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Chicago Humanities Festival Blog

What Are You Going to Eat for Dinner?
There is probably little that is inherently show-stopping about a good old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s a simple meal, though to be sure, you’ve got some options: White bread? Wheat? Will you cut off the crusts? And you’ve got your peanut butter options: Smooth? Chunky? (mmm…) Organic? And of course, the jelly: Strawberry? Blackberry? Fruit juice sweetened? It can become a culinary mini-adventure combining those three simple ingredients. Inevitably, they taste pretty good... Continue Reading >>
A Barihunk at the CHF
America’s opera audiences love Nathan Gunn! For over a decade, the dashing baritone has been conquering hearts across the country. Yes, his vocal technique is impeccable – just this year, The New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini, doyen of American music critics, called Gunn “a model of knowing your own voice and using it wisely.” Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera But Gunn is also a consummate performer, a singing actor as much as an acting singer. He’s been clowning... Continue Reading >>
The Genius of Yo-Yo Ma
How to explain the genius of Yo-Yo Ma? The basic facts are easy: he is, quite simply, one of the most famous musicians of all time, a global figure whose list of accolades – the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, honorary doctorates, and countless Grammys – puts him in a league of his own. And while his accomplishments could fill all kinds of blogs, a mere enumeration could never get to the heart of the matter. That lies, at least as I see it, in a unique... Continue Reading >>
The Frontiers of Anthropology
In the spring of 2004, my dear friend and fellow anthropologist Daphne Berdahl called me with exciting news. Her department – the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota – had just hired a young anthropologist as a new assistant professor. And Daphne was thrilled. Karen Ho, she told me, is the next generation of anthropology. Karen Ho Daphne didn’t think about it in terms of Karen’s age (although she was the youngest anthropologist on the Minnesota faculty... Continue Reading >>
Write Club: Trojan Horse of Goodness
Greetings, CHF loyalist! My name is Ian Belknap, and I’m the Founder and Overlord of WRITE CLUB. Which is likely a thing you’ve not heard of and do not know. I’m here to change that. First the basics: WRITE CLUB is quite simply a literary event that takes the form of a battle. The format is this: Three Bouts of Two Opposing Writers/Two Opposing Ideas (assigned in advance – Fire vs. Ice, for example, or Fate vs. Free Will)They get seven minutes each to read their... Continue Reading >>
Bel Canto - The Future of Opera
Doctor Atomic Opera is a total form of art, what Richard Wagner called a Gesamtkunstwerk. It combines music, theater, visual art, even dance, in ways its aficionados – and I’m certainly one of them – experience as the pinnacle of human creativity. When it all comes together, when it really, really works, it’s simply magic. Un Ballo in Maschera And yet, there is something worrisome about the genre. Sometimes, it can feel a bit static and worn, as if it’s... Continue Reading >>
A Jazzy Take on American Transcendentalism
Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass just might be the seminal collection of American literary verse (if we even want to limit ourselves with such bold categorizations!). He celebrates our country’s bountiful nature, revels in our beautiful bodies, catalogues our careers and our diversity. And he loves togetherness:  I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I always get a thrill and a... Continue Reading >>

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