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January 2010 Archives

January 8, 2010


Earlier this week Magazine photographers Lloyd DeGrane and Dan Dry snapped a few shots of students armored against a classic Chicago snowfall. Happy new year.

January 11, 2010

Phoenix Pix: January 11-15, 2010

Snowy quad

When crossing the snow covered quad, students walk briskly.

Photo by Dan Dry.

Submit your best University of Chicago-themed photos to Phoenix Pix.

January 12, 2010

Some books bite

While doing research for the Nov-Dec/09 Lite of the Mind about fictional UChicagoans, I came across Chloe Neill's Some Girls Bite (2009), the first title in her Chicagoland Vampires series. I was intrigued—and evidently I wasn’t alone. Some Girls Bite is highly rated on both Amazon (4.5 stars) and Goodreads (4.21 stars).

some-girls-bite.jpgCould Merit, a University of Chicago grad-student-turned-vampire after a late-night attack on the main quad, be an interesting character? Could these novels be that vampiric something to fill the void until Joss Whedon decides to leave the Dollhouse and return to Sunnydale?

I couldn’t resist and finally bought the book, deciding to blog my verdict. But by the time the book arrived I had had time to think. I couldn't be an objective reviewer with all of my excitement. I have too much vampire baggage.

My back-up plan was simple: assign the review to the Magazine's pop-culture–savvy summer intern, Jake Grubman, '11. My instincts were wrong. Jake made it to page 120 before begging to cover something else. Anything else.

Magazine proofreader Elizabeth Chan, who read Stephanie Meyer's complete Twilight series, bailed me out. She offered to read Some Girls Bite and write a review. For four months the book gathered dust alongside her borrowed Season One DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood. I understood her hesitation. I might be leery too if my only exposure to the world of the undead was limited to Twilight's sparkling vamps.

I snagged the book from her desk and gave it a shot over the holidays, a light distraction. It didn't disappoint, but the University of Chicago references are few, certainly not enough to merit spending time with Merit unless you have a thing for vampire lit.

While Some Girls Bite is a quick read (though not for Jake or Elizabeth), there’s better vampire stuff out there, even if the main character isn’t a former UChicagoan. Vampire-fiction fans know you can't beat Charlaine Harris' Sookie for sass and fun, Underworld's Selene for action, and Joss Whedon's Buffy Summers for complexity.

Maybe comparing Merit to those heroines is unfair. At a different point in my life, when my thinking was more in line with that of the Edward Cullen–obsessed crowd, I might have enjoyed this new addition to supernatural lore.

Joy Olivia Miller

January 14, 2010

How the sausage is made, part 1

carrie-interview-desk.jpgA few weeks ago, I interviewed three smart, charming third-graders—Shaniya, Jaleeia, and Daniel—for a brochure on the Urban Education Institute. I was hoping to hear the student perspective on STEP, a reading-assessment tool developed by UEI. It’s used at North Kenwood-Oakland Elementary, where my interviewees attend school, and as well as schools in New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana.

Shaniya, Jaleeia, and Daniel talked about how they felt when they achieved a new reading level (exhausted), what kind of books they liked to read (The Night of the Vampire Kitty and Bunnicula, among others), and what they wanted to be when they grew up (Shaniya and Jalieea wanted to work with animals; Daniel wanted to be a paleontologist).

My standard interview-ending question is, “Is there anything I forgot to ask you?” or “Is there anything else you would like to say?” With adults, it usually works pretty well. Here’s what happens when you put that question to third-graders.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAll right, anybody have anything else they want to say about the STEP assessment?


QandA_QDrop.jpgShaniya, what were you going to say? One last thing to say.

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: Compared to Daniel wanting to find out more about dinosaurs, just to let you know, whales back then had four legs. Can you find dolphin parts, if you end up being one of those [a paleontologist]?

DANIEL: Dolphin parts?


DANIEL: Dolphins weren’t around back then.

SHANIYA: Yes they were. They were walking.

DANIEL: They had flippers. They were sea creatures. They were just swimming around, and eating fish. And there was this big one that would walk on land, and it was bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex, and it would eat flesh.

QandA_QDrop.jpgJalieea, last thing?

QandA_ADrop.jpgJALIEEA: About that, did you know that whales used to have four fingers and walked like alligators? But something happened and they grew flippers all of a sudden. And even though they could breathe on land, they still need water to make their bodies moist because they could die without water. That’s why we need lotion––the humans.

QandA_QDrop.jpgOkay guys, I think we’re done, thank you so much for your time.

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: This was great!

QandA_QDrop.jpgWas that fun? All right, I’m going to turn it off. What button do you think I need to press to turn it off?

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: Stop?

QandA_QDrop.jpgAll right!

[End of interview.]

Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

January 15, 2010

How the sausage is made, part 2: The good listener

Occasionally I have an entire interview professionally transcribed. It’s not something I do very often—only when the subject matter is technical or controversial or I’m really pressed for time.

I love the transcripts though, which read like plays written by someone who has never seen a play before. They expose how much of an illusion it is when someone comes off as articulate—how many sentence fragments, grammatical errors, and fillers contaminate the speech even of distinguished intellectuals. They’re also full of non sequiturs and—when done by me anyway—are completely one-sided.

For example, a few months ago I interviewed generous longtime donor Charles Jacobs, AB’53, JD’56. Of the 22-page, 10,000-word interview transcript, my contributions came to slightly more than 400 words. Here’s what would have happened if we had run just my side of the story (slightly abridged—sometimes even 400 words is too much).

QandA_QDrop.jpgI always make sure with lawyers, particularly, that I explain the tape recorder’s going on right now. So I thought what I would start with is your years with the Compass Players. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about that.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat would be great.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat would be great.

QandA_QDrop.jpgDid you miss it once you stopped doing it?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m just wondering if it influenced your law practice at all. Did you have a lot of time in the courtroom?

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow long were you there?

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd is that when you went into real estate?

QandA_QDrop.jpgNot as much as I should be.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy is that?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m sorry?

QandA_QDrop.jpgYes, absolutely.

QandA_QDrop.jpgExcellent. How did you learn about medicine? How did you kind of get caught up in that if you hadn’t had any medical training?

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo are you still there?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI’m sorry. Suddenly it seemed very quiet on your end.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s what I was driving at.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo what was it like living in Hyde Park in the 1950s?

QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you remember a particularly influential book or favorite book of that period?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI understand. Do you remember a particular professor or an influential professor, a favorite professor?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI understand.

QandA_QDrop.jpg[Laughs.] You’ve been a hugely generous and longtime supporter of the College, and I wonder if you could explain what programs particularly appeal to you and why.


QandA_QDrop.jpgI don’t think that sounds naïve at all.


QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s really interesting. That’s a really interesting approach. So what advice would you give to current College students based on your College experience and your life experience?



QandA_QDrop.jpgI wish I could do that.

QandA_QDrop.jpgI can’t claim to be, really.

QandA_QDrop.jpgThat’s amazing.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo one last corollary question: how did you get interested in opera?

QandA_QDrop.jpgWell, that’s all my questions. Is there anything that you wish I had asked you?


QandA_QDrop.jpgYeah. I mean, maybe now is the time to write a memoir or something.

QandA_QDrop.jpgYeah, could be. Could very well be. And then as you say, these questions really haven’t been settled in the medical, you know, as far as….

[End of interview.]

Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

How the sausage is made, part 3: Confessions of a traumatized graphic designer

On the last day of Kuviasungnerk, the College’s winter festival, students strip down to their underwear—or less—and run from Harper Library to Hull Gate (about a quarter of a mile). It’s a classic photo op, and both newspapers and TV stations cover it every year.

But the Polar Bear runners are, by definition, young students (if a professor has ever done it, we are unfortunately unaware) and the University of Chicago Magazine has to maintain a certain standard of decorum. That’s where graphic design comes in.

A former Magazine designer, who asked to remain anonymous out of her own sense of decorum, spoke about the fateful day in 2004 when she was given the Polar Bear Run assignment.

I was asked to hide the unmentionables using Photoshop®. I suppose I could have used digital pixilation, but I decided just to go with black boxes.

It raised all kinds of difficult aesthetic and ethical questions, though. Do I go with a dainty black box? In that case, what does that imply about the size of what I’m hiding? So in the end I decided to go with gratuitously large boxes.

If you look at the photos, they just look terrible. They look like a CIA document released under the Freedom of Information Act. It’s not done artfully at all.

And you know, graphic designers don’t have petite monitors. We have huge screens so we can see everything. It was definitely a case of NSFW (not safe for work), except that it was my work. I hope I’ll never have to do it again.

January 20, 2010

Ratner beach

%20beach-night2.jpgOur rivals down at Wash U might have six national championships between their men’s and women’s basketball teams, but no team in the UAA has a match for Beach Night.

The fifth annual beach night arrived last week, bringing with it a Ratner gym full of festive decorations, beach costumes (one guy went with the classic Hawaiian shirt and hiked-up khaki shorts, while a couple of girls splashed on as many brightly-colored layers as they could find), and the relief of a warm atmosphere on a cold 24-degree Friday evening.

Third-year Jordan Holliday and I were on the call to broadcast the Maroons’ doubleheader against NYU, and although we got several e-mails from listeners about the games’ action, the highlight of the night came from women’s coach Aaron Roussell’s father, Rick, who wrote in to say: “Please tell Aaron that he looks ready to move to Del Boca Vista Phase II. He could even go to dinner at 4:30 for the early-bird discount.” We read his message over the broadcast, but I’m not sure there’s anything we could have said to properly capture that green floral pattern.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on your taste in shirts—Coach Roussell didn’t participate in the intermission costume contest, which featured both male and female students wearing mismatched beachwear who seemed to have forgotten that the bathing suit usually goes on before the short shorts. Personally, I was pulling for the house that collectively dressed up as an octopus; I think they would have had the $100 prize wrapped up if their whole cheering section weren’t inside the costume. The intermission also featured a limbo contest, but I graciously bowed out before the competition started—in the interest of fairness, of course.

Fun—and free Hawaiian pizza—was had by all, especially when both Chicago teams topped the Violets for their fourth straight Beach Night sweep.

I wouldn’t mind if every game were Beach Night; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it timeless, but my good friend Walt Whitman might disagree. Looking back, his “On the Beach at Night” was about 106 years ahead of its time: “Something there is/…Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter/Longer than sun, or any revolving satellite/Or the radiant brothers, the Maroons.”

That’s how it goes, right?

Jake Grubman, ’11

Photography by Camille van Horne, ’12.

The "Happy Games" that weren't

munich02.jpg“The official motto of the Munich Olympics was the Happy Games,” said Christopher Young, head of the German and Dutch department at the University of Cambridge, as he spoke to a small but rapt audience of social-sciences graduate students in Pick Hall. On a Friday afternoon in early December, students received a sneak preview of Young’s forthcoming book, The Munich Olympics 1972 and the Making of Modern Germany (University of California Press).

munich01.jpgYoung’s lecture—sponsored by the MAPSS program through the Earl and Esther Johnson Fund—focused on the years leading up to the ’72 Games and the stock that West German organizers had in hosting the event. According to Young, in the mid-1960s, the Federal Republic of Germany was at a crossroads. The country still faced the aftermath and stigma of World War II (e.g., the Auschwitz trials were underway in Frankfurt, revealing Nazi atrocities to the world). Nonetheless, West Germans viewed their present and future with optimism. They held high hopes for their country’s economic growth and forsook ideological struggle, as evidenced by a series of treaties between the FRG and the Soviet Union and talk of German reunification. This sunny, forward-looking climate facilitated Munich’s successful bid for the Olympics.

And “no other country took to the Games with the same zeal,” Young continued. Many West Germans had a passion for sport, and the country had much to gain from hosting the event. Eager to erase the enduring image of Hitler’s propaganda-laden 1936 Games in Berlin, the Munich organizers anticipated showing the world a rehabilitated and positive West Germany. And hosting the Games offered a tantalizing opportunity for economic growth; the 1956 Melbourne Olympics had proved an excellent investment for Australia as had the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for Japan.

In the end, the FRG’s intended themes of happiness and West German rehabilitation were shattered by the shocking murders of 11 Israeli Olympic delegation members by eight terrorists from the Palestinian group Black September. Today, a gray marble memorial to those who were massacred stands at the still-used site of the ’72 Games, Olympiapark München.

Four weeks after attending Young’s lecture, I visited Germany—which in 2009 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall—and traveled to Olympiapark, now a multipurpose sports, entertainment, and cultural complex. After taking the U-Bahn a few stops outside of Munich’s downtown, I walked inside the gates and admired the architecture—the sloping transparent roofs laced with steel supports are particularly striking. Munich residents jogged up and down Olympiaberg, a formation of yellow-green hills, and swam leisurely laps in the same pool where Mark Spitz won seven gold medals. Visitors snapped photos, stood quietly before the Israeli memorial, and peered at the handprints of musicians who have performed at the complex: Genesis, Carlos Santana, and Snoop Dogg among them. Reading the final competition results etched in stone, I thought about the Munich Olympic organizers and how the venue today expresses many of their aims as explained by Young—generating revenue, attracting tourism, standing as a symbol of a renewed, peaceful nation.

In 2010, Olympiapark seems a happy place.

Katherine E. Muhlenkamp

Photography by David Muhlenkamp.


January 21, 2010

Phoenix Pix: January 18-22, 2010

Kuvia 2010

Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko's polar bear mascot joins students at the Point as they salute the sun.

Photo by resident head and University staff member Avi Schwab, AB'03.

Submit your best University of Chicago-themed photos to Phoenix Pix.

A woman’s touch

Five years ago this week, the U.S. military announced that it was investigating reports that American soldiers had abused detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Soon after, 60 Minutes broadcast photos of the perpetrators in action. Several of the soldiers accused of torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners were women—a fact that riveted the New York-based artist and academic Coco Fusco.

cocofusco.jpgHoping “to figure out how it was that women had made it into the foreground of this story of torture in the 21st century,” Fusco began a series of creative projects. She spoke about her work last Friday in a campus talk titled “Torture, The Feminine Touch: Exploring Military Interrogation as Intercultural Performance.”

Women comprise 15 percent of the U.S. active-duty armed forces, Fusco found, but up to 35 percent of those engaged in policing and intelligence gathering. Digging further, she was “astonished” to learn that “sexual tactics were used in interrogations and that female sexuality was being transformed into a kind of weapon.”

As she sorted through news stories about women interrogators in Iraq, Fusco recalled: “There was a part of me that said, ‘This is morally wrong.’ And there was a part of me—the performance artist—that said, ‘Well, it may be morally wrong, but it’s incredibly powerful dramatic material.’”

Fusco's artistic response to the Iraq war was to create three works: a performance-lecture called A Room of One’s Own; a short film entitled Project Atropos; and a book, A Field Guide to Female Interrogators. She has also produced related street-theater and museum installations for audiences from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to the Whitney Bienniel.

When asked how she chose her medium, Fusco, who is director of intermedia initiatives at Parsons the New School for Design, gave a straightforward answer. “If I tried to paint something, it would be totally laughable and nobody would care,” she said. “I’m much better at doing performances and making videos and writing. I use the skills that I have.”

Elizabeth Station

Photography by Tracye Matthews.

The Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture sponsored Coco Fusco’s visit through its artists-in-residence program. Upcoming guests include printmaker Ron Adams (February 3–4) and performer kt shorb (February 18–19).



January 22, 2010

The man who would be King

mlk-grubman.jpgIt occurred to me last Friday, as I sat in Rockefeller Chapel listening to Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell deliver the keynote speech at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration, that as a 21-year-old I don't know the boundary between Martin Luther King the man and Martin Luther King the institution.

For me—and I have to believe the same is true for others who, like me, are too young to have seen Dr. King in the news or in person—this great civil-rights leader has become a symbol. That's not to say his role in our nation's history is in any way diminished; it simply means that, as an American youth, I sometimes struggle to view Dr. King as what he really was: one very human individual fighting for something he believed in.

That's why Harris-Lacewell's speech resonated with me as I sat in the pews last Friday. She told us about Martin Luther King the realist, a practical leader who, in attempting to clear a path for the civil-rights movement, displayed some of the same flaws that every human has. She told us about he marginalized homosexuals during that period, even those who had advised and mentored King. She told us about how he sacrificed certain movements, like that of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, with the idea that such sacrifices would help the civil rights movement as a whole.

But in discussing the practicality of these political moves, Harris-Lacewell's most powerful message was a call to faith, a belief that despite all evidence to the contrary, great things can happen if people continue to believe in them. When King started working toward equality in the 1950s, he was one man striving toward what he believed to be right. As Harris-Lacewell helped us understand, the significance of his efforts was the fact that he did this despite conditions that made equality and justice seem out of reach. The lesson of King and America’s other great civil-rights leaders is that even under the most dire circumstances, great progress can be made, and through the work of flawed people.

Jake Grubman, ’11

January 25, 2010

Some red, some blue, all Maroon

illinois-flag.jpgAs you’ve no doubt realized in recent days—ahem, Massachusetts—the 2010 midterm elections are going to be exciting. Even in a reliably blue state like Illinois, there will be a few nail-biter elections that could affect the balance of power in Washington for the next several years. And although we have to wait until November for the final results, election junkies can whet their political appetites with the upcoming primaries (February 2 in Illinois). Scanning the list of local candidates, we were delighted to discover that several U of C alumni are putting their critical-thinking skills to good use and seeking public office.

Know of any Maroons who are running for Congress or a statewide office outside of the Prairie State? Let us know.

U.S. Senate from Illinois

Former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman, JD’95, was once head of the Law School Democrats and articles editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. Now he’s running for Senate against a Democratic pool of contenders that includes Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago Urban League President and CEO Cheryle Jackson. The former federal prosecutor has received primary endorsements from the Chicago Tribune; Chicago Sun-Times; Daily Herald; State Journal-Register; and retired congressman, judge, and senior director of the Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic Abner Mikva, JD’51. And, like a previous occupant of the Senate seat he hopes to fill, Hoffman is a lecturer at the Law School—this spring he will teach Public Corruption and the Law.

U.S. House, 5th District of Illinois

If you thought you just saw the name Mike Quigley on a ballot for this North Side district, you’re not mistaken. The rookie congressman made headlines this past April when he won the special election to fill White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s recently vacated House seat—and he’s already up for re-election. Quigley, AM’85, who holds a master’s degree in public policy from the Harris School and has served as a Cook County commissioner, is running unopposed in the primary, which must be a nice change from the previous one. He faced 11 other Democratic candidates in 2009, including fellow Maroon Charles Wheelan, PhD’98, a Harris School senior lecturer and alumnus.

U.S. House, 10th District of Illinois

Democrat Dan Seals, MBA’01, grew up in Hyde Park and married a fellow Chicago Booth alum, Miyako Hasegawa, MBA’02. A former high-school teacher in Japan and Presidential Management Fellow, Seals ran for the north-suburban 10th District seat (once held by Mikva) in the past two election cycles and narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Kirk both times. Could the third time be the charm? Kirk is now running for the Senate, and there are signs the district might be receptive to Democratic representation—61 percent of residents voted for President Obama in 2008. Seals, who has two Democratic opponents, has been endorsed by the Daily Herald.

Arie Friedman, AB’87, is running for the 10th District seat in the GOP primary, channeling the Republican zeitgeist by campaigning as a political outsider. He wrote to local Republicans: “I am not a lawyer, a politician, or an MBA, but I believe this moment in history requires people with talents and experiences outside the mainstream of Washington, DC.” Friedman comes from a true Maroon family—he studied biology at the College, returned to Hyde Park to complete his medical residency at the Med Center, and has three siblings who also call Chicago their alma mater. Friedman, a Gulf War veteran, practices pediatrics, was recently named a top doctor by North Shore magazine, and has been endorsed by Reklama and Chicago Review.

U.S. House, 13th District of Illinois

Scott Harper, MBA’85, is already focusing his attention on the general election. Running unopposed in the southwest suburbs’ 13th District Democratic primary, he hopes his second attempt to unseat Rep. Judy Biggert will succeed this fall. Although he lost to Biggert in 2008 by 10 percentage points, he notes that it was her “lowest ever margin of victory” and that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee encouraged him to renew his campaign. Harper has worked as a manufacturing executive and entrepreneur. He started Closer Look, a consulting firm specializing in media, design, and marketing and also uses his Chicago Booth background as an instructor in ethics and leadership at North Central College.

Illinois Comptroller

Jim Dodge, MBA’93, is currently putting his Chicago Booth degree to good use as a vice president for the Nielsen Company, where his team provides information consulting to Fortune 500 businesses. He’s been active in Republican politics since the 1980s, when he was a volunteer in the Reagan campaign. Dodge has held elected office in Orland Park for more than 20 years, including 13 years as a village trustee. He has also sat on the Metra board of directors since 2004. Dodge has two Republican opponents in the primary, including former Illinois Treasurer and one-time gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka. He has been endorsed by several Republican organizations at the county and township level.

Cook County Board President

Toni Preckwinkle, AB’69, MAT’77, is campaigning on a platform of openness and transparency for a position that has been held by such controversial Chicago politicians as John Stroger and his son and successor Todd (who is running for re-election). Preckwinkle, who is married to Zeus Preckwinkle, AB’69, began her career as a high-school history teacher before turning to politics; she is currently serving her fifth term as the alderman of Chicago’s 4th Ward, which includes portions of Hyde Park. As an alderman, Preckwinkle has received five IVI-IPO Best Alderman Awards and has made affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization top priorities. The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, and Chicago Journal have endorsed her.

Elizabeth Chan

January 26, 2010

Times of her life

Rachel Cromidas

“Rachel Cromidas is a Chicago freelance writer.” That’s the author bio that accompanied a January 9 New York Times article about economic development in Bronzeville in the wake of Chicago’s failed Olympics bid. But one detail was missing: Rachel Cromidas is also a 20-year-old undergraduate at the University of Chicago.

The third-year plans to take the spring off to intern full-time with the Chicago News Cooperative, a nonprofit journalism venture that provides local coverage for the Times and launched in late October 2009. UChiBLOGo sat down with Cromidas to talk about Bronzeville, journalism, and the difficulties of taking notes while wearing gloves.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow did you get involved with the Chicago News Cooperative?

QandA_QDrop.jpgThe real story is that I ran into [CNC board member and University of Chicago VP for Civic Engagement] Ann Marie Lipinski at the grocery store. I couldn’t find my wallet, so I backed up the whole line. When I turned around to say ‘I’m sorry,’ it was her—and she recognized me as a student interested in journalism. She said, ‘I know you want to be an investigative journalist, and there might be an opportunity coming up. I can’t talk about it yet, but I’m involved in it, and some other Chicago journalists are involved.’ Later [my friend] said, ‘You totally lost your wallet on purpose!’ and I was like, ‘No, I didn’t!’

It was pretty under-the-radar, but since Ann Marie Lipinski had tipped me off, I asked [Chicago Careers in Journalism adviser] Kathy Anderson what it was about. She got me in touch with the editor, Jim O’Shea, and he gave me an internship.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow long have you wanted to be a journalist?

QandA_QDrop.jpgSince tenth grade, when I started writing for a journal of opinion at my high school that some friends had started. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll write for it,’ because everyone who wrote for it was conservative, and I don’t have very conservative politics. I thought I would give this different perspective. I started reading New York Times columnists, like Maureen Dowd and less inflammatory people like Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof, to get ideas. I ended up really loving their style of writing, and felt like I could mimic it.

QandA_QDrop.jpgIs it ever a struggle to balance your schoolwork and everything else you do?

QandA_QDrop.jpgI love to write, and I write really fast, so I try to take classes with essays and readings. I think I do a pretty good job of managing my time, through keeping really detailed schedules and planning pretty much every hour of my day. I usually don’t feel overwhelmed—or at least I don’t feel more overwhelmed than I’m used to feeling.

But definitely last week, when I was struggling to meet this deadline for the CNC, I really felt like my feet were to the fire in terms of being a full-time student with two jobs, and then living this double life of also being a reporter on a story that needed to get finished. [During class] I would be excusing myself to go to the bathroom so I could take phone calls. I had my phone on silent, but I would keep my phone on my desk so I could tell when it was going off. There was no other way to do it. I didn’t want to miss the first week of classes. I’m hoping now I can keep my priorities on school to get through winter quarter.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was it like to see your byline in the New York Times?

QandA_ADrop.jpgIt was the coolest thing ever. I have for a long time visualized in my daydreams what my name would look like in their nice all caps bold Arial font. I was really anticipating it, even before I thought it was possible I would have something published by the New York Times.

QandA_QDrop.jpgTell me about doing man-on-the-street interviews in Bronzeville.

QandA_ADrop.jpgIt was really cold, and I biked to 35th and Cottage Grove. ... I wore two pairs of gloves, but you can’t take notes with two pairs of gloves on. So I ended up hanging out on the street corner, after the people in Jewel-Osco told me that maybe I should stop interviewing their customers.

And my response was, ‘Well, can I interview a manager?’

QandA_QDrop.jpgYou’re going to have a very long and fruitful career in journalism.

QandA_ADrop.jpg[Laughs] Thank you! Honestly, I don’t know how any journalist does any kind of man-on-the-street thing in winter. There just aren’t people on the street, so there aren’t people to talk to. I just waited until I saw people leaving the apartment buildings around the neighborhood and walking towards the shopping plaza or leaving the shopping plaza to walk towards the apartment buildings. There were very few people to talk to, and my hands were very cold, and I eventually took refuge in an auto shop. It was an experience. The whole time, I just I remember thinking, ‘I’m doing this for the New York Times. I will do anything for the New York Times.’

Susie Allen, AB’09

Allen is the senior editor for the College Web site at the University of Chicago.

Photo courtesy Rachel Cromidas

My own private Idaho

Roche calls Marvel's environmentalism too radical and inflexible, but he still believes there's room for common ground between them. "Because he's right on some things," Roche says. "With fencing, for example. He says, 'All a fence does is move a problem.' And that's exactly right."

For me, pretty much every Magazine feature ends with the same inevitable regrets: the anecdote I couldn’t squeeze in, the quote that didn’t quite fit, the people who gave fascinating interviews but never found their way into the final draft. There are always more stories to tell than space to tell them.

When I put together the Jan-Feb/10 feature story on Jon Marvel, AB’72, an Idaho environmentalist trying to abolish livestock grazing on Western public lands, a lot of good stuff stayed buried in my notes. Animal activist Lynne Stone talked about camping out of her truck among packs of wild wolves for six months at a time, getting to know them as individuals and scaring them off from hunters and ranchers. Marvel had a long yarn about losing all his money to Turkish cardsharps during an undergraduate summer abroad and taking a job as a spotlight operator at the Istanbul Ice Capades until he earned enough to get him back home.

Rancher Charlie Lyons described the enveloping loneliness for a cowboy gathering cattle on the range, and how he used to pretend to look for stray cows as an excuse to drop in on his neighbors. Lyons’s friend Eric Davis, while giving us a tour of his own ranch, drove up to a windswept ridge overlooking Idaho’s vast Owyhee Canyonlands and the mountains of Oregon and Nevada beyond. Turning to Lyons in the back seat, Davis said—with a rush of emotion flooding his cheeks—that when he died, he wanted his ashes scattered on the high Shoofly Bench across the valley. “You can see every direction from there.”

But the story I most regretted not being able to tell was about Jeff Roche. Twenty years ago Roche and his family bought the Utah ranch where his father had worked as manager when Roche was growing up. Since then they’ve expanded the place and begun renting out its hunting grounds and hosting City Slickers-like adventures. For family reunions and church groups, the Roches, who are Mormon, offer re-enactments of the arduous handcart treks that Joseph Smith's pioneer followers made across the Great Plains a century and a half ago.

Roche is a rancher—and not the only one—interested in protecting the environment. He’s worked with federal agencies that manage public lands on projects to eradicate invasive weeds and reseed the ground with native grasses. To preserve streambeds, he took part in an experimental program that sent a herder out to move cattle off the creek when they started to congregate there for too long. (A more conventional solution has been to fence creeks off for miles—a measure that ends up limiting wild animals’ access too—and then to divert the water into metal troughs for livestock.)

A year ago Roche ran up against Marvel’s brick wall. He’d applied for permission to switch some of his sheep-grazing permits to cattle-grazing, to create a buffer for a herd of wild bighorn sheep, which are susceptible to disease from domestic sheep. Roche had jumped through hoops for the wildlife-agency and public-lands officials. He’d gotten a group of bighorn advocates on board, and he’d spent $100,000 on a scientific study backing his claim. But when he filed his application, Marvel opposed it. Roche decided to drive up to Marvel’s headquarters in Hailey, Idaho, to sweet-talk him out of his objections.

No such luck. Roche says Marvel shook his hand and offered him a seat and glass of water. And then told him no. Nothing would convince him to drop his opposition. What Marvel’s after, Roche discovered, isn’t compromise with public-lands ranchers. He wants them gone.

Roche left Hailey shaken and disappointed, but undeterred—and still on friendly terms with Marvel. For one thing, the two agree on some of the environmental problems affecting public lands, if not on how to fix them. “I keep thinking,” Roche says, “if I keep communications open with Jon, maybe we can both…” He trails off. “Well, I know two things. You catch more flies with syrup than you do with vinegar. And I have no money to back me, and he does. So what’s the point of going to battle with him? If I beat Jon Marvel, I’ve got to beat him another way.”

Lydialyle Gibson

Photo by Dan Dry

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2009 is the previous archive.

February 2010 is the next archive.

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

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