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August 2007 Archives

August 1, 2007

Improv of delight


Despite having made use of the Facebook invitation system, before the show the performers look nervous about all the empty chairs in University Church. But it takes only 15 minutes to fill the seats at Off-Off Campus's July 27 improv-comedy performace, Popsicles of Delight. The revue takes its name from the frozen treats that event organizers pass out to cool off the audience, who watch the performance without the comfort of air conditioning.

Alex Yablon, '08, and Bobby Zacharias, '08, take the stage first, transitioning quickly from sketch to sketch. One features Yablon as a preacher casting out a demon from Zacharias. "Get out of this podunk idiot and infect somebody famous," admonishes Yablon. When he succeeds and Zacharias tries to repay him with kisses, Yablon becomes indignant. "Preacher reverend don't want to be kissed all over," he says. "He wants a tax-deductible donation."

Next Bryan Duff, '09, and Dave Maher, AB'06, perform "Bryan and Dave Get Rich," the story of two "Old McGee's New Electronics" employees' sudden prosperity. Switching between characters and time frames, Duff and Maher improvise a narrative about stealing a stereo on top of which somebody left the lost record of a Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix performance. When Bryan and Dave fulfill the title's promise, they find themselves disappointed. Maher laments that caviar is nothing like in rap videos. "It's like my grandma died and became something I eat," he whines, "only fishier." Maher agrees. "50 Cent was just, like, downing it!"

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: Alex Yablon exorcises Bobby Zacharias's demon; Bryan Duff, as Old McGee, question his employee, played by Dave Maher.

August 3, 2007

Ice cream tops career advice


University students and staff sought relief from midday heat and midweek doldrums at the Career Advising and Planning Services’ Cool Off With CAPS event last Wednesday. Although the event was advertised as both an opportunity for free ice cream and a chance to ask CAPS staff questions, more students ate frozen treats than reviewed résumés.

A line snaked through the main quad, at one point more than 70 deep, as people waited for their chance to choose between ice-cream sandwiches, strawberry shortcakes, Choco Tacos, and fruit bars. The Cool Off's one blemish may have been its lack of ice cream, which was gone by 1:30. In contrast, few students requested job-search advice. Katy Huff, '08, went to the event for help with a résumé she had "been using for years." Huff, a physics major, reported that she was initially hesitant to use CAPS because she thought that the service did not have "many resources for science majors." She ended up pleased with both the advice and the side of ice cream.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: CAPS staff distribute cold treats; a woman assesses the view from the back of the line.

August 6, 2007

Sherds of Rayy


The Persian city of Rayy, a center of discovery, trade, and craftsmanship between the 9th and 13th centuries, earned renown for its highly developed ceramics. Featuring fine calligraphy and decorative painting in a kaleidoscope of red, brown, blue, green, and white, many of the ceramics are on display in the Oriental Institute's exhibit Daily Life Ornamented.

Situated along Iran’s formidable Alburz mountain range, Rayy was a major stop on the Silk Roads, which, at its longitudinal extremes, connected the Near East and China by trade. The city's style of pottery developed out of its location, combining Islamic-world aesthetics with Chinese methods. For centuries after Rayy's decline, treasure hunters raided its remains, which were little more than scattered dirt mounds on the Iranian plain just south of present-day Tehran. In 1932 Oriental Institute archaeologist Eric Schmidt led the first excavation of Rayy’s matrix of buried markets, quarters, and streets.

The excavation turned up numerous sherds, many of which are on display for the first time. Among the noteworthy pieces are two turquoise-glazed ewer spouts, shaped like animal heads, from the 12th or 13th centuries.

The exhibition runs through October 14.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Archaeologist Eric Schmidt digs at Rayy; a woman's image decorates a sherd.

Photos courtesy the Oriental Institute.

August 8, 2007

The grounds of August


At 8:30 Monday morning Cobb Coffee Shop looks dark. A man waits, peering through the front door, where a sign lists the shop's summer hours as 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.; he's sure he sees an employee moving around inside. After a few minutes a food-delivery man arrives and bangs on the door. Cobb employee Joe Gallmeyer, '09, lets him in, along with three customers waiting for Cobb's day to begin.

Open during summer session, which runs through August 24, Cobb isn't the bustling, noisy place it is during the regular school year, especially early in the morning. A couple of students munch on muffins and tap at their laptops, but the majority of patrons grab food on their way to class or work, leaving many tables empty. For the first few minutes after opening, most of the lights remain off. The cafe's famously loud music isn't yet playing; instead the refrigerators' hum fills the air. One student fills her travel mug with hot water and leaves without buying anything.

Twenty minutes after opening, the Talking Heads' "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town" blares from the speaker system. As the noise of marimba resounds, Gallmeyer starts a batch of coffee. The grinding of beans drowns out David Byrne's singing as another customer approaches the register.

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: A woman makes tea; students get ready for the day in Cobb.

August 10, 2007

Young scholars think big


Presentation day finally came for the high-school juniors and seniors in GSB Professor Waverly Deutsch’s summer course, Elements of Entrepreneurship. On July 30 the five teams of four students distilled two weeks of classes, business-plan revisions, PowerPoint slides, 30-second commercials, and interviews into five-minute presentations before ten Goldman Sachs employees and a crowd of 40 well-wishers. Rather than millions in start-up capital, laptops would go to the team with the best business plan in the Collegiate Scholars Program (CSP) course.

A rising junior at North Lawndale Preparatory High School, Crystal Adams began by recounting her unemployment during the past two summers, despite having applied for several jobs. Her team’s nonprofit organization, Skills To Succeed, would teach basic clerical skills and grant credentials to the chronically unemployed inner-city youth of Chicago’s West Side, where Adams lives.

When Adams entered the program, she was so afraid of Deutsch, who lectures in a booming voice, that she could barely squeak out a word. In two weeks Adams worked harder than ever before: “Two hours before [the presentation] I was practicing,” she recounted. “I was really nervous. But standing up there, because I am passionate about the idea, it made me less nervous because it is something that I already know and I want to do. It was really great.” Adams impressed both the audience and judges. “Crystal is like a different person,” noted Deutsch afterward. “When she first came here she could hardly speak up, and now, wow.”

Despite competition from a dessert shop, an organic restaurant, a sports league, and a recycling business, Skills to Succeed carried the day. Adams and her teammates each won new Hewlett-Packard laptops donated by the Goldman Sachs Foundation, which funds the course. It was her family’s first computer. “Crystal now has the skills to succeed,” Deutsch said after distributing the prizes. “She just came a million miles in two weeks.”

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: In class a week before the presentations, dessert-shop team "Sweet Creations" mulls commercial ideas; GSB Professor Waverly Deutsch teaches the ins and outs of marketing.

Photos by Dan Dry.

August 13, 2007

Take me out to the ballgame


Afternoon storms broke Chicago's August heat wave for an evening of baseball at ORCSA's "Summer in the City" event, the White Sox vs. the Cleveland Indians. A disappointing dozen U of C students came out to U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday—the low turnout may have been because of rain concerns or Chicago students' aversion to sports. Yet with blackened skies turned clear, the students enjoyed the game. The seats put the U of C contingent in the upper deck between home plate and first base, near hotdogs, and, for the over-21 set, beer. Although no waves swept the fans, an occasional "Go Sox!" and "Yeah, Paulie!" could be heard from otherwise staid Chicago faces.

The fourth-place White Sox put in a strong effort against the American League Central Division leaders, coming back from behind to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with A. J. Pierzynski's home run off closer Joe Borowski. Shortstop Juan Uribe's two-run homer in the 13th redeemed his two errors and secured a 6-4 victory.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Rain looms on the way to U.S. Cellular Field; White Sox third baseman Josh Fields hits his first of two doubles.

August 15, 2007

Do the Wright thing

Surrounded by the brick walls of Robie House's courtyard, guide Terry Watson begins the Walk and Wine tour not by talking about Frank Lloyd Wright's 1910 masterwork, but by discussing Hyde Park. Initially the neighborhood was a getaway for Chicagoans, he says, leading the tour onto 58th Street, which, Watson adds, was a dirt road when Wright designed the Robie House. Wearing a Wright-inspired tie patterned with diagonal lines and prisms, he gestures toward the GSB's Charles M. Harper Center, once the site of an orchard.

With its emphasis on horizontal lines, the Robie House is a quintessential example of the Prairie Style architecture Wright pioneered, Watson says, but the "Hyde Park area attracted a lot of different architects," including Louis Sullivan. Watson leads a ten-person group around Ida Noyes Hall, pointing out the Gothic, Tudor, and French provincial buildings that surround Robie House, contrasting with Wright's modernism. On 59th Street Watson name-drops Frederick Olmsted, designer of the Midway Plaisance, evoking excited murmurs from architecture buffs on the tour. "If you had read the book Devil in the White City," he continues, "where the killer's at is to the west." Now the mystery fans ooh and ah.

Before bringing the group back to the Robie residence he mentions that the U of C gives Robie House some financial support. "If there's someone here with influence in the University," he jokes, "we could use a couple million dollars for restoration." The tour moves into the house, through the low-ceilinged foyer, and up into the open space of the second floor. In the kitchen, bare and dilapidated-looking during the restoration process, Operations Manager Janet Van Delft apologizes for the room's appearance. "This is not normally part of the tour..." she says, drawing out the last syllable, before bringing the group to a small room with hors d’œuvres, wine, and beer. The tourgoers move back through the kitchen and living room and onto the terrace, plates and drinks in hand. Van Delft follows, eager to tell the group more about Wright's architecture, even after the tour's end.

Seth Mayer, '08

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Photos (left to right): The exterior of the Robie House; Terry Watson relates the origins of the Midway; tourgoers relax on the terrace as Janet Van Delft discusses the building.

August 17, 2007

Driven suspense


Doc Films patrons sat in wonder Saturday night before writer-director David Lynch's surrealist masterpiece, Mulholland Drive. About 40 people attended the 9:45 p.m. showing, the second of the night. They filled the room with gasps, shrieks, chuckles, and finally applause at the movie's mixture of film-noir, psychological-thriller, and art-house genres.

Mulholland Drive loosely follows aspiring actress Betty Elms's (Naomi Watts) attempt to help Rita (Laura Harring), whom Betty finds hiding in her aunt's apartment, recover from amnesia. As the mystery of Rita's past thickens, illusions abound, names change, and causality halts. The film opened in 2001 to critical acclaim, including a best-director award for Lynch at the Cannes Film Festival, but ticket sales fell flat. Since then, however, Mulholland Drive has developed a cult following. Devotees, some of whom were no doubt present at Doc, watch the film over and over again, searching for clues in the apparently nonsensical and bizarre plot developments and images, wondering, "What do the ashtray and red lampshade mean?"

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: The Castigliane brothers (Dan Hedaya and Angelo Badalamenti) tell director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) "the way it is" over a cup of espresso; Betty feels out Rita's memories at Winkie's diner.

Movie stills courtesy Universal Pictures

August 20, 2007

Still flying high


Like the annual rite of Capistrano's swallows, U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges rankings returned Friday, reminding those in the higher-education business of the seasons' passing. Chicago again ranked 9th, tied with Columbia University and edging out Dartmouth College, with which the University tied last year. Northwestern University came in at No. 14.

Dean of College Admissions Ted O'Neill, AM'70, said in an interview that though "[the ranking] is a nice recognition of a great university, it recognizes the things we don't consider the most important." In creating its rankings, U.S. News & World Report uses variables such as student retention, endowment size per student, and alumni-giving rates. O'Neill said he was confident that "discerning students don't pay much attention to the rankings...because it’s a collection of data that doesn’t address issues of excellence or greatness."

In its coverage of the rankings' release, the Chronicle of Higher Education noted the swelling rancor among school presidents—only 51 percent filled out peer-assessment surveys, down from 68 percent in 2000. There has been a growing demand for rankings that more accurately reflect educational excellence. Although it is unclear what data such a ranking would use, dozens of administrators will meet in the coming month to mull plans for a university-generated system. Meanwhile, in the past decade U.S. News & World Report has seen the rise of several competitors in the rankings business, including Arizona State University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Times Higher Education Supplement, and Newsweek. These alternative rankings take into account other variables, such as faculty output based on awards and publishing volume.

Here is this year's U.S. News & World Report list of top national universities:

1) Princeton University
2) Harvard University
3) Yale University
4) Stanford University
5) University of Pennsylvania
5) California Institute of Technology
7) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
8) Duke University
9) University of Chicago
9) Columbia University

U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2008" issue hits newsstands today, August 20.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

August 22, 2007

All business


Four Chicago GSB students battled a team from UCLA on CNBC's business game show “Fast Money MBA Challenge” on August 8. Eight teams of business-school students compete for $200,000, to be shared for educational expenses. The teams were seeded according to their 2007 U.S. News and World Report business-school ranking: MIT (4) vs. University of Texas at Austin (18), Chicago (5) vs. UCLA (16), Dartmouth (7) vs. Yale (14), and Columbia (9) vs. NYU (10).

Despite keeping a close game up to the last question, Chicago’s contingent of first- and second-years—Jeremy Crow, Fergus McKay, Ryan Preclaw, and Sabrina Thong—came up short against the Californians’ ability to answer trivia questions such as, “Which company’s private label brands include ‘365 Organic?’” The answer: Whole Foods. "The questions in the initial rounds weren’t too difficult, but we weren’t fast enough on the buzzer," McKay reflected. "I also think we played it a little too conservatively at the beginning, and we should have been more confident in our answers." UCLA lost to Yale in the following match. A number of early upsets have marked the show—besides Chicago’s loss, MIT fell to Texas and Yale defeated Dartmouth.

Texas and Yale go head-to-head in the championship round tonight.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: A bracket shows the schools' progress toward game-show glory.

August 24, 2007

A vision of dance


Before the dance begins, the teenaged performers—one female and three males—walk in a circle, led by their school's headmaster. They pause, lined up near the back curtain, and walk toward the stage's edge. The dancers are orienting themselves to the size of the space—they come from the Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind.

The troupe traveled from Bangalore, India, to International House for Notes of Hope, an August 18 concert put on by Asha for Education, a charitable organization that helps fund the education of underprivileged Indian youth. Started in Berkeley, Asha's U of C branch began in 1996. The dancers learned their classical Indian routines through the academy's "touch and feel" teaching method, in which instructors move students' bodies into positions that the performers commit to memory.

Soliciting Earth's blessing, three dancers begin the program by sprinkling flower petals on the ground for the Pushpanjali. For their second routine, the dancers balance lanterns on outstretched palms. They move into a line and wave their arms, resembling a candelabra come to life. In the third dance, one performer balances a pitcher on his head as he moves. Eventually he climbs atop a plate, jostling it back and forth and spinning in a circle, all without dropping the pitcher. When he finally removes it and bows, the audience loudly applauds. He lowers his head, revealing his damp hair and the smile on his face.

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: Dancers pose with lanterns; one dancer balances a pitcher filled with water while dancing on a plate.

August 27, 2007

Romantic, not Roman

The exhibit wall reads, "Not only under the Italian sky, among majestic domes, and Corinthian columns, but also under printed arches, intricately decorated buildings, and Gothic towers true art grows." The words of Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, a German Romantic polemicist, fit well with Majestic Nature/Golden History, the Smart Museum's exhibition of 19th-century German art. The works in the show bespeak a self-conscious urge to forge a specifically Germanic style.

One artist featured in Majestic Nature, Johan Christian Clausen Dahl, broke with neoclassicism in works like Clouds, a small watercolor of puffy cumulus clouds, contrasting with the geometric exactness and large scale of classical Italian painting. Though Dahl was Norwegian by birth, he studied in Dresden with Caspar David Friedrich, one of Romanticism's most famous representatives.

Throughout the show, Goethe's influence on 19th-century German painting emerges. Peter Cornelius's cycle of 1816 prints, based on Goethe's Faust, features fine lines and silvery tones. "I wanted to be absolutely German," Cornelius said, "and therefore selected this form." The painting's medieval setting and Gothic feel earned Goethe's admiration; there's not a dome or column to be found.

Seth Mayer, '08

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Images (left to right): Peter Cornelius (designer) and Ferdinand Ruscheweyh (engraver), Valentin's Death (Valentins Tod), from the series Twelve Illustrations to Goethe's Faust, 1816, engraving; Johan Christian Clausen Dahl, Trees by the River Elbe in Rain, 1834, oil on canvas; Johann Anton Ramboux, View of the Moselle Valley below Trier with the Rocks of Pallien in the Foreground, 1824–27, lithograph.

August 29, 2007

No sweat


Perhaps blinded by all the flash bulbs, parents and friends don't seem to notice the "NO PHOTOGRAPHY DURING CEREMONY" signs adorning numerous columns in Rockefeller Chapel. While the parade of robed graduates goes by, many guests attending Chicago's 491st convocation are intent on capturing their visages. Those receiving degrees try to smile as they pass their supporters without slowing the procession or tripping on their academic vestments.

As the audience members take their seats, University Marshal Lorna Straus explains that William Rainey Harper started the tradition of holding convocation every quarter. Chicago doesn't call it graduation or commencement, she says, instead emphasizing how the ceremony brings the University community together.

Next, José Quintáns, the William Rainey Harper professor in pathology and the College, ascends the pulpit for the convocation address, which he titled "Make It Easy, It Is Going to Be Hot." The provost, he explains, told him to keep his speech light because the chapel gets so muggy. Quintáns, master of the BSD, sports a Groucho Marx mustache; a bright yellow robe from his alma mater, University of Santiago de Compostela; white gloves; and a fringed yellow cap. One of his ancestors, he says, was "dean of academic attire" at the Spanish institution in the 15th century and "appreciated the fashion value of lampshades." He then gives the crowd a biological primer on sweating. As the listeners wallow in Rockefeller's warmth, Quintáns remonstrates, "Sweating is the adaptive response of non-furry animals to heat. For those who don't like it," he adds, "think of the alternative: panting."

Seth Mayer, '08

Photos: A family gets ready for convocation; a full house inside Rockefeller Chapel.

August 31, 2007

Gone in 59 seconds


His face covered in a blue, pudding-like substance, a man lets two people and a dog take turns licking his countenance clean again. The scene comes from the film LIX, by Chicago-based artist Dubi Kaufmann. LIX is 59 in Roman numerals, and that's how many seconds the movie runs. It's part of the 59 Seconds Video Festival, the 53rd screening of which took place August 25 at Doc Films, an organization that, as it happens, is on 59th Street.

During all the festival videos, the number 59 keeps showing up: in signs, a girl's height and weight, even in the residue left by an opium smoker. The festival, put on by Project 59, encourages video artists from around the world to submit 59-second works that may or may not incorporate the chosen number into the piece. One video has a cat eating 59 food pellets. Another features a man calling a "she-male" escort service to see what 59 pesos will get him—which turns out to be nothing. A third clip compiles 59 pieces from the One Second Film Festival. The changing lineup has lit up screens from Slovenia to Australia to Brazil, where audiences, like the one in Max Palevsky Cinema, voted for their favorites.

Seth Mayer, '08

Image: Still from Perfect Family by Irina Danilova and Hiram Levy.

About August 2007

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

July 2007 is the previous archive.

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