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September 20, 2012 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 3B

At Weber's,
decor surpasses
the dishes

Understanding creativity
Honors 252 links

uring the school year -
as I indefatigably tread
water, trying to stay
afloat in a sea of papers, proj-
ects, exams - I must admit that
my desire
to stray far
from campus
is minimal.
I mean, why
drive to Pita
Pita in Ypsi
when I can
gorge myself NATHAN
on toum WOOD
and pita at
La Marsa
on State Street? Sushi at Saica?
Meh, Sadako's closer.
But during the summer, my
motivation to explore beyond
the little area my laziness usu-
ally confines me to increases,
opening up cool things to do in
the wonderful city of Ann Arbor.
Note: When I say, "cool things,"
I'm really saying, "a slew of new,
awesome restaurants to try out."
And outside of summer, could
there be a better time to seek out
those new, awesome restaurants
than during Ann Arbor Restau-
rant Week? I think not.
At the top of my list this time
around is Weber's Restaurant.
First piquing my interest in the
place was my naive presumption
that it was associated with the
elite brand of grills bearing the
same name. I've repeatedly seen
bright, shiny billboards adver-
tising its outwardly modern
architecture (think Ross minus
the overbearing glitz), and I've
driven past it many a time on
the way to the movie theater.
On this one fateful night, I also
happened to be in the mood for a
nice prime rib.
So as our reservation time
comes and goes, my friends and I
entertain ourselves at the piano
bar - an elegant touch appropri-
ate for an elegant restaurant. Our
names are called after a moder-
ate wait, and soon we are pull-
ing up to a solid, cocoa brown
walnut table and similarly con-
structed, rugged - yet comfort-
able - chairs. As I look around,
I'm immediately surprised by the
unusual fusion of modern and
Bavarian architecture, the latter
of which the building's exterior
is now, after a recent renovation,
completely devoid. Thin, pasty
birch twigs decoratively skirt the
median of one wall, contrasting
nicely with the restrained colors
staining choice panes of glass
opposite them. On the remaining
wall space hangs what I will only
generically describe as a big vari-
ety of good artwork. The place is
classy, sophisticated, warm.
Our waiter first delivers a
basket of bread, for which I'm
never able to contain my excite-
ment. The carbs of the evening
include good quality, soft white
rolls (that truthfully could be
warmer), crusty homemade gar-
lic bread and tasteless, clearly
mass-produced matzah. An ivory
slab of cold, salty butter and a
stingy scoop of disappointingly

fishy salmon pte are served
alongside. I'm not outrageously
impressed, nor totally under-
Our appetizers range from
delectable to embarrassingly
not. Leading in taste is the escar-
got, whose texture is rendered
perfectly resilientcyet creamy
through precise preparation.
Simply flavored with butter,
lemon, parsley and a splash of
cognac, this dish is a real pleaser.
Unlike the snails, however, I find
the liberal helping of mussels I'm
served to be merely mediocre.
Though the shellfish are smooth
on the tongue, their lack of gar-
lic and salt is blaringly evident.
And even worse, on the "embar-
rassing" end of the spectrum, is
the restaurant's spinach bread.
Everything about this dish tastes
cheap: the Parmesan (grocery
shelf-standard), the mozzarella
(ordered pre-shredded in a bag,
I'm sure), the spinach (as freshly
wilted as a defrosted block
from the freezer) and the bread
(where's the nearest day-old dis-
count bakery?). I'm pretty sure
my six-year-old cousin made this
same dish for me last summer,
only better.
Seriously? This
is your spinach
The only other comment I
have regardingthe establish-
ment's pre-entre offerings
is that chopped romaine and
bottled dressing does not a salad
But I'm still hopeful for my
prime rib. Since this has been
Weber's House Specialty since
1950, I expect the beef to melt
in my mouth. I'm served twelve
ounces (a hefty portion) in a
pool of salty au jus. And while
I can't say it's the most tender
prime rib I've ever cut into, it
does exhibit good marbling,
deep flavor and is cooked rarely,
as I asked for - which is some-
times hard to come by late in
the evening.
The last note of our dinner is
a sweet one, a cannoli with fruit
sauce. Unfortunately, this note
falls flat, as the shell has long lost
its satisfying crunch and, with it,
any sliver of an exceptional qual-
ity: bland, boring, common.
Overall, the quality of the food
here is brilliantly outshined by
the intriguing decor, a common
casualty of poor restaurant man-
agement: It's clearly more about
the experience than the food.
So, while filling and - during
restaurant week - a good value,
Weber's may be somethingto try
out, but definitely not something
to brag about.
Wood is still searching for
that prime rib. To help, e-mail

the arts and
Daily Arts Writer
There's little to be seen or
heard in the Undergraduate Sci-
ence Building after 7 p.m. on a
Wednesday. Vacuums are the
most prominent obstruction in
the otherwise empty, serene cor-
ridors of the building, closely
followed by the heaving steps of
tired students heading out for
dinner or another round of cof-
fee at Starbucks.
But if you stood on the top
floor of the USB last Wednesday,
you would have heard something
almost profound amid the vacu-
ums and footsteps. You would
have caught snippets of a discus-
sion about meditation, creativ-
ity, consciousness and the nature
of knowledge, briefly interceded
by the sound of a flugelhorn (a
trumpet-like instrument from
You would have been
intrigued, then perplexed, then
amazed. You would have stood
in front of the classroom emit-
ting these noises, not under-
standing why a philosophical
discussion so acutely relevant
to the students of the University
was taking place in this hidden
corner of campus in late hours of
the evening.
The discussion in question
was one of many that will take
place every other Wednesday
this semester as part of an Hon-
ors 252 class, "Honors Natural
Sciences Seminar - Creativity
in the Sciences and the Arts."
Its title only skims the surface of
what this class is truly about, at
least for the casual observer. But
creativity in the sciences and
arts is a big component of what
drives most of the class discus-
sions and projects.
As part of the class, one pro-
fessor from the sciences and
one professor from the arts or
humanities talk about their
"Eureka moment" - the forces
that drove them to pursue their
respective careers and why
they're passionate about doing
what they do. This discussion
focuses on how creativity, and
the convergence of science and
art, plays a part in their careers.
In previous semesters, stu-
dents themselves have examined
unusual and intriguing examples
of how science and art converge
in everyday life - from creating
projects based on the measure-
ments and ratios required in the
production of a cupcake, to film-
ing themselves painting their
own walls using time-lapse pho-
Biological Chemistry Prof.
Stephen Ragsdale has taught
this class nearly every semester
since Fall 2009. Each week, the
class alternates between semi-
nar and workshop - where the
talks from the previous week are
further discussed to familiarize
students with their classmates,
but mostly, according to Rags-
dale, with themselves.
"(In the workshops) personal
things get revealed and students
start to trust each other," Rags-

Honors 252 features a bi-weekly guest lecturer to discuss their research.

dale said. "Over time, the class
becomes a safe zone for people
to explore new things and make
themselves vulnerable."
With 27 students, small class
size is perhaps the best way to
go for a class that relies primar-
ily on roundtable discussions.
Ragsdale explained that Honors
classes usually hover around 20
people, and despite being asked
to expand, he wants to stick to
his tried-and-tested class for-
But what about creativity
calls for a class to be devoted
to it? Creativity seems like a
strange concept to teach, if it can
be taught at all. In the Univer-
sity alone, it's not uncommon for
many science-minded students
to think that what they do either
has nothing to do with the arts
or requires a far superior intel-
lect, an illusion Ragsdale said his
class aims to dissolve.
"I had an interest in science as
well as the arts," he said. "I have
a feeling thatthey're actually not
that different. They offer differ-
ent views of reality, but there are
a lot of convergent principles.
"Over the time I've been
teaching this class, I wanted
to bring together scientists
and artists to speak together in
one classroom so that students
could ask: 'Is what (Professor
Stephen) Rush doing in his jazz
fundamentally different from
what (Professor) Henry Pol-
lack is doing when he's study-
ing climate change? Are they
fundamentally different ways of
viewing the world? Or do we just
have certain preferences?'"
A student of the sciences him-
self, Ragsdale is no stranger to
being bored by traditional sci-
ence classes. He says it's one of
the reasons he started the course
after its successful three-year
run at his previous post at the
University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
"I don't consider that science
is dry. I think it's a very cre-
ative field. We're always trying
to build puzzles, and the cool
thing is that they're puzzles of
our own mental construction,"
Ragsdale said.
But he also believes that
before experimenting and get-

ting creative with science, you
need to understand its basic fun-
damentals - a process that may
not be easy nor engaging.
"I think that's it's a matter of
what we think is most important
for (a) student to learn ... when
you learn piano, they don't just
say 'go and create this piece.' It's
first learning how to play, put-
ting your finger on some keys.
It's very didactic," Ragsdale said.
Yet regardless of the class
type, Ragsdale believes profes-
sors should find the right bal-
ance of "thinking and doing."
He uses various unusual teach-
ing methods in his own classes
to increase the students' input
into their own learning. He
allows them to develop rules on
the length and grading scales
of essays and projects, claim-
ing that students usually pick a
tougher workload for themselves
than he would think to assign.
"I think we just spend too
much time teaching students
facts and giving them tests on
factual matters rather than ask-
ing the deep question," Ragsdale
said. "If all you do in a class is
present lectures and give tests, I
think that's adverse to develop-
ing creative ideas."
Science isn't the only sub-
ject often considered less than
thrilling. Edward Sarath, guest
lecturer in Honors 252 and a
professor in the School of Music,
Theatre & Dance, encountered a
similar problem when he joined
his department in 1987.
"The School of Music in Mich-
igan was, and still is, largely
classical - that means, all the
music has been composed by
European composers who died
two centuries ago. When you
go to the Art school, it would be
unthinkable to not create your
own artwork. But in music, the
norm is: 'thou shalt not create,'
because we already have all this

great music," he said, during the
first Honors 252 lecture of the
Sarath now teaches jazz and
contemporary improvisation at
the University. He spoke of many
facets of creativity during his
guest lecture, specifically that
we're at a moment in time when
creativity is crucial to solving
the problems humanity is facing.
He added that students need to
condition their consciousness to
meet the challenge.
"The history of science is a
history of deep, deep thinkers.
The innovative scientist is going
far beyond the notion of conven-
tional science and transcending
the mainstream," Sarath said.
The students enrolled in this
class come from backgrounds
as diverse as business and math,
but almost all of them already
share a love for the sciences
and the arts. Amanda Harris, a
sophomore in the Ross School of
Business, said the multi-dimen-
sional aspect of Ragsdale's class
echoed her own personality.
"I'm taking this class because
I'm a very multi-dimensional
person. I like all the different
academic fields so I think it's
very interesting how he's blend-
ing two that you often think are
contradicting, because that's
also kind of howI see the world,"
Harris said.
Whether graduates of Honors
252 continue to be creative, have
"Eureka moments" or change
the world is yet to be deter-
mined. But it's clear that the
class poses some important and
complex questions, which Rags-
dale hopes will be enough.
"People always write that
they want to keep being creative
in whatever they do in their
lives," he said. "So I hope that
happens, I feel like it should hap-
pen, but we just get bogged down
in things sometimes."



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