"Now that the joke
has been had..."
Help. Help. Help. I received my copy of the October/02
U of C Magazine today. However the plastic wrapper
is so strong I am unable to remove it. Do you have any suggestions?
I always enjoy reading it.
Falcon Heights, Minnesota
We recommend employing the same small
child used to open your childproof aspirin bottles. If no
such youngster is available, there are always scissors.-Ed.
You have stripped our magazine of its character and
distinction. Please do consider returning some whisper at
least of our heritage steeped in age and wisdom.
Always enjoy the magazine, always feel
like a dumb bunny when I finish it.
Mary Herschel Swanberg,
I read with delight your sly parody
of fin-de-siècle aesthetic semio-babble, presented
in the guise of an exposition on a handful of photos of
dirty dishes, table scraps, and foodstuffs on the cutting
and Melancholia," October/02). Not only does the
author meticulously work into a spare and eloquent essay
broad statements about such fashionable topics as gender,
culture, and the political underpinnings of aesthetic philosophies,
she does so with a conceptual vocabulary and methodology
that would be equally applicable to almost any snapshots
of almost any human surroundings or detritus!
Laura Letinsky's beautiful photography certainly
rang a bell, particularly the cover. She has the same idea
of beauty in ordinary things that came to me while living
in another country. I was struck by things just lying there
in the kitchen: black beans and rice, braids of garlic,
coffee pot and cups with leftover, crumbled breakfast rolls,
all of these were the stuff of a perfect still life. Later
I noticed how inviting the aftermath of the dinner table
was with the mostly eaten dessert, napkins crumbled.
Letinsky's spontaneous glimpses backward
into the kitchen, the dining room, the pantry made the old
masters' works look stilted and pale. I am so grateful to
the Magazine for having published these pictures;
otherwise I might never have known about her work.
Elizabeth McGuerty, X'51
St. Augustine, Florida
As one who, by chance, was there
at the beginning of Doug Mitchell's association with the
University of Chicago Press, I was pleased to read of his
recognition for 25 years as an editor there ("Editor's
Notes," October/02). Back in 1964, when he and
I were both third-year students in the College, a clean-shaven
Mitchell invited me to tag along as he traversed the quadrangles,
crossed Ellis Avenue, and walked confidently into what were
then the offices of the Press-in the red-brick building
now housing the bookstore.
The article "End
of the Medical Marathon?" (October/02) discussed
in detail the disagreements over whether long working hours
with little "time off" causes any detrimental
effects on patients. Some say yes, and some say no.
The major point,
however, is being overlooked. The major casualties
of the "old-fashioned" house-officer schedule
are the medical trainees themselves. As a product of the
"Spartan Code" that was exemplified during my
residency training (neurological surgery) at the University
of Chicago in the Sixties, I can speak to the effects of
that existence on not only myself but among my colleagues
The Optimist's downfall
I applaud Julie K. Norem's scholarship and service in identifying
the traits of the defensive pessimist ("The
Worst of All Possible Worlds," October/02) and
offering both validation and comfort to those of us who
have fallen squarely into that category all our lives.
However, at the
risk of confirming one of your less dire editorial
fears, I would like to mention that I would have been grateful
(although pleasantly surprised) if Norem had acknowledged
my statement on the syndrome 20 years ago in that deeply
theoretical anthology, Murphy's Law Book Two (Arthur
Bloch, ed., Los Angeles, 1980).
Appearing on page 17 is "Coit-Murphy's
Statement on the Power of Negative Thinking: 'It is impossible
for an optimist to be pleasantly surprised.'"
Priscilla Coit Murphy
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Wellesley professor Julie K. Norem believes, and I concur,
that having a negative strategy works as well as positive
Having acquired physics and M.B.A. degrees,
I worked first as a metallurgical observer in the steel
mills and later as a rayon research physicist. As an Army
Reserve officer I served in WW II, working to develop an
early-warning mobile radar capability, and in the postwar
years as a manager in the Air Force Research & Development
Command, developing advanced weapons systems. Based on these
various experiences, I believe it is possible to be both
an optimist and a pessimist, depending upon one's job pursuits.
Varied assignments are much more interesting than being
tied down to one type of employment.
to the future
Robert Harper's "3
rooms, future vu" (October/02) evoked so many memories
of those prefab days in the mid-1950s! An additional one
I remember so clearly was having to take along our own chair
if we were to be at a neighbor's for an evening. We lived
in the block west of Lying-In, where Wyler Hospital is now,
while my husband, Richard [AB'53, SB'54, MD'57], was in
medical school and serving his internship in Billings Hospital.
Big Fat Greek Mistakes
I just wanted to make a comment about the "Geeks
Go Greek" article (October/02). The story missed
one sorority and one fraternity. Sigma Lambda Gamma, a Latina
sorority, was chartered at the U of C around 1994. Therefore,
it was the third sorority activated on campus. The Delta
Gammas originated after SLG had already been reactivated
in 2000. Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity, a Latino fraternity,
was chartered in 2000, I believe. Both are still active
a sports error
All of us who are ardent squash players feel very offended
by the mistake you made in the October issue. In "From
Our Pages" you state that the first self-sustaining
nuclear chain reaction took place under the West Stands'
handball and racquetball courts. As I recall, the reaction
took place in a squash course. Racquetball came into existence
about 30 years ago. It is a hybrid sport, a cross between
squash and handball. We who love squash, snobs as we may
be, compare squash to racquetball as chess is to checkers.
I thought you'd like to know. Keep your
eye on the ball and keep out of your opponent's way.
J. Robert Bloomfield,
Rolling Hills Estates, California
October's issue carries a response to anti-Semitic incidents
Journal"), referring to 9/11 "events"
and "continuing violence." Never hearing of the
1941 Japanese event at Pearl Harbor nor the terrorist
war on civilians in such terms, I question my University's
pride in its lofty moral perch. I am sure you do not mean
to indicate sporting "events." But your definition
of "attack" is missing.
Re: "I'll believe that when snakes have wings" ("Citations,"
October/02): I was intrigued by the note inasmuch as I was
reminded of the Ming she, or "hissing snake," found
in the Shan hai jing (The classic of mountains and
seas), a repository of strange spirits, curious folkways,
medical beliefs, and other related oral and written traditions
of early Chinese origins dating back to the Shang dynasty
(c. 1500-1027 B.C.).
Throughout the years, your magazine
has earned my highest respect and admiration. I was all the
more surprised and chagrined to read in your article "Babies
can't count" ("Investigations," October/02),
that Jean Piaget was a "French psychologist." No,
Piaget was Swiss. Granted, he wrote in French and Switzerland
is a small country, but those are insufficient reasons for
expatriating one of the greatest minds my adopted country,
Switzerland, has ever produced.
I was thankful for Leon Botstein's "Meyer
Remembered" ("Letters," October/02).
I was transported back to my Humanities I class with Professor
Gerhard Meyer in 1961. I remember this compact, kindly man
with a shock of white hair, thick German accent compounded
by a stutter, fingers and dark-blue suit smudged with chalk.
He taught me a lesson about cross-cultural prejudice and
perception that guides my thinking and actions today as
a medical- school professor.
to a headline
I take exception to the use of the headline "Teachable
Moments" for your article about charter schools
(August/02). The phrase "teachable moments" comes
from the book Human Development and Education (David
McKay & Company, 1952) by Robert James Havighurst, a
professor in education at the University when I was there.
experience not empty
I would like to correct impressions in two recent issues.
First, Walton R. Collins writes ("Teachable
Moments," August/02) that before the North Kenwood/Oakland
Charter School moved to its present site in the old Shakespeare
School at 46th and Greenwood it operated out of "an empty
church," St. James United Methodist at 46th and Ellis.
The "empty" is wrong.
It was good to learn that Richard Shweder and his Ph.D.
students will be studying Muslim communities of different
nationalities and cultural heritage ("Investigations,"
August/02). Sadly the media in the United States (including
the University of Chicago Magazine, unfortunately)
tend to portray Muslims as all being of one mind, and of
one which is very, very conservative, especially where women
are concerned. The comparison in the Magazine with
Hasidic Jews and Christian Amish is in this view, as is
the highlighted question "Could a woman forgo the veil
and still be Islamic?"
One of the pleasures of being a U of C alum is reading articles
like George McElroy's "Great
Men of the Great Books" (August/02). It not only
regenerates nostalgia for the College but envy and regret
for missing those moments that McElroy was privileged to
Since it was the uniqueness of the Hutchins
College that lured me to Chicago, and for better or worse
created the U of C stereotype which persists today in the
public perception, one of the troubling nonpleasures is
the realization that Hutchins has become a nonperson in
the College hagiography. Where is he commemorated on campus?
How is he honored? Bookkeeper Lawrence Kimpton is more often
mentioned for "saving the College" than educator
Hutchins is lauded for creating it.
for alumni board
The University of Chicago Alumni
Association is seeking nominations of alumni to serve on
its Board of Governors, a 25-member group that sets policy
for the association and advises the University on matters
of interest and concern to alumni.
The University of Chicago Magazine
invites letters on its contents or on topics related to
the University. Letters for publication must be signed
and may be edited for space or clarity. In order to ensure
as wide of range of views as possible, we ask readers
to try to keep letters to 500 words or less. Write:
Editor, University of Chicago Magazine,
5801 S. Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637