel Hall: the 59th Annual Latke-Hamantash Debate. Every year Hillel invites a panel of professors to consider which is the superior food—the latke, a potato pancake traditionally consumed during Hannukah, or the hamantash, a triangular pastry connected to Purim. History professor Ralph A. Austen, visiting assistant law professor Eugene Kontorovich, AB’96, JD’01, Harris School professor Colm O’Muircheartaigh, and linguistics professor Jerrold M. Sadock all weighed in on the matter. Philosophy professor Ted Cohen, AB’62, moderated, as he has for almost 30 years.

Equating latkes with the South Side White Sox and hamantashen with the North Side Cubs, Austen came down heavily on the side of latkes. “Let one thousand, nay, one million hamantashen bloom in North Side bakeries,” he said, “but keep them far away from the sacred realm of baseball.” Both O’Muircheartaigh and Sadock favored hamantashen. After poking fun at his Irish name and heritage, O’Muircheartaigh produced charts and graphs analyzing Irish scrolls that he claimed surveyed popular opinion on the two foods (“most people prefer hamantashen”), while Sadock reinterpreted Plato’s Cratylus as a dialogue between Rabbi Socrates and two of his students––the wrong-headed Cratylus, a stand-in for latkes, and the wiser Hermogenes, representing hamantashen. “Eat smart, eat healthy, eat hamantashen,” Sadock advised.

Kontorovich commented that it felt good to be tackling “the big questions” in light of how much time is devoted to “esoteric and irrelevant matters” in academia, and he examined the latke and hamantash “judiciously” to see if they violated international law: could either food, for example, be used as a form of torture? The answer, he asserted, is yes. Latkes, those “oily monsters,” can cause organ failure, while hamantashen, named as they are for King Haman, whom the Jews roundly defeated, constitute “an implicit threat” to captives that they will be eaten.

As always, Cohen said once the panelists were done, audience votes would be tallied and the winner announced at the post-debate reception in Hutch, and “as always, we do not care,” as the point is “the symposium itself.” After plugging Ruth Fredman Cernea’s recently released The Great Latke-Hamantashen Debate (University of Chicago Press), a compilation of past panelists’ arguments, Cohen declared the debate adjourned.

Hana Yoo, ’07

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Alimentary affair (left to right): Historian Ralph Austen drew parallels with Chicago baseball, equating latkes with the World Champion White Sox; Colm O’Muircheartaigh analyzed ancient Irish writings to prove Ireland's preference for hamantashen; yet another audiovisual asked the eternal question.

Photos by Hana Yoo, ’07

November 30, 2005

Soap and glory

Off-Off Campus party_thumb.jpg
Letrice Gholson_thumb.jpg

The University of Chicago is not known as a party school, but that didn’t stop ABC Daytime from enlisting Chicago’s campus organizations in its Campus Invasion marketing initiative. Targeting 15 colleges nationwide on November 28–30 or December 5–7, Campus Invasion aims to motivate college students “to get hooked and win” on All My Children. The group that holds the best party earns $300 and a shot at the grand prize: a party attended by soap stars that will be taped and broadcast during the station’s soap lineup. Three U of C Registered Student Organizations—the Major Activities Board, Off-Off Campus, and the Organization of Black Students—threw competing All My Children parties. ABC gave each group $350 “just for having the party,” said second-year Off-Off Campus member Ariana Williams.

“This is a marketing strategy by ABC to tap the college market,” said third-year OBS president Letrice Gholson. Or, as Williams put it, to get them “addicted to All My Children.” Noted another student, “Sounds a little sinister, doesn’t it?”

At the MAB party yesterday, as the TV blared and students munched on food from Triad Sushi Lounge and Calypso Café in the Ida Noyes East Lounge, fourth-year Claire Mazur called out simple questions (“What’s her name?” “What color is her hair?” “What show are we watching right now?”), handing out sleeping masks, laundry bags, T-shirts, manicure sets, lip gloss, key chains, perfume samples, and knit caps to respondents—or anyone who wanted them. (ABC intended that the goodies be given to attendees who correctly answered trivia questions.) “What channel are we watching?” Mazur asked. “NBC,” one student offered. “ABC,” Mazur corrected, giving the student a prize anyway. Meanwhile, at Uncle Joe’s, Off-Off Campus also asked questions, reading them off of a three-page packet from ABC: “Did Kendall have Greenlee’s permission to be artificially inseminated with Ryan’s sperm?” (A: No.) “While in the ER, Krystal orders Adam to…?” (A: Stay alive.)

Hana Yoo, '07

Photo: Off-Off Campus watches AMC (top). Letrice Gholson cleans up after the OBS party (bottom).

Photos of the Week: November 2005 (Postcards from the Quads)

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About November 2005

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

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