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April 10, 2003

Chi-Lights

A wee breakdown of my foray into the Second City. Visited Scott's mum in the burbs - for two days one could saunter about in t-shirts and shorts in the 70 degree weather. (Not that I was prepared - demurely clad from neck to the ankles, alas.) Used book shopping - picked up Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, the Norton 2d ed. of Pride & Prejudice (for the essays, natch), and Anne McCaffrey's To Ride Pegasus in hardcover. Spent a day in Lincoln Park and Wicker Park, where we blew money on a ton of used cds, including Radiohead's Kid A, Liz Phair's whitechocolatespacegg, the White Stripes, the newest Suzanne Vega album, some Laura Nyro, Rick James, Rolling Stones, Yvonne Elliman, Ohio Players, the La Boheme soundtrack, Ambrosia - The Essentials, a 2-disc Negativland bootleg. Quirkier purchases included a cover album of Schoolhouse Rock songs, and Scooby Doo Snack Trax, featuring songs that were played during the episodes.

While Scott was at conference I took in my Austen lecture, which was a lovely treat. The lecturer discussed how Austen's heroes, particularly Mr. Darcy, achieve a balance between, well, sense and sensibility. That is, reason and human feeling, particularly the love which they express for their heroines. Neither is emphasized at the expense of the other; happy marriages don't merely depend on love (feeling), but mutual respect (reason) as well. Moreover, such relationships are not only beneficial to the lovers themselves, but are a social good as well. Contrast Elizabeth and Darcy or Jane and Bingley with the more egocentric relationships of Lydia and Wickham, Marianne and Willoughby, or Emma and Frank Churchill, who enjoy their personal relationships at the expense of the happiness and prospects, or simply social ease, of the others. Lydia's escaping with Wickham tarnishes her family's honor and further endangers the marriage prospects of her sisters. Wickham's appearance of goodness and Darcy's disdain for social gallantries leads the neighborhood to believe good of the one and ill of the other, but these social feelings are misplaced. Marianne and Willoughby enjoy mean jokes at Colonel Brandon's expense. And Emma entertains Frank with rather cruel fancies about the orphan Jane Fairfax's romantic past. The characters who put their personal enjoyment above the concerns of others ultimately creates social instability. Austen seems to say that those happy marriages borne of love and prudence confer benefits both to the romantic partners as well as to the societies in which they thrive. Such happiness in personal relationships extends to the general feeling or goodwill in society, and therefore promotes social stability.

On Friday after breakfast, we spotted dozens of cops in riot gear - body armor, helmets with face guards, the whole shebang. Scott headed to conference while I decided to see what would cause such a display of force. There was a protest rally on Daley Plaza (by the Calder sculpture), and there seemed to be just as many cops as protesters, maybe more. I walked around a bit, paused to hear some of the speeches, then retreated into the antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Chagall windows were gorgeous, especially with the sunlight causing the deep azure to glow. There was a special Himalayan exhibit - just breathtaking. Some discomfiture when I ran into Scott's department head while we were both admiring a statue of Shiva and his consort…well, consorting, but also whilst literally vanquishing their enemies underfoot. (Talk about multitasking, but then they are gods, after all.) Also took in the Impressionist and Modern collections - spent the whole of Friday afternoon there. I was happy to revisit The Tub, a lovely little Degas sculpture.

We also met up with some old college friends of Scott's, who are still hanging out a decade later. One of them had googled Scott to see what had happened to him, and now friendships have been revived. Though I'd just met them, we all seemed at ease with one another, laughing and cracking jokes over pizza and beer.

Yours, &c., LC | 05:39 PM |