Harper Library/Photo: Tom Rossiter
By Greg Langen, MA ’13
Welcome to the University of Chicago. If the manicured quadrangles did not tip you off, you have arrived at one of the most intellectually rigorous and prestigious research universities in the world. But I’m sure you already know this. I’m sure you’ve already looked up the rankings of the school and your particular programs, crosschecked them with the schools that rejected you, compared them with the school that that one kid from your high school got into. If you are an incoming First Year, I’m sure you’re a bit anxious about starting classes, a bit uneasy about those things that you saw on your roommate’s Facebook page. And I know some of you are rapidly wondering where you can buy fresh goji berries or coconut water in Chicago. Don’t worry. I’m sure they’re here somewhere.
However, before you allow the pomp to confer upon you either a sense of accomplishment and/or an obligation to be unendingly brilliant, I kindly ask you to find the courage this year to be an absolute nobody.
Last year, before setting foot on campus, I made the mistake of Googling the notable University of Chicago alumni, assuming that in some absurd and distant way me and say, Philip Glass, were now somehow connected. We aren’t. At all. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Tom Rossiter
Even though they’re everywhere, nobody on campus ever mentions the gargoyles. When I first arrived at U of C, the only offspring of unschooled immigrants to attend an elite university, they were the first thing I noticed.
Hailing from a cookie-cutter suburb where what differentiated the boxy little houses was the color of plastic tile inside (your choice of pink, aqua, or baby blue), I marveled at the hand-carved stone, the unique and imposing presence of the gargoyles. Didn’t anyone else wonder why, for instance, on the street side of Cobb Gate, four little creatures scamper upwards, but on the quad side, another six scurry amidst the contorting heads and eyes of griffins? Wasn’t anyone else curious?
In my first days in this strange place, I nursed my loneliness in crannies atop the Social Science building and Wieboldt Hall where you could buy bad coffee for a few cents and stare the gargoyles guarding Harper Library right in the eye. Dining in Hutchinson Commons with glib classmates from private-school-pedigree stocks, I drew strength from the grotesques banded like rosettes into the stone outside. Before ducking into Bond Chapel, I would schmooze with the mischievous critters frolicking amongst the saintly human faces on the west facade, embarrassed to admit which I felt closer to. Read the rest of this entry »
U2 at U Chicago, April 11, 1981/Photos: Paul Sandberg
By Bart Lazar, AB ’82
Music can be a great diversion, punctuate life’s experiences or be a life’s work. New students at UChicago or new residents in Hyde Park should not eliminate music from life’s major food groups.
WHPK 88.5FM, the university’s and community’s radio outlet, is definitely worth many listens. The music includes indie, rock, folk, blues, jazz, dusties, R&B, classical and live bands, and the hosts are as diverse as the music, including a mix of current undergraduates, graduates, alumni and community members. In today’s world of computer-programmed commercial and Internet radio outlets, it is refreshing to hear an actual human being presenting music and/or information that he/she cares passionately about.
My first day of orientation week, I walked up the elbowed steps of the Reynolds Club and ran into the station’s program director hanging around talking. I told him I had been a DJ in high school and was interested in continuing. He said “great, how would you like Friday afternoon?” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Monika Lagaard
By Erin Kelsey, AB ’12
I graduated from the College of the University of Chicago in June 2012, and I started my job at the University of Chicago one week later. I joined the Alumni Relations and Development (ARD) staff at one of the university’s “schools and units”—which is to say, one of the smaller, independent organizations under the umbrella of the university. In plain language, that means I’m a fundraiser, but not the kind of fundraiser who calls up my fellow alumni to ask for donations.
While I haven’t taken a class in more than a year, my time with the university as an employee has still been educational, as I’ve experienced the vast perspective shift between undergraduates and the rest of the community. That shift was evident immediately: not so removed from my O-Week, I went to new-employee orientation for a long, antiseptic treatment of the school’s history, and I sipped their coffee and waited to hear something new. I didn’t. It was only interesting to see them leave out the unsavory bits of history and how they explained the “quirky student body” to employees who didn’t know Hyde Park. Read the rest of this entry »
Martin Northway (right) in a 1968 or 1969 drill with teammate Jerry Culp.
By Martin Northway, X’70
“Isn’t that where all the Reds are?” was a common reaction among my high-school classmates when I told them I was enrolling at the University of Chicago. Even in the sixties, what attracted me to Chicago was its abundance of libertarian scholars—led by Milton Friedman—and the prospect of a liberal arts education anchored by the Common Core. I originally fancied myself an economics major but later abandoned it for less-depressing American history. Mainly, I wanted to write.
The last thing I thought I would do at U of C was play football. But I found myself drawn to the purity it preserved in the sport, unlike the tainted and excessive adulation given by my high school, a national power running up a string of consecutive victories that would stand for a decade. What U of C had was a football club, a stew of undergraduates and grad students of diverse abilities.
U of C had been a power in the Big Ten (originally the Western Conference) under legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg, but ultimately its small undergraduate talent pool could not compete against Midwest behemoths. A last flash of greatness was back Jay Berwanger’s selection as the first Heisman winner in 1935. (I joined his Psi Upsilon fraternity, again an athletes’ sanctuary.) U of C left big-time football in its rear-view mirror in 1939. To some—especially President Robert M. Hutchins—it was good riddance. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jeff Gilliland
The Kickstarter Chronicles is a series of profiles of Chicago artists, writers, and musicians holding crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter allows creatives and entrepreneurs to raise funds for their projects through small, rewards-based private donations. The third installment of Kickstarter Chronicles features independent comic book publisher Yeti Press, which is fundraising for its 2014 line of comics.
There is something both intimate and magical about reading a comic book. The smell of the paper stock, the heft of the ink, the idiosyncratic lines and color palettes of the illustrations—opening a comic book is like reaching into someone’s consciousness, and seeing what strange beauty you pull out.
That mystique and personality seem to inspire many of the comics produced by Yeti Press, the self-described “small publishing behemoth” that sprang from the 2011 collaboration between comic artists RJ Casey and Eric Roesner. Generally eschewing both the barrel-chested superheroes of classic comics and the dark, pulpy narratives of many graphic novels, Yeti’s comics tend to focus on the richness and texture of interior life, or the sublimity of the supernatural. From Kevin Budnik’s “diary comic” “Our Ever Improving Living Room” to the interconnected and continually morphing world of Erik Nebel’s ”Well Come,” each of the comics that Yeti Press takes from pen to print render the layered worldview and personal concerns of its author-artists in lush detail. Read the rest of this entry »
By Max Morris. Edited by Ivan Brunetti. (Click on image to enlarge.)
Illustration: Tony Fitzpatrick
By Tony Fitzpatrick
A number of years ago, the bird population of Illinois and other Midwestern states was nearly devastated by West Nile virus. For reasons I never quite understood, crows, jays and magpies, which are all part of the same family, were particularly hard hit.
When I was a caddy, I loved the pugnacious behavior of bluejays and also finding their feathers on the golf course—that other-worldly blue of the tail feathers, which you’d find on the ground after the spring moult happened.
They were like finding small treasures. Other caddies would pick them up for me when they spotted them, knowing I liked birds. The idea of the bluejay population being damn near wiped out made me immensely sad. They’ve come back some, but not like they used to be. When I caddied, if a golfer got too close to a bluejay nest, the female would dive-bomb the poor fucker and peck at him. I laughed my ass off many times watching grown men run away from these birds trying to shield their heads with a putter. Read the rest of this entry »
The secret path by Bubbly Creek. Photo: John Greenfield
By John Greenfield
I must be a glutton for punishment. That’s the only way to explain my decision to scout out a new “stealth route” bicycle itinerary from Bridgeport to the ‘burbs along the Sanitary and Ship Canal last week, in ninety-five-degree heat. This was to be the continuation of a route I reconnoitered last year from the Loop to the Daleys’ ancestral home, hugging the South Branch of the Chicago River—you can read that writeup at tinyurl.com/SouthBranchRoute.
Completed in 1900, the canal was dug in order to reverse the flow of the river, to keep sewage from entering Chicago’s water supply. It still carries our treated wastewater to the Des Plaines River, and it serves as the only shipping link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi. Read the rest of this entry »