14 October 2008

The Chicago Humanities Festival in Hyde Park

Saturday we went down to Hyde Park for a special program of Chicago Humanities Festival. Usually the festival starts at the end of October and runs through the first couple weeks of November, but this year they scheduled this early taste in Hyde Park. So Victor and I rode our bikes to the Belmont Red Line stop and took the train (with bikes) down to Garfield.

We got up early to try and catch a bird watching group that meets Saturday mornings at 8 in Jackson Park, but the trip ended up taking too long, and we missed the group. But—wow—Jackson Park was beautiful, especially the Japanese Garden. We’re determined to go back.

The first event we attended was in Mandel Hall, a beautiful venue that looks like it used to be a chapel. The speaker, Gary Becker, is a Nobel-Prize winning economist, but his talk wasn’t so great. His thesis was basically that actions to resolve fears have unintended consequences, including the generation of new fears.


His theme was involved the importance of education in ameliorating the impact of unexpected consequences (fears). The most interesting data he presented was on the contribution of higher education to higher quality of life in various respects. But the main thesis was simple-minded at best.

Presumably his academic work is more interesting. I can only imagine he believed he had to dumb the stuff down for a general audience.
Next, we entered the Smart Museum of Art for the first time. Looks like a great space. In a classroom there, we listened to Deidre Chetham and Orville Schell, who discussed the new dam on the Yangtze River. Chetham talked about the impact of displacement on families who had lived in the areas that are now submerged. Schell focused more on the bigness of the projects that China is engaging in.

Our third and final event was a performance by the Silk Road Theatre Project of a new verse play by Yusef Komunyakaa, an adaptation of the ancient epic Gilgamesh. I’m afraid Victor fell asleep, but I really enjoyed it. I thought the performers were pretty wonderful.

After this we took a quick tour through at the Hyde Park Art Center, and then had a beautiful ride home. But long. We usually don’t ride more than 5 miles or so. The ride home was about 10 miles.

I was awfully tired the next day.

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