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December 2006 Archives

December 1, 2006

Lunch and Hunger


After the vegetarian Cobb salad, vegetable pot pie, and chocolate-chunk cookies had been served and consumed at the Divinity School lunch this Wednesday, the 50 or so diners settled back for the post-lunch entertainment, a concert by 2006 MDiv grad Ana Porter.

Porter works a day job as a consulting minister at Unity Church in Oak Park, Illinois, but the dark-haired, dark-eyed 34-year-old is also a singer-songwriter whose work Billboard has called “melodically rich...lyrically evocative." The songs on her 2005 debut album, Hunger (on sale at the lunch and via her Web site), provided the majority of her Swift Commons material, from the award-winning title track (inspired by “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) to the crowd-pleasing “Two Boyfriends":

I need two boyfriends,
one for the week, one for the weekend.

Lunch over, the audience was hungry for more.


Ana Porter, MDiv’06, sings of life and love at the last Divinity School lunch of the fall quarter. Photo by Joy Olivia Miller.

December 4, 2006

Rockefeller hosts Handel


Wrapped from head to toe in coats, scarves, and hats, students, faculty, and community members flooded Rockefeller Chapel Friday night for the University Chorus's annual performance of Handel's Messiah. Conducted by University Chorus Director James Kallembach, the program featured selections from the 53-movement piece, which is three hours in its entirety. The program notes described Handel's expertise in Italian opera, one of his most frequent composition styles. As an oratorio, the Messiah parallels Italianate opera, including casts of soloists, a chorus, and an orchestra, but breaks with opera in its lack of costumes and sets and in its religious material.

"I'm in love with all the soloists," said history major and University Chorus soprano Rachel Berg, '08, referring to soprano Hyun Suk Jang, countertenor Lon Ellenberger, tenor Trevor Mitchell, and bass Andrew Schultze. After the performance Berg and other chorus members migrated to Medici on 57th for a late dinner.

Jenny Fisher, '07

Photo: University Chorus Director James Kallembach.

December 6, 2006

Uncommon protest


Braving the season's first snowfall, about 50 students—seven shirtless—took to the main quads for a protest last Friday. "Who are we not?" "Harvard!" "Who are we not?" "Brown!" "Who are we?" "Chicago!" Some demonstrators wore or waved maroon T-shirts that read "I am UnCommon," while bare-chested students arranged themselves to spell "UNCOMMON" with red letters painted on their torsos. (One man sported two Ms.) They held hand-lettered signs including, "WWRD: What would Rockefeller do?" and "I love mustard. I'm not common." The latter referred to a 2005 College application question prompted by Costco: "Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard" and its relation to "impulse buys, excess," and "notions of bigness."

The students were reacting to news that, although the College will keep its unique essay questions as a required supplement, the Admissions Office plans to accept basic information submitted on the Common Application. Almost 300 colleges and universities use some part of the Common Application, including Harvard, Brown, and Northwestern. The University hopes the change, to take effect in the next two years, will encourage more students to consider the U of C, and that it will increase diversity. According to Michael Behnke, vice president and dean of College enrollment, "the percentage of African American students using the Common Application exceeds the percentage of these students applying to the University of Chicago." In an interview in the Nov–Dec Magazine, President Robert Zimmer discussed the idea of reevaluating the application process: "There is, of course, something to self-selection. Nevertheless I believe strongly that there are more prospective candidates who would make wonderful students at Chicago who are not applying."

Meanwhile, almost 1,500 current and former students have joined a Facebook group protesting the change. Group organizer Luis Lara, '08, wrote: "As students of the University we should have a say in such an issue. The UnCommon Application," a term coined in 1998 to distinguish Chicago, "is something we all cherish and it is the reason a lot of us applied to this school." Lara also set up an online petition, which more than 1,000 people have signed. "The long essay options are a key part of it," wrote Elizabeth Wampler, AB'04, "but the smell and feel and wording of the rest are the first steps that students take into the Life of the Mind."

Jenny Fisher, '07

Photos: Students voice their protest (top) and mark a message in the snow (bottom).

Photos by Dan Dry.

December 8, 2006

Forecast: cloudy


The Graduate School of Business kicked off its Business Forecast 2007 series with a Wednesday press conference, where the emphasis was not on numbers but on trends. The Forecast series itself is trending up: since the GSB began its economic predictions in 1954, the annual event has expanded far beyond Chicago. By the end of February, six prognosticators will have shared their best "economic insights for everyday” with alumni in 18 cities, including Brussels, Hong Kong, and London. Chicago went first, a few hours after the press conference.

Michael Mussa, AM’70, PhD’74, a senior fellow at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, offered the prediction that “U.S. economic growth will slow to just above 2 percent,” but hedged his bets: “The risks around this central forecast are significantly greater than they have been for the past four years.”

Marviz Zonis, GSB professor emeritus of business administration, focused on "five major trends [that] are driving global politics,” including “the demands of the Islamic world for greater respect.” The United States will have to meet those demands, he said, not through bombs “but with massive accommodation.” Meanwhile, Zonis said, the U.S. will continue to suffer a loss in status as other global centers (“London, Bonn, Moscow, Riyadh, Tehran, Delhi, and Beijing”) rise.

Austan Goolsbee, the GSB’s Robert P. Gwinn professor of economics, offered five predictions. Prediction No. 4? “Prepare yourself for a hedge-fund shakeout, scandal, and, perhaps, regulation.” Why? “With a downturn, it is going to become immediately obvious that some hedge funds have been grossly inflating the values of their holdings and raking in huge fees based on those values.” As managers desert the foundering ships, some funds will collapse: “And then you will see the investigations.”


Business Forecast 2007 panelists Marvin Zonis, Michael Mussa, and Austan Goolsbee predict the economic future.

Photo by Beth Rooney.

December 11, 2006

Gifts aplenty


Still searching for holiday gifts? The Chicago campus offers plenty of shopping options, starting with museum gift shops. The Oriental Institute's Suq, for instance, sells hieroglyph jewelry, Mesopotamian battle-scene paperweights, and "a soft padded pyramid that unzips to reveal a map of the Nile River and six soft toys." The Smart Museum store has art books, Indian paper products, jewelry, and Tigo leather goods. The Renaissance Society sells special-edition art crafts.

Local bookstores, meanwhile, offer more academic gifts. The Seminary Co-op stocks all manner of U of C authors and also recommends this year's notable children's books. The University of Chicago Bookstore has general-interest books as well as a slew of Maroon clothing and other items. The store also has a stack of boardgames near the register.

Of course, you can always make a gift to the University—holiday or otherwise. No wrapping required.


Photo: Pockets Of Learning made the pyramid gift for the Suq.

December 13, 2006

Settled uncertainty


“Being required to carry identification means we are never without a picture of ourselves,” begins the essay accompanying Ben Gest’s exhibition of enigmatic and oddly unsettling photographs at the Renaissance Society. “When are we at home with ourselves? Or more precisely, when are we at home in ourselves?” Gest’s photographs seem to capture people at moments of utter banality—moving a garden hose, lying on a couch, carrying a sleepy child to bed—a sense his titles reinforce: Eric Coming Back Inside, Alan with His Car still Running, Kate Fixing Her Earring, Samantha with Bags for William.

Yet the more one studies them, the less straightforward these portraits become. Looking less relaxed than their mundane suburban surroundings, the subjects gaze out of the frame. Their expressions are intense, introspective, disengaged from the situation at hand. As the exhibition essay puts it, “their demeanor suggests that the psyche has vacated the body’s premises.”

Ben Gest’s self-titled exhibition is on display through December 22. This Sunday Renaissance Society associate curator Hamza Walker will lead a gallery tour.


Photos: Melissa Holbert and Jessica Moss, both Smart Museum staffers, study Kate Fixing Her Earring (top); Ben Gest’s Jennifer in Her Rooftop Garden (bottom).

December 15, 2006

Read on


“So how do you separate modernism from postmodernism in literature? I always get confused,” asked a well-dressed man as he wandered through the Seminary Co-op’s low-ceilinged corridors with a female companion.

“That’s a good question. It’s something I’m trying to decide in my own work,” she responded as the two stopped to browse a table of books late Thursday afternoon.

As campus empties for the holiday break, intellectual conversation—and shopping—continues at the Co-op. Best-sellers, said a staffer, include New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s compendium Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978–2006; Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, Against the Day; and The Great Latke Hamantash Debate. Students wanting to get a jump-start on next quarter’s classes can check out the back shelves, which are quickly filling up with course texts.

And for those parsing out modernism and postmodernism, a quick search on the Co-op’s database turns up more than 2,000 books on literary theory.


Photo: Two shoppers chat literary theory.

December 18, 2006

Blanket memorial

While blue flags with silver stars line Rockefeller Memorial Chapel's narthex and red poinsettias decorate the chancel, the chapel's east transept holds a colorful yet somber display this December: six sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

One panel pays tribute to a South Carolina radio DJ and some of his favorite '80s movies and albums: Top Gun, The Cars Greatest Hits. An Andy Warhol-inspired piece features 18 identical images of AIDS victim Rollie James Kennedy III. Others include Bible passages, messages of love, birds, rainbows, and trees.

Rockefeller first displayed AIDS Quilt sections in 2004, when panels created by Rockefeller Dean Alison Boden and administrative assistant David Wyka were among those on exhibit. This time chapel staff requested Chicago-based sections. "A lot of people come in and are very moved by it," says Lorraine Brochu, AM'88, Rockefeller's assistant to the dean for external affairs. The display, Brochu notes, began December 1, World AIDS Day, and continues through December 23.

Founded in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt now includes 5,748 sections, each comprising about eight panels. The works tour the country in organizers' goal "to reach more communities with messages of remembrance, awareness, and hope."


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Photos (left to right): Six quilt sections adorn the chapel's east transept; Rockefeller staff requested Chicago-themed panels.

December 20, 2006

The power of print

In 1864 Toronto native Richard Robert Donnelley arrived in Chicago and founded a printing company at Clark and Adams. Over the next century and a half R. R. Donnelley & Sons became one of the world’s largest commercial publishers, putting out mail-order catalogs from Sears, Penny’s, Ward’s, and Neiman Marcus; Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Chicago plan; and tickets, programs, and postcards for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Donnelley also printed phone books, ad brochures, newspapers, and magazines such as Time, Life, Look, Popular Science, the Saturday Evening Post, and National Geographic (as well as the University of Chicago Magazine). In August 1954 Donnelley published the inaugural issue of Sports Illustrated. In 1961 the company wooed the New Yorker away from its longstanding printing firm in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.

Using archival materials donated to the University in 2005, an exhibit at the Regenstein Library’s Special Collections Research Center traces R. R. Donnelley’s history, often revealing customs long gone. In a 1926 application to become a book-binding apprentice, for example, 16-year-old Edward Lhotka lists his religion as Catholic, his parents as Bohemian, and his English and mathematics teacher as Miss Novotny. Among the collection of World’s Fair publications is a shimmering reservation card for the Cellophane Ball at the Drake Hotel.

Printing for the Modern Age” compiles letters, documentary and personal photographs, company records, printing artifacts, and published products to illuminate the origins of the company’s Indianhead trademark, its technological evolution, and R. R. Donnelley’s trail of heirs (several of whom have served as University trustees). While the exhibit, on display through February 12, represents only a sampling of the University’s Donnelley holdings, the full archives offer “great research potential,” the exhibit notes declare, for graphic artists, sociologists, and cultural and economic historians.


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Photos (left to right): The first issue of Sports Illustrated, dated August 16, 1954; R. R. Donnelley’s 1915 crop of 14- to 16-year-old apprentices; 20th-century engraving tools, bearing a handwritten warning from the owner.

December 22, 2006

Winter wonderland


While UChiBLOGo takes a holiday break until January 3, Hyde Park still offers plenty of winter activities. Some festive diversions: today from 4 to 6 p.m. locals of all ages skate with Santa and light a menorah, a kinara, or a spruce tree. Sponsored by the Chicago Park District, the festivities take place on the Midway Plaisance.

On Christmas Eve Rockefeller Memorial Chapel services include a 4 p.m. “Lessons and Carols” performance and children’s nativity pageant.

For post-Hanukkah fun, U of C’s Newberger Hillel Center recommends the Spertus Institute’s 9th Annual Community Festival on December 25, which offers musical performances, dance lessons, face-painting, and arts and crafts.

At Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights festival, running 5-9 p.m. through January 1, Chicagoans can see their favorite animals under twinkling lights.

To see lights of a different kind, the University’s South Pole Telescope team hosts a December 30 Webcast. Led by astronomy & astrophysics professor John Carlstrom, the group of cosmologists will address how the ten-meter telescope, soon to be completed, will be used. Presented in collaboration with San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the team will tackle questions of dark energy, anti-gravity, and galaxy clusters. It's one way to get your brain revved up for the New Year.


Photos: Lincoln Park Zoo lights up the night through January 1 (top); University of Chicago cosmologists will give a Webcast update on the South Pole Telescope (bottom).

About December 2006

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

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

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

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