IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
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GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLetters
"Now that the joke has been had..."

Cutting edge
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.

Roger Becklund, MD'61
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.

Bye bye birdie?
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, SB'43, MD'46
Pleasanton, California

Pan Letter
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 board ("Morning 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!
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Fan Letter
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

An editor of note
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.
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Marathon medics
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 as well.
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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

Where optimist meets pessimist
Wellesley professor Julie K. Norem believes, and I concur, that having a negative strategy works as well as positive thinking.

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.
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Back 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.
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Our 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 on campus.
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Squashing 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, MD'52
Rolling Hills Estates, California

Anti-Semitism response
October's issue carries a response to anti-Semitic incidents ("Chicago 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.
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The hiss of wings
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.).
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Swiss missed
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.

Thomas Fenwick, AM'60
Geneva, Switzerland

Meyer's impact
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.
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Footnote 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.
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Building, 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.
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Muslim mosaic
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?"
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A Forgotten great?
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 experience.

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.
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Nominees 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.
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The University of Chicago Magazine
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