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Kate Harding's Fall Festival Preview

"I like your ambition, Kate!"

That was a Chicago Humanities Festival employee's response after seeing a homemade calendar of events I plan to attend: 29 of them, in all, bookended (ha!) by William Gibson in Evanston on October 16 and Umberto Eco downtown on November 13. The fantastic perk of being a guest blogger is an all-access pass to the festival, and I intend to make the most of iteven if I did clearly hear a quiet "Good luck with that, sport" underlying the comment about my ambition. (And it was in an e-mail.)

Every autumn since 2005, when I moved to Rogers Park, I've had the same conversation with myself.  It goes like this:

"Hey, Kate, you should go to something at the Humanities Fest this year."

"Great idea, Kate.  Let's look at the website and choose a couple of things."

[looks at website]

"I want to go to everything! And I can only afford, like, two things! WHICH TWO THINGS?"

[brain short circuits]

Then I get distracted and forget about it until two or three days after the festival ends, at which point I kick myself.

This year, though, I can "afford" all the things! The only hard part is choosing between events scheduled at the same time, or back to back and a mile apart from each other.  Do I really want to see Umberto Eco (whom I love, but perhaps my schedule is too author-heavy) or attend the City of the Future panel? How do I decide between the sold-out Wikileaks and the First Amendment discussion and Todd Kuiken's fascinating-sounding lecture on advances in prosthetic technology?

And will I have the energy for either after I've already seen two Can't Misses that morning: Rebecca Solnit (whom I have admired ever since I read her glorious essay "Men Who Explain Things") and Anthony Grafton on the future of the book? As a writer, a former publishing professional, and an avid reader of both paper and e-books, I'm really excited to hear his ideas.

I know it's almost certainly unrealistic to believe I will make it to all 29 of the events I put into that calendar, but I swear, I will die—by which I mean "get really tired"—trying. I mean, look at these offerings! The Truth Machine: American Justice and Our Obsession with Lie Detection! Trains of Thought: Lessons from Tokyo! Facing Up to the Uncanny Valley! Mother Jones: New Frontiers in Journalism! It's like the programming folks read my diary when deciding what topics to include. (Except there's nothing called "Pile of Corgi Puppies: An Interactive Presentation.") How could I skip any of them?

In fact, the festival hasn't even started, and I'm already down to 28 events; I remembered I'm teaching a class at StoryStudio Chicago on the night Jared Diamond is speaking. Stupid employment! But I shall do my very best to milk my golden ticket for all it's worth.  At the very least, I need to make up for the last six years.

Kate Harding is the co-author of Lessons From the Fatosphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce With Your Body and has been a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

Tags: events, Gibson, Harding, Eco, blog, preview, schedule

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