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October 2007 Archives

October 1, 2007

'Round about noon


At 12:09 p.m. Saturday, trumpeter Orbert Davis, wearing a charcoal-gray pinstripe suit, light-gray shirt, and yellow tie, walked onto the stage in the DuSable Museum’s near-full auditorium. Lifting his trumpet to his lips, he blared out a short phrase, paused, looked down, then played another short phrase. A moment later, Stewart Miller’s fingers danced along the neck of his bass and drummer Ernie Adams tapped a few quick hits to his cymbals. Then pianist Ryan Cohan and saxophonist Ari Brown burst into "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," in the opening performance of the first annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival, sponsored by the University, the Hyde Park Cultural Alliance, and the Hyde Park Jazz Society.

As Davis and his band boomed out the Oscar Hammerstein II standard, about half the crowd bobbed their heads to Adams’s beat, while a third ruffled through their programs and souvenir bags. When the song ended, Davis looked up at the crowd. “The funny thing is a lot of people think jazz in Chicago ends at Labor Day [when the city hosts its annual Chicago Jazz Festival],” he said. He then pulled his Blackberry out of his inner jacket pocket to take a few pictures of the crowd. “I want to say I was here for the first annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival.”

After two solo-heavy songs, including Miles Davis’s “Miles Ahead,” Davis looked at his wristwatch, saw nearly 50 minutes had elapsed and said, “Wow, how time flies…” One onlooker in the second row let out an audible sigh, dreading the end of show, before Davis and his band launched into a rollicking final number. As Brown soloed, Davis shuffled his feet. When the song ended, the crowd rose for a standing ovation before moving en masse to the Midway Plaisance’s skating rink, the next stop of the 14-hour festival.


Photo: Trumpeter Orbert Davis (left) and saxophonist Ari Brown (right) belt out jazz standards at the first annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival.

October 3, 2007

Maroons take Manhattan


A far cry from Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap—the dark, smoky, one-room bar many U of C students frequent—the New York City nightclub Strata has two floors, wood paneling, and candles glowing on every table.

But words like “Sosc” and “Hum” and names like Machiavelli and Leo Strauss could be heard at Strata last Friday night. Young alumni living in New York City had come for Phoenixphest, an annual event held in 14 cities—including Chicago, Houston, and London—that gathered graduates from the last 15 years to eat, drink, and network.

“It was a lot of fun, very good food and drinks,” said Matt Chin, AB’07, an economics major who is now a Citigroup analyst. Alumni crowded an open bar serving beer and wine and snagged miniature hamburgers, tiny crab cakes, and beef teriyaki from the roving waiters’ platters.

Abby Sheldon, AB’07, termed the event “very classy.” A math and French major, Sheldon works as a paralegal at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Friday night she ran into some friends she hadn’t expected to see in New York and met some new people. She also realized that she missed Chicago.

“At the time I didn’t appreciate how much fun I was having,” she said, “and now I look back at it, and it was the best four years of my life.”

Jenny Fisher, AB'07

Photo: Phoenixphest 2007 brought together young alumni from 14 different cities.

October 5, 2007

Appetite for understanding


After the corn chowder, pasta, salad, and cinnamon cake, the several dozen guests gathered for dinner in the Brent House living room were ready for the main course: a conversation with Martha Nussbaum.

Kicking off Brent House’s Dinner & Conversation series, Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund distinguished service professor of law and ethics, discussed her latest book, The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future. She wrote the study of India's Hindu-Muslim conflicts "as a public service, to inform the American public," but she noted ruefully that the book is selling better in India, where "it's No. 10 on the best-seller list."

Five years after communal violence erupted in the northwest state of Gujarat, India's Congress Party government is on a course of religious pluralism, Nussbaum said, but she voiced a concern that the nation's current pedagogical system, with "less emphasis on critical thinking and more on the force-feeding of useful skills" for economic growth, may make it harder to develop the sense of self that harmonious pluralism requires.

Maintaining pluralism, said Nussbaum, may also require returning to the principles of the nation's founding father: "Gandhi understood that you can't just have good institutions, but you also have to have a strong symbolic culture," with symbols that "move people to act" for a larger goal. "The Hindu right does this brilliantly," a lesson that the right's pluralist opponents should take to heart.

Next up on the Brent House dinner calendar: on November 13 Shali Wu, SM’05, PhD’07, of the University's psychology department, will discuss the results of a recent study on how the relative interdependence of a culture can affect one's ability to see another's point of view.


Photo: The Clash Within, Martha Nussbaum’s latest book, focuses on the 2002 Gujarat riots in which Hindu extremists, allied with elected officials, killed some 2,000 Muslims.

October 8, 2007

Do the Wright thing


Exhorting visitors to exercise their "Wright to vote," a five-foot-tall sign hanging outside the Robie House's gift shop is part of a campaign to win restoration funding for the 98-year-old landmark. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Robie House is one of two historic Hyde Park structures competing with 23 other Chicago-area landmarks for $1 million in rehab money. The other is sculptor Lorado Taft's Fountain of Time, which abuts Washington Park on the western edge of the Midway Plaisance.

Sponsored by the American Express Partners in Preservation Chicagoland Initiative, the competition is a Web-based election in which Chicagoans and architecture enthusiasts choose the winning landmarks. The online polls will remain open through this Wednesday, October 10 (visitors may cast one vote per day). Afterward a 20-person advisory panel will distribute grants to the sites with the most votes—dollar figures and number of winners to be determined—and announce the results in November.

Robie House staff members are requesting a grant to restore the guest bedroom's original finishes and fixtures. Meanwhile, Fountain of Time conservators seek funding to illuminate and protect the sculpture. Among the other sites in the running: the Great Lakes Naval Station's Hostess House, Evanston's Grosse Point Lighthouse, and Aurora's Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall.


Photos: Robie House tries to get out the vote; the Fountain of Time needs money for lighting.

Fountain of Time photo courtesy the Chicago Park District.

October 10, 2007

Time's a-ticking


On January 17 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declared the world two minutes closer to "doomsday." Now set at five minutes to midnight, the Bulletin's Doomsday Clock is a symbolic mechanism to show the destructive nature of manmade technologies, explained Bulletin editor Jonas Siegel at the Hyde Park Borders October 6. As part of Chicago Science in the City's discussion series, Siegel and online editor Josh Schollmeyer addressed a small audience of Hyde Park locals and U of C students, giving a brief history of the clock and explaining the international climate that led the Bulletin's board of directors and sponsors to reset the clock.

The Doomsday Clock made its debut on the Bulletin's cover in 1947. Designed by artist Martyl Langsdorf—the widow of Alexander Langsdorf Jr., a Manhattan Project physicist—the clock was first set arbitrarily at seven minutes to portray urgency. Since 1949, when the Bulletin decided to mark its reaction to world events by resetting the clock, the minute hand has been moved 18 times—as close as two minutes to midnight in 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs within nine months of each other.

We are now at the "dawning of a second nuclear age," Schollmeyer said; the January shift represents a "larger crisis in international relations." Events like North Korea's 2006 nuclear-weapon test, Siegel noted, are symptomatic of a shift away from international treaties and agreements, such as 1970's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Meanwhile the U.S. and Russia, with a combined 26,000 of the world's nuclear devices, have missiles on "hair-trigger alert," Schollmeyer pointed out. A nuclear exchange could unfold within 30 to 45 minutes.

A world destroyed by nuclear warfare is no longer the only image of what Siegel called the "mythic doomsday." Climate change and biotechnology also have the potential to "drastically affect life as we know it," he noted: "Think of the idea of doomsday as Genesis in reverse, as uncreating the world."


Photos: Bulletin editors Jonas Siegel (left) and Josh Schollmeyer predict a grim future for international relations; an audience member questions the editors about nuclear weapons.

October 12, 2007

Redford roars


Doc Films's crimson curtains were drawn Tuesday afternoon for Robert Redford's latest film, Lions for Lambs. Hundreds of students and community members lined up outside Ida Noyes an hour before the showing, hoping to catch a glimpse of Redford's shiny golden mane during the 30-minute question-and-answer session afterward. By showtime Max Palevsky Theater's 483 seats were filled and Lions's stars Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise filled the screen.

The film follows three narratives surrounding a military mission in Afghanistan. Senator Irving (Cruise) tries to sell his "new" plan that will "win the war and the hearts and minds" in Afghanistan to a skeptical journalist (Streep). On the West Coast political-science professor Malley (Redford) engages in an early-morning office-hours session with a disaffected student, hoping to prove that politics still matters. In Afghanistan two of Professor Malley's former students (Michael Peña and Derek Luke) fight for their lives as soldiers in Irving's troubled operation.

Following the show, political journalist Rick Perlstein, AB’92, moderated questions for a panel of Redford and actors Peña and Andrew Garfield. Like the film, Redford's comments were politically charged. He noted that Lions is "not about current issues" per se, but "something deeper." Comparing the present climate to "the McCarthy trials, Watergate, and Iran-Contra," he said, the movie asks "questions through [verbal] duels" on the role of "combat, media, and politics."

Redford seems to have an affinity for the University of Chicago, having previously directed A River Runs Through It, based on U of C Professor Norman Maclean's autobiographical book, and previewed a rough cut of his film, Quiz Show, at Doc in 1994. Redford stressed the role that teachers must play in developing a sense of responsibility in their students, also a major theme in Lions. "Professor Malley is in a quiet rage. He's lost his ability to get students motivated," Redford said. "[Teaching] should be all about engagement and getting students involved. It must be something personal."

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Students and community members wait outside Ida Noyes; Michael Peña, Robert Redford, and Andrew Garfield (left, center, and right, respectively) answer questions as Rick Perlstein moderates.

October 15, 2007

Nobel mechanism

Monday morning’s press conference was part of "a rich tradition," said Chicago Provost Thomas Rosenbaum, "going back 100 years, when Joseph Michelson won the first American Nobel in the sciences." The latest—at No. 80—laureate with a Chicago connection was the reason for the media event: Roger B. Myerson, the Glen A. Lloyd distinguished service professor in economics, received the dawn phone call from Sweden announcing that he had won the 2007 Nobel in economics.

With Leonid Hurwicz of the University of Minnesota and Eric S. Maskin of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, New Jersey), Myerson received the prize (formally known as the Sveriges Riksank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) "for having laid the foundation of mechanism design theory."

At the podium Myerson—a Harvard PhD in applied mathematics who in 2001 joined the Chicago economics faculty after spending the majority of his academic career at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management—beamed and beamed. "It's first and foremost about ideas," he said. "I'm excited that ideas I thought were important, that I wanted to devote my life to," have been thrust into the limelight.

Mechanism design theory, said Myerson, recognizes that "the economy needs to be understood as a communications system" as well as a market system, and thus provides a way to distinguish situations in which markets work well from those in which they do not. The theory has been used in many areas of economics and in parts of political science, helping to identify efficient trading mechanisms, regulation schemes, and voting procedures.

"Now that you've won," a reporter wanted to know, "what is the most important thing you're going to do next?"

The newly minted laureate didn’t seem to give that one too much thought: "I've got a seminar on Tuesday I've gotta give."


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Photos (left to right): Not just another day at the office: economist Roger Myerson gets a visit from the press; the Reynolds Club’s McCormick-Tribune Lounge was turned into a press room as media, colleagues, and students turned out to congratulate Myerson; newest member of the club: Myerson (second from left) is joined by 2000 laureate James J. Heckman; 1992 winner Gary S. Becker AM’53, PhD’55; and 1995 laureate Robert E. Lucas Jr., AB’59, PhD’64.

Photos by Dan Dry

October 17, 2007

Fight fire with forum

Nine of the nation's most controversial scholars took to the podium "In Defense of Academic Freedom" at a packed Rockefeller Chapel on Friday. The conference, which featured Tony Judt, John J. Mearsheimer, and, via video, Noam Chomsky, was held in the wake of two tenure decisions at nearby DePaul University that set off a firestorm in the academic community.

This past June Norman Finkelstein—a controversial historian of the Holocaust and critic of the United States's relationship with Israel—was denied tenure at DePaul. His supporters, including University of Chicago political-science professor Mearsheimer, claim that Finkelstein, whose "scholarship is known around the world," was dismissed in the face of "outside pressure," notably from Alan Dershowitz, a forthright defender of Israel and lauded Harvard Law professor. Mehrene Larudee, a supporter of Finkelstein's at DePaul, was also denied tenure.

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus of linguistics, could not attend the conference in person, but he addressed the crowd of approximately 1,500 by video, declaiming "the ongoing assault on academic freedom" as part of universities' general "conformist subservience to power."

Tony Judt, professor of history at New York University, elaborated on the academy's susceptibility to power, taking up the cause of Mearsheimer's new book, The Israel Lobby. Judt criticized the interests that, he said, silence frank discussion of Israel's policies with accusations of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Such efforts preclude "the openness to say that there is a difference between hating Jews and criticizing Israel," Judt said, warning, "if we don't allow that discussion we may get real anti-Semitism."

Ethan D. Frenchman, '08

Freedom1_thumb.jpg Freedom2_thumb.jpg Freedom3_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Finkelstein's supporters monger T-shirts before the conference; attendees file into Rockefeller Chapel; Mearsheimer addresses the crowd as Columbia professor Akeel Bilgrami, PhD '83; Tony Judt; and writer and conference organizer Tariq Ali look on (left, center, and right, respectively).

October 19, 2007

Thyestes holds court


Director JoAnne Akalaitis, AB'60, presents Thyestes, Roman playwright–philosopher Seneca's tragedy of feuding brothers and family stain. In revenge for plotting to steal his kingdom and wife, Atreus, King of Argos, slaughters his brother Thyestes's two children and feeds them to him.

Seneca, once a close adviser to Emperor Nero who was later put to death, is believed to have based the drama's exploration of corrupt state power and moral perversity on his own experience. The themes resonated with Akailitis, who wrote in the production notes, "When a society is in trouble, as our society is now, there's a decline in moral values. No one is setting a good example."

The performance spans three epochs; it is a 21st-century American production of a Roman retelling of a Greek myth. Though the Greek is lost, the Roman and the modern commingle under Akailitis's direction. Costumes span millennia—Atreus, dressed in Roman armor, pulls the bloody faces of Thyestes's children from an Igloo cooler. The production approaches the violence of a gladiator match as Thyestes loudly devours a plate of saucy meat while the children's fate is graphically recounted, and Atreus is shown, by video, preparing the grisly feast.

Thyestes closes October 21. Court's next production, What The Butler Saw, opens November 8.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Mick Weber as the deranged King of Argos, Atreus.

Photo courtesy Court Theatre

October 22, 2007

Sacred coexistence


In a low-lit corner of Rockefeller Chapel, 30 photographs hang just to the left of the pulpit in simple black frames. They are images of Macedonian churches, mosques, and monasteries; and colorful, half-deteriorated frescoes showing saints and angels and interlocking flowers.

Titled Time and the Sacred, the exhibition is the work of Macedonian artist and preservationist Pance Velkov, and it offers a glimpse into his country’s religious and cultural heritage. The Republic of Macedonia belongs to a region often mentioned in the Bible, and its collection of sacred frescoes and icons are among the most precious in the world. A part of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia never suffered the religious cleansing—neither ethnic nor communist—endured by its Balkan Peninsula neighbors, so its religious history is uniquely well preserved, albeit isolated and often ignored.

In a statement accompanying the exhibit, Velkov writes, “Mosques, churches, and monasteries have endured side-by-side for centuries in Macedonia—a rare example of coexistence in Europe and in the whole world. The sacred places in Macedonia do not exist by themselves, apart from the people; the people are present there as well, and therefore these sites represent a unique example of living heritage.”

The exhibit runs through December 24.


Photos: top: After the Morning Prayer, The Colored Mosque, Tetovo, 18th century; bottom: Untitled, Church of Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, Treskavec, 13th–15th century.

October 24, 2007

An American evolution


"Studs Terkel will not be with us tonight," the usher murmured to people entering Harold Washington Library's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium on Monday. "Should we send a card around?" an audience member asked. "We're big fans."

Author, historian, and broadcaster Terkel, PhB'32, JD'34, was scheduled to be part of the Chicago stop on the The American Idea: The Best of the Atlantic Monthly (Doubleday, 2007) book tour, along with the book's editor Robert Vare, AB'67, AM'70, and writer William Least Heat-Moon. Instead, the 95-year-old's close friend, journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz, stood in. "I feel like an understudy," Kotlowitz said, before he read an excerpt from Terkel's Pulitzer Prize–winning The Good War, which Vare chose to include in The American Idea.

The Atlantic's editor-at-large, Vare took on the challenge of sifting through 150 years of issues for the book, looking for the magazine's "most influential writers," he said. Founded in 1857 by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, the Atlantic was established to monitor and explore "the American idea," as the founders announced in their mission statement. Though the meaning of the "American idea" was never made clear, Vare said, the statement was an "implicit promise to the readers to take on America's most perennially relevant questions."


Photo: Audience members line up to have their copies of The American Idea signed by William Least Heat-Moon and Robert Vare.

October 26, 2007

Sketched in time


The wealth of drawings in the Smart Museum's exhibition Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery charts 400 years of European artists' creative evolution. The exhibit's 84 pieces, a mere five percent of Yale's total drawings collection, display a stream of experimentation flowing from 1480 to 1863.

Although European monastic illustrations flourished in the Middle Ages, exhibit notes point out that few artists sketched before the 15th century. The notes argue that a booming paper industry after Gutenberg's invention of movable type combined with the Italian Renaissance's emphasis on virtú, the creative or unique character of man, led to an explosion of artistic play and discovery.

French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Spanish artists used ink, charcoal, and chalk to experiment with styles and themes. In his Sheet of Studies (c. 1519–1522), Baccio Bandinelli, a Florentine artist working in the wake of Michelangelo, used hatching, a shading technique, to draw the bold, inky shadows on a classical man. One hundred thirty years later, Flemish master Jacob Jordaens demonstrated the Baroque concern with color, detail, and the secular in his study A Goat (c. 1657).

The exhibition closes January 2008.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: Baccio Bandinelli, Sheet of Studies, c. 1519–22, Pen and brown ink on beige paper. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift in memory of Henry S. Chase and Rodney Chase; Jacob Jordaens, A Goat, c. 1657, Red, black, and yellow chalk, with touches of red and brown wash, heightened with white. Yale University Art Gallery, Everett V. Meek Fund.

October 29, 2007

A little noon music


Sprinkled across the neat rows of seating, the audience for the Department of Music’s Noontime Concert Series numbered only two dozen, and Thursday’s performers—violinist Wolfgang David and pianist and composer David Gompper—delivered an equally intimate performance.

David, whose 2007 tour schedule includes performances in countries from Austria to Thailand, performed Bach’s Chaconne, tracing its variations while silhouetted against Fulton Recital Hall’s windowed backdrop.

He was joined by Gompper for a performance of Korngold’s Much Ado about Nothing. A professor of composition and director of the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa, Gompper wrote the day’s third and final work, Echoes.

Concert over, the audience applauded, then slowly gathered up coats and bags and returned to the workaday world.


Photo: Violinst Wolfgang David and pianist David Gompper perform at the Noontime Concert Series.

October 31, 2007

Freedom on the line


"Every time we get a new mode of communication, there have been efforts to limit it," said Cindy Cohn, whose work has been dedicated to fighting for an open Internet. As legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit organization defending the rights of Internet users and innovators, she is in charge of "anything interesting that happens online," said Law School Dean Saul Levmore, introducing Cohn at this weekend's Law School conference, Law in a Networked World.

Cohn's keynote address touched on the myriad fronts where EFF is working to protect speech online, including path-breaking cases on electronic voting, file sharing, and federal wiretapping. Discussing trade secret law, copyrights, trademarks, and Internet-service-provider companies, Cohn weaved a story of a still-evolving Internet, where firms, users, government, and advocacy groups such as EFF negotiate the boundaries of privacy and free speech.

In these negotiations, EFF has seen its share of failures. Highlighting one particular example, Cohn discussed how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998)—a U.S. Internet law that limits access to copyrighted material and increases penalties for copyright infringement—"tends towards taking speech down," Cohn said. In a number of cases, she noted, firms have used powers granted under the act to make "phony" threats of copyright infringement to have information removed from the Internet without legal examination. Despite setbacks, Cohn remains "optimistic," acknowledging that gains "won't happen on their own; we will have to fight."

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Cindy Cohn delivers Friday's keynote address at the Law School's two-day forum, Law in a Networked World.

About October 2007

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

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