Gale Johnson (("Gale Force," December/97) says that "the civil-rights record of China is very good in the past 20 years." Yes, and Mussolini made the trains run on time. He goes on to say that "their dissidents donít get a fair shake." I would venture to say that Wei Jinghseng's 14 years of torture and privation qualify as more than "not a fair shake." Whatís more, Iím sure that if you asked the Tibetan people, they might feel that they havenít quite been "released from domination."
Johnson is nothing if not an apologist for the U.S. busi-
ness community that cares only for the huge Chinese market, and not for its abysmal record on human rights. We rightly condemned South Africa and we condemn Myanmar (formerly Burma) for their human-rights records. The only difference is that their markets arenít big enough for American businesses to care.
Victor S. Sloan, AB'80
Westfield, New Jersey
I have just completed reading the fascinating article on D. Gale Johnson that appeared in the December/97 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine. Thank you for printing it.
Darl E. Snyder, AM'69
I would like to point out two errors that I noted in the December/97 issue of the Magazine. On page 23, discussing Eugene Zakusiloís photos ("Frames of Mind"), it is said that the "very slow" film produces overexposure in "the bright light of day." The long exposure required for the lens movement may well be the problem, certainly not slow film!
The second error, which occurs on the same page, touches me personally, as an emeritus member of the department that occupies the Henry Hinds Laboratory for the Geophysical Sciences. The caption misidentifies it as the Cummings Life Sciences Center. I. W. (Ike) Colburn was the architect for both buildings, but Iím a Hinds fan.
Julian R. Goldsmith, SB'40, PhD'47
The letter writer is the Charles E. Merriam distinguished service professor emeritus in geophysical sciences. -Ed.
Eight is enough
In your lyrical piece on Chicago winters (("Editorís Notes," December/97) you say "Öthere are certain compensations in being perched at the eastern edge of a time zone, where night comes especially early."
Civil time and sun time coincide at the center of a time zone, which lies at an integral multiple of 15 degrees west of Greenwich. Chicago, at longitude 88 degrees W, comes quite close to this condition, as do New York (73 degrees W), Denver (105 degrees W), Los Angeles (118 degrees W), and San Francisco (122 degrees W).
When the standard time zones were established in the 1880s, the boundary between the Eastern and Central zones was the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, about 2 degrees east of the natural boundary at 82 1/2 degrees. But the economic pull of New York has dragged more and more territory into the Eastern zone, just as the pull of Chicago has done for points west. The result is that the current time zones are much distorted. All of that does not change the close correspondence between civil and sun time in Chicago; the difference is a mere 8 minutes, roughly speaking.
Lawrence S. Lerner, AB'53, SM'55,PhD'62
Where size does/doesn't matter
Re the proposed expansion of the College: It was not my experience that a large class size equated to a lesser learning experience. I remember clearly enough an English class in Cobb that was a full house and taught, no less, by an assistant, versus a philosophy course with many fewer students that was interesting, but less valuable upon reflection.
Perhaps a look at Chicagoís endowment, its financial engine of health, is appropriate to the argument. Chicagoís was once only exceeded by Harvard and Yale. It is now surpassed by many universities.
The administration is on the proper course.
Edward G. Jones, AB'59
In "The Roots of Reform" (("Investigations," December/97), your reporter states that Professor Martha Nussbaum as philosopher "starts with Socrates" call to live the examined life." Plato, in the Apology, says "the life without inquiry is not worth living for a human being." The latter translation fits the portrait of Socrates as a "gadfly" who vigorously cross-examined others to elicit truth. These words do not imply psychoanalytical introspection.
The article reports that "Nussbaum sees educationís primary role as preparing citizens for a democracy." Plato cites military campaigns in which Socrates served to defend the city-state of Athens. He also served as a senator in the Council of Five Hundred; and when his tribe held the presidency, Socrates was the only one of his tribeís prytaneis who would not put the illegal motion to the Assembly to condemn to death the generals after the Battle of Arginusae. Accordingly, Plato considered Socrates the quintessential role model for citizenry in a democracy. Allan Bloom doubtless approved such great works as the Apology as instances of practical didacticism for citizens of a modern nation.
Diotima was a legendary priestess and teacher of Socrates. Plato in The Symposium has her explain his metaphysics of love. It is fitting, therefore, that as Socrates learned very much from Diotima, Professor Nussbaum is reciprocally indebted to Socrates.
Lloyd B. Urdahl, PhD'59
Rochester, New York
When the Magazine asked me to account for Jane Austenís appeal (("Crazy for Jane," December/97), I confess I drew a blank. I think I said something about her genius for drawing ordinary people. Thatís true, but thereís much more.
Her intuitions about human psychology were unerringly accurate, her writing style elegant, her irony tempered by an amazing degree of tolerance and a finely honed sense of humor. Truth is, most people do not live on a public stage, but pass their lives in a relatively restricted society among a relatively small number of people. Austen recognized this, and itís one reason why her fiction has such universal appeal. You can move Emma to Beverly Hills (Clueless) without damaging Austenís insights and examination of values because people everywhere remain people, despite their particular cultural mores and the times in which they live.
For me, Austen is the ultimate escapist reading: She creates a complete world which I can enter gratefully each time I return to one of her novels; at the same time, I need not leave my brains at the door, for she is stimulating, challenging, amusing, and always new whenever I return to her.
Elsa A. Solender, AM'63
New York City
No racism in Bloom
Vijay Prashad, AM'90, PhD'94, to the contrary, Allan Bloom was not a racist, and nothing he said in The Closing of the American Mind can be construed as racist (("Letters," December/97). Despite Mr. Prashadís assertion, Bloom did not say on page 312 or anywhere else in Closing that blacks are "Nazis with anti-American values." Bloom did say that to speak of Black Power, as opposed to blacks" rights, is illiberal and contrary to Americaís stated principles. He was not denouncing blacks as un-American; he was pointing out the philosophic source of the language of power. That source is Nietzsche. Though the Nazis, too, probably drew on Nietzsche's thought, Bloom did not come to the absurd conclusion that anyone influenced by Nietzsche is a Nazi.
Bloom criticized Black Power because it was at odds with the rights tradition in America. He criticized the black separatist movement because of its connection with ìa dangerous severing of the races in the intellectual world, where there can be no justification for separatism and where the idea of common humanity must prevail" (p. 98). Long before the Law Schoolís Martha Nussbaum, one of Bloomís harsher critics, wrote about ìcultivating humanity," he opposed anyone who thought that communication between some groups is impossible because of their fundamental differences. Far from being a racist, Bloom did not think fundamental differences between the races exist.
Paul Ulrich, AB'86, PhD'96
Mount Vernon, Ohio
Bloom is dead, long live Bloom
In an exquisitely classic case of chutzpah, Messrs. Parikh and Prashad (("Letters," December/97) proceed to beat the "dead horse" of Allan Bloom after they and their ilk have killed him. Bloom and the DWEMs (Dead White European Males) have been banished from the academy as racist cultural artifacts by the aging arbiters of truth and falsehood from the í60s. The poor man never had a chance in the current university environment.
Having read long and closely in Bloomís writings, and having tried to read closely in [Jacques] Derrida's and [Stanley] Fish's writings (itís impossible to read long), itís difficult not to appreciate the depth, clarity, and passion of Bloomís analysis of, and commentary on, the classical texts that have helped bring us to the literary and philosophical level that most of us, at least, enjoy today. It is difficult, also, not to see the dreary future of Derrida, Fish, et alís precious, mannered, and confused writings as anything but objects of caricature.
Jerome Spier, MBA'73
Seeing the wine glass half empty
I donít know whether your cover story, "The Fruit of His Labor," in the October/97 issue is a) a symptom of pride in the success of an alumnus; b) a symptom of alcohol addiction/compulsion at the University of Chicago Magazine; c) a symptom of alcohol addiction/compulsion at the University of Chicago generally; or d) all of the above. You choose.
I think it would have been more appropriate to have featured the article "Secondhand Smoke" (("Investigations," October/97), or better yet, found a similar study-I'm sure there are dozens, perhaps hundreds-on the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on the behavior of daughters and other family members.
I do not think it is appropriate for any University of Chicago organization to glorify such an unhealthy and socially destructive practice as alcohol consumption. I would like to see in the next possible issue a cover photo of a small group of faculty and/or student "social drinkers" and, inside, a multi-page feature story with case-study photos of what some such "social drinkers" looked like years later, laid out on a marble morgue slab, as well as all the appropriate statistics, including a bibliography of studies by U of C students, staff, and alumni on the destructive effects of "social drinking" on the drinkers, their children, and their spouses.
The article would be enhanced by photos of typical grocery-store displays of various alcoholic beverages (allowed in most states), where even the smallest children become used to seeing them in close proximity to real foods, which tends to affirm in their minds that alcoholic beverages are foods-try that one on your behavioral scientists, if you can find any that are not biased by their own denials!
Zane Spiegel, SB'49, SM'52
Santa Fe, New Mexico
One side of a two-sided issue?
While we normally enjoy reading the University of Chicago Magazine and learning about the intellectual pursuits of the faculty and alumni, we were disturbed by the editors' decision to include a blatantly one-sided political article, ìA Sense of Self" (("Investigations"),), in the August/97 issue.
Israeli-Palestinian issues are rife with emotion on both sides. Reading this article in the pages of an alumni magazine indicates a political agenda that belies the University of Chicagoís tradition of Socratic dialogue, let alone editorial consistency and integrity.
We trust that future articles will receive better editorial scrutiny.
Yehuda Baskin, AB'51, AM'52, PhD'55
Philip A. Baskin, AB'89
FOTA performance artist
I thought that the death of Peter Ratner, AB'71, should not go unmarked save for the brief notice in the October/97 obituary section. As a student in the College, Peter was an entirely distinctive individual (even in the context of that pervasive Chicago individualism) who carried a sometimes amusing air of ambitious expectation about him and who tended to affect a degree of formality in attire and manner that made him conspicuous in a hang-loose era.
Peter had one great moment for achieving his ambitions during his undergraduate years. This was as impresario of the Festival of the Arts in 1970. His desired high point for this event entailed flooding the Midway in order to float a barge upon it for a performance of Handleís Wassermusik (for which he expected to import the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). However, these plans were put aside when it was pointed out to him that he would probably have to drown the entire South Side in order to achieve his end.
Undaunted, Peter made the festival a success. It culminated with 1,400 students dancing the night away in Bartlett Gym to the great Magic Sam (dead of a heart attack at 36 within the year) and the even greater Muddy Waters. In a time of many memorable campus controversies, events, concerts, and dances, this was the largest and best of the last, and I have fondly preserved its memory to the present-and with it that of the hero of the moment.
Few seize the opportunity to make a real contribution to campus life. Peter managed that, and I hope he succeeded in making a further contribution or two before his premature departure from the scene.
Jeff Spurr, AB'71
Achtung, Fulbright grantees
In an effort to update information on, and reestablish contact with, our alumni, the German-American Fulbright Commission, in cooperation with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the German Fulbright Alumni e.V., has embarked on an effort to establish a directory of former Fulbright grantees. It is hoped that the alumni directory will serve many purposes, the main one being a means of contact between the 28,000 former grantees, and between current and former grantees. The directory will also be designed to allow more active collaboration between the commission and its alumni.
If you are a former grantee of the German-American Fulbright Commission, please contact James L. Hoppes, Fulbright Commission, Theaterplatz 1a, D-53177 Bonn, Germany. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Internet: http://
James L. Hoppes
Year of the Phoenix
After a four-year absence when it stopped publishing because of a lack of both funds and student interest, the University of Chicago yearbook is back, with a new-and symbolic-name: The Phoenix.
The 1998 Phoenix is descended from Cap and Gown and its more recent incarnation, the Gargoyle. To be published in September 1998, the yearbook will cover the 1997ñ98 academic year. With a printing contract in hand and some 60 students on its editorial staff, the Phoenix is now accepting orders from interested alumni as well as the parents of current students.
Incentives are offered for those who order early: Before March 15, a copy of the yearbook costs $40; from March 15 until May 1, the price will be $45; after May 1, the cost will be $50.
For more information about how to order the Phoenix, or for information about advertising in the yearbook, please e-mail email@example.com or call (773) 702-9732.
Christopher Kang, í98
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 length or clarity. So that we can ensure the widest range of voices, preference is given to letters of fewer than 300 words. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 1313 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.