« February 2011 | Main | April 2011 »

March 2011 Archives

March 1, 2011

The smartest stylist in Chicago

Not unlike the editor he planned to become, Jason Berg spends his days trimming and adding color.

Soon after I walk into Salon Fete in Lincoln Park, Jason Berg, AB'04, sits me in his chair. We talk highlights (let's go warmer, we decide), cut (we won't go too short), and style (I straighten my hair, so he'll dry and flat-iron it before pulling out the scissors). A few minutes later he's wrapping my hair in foil, segment by painstaking segment.

Berg, who earned his cosmetology certificate in 2006 and finished a high-end training program in 2007, graduated college thinking he'd use his English degree to go into editing or publishing. "But those jobs weren't happening," he said, so he considered beauty school, picking up on a hobby he'd nurtured since childhood. Growing up in Denver as one of seven kids, he'd practiced on his sisters' hair, and in college he did his own and his friends' 'dos.

Now he rents a chair at the salon, where his services are not cheap but his skill is evident. I walk out of the salon 2.5 hours later, pretty sure I like it. A few days later my dentist, of all people, confirms it's a winner. She's been admiring my hair color since I walked in, she says. "Who did it?" I happily hand her Berg's card.

Berg's style sense goes beyond hair: on his blog he covers hairdos as well as music and pop culture (even with his U of C friends who come in for hair appointments, he doesn't talk Thucydides: "People want to relax," he says). And he's hip enough to have made the Time Out Chicago Singles issue. Hair might not be what he originally had in mind, but by now he seems to have wrapped his head around it.

Amy Braverman Puma

Jason Berg shows off his tools at Salon Fete.

March 3, 2011

Pencil pusher

An illustration of how one busy mom distracted her son—and made an artist out of him.

By Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

When Core editor Laura Demanski and I saw Laura Shaeffer’s sketchbook—full of tender, but unsentimental drawings of her sons Jasper, 8, and Sebastian, 6—we knew she would be the perfect illustrator for one of the feature stories in the winter issue

"Bringing Up Baby," by David Hoyt, AB'91, was full of big thoughts about the small moments of parenting: taking his son to the playground, watching him get his first shots, picking up pinecones and chip packets, using stickers as potty-training bribes.

Shaeffer was excited about the project and started producing sketches. But then her younger son broke his leg. He had to stay home from school for weeks, growing more bored and irritable by the day. With little time to work and the deadline approaching, Shaeffer employed a classic parenting trick: “Hey, boys! Let’s play illustrator!”

Sebastian did not buy it. But Jasper took the assignment very seriously, producing the full list of drawings that art director Aaron Opie had requested.

One afternoon I interviewed Jasper about his first commissioned work—all the while being hampered by Benjy, my own seven-year-old, who refused to go upstairs and watch “Tom and Jerry” as he was told.

QandA_QDrop.jpgSo you did these in December. Do you remember what that (above) was supposed to be?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Yeah, monkeys on a playground.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat do you see, when you look at your own drawing?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: A bunch of monkeys on a playground.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you like it?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I guess. The monkeys weren’t my best.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd then there’s this one—
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That was a doodle of a butterfly. That was a chip bag, turning into a butterfly. I think that was a bottle and—I’m not entirely sure what that thing is.
QandA_QDrop.jpgA pine cone, maybe?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Oh yeah, a pine cone.
QandA_QDrop.jpgSo you tried to make the butterfly and the chip bag look the same, and the bottle and the pine cone look the same?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: No. I just drew a bottle and a pine cone.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDon’t you think they kind of look the same, though?

QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I think the butterfly and the chip bag look the same. But that’s just how the pine cone turned out.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was this one?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That was supposed to be “wasp-like rage” [The four-month-old's understandable reaction to receiving his first shots].
QandA_QDrop.jpgOh. He doesn’t look mad though.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: He turns into a hornet. It’s hard to make hornets look mad.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHe looks happy. He looks like a happy little hornet.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Really? I thought hornets were just naturally mad.
QandA_QDrop.jpgI think this is my favorite one.
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: I think it’s funny.
Jasper: I like babies in suits.
Benjy: I want to look at the lizard! (Crosses room)

QandA_QDrop.jpgThese are also really awesome. Tell me about them.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: That’s a pop-up book [left], and a bunch of big adult books [middle].
Benjy: The lizard’s mad!
Jasper (to Benjy): No, it’s not.
Benjy: It looks mad every time it looks at me!
QandA_QDrop.jpgSadly, we could not use this [right]. No pictures of poo in the Core.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: My mom told me to do that. That’s what it said to do.
QandA_QDrop.jpgYou put stickers all over his arm. And poo equals stickers.
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Yeah.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd what’s this?
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: A ton of hands on a hand!
Jasper: No. A kid’s head in the sandbox.
QandA_QDrop.jpgOh, right. Did you have the stories to read yourself, or did your mom read them to you?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I didn’t even read the stories.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich one is your favorite drawing?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I liked the kid in the suit. That was the most fun.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich one was the least fun?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: The poo one. This was one of the drawings when I just said, look, I’m done with this. Let me do something else.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow long did it take you to produce all of these illustrations?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: Half an hour.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you think you did a good job?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: I don’t know. I’d say no.
QandA_ADrop.jpgBenjy: The lizard is trying to bite me!
Jasper: Did I say no? I meant maybe.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDo you ever think you might want to do illustration again?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJasper: No. I’m done. I’m more into magic now.
Benjy: Are you really magic? Tell me what tricks you do.

[end of interview]

March 4, 2011

Consonant craving

Georgian folk songs resound at Wednesday's Div School lunch

By Lydialyle Gibson

"It's very Georgian to have singing as part of the feast," Clayton Parr said as he and fellow members of Ensemble Alioni stood up from their meals—and the rest of the room dug into fruit-and-cream desserts—to begin their performance at this Wednesday's Div School lunch. Based at DePaul University, where Parr is a music professor and choral-activities director, Ensemble Alioni performs folk music from Georgia (Caucasus, not Appalachia): polyphonic, three-part harmonies about everything from work and war to religious holidays and historical figures. At the Div School, the group offered up a lullaby and Christmas songs that would have been sung house-to-house. ("A little like wassailing," Parr said. "Actually, a lot like it.")

Then the singers invited the audience to join them in an Easter song, "Kriste Aghsdga." Instructed Parr: "Just move as quickly as you can through the consonants to get to the next vowel," as listeners stared down at Xeroxed lyrics packed with consonants. "Krist'e aghsdga mk'vdretit," read the first line. The results were much more melodious than the words might have looked:

As the lunch hour came to an end, Ensemble Alioni found time for one more, closing with a war song that drew a laugh:

The group will hold its spring concert May 20 at 8 p.m. at St. Josaphat Church, 2311 N. Southport, Chicago.

Flying circus

An evening with the spectacular Le Vorris & Vox.

By Asher Klein, '11

Some students tutor high schoolers. Some of us write for the newspaper. Some play with fire, stand on their friends' shoulders, and dance suspended in air on two long ribbons.

These are the performers of Le Vorris & Vox, the University's circus/masque, leaping through Rockefeller Chapel Thursday, dramatizing the struggle of life, love, pain, and death. Their ringleader narrated a tragicomic trip through the underworld, where it seemed ghouls and the souls of those who died in love bounced around forever searching for some kind of resolution, dancing tangos when meeting old flames and building human pyramids for...some reason I didn't quite catch. With its inventive costumes, sultry lighting and music, and interest in the movement of the human form, Le Vorris & Vox is more interested in aesthetics than simple storytelling.

Its blend of clowning, metaphysical storytelling, and acrobatics is most familiar in Cirque du Soleil, though the group traces its roots to a more local source—a 2002 class with Malynne Sternstein on the circus through the years. Le Vorris & Vox feel like a work in progress, not too polished but the fun is catching. While the themes were perhaps a little mature for the children in the audience, they oohed and aahed through the whole thing.

March 8, 2011

Cat in the belfry

Modo the cat livens up Rockefeller Chapel.

By Rhonda L. Smith


One Tuesday evening last fall, a couple of students showed up at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel just as a restorative yoga class was about to begin. The instructor welcomed them and directed them to take blankets and sit down. After a couple of minutes one student said, “We really only came to see the cat.”

Reverend Elizabeth Davenport, dean of Rockefeller Chapel, laughs as she tells that story, which demonstrates the impression Modo has made since joining the staff. Modo, short for Quasimodo, holds the title Chapel Cat/General Health and Wellness of Rockefeller Chapel.


Davenport adopted Modo, an orphaned kitten left at a veterinary clinic, and brought him to the chapel on October 2, 2010, when he was just six weeks old. Appropriately enough, the bells were ringing on his arrival. Davenport informed him that “his namesake of old had swung on carillon bells and that he better get used to the carillon and organ.” He was introduced to the community the next day at the Third Annual Interfaith Blessing of the Animals.

Five months later, the sleek black-and-white cat is not only unfazed by the bells and the organ but is curious about all types of sounds, from printers to snow blowers. If he hears something interesting outside, he runs up his six-foot tower to look out the window. This winter the snowstorms gave him quite a show.

Modo“There’s a long history of cathedrals in Europe having a cat,” says Davenport, who's originally from England. “They take care of mice, not that we have mice at Rockefeller, of course—at least not that I’m aware of. If we did, Modo would get them.” From Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century to Julian of Norwich in the 14th century, “there’s just sort of a tradition of people who were associated with great religious buildings having their cats.”

Modo spends his time in the dean’s office, helping Davenport and chapel administrator David Wyka with their work or snuggling with his favorite stuffed bear. He’s even listed in the Sunday bulletin, along with his e-mail address for those who want to send fan mail (he already corresponds with a small following). And now that he's settled, he hopes to start a blog.

His antics liven up staff meetings, entertain visitors, and provide comfort to students missing their pets from home. Several times a week, someone visits the chapel just to see him. Davenport says, “We hope he will be around for a long time and entertain a couple of generations of students.”

March 10, 2011

Connecting with veterans

Art initiates life in a discussion about life after war, prompted by the Lyric Opera’s new show, Hercules.

By Asher Klein, '11

A propos of the Lyric Opera’s new production of Handel’s Hercules, set in the modern day in what might be Iraq or Afghanistan, the University and Lyric Opera organized “War Follows Everyone Home,” a talk on the experience of veterans returning home after war. The hour-long discussion included director Peter Sellars, trustee Jack Fuller, former publisher of the Tribune, journalist Julia Keller, and psychology professor John Cacioppo.

March 15, 2011

A room with a view

Sunsets, fireworks, Obama on the Midway—you can see it all from the top of UChicago’s newest residence hall.

By Elizabeth Station

Just over a year ago, when the South Campus Residence Hall opened, campus officials touted the building’s amenities: sunny study lounges, a floor plan that encourages social life—and spectacular vistas of the campus, city, and lakefront for residents whose seniority earned them first dibs on “goal rooms” in the House lottery.

Meg Bowie, ’13, shares a top floor apartment with three others. “It’s just incredible to hang out in here,” she says. “You can see all sorts of stuff—people ice skating, walking around, people you recognize down there. And the skyline is obviously nice.”

On fall evenings, Bowie and her roommates glimpsed fireworks in the distance over Navy Pier. When the Math-Stat building caught fire, they had a bird’s-eye view. When President Obama campaigned on the Midway last November, they watched the set-up before descending to attend the rally.

How did a second-year score such prime real estate? It helped to know a rising fourth-year. Justin Yeh, ’11, got the top lottery pick and pulled in Bowie, along with roommates Matt Phillips and Mark Santana, both ’13. Goal-room occupants don’t have squatters’ rights, so their room assignments for next year will depend on the luck of the draw.

The only downside to living up-market is that the view may be a little too nice. “Since we have this cool space, sometimes people will come by and want to hang out,” says Bowie. “It’s hard to get your work done.”

March 17, 2011

This won’t hurt a bit

Ultramodern technology finds a place at the Oriental Institute.

By Benjamin Recchie, AB’03


I confess that when I was told about a special tour of the Oriental Institute involving “death rays” and ancient artifacts, arranged by William Harms of the University’s News Office for the Chicago Science Writers, I couldn’t help but think about Stargate: SG-1. Upon closer inspection, though, it became clear that this event would have a lot more to do with conserving artifacts than with Richard Dean Anderson. So much the better.

Emily Teeter, PhD'90, research associate at the OI, met our group, accompanied by lab-coat-clad conservators Laura D’Alessandro and Alison Whyte. (“We brought out our good lab coats for this,” confided Whyte.) Teeter led us to the Objects Conservation Lab, where the conservators preserve the artifacts in the OI’s collection. Some artifacts, having been buried for millennia, start to decay upon being unearthed; some decay because of clumsy restoration projects of an earlier generation. Others are coated with pollution from being stored in OI rooms open to the soot-filled Chicago air of the early 20th century. In short, said D’Alessandro, “If they think that something looks unhealthy, they call us.”

The science writers’ interest in the lab rested in the high-tech equipment the conservators use to preserve the past. Whyte uses a scanning electron microscope in the Department of Geophysical Sciences to determine if an artifact has “bronze disease,” a kind of corrosion that can occur when a previously buried artifact is exposed to the air. It’s usually obvious if the fluffy green detritus on the object is bronze disease. However, the treatment is invasive, so the conservators avoid it if there’s any suspicion that it might actually be something else. The microscope can reveal the presence of molecules that make their diagnosis certain. Whyte also uses the electron microscope for investigations; she and Teeter showed a pair of ancient Egyptian makeup palettes that still had cosmetic residue on them; the microscope’s scans revealed the makeup’s exact chemical, uh, makeup.

Then we came to the “death ray," a hand-held infrared laser designed for museums. Called the Compact Phoenix, it vaporizes the top few microns of any residue on an artifact. (See this video of the device in action in Britain.) D’Alessandro explained that each flash of the laser (which, in fact, did faintly resemble a Star Trek phaser) lasts only a fraction of a second, short enough that the all of the beam’s heat is carried away by the vaporized surface material, and none transferred to the artifact. The beam isn’t powerful enough to cause users serious injury (except blindness—the conservators wear heavy-duty protective eyewear when the laser is active). The laser is usually used only when traditional conservation methods have failed, D’Alessandro explained. To demonstrate, she showed a video of the laser being used to remove debris from a strand of fragile, millennia-old Nubian rope.

Last-ditch surgery is far from the lab’s only trade. Teeter consults with the conservators when choosing artifacts for an exhibition, such as the upcoming “Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization.” They can tell her if something is too fragile to be displayed, and sometimes they even suggest a replacement.

The science writers were full of questions. One, referring to the artifacts in front of them, asked how the conservators arrested the aging process. Teeter gestured to her face and joked, “Well, I use cream.”

March 18, 2011

Remembering Mr. Broder

A journalist shares memories of her mentor, David Broder, AB’47, AM’51.

By Suzannah Gonzales, AB’98

David Broder, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who died March 9, has been called the dean of the Washington press corps who set the standard for political reporting. To me he was just Mr. Broder, a mentor.

David Broder

I first met Mr. Broder—I could never bring myself to call him “Dave,” even though his greeting was always “Dave Broder”—in the late 1990s when I worked as a research assistant to Bob Levey, AB'66, then a metro columnist at the Washington Post. It was my first job out of college. Washington and the Post newsroom were intimidating but exciting places during the Lewinsky scandal.

I summoned the courage to approach Mr. Broder's office, which was messy with stacks of paper, to introduce myself. My voice shook. I was a wannabe reporter with close to zero experience. I was sure he was busy and did not have time to talk to me.

He may have been busy, but Mr. Broder welcomed me into his office, and was kind and down-to-earth. His glasses and the pens in his pocket made him human and endearing. That year and periodically over the next several, he took the time to talk with me about journalism and my career, giving me advice about becoming a reporter. While generations and decades of experience separated us, we had a few things in common: we were both from the Chicago area, liked the Cubs and Wrigley Field, were graduates of the University of Chicago, and passionate about journalism.

He suggested that we go out for Cokes, I remember. He took me to lunch. And he laughed while I stood embarrassed when someone in the elevator commented on my platform shoes. (Why did I wear platform shoes to my lunch with David Broder? I will never know. All I can say is that I was young and that Mr. Broder was nice to look past this.)

He helped me land my first full-time reporting job at the Providence Journal, calling an editor there to put in a good word for me as they made their decision. “Yes, she’s still a work in progress,” I remember he recounted of his conversation with the Providence editor. A “but” and other words followed; I wish I could remember what. Whatever they were, they worked. When I shared the news with him that I got the job, he gave me a hug.

We met again in Providence for breakfast when he was in town for a conference. He greeted me warmly and ate Raisin Bran. He told me that the death of legendary publisher Katharine Graham, AB’38, had hit his newsroom hard.

He returned my calls from Florida, where I moved after Providence for another reporting job, and from Austin, where I moved next. We last corresponded about five years ago. I wrote him a letter, congratulating him on winning an alumni award. He wrote me back. He always seemed interested in hearing from me and knowing what I was doing.

I’m not sure why Mr. Broder helped me over the years, but I am grateful for his guidance and encouragement. I’m sad that he’s gone, but I feel lucky to have known him and count him as a mentor.

March 21, 2011

Free to choose

By Elizabeth Station

Photo courtesy Jonathan-Rashad, CC BY 2.0

After voting in Egypt's March 19 referendum, Mahmoud Khairy, a student at Cairo University who spent a quarter at Chicago, sent this update:

I just came now from voting on the constitutional amendments. I really don't know how to describe it. For the first time in my country I feel I'm a human being. My voice makes a difference. For the past two weeks there have been debates about the amendments in the media and on the internet and from all kind of political analysts and public figures. We had dozens of seminars in our college and in cultural centers. But now the mood is like a festival. Lines stretch as far as you can see with men and women laughing and joking; it's as if we are going out for a picnic. Cars on the streets honking their their horns and holding the Egyptian flag. I live by the pyramids and I saw tourist groups stop their cars to take pictures and videos of us; it was the first time I've seen tourists shoot something other than the pyramids! The new civilization is already beginning.

After the results were in, he wrote:

I voted "aye" and the result gladly came in my favor with 77.2 percent. I believe both choices will have the same result but with different techniques. One will bring the reform through a framework of institutions and laws, while the other will depend solely on the vision of individuals for reform. I trust institutions more.
After I came from voting, I saw TV news coverage of the voting places that showed a mute man casting his vote. Democracy for the first time in his life gave him a voice, something he wasn't even born with. That was the most powerful manifestation I have ever seen for democracy.

March 24, 2011

Maroon Lens: Roy Germano

Maroon Lens is an occasional column about alumni filmmakers. In this installment, political scientist-cum-filmmaker Roy Germano, AM'03, explores Mexican immigration from both sides of the border.

By Ruth E. Kott, AM'07

In 2008, while Roy Germano, AM'03, was getting his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin, he filmed a documentary about Mexican immigration to the United States—the economic and social reasons that people leave their home cities and what happens to those left behind. "The problem is the lack of opportunities in the Mexican countryside," one man says in the film.

"I can't make it here," another man argues, "so I have to work in the US." The winner of the 2011 American Library Association Notable Video Award, The Other Side of Immigration has been screened at more than 50 film festivals and university events. Germano, now a visiting assistant professor at UT, has become a popular interview subject on US and Spanish-speaking news networks.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy did you make a documentary in addition to a written dissertation?

QandA_ADrop.jpgMy first introduction to the immigration issue came in 2003, when I worked as a waiter while finishing my master's thesis at U of C. Many of my coworkers at the restaurant—the cooks, the busboys, the dishwashers—were undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Their stories about why they left home to work illegally in the United States inspired me to learn more about the root causes of Mexican immigration.
I enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Texas at Austin and spent much of next three years doing fieldwork in the Mexican countryside. The more research I did in Mexico, the more convinced I became that a deeper understanding of the factors that motivate undocumented immigration could help us design better immigration policies. The challenge for me then was to find a way to make this kind of information accessible to policymakers and the public. My dissertation wouldn’t do the trick. One day it dawned on me that I should try to make a documentary.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat kind of documentary-making experience did you have before making The Other Side of Immigration?
QandA_ADrop.jpgNot very much. My experience was basically limited to some video-production courses I took in high school. But I realize now how valuable those early experiences were. This was 15 years ago—before powerful laptops, digital video, and nonlinear editing software became ubiquitous. I believe that originally learning to edit linearly on tape taught me some important lessons about the fundamentals of editing and nonfiction filmmaking—lessons that I applied and built from when making The Other Side of Immigration.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow did you find your subjects?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI shot most of the film in early 2008 while collecting quantitative data for my dissertation. My research team and I were in the field for about a month, and we surveyed more than 700 households in ten Mexican towns with extremely high rates of out-migration. Along the way I met dozens of individuals—farmers, return migrants, community leaders, and relatives of people who had gone to the United States—who were willing to tell their stories on camera.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow much time did you spend shooting and editing?
QandA_ADrop.jpgFilming lasted about two months. Editing was slow because I had a lot of work to do in developing my technical and storytelling skills. And I was working on the project alone. Lots of 16-hour days with the other eight spent dreaming about the next day’s editing. I submitted a cut to some film festivals after about five months of editing. None were interested. I thought about abandoning the project at that point, but instead decided to start over and completely re-edit the film. The subsequent cut fared much better. But even after the film premiered at the Las Vegas Film Festival in April 2009, a year after I finished shooting, I continued editing for about another year between festivals and university screenings, tweaking things here and there until I finally felt ready to lock in a cut in for the DVD.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat was the most challenging part of making the film?
QandA_ADrop.jpgThe entire undertaking was pretty challenging. Money was definitely an issue. I funded the film with my own savings while living on a $14,000-a-year grad-student salary. That made it impossible to hire a crew or buy fancy equipment. There was a steep learning curve for certain tasks, like translation and subtitling (most of the film is in Spanish). And there was always pressure to keep up with dissertation writing. But looking back, I wouldn’t trade the experience. The process taught me countless lessons and proved to me that I am capable of stretching a dollar and producing a solid film under less-than-ideal circumstances.

QandA_QDrop.jpgWere there any particularly memorable moments?
QandA_ADrop.jpgJust about every interview I conducted was a memorable experience. The people I met in the Mexican countryside were extremely articulate and full of pragmatic insights about this complex issue. They are the true immigration experts. Their eloquence and insights really come across in the film. This tends to surprise some people, I think because so many Americans grow up with the false notion that Mexicans are not articulate or insightful people. But these are just the types of stereotypes I hope the film can play some role in breaking down.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy do you think it’s important to spread this message now?
QandA_ADrop.jpgAnti-immigrant sentiment is at its highest level in a century, and the mainstream media play a significant role in perpetuating myths that immigrants are criminals or here to have anchor babies. So what are Americans to believe if this is the primary way they get information about immigrants? Since I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about this issue, I feel a responsibility to do what I can to counter the myths. With a deeper understanding of the issue, I think many Americans would identify with, if not admire, those who make the very difficult and risky decision to migrate illegally. In itself, empathy and understanding are not policy solutions. But I think empathy and understanding are the first steps in imagining immigration policies that serve everyone better, citizens and immigrants alike.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHave you run into any hostility over the course of the interviews you've done about the film?
QandA_ADrop.jpgMy interviews with Fox News and Telemundo occurred within about an hour of one another. It was interesting to go from one studio to the other, since the two networks tend to present such different perspectives on immigration. But in both cases, everyone was completely professional, and I feel fortunate to have been able to reach such diverse audiences in the same day.
I also had the opportunity to speak with acclaimed journalist Jorge Ramos of Univision recently. I admire him a lot, so it was a big honor to be invited to his show. Although people of all backgrounds and political stripes attend my screenings and speaking engagements, there is rarely any hostility. The film avoids ideological arguments. It is not a left-wing film or a right-wing film. For me, the goal is putting the research out there so people can learn something new and make informed opinions.
QandA_QDrop.jpgTalk about your next project and how it relates to your first film.
QandA_ADrop.jpgWhile The Other Side of Immigration focuses entirely on Mexico, my next documentary will look more at border issues and immigration policy from the US perspective. I’m interested in making another film about immigration because, again, I think there are still a lot of stories and information that don’t make it into the mainstream media or our policy debate. I’m planning to make a big announcement in the coming months with more details about the next film.

March 28, 2011

A detour worth taking

With a UChicago-style guide, two hours in the Loop cover surprising ground.

By Elizabeth Station

Chicago Detours

Leading a walking tour of the city for Chicago Detours, Amanda Scotese radiates the brisk confidence of a veteran guide and the friendliness of your favorite TA. That’s no accident. Before founding the company in 2010, she did research and tours for Rick Steves in Italy and studied architecture, urbanism, and history in UChicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities.

Early in March I joined Scotese for a two-hour tour of downtown Chicago that promised to “explore the Loop without freezing.” About 20 participants—from the city, suburbs, and Oklahoma—gathered in the Chase Tower’s bright lobby on a drizzly morning. “We’re only going to walk half a mile, but there’s a lot to cover,” warned Scotese as she handed out three iPads to designated helpers.

Gathering around the iPads, we watched a short video about the Loop. Then Scotese laid out a two-minute history of Chicago architecture, encouraging us to “decode the cityscape” and “read the visual features” of the buildings around the plaza. We learned, for example, why the Italian Village restaurant stands stubbornly among modernist skyscrapers (the owners refused to sell), and the ornamentation got lopped off the top of the Walgreen’s at Clark and Monroe (lousy mid-20th-century taste).

Walking north on Clark Street, we ducked into the Chicago Temple, which houses the 1923 First United Methodist Church. I had hurried past the polished revolving doors a hundred times but never gone inside, where Scotese revealed the first-floor sanctuary. She greeted a sleeping homeless man and sat us down in the pews to admire the church’s ornate Gothic wood architecture. Next to multihued stained-glass windows depicting Jesus and the disciples, she pointed out surprising details like images of the Gary steel mills and cars winding along Wacker Drive.

Before stepping outside for a look at the Picasso on Daley Plaza, we watched a whimsical video in which Studs Terkel, PhB’32, JD’34, interviewed Chicagoans about the sculpture. “I’d donate to have it removed,” complained one citizen-critic after the piece was unveiled in 1967. “Whatever it is,” mused another, “it’s nice.”

Our next stop was the underground pedway that connects the Daley Center to Block 37. After slurping free samples of frozen kefir at Starfruit, we gathered to hear why the half-empty mall has “become infamous to Chicagoans as a development failure.” Re-emerging at the street-level entrance to Macy’s—in the old Marshall Field’s building—we admired the monolithic granite columns that were the largest in North America when the store opened in 1902.

Huddled in a quiet corner of ladies’ handbags, we scrolled through images from an early Marshall Field’s catalog on our iPads. Scotese talked about the products and services offered 100 years ago and how department stores reflected and shaped women’s changing roles. “Architecture really influences how we feel and behave,” she added, noting the Tiffany mosaic on the ceiling and its inspiration: Byzantine churches from the Middle Ages.

Our final destination was the Chicago Cultural Center, the original home of the Chicago Public Library and—who knew?—the Grand Army of the Republic Museum. Built in 1897, the building houses not one but two exquisite stained-glass domes, the largest that Tiffany designed.

Gazing out at Millennium Park and the Bean, Scotese closed the tour with a poem by Norbert Blei while we watched a video montage of the surrounding streets at night. Chicago is “a city you can’t shake off,” the poet wrote, “a city you sometimes have to imagine to believe.”

Chicago Detours, “for curious people,” offers educational walking tours of the Loop. This summer the company will launch two tours focusing on Chicago music history and the Magnificent Mile. Photos courtesy Chicago Detours.

About March 2011

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in March 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2011 is the previous archive.

April 2011 is the next archive.

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

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31