« March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

April 2007 Archives

April 2, 2007

Jon Stewart reveals his inner maroon


The Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart has an undergrad degree from the College of William and Mary, which presented him with an honorary doctorate when he gave its 2004 commencement address. But he also has a tie to Chicago: Kahane Corn, AB’84, is the show’s coexecutive producer.

This winter, when Corn—an English major who started her career as a documentary filmmaker—gave the keynote talk at Taking the Next Step 2007, the Career and Planning Services (CAPS) annual program for third-years in the College, she brought along a video greeting from her boss.


The schtik is old but the delivery’s hip.

April 4, 2007

Randal's Trump card


“I was a geeky kid. But Bill Gates was a geeky kid too.” Randal Pinkett, season four winner of Donald Trump’s business-savvy reality show The Apprentice, shared some personal stories and professional tips at the U of C Bookstore Tuesday afternoon as part of a national tour promoting his book, Campus CEO (Kaplan Publishing, 2007). Nestled in the store’s business, finance, and marketing section, about 20 fans gathered to hear Pinkett’s talk and get their copies of Campus CEO signed, many hoping to learn a few tricks of the entrepreneurial trade.

On December 13, 2005, Pinkett heard the words that 17 other Apprentice wannabes—all vying for the chance to work for real-estate mogul Donald Trump—had hoped to hear: “You’re hired.” (He beat Rebecca Jarvis, AB’03, in the final round.) After working for a year overseeing the renovation of Trump resorts in Atlantic City, he returned to his love: an information-technology consulting firm (BCT Partners) that he cofounded while an undergraduate at Rutgers. He continues to consult a few hours a week for Trump University, an online program for future entrepreneurs, and also manages a “Young Apprentice program for young people in Philly,” he said. Because of his experience on The Apprentice, Pinkett explained, he has been able to develop a career that combines his three passions—technology, education, and community.

Before the show, Pinkett had been a professional student; after receiving his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and later received a PhD from MIT. Throughout school he participated in business ventures, from selling CDs out of his dorm room to IT consulting. “Students have a unique lens into the marketplace,” he said, then shot off a list of business started by students: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Federal Express, Kinko’s, and Pizza Hut.

Responding to a second-year graduate student asking about starting her own nonprofit organization, he explained, “You don’t have to do everything.” Using lessons he’s learned from his own start-up experience, he advised that each business partner should learn one thing, be it finance, marketing, sales, or accounting, and know it well. “Don’t just be good,” he urged. “Be great.”

Ruthie Kott

Photo: Pinkett signs copies of his new book at the U of C Bookstore.

April 5, 2007

More than "spring prints"


Presenting an exhibition of Japanese erotic prints, assistant professor of art history Hans Thomsen and his students hoped that viewers would see the woodblock prints—dating from the 16th through 19th centuries—not just as exotic or erotic images but also as windows into Japanese art and culture. In Recontextualizing Shunga: Text & Image in Japanese Erotic Prints, which opened Wednesday afternoon, each print was accompanied by historical background and a translation of the Japanese characters in the image.

Those who gathered to view the prints at the opening reception in the Center for Gender Studies seemed unfazed by the giant, exaggerated genitalia and contorted positions of the characters depicted in the artworks. Sipping wine and munching on pink- and yellow-dyed cauliflower, they were more interested in chatting with one another or reading the long texts accompanying each print.

For the exhibit, curated by Thomsen and ten College and graduate students who took his winter seminar on Japanese woodblock prints, each student helped prepare the text for at least one piece. Midway through the reception, Thompsen called on them to share what they had learned.

One student noted that the people crowded into the room were "changing the very form" in which the shunga (literally "spring prints") were traditionally experienced. The prints, she said, would have been viewed privately in books, in calendars, or as party favors.

The students shared their reflections not only on the prints but also on their professor. Thomsen, one said, "is the type of teacher who really wants students to get engaged with the work." The scene of people gathered in the room "is an example of his teaching method."

Sponsored by the Center for Gender Studies, the Smart Museum, and the Center for East Asian Studies, Recontextualizing Shunga—the first exhibition of shunga erotic prints in the Midwest—runs through April 30.

Jenny Fisher, '07

Photos: Thomsen (far left) and others view the exhibit; lovers unite in a print from 1904–05.

April 9, 2007

Chicago Review's British accent

Several dozen listeners climbed the stairs to a second-story space above Logan Square's Friendship Chinese restaurant Friday night to hear three British poets read from their work. Hosted by the nonprofit Elastic Arts Foundation, the event launched the University-published Chicago Review’s spring issue, a 232-page volume compiling poetry and criticism by UK writers.

Bristol-born Keston Sutherland, a literary-journal editor and small-press coeditor, kicked off the reading with a half-hour performance of his poem “Hot White Andy.” Describing it as both a love poem to two people (one of them a stranger chosen at random) and a political composition, he said the work, like his 2005 poetry collection Neocosis, was inspired by the rise of neoconservatism. Andrea Brady, a Philadelphia-born, Cambridge-educated poet now living and teaching in London, read poetry that was also political, albeit more lyrical and restrained than Sutherland’s sprawling and intentional absurdity. “If anything happiness is / our common predicament,” she read from “Sung to Sleep.” “not / knowing how to live in the bulge where our lives / bottom out, unelected popular incumbents, build capacity / to make good choices from / a given list.”

Acclaimed Mallarme translator and pamphlet publisher Peter Manson, meanwhile, injected a little black humor to the evening. Introducing “Depressions Gone from Me Blues,” about American blues guitarist Blind Blake, Manson said it was a poem “in which someone blows their head off twice.” After reading a recent poem dedicated in part to singer Kylie Minogue, he offered a verse he composed for a novelist friend who’d suffered a stroke six months earlier. “She felt much better after I wrote this poem,” he offered, smiling slyly. Later Manson, a Glasgow native, took the microphone to read, at breakneck pace, “An introduction to speed-reading,” an uproarious and delightfully nonsequitur prose poem by Chris Goode, who was unable to make the trip from London for the reading. “Tip: Undertake to read the text in a smoky environment,” the poem advised, while listeners laughed. “The text will think it is on fire and the words will form orderly queues and proceed to the nearest exit.”

The reading lasted a marathon two hours. Cheering each poet and taking breaks between performances, audience members—many of them U of C students—fortified themselves with beer, soft drinks, and bottled water from a counter at the back and perused the selection of books and journals for sale. “It’s been great to meet all of you,” Brady said during her turn at the microphone. “And it’s been great to get a new perspective on our work.”


AndreaBrady_thumb.jpg KestonSutherland_thumb.jpg petermanson_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Andrea Brady with literary critic Matt Ffytche, whose writing also appears in the Chicago Review spring issue; Keston Sutherland; Peter Manson.

Photos by Robert P. Baird.

April 11, 2007

April showers

Yes, "April showers" can often mean snow in Chicago. Still, the shock of the old doesn't dissipate. Today's heavy, slushy mix of rain and snow forced Hyde Parkers to unpack their heavy coats, hats, and even boots to muddle across campus.

An inch of snow is expected to fall in the city today, with 20-30 mph winds, according to local weatherman Tom Skilling, while another two inches could fall tonight. The Cubs canceled their final game in a losing series against the Astros (the Sox are in Oakland), and the city sent out 177 plows to clear the streets.

Despite the snow, spring does appear on the horizon. The National Weather Service's seven-day forecast shows highs of 62 degrees for Monday and Tuesday.


IMG_7675_thumb.jpg IMG_7671_thumb.jpg CIMG0565_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): This morning proved a whiteout at the U of C Bookstore; the Quads seem more January than April; tulips on 57th Street try in vain to guard against the snow (photo by Tony Englert).

April 13, 2007

Free writing


At the first annual Robert H. Kirschner Memorial Human Rights Lecture—named in memory of Robert Kirschner, who helped found the U of C's Human Rights Program —speaker Sara Paretsky, AM'69, MBA'77, PhD'77, recalled her first meeting with Kirschner, a forensic pathologist and international human-rights activist: on a private tour of the Cook County morgue. Kirschner worked for the Medical Examiner's Office, and Paretsky—the author of a mystery series on private inspector V. I. Warshawski—was doing research.

"I've never fainted," Paretsky told the crowd of 150 in Social Sciences 122, but when Kirschner "sawed off the back of a suicide victim's head and scooped out the brains, I almost did." The procedure was standard in a nonaccidental-death autopsy.

Set in Chicago, Paretsky's novels abound with scenes that require a familiarity with, for example, the Cook County morgue. Her reading Thursday was not about the "made-up world of violent crime," however, but her concerns about the real world: the rise of mega-publishers, civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11, and the Patriot Act.

Paretsky read a version of "Truth, Lies, and Duct Tape," an essay in her forthcoming book Writing in an Age of Silence. Writing, she said, is "a movement from silence to speech"—speech that may then be censored by market forces, public hysteria, or the government. When her first book was published 25 years ago, Paretsky said, there were about 20 publishers to go to. Now there are "only seven—Disney, Time Warner," and other media conglomerates who focus on what sells.

The government also restricts freedom, she said, noting that the Patriot Act requires libraries served with FBI letters to turn over some patron records to the National Security Administration—but they libraries can't reveal they've gotten such a letter. A New Jersey patron was imprisoned for two days without being able to call his wife, Paretsky said, because he was looking at foreign-language pages on the Internet.

"What is the appropriate response as a writer in times like these?" Paretsky asked. The best she could do, she said, was to "fumble my way as close as I can to the truth." As for the audience, "We have to decide where our most effective sphere of action lies and take on those actions."

Jenny Fisher, '07

Photo: Author Sara Paretsky reads in the Social Sciences building.

April 16, 2007

Words and enthusiasm


Members of the University of Chicago Library Society who attended the group’s annual meeting last Wednesday evening not only received a guided tour of the Special Collections Research Center exhibition The Meaning of Dic’tion·ar’ies, but they also heard a talk by the woman National Public Radio has dubbed “America’s lexicographical sweetheart,” Erin McKean, AB'93, AM'93.

McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary, took up where the last display case in the exhibition—which looked at English dictionaries from pre-Samuel Johnson through the U of C Press’s Dictionary of American English—left off, with the rise of the nonprint dictionary.

“Paper is the enemy of words,” McKean told the hard-core readers who made up her audience, admitting that such a thought is “very disturbing to someone who loves books.” But with so many words and so (relatively) few pages, dictionary makers are forced to make decisions about which words to put in and which to leave out. That kind of decision-making doesn't sit well with McKean, who resists people “who see the dictionary as a Social Register of Words, the Westminster Kennel Club of Words, and think I am the bouncer at the nightclub of words.”

No traffic cop, McKean put herself firmly in the descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive) lexicographical camp. Transferring dictionaries from paper to electronic form, a move that is already well under way, she said, is a natural match: “The Internet is made of words and enthusiasms—which also happens to be what a dictionary is made of.”


Photo: Before there was Samuel Johnson, there was Thomas Blount, whose Glossographia, or, a Dictionary, Interpreting All Such Hard Words, was printed in London in 1656; the edition is part of the Rare Books Collection at the Regenstein’s Special Collections Research Center.

April 18, 2007

Ancient Nubia made young

Enchanted bowls and poisoned tomato soup are just two of the whimsical elements seventh- and eighth-graders from Woodlawn’s Fiske School dreamed up after studying the Oriental Institute’s (OI) Nubian art collection. Through Young Eyes: Ancient Nubian Art Recreated, on exhibit at the OI, features the students’ paintings, sculptures, and stories, each based on a piece from the museum’s collection. In a story called “The Green Glass Bowl,” inspired by a teal glass aryballos (circular flask), seventh-grader Catrina Redmond writes of a Princess Sabrina who so adores her green bowl that she has no need for friends. When Sabrina catches her maid stealing the bowl to sell it—a crime punishable by death—the princess forgives her, describing the maid as “a good person doing a bad thing.”

Royals are less benevolent in Devonte Ware’s “King Bob,” which tells of a King Untrustolot’s plan to poison his rival Bob by sneaking snake blood into his tomato soup. During dinner King Bob foils the scheme, switching bowls when Untrustolot takes a bathroom break. Untrustolot dies immediately. To keep the peace, King Bob keeps Untrustolot’s deception hidden and instead gives his nemesis “a royal burial complete with a ceremonial coffin head made by Nubians.”

After gallery tours and sessions with museum educators, the 59 Fiske students each photographed an object, then spent time at the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center recreating the object on canvas and paper. Exhibited beside Ware’s “King Bob” story is his painting of an original coffin head dressing; Redmond designed a ceramic bowl similar to the green container she imagined Princess Sabrina would use. Funded by the Joyce Foundation of Chicago, the Through Young Eyes project is a collaboration between the OI and the Chicago Public Schools. Completed stories and artwork are on display, half at the OI, half at Little Black Pearl, through May 6.


IMG_7688_thumb.jpg IMG_7685_thumb.jpg IMG_7687_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Students' artwork and stories on display at the OI museum; Ware's painting depicts the slain King Untrustolot; and seventh-grader Ashley Hilliard's exhibit “The Ashley Stone,” tells of a young sculptor who wins an art competition with his sleek grinding stone.

April 20, 2007

Virtual spirituality


Blogs may be fairly commonplace now, but blogging nuns are still rare. “There are only about 30 nuns with blogs, and about ten are young ones,” said Sister Julie Vieira—one of those young blogging nuns—at Wednesday’s Divinity School lunch. A member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), a Roman Catholic community based in Monroe, MI, Vieira is the voice behind A Nun’s Life: A Blog about Being a Catholic Nun in Today’s World. She writes almost daily on what it’s like to be a nun; people she finds inspirational; her job at Catholic publishing company Loyola Press, where she manages the theological content of religious educational programs and resources; biking; and her favorite beer, Harp.

“Eleven years ago,” Vieira admitted, “I wanted nothing to do with religious life.” After earning a degree in philosophy and religious studies from the University of Toronto, she began contemplating her life and her role in the world. Returning to her Catholic upbringing, she found the IHM sisters and “fell in love” with this community of women who were funny, educated, religious, and liked sports. The sisters have supported her blog, saying that “ministry is not so much what you do, but who you are in it.”

A Nun’s Life evolved from a “post here, post there” every once in awhile, Vieira said, to an ongoing dialogue, “a place of hospitality, where people can come from any tradition or non-tradition, wear whatever they want, and feel what they want to feel.” A fellow blogger—a dying man who writes “one of the most uplifting, positive, life-affirming blogs,” Vieira said—made her realize the potential for virtual religious communities. After this man, who found Vieira’s blog and asked her to comment on a question about God on his Dying Man’s Daily Journal, she realized that, as a nun, she “might have spiritual insight, know a thing or two about God,” and be able to provide comfort through her own blog.

Recently the media, including the Chicago Tribune, Time magazine, and NPR, have picked up on Vieira’s blog, “not because they find it interesting,” she explained, “but because of the novelty of a nun who’s on the Internet.” Stereotypes, Vieira said, are one of her biggest pet peeves; because she fits neither the “docile servant” nor the “man-hating, radical nun” category, Vieira hopes to challenge these images by showing that there’s “no one way to be a nun.”

Ruthie Kott

Photos: Guests eat and chat at Wednesday's Divinity School lunch (top); Sister Julie Vieira speaks about A Nun's Life (bottom).

April 23, 2007

On the green

Last Friday's sunshine brought students to the quads to read, throw frisbees, nap—and to play mini-golf. In the southeast corner, Green Campus Initiative had set up a golf course made of mostly recycled materials. Curated by the artistic collective Material Exchange, the course included nine holes built by local artists and organizations.

Green Campus Initiative member April Morton, '08, said the group coordinated the event as "a fun thing for Earth Week." The course was also thought-provoking: many of the holes were designed as social commentary. In the first hole, for instance, made by students at Hyde Park Academy with help from the artistic group Puppet Posse Collective, multiple ramps led to a single opening in a recycled PC tower. According to the accompanying placard, the hole, titled "Learn the Hard Way," was meant to be "a critique of public education," forcing golfers to compete for success available through only one path. Michael Dinges's (MFA'05) creation, titled "Every Process Creates Disorder," included a giant trashbag-tornado hovering over a cluster of tiny houses on the green. It was meant to suggest society's "rampant, ill-conceived, and perhaps unsustainable development."

Some holes provided more frustration than reflection. "Quarter Pipe," by Matthew Dupont, consisted of a concave ramp leading to a hole about four feet off the ground. The placard said par was three, but students bogeyed and double bogeyed. "I got it for the first time today," Morton remarked. It had taken her all week.

Jenny Fisher, '07

CrazyHole_thumb.jpg Warren_thumb.jpg SchoolHole_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Hole three presents an extreme challenge; a student attempts "The Quarter Pipe"; multiple entrances lead to one hole in "Learn the Hard Way."

April 25, 2007

Transplant ethics


In 1905 U of C physiologist Alexis Carrel, after successfully stitching together blood vessels, reattaching severed limbs, and transplanting organs in dogs, declared that "the problem of organ transplantation in man has been solved." Although Carrel's work in Hull Court broke new ground and won him a 1912 Nobel Prize, his prematurely conclusive statement was "so Chicago," quipped professor Mark Siegler, MD'67, in Tuesday's Ryerson lecture. Scientists didn't yet understand immunology, and another 40 years would pass before the first partial-kidney transplant was performed on a person. That's when David Hume, MD'43, took a kidney from a newly dead patient and attached it to the arm of a sick woman. Hume and his team watched the woman's urine drip into the correct tube. Although the organ worked for only a few days, Siegler said, it was enough for her own kidneys to begin to heal.

Siegler, the Lindy Bergman distinguished service professor in medicine and surgery and founding director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, outlined these early achievements and more contemporary ones during his lecture at Max Palevsky Theater. Chosen by fellow faculty members to give the annual talk, Siegler noted that he'd heard 30 of the past 33 Ryerson lectures, including the 1974 inaugural speech by John Hope Franklin. His attendance record, he joked, might have been a factor in his selection.

He focused on organ transplantation not only because of Chicago's contributions but also because "we encounter every ethical issue in transplants." For Siegler, who coined the term "clinical medical ethics," such issues remain paramount. The two main ethical challenges for transplants, he said, are increasing the organ supply and distributing them equitably. One current solution to the organ-shortage problem is a Chicago-based proposal for paired-kidney exchange: if a living donor is a bad match for a relative, the two could find another donor-recipient pair to match with, thus increasing the organ supply. While some argue this exchange might violate federal law, this month, reported Siegler, the U.S. House and Senate both passed a bill to amend the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act and legalize the practice.

Before taking questions Siegler touched on other ethical issues of the day, including paying for organs and a joint Chicago-China program to improve that country's transplant policies. In China 1.5 million people need organs, mostly livers because of a hepatitis B epidemic, but only 10,000 transplants are performed each year. And most of those organs, Sielger said, are taken from executed prisoners. The joint program, he and the principal investigators hope, will help bring China's program up to ethical standards.


Photo: Mark Siegler gave Tuesday's Ryerson lecture.

April 27, 2007

Undampened days of Darfur


Wednesday evening was too windy for candles, too cold and rainy to draw much of a crowd. Still, more than a dozen students gathered under a tent in Swift Quad to hold a prayer vigil for Darfur. Sponsored by Chicago's STAND chapter, whose members advocate University divestment from Sudan, the vigil followed three days of campus lectures and discussions about the Darfur crisis. Forced indoors by the wet weather, most presentations packed capacity crowds into a Pick Hall conference room, said STAND chair emeritus Michael Pareles, "with people having to sit on the floor and even stand in the hallway."

On Tuesday Kuek Garang, a service coordinator for the human-rights organization Heartland Alliance and a Lost Boy of Sudan—one of tens of thousands of orphaned refugees forced to walk some 1,000 miles to escape the violence—offered listeners an account of his experience. Other experts, including Law School lecturer Susan Gzesh, AB'72, SSA PhD candidate Jonathan Wildt, and international-studies postdoc fellow Babafemi Akinrinade, delivered talks on the history of the Sudanese conflict and the international response. Pareles, a fourth-year, gave an explanation of targeted divestment.

Second-year Aliza Levine, STAND's chair, said the events, which paralleled others worldwide during the weeklong "Global Days of Darfur," brought newcomers to the discussion. "Lots of people we hadn't seen before," she said, "and they were asking all sorts questions. It's been great." Unlike previous STAND protests and marches confronting campus administrators in the wake of Chicago trustees' February decision not to divest from Sudan, this past week's events were "not about the University so much as about educating people," Levine said. Chimed Pareles: "No negotiations this week."

During Wednesday night's vigil, a responsive reading asked participants to imagine a tearful refugee mother, her starving child, a pitiless Sudanese official, and Darfur's suffering, slaughtered masses. "We will not stand idly by their blood," participants called out in unison. "We stand in solidarity with every one of us and every one of them." Afterward students listened to recitations of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish prayers, observed a moment of silence, and then marched to University President Robert Zimmer's house to sing: "What a goodly thing if the people of the world could dwell together in peace." Huddling in a circle, the students warbled a few rounds, then dispersed. They plan to meet up again Sunday evening for a vigil at Chicago's Federal Plaza.


Photos: Divinity student Megan Wade, AB'05, leads the prayer vigil's responsive reading; students sing outside President Zimmer's house.

April 30, 2007

True to type


With a solitary microphone in one corner, the Smart Museum’s lobby transformed into an open-mike coffeehouse last Thursday evening to host the release party and poetry reading for the spring issue of 1000 Typewriters, the biannual magazine of the Society for Undergraduate Poetry. Between 5 and 5:45 p.m., poets, fans, and friends gathered around tables, munching on cookies and brie and flipping through copies of Typewriters, established in 2004, before the reading began. Eleven of the 22 poets featured in the issue presented published and unpublished work, and editor Tara Maguire, ’07, acted as emcee, also reading two of her own poems, “After Buddhism” and “Easter.”

After joking with friends about performing an interpretive dance communicating the themes of her poetry, fourth-year Sheera Talpaz offered four poems; one, called “Goodbye Chicago,” reflected on her time at the College, “contemplating the last four years of contemplation.” Chris Cole, ’08, read five short poems, two scrawled on a yellow legal pad, concluding with his piece from Typewriters, “B-29” (“as in the airplane and the button on the vending machine,” he explained): “that ravenous beast…facing a row of vending machines, / tied down by the / plethora of choices available / to humanity.” First-year Sadie Lynn used a creamy metaphor to depict the poet’s fragile relationship with her craft: “I want my words to flow / like butter / …but the room is cold and the butter congeals / …a thick, gristly muck of words.”

Not all the poets appeared confident in their readings. “I like to mumble, and mikes keep me from doing that,” said Max Price, ’09, before clearly enunciating his magazine piece, “St. G’s Cigarette Under a Bridge.” Evan Cudworth, ’09, admitted nervousness but then smoothly read four original poems; the first, titled “Scenes from Suburban Life in Four Acts,” was inspired by Court Theatre’s recent production of Uncle Vanya.

Ruthie Kott

Photos: Friends gather before the poetry reading; Aaron Goggans, '10, reads his poem from the magazine.

About April 2007

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

March 2007 is the previous archive.

May 2007 is the next archive.

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

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31