The ‘Devil Wears Prada’ thing is still a trip

The “Shit [group members] Say” meme has finally arrived in Evanston.

The university-created “Stuff Northwestern Students Say” video is not bad. It’s not among the best. Casey is right for asking drama students to rise up and produce an unsanctioned take. But what Northwestern has now is a solid effort with some great lines. I’d probably recognize goodness in even more lines if I hadn’t graduated a decade ago. Ugh. Norbucks. Hogwarts. Shuttles on cell phones. Cell phones in general.

Anyway, overlooking how I move to closer to the grave every day, my favorite parts: everyone fleeing the Daily reporters, how boring every “When I studied abroad” tale ever is, finding doors locked (one of the odder NU phenomena, looking back), the speed of the quarter system, a-cappella dread, failing to cross Sheridan Road, and Anne Hathaway.

As the kids rattle off famous NU alums, one says, “Did you know that Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada went here?” Yes.

That will be my contribution to Northwestern history, apparently. My junior year, I wrote a series of stories about university janitors that, through unexpected circumstances years later, put NU in the movie.

It’s always interesting how far a thread of information can go from its source. Eleven years ago, Northwestern officials didn’t like discussing the janitor negotiations. They wanted the story to disappear and for me to stop calling them. They downplayed their roles and claimed the issues were between the janitors and their contracting companies — even as they met with the contractors behind closed doors. But then the battle ended. Time passed. It became part of a Hollywood scene:

Between Hathaway, Meryl Streep, $327 million worldwide, and a reach that made even Italian teens dub the Daily Northwestern scene, a story the university hated grew distant enough to include in an official video.

Life is strange. Universities and information are strange as well.

The autumn of the alumni magazine

In the fall issue of Northwestern, the “Class Notes” and time march on.

From the class of 1940: “At 91, she now is a widow, and she writes, ‘It is just me and the squirrels!’ ” And from 1960: Grad student grad “last November married [Ms. First Last], whom he had dated nearly 60 years ago when they attended Nebraska Wesleyan University together. [And in] 2008 they reunited, spent time together and rediscovered a special relationship.” Last, a 1963 alum “of San Francisco sent a haiku: ‘Living alone now / Forty-five years of law books / Pan still plays his pipes.’ ”

Even great suits must leave summer.

Remember the Evanston suit? The founder of Bonobos, a 2000 grad of Northwestern, has bad news.

The company considered donating to the University a portion of the proceeds from sales of the suit to alumni. Unfortunately, demand was lower than expected, Dunn says, “I’ll stick with selling khakis and and white oxfords for now,” he quips.

Bonobos still has jackets for sale, and I’m so tempted. But let’s face it. The jacket would look ridiculous without the pants. With purple, I do believe it’s go big or go home. Go Eagles. Go Wildcats. Go purple.

Someday, maybe not today, I will own — and don — a purple suit.

Lies my journalism professor told her kids

Via Meghan, I have to recommend this week’s podcast from The Moth, the storytelling series. More accurately, I want to recommend half of the podcast. I hear the first half is about circumcision. As a matter of personal policy, I don’t listen to podcasts, conversations or arguments about circumcision — even when they’re likely in a highly entertaining narrative. I love narrative! But I have to cut off my love somewhere.


No, the half I want you to hear is the podcast’s second half, featuring my sophomore Medill professor Michele Weldon. Her writing class was not easy. She brought a tough love approach to editing and excuses, and she gave me my only Medill F. (The exercise involved interviewing her about a crime as she played different sources. Having never heard before of a certain brand of purse, I spelled it “Louis Buitton.”) But she also instilled a love of story that was unique at Medill. Each week, she had one of us read a book about writing — often having nothing to do with journalism — and tell the rest of the class what we’d learned. We didn’t understand the exercise at the time, I remember. We whined, I have no doubt. We all respected Weldon greatly for her memoir about surviving spousal abuse, which had just come out the year before. But we still didn’t understand the real difference a story could make, to its audience or its teller. I look at my bookshelves now, and there’s Bird by Bird next to War of Art next to Poets Picking Poets next to a few related others, all of which make me thankful for Weldon’s class and stories.

Her Moth story is about lies and other things she told her boys when they were young. But, of course, the story is about more than that.

Think you’re good at tumbling? Think again

My new quest, whenever I receive an issue of the Northwestern alumni magazine, is to find the alum having the most fun. Last issue, it was a blueberry-farming man. This issue, it was a tumbling lawyer.

Heidi Boerstler (WCAS69) of Denver did 70 cartwheels in less than seven minutes in a Tumblethon in July to raise money for gymnastics programs for low-income children. She writes, “I was the oldest Tumblethon competitor by at least 50 years, and I raised a ton of money and had a blast!” She is professor of transformational leadership and health law and ethics at the University of Colorado Business School.

That’s Heidi Boerstler, Ms. Fitness competitor and law prof, in better shape than you and ready to kick your butt in tumbling.

Bliss, beauty and Willie: Never underestimate the alumni mag

The top five things about the new edition of Northwestern magazine.

1. Willie the Wildcat in a tuxedo.

2. Possibly the most blissful alum lifestyle in Medill history. “Frank M. Corrado (GJ66) of Evanston had a first reading of his romantic musical comedy New to Tango in Chicago in June. His day job is doing marketing for Joe’s Blues, his son’s blueberry farm [coverage] in Bangor, Mich.”

3. The obituary/controversy of Lois Emery Hurd, 93. “Selected as the most beautiful woman at Northwestern by Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille in February 1940, Mrs. Hurd reigned as the Syllabus Queen. DeMille served as the impartial judge of beauty among Northwestern’s sorority sisters and subsequently offered Mrs. Hurd a movie contract, which she declined. DeMille arranged for movie star Robert Preston to escort the Kappa Alpha Theta sister to the prom, despite the protests of more than 150 Northwestern men.” Wild — a regular Helen of Troy.

4. A dorm-mate of mine checks in. “Ari Margolis (McC02) of Raleigh, N.C., began his career as an assistant rabbi to Temple Beth Or in June. He completed his rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and was ordained a rabbi in May. He writes, ‘Believe it or not, I still use my engineering problem–solving skill sets on a daily basis.’ ”

A YouTube video interview explains how:

5. An alum volunteer at a legal clinic for Sacramento’s homeless writes about the man who helped inspire a challenge to cleanup sweeps.

Even though the Cats lost at Wrigley yesterday

I’d still wear an Evanston suit.

The Bonobos description:

A luxurious but crisp cotton in a deep, full-bodied hue paired with white buttons. The full suit is a must for any major celebration. Use the separates to spice up any weekend outfit.

The origin of the Evanston Suit was CEO Andy Dunn’s 10th reunion at Northwestern University. After seeing the reaction of everyone in the Bonobos HQ, we realized that every man’s closet is incomplete without a purple suit.

The time Northwestern was in a Pete Seeger protest song

From the latest edition of the Northwestern alumni magazine comes an obituary and an Evanston story I’ve somehow never heard before.

Sherman Hsiu Huang Wu (McC61, GMcC63, 65), 72, Clearwater, Fla., May 11. Mr. Wu was a rocket scientist and a reluctant symbol for civil rights. As a freshman at Northwestern in 1956 he pledged Psi Upsilon fraternity, but the members soon “depledged” him because he was Asian. According to University Archives, they stated “having an Oriental in the house would degrade them in the eyes of other fraternities and make it more difficult to get dates from the sororities.”

Ironically, Mr. Wu later went on a blind date with Ann-Margret Olsson (C63) and eventually pledged another fraternity. The affair brought the issue of discrimination against Asian Americans to the forefront and led to an increased effort to recruit Asian students. News of the incident appeared in Time magazine and even inspired a Pete Seeger song, “The Ballad of Sherman Wu.”

The rest of the obit is at the bottom here. Along with the Seeger and Ann-Margaret bits, my favorite part comes a little later. Coming to the USA from China, he named himself after Evanston’s Sherman Avenue.

Wu’s obituaries in the St. Petersburg Times and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tell of how he attended a Seeger concert in 1960 and the folk singer serenaded him with the song. The crowd reportedly roared for him. You can hear clips and download full audio on iTunes and Amazon.

The Time item mentioned in the NU write-up is here. Life covered the incident as well, drawing letters from readers sympathetic to Wu. (Lots of letters. Time also received a letter from Upton Sinclair.) Life later ran photos of Wu receiving an honorary pin from another area fraternity.

A NU book notes it was nearly a decade before the university’s Greek system banned racial discrimination. And Psi U? A Daily Northwestern letter writer answers, “According to the 1957 yearbook, they went on with their usual social calendar, selecting their ‘Girl Ideal’ and electing another campus beauty the ‘Hottest Thing in Town’ at their playboy party later in the year.” The chapter president, Jack Lageschulte, who led in keeping Wu out, has since given thousands of dollars to Psi U.

The full Seeger lyrics appear to be nowhere online. So, transcribing:

As I was out walking the streets of Northestern,
I spied a young freshman, dejected and blue,
And so when I asked him, “Why are you dejected?”
He said, “I’m Chinese and I can’t join Psi U.

“I see by your frat pin that you are a Psi U,
If I had a frat pin, I’d be one too,
If I had a frat pin, I’d be a Psi U,
I can’t have a frat pain ’cause I’m Sherman Wu.”

The dean said, “Now Sherman, don’t make a commotion,
It’s wrong to wash laundry in public you know,
The SGB soon will be making a motion,
Condemning the action that bothers you so.”

Now they still haven’t made a Psi U out of Sherman
‘Cause Jack Lageschulte said Wu had to go,
“If he were just Jewish or Spanish or German,
But he’s so damn Chinese, the whole campus would know.”

As I was out walking the streets of Northestern,
I spied a young freshman, dejected and blue,
And so when I asked him, “Why are you dejected?”
He said, “I’m Chinese and I can’t join Psi U.”

The Hitler meme comes to Northwestern football

Via Casey. Subtitle editing here is worthy of our comm school, but as Katz points out, the meme is suppsosed to show Hitler stupid/wrong, instead of so very right. In case you need a game recap, mine is here.

For what it’s worth, I think Fitz was right to go for the trick play.

Sure, it was obvious to Auburn, but you’ve essentially lost the game half a dozen times already, why not? And I love his quote afterward about the trick play even more than the play itself: “People tell me I’m too conservative so I said, what the heck, we’re here to win so let’s go. Go back, check your facts, I said a month ago we were going to come here to play to win. I’d do it again and twice on Sunday.”

Cardiac failure, watching Northwestern in the Outback Bowl

First quarter. Seconds into play, they intercepted us. A minute later, they scored. Their fans beat ours in a tug of war. The sideline reporter sort of admitted a fear of thunder. We almost had a touchdown, but they intercepted it and ran it back a million yards for a touchdown of their own. ESPN tried to ignore us and interview Tim McGraw, so we scored a touchdown. Tim McGraw insulted the Outback new media department. Didn’t they pay enough? The announcers mentioned we had sold our entire ticket allotment, 11,000 tickets at a school with only 8,000 students. You hear that, bowl committees of the future?

Second quarter. The announcers reminisced about a steakhouse that wasn’t Outback. Auburn scored again. We missed a field goal, a long Northwestern tradition. Things were generally quiet. We lucked out on a bad 4th down call. One of their guys dragged all of our players down the field at once. In the Auburn PSA, Bo Jackson was identified as “Bo Jackson, CEO/Philanthropist.” Always two things at once! Auburn’s PSA also had a race car driver, a scuba diver, patriotism, and a trained bird. Immediately following, Northwestern’s PSA had doors. Seriously, the commercial was all about campus doors. The NU doors featured most prominently are in reality kept locked all the time. Twitter user: “Lies!” Big-time interception for us. Then a bigger-time interception for them.

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