On the Road Again....

This is the view from the blog today. I'm hanging out on the south patio of the Illini Union this morning.

I can hear the announcer from the football game very clearly which is cool. We're playing Penn State. A little while ago, the Illini scored a touchdown off a 90 yard punt return. Hopefully they won't choke later in the game.

It is UI Foundation weekend in Champaign-Urbana. This morning as I parked my car and walked across campus, I decided that within the next ten years I am going to make and then donate enough money to the University that they'll invite me to Foundation Weekend. I've provided medical support at enough of their banquets and meetings, that it only seems fair that I would eventually get to be on the other side of the Foundation activities. I'm going to have to get those books written. I have a mental outline for two of them and ideas for a third. Time to stop putting off the actual writing. My favorite quote from James Thurber has been repeating itself in my head in the past few weeks...."Don't get it right, just get it written."

So, why is it that I feel the need to give more money to the University? Habit, I guess. I have spent 15 years paying tuition and fees to this silly place. I think it does a decent job of fostering intellectual pursuits. I think there are more things it could do. To my knowledge, the theater in Lincoln Hall *still* hasn't been renovated, despite half of the money being earmarked by the state legislature. I remember seeing pieces of paint and plaster fall from the ceiling during class. The seats were all lumpy. The plaster work was gorgeous, but definitley in disrepair. I think it really is time to fix that and keep up with some existing infrastructure updates instead of pushing all the big expenditures into new construction. Biotech is important, but the bread and butter of this institution is the provision of undergraduate education. Undergraduate tuition and fees are a tremendous boost to the bottom line. Let's not overlook the needs of that population and their right to decent facilities for educational purposes. Perhaps in addition to the 1% for art budgetary delineation with new construction, there should also be a 1% for existing infrastructure renovation movement. Now that "Chief Illiniwek" has been retired as a symbol of the University, I've got no aversion to giving back to the University.

What I Miss about C-U
The emphasis on academic pursuits and the de-emphasis on the accoutrements. Nobody here blinks an eye if you aren't wearing full makeup and hair. About a third of the adults are "birkenstock people". Recycling is normal, not freaky. Vegetarianism/veganism is normal, not a defect. There is no pressure to have status items and show everybody around you how much better/richer you are. That is not to say that there aren't some very rich people here, but there is most definitely not a society page in the local newspaper, much less an independent "Society Newspaper" as there is in Jackson. Conformity is absolutely ok here, but non-conformity is expected in a much larger proportion of the population. Nobody is particularly hidebound in their thinking. Critical thinking is expected and encouraged. Don't just question authority, question everything. Don't just be a blind follower of the herd, think about what the herd is doing, where it's going and why. If you don't think the herd is going in the right direction, saying something doesn't get met with hostility and strong opposition. The entire herd may not change direction, but there are usually a few who will try something new and you certainly won't be denigrated for trying or even failing. Cultural and ethnic minorities are accepted here. They aren't "dot-heads" or "rag heads" or other equally unkind and rude names. Quirky isn't something to be ridiculed. Diversity is not scary, nor is it a threat to the status quo. It's just different.

With regard to activities and things to do, I miss walking on campus. I miss the museums (Spurlock Museum, Natural History Museum, Krannert Art Museum--the 3rd largest art museum in the state after the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art). I miss the concerts and cultural events at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. Over the years I have seen Yo-Yo Ma (three times), Jean-Pierre Rampal, Pinchas Zucherman, Midori, Kiri Te Kanawa, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kodo, STOMP!, Cirque Eloize, the Berlin Ballet, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, Bobby McFerrin, a Chinese acrobatic/circus group, several operas, several plays and performances by dance graduate students.

Believe it or not, the Yo-Yo Ma concert sold out within 30 minutes of the tickets going on sale. I have sat in the front row and seen him play with Emanuel Ax. (My friend Carol and I got winked at as he exited the stage). I have sat in the very back row of the balcony. Neither was a bad seat. The acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are incredible. Incredible enough that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has recorded here. This venue is apparently sufficiently desirable that when Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax did their first tour, they completely bypassed Chicago and St. Louis to play Champaign.

On the academic front, I have seen lectures by three Nobel Prize winners, one of whom was a current faculty member, the late Dr. Paul Lauterbur. Dr. Lauterbur is the father of the MRI and figured out how to excite a person's hydrogen atoms to generate useful imagery. I had lunch with a second Nobel Prize winner. I miss the public lectures as part of the Millercom Series and the other lectures offered through various departmental seminars and other University-sponsored presentations. I remember listening to a grandson of Mohandis Gandhi talk about growing up in India. I remember listening to Terry Waite talk about his captivity and how he learned "creative solitude" as a result of >1200 days in solitary confinement. There were many others, just in the Millercom Presentations.

Overheard conversation of the morning: the technical changes in guitar playing that led to the emergence of rock and roll from the blues genre and the eventual emergence of goth music and culture. The same two people then started discussing the impact of the London School of Economics on US economic policy in the past 40 years.

I definitely need to be living in a more liberal and more academically/culturally rich environment than the one in which I currently reside. Time to plan how I will overthrow the world and move on to an environment which is a better fit for me.

In the meantime, I'm headed off to knit with Matthew and the gang at Needleworks for a while before going to the Pro Ambulance 20th Anniversary Reception.


Popular Posts