IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
 
 
FEBRUARY 2003
Volume 95, Issue 3
 
 
 
     
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GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLetters

"From encouraging terror to wasting pages"

Simple 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


Simple truths?
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 relationships.
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Angeli suntne?
Index to 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
Chicago


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.
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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?
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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.
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Hey, that’s me!
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 life.
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Hey, that’s 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
Louisville, Kentucky

David Gochman is correct.—Ed.


Nostalgic details
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.
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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).
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Learned response?
Edward Lewis’s comparison (“Letters,” 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.
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More on physicians and sleep
I read with interest October’s “End of 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.
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Smashing return
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 the court.

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
Chicago


Greek allegiance
Regarding “Geeks 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.
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Department of corrections
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.



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