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June 2010 Archives

June 2, 2010

Deep Matisse

A curator and her team go below the surface to make new discoveries about the French painter and sculptor.

If you think that languid nudes and colorful cutouts define the work of Henri Matisse, think again. The exhibition "Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917" reveals a surprising and pivotal period in the artist’s career. Stephanie D’Alessandro, AM’90, PhD’97, co-curated the show at the Art Institute of Chicago, which critics have called "thrilling," "spectacular," and "easily as demanding as it is intelligent." D’Alessandro spoke to UChiBLOGo about the project in a May interview.

Curator-2.jpgHow did the Matisse exhibition come about?

I’ve been at the Art Institute since 1998, and we hadn’t had a modern European painting or sculpture exhibition for some time. As a modernist, I knew this was something I wanted to do, and Matisse was a logical candidate. Early on, I began to think about our painting Bathers by a River, which ultimately was the origin of inspiration for this exhibition. In 1909 one of Matisse’s great patrons—a Russian collector named Shchukin—asked the artist to make two decorative panels for the staircase of his home in Moscow. The two paintings that were finished for that commission were Dance II and Music. But many scholars have suggested that Bathers by a River was somehow related to them.

What happened next?

Around 2005 we took Bathers by a River down from the galleries and started to do some initial research that then led to a longer study. That meant going back to the files, pulling all the historical documents together, and surveying the literature. Also, every work in the exhibition was subjected to a very detailed study in the conservation lab where we looked at X-rays; we looked at the painting with infrared reflectography, which is a kind of camera that allows you to see under-drawing, like the very early sketch of something. We also looked at the paintings with high-powered microscopes. Then I brought all the information that existed at that time, and with a conservator from our team plus someone at the Museum of Modern Art, we looked at the work together. As we began to look at a group of works, there was a new body of growing information about how Matisse began changing the compositions and how he produced them. It was eye-opening.Matisse-Bathers.jpg

What do you hope this show will contribute?

In the past, scholars have often pointed to this period, 1913-17, as one of the most ambitious for Matisse, one of the most experimental. I think that what this exhibition offers is a very close understanding of what that really means. There are beautiful paintings in this exhibition and in the catalog that have been marveled at over the years, but they’ve seemed like anomalies within Matisse’s career. I hope that people will agree that because of the new research we’ve been able to do to suggest the chronology and the timeline of his progress—as well as to dig in deeply to how these things were made—we can appreciate how Matisse executed this grand transition and how the works relate to each other. I think we can now see a very deep connection between this period of time and the rest of Matisse’s career.

Do you ever sneak into the galleries to see how visitors are reacting to the show?

I try to go in the galleries as much as I can to look at the paintings, and I always see things that I didn’t see before. It’s a joy to have worked so hard on something with great personal delight, but it’s also wonderful to walk into the exhibition and see so many people there. It just makes you feel like it was worth it.

You had a lot of help with this project.

My colleague John Elderfield at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and I worked really hard on the idea. The research was executed by a team of conservators, curators, technicians, and researchers from the Art Institute and MoMA. It wasn’t just art history that led the effort, or science, or technology, or conservation. It was each of these things mutually reinforcing the others.

You’ve said that curating a major exhibition is like doing a PhD. How?

An exhibition of this scale and intellectual and curatorial intention is very much like doing the research for and writing a dissertation. The only added part was imagining how to present it visually on walls, instead of just with a book. You have to make it a visual experience, sell it to the public, and make it understandable and interesting in a different way. It gets very intense, but if you like this kind of work, it’s the thing that you live for.

"Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917," runs at the Art Institute of Chicago until June 20 and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from July 18 to October 11.

Elizabeth Station

Stephanie D’Alessandro (top) is the Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Below, Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Bathers by a River, 1909–10, 1913, 1916–17. Oil on canvas, 260 x 392 cm (102 1/2 x 154 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1953.158. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.

June 4, 2010

Campus walks

Thousands of alumni will walk the quads this weekend. Most mornings, it's quieter.

This morning the main quadrangle has blossomed with Alumni Weekend tents and balloons. Next Saturday, the first all-University Spring Convocation in decades will blanket the expanse in maroon and black robes and a crazy quilt of bright summer dresses (or, should it rain, umbrellas popping up like variegated dandelions).

Most mornings, however, the scene is more serene. I should know. Since the Magazine's offices moved downtown a few summers back, I spend most of my time on the quads before 7:30 a.m.

With dogs, the rule goes, if you do something twice it's coincidence; more than that, it's a law of nature. So, most mornings, Knightley and I make it to the main quadrangle—the route goes through Bixler playlot, west on 56th past Alumni House and Crown Gym, and south through Bartlett Quad.

Good squirrel trees, smelly bits of pavement, the thick brush near Palevsky Commons where young rabbits dart at the sound of dog-tags—we know them all. Our progress through the quads—Classics to Harper to Social Sciences—is punctuated by the smallest of exclamation points. A squirrel gets spotted and the leash jerks. An early-to-work colleague stops to say hello. A maintenance cart drives along the wide limestone path. As Knightley sniffs at bits of flora to see what fauna has gone before him, I have plenty of time to stop and smell the roses—or at least take pictures of the latest campus landscaping.

Then it's back to home and (for me) to work.

Botany Pond (drakes guarding their families are the highlight here).

Terraced landscaping (left) now leads the way to the Regenstein (we stop here to look for nibbling rabbits); on the main quadrangle (where there are almost as many squirrels as flowers).

Peonies bowed by a midnight storm.

Gingko trees outside Chicago Booth's Harper Center.

Mary Ruth Yoe

June 7, 2010

My Brief Encounter with Muhammad Yunus, the Nicest Banker I Know

Harris School student Sohair Omar rubs elbows with the microfinance rock star.

Yunus.jpgThere was a lot of commotion in the lobby of the Hilton Chicago hotel, businessmen coming and going. I had butterflies in my stomach as I waited for Muhammad Yunus to arrive.

I’ve been learning about his work for years, how his group-banking model has helped more than 8 million people, mostly women, start businesses in small villages around the world. Now other banks are following his lead, helping people help themselves. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for this, though you would have never guessed it as he came walking down the hallway...

Read Sohair's story, as told to Steven Yaccino, here.

Muhammad Yunus. Photo courtesy the Harris School

Phoenix Pix: June 7–11, 2010

Alumni Weekend 2010

On June 3–6, alumni, friends, and families returned to celebrate Chicago.

Photography by Dan Dry.

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

June 9, 2010

Skyrockets in flight

Students at the Lab Schools have a little fun in the name of science.

Liftoff! A second grader launches a model rocket on the Midway.

Sam Larson, U-High’03, holds up his hand to grab the children’s attention. "Launching in five!" he intones. The assembled Lab Schools students don’t need any more prompting. They count down with him: "Four! Three! Two! One!" The final word is an unintelligible shout, somewhere between blastoff and liftoff, but all anyone cares to hear is the whoosh of a model rocket racing its way down the Midway Plaisance.

For the past four years, second graders taught by Donna McFarlane (with her assistant, Larson) have built model rockets as a concrete way to pull together a number of different math and science concepts they learn in the classroom. The spring day her students finally get to launch their creations skyward—"Rocket Day"—draws more spectators every year. Children from the Nursery School and kindergarten, and a smattering of students from other grade levels, took up positions on the grassy berm of the Midway to watch the proceedings. The nursery schoolers occasionally started a countdown unbidden, as if the chant would magically produce a rocket launch.

Larson and his friend Ken Hecht, U-High’04, were responsible for running the launch pad; the second graders are kept back a safe distance by their U-High "buddies," a group of high-school volunteers. Larson and Hecht prepped each rocket, but the kids pressed the ignition button themselves. After each rocket’s motor burned out, it coasted for a few seconds before deploying a parachute and descending gently to Earth.

"It’s perfect weather" for rocketry, noted McFarlane, as she waited downrange for the rockets to land. After each launch, a second grader sprinted to retrieve their model with his or her buddy only footsteps behind. The high schoolers are having as much fun as the second graders, McFarlane observed with a smile. Not that they’d ever admit it.





Benjamin Recchie, AB'03

Kids and adults alike enjoy Rocket Day festivities. Photography by Benjamin Recchie

June 11, 2010

Well-read lives

Behind every Norman Maclean Award winner, another inspiring teacher.

large_Kass.jpgFor its few thousand attendees, Alumni Weekend 2010 was a blast. But possibly none of them had quite as good a time as Amy A. Kass, AB’62, senior lecturer in the College. At Alumni Convocation Saturday morning, Kass received one of two Norman Maclean Faculty Awards, voted on by alumni. Later that day, she and her husband, Leon Kass, AB’58, MD’62, the Addie Clark Harding professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College, were the honored guests at a reception to mark their retirement from the University. About 180 former students and other guests showed up to thank two teachers who made the necessity of their Hum and Soc requirements a lasting virtue.

Each Alumni Award recipient was asked to provide a personal statement. The Norman Maclean award honors outstanding teaching, and Kass devoted part of her statement to recognizing a standout teacher of her own, the late Karl Joachim Weintraub, AB’49, AM’52, PhD’57. “Thanks to my teacher and then hero, Jock Weintraub,” she wrote, “I discovered that behind dry books and documents were living authors, agitating and exploring urgent questions, pressing for them and for me.”

I spoke to Kass during the last week of classes and asked her to share some memories of Weintraub. She offered one of her earliest:

The first quarter I was here, one of the courses I took was Western Civ. Mr. Weintraub was not then the popular teacher that he became. Everyone wanted to get into Mr. Mackauer’s section, the leavings went to Mr. Weintraub, and I was part of that. But oh my, what an impact he had on me. I think it was the end of the second week of class when he said to me in his heavy German accent, “Miss Apfel. Come to my office, I want to speak with you.” He was tall. He always taught standing up. And he never lost a grain of his accent all the years he was here. We were all intimidated by him, and I, perhaps, especially so.

So I went with fear and trembling to his office, and he said to me, “What are you going to do in graduate school?” I said, “What? I haven’t given it any thought.” And I made some kind of nonsensical conversation for the next ten minutes until it was polite enough for me to leave. As I was running down the stairs from his office on the fifth floor of Gates-Blake, I stopped the first person I met and asked, “What is graduate school?”

Coming from my family, I knew one and only thing: one went to college in order to become a doctor, and, if not a doctor, then a lawyer. What graduate school was or why one might go was beyond me. But shortly after I figured that out, I also figured out that I wasn’t going to be premed. I convinced my father that I could do it but didn’t want to, and I proceeded to major in Tutorial Studies, which involved creating one’s own program. At least for me, that meant the opportunity to concentrate on historiography or, basically, to major in Jock Weintraub. Years later, when we returned to Chicago, Jock, then dean of the humanities, was largely responsible for getting me a job teaching in the College.

The end of that story was the beginning of another, a story that became, as Kass put it in her statement of purpose some 34 years later, her “life-work: teaching people to read great books slowly and critically, to refine their ideas, to enlarge their sympathies, and to aspire to a richer life beyond self-centered quests for gain, fame, or power. What wonderful gifts!”

The people she taught agree.

Laura Demanski, AM’94

June 14, 2010

Convocation a rainy success

A downpour drenched the first unified Spring Convocation since 1929, but the University community soaked up the atmosphere.


In devising the first University Convocation in 1892, founding president William Rainey Harper saw the occasion as an opportunity to “bestow the proper award for work accomplished…” and “to furnish an opportunity to look back for a moment over the months of work completed,” but also, and more unusually, “to bind together into a unity the many complex and diverging forms of activity which constitute our university life and work.” With this goal in mind, this year the University administration set a bold and daunting challenge: to hold a single, unified Spring Convocation for the first time since 1929.

For the past eight decades, spring convocations have been split into two, then three, and finally four sessions, held originally in Rockefeller Chapel, and since 1998, in Harper Quad. To bring the entire University together would require an even larger venue, and an imposing logistical challenge: host as many as 20,000 degree candidates, students, faculty, staff, and guests—at once—on the Main Quadrangle.

Staff worked for months to plan the event, an undertaking that involved renting some 22,000 folding chairs, erecting a huge temporary stage along University Avenue, and recruiting hundreds of staff and student volunteers. The event's emergency plan had to be amped up to include a weather monitoring radar system, a second ambulance on stand-by, three bicycle-mounted medics patrolling the Quad, and an evacuation plan. All turned out to be needed, given two ill guests and one sudden cloudburst that convinced many celebrants to monitor the rain-or-shine ceremony from Ryerson, Kent, Swift, and Rosenwald Halls. Not all guests felt the need to seek cover, however: the young family of one Harris School candidate was seen taking advantage of the scattering crowd to move into seats closer to the stage.

One of the trickier parts of planning for a new event of this scale is ordering the right number of the items that help guests stay comfortable throughout the day—bottles of water in case of heat and ponchos in case of rain—knowing that one will inevitably turn out to be far more in demand than the other. Turns out, there is plenty of water left over for the 504th Convocation on August 27th, but a new shipment of ponchos need to be ordered.






Kyle Gorden, AB'00

Not even a downpour could dampen Convocation festivities. Photography by Dan Dry

June 16, 2010

Pedal power

UChicago's Office of Sustainability makes biking on campus a priority.

Boyer.jpgThe University's Office of Sustainability has already made its opinion on bicycling known: it's kind of an awesome—and environmentally friendly—alternative to driving to campus, where there's limited parking. September 2009 marked the launch of the office's ReCycles program, which provides 22 free bikes for students, faculty, and staff to check out and use.

This week marks Chicago's 20th Bike to Work Week (organized by the Active Transportation Alliance), and the sustainability office is coordinating the University's participation, advertising on University Web sites and spreading the word around campus. Although the office doesn't have stats yet on how many UChicago people are trading their cars for bikes, 12 University departments have registered—the highest number of any participating university, says Katie Anson, administrative assistant to the associate vice president and University architect. By the end of the week, the team leaders for each department will submit the information to the alliance. The teams that have the most members bike to work at least once win prizes from event sponsors, which include Goose Island Brewery, Caribou Coffee, and Village Cycle Center.

UChiBLOGo spoke to Anson about cycling on campus:

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow many people ride their bikes to or around campus on a regular basis?
QandA_ADrop.jpgAccording to a transportation study conducted in 2005, on average 1,000 people commute to campus via bicycle. User registration for ReCycles has been growing exponentially. There are now more than 700 registered users, and on average there are nearly 100 check-out transactions per week.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat is the most bizarre bike you've seen on campus?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe haven’t seen any bizarre bikes around campus, but we do get excited when we see students, staff, and faculty riding around on the refurbished ReCycles bikes. We have seen ReCycles bikes on the lakefront path, and someone has reported a ReCycles bike sighting downtown on the "L"!
QandA_QDrop.jpgI know it's early, but what kinds of feedback have you gotten so far from staff, faculty, and students about the event?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe have received positive responses about the event, primarily from University staff. People have expressed interest and enthusiasm, particularly those who already bike or who have been considering biking. We are really excited by the amount of interest expressed on campus about Bike to Work Week. Alternative transportation, along with recycling and sustainable food options, is an issue that has a lot of traction in our sustainability program. We’re happy to provide opportunities to commute on two wheels.

Ruthie Kott, AM'07

Dean of the College John Boyer, AM'69, PhD'75, hops on his bike during Alumni Weekend. Photography by Dan Dry

June 18, 2010

Bizarre-ketplace 4: Gut loaded

If garden pests are bugging you, Elise Covic, PhD'10, has just the solution.

Mantids.jpgAt the end of the academic year, UChicago Marketplace is infused with a sense of panic as graduating students seek to unload furniture, clothing, books, and random items like molecular model kits. “Price is negotiable!!” read one listing for a $200 dining table. “$50 OFF IF YOU PICK IT UP BY THURSDAY!”

Against this backdrop of crazed possession-dumping, Elise Covic’s listing, “Pet Praying Mantids/Natural Pesticide” stood out even more than it might have ordinarily. The listing included a large color photo, assurance that releasing mantids to the wild was legal and environmentally sound, and detailed instructions for pet care: “Make sure the prey has been gut loaded (feed a vitamin-enriched food to the prey, which will be passed on to the mantis).”

Covic, PhD’10, a researcher in Murray Sherman’s neurobiology lab, had this to say about her unusual hobby and her failed attempts to make money at it.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow did you get into raising mantids?
QandA_ADrop.jpgA few summers ago I was tutoring this kid in second-grade math. One day he showed me his mantid enclosure and all these little baby mantids. I thought they were the coolest little creatures—so cool that I couldn’t pay attention to tutor him that day. I went home and bought a couple of pods online that night.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhere do you buy mantid pods?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYou can get them quite easily, actually. A lot of organic garden supply companies sell them as beneficial insects/natural pesticide. I have a balcony garden, and there were all these aphids and annoying little bugs eating my basil. But I didn’t want to put any pesticide down in case I needed to use my ovaries one day.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat does your boyfriend think about all the mantids in your apartment?
QandA_ADrop.jpgHe thinks it’s cool, up to a certain extent. He’s working on his dissertation right now, on economic crises. This year, when the first pod hatched, I stormed in there screaming. He gets kind of annoyed that I’m always trying to stop him to come look at the bugs. My old roommate and I used to like to sit on the back porch, drinking beer and watching the mantids hunt. We could do that for hours.
QandA_QDrop.jpgIs this the first year you tried to sell the hatchlings on Marketplace?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYes. In a 24-hour period, I had two pods hatch. I was incredibly poor, because I’m a new graduate—but I’m a terrible businesswoman. I pretty much gave them away to anyone who seemed interested. I sold, I think, a group of five mantids for $10. I gave away at least 50, mostly to undergrads who wanted them for pets.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDid your pods this year come from mantids you raised?
QandA_ADrop.jpgNo. I release so many outside every year, and I keep looking for their pods, but I can’t find any. They’re $12 for five pods, so it’s easier just to buy them. Last year I tried breeding them, but that didn’t exactly work out. If they did anything, I didn’t catch it. Maybe I needed some Barry White music.
QandA_QDrop.jpgAnything else you want to say about mantids?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe have lab mantids every year. We name each mantis after a neuroscientist. Last year’s mantis was Eric Kandel. Our Chinese mantis this year was Mu-Ming Poo. And the European one is Bert Sakmann. You have to keep them as separate as possible or they’ll start to eat each other.

Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93

A garden gnome cowers as a freshly hatched praying mantis (lower right) approaches. Photography by Elise Covic.

June 21, 2010

Graphic Reading, Part One

Summer is here, and the graphic-novel gurus at the Seminary Co-op have your reading list ready.

When you wrestle with words all day, there’s nothing like a big book with pictures. Three serious readers who tend the "Graphica" section at the Seminary Co-op think so, anyway. To accommodate the expanding popularity of graphic novels and comics, the bookstore offers a growing selection of the genre. Assistant manager Heather Ahrenholz, AB’94, and staffers Doug Riggs, AM’04, and Greg Pearson shared this list of recommended titles, keeping UChicago readers in mind.
1. To Teach: The Journey, in Comics, William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner. A graphic-novel version of Bill Ayers’s memoir, from his perspective as an educator and school-reform activist.

2. Wilson, Daniel Clowes, U-High’79. These cartoons by Lab Schools alum Clowes—the author of Ghost World—feature a "navel-gazing, socially inept, perpetually depressed, but somehow appealing" protagonist.

3. The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, R. Crumb. The legendary underground cartoonist’s take on the first book of the Bible.

4. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, Apostolos Doxiadis. The life and thought of Bertrand Russell, including his encounters with the philosophers Frege, Hilbert, Gödel, and Wittgenstein and his study of the foundations of mathematics. Really.

5. Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-1966), Jules Feiffer. The first in a four-volume collection of "very New York" comic strips published in the Village Voice from 1956 to 2000.

6. The Cartoon Introduction to Economics, Volume One: Microeconomics, Grady Klein, AB’96, and Yoram Bauman. The former Maroon cartoonist is rumored to have written his entire BA paper in comic form. Now an award-winning illustrator, he "paired up with the world's only stand-up economist to take the dismal out of the dismal science."

7. The Beats: A Graphic History, Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle, and Ed Piskor. Just out in paperback, a literary and cultural history of the Beat generation and such figures as Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Ferlinghetti.

8. Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco. "Essentially a journalist whose medium is comic strips," Sacco--who wrote Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde--investigates the 1956 Rafah massacre in the Gaza Strip.

9. Market Day, James Sturm. Twenty-four hours in the life of a Jewish rug maker in Eastern Europe, in the early 1900s.

10. Parker: The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke. A "thrilling, violent, and very noir revenge story," the first in a planned series of comic adaptations of the Parker novels by Richard Stark.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the list on UChiBLOGo soon.

Elizabeth Station

Daniel Clowes, U-High’79, explores a man's lonely, disenchanted life in Wilson.

June 23, 2010

Captured in time

Alumna Juanita Tamayo Lott traces the history of Filipino Americans in Washington, DC.

Book-cover.jpgWhile editing the spring/summer edition of social-sciences newsletter Dialogo, I became intrigued by an alumni-news tidbit from Juanita Tamayo Lott, AM’73, about her new book, Filipinos in Washington, D.C. (Arcadia Publishing, 2009). Coauthored with archivist and photographer Rita M. Cacas, the work offers a historical account of DC-area Filipino Americans. It starts with the first settlers, who arrived in 1900, and extends through 1964, when the Capital Beltway now surrounding DC was completed. "Before the Beltway, not as many people owned cars," says Lott. "They lived closer together, and there was a stronger sense of community." Cacas selected and scanned the book's 200-plus archival images. Retired federal demographer and policy analyst Lott, a San Francisco native who moved to the DC-area almost 40 years ago, worked on detailed captions and overall theme. The authors, both of Filipino ancestry, spent hours interviewing descendants of the pioneer generation.

Interested in the locale (one of my previous addresses was in DC) and different cultures, I couldn’t resist ordering a copy. The images range from young families inside exquisite Victorian homes to blushing brides surrounded by taffeta-clad attendants to proud Navy officers posing in crisp uniforms. The photos and accompanying captions illuminate the lives of ambitious families who made their home in America’s capital.

Earlier this month, Lott spoke with UChiBLOGo about how she and Cacas pulled the book together.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow did you and Rita gather all the photographs?
QandA_ADrop.jpgOne thing we did was to announce in the various places these families frequent—for example, churches and businesses: "We are looking for your family albums. Please make sure the photographs are black and white and from before 1964." And there was a family, the Toribios, who had lived in DC and then moved to Cobb Island, off of Annapolis, Maryland, bringing with them thousands of photos packed in Tupperware. Rita and I had access to these wonderful images—some are of the community’s annual balls.
QandA_QDrop.jpgThose photographs of the balls are breathtaking.
QandA_ADrop.jpgPeople cared about how they looked and really dressed up. And, as you can see in the images, even though there was segregation at the time, such events attracted a diverse crowd. One characteristic of Filipino Americans is that we tend to be quite open and receptive to other cultures. A lot of our children are of mixed-heritage. Rita and I also wanted to show that the people in this community saw themselves as Americans. Many of the Filipinos who arrived in Washington came to work for the government and did so via the military—the Navy, in particular, but the Army and Air Force as well. Even if you weren’t a U.S. citizen, if you had served in World War I or II, then you could secure a federal job. Public service was a big deal for these people, as was civic-engagement—getting involved in social groups such as the local woman’s club or the PTA or the taxi association. They joined organizations, and not just those for Filipinos.
QandA_QDrop.jpgEven though the photos are taken from personal family albums, Filipinos in Washington, D.C. seems to hit on a number of broader themes. There are images of war veterans, activists, people who worked for NASA.
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe wanted to go beyond personal stories to talk about history. Significant things happened in the 20th century—wars, economic depressions—that changed people lives. It’s easy to forget that a lot of what we do is not in our control. Major events often determine our ability to move forward or not.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat sort of reception has the book received?
QandA_ADrop.jpgFilipino Americans from other parts of the country have told us that that they can relate to it. They’ve said, “You know, my family had that same journey.”

Katherine Muhlenkamp


Author Shines a Light on Local Filipino Heritage (Gazette.net, January 27, 2010)

June 24, 2010

Toe hold

Soccer blog editor Tom Dunmore, AM'02, knows a thing or two about World Cup fever.

Dunmore.jpgWith Landon Donovan’s heroics in Wednesday’s must-win soccer match prolonging U.S. participation in the World Cup, we have until at least Saturday to prove to our European/South American friends that we really do care about the world’s game. Really, we do. And we know it should be called “football,” thank you very much.

Donovan’s goal qualified the U.S. for the knockout round of the tournament, meaning you can (kind of) make the argument that the U.S. is among the 16 best footballing nations in the world. Doctoral student Tom Dunmore, AM’02, may be one of its most soccer-savvy residents and one of the most engaged fans in Chicago.

The editor of the award-winning soccer blog Pitch Invasion and chairman of Section 8, the Chicago Fire supporters' association, Dunmore has his hands full year-round, even without the World Cup to contend with. He’s also writing a soccer encyclopedia. (The final draft will be submitted after the World Cup, so Dunmore can include it.)

The blog—it's updated multiple times a day by Dunmore, several contributors, and an associate editor—covers soccer in the way Freakonomics looked at economics. “The idea was to look at soccer from more of a cultural perspective. We don’t really do game analysis or breakdowns of games or recent trades,“ Dunmore told me over the phone Tuesday. “We look at issues of gender, race, how they intersect with the game. There are endless intersections with society that are quite interesting...looking at the development of the game in the U.S., how it’s growing.”

Part of his goal is writing stories the mainstream U.S. media doesn’t cover—America’s familiar it’s-World-Cup-time-so-I-care-about-football conundrum—and it’s pretty hard work. “It takes up a lot of time, but through doing it I’ve gotten an awful lot of positive feedback and we’ve covered some stories that people might not have heard about,” he says, like this argument for why more statistical analysis won't improve soccer's visibility in America, no matter what ESPN says.

Dunmore, who's lived in America since 2001—a span of three World Cups—cites this year's competition as "definitely the most excitement I’ve seen. I’ve noticed a lot more places around town showing the games.”

Soccer is also getting more popular at the U of C. (Dunmore remains enrolled at the U of C, although he admits his dissertation—on U.S. foreign policy in the 1970s—hasn’t been a priority lately. “It’s really fallen off the radar for me the last year; I miss doing some of that,” he says.) With a lot of graduate students from overseas, there are often pick-up games on campus, if you know where to look. “There were a few of us who were getting a bit long in the tooth to be out there, especially in the hot sun of the summer," says Dunmore. "But there’s definitely a big culture of playing and it’s growing in [terms of] following the game."

A Brighton and Hove Albion fan as a kid, Dunmore believes one should root for the local team, wherever "local" happens to be—hence his involvement with the Chicago Fire. As for his take on the soccer/football debate, he keeps with the home-pitch advantage, calling the game soccer in the U.S., especially because “there’s already a more popular sport called football.”

Don’t worry, Tom, we know what it's really called. Besides, American football hasn’t really been that popular at the U of C since we dropped out of the Big 10 waaay back in 1939.

Asher Klein, '11

Soccer guru Tom Dunmore counts himself a fan of local Chicago teams.

June 25, 2010

From scientist to activist

Jane Goodall's journey continues, preaching hope for the future of the planet as she protects chimps and their habitats.

Goodall1.jpg“Sometimes to save the place you love, you have to leave the place you love.” That’s what primatologist Jane Goodall told a capacity crowd last month at Rockefeller Chapel, concluding a talk on humans, their closest animal cousins, and the uncertain future of Africa’s equatorial forest.

In 1986, Goodall left Gombe National Park, after having spent nearly her whole adult life there studying chimpanzees to whom she gave names like Goliath and David Greybeard and Flo and Freud. Since then, she hasn’t stayed anywhere for more than three weeks at a time; instead, she travels constantly, campaigning for better treatment of great apes and their disappearing habitats. On the Friday before Mother’s Day, she came to Rockefeller, and as the audience stood and clapped, she swept down the aisle toward the pulpit in a turquoise shawl, surrounded by a flock of paper doves carried aloft by Lab Schools students.

For the next 90 minutes, Goodall talked about her work, recalling her arrival at Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika—50 years ago this year—as a 26-year-old secretary hired by anthropologist Louis Leakey and chaperoned by her mother. Struck by her passionate curiosity about African wildlife, Leakey had invited Goodall to do a field study of chimpanzees in western Tanzania. “I would have done anything,” Goodall said, “I would have studied any animal to be out in the bush.”

And so, her adventure began. As a renowned, sometimes controversial researcher, Goodall watched chimpanzees parenting their offspring and modifying tools to feed themselves. She saw them kiss and pat each other on the back, smile and swagger, hunt for food and attack each other with astonishing violence. She recorded a four-year war that began in 1974 and ended with the annihilation of one whole chimpanzee troop. “What’s clear after 50 years,” she told her Rockefeller audience, “is that chimpanzees help us understand our own position in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom.” Increasingly, it turns out, the difference between us and them is “a very blurry line.”

Goodall decided to depart Gombe after attending a 1986 conference called Understanding Chimpanzees, held in Chicago. Speaker after speaker described the destruction of the African rainforest, the illegal trade in chimpanzee bushmeat, and the cruel treatment of chimps in medical research labs. “It was shocking,” Goodall said. “I went into that conference as a scientist and came out an activist.”

Since then, the Jane Goodall Institute has worked to save the African rainforest and the animals that live there. Its programs rescue orphaned chimps and train “eco-guards” to patrol protected areas; they educate local farmers on sustainable agriculture and distribute microloans to villagers to buy fuel-efficient, tree-saving stoves. Goodall said conservation has also led her to a fight against poverty, “one of the most terrible destroyers of the natural world.” Her Roots & Shoots program enlists schoolchildren all over the world to participate in environmental projects—recycling, cleaning up public parks, volunteering at animal shelters. Young people need to feel involved and hopeful about the world they will inherit, she said; in order to take part in the effort to save the environment, they must believe it can be saved. “If we don’t dare to envision such a world, it will never come."

Before taking a few questions from children in the audience (“Which chimpanzee did you learn from the most?” “Flo,” who raised numerous offspring at Gombe, taught researchers a lot about family relationships and infant development) and retiring to Rockefeller’s foyer to sign books and pose for photos, Goodall closed her talk with a story she often shares, about a chimp named Jo-Jo—orphaned as an infant and raised in captivity—who lost a showdown with another male at the Detroit Zoo and, terrified, jumped into a moat circling the enclosure. He nearly drowned, but a man watching with his family plunged in after Jo-Jo, risking his life to save the chimp, even as the other animals were bearing down on them. In a video of the incident, captured by another zoo visitor, Goodall said, you could see the man, Rick Swope, look at Jo-Jo and then his family and then back at Jo-Jo as he decided to jump over the railing. Later when asked why he did it, Swope said, “I happened to look into his eyes and it was like looking into the eyes of a man. And the message was, ‘Won't anybody help me?’”

Read Jane Goodall's account of Jo-Jo's rescue in full.

Lydialyle Gibson

Goodall speaks to a full house in Rockefeller Chapel this past May. Photography by Anne Benvenuti.

June 28, 2010

Graphic Reading, Part Two

Ready to get serious about comics? Here are more picks from the folks who tend the "Graphica" section at the Seminary Co-op bookstore.

ap1.jpgSuperheroes. Bad guys. Philosophers who kick butt. The protagonists in comics and graphic novels can be larger than life, but "I have a hard time qualifying what I read as escapism," says Doug Riggs, AM’04. Deeper themes lurk under the pop-culture packaging. Riggs and fellow Seminary Co-op staffers Greg Pearson and Heather Ahrenholz, AB’94, recommend these titles as some of the best. For the first ten, click here.

11. The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You, Neil Gaiman. This stand-alone story provides an accessible entry point into Gaiman’s "dense and complicated" Sandman series, published from 1989 to 1996.

12. Carnet de Voyage, Craig Thompson. A whimsical travelogue and sketch book from the author of the moody comic memoir Blankets.

13. Demo, Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Dark, deep coming-of-age stories about young adults, some of whom have supernatural powers.

14. Runaways, Brian K. Vaughan. An award-winning Marvel series about kids who discover their parents are super-villains.

15. Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Lan Medina. The conceit is simple; the series is "phenomenal"—fairy tale characters are exiled to modern-day Manhattan.

16. Walt and Skeezix, Frank King and Chris Ware. Graphic novelist Ware gathered King’s Gasoline Alley comics, published in 1920s daily newspapers, into this "wonderful Chicago book."

17. Moomin, Tove Jansson. Readers young and old will enjoy these classic comics about Finnish trolls.

18. Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives (Vol. 1), by Steve Ditko and Blake Bell. "Dark and twisted" early work from the co-creator of Spiderman.

19. Action Philosophers! Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy. Comic profiles of the world’s great thinkers, from the pre-Socratics to Derrida.

20. Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli. The illustrator of Batman:Year One drew this tale of a middle-aged architect, a good crossover book for graphic-novel neophytes.

21. All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. "Touching, well-drawn, and wonderfully imaginative," twelve new episodes reveal the softer side of the Man of Steel.

Elizabeth Station

June 30, 2010

Fractured finances

In Fault Lines, Chicago Booth’s Raghuram Rajan identifies surprising factors at the center of the economic crisis.


Chicago Booth professor Raghuram Rajan saw the financial crisis coming years ahead of time, even spoiling a 2005 celebration for Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to say so. Back then Rajan’s warnings were received with the kind of disdain reserved for someone worrying about a hangover while the champagne’s still being poured. Or worse: “I felt like an early Christian who had wandered into a convention of half-starved lions.”

Because the risks he identified registered on an economic Richter scale in 2008, Rajan’s new book Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy (Princeton University Press) carries the weight of retroactive respect. He told us so. Now reviewers from the Economist to Esquire have come to praise his perceptive view of the crisis and a still-ominous global financial future.

Rajan, the Eric J. Gleacher distinguished service professor of finance, identifies an unexpected cause of the crisis: American income inequality. As the gap increased, he argues, politicians wallpapered the problem with cheap credit. The banks that offered it and the consumers who took it were simply responding to incentives that produced untenable risks. “The worrying reality is that both are to blame,” Rajan writes, “but neither may have been fully cognizant of the fault lines guiding their actions.”

His remedies combine “free-market Chicago School economics with good-government ideas straight out of Obamaland,” Esquire’s John H. Richardson writes, including expanding access to education, extending unemployment benefits, and improving health care. Insufficient safety nets, Rajan suggests, fueled the unsustainable political and economic remedy he dubbed, “Let Them Eat Credit.” A former International Monetary Fund chief economist, Rajan also supports reforms that would allow the IMF “to play a greater role in sorting out the macroeconomic imbalances that underlay the crisis.”

Rajan does not cast victims or villains in retrospect: “To him, this was a Greek tragedy in which traders and bankers, congressmen and subprime borrowers all played their parts,” David Wessel writes in the Wall Street Journal, “until the drama reached its inevitably painful end.”

Jason Kelly

About June 2010

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

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