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Chicago Humanities Festival Blog

David Carr and the Future of Journalism
Clara Jeffery is the coeditor of Mother Jones magazine. Flashback, mid ’90s, perhaps a week after I first met David Carr. The occasion was David giving reporters and editors at Washington City Paper, the alt weekly where I worked and where he’d just become the boss, a little speech. My memory of it is vague: part introduction, part pep talk, part acknowledgement that he had a steep learning curve to grok a city where most of us had grown up and all of us had put in some serious time... Continue Reading >>
On the Poetics of Claudia Rankine
A note from Corrina Lesser, CHF Senior Program Manager:Naturally, I’m biased when it comes to believing how important and influential CHF’s presenters are in the worlds – be it academic or artistic – that they inhabit. I’ll say that very few things bring me such professional satisfaction, in this particular case, as being able to present a writer who truly inspires awe and reverence in the creative lives of the greater artistic community. Time and again when I’ve mentioned that poet and essayist... Continue Reading >>
River of Research
Elation, followed by panic: that about sums up my reaction when I was asked to interview Amitav Ghosh about his latest novel, River of Smoke. Unfortunately I’m easily intimidated by nearly every author I encounter, but Ghosh? He’s brilliant, complex, prolific, a veritable trifecta of admirable literary qualities, and so transcends being merely a smarty-pants author. His best-selling 2008 Sea of Poppies was so multifaceted and imaginative it was shortlisted for the Man Booker... Continue Reading >>
Dancing with Science
When we were considering our options for including dance in this fall’s Festival, we didn’t set out to find collaborations between choreographers and scientists. But, with technology in mind, the projects we felt most drawn to were indeed such collaborations. This weekend, we partner with the Museum of Contemporary Art to present the Dance Exchange performing Liz Lerman’s latest work The Matter of Origins. This is rich, fully-realized work that Lerman developed from a residency with the... Continue Reading >>
The Way We Were
Streisand with Marilyn and Alan Bergman Barbra Streisand didn’t like “The Way We Were” when composer Marvin Hamlisch first played it for her. She thought it was “too simple.” She asked the Hamlisch-Bergmans songwriting team to write another song, and so they did. Barbra preferred the second version. A tape was made of each of the two songs and played during a private screening of the film’s opening credits to determine which version worked better. Barbra got... Continue Reading >>
Jason Graae on Jerry Herman
From Jason Graae's liner notes for his just-released CD, Perfect Hermany. Jerry Herman is the reason I got into this Business. I don’t know whether to hug him or to hit him. I will NEVER forget the first time I heard “Some Enchanted Evening” and my life was changed. Oh wait – that was Rodgers and Hammerstein! I knew that. I have always loved Jerry’s scores, and come on – WHO DOESN’T? I started piano lessons when I was 9 – my piano bench was filled with Grieg,... Continue Reading >>
CHF's Got Game
I’ve done a very unscientific poll and discovered that folks young and old do not generally associate the word “game” with the Chicago Humanities Festival. Dialogue. Philosophy. Lecture. Edification. These are some of the words that come to people’s minds when I ask them for one word they associate with CHF.  “Game” is never mentioned. Well, that’s about to change.  And for any of you with an inclination toward crossword puzzles, word play, poetry, friendly competition, trafficking in... Continue Reading >>
Classical Music and the CHF
What is the place of classical music – or any form of performance art, really – in a Humanities Festival? We think about this question a lot when we are programming the CHF – and it has resulted in a series of events that are truly exciting to us. So where do we begin in the process? Our starting point is a desire to present as all-compassing a Festival as we can imagine. To that end, we extend the notion of Humanities beyond the narrow academic definition. Yes, we do present literary... Continue Reading >>
Anna Clyne and My Grandfather
Vienna's Staatsoper Growing up in Vienna, classical music was always in my life. It was on the radio and television as well as at school, where I had music instruction from grade one (all of us could choose between lessons in piano or violin – free of charge). Most importantly, though, I had my grandparents, who had fled Vienna for London in 1938, but returned in 1946, mainly because they missed Austrian culture, which is to say classical music. Grosser Sall at the... Continue Reading >>
The Quest to Learn How Kids Learn Best
Katie Salen on the first day of school at Quest to Learn in New York City. Katie Salen is a game designer, executive director of the Institute of Play and recently appointed professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University. Several years ago, while teaching at Parsons The New School for Design, Salen and her collaborators began more closely observing how kids learned and played videogames. Kids spent hours... Continue Reading >>
The Oscar That Got Away
A search of the nominations for Best Original Song reveals the names of some of the greatest songwriters in the history of American music. Among the greatest that never won an Oscar were Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Fred Astaire with George and Ira Gershwin THE GERSHWINSGershwin’s 1937 entry into the Oscars was "They Can't Take That Away From Me," which was sung by Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance. The nomination was a posthumous one, as the 38-year old... Continue Reading >>
Adam Bradley: My Unlikely Career as a Hip Hop Academic
Adam Bradley is an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the author or several books, including Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop, The Anthology of Rap (co-edited with Andrew DuBois), and One Day It’ll All Make Sense (with Common). Ten years ago when I was in the midst of my graduate studies in English at Harvard, reading four-inch-thick Victorian novels and taking my oral exams with professors whose names appear on the spine of the... Continue Reading >>
Video Games and Learning Part Two: James Gee
I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember, but I can’t recall the last time I read an instruction manual before starting a new game.  As it turns out, I’m not alone in this.  Many video game players skip the manuals altogether, choosing instead to dive into the game and learn by doing.  And this makes perfect sense to Professor James Gee of Arizona State University. James Gee Gee, who recently spoke at YouMedia as part of the CHF Summer Institute for... Continue Reading >>
Umberto Eco
Jeff Waxman is a bookseller with the Seminary Co-op's 57th Street Books, and promotions manager at the University of Chicago Press. As a teenager, I harbored unremarkable ambitions. Like you, probably, I thought of writing fiction, until a year—just a year!—of writer's block ended any hope I might have had that I could ever make a living stringing words together. But it never stopped me from reading. Surrounded as I was by books, I had a growing sense that the world obviously must... Continue Reading >>
William Gibson
Jeff Waxman is a bookseller with the Seminary Co-op's 57th Street Books, and promotions manager at the University of Chicago Press. At some time, in some place, I read an interview with William Gibson in which he said that he stopped writing about human alienation in a dystopian future when the world around him caught up to his visions. William Gibson It's basically true: his books since Neuromancer have become less about the future and more reflective of the... Continue Reading >>

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