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November 2007 Archives

November 2, 2007

March of the workers


Dozens of campus clerical and facilities workers, along with students and community members, took to 58th Street Wednesday to protest what they considered the University's bad-faith contract negotiations. The latest contract offer would have raised wages more than three percent per year, short of the workers' desired four percent. Associate Vice President of University Human Resources Gwynne Dilday described the deal as "fair" to the Maroon, but workers ultimately rejected it the night before the protest.

The clerical and facilities employees have stood firm in demanding four-percent annual salary growth. Steve Hobbs, council president of the facilities workers' union Local 743, noted that employees will be ratcheting up their tactics. "We are going to have a lot of [workers] out from now on," Hobbs said. "We're not going to stand it anymore. We are just trying to keep up with the cost of living."

Marching outside the Administration Building's Ellis Avenue entrance, protesters waved posters and chanted, "No contract, no peace." Some wore masks bearing the face of President Robert J. Zimmer, distributed by students. Approximately 15 students, members of the organization Students Organizing United with Labor (SOUL), came out to support campus workers. Alex Moore, SOUL cochair and College fourth-year, remarked, "workers here make dorms a second home for us. They should be paid the wages they need to support a stable family."

Dilday said in a post-rally interview that she was "disappointed" by the employees' decision to vote down the agreement made between the University and workers' representatives. She will return to the negotiating table, but was "not sure...that the protests will make a tremendous amount of difference."

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Students chant, "U of C, shame on you," outside the Administration Building; protesters march to demand higher wages for campus clerical and facilities employees.

November 5, 2007

Move over, Buffy.


He came from heaven, two stakes in his hand,
to smote the vampires and free that land.
Come now and join him, all ye strong and bold;
We'll fight together, like the days of old.

So the chorus heralds Jesus Christ's "return" to Ottawa, Canada, in the independent thriller-musical-kung-fu comedy Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, shown at the midnight Doc Films showing on Halloween. Roughly 60 students, many costumed for free admission, came to see Jesus, summoned by concerned Ottawa-area priests, use kung fu and poorly choreographed musical numbers to stop a cabal of lesbian vampires from taking over the world and to save his partner, Mary Magnum.

As one might expect from a roomful of midnight-moviegoing Chicago undergrads, their costumes ranged from retro to literary, gruesome, and even sociological. Get-ups included Carmen Sandiego of the children's video-game and television-show franchise, Alice in Wonderland, Wrath, and American sociologist Talcott Parsons.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Costumed students await Jesus's midnight slaughter of the vampires; Talcott Parsons, center, flanked by Chocolate Moose and Wrath, were among the honored costumes.

November 7, 2007

White noise?


Many well-informed "culture-goers" read contemporary fiction, attend art exhibits, and go to art-house theaters to see the latest in Ethiopian cinema, yet fail to know about or understand contemporary classical music, said Alex Ross, the New Yorker's classical-music critic, in Monday's discussion of his new book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century, at Fulton Recital Hall.

As a result, Ross is often forced to ask himself whom he is writing for—the consensus or the well informed. “The New Yorker has always had a devoted readership, many of whom read it cover to cover and presume that if it is in the New Yorker, it is important,” he said. He views his position as a tremendous opportunity to bring readers into the classical-music world.

In the talk, Ross aimed to help the audience rethink the way they approach classical music. “Instead of plopping people down in front of an orchestra playing Beethoven, why not show them what contemporary artists, like Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, and Radiohead, are taking from their classical peers and then, once they see those connections, begin to look at composers from previous generations?”

Ross argued that classical-music critics are a key cog in the genre’s revival. “They are the faces of classical music,” he said. “Their review may be the only contact that people have with classical music all day—that is, except when they listen to Vivaldi in their dentist’s waiting room.”


Photo: New Yorker critic Alex Ross discusses the state of contemporary classical music at Fulton Recital Hall.

November 9, 2007



The Magazine staff is "bogged" down today, working to get readers' November–December issues in the mail.

The faux-authentic cranberry bog, sitting in Pioneer Court outside 401 N. Michigan Avenue—home of the Magazine's offices—is part of an Ocean Spray advertising tour, Bogs Across America. Next stop: Los Angeles. Next blog: Monday.


Photo: Cranberry harvesters take Michigan Avenue.

November 12, 2007

A political calculation


On a chilly November morning, Daniel Biss leans back in his chair and looks out over mounds of academic journals, books, and papers that cover a creaky wooden desk in his Eckhart Hall office. Biss, a 30-year-old assistant professor in mathematics and the College, has a long, narrow face, raven hair with a speckle of white, and wears a gray and black sweater and blue jeans.

When he speaks, his passionate prose seems more at home at the University than at a podium or on the floor of the Illinois State Capitol. Yet, Biss, a Democrat who lives in Evanston and is currently teaching two courses and doing research on topology—the study of the geometric figures or solids unchanged by stretching or bending—is in the midst of a campaign for the Illinois House of Representatives’ 17th District, which encompasses parts of Evanston, Glenview, Golf, Morton Grove, Northbrook, Northfield, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka.

Biss, who wanted to be a mathematician since he was 13, became active in local politics early on in the Bush administration. “I felt betrayed enough that it didn’t really make sense to stand back. I didn’t feel comfortable throwing myself into math 24 hours a day anymore.” When he came to Chicago in 2002, he began volunteering for a slew of local races. Later he got involved with Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign. While the day-to-day work of grassroots campaigning was “very dull,” he nevertheless found it captivating. After months of considering where to concentrate his next efforts, he decided to take on Republican Rep. Elizabeth Coulson. “I want to create a community that can work together to make a significant difference in the culture of Springfield.”

Biss has garnered national coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the DailyKos blog, as well as in the local media. “I’m coming from a pretty different place than most state-representative candidates,” says Biss. “Most were recruited to run, and the fact that I wasn’t, and that I’m not motivated by personal gain, is energizing people.”


Photo: Daniel Biss talks with Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin before a political rally.

Photo courtesy Daniel Biss.

November 14, 2007

Portrait of a proton

It makes sense that the artwork hanging in the Gordon Center's third-floor atrium was created by scientists: close-up photographs of frogs and fruit flies, landscape paintings of intracellular structures, brilliantly fluorescent pictures of crystals forming, lasers firing, and electricity coursing through a leaf's veins. "Science and art both require a great deal of imagination, and they can inspire each other," says Rebecca Ayers, a fourth-year graduate student in biochemistry and molecular biology who cocurated the Gordon Center exhibit. Titled Science in Art, it gathers more than 80 works by Chicago, Fermilab, and Argonne faculty, grad students, and postdocs.

An amateur oil painter since college, Ayers first conceived the idea for the exhibit more than a year ago. This summer she enlisted the help of Lydia Bright, a painter and third-year molecular-genetics and cell-biology grad student who coran a small gallery in Burlington, Vermont, before coming to Chicago.

Alongside the paintings, drawings, photographs, and microscope images are six working clocks made by Tim Mooney, a software developer at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source. Constructed from cellophane, the clocks' faces are birefringent—they refract light into two directions—and Mooney manipulated the cellophane's polarization so that the clocks change color as the second hands rotate.

The exhibit runs through November 16. Some 300 people attended the opening in October, where scientists also provided the music, including not only jazz, rock, and techno, Ayers says, but also "the sounds of biomolecules," recorded using nuclear magnetic resonance equipment. Scientists at art openings, Bright says, are "different from other gallery visitors. Not only do they look at the art, but they want the sheet of paper; they want to know what they're looking at and who made it—and, if possible, how."


lydiabecca_thumb2.jpg leaf_thumb.jpg becca_thumb.jpg stars_thumb.jpg clocks_thumb.jpg

Photos (left to right): Cocurators Lydia Bright (left) and Rebecca Ayers, seated below a painting from Bright's Boom series depicting nuclear-test explosions; Argonne physicist Bernhard Adams's image of high voltage lighting up a leaf; a detail from Ayers's painting Homology; grad student Jane Maduram's star-shaped cells, photographed during her research on cytoskeletal architecture and cell polarity; and Argonne software developer Tim Mooney's color-changing cellophane clocks.

November 16, 2007

Charting the unknown


The European worldview fundamentally shifted in the late 15th century when Arabic and Byzantine traders brought copies of Ptolemy's Geographia to Italy, argues the Oriental Institute's exhibition, European Cartographers and the Ottoman World, 1500–1750: Maps from the Collection of O. J. Sopranos. The revival of Ptolemy's techniques, such as latitude and longitude lines, led to an explosion of attempts to reconcile ancient cartography with contemporary knowledge.

European mapmakers gradually incorporated travelers' accounts, sailors' maps, and geodetic survey data to create increasingly detailed political and physical maps. The development of these maps mirrors both the Enlightenment and the changing European balance of power, as first the Venetians, then the Dutch, French, and British made advances in mapping the Ottoman Empire.

The exhibit, part of the Festival of Maps, which presents map collections at libraries and museums throughout Chicago, runs through March 16, 2008. For more on the OI show, see the Nov–Dec '07 Magazine.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Prima Asie Tabvla, Venetian Bernardus Sylvanus' 1511 revision of a map from Ptolemy's Geographia displays longitude and latitude lines; Englishman Herman Moll's 1720 map, The Turkish Empire in Europe, Asia & Africa, shows English interest in the Ottoman Empire.

Photos courtesy the Oriental Institute

November 19, 2007

One-man show


“Stop mumbling!” a deep voice bellowed from the Mandel Hall audience Friday night. Onstage, comedian Demetri Martin peered out toward the voice and deadpanned, “Wow, that woman was mad.” Wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and his signature floppy haircut, Martin was soft-spoken as he threw out one-liners: “I remember when I really used to be into nostalgia. And the time before that was really great.”

Martin came to Chicago for the Major Activities Board’s fall show, a last-minute replacement for the indie-pop band the Decemberists—Martin’s explanation for the cancellation: they’ve decided to take their band name literally and tour only in December. The tickets, which went on sale November 12, were sold out in fewer than four days; by 7:00 p.m. Friday, an hour before showtime, the line snaked through the Reynolds Club into Hutch Courtyard.

A baby grand piano, a guitar, and as easel pad labeled, “Large Pad,” cluttered the stage. The piano, Martin complained, is such a pain to travel with. Playing the instruments as he recited lists he’s made—“get hit in the neck with a bag of marbles;” “wipe my ass with an uncooperative rabbit;” and “watch VH1” were all high on Martin’s list of “things I’d rather do than stand in line for a nightclub"—he also raised weighty questions, like how long it took to make the first clock and whether homeless people have homies.

After the hour-and-a-half show, an audience member yelled from the balcony, “Wanna come to a party?” To an eruption of laughter from the audience, Martin asked, “Are there a lot of parties at the University of Chicago?”


Photo: Demetri Martin, a Yale alum who dropped out of law school to pursue a comedy career, is a Daily Show contributor and has hosted two Comedy Central specials.

Photo courtesy the Daily Show

November 21, 2007

Grief and questions


Responding to Monday's fatal early-morning shooting of chemistry graduate student Amadou Cisse at 61st Street and S. Ellis Avenue, VP and dean of students Kimberly Goff-Crews and VP for community and government affairs Hank Webber convened a community gathering that evening to discuss the shooting and two other incidents—two young women were robbed and a man was shot at—that occurred near campus that morning. The meeting, packed with students and staff, took place in Reynolds Club's McCormick-Tribune Lounge; Goff-Crews, Webber, and Rudy Nimocks, chief of the U of C Police Department (UCPD) made up the panel to discuss community safety.

The meeting began with an acknowledgment of the community's shared grief. "There is no correct way to grieve," said Goff-Crews; Cisse's murder, a reminder of life's transience, also provokes feelings of outrage and fear. To cope with those feelings, she said, "we all need to engage in dialogue."

Discussing both short-term and long-term safety improvements, Webber began with the most immediate changes: police will increase their patrols, especially in the south campus; the University will add more late-night vans for students; and the UCPD will construct a temporary substation at 61st and Drexel. Longer-term safety plans, Webber said, include doubling the UCPD coverage from 55th to 64th streets, hiring some 20 new police officers, and working with the community to "craft a policy" for installing security cameras on campus.

Opening the floor, the panel fielded questions, comments, and suggestions from the audience. Students should have instant access to safety alerts, one woman noted, without having to sign up to the Crime Alert Listserv. "Err on the side of annoying people," another student suggested. Students also asked how increased UCPD presence will affect the University's relationship with the surrounding community. "I live in the neighborhood one block from the shooting," Nimocks responded. "The neighbors all want more police cars."

The shooting an hour before Cisse's death occurred in a cul-de-sac between 60th and 61st on Kenwood, one woman noted; the target, a University staff member, was trapped in a construction zone. "That almost made two deaths last night," she said, leading to a discussion of the crime risks associated with campus construction. The new police substation will be located on a prominent south-campus construction area, Nimocks said, helping to make the area safer; police need to be concentrated in those areas.

After 90 minutes Goff-Crews closed the forum, offering the audience the opportunity to speak one-on-one with members of the panel.


Photos: Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs, answers questions about student safety as VP and dean of students, Kimberly Goff-Crews, and University chief of police Rudy Nimocks (seated, behind Webber) look on; students gather in the McCormick-Tribune Lounge.

November 23, 2007

New interpretations


The maps, travel guides, photographs, and religious talismans on display in the Smart Museum represent a fraction of the materials Chicago professor Edmund Buckley gathered during his “academic pilgrimage” to Japan from 1886 to 1892. Buckley used the collection for a series of papers on Japanese art, dance, and religion, as well as his dissertation, which earned him a Chicago PhD in 1895. More than 100 years later, Chicago students in a spring 2007 art-history seminar selected pieces from the collection for display and researched the exhibition notes.

The exhibition contrasts multiple representations of similar subjects. For example, two woodblock prints and a household shrine show Benzaiten, the Shinto goddess of knowledge, art, beauty, and music. Both Benzaiten of Itsukushima Island and the deity in the household shrine have eight arms, which link her to the Indian goddess Sarasvati. In these two works, Benzaiten holds symbolic objects associated with both Buddhist and Shinto religions, which often merged in popular religious practices. Local Japanese culture influenced Benzaiten of Enoshima Island; she has only two arms and wears a modest robe, which reflects the simplicity of Japanese religious symbols. She also sits in a cave that evokes the rocky geography of the island.

The focus of the spring art-history seminar was museum studies, and this topic of inquiry is borne out in the exhibition. One case contains two pieces with labels from an earlier display on campus, probably at the Haskell Oriental Museum, which opened in 1896. A printed wood plaque of a white snake was previously labeled, “Serpent Cult. The serpent is cunning and mischievous.” While old exhibit labels often left interpretation to the viewer, the new note explains that although the white snake is associated with wealth and good luck, some snakes in Japanese folklore are identified with negative “feminine” qualities: envy, jealousy, passion, and deception.

The exhibition closes December 16.

Sarah Yatzeck, AB’01

Photos: Installation views of Objects of Inquiry: The Buckley Collection of Japanese Art.

Photos courtesy the Smart Museum.

November 26, 2007


There’s no butler in Joe Orton’s farce What the Butler Saw, but if there were he’d be spending the play, now at Court Theatre under the direction of Sean Graney, running from one end of the door-filled set to the other, getting his knickers in a twist as he tried to keep up with a script filled with twists and knickers.

Here’s the plot in a press-release nutshell: "When a psychiatrist invents a series of increasingly outrageous lies to cover up his attempts to seduce his young secretary, all manner of pandemonium breaks out in the ward."

In his Court debut, Graney—founder of Chicago’s Hypocrites Theater Company—takes Orton’s play into the 21st century by pulling out all the stops. Sight gags and sound gags, schtick und drang, abound.

Butler runs at Court through December 9.


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Photos (left to right): Applying for a secretarial post, Geraldine Barclay (Mechelle Moe) finds herself on the couch with Dr. Prentice (Blake Montgomery) and under the care of Dr. Rance (Joe Foust). Dr. Rance and Mrs. Prentice (Mary Beth Fisher) confer as Dr. Prentice casts a shadow.

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

November 28, 2007

Runaway runway favorite


Project Runway fans with U of C ties have an easy choice for a favorite in the reality show's fourth season: Victorya Hong, AB'95, a world traveler-cum-journalist-cum–fashion designer, now living in New York City. The judges—Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia—seem to like her too; they, along with guest judge Sarah Jessica Parker, chose her episode-two design, a gray shirtdress topped with a dark-plaid racer-back vest, to appear in Parker's fall BITTEN line.

To see Hong sew, watch Bravo tonight at 9 p.m. (CST).


Photo: Victorya Hong (left) on the runway with her winning design, along with teammate Kevin Christiana.

Photo courtesy BravoTV.com.

November 30, 2007

Pint, counter-pint


The Class of 2008 took a sip before plunging into finals week on Wednesday at ORCSA's Fall Quarter Senior Pub Night. Tippling began promptly at 8 p.m. as a line of students, snaking from the basement up the stairs and around Ida Noyes Hall's main lobby, was set loose on the bar.

Outside the Pub's entryway, 342 "Senior Class 2008" pint glasses were distributed in the first 35 minutes, said College Programming Office assistant director Sam Maher Sheahan. Many seniors were ready for the event, coming on what Maher Sheahan described as the "Wednesday that falls before nothing." Tenth week ended earlier in the day, with reading period segueing into finals week on Monday. Even so, the turnout was unusual given the frigid weather. "People usually just drift in," Maher Sheahan noted, "this time the glasses ran out fast."

Senior Alexandra Raphel was not about to give up on a chance to receive her "free $120,000 mug," she said. The trip through the cold ended up being well worth it for Raphel: "The atmosphere was really lively and fun, and I was glad to see other members of the Class of 2008 I don't often run into."

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photo: Zoë Samels, '08, and May Yu, '08, play with senior glasses (far left and right, respectively), while your reporter, in brown and beard, gets into the spirit of pre-finals jollity.

Photo courtesy Vania Wang, '08

About November 2007

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

October 2007 is the previous archive.

December 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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