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January 2007 Archives

January 3, 2007

Cover-girl collage


Although he rarely picked up a camera, artist Robert Heinecken helped expand the scope of contemporary photography during a four-decade career that ended with his death last year at age 74. Rather than create new images, he manipulated and transformed existing ones using lithography, etching, cutouts, and photo emulsion. While some of his works were whimsical or beautiful, many others became—as a new Smart Museum exhibit demonstrates—intentionally disturbing juxtapositions of pop culture, violence, and politics. At the height of the Vietnam War, for instance, Heinecken superimposed a photograph of a young Vietnamese soldier, grinning and hoisting two severed heads, over fashion-magazine ads. He overlaid magazine images of women in rope-lace skirts and a pitch for Isotoner’s slimming “bodysuit” with pictures of suggestively posed women in whips and thigh boots. His 1966-67 series “Are you Rea” combined images on both sides of magazine pages by using a light to photographically expose the front and back simultaneously.

In a letter to Chicago collector and photographer Luke Batten, included as part of the Smart’s exhibit, Heinecken explains that he combined images in ways that were “visually stimulating” and that seemed “to reveal ironic or significant cultural conditions.” His work is on display through March 11.


Photo: Robert Heinecken, Frost Tip, 1971, Newsprint (Glamour magazine page) with rubbing, black and white photograph. Smart Museum of Art.

January 5, 2007

New in every language

On Thursday, one day after the new Center for the Study of Languages (CSL) opened, glass-enclosed classrooms and curving orange walls butted up against boxes of foreign-language videos and handwritten room numbers. Students and faculty wandered in, wondering where small-group sessions would be held, looking for CSL staff, and generally asking about the new space on Cobb's second floor.

Manager Michael Berger, who has supervised the University's language resources since 1986, was there to answer the flood of questions, while an assistant moved box after box into the center. "I don't have a phone!" Berger exclaimed, after realizing he wanted to contact a faculty member. The CSL is still waiting for some furniture, televisions, and other items to arrive.

Designed by RADA Architects, Ltd., the CSL consolidates the Language Labs and Archives, originally located in the Social Sciences basement, with the Language Faculty Resource Center in Cobb. The firm renovated the Cobb space, creating small-group classrooms and faculty offices and adding cafe-style tables by the elevators for students to meet between classes.

The classrooms and equipment, including videoconferencing and satellite TV for foreign news and entertainment programming, will be put into use as small-group sessions begin next week. Meanwhile, the new center is attracting attention—one breathless student asked Berger to help her find where a Russian class on Nabokov's Lolita was being held. Berger was happy to oblige by checking the time schedules online. He did have a computer.

Jenny Fisher, '07

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Photos (left to right): A small-group room in the center; Berger (left) mans the front desk; students try out the new hallway tables.

January 8, 2007

So you want to be an actor


More than a dozen hopeful actors auditioned at last Friday's callbacks for but i cd only whisper, one of three main University Theater winter shows. Written by student playwright Kristiana Colón and directed by theater and performance-studies lecturer Tiffany Trent, the play addresses mental illness in the black community through the story of Beau Willie Brown, a troubled Vietnam veteran who murders his two children. "An audience," wrote Colón in her original proposal, "should leave this production with a deep understanding of how things get broken, the importance of healing, and what it means when you are too hungry to try to heal."

Trent kicked off auditions at 12:30 p.m. with warm-up stretches and movement exercises. "Get comfortable," she urged, inviting the group onstage in the Francis X. Kinahan Third-Floor Theater. "Take your coats off, shoes off." After ten minutes of music and dance, students were ushered outside, then called by pairs to read for one of the play's six roles. Trent led auditions, occasionally stopping actors to give direction, while Colón took notes on her laptop.

Just after 3 p.m. Trent, Colón, and other production staff members convened to make their decisions. "Check out the board tomorrow," Trent reminded one actor as he left the theater. By 3 p.m. Saturday, his name, along with the rest of the cast, was posted outside the Reynolds Club's First Floor Theater.


Photo: Actors warm up with stretches at last Friday's callbacks.

January 10, 2007

Will the real Martha Nussbaum please stand up?


In 1996 writer Marc Estrin received a troubling phone call from a man in New York City. The caller wanted to procure a high-powered rifle—rifles are easy to get in Vermont, explained Estrin, a Burlington resident, to an audience of about 25 at 57th Street Books on Monday night—so he could “kill black people out of his window” for the coming “war between the blacks and the Jews in New York.” This maniac, Estrin said, along with “many other maniacs I’ve known,” was the inspiration for Alan Krieger, the protagonist of Estrin’s latest novel, Golem Song (Unbridled Books, 2006). According to folklore, the Golem was a Frankensteinian creature created to save the Jews from persecution in 16th-century Prague.

Reading from Golem Song along with Estrin was the inspiration for another character in the novel: Chicago professor of law and ethics Martha Nussbaum. In the story, Alan reads Nussbaum’s The Therapy of Desire, sees a photograph of her, and then “everything clicks because of this woman.” For Alan, who is dating both a Jewish social worker and a German psychologist and struggling to keep the two separate from each other, Nussbaum solves this problem: as Estrin explained, “She looks like a goy but must be Jewish because of the name.” Alan’s infatuation with Nussbaum comes to a head when he meets her, the scene used for Monday night’s reading.

The lively performance by Estrin (as Alan) and Nussbaum (whom Alan dubs “Helen of Academe”) was interrupted every so often by Nussbaum pointing out small differences between real and fictional Marthas: when the character talked about eating a Power Bar for lunch, Nussbaum explained, “Actually, it’s a Cliff Bar I eat.” This meeting scene, according to Estrin, serves an important function in the book: it is the “exposition of Alan’s romantic sexual greediness and his searching for rationalizations” for his twisted fantasies. Yet, Estrin said, the scene also allows both Nussbaum and readers to see Alan’s “charming” and “playful” side, challenging them to “like somebody who’s perfectly horrible.”

Although Estrin had been writing about the fictional Nussbaum for years while composing Golem Song, he took six months to build up the courage to e-mail the real Nussbaum for permission to use her as a character. He had used “real people” in earlier novels (Insect Dreams and Arnold Hitler), Estrin said, but they were “dead” and “well-researched.” After she granted permission, he corresponded with Nussbaum to make sure that her character was accurate—Nussbaum, for example, refuses to eat hot dogs, which is problematic for food-loving Alan when he offers her character a Hebrew National frank (“It’s kosher!” proclaims Alan). But Estrin was anxious about “putting words into someone’s living, breathing mouth.” Nussbaum, meanwhile, feared the flip side: “What business of mine is it to tell this creative artist” what to include or not include?

Ruthie Kott

Photo: The real Martha Nussbaum reads her character's part with author Marc Estrin.

January 11, 2007

King's antiwar legacy


WWKD—What would King do? Although UIC history professor Barbara Ransby said she wouldn't purport to know how Martin Luther King Jr. would respond to the war in Iraq, all three panelists at Wednesday evening's MLK Week discussion seemed to have a well-educated hunch. The program, King: War and the Moral Imperative, used the civil-rights leader's April 30, 1967, sermon at New York's Riverside Church as a jumping-off point. In that speech King pronounced his opposition to the Vietnam War—at a time when much of the press and public still "cautiously" favored it, said the first speaker, Chicago theology and history of Christianity professor W. Clark Gilpin, AM’72, PhD’74.

In the sermon King explained how his nonviolent fight for domestic civil rights had expanded to international affairs. For one, the poverty programs enacted only a few years earlier lost their funding to the war. Also, King saw a disproportionate number of black and poor soldiers dying in Vietnam. Third, Gilpin paraphrased, the war "created a disastrous inconsistency in the moral claims of the nation."

As King noted in his sermon, when he tried to tell "angry young men" in urban ghettos "that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems" and that "social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action," they'd retort: "So what about Vietnam?" There the United States used violence to solve its problems. "Their questions hit home," King said, "and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government."

Later in the sermon King discussed South Asia—a section that Gilpin "reread in terms of our current war in Iraq." To make the point, Gilpin quoted: "There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward [Selma, Alabama, Sheriff] Jim Clark,' but will curse and damn you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children.'"

Gilpin also saw modern parallels to King's statement: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Parallels also struck theology professor Dwight Hopkins, who focused on King's spiritual teachings. After his sermon King was "instructed that the black church should stick to domestic issues," Hopkins said, yet King "believed that failure to speak out would be a prime instance when silence meant betrayal to his interpretation of the Gospel of Christ." The "same forces that benefitted from the white power structure domestically" were the ones that "damaged people of color abroad and stole their oil."

Ransby spoke last, decrying recent incidents such as Abu Ghraib and Haditha and noting that King "advocated nonviolence for the poor but also for the president, the most powerful among us." During the "unjust" war in Iraq, she said, "King's words should be ringing loudly in our ears. He offered a powerful moral challenge: 'Somehow the madness must cease.'"

About 40 community members attended the panel in Swift Hall's third-floor lecture hall, one of several events held this week to honor King. On Monday NAACP chair Julian Bond will give a keynote address at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.


Photos: Hopkins and Ransby listen to Gilpin at the podium (top); The crowd considers the arguments (bottom).

Photos by Dan Dry

January 17, 2007

The future starts now


Chicago students have been known to explore scientific and philosophical theories, but last Thursday at the 2007 Winter Career Fair, “career exploration” was the name of the game. The annual fair, sponsored by the University’s Career Advising and Planning Services (CAPS), brings employers from the information-technology, nonprofit, and financial sectors, among others, explained Corynne Pero, CAPS’s student and employer-relations specialist. Held in the Ida Noyes Library/Lounge and the Cloister Club, this year’s fair hosted more than 50 employers including Merrill Lynch, Teach for America, and Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear.

In preparation for meeting with potential employers, third-years, fourth-years, and masters’ students were advised to wear business attire and to bring their resumes, which CAPS could review at lobby walk-in stations. “A career fair,” Pero noted, “is really just an on-the-spot interview.”

Waiting in line to talk to representatives from Susquehanna International Group, an investment-banking firm, third-year Sherry Hwang thought the career fair offered worthwhile information about summer internships in finance and consulting. Yet not all students were satisfied with the on-site prospects. Egyptology majors Lindsey Miller, ’07, Janelle Pisarik, ’08, and Jessica Henderson, ’08, were disappointed that only one employer fit their interests: the Field Museum. There was an “entire room dedicated to finance,” Miller noted, yet “nothing for psychology, anthropology, sociology, English majors—the majority of majors at the school—except teaching.” Pisarik added, “I would have liked to see other museums,” employers from a wider range of disciplines, and some from farther distances. Still, resumes in hand, they walked the aisles and considered the options.

Ruthie Kott

Photos: A prospective investment banker gets informed (top); Job seekers overrun the Cloister Club (bottom).

January 19, 2007

Dispatch from study-abroad

Eight ways winter quarter is different in Barcelona:

1. The Reg may look like a fortress, but the library at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra is in a recycled citadel.

2. The first final—for the course Civilization in the Western Mediterranean: Barcelona, section Iberia: Ancient and Late Antique—falls in the middle of third week.

3. The UPF classrooms have no clocks—a good thing when class begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m.

4. On Monday the class discussed the Roman amphitheater at Tarraco (modern-day Tarragona). On Tuesday they were sitting in the stands' remains.

5. Dorm rooms are in the Hotel Atlantis, breakfast included, but no cooking allowed in the rooms.

6. The nearest laundromat is a ten-minute walk from the hotel. To wash and dry one load costs €6, or $8.

7. Instead of cell phones, the students have digital cameras glued to their hands.

8. Even with global warming, there are still no palm trees in the quads.


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Photos (row 1, left to right): Chicago students Neil Lutz, Melissa Thomasma, Inez Jones, and Nicole Sindy chat at a Barcelona plaça off La Ramblas; Classics lecturer Lee Behnke leads the Iberia: Ancient and Late Antique course at Universitat Pompeu Fabra—no clocks in the classroom; Chicago students study at the recycled-citadel UPF library.

(row 2, left to right): At the laundromat, Emerald Gao counts her euros while Kira Bennett looks on; Greta Honold (in blue scarf) and Melissa Thomasma grab breakfast at the Hotel Atlantis; After Monday's lesson on the Roman army in Spain, on Tuesday the class traveled to Tarragona, known as Tarraco when it was a Roman imperial city and Iberian outpost, to see the amphitheater's remains.

Photos by Dan Dry.

January 22, 2007

How not to be a starving artist


“Whatever passion you have,” encouraged New York jazz musician Paul Steinbeck, AB’02, “give yourself ten years to follow it.” Heidi Thompson, AB’01, MBA’05, executive director of Chicago theater company Barrel of Monkeys, seconded the advice to aspiring U of C musicians, filmmakers, novelists, actors, and other creatives. “There are ten years, maybe a few more, in your life when it’s OK to be poor,” she half-joked. Debating day jobs, MFA programs, and whether making a living in the arts means selling out (“No,” said all four participants), Steinbeck, Thompson, theater publicist Ted Boles, AB’01, and dancer/choreographer Julia Mayer, AB’86, weighed in at Saturday’s career panel on How to Make A Living While Living Through the Arts.

Part of the tenth annual Taking the Next Step program, where Chicago third- and fourth-years hear from alumni in different professions, the arts session drew 50-plus of the 670 student attendees. Among the 14 panels offered: More Than Just Blackboards (education policy and practice); You’re ‘The Man’ (government); and Get on the Write Foot (journalism, media, and publishing). More than 150 alumni speakers attended the daylong conference at downtown Chicago’s Hyatt Regency.

Sponsored by the College Programming Office, the Alumni Association, Career Advising and Planning Services, the College, and the Office of the Dean of Students in the College, each hour-long panel ended with audience questions. “You talked about how it’s hard to get started in the arts professionally and how many of you had to work in fields unrelated to your craft to support your art,” asked one third-year. “When did you lose your idealism?” All four speakers agreed they hadn’t. “You can be an idealist and a realist,” said Mayer, who worked in desktop publishing while pursuing her MFA in dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. “It’s very easy to make a living as a musician playing music you don’t like,” said Steinbeck, who saw non-music day jobs as preferable to the alternatives (weddings and bar mitzvahs). Learn how to use Microsoft Excel, advised Thompson. Then “you won’t be waiting tables. You’ll be doing something where you get health insurance.”


Photos: Arts and entertainment panelists (left to right) Ted Boles, Heidi Thompson, Paul Steinbeck, and Julia Mayer share their experiences (top); U of C undergrads chat between sessions.

January 24, 2007

Paris in the downpour

Last Thursday, as gale-force winds blew through much of western Europe, Magazine photographer Dan Dry embarked on his own whirlwind photo-documentation of undergraduate life at the University of Chicago Center in Paris.

Dry shot the center—at 6, rue Thomas Mann, it’s two blocks from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and across the street from the new home of the Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7—from morning ’til night. He also wanted to photograph Chicago undergrads against a few Paris landmarks, and five students stepped up to the plate, meeting him near the Arc de Triomphe on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. That shot complete, it was off by Métro to the Tour Eiffel. But the day had darkened, and the scene turned into an unplanned silhouette.

Après cela, le déluge.


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Photos, row 1 (left to right): A garden connects the Paris Center’s three buildings; scene from a Paris Center classroom; third-years Caroline Suh and Aparna Hirve chat over their texts while fourth-year Koh Kim descends the lobby stairs.

Row 2 (left to right): Students study in the great room, which also serves as the largest classroom, a conference site, a common room, and the center’s library; The campus, illuminated at dusk, shot from the nearly completed Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7, which opens this fall, bringing thousands of French students into the area; At the Arc de Triomphe, winter-quarter students Zarah Carranco, Jennifer Kye, Mary Soo Anderson, Raymond Perez, and Erindira Tejada consult their map.

Row 3 (left to right): At the Tour Eiffel, it was about to rain: the students’ silhouettes disappear into the monument’s base; minutes later, tourists seek shelter from the storm.

Photos by Dan Dry

January 26, 2007

House of cards


In the joint Court Theatre–Museum of Contemporary Art production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, playing at the MCA through February 11, the characters chase each other through desperate conversations, cavorting along the set's aisles, stairs, and platforms. Designed by Chicago architect Leigh Breslau, Millennium Park's master planner, the steel and wood structure provides a modern take on the Russian country estate where the 1899 play takes place.

Not that such contemporary construction seems incongruous. The story, about Vanya and his niece, Sonya, whose lives and home become disrupted when Sonya's retired-professor father and his young wife come there to live, contains pathos and humor, unrequited love and lifelong regret, environmentalism and fear of death—hardly old-fashioned themes.

Forgoing lives of their own, Vanya and Sonya have farmed the estate for decades, sending its earnings to the professor. Now Vanya realizes the worshipped professor's success was fleeting, and worse, he, unlike Vanya, enjoyed fame and beautiful women—including his young bride, Yelena. Sonya, meanwhile, loves the young doctor, Astrov, who comes to check on the self-absorbed professor. Yet the doctor, like Vanya, has eyes for Yelena. Directed by Court Artistic Director Charles Newell, the play reaches an explosive climax before the house is restored to its previous state—ignorant bliss.


Photos: Both the doctor, Astrov (Timothy Edward Kane, top), and Vanya (Kevin Gudahl, bottom) flirt with the professor's wife, Yelena (Chaon Cross).

Photos courtesy Court Theatre.

January 29, 2007

Ice, ice baby


It may be the dead of winter, but the Midway’s ice-skating rink is a lively spot. The ice becomes particularly busy after 5 p.m., when students get out of class and workers emerge from offices. Youngsters show up a few hours earlier. “Once the school kids get here, they’re here to stay,” observed a Park District employee last week while manning the skate-rental desk ($4-$5 a pair). “This is their after-school activity. On the weekend, people are here all the time.”

Out on the ice, bundled-up grade-school children chased each other the length of the rink, while couples holding hands steered careful circles around the outer wall. Adult beginners practiced crossovers and forward swizzles. Some parents watched rink-side, while others stayed by the fireplace inside the window-walled warming house.

Situated between Ellis and University avenues, the rink is open through February 28. Its hours are:
Sunday through Thursday, noon–7 p.m.
Friday, noon–4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Saturday, 1 p.m.–9 p.m.


Photos: Skaters fly by the warming house (top); the campus skyline glows from the rink (bottom).

January 31, 2007

Lunch over antiquities


Swift Hall's common room was packed for last Wednesday's Divinity School Lunch, where diners feasted on walnut- and orange–topped salad, baked potatoes with chili, and pear cobbler with ice cream for dessert. "This is like the best lunch I've had in years," declared Divinity School communications director Terren Wein before introducing the day's speaker, Oriental Institute and Near Eastern languages and civilizations professor McGuire Gibson, AM'64, PhD'68.

"You might say this food was divine, or at least the divines can cook," Gibson joked. Then he turned to more serious matters: the plunder of antiquities in Iraq. A leading authority on ancient Mesopotamia, Gibson and colleague Augusta McMahon, AM'86, PhD'93, published "Lost Heritage: Antiquities Stolen from Iraq's Regional Museums" (pdf) in 1992, part of a series by the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq and the first academic article to bring attention to losses after the 1990 Gulf War.

"When you have looting," Gibson told the audience, "you have lost the respect of the people." He described what he called the U.S. government's mishandling of the April 2003 ransacking of the Iraqi National Museum. "I started sending e-mails to the Pentagon when I heard about the looting," he recalled, waiting and hoping that he would see "the photo-op on TV where the general says, 'We've saved the antiquities.'"

"The Iraqis tried," Gibson said, by placing as many objects as they could in secret storage, "but the occupying power did not do its duty." The United States was at fault, he said, for "not having enough troops to do the job right."

Worse than the museum break-ins, Gibson said, were the people foraging through Iraqi archaeological sites, a problem he said is still going on today. "Some of the most important ancient Sumerian cities are now destroyed." The Iraqis, he said, "are digging up their own heritage and their own future," because the vandalism prevents future excavations that could stimulate the economy and bolster tourism. Excavating a looted site is "like digging in lace," he said with frustration. "There's holes here and there's holes there."

Gibson then took questions from the audience. "What can we do to prevent this current catastrophe from happening in the rest of the Middle East?" asked one woman. His answer came too quickly: "You can't."

Jenny Fisher, '07

Photos: Audience members listen to Gibson after lunch (top); Gibson describes the looting (bottom).

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

February 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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