"From encouraging terror to wasting
praise for complexity
Thanks for the great cover story on complexity (“The
Complexity Complex”) in the December/02 issue.
This is the best article I have seen in the Magazine
for quite a while. Excellent!
Lawrence Greenberg, AB’70
Astoria, New York
As I read “The
Complexity Complex,” my thoughts went to the concept’s
relevance to the workings of the mind. Attempts to reduce
or simplify processes to neurological or biochemical factors
are, in my opinion, a manifestation of a flight from complexities
that confound clinicians and nonclinicians. At the level
of pop psychology we read that men are from Mars and women
are from Venus, as though this simplification would explain
(and thus make controllable) the complexities of interpersonal
a Canon” (December/02) quotes me as saying that
“creating and finishing each indexing record costs
$3–$4 in salaries and benefits.” Not even angelic
indexers with a University of Chicago background could survive
on that level of compensation. Mortgages, food, and clothing
are the all too real necessities of this world. Either my
managerial “if only it were so” mind was speaking
or I misquoted the numbers. What I should have said was
that an indexer averages 3–4 records an hour at an
average cost of $7–$8 per record. No rebellions in
our little heaven, please!
Cameron Campbell, AM’84
Reading too much into a puppet
The December/02 historical-review
article of “The
Real Life Adventures of Pinocchio” and his several
permutations was well done, and author Rebecca West is to
be commended. However, I find several points with which
I am in distinct disagreement.
At about age ten I first encountered
Pinocchio in the school library. The illustrations
depicted him as a simple billet of wood, with a sharp nose,
beady eyes, and skinny limbs. He was thoroughly unpleasant,
and the story was confusing and oppressive.
From inane to dangerous
Rebecca West’s “The
Real Life Adventures of Pinocchio” was a great
example of the in-depth analysis of nothing that is produced
by the self-important pompous parasites that fill the halls
of academia. A career spent finding psychoanalytical and
christological meaning in Pinocchio? If Rebecca had spent
a few minutes looking at the forest instead of the trees,
she’d have seen that Pinocchio is just another example
of “Standard Plot 17: Children’s Adventure”
in a writer’s tool kit. This is the plot in which
a child leaves home looking for adventure, discovers the
world is a dangerous place, and runs back to the shelter
of home. Can we say, “There’s no place like
home” in less than six pages?
Memories are made of pix
The pictures in December’s “Retrospective”
bring back many memories. After leaving the University I
had a small film studio on the South Side and made numerous
films for and about the University area (most now in the
archives of the Chicago Historical Society)—including
a couple of films about Dr. Skaggs, Dr. Lanzl, and the cobalt
machine for an early TV series and the Atoms for Peace Conference.
Years later I was in Bombay with a group
of U.S. science museum experts on a U.S./India exchange
program. We had breakfast one morning in the hotel, and
I noticed a gentleman at the next table listening intently.
We struck up a conversation and found that we were both
from the U.S. and he was from Chicago.
It was a true surprise to see myself akimbo over a table
in the December issue (page 48). Though no longer alive
to keep the secret from, my parents would probably be as
shocked today as they would have been 50 years ago to hear
that I cut classes to misspend my youth in the Reynolds
Club billiards and card rooms. Very worthwhile, though.
As I’ve often remarked, my first two years as a Chicago
undergrad taught me how to live well beyond my station in
not J. D. Rockefeller!
I’ve just received the December/02
issue and believe there are some errors in your caption
on page 31 regarding the Rockefeller family grouping (“Three
Months among the Pyramids”). It is quite clear
that the parents of David Rockefeller are not fourth and
fifth from the left, but more likely fourth and fifth from
the right. I’m certain that the fourth on the right
is John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the woman who’s fifth
from the right is more likely to be Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
than is the other female figure—she is more likely
to be Mary Todhunter Clark, mentioned in the text, later
to be Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller.
David S. Gochman, AB’56, AB’57
David Gochman is correct.—Ed.
Your story on Mitchell Tower (“Architectural
Details,” December/02) brought back a memory or
two. You failed to note that the tune played each night
was the Alma Mater. This job was held by a friend who occasionally
needed a substitute, and so he taught me how to do it. On
the night I joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity he let me
borrow his keys to the Tower and instead of the Alma Mater
the campus heard the Psi U hymn “Bold and Ready.”
I thought I was being very “bold,” but no one
even noticed except a few Phi Gams, led by the pugnacious
Nick Melas (of later Chicago Sanitary District fame), who
lived right down the street. We Psi U’s of course
denied any knowledge of how this sacrilege might have occurred.
Still-Life Controversy still rages
As a still-life painter I thoroughly
enjoyed discovering (“Letters,
”December/02) that controversy continues to swirl
around the humblest of the genres in the visual arts—controversy
at least as old as the fourth- century B.C. painter Piraeicus.
In his Natural History Pliny tells us that Piraeicus
painted modestly scaled pictures of ordinary things—“eatables
and the like”—and earned the name Rhyparographer
(Painter of Waste) in much the same way that certain early
20th-century American painters got tagged the Ashcan School.
Pliny also passes on a tradition of uncertainty about the
worth of Piraeicus’s achievement. You can almost hear
a kind of confused surprise when he adds: “…in
these pictures he gives exquisite pleasure, and indeed they
brought heftier prices than the largest works of many other
painters” (translation mine).
Edward Lewis’s comparison
December/02) of anti-Semitism to anti-Catholic sentiments
on nonsectarian campuses, and his “strong suggestion”
that Jewish men and women learn to live with it is thoughtful,
but alas, unhelpful.
More on physicians and sleep
I read with interest October’s
the Medical Marathon” and Dr. Fink’s follow-up
letter (December/02) noting the psychic toll caused
by the old system of all-night duty for trainees. I would
note an added detrimental effect on house staff, that of
physical disease during training. In 1964–65 I was
an intern at Boston City Hospital, which had established
a “night float” system in some ways superior
to that at the U of C.
In the December/02 “Letters”
section J. Robert Bloomfield, MD’52, was offended
by a mistake
in the October/02 issue: identifying the site of the first
self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction as a racquetball
court. He assumed that it was a squash court and, as a squash
player, regards racquetball as an inferior game.
Actually the court under Stagg Field
was a racquets court, a much larger and sturdier facility.
At the time of the reaction, reporters simply misidentified
As a point of interest, Bloomfield might
be amused to know that most racquets (hard racquets) players
hold the view that squash is an inferior game.
George K. Hendrick Jr. AB’49, MBA’49
Go Greek” (October/02): as an undergraduate, I
lived in Henderson House, a nominal affiliation with one
unintended benefit: friendships that came from a fortunate
draw in the housing lottery. Henderson expected little of
its members, save civility, and did the minimum to engender
a sense of community and historical continuity.
Yale students fondly speak of time spent
in their specific residential college; Robert Maynard Hutchins,
as an alumnus, perhaps shared that sentiment, as might the
current Yalie who lives in Hutchins’s old room.
Alert readers let us know that we put geophysical-sciences
professor Susan Kidwell’s work on the cover of the
wrong journal—the right one was Science (“Course
Work,” December/02)—and that what we billed
as “The University’s Balance Sheet” (“Chicago
Journal,” December/02) is actually a statement
of operating expenses and revenues. We regret the errors.
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