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Chicago Humanities Festival

In a nod to Daniel Burnham’s big idea, the Plan for Chicago, which turns 100 next year, the 19th annual Chicago Humanities Festival is themed “Thinking Big.” Over the monthlong fest, dozens of lectures, readings, and discussions by an international assortment of writers, artists, scientists, and scholars—as well as theatrical and musical performances, film screenings, and exhibits—will address directly or indirectly how big ideas can transform the world. Among the myriad topics are globalism, nanotechnology, democracy, E=mc2, geoengineering, architecture, urban planning, cosmology, evolution, time travel, and even kindergarten.

Among the items that piqued my interest: Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics should give a certain frisson to “Olympism and the Modern Olympiad” (Sat 10/11, 1 PM), a talk by U. of C. historian John MacAdam, and economist Jeffrey Sachs will lay out his plan to end world poverty (Thu 10/30, 6 PM). There’s a panel discussion called “The Plan of Chicago: 100 Years of City Building” with Carl Smith (author of The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City) and architect Jeanne Gang (Sun 11/2, noon). And hey, just curious—are you reading this in print or online? Novelist John Darnton (Black and White and Dead All Over) considers “The Future of the American Newspaper” (Sun 11/2, 3:30 PM). The festival culminates in a six-hour theatrical reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (there’s a dinner break). Most events are $5. a10/11-11/16, multiple venues,, 312-661-1028 for info, 312-494-9509 for tickets. —Jerome Ludwig