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March 2006 Archives

March 1, 2006

Fat Friday

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Fat Tuesday came early to Ida Noyes this past Friday night, with the Council on University Programming's (COUP) annual Mardi Gras celebration. Donning yellow, green, and purple masks and beads, students lined up for balloon animals, caricature artists, fortune-tellers, and face-painters. They consumed plenty of food and beer—if they were of age—or “mocktails,” water, and soft drinks. Local DJ duo Flosstradamus spun tunes in the third-floor theater, while live band the Cooker Boys and Jugglers Enriching Lives Like Ours performed in the first-floor Cloister Club.

COUP, the organization behind Blues ’n Ribs, Fall Formal, and Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko, has two more events on the roster for spring quarter: Dance Marathon April 8 and 9 and Summer Breeze May 19 and 20.


Photo: A caricature artist captures student revelry.

March 3, 2006

Putting it all together

The writers, photographers, and cameramen who showed up for a sneak peek at the Oriental Institute Museum’s new Robert F. Picken Family Nubian Gallery last Thursday got name tags inscribed with Nubian hieroglyphs, guided tours, and the chance to nibble on frog-shaped sugar cookies modeled on thedecorations on a painted-clay vessel from the first or second century AD. The vessel is on display in “Ancient Nubia,”an exhibit whose February 25 opening marked the conclusion of the museum’s 10-year, $15-million renovation and redesign.

Before there was an Oriental Institute, Chicago professor and OI founder James Henry Breasted led two expeditions to Nubia (now Sudan), where he was one of the first modern researchers to document the ancient civilization. Photographs taken during those early University expeditions, “Lost Nubia: Photographs of Egypt and the Sudan 1905-07,” can be seen in the museum’s Marshall and Doris Holleb Family Gallery for Special Exhibits, next-door to the Picken Gallery, until Sunday, May 7.

The 650 objects on display in the new gallery, however, are drawn from 15,000 objects brought back to Chicago far more recently. From 1960 to 1968, teams from the Oriental Institute excavated numerous archaeological sites in both Egypt and Sudan, sites in the Nile Valley that were destined for flooding as construction of the Aswan High Dam got under way.


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Photos (left to right): A photographer for the University of Chicago expedition to Nubia and Egypt focuses on an inscription on a stella of Egyptian King Thutmose; the photo was taken in 1907. Stephen Harvey, assistant professor in the Oriental Institute, is co-curator of “Ancient Nubia” (photo by Dan Dry) looks over the display cases in the new Robert F. Picken Family Gallery at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. This 1906 photograph shows Nubian pyramids, built from about 100 B.C. to 150 A.D. at Gebel Barkal.

March 6, 2006

High notes


Despite soaring vocals that brought a standing ovation from the Mandel Hall audience, Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman never let it go to her head. “I’m actually an alto,” she joked, preferring to take credit for “having the sense” to partner with British pianist Roger Vignoles. Last Friday Brueggergosman and Vignoles—who has accompanied singers such as Kathleen Battle and Susan Graham—graced an almost-full house with theatrical renditions of everything from Hector Berlioz’s six-song cycle Les Nuits d’ Été (“The Nights of Summer”) to African-American spirituals.

Dressed in black velvet, Brueggergosman kicked off the two-hour University of Chicago Presents program with numbers by Reynaldo Hahn and Hector Berlioz. Some audience members followed along with booklets of translated lyrics while others relied on the singer’s expressive performance. Be it voicing the agony of a discarded rose in Berlioz’s “Le spectre de la rose” (“The ghost of the rose”) or turning on the smiles for Hahn’s homage to spring “Les Fontaines” (“The Fountains”), Brueggergosman went beyond delivery of the notes as every song seeped through her body.

Part actress, part comedian, she surprised the audience with a post-intermission program change. “Now, it’ll be all Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith,” she said. Passing up an operatic rendition of “Stairway to Heaven,” she switched the Hugo Wolf and spirituals set. Blanking on the original order of the latter, Brueggergosman consulted the crowd. “What does the group consist of?” she laughed, accepting a copy of the program from a first-row spectator. With the sequence hashed out, she launched into a four-song selection of Wolf’s Spanisches Liederbuch (“Spanish Songbook”), followed by three songs from Strauss. The program’s high point, however, was the spirituals collection, and her haunting a cappella rendition of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

Heeding cries for an encore, Brueggergosman returned to the stage. After confessing that she didn’t know it as well as she should, she capped off her recital with “Someone is Sending Me Flowers,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of a woman inundated with unsavory bouquets from a secret admirer. “The cactus corsage touched me deeply,” she sang. Minus the pain, the same could be said of Brueggergosman’s performance.


Photo: Soprano Measha Brueggergosman, courtesy University of Chicago Presents.

March 8, 2006

Shape of sings to come

The flyer that greeted diners sitting down to lunch at the Divinity School this Wednesday warned that the shape-note singing they’d come to hear “is not polite music. The tone is piercing, loud, and somewhat raw. … The general dynamic is double forte.” This was no empty caution. After polishing off a Southern meal of red-pepper cornbread, collard greens, and black-eyed peas, members of the University’s Shape-Note Singing Association entertained the audience with an hour of forceful, full-throated hymns about God’s grace, man’s mortality, and the fearsome power of the Holy Spirit. Seated in a square that reflected their four-part harmony, the dozen or so singers took turns leading the chorus.

Singer Ted Mercer offered an abridged history of the music, which traces its roots to congregational singing in 18th-century New England, and beyond that, to Europe. During the early 19th century, the music migrated to the South (one Chicago singer declared Alabama a shape-note Mecca), and these days singing groups hail from across the country. The name comes from the notation system itinerant singing instructors used to teach music to illiterate American frontier-people. Called “shape note,” it uses different shapes to represent the sounds “fa,” “sol,” “la,” “ti,” and “do.” A seminal book of folk hymns, The Sacred Harp—which spawned the largest surviving branch of shape-note singing—has been in continuous publication since 1844. Late editions make room for new compositions, some by University shape-note singers.

Obviously unaccustomed to applause—shape-note singing is a democratic, not performative art—the lunchtime singers invited audience members to join in, passing out photocopies of some songs and a few extra songbooks. “There’s really no place for rehearsal in the tradition,” Mercer said. “We rehearse by singing the names of the notes.”

Formed 20 years ago, the University Shape-Note Singing Association holds regular sessions throughout the city, and they encouraged curious audience members to consider joining. Ida Noyes Hall will host the 21st Annual Midwest Sacred Harp Singing Convention April 29-30, and the U of C’s chorus will sing from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., “just like they did on the frontier,” Mercer said. The convention will also include a potluck dinner. “Don’t worry about bringing food, folks,” he said. “We’ll have plenty. Just come join us.”


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Photos (left to right): Shape-note singers.

Photos by Lydia Gibson

March 10, 2006

And the next president is...


What it lacked in suspense, this morning’s presidential press conference made up for in enthusiasm. Everyone assembled in the Ida Noyes Library expected University of Chicago Board of Trustees Chair Jim Crown to announce, as he did, that Robert J. Zimmer had been elected, “by a unanimous vote, to succeed Don Randel as our 13th president.”

Also unanimous, Crown told the audience, was the level of respect for Chicago that he and Robert Pippin, who chaired the faculty committee advising the trustee search committee, encountered in their seven-month travels around the country to seek and sound out candidates for the post. It was apparent, he said, that other institutions pay a great deal of attention to Chicago “and they especially pay attention to our leadership.”

With cameras clicking like cicadas, Crown introduced Chicago’s next leader, an insider turned outsider who’ll be returning to Hyde Park after four years as provost at Brown University, where he is credited with strengthening both research and teaching. “I am so pleased and eager to be able to lead this University,” Zimmer said, noting that Chicago’s path to continued success must remain based on the institution’s “singular commitment to inquiry.”

Then came the inquiries from the floor. In a short Q & A, the president-elect voiced confidence on the renewal of Chicago’s contract to manage Argonne National Laboratory and emphasized the University’s roles in the city of Chicago as neighbor, citizen, and educator. But he was a bit more hesitant when a Maroon reporter asked his opinion of Max Palevsky’s architecture: “The colors are striking.”

Welcome back to Chicago, Mr. Zimmer.


Photo: President-elect Robert J. Zimmer addresses the Ida Noyes audience (top). Post-conference, Trustee Chair Jim Crown (right) chats with Zimmer and the University's outgoing president, Don M. Randel. Photos by Dan Dry.

March 12, 2006

Wayne's world remembered


“Wayne’s world,” said English professor James K. Chandler, AM’72, PhD’78, is how the undergraduates he inherited from his colleague Wayne Booth for part 3 of a three-course sequence described the class they’d had for the previous two quarters. It was a place “where you could say anything you liked, as long as you got the tone right, but you could claim only what you had the evidence” to support.

Chandler was one of ten speakers (colleagues, friends, and family) at a March 9 memorial service for Booth, AM’47, PhD’50, the George M. Pullman distinguished service professor emeritus in English, who died October 10 at age 84.

The speakers’ claims for Booth’s prowess as teacher, thinker, listener, and inspired amateur were well buttressed by the evidence: founder of the journal Critical Inquiry, author of lit-crit classics (The Rhetoric of Fiction, to name one), a Quantrell Award-winning teacher, and a lifelong musician who played the cello with middling skill and exceptional enjoyment.

The Rockefeller Chapel service, book-ended with chamber music by the Pacifica Quartet, featured Booth’s own voice, both in selections from his memoir My Many Selves, read by daughter Alison Booth and in a 1999 radio interview on the publication of For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals. Asked why he played the cello, knowing he played it less than perfectly, Booth credited wife Phyllis and his more musical friends: “They didn’t say, ‘Stop.’”


In 1997 Wayne Booth was honored as one of eight University emeritus faculty to receive the Alumni Association's Norman Maclean Faculty Awards, recognizing their extraordinary contributions to teaching and to the student experience of life on campus. Photo by Matthew Gilson.

March 15, 2006

Reading period

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“Unless you have a kid,” said Joe Edwards, AB’01, juggling 16-month-old Jack with one arm and a book with the other, “you don’t know what it’s like to have exams and a teething child at the same time.” The small band of student-parents seated before him in the Ida Noyes Library—all clutching their own little ones—nodded. In the midst of finals frenzy, Tuesday afternoon’s Story Time, sponsored by the Office of Graduate Affairs’ Student Parent Group, offered a brief respite.

“We’ll have a song, then a story, then a song,” explained Joe’s wife Renee, AB’00, before jumping into a welcome melody called “Good Afternoon,” followed by a reading of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. The tale of barnyard bovines who discover a typewriter and begin, via letter, demanding better work conditions from their farmer elicited giggles from adults and kids alike. Next up was “Shake Your Sillies Out,” an upbeat tune by Australian children’s band the Wiggles, which got everyone— developmental-stage permitting—on their feet. A bedtime tale, Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book, calmed the group before a round of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor.” The hour concluded with Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are and Jane Yolen’s How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

Aside from some restlessness on Jack’s part—quickly assuaged by a pacifier, or, as Joe called it, “a parent’s greatest joy”—the kids, who ranged from four months to four years old were a well-behaved bunch. Infants Anna (7.5 mos.) and Emma (4 mos.) bounced on their parents’ laps while Anahit (4 years) quietly took in each story.

The free event was one of many parent-child activities sponsored by the Office of Graduate Affairs’ Student Parent Group each week. Organized to support the University’s approximately 500 student-parents, the group has some 150 student, postdoc, and faculty families on its listserv and also hosts holiday parties, parent-education lectures, and a discussion board. As the Story Time drew to a close, Office of Graduate Affairs’ communications and project manager Natalie Tilghman, AM’04, reminded the group of other upcoming events: a workshop on healthy eating and making your own baby food and a lecture from the Erikson Institute on Getting Your Child to Sleep. “That’ll be standing room only,” joked Renee. Again, the parents all nodded.


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Photos (side): Anahit (4 yrs) and her mom, Maria (top); Jack (16 mos.), Renee, and Joe Edwards read to the group (bottom); Photos (left to right): Anna (7.5 mos) and her dad, Suihan; Student-parents and kids bond in Ida Noyes; Jack poses with mom, Renee; Emma (4 mos.) takes in the stories with mom, Patty.

Photos by Brooke O'Neill

March 17, 2006

The luck of the medics

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Wearing green shirts that read, “Kiss me, I matched!” the Pritzker Medical School Class of 2006 piled into a Hospitals auditorium Thursday morning to tear open 105 white envelopes containing their residency placements. “This is one of the biggest days of your career,” said medical education dean Holly Humphrey, MD’83, assuring fourth-years that they’d always remember “who you’re sitting next to, how fast your heart was racing when you opened the envelope.” A ritual more momentous than graduation, Match Day marks the transformation from medical student to physician, and a giddy energy infected the room. Parents came out to offer congratulations; spouses and children came to find out where they’d be living for the next several years. The SRO crowd perched in the aisles and flanked the walls; some overflowed into the hallway.

Last month fourth-year medical students across the country submitted lists of their residency picks to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), ranked in order of preference. Hospitals also rated applicants, and NRMP officials matched up students with the highest-ranking hospitals to accept them.

Amid the cheers and reflections—and convocation-day reminders about caps and gowns, student loans, and cleaning out lockers—President-elect of Pritzker’s alumni association, Russ Zajtchuk, SB’60, MD’63, offered some advice: Have compassion. “Often there is too much of a hurry. It’s always too many patients, or you didn’t get paid enough. … Spend time with a dying patient. It will bring tears to your eyes, but it’s important.” Humphrey had a more immediate suggestion—“Don’t forget to get a temporary license to practice medicine in the state in which you will be a resident,” she said, to audience chuckles.

At 11 a.m., after handing out the last envelope to Lauren Whiteside, Humphrey ordered them opened. Long seconds of rustling gave way to hugs and cheers. Someone opened a spray can of string confetti. “The University of Chicago medical school,” Humphrey proclaimed, “is 100 percent matched!”


Photo: The envelope please...

March 20, 2006

Bare emotion


Don’t look for any shabby couch, threadbare rug, or forlorn vase of flowers on Court Theatre’s set for The Glass Menagerie. There are no end tables, no staircase, no furnace in the corner—not even the magic-lantern slides Tennessee Williams called for in the play’s original script. And, according to the production’s program, Court’s set designers insist the playwright would have wanted it that way.

By 1945, when he wrote The Glass Menagerie, Williams had grown weary of “the exhausted theatre of realistic conventions.” In search of expressionistic elements to sharpen his memory play’s dreamlike unreality (and enthralled with cinema), he instructed directors to outfit the set with a screen to project images and titles. At the time, this device constituted a controversial break with dramatic tradition; these days, however, multimedia doesn’t pack the same jolt. So Court Theatre’s set designers needed to find another way to remove the drama from strict reality and return to Williams’s original intent.

They settled on sparseness. Stripped bare of the usual clutter meant to evoke a Depression-era St. Louis tenement, Court Theatre’s stage offers the mere hint of a room inhabited by only the characters’ most resonant possessions—a typewriter, a Victrola, a high-school yearbook, a candelabra, a kitchen table, and the eponymous glass menagerie. Even the apartment’s fire escape, where some of Glass Menagerie’s seminal scenes take place, must be imagined by the actors and the audience.

In this illusory environment the semi-autobiographical drama that Williams called his saddest play unfolds. Mary Beth Fisher plays Amanda Wingfield, whose suffocating, disappointed life has transformed her into a harping mother. Chaon Cross plays her daughter Laura, a shy, crippled spinster who inhabits her own world of glass figurines and who waits for—but never quite finds—the kindness of strangers. Jay Whittaker is Tom, the play’s narrator, stage director, and Laura’s brother, a writer and factory hand who finally escapes the stifling confines of his family but never escapes his guilt at deserting them. As Jim, Laura’s long-awaited gentleman caller, Ned Noyes provokes the play’s rawest moments of hope and despair.


Photos: Jim and Laura (top). Tom and Amanda (bottom).

Photos by Michael Brosilow

March 22, 2006

Wanted: College students

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With U of C students on spring break this week, the Magazine knows undergrads are spending their vacation time not on holiday in Cancun but reading this blog and considering their futures. And we have two ways to help them do it.

First, a call to fourth-years, who may need some extra cash to help pay off student loans, post-graduation grocery bills, or a trip around the world. Enter the Magazine's Future Alumni Essay Contest. Win $500. Have your essay published in the June issue of the alumni magazine. For more information, click the top image at right.

Next, a call to first-, second-, and third-years, who have been told by CAPS that they should spend their summers doing fabulous internships in fabulous places. What's more fabulous than honing your reporting, writing, and editing skills right on campus? If journalism may be in your future, we'd like to see you in ours. Click the bottom image at right for application info.

The deadline for both of these opportunities is Friday, March 31. Happy spring break, and happy futures.

March 24, 2006

Gargoyle glimpses

As manager of the Margoliash Lab, a post he's held for seven years, Daniel D. Baleckaitis can look out the Anatomy Building windows and see the Cobb Gate gargoyles on a daily basis. "I always found it fascinating that hundreds of people walk by every day," he says, "but they never look up." Soon after he started the job in June 1999, Baleckaitis, whose hobby is photography, began taking pictures of campus gargoyles, often on Saturday mornings when few people are around and, in the early light, "you can play with the shadows, make them more menacing."

Eventually taking some 300 photos of U of C gargoyles and grotesques, he posted them on a Web site. When viewers asked where he found the carved figures, he redesigned the site to include a campus map. He has since removed several images, after disovering Web surfers were downloading them and claiming them as their own—even the ones with Baleckaitis's watermark. Still, about 40 images remain online, including his favorites of Cobb Gate.


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Photos (left to right): Gargoyles on Bond Chapel, Bartlett, and Ryerson, respectively.

Photos by Daniel D. Baleckaitis.

March 27, 2006

Back to school


Laptops and books are open again. So is Cobb Coffee Shop. Campus parking—for both cars and bikes—is scarce. A few brave sprouts have popped out of the ground for an early peek around.

The 40- to 50-degree weather and threat of rain may be only hinting at spring, but today's return of students certainly signals the end of spring break. The Magazine welcomes the activity.

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Photos (right-hand column): The C-bench; GSB Winter Garden. (Row 1, left to right): Cobb Coffee Shop; Ellis Ave. (Row 2): Main quads; Jones.

March 29, 2006

Tea time


Boasting “healthy signature drinks,” such as hibiscus tea sangria and bubble tea, Argo Tea—a Chicago chain started in 2003—set up shop last Wednesday in the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM). Located in the first-floor lobby, the Argo kiosk offers hospital visitors a selection of hot and iced teas, coffees, pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Business has been good, barista Heidi confirmed Tuesday as she mixed a pom tea (a pomegranate and red tea combo) with one hand and rang up a tea latte with the other.

So far, customer favorites include Earl Grey vanilla crème, chai, and smooteas, a blend of fresh fruit and iced tea. For more conservative customers—“Some people seem scared of tea,” noted barista Liana—Argo also offers Illy brand Italian coffee. Open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, and with more than 40 beverages to choose from, Argo may make tea converts of a few more Chicagoans.


Photo: A line forms at the new Argo kiosk.

March 31, 2006

A man of faith and fiction


As a packed room of diners sat down to plates full of sauerkraut and bratwurst—both pork and vegetarian—and glasses of beer Wednesday afternoon at the Divinity School’s lunch series, it became clear that the eminent (and invented) theologian Franz Bibfeldt would miss, once again, the annual lecture given in his name. Ever since writing a doctoral thesis on the missing year zero between 1 B.C. and A.D. 1, “Bibfeldt’s schedule is frequently one year off,” explained Martin Marty, the Divinity School’s Fairfax M. Cone distinguished service professor emeritus—and the architect of Bibfeldt’s legend.

A fictitious, if influential, character whom Marty and classmate Robert Howard Clausen created (first as a running joke) back in 1947, when they were freshmen at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Bibfeldt has since taken on a life and academic career of his own. Each year on the Wednesday closest to April Fool’s, a Divinity School faculty member or graduate student takes the podium at Swift Hall to present the latest Bibfeldtian scholarship. This year’s chosen speaker was James Robinson, an assistant professor of Judaic history, who expounded on “the abyss that separates man and animal” in a lecture titled “The Argument from Barking Dogs: Remarks on Bibfeldt and the Theology of Subaltern Species.” Divinity student Edmund Harris offered a toast and confessed astonishment at Bibfeldt’s absence from the online directory Facebook.

Asked about Bibfeldt’s health and whereabouts, Marty, who took in the proceedings from a seat at the back of the room, said he didn’t know. “Remember, he was born in 1897,” Marty said, quoting from Bibfeldt’s fictitious biography. “So if he’s alive or if he’s dead, we don’t like to think about it.”


Photo: James Robinson gives his Bibfeldt lecture in Swift Hall Wednesday afternoon.

About March 2006

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in March 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2006 is the previous archive.

April 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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