Monday, December 15, 2008

It's a long cold lonely winter, but--

What with the dire economy, G-Bay (as Tribune readers have christened the Blago scandal), book sales down by 20 percent in most markets, private miseries,  and a general lack of a ho-ho-ho feeling in the air, it's good to have something uplifting and unusual to turn to.  And for me, last week, it was the Nobel Prize.



Yes, winning that prize was a wonderful culmination to a life of creative work. By Mr. Yoichiro Nambu at the University of Chicago.  For personal reasons, Mr. Nambu was unable to go to Stockholm to accept the prize.  Instead, the Swedish Ambassador to the United States came to Chicago and presented the prize to him here.  My husband, Courtenay Wright, is a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and a member of the Fermi Institute (it was Enrico Fermi who brought Courtenay to Chicago as a young post-doc).  I always find it exciting to tag along to physics events.  The work they do is exciting and stimulating; even if I don't understand a great deal of it, the parts I do understand stretch my mind in wonderful ways.

At the December 10 ceremony, they hired the Millar Brass ensemble to play the heraldic trumpets used in Stockholm.  They showed a film of the Stockholm ceremony, where everyone has to dress in white-tie or ball gowns, and then the ambassador gave Mr. Nambu his medal and Mr. Nambu explained spontaneous broken symmetry, for which he received the prize, to the audience.

If you want to hear the speech, or at least the Millar Brass, you can do so here:

After the ceremony, I came home to the quotidian, the bills, the ills, but I still see a faint glimmer of gold, not from the prize, but of the reaches of the human mind that inspired it.  It's one of the things that will help carry me until the sun comes out.  What's helping you through these difficult days?

25 comments:

Sue T. said...

I've started volunteering for Meals on Wheels in my community. MoW provides a daily meal for anybody who's housebound, regardless of income level (those who can afford it pay for the meals on a sliding scale; those who can't, don't). It's been a great way for me to feel less hopeless & helpless about the crummy economy.

Libby Hellmann said...

Nice trumpets... kind of gives me a little thrill (up my leg)...

What gets me through is the sense that the country is finally getting back on track. For example, Obama's stimulus plan will emphasize renewable energy programs, will actually repair our infrastructure, and will call for a Kennedy-esque service efforts. All that is so hopeful and optimistic. All we need to do is make sure those funds end up where they're supposed to, and not in someone's pocket or campgaign coffers.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Great writers. Whenever I'm ready to give up on the world, I think of all the people whose words teach me or cheer me or transport me to another time or place.

Independent booksellers.

Volunteers. People who give their time and energy to help others--register voters, clean up their neighborhoods, serve or deliver meals, train dogs so other people can adopt them, take those who can't drive where they need to go...

The geniuses who give us things that would have been science fiction ten or twenty years ago, and those who gave us indoor plumbing, recorded music, electric lights, cures, theories, insights, the interstate highway system, views of places in the universe we couldn't go in a lifetime if we could travel as fast as light...

Lake Michigan--never the same lake two days in a row. (Take a trip down LSD and check it out for yourself.)

PBS, NPR, and WYCC (Chicago's TV college). You can get a great liberal education just by tuning in.

Public Libraries and the librarians who make them great, protect them from censorship, and shield patrons from government spies.

Ordinary people who go to work every day, pay their bills, and love their families, celebrate milestones and holidays, and keep on keepin' on in spite of tough economic times, war, global warming, political scandals, and the steady diet of bad news--things they can't control--that they're bombarded with daily.

The Earth. Max Urman was right--"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

Dick Adler said...

Yes, like Michael, books. I'm getting some ARCS of great new books: THE LONG FALL, by Walter Mosley; BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, a debut set in the Dordogne; T. Jefferson Parker's RENEGADES; Olen Steinhauer's THE TOURIST.
Just arrived and as yet unopened, Tom Robb Smith's follow-up to CHILD 44. And due any day is Steig Larsson's posthumous second book, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.
One thing more: Rachel Maddow. She's having a great time with Gov. Eyechart....

ab said...

The Nobel Prize is one of the things Sweden is pretty proud of. A big part of the Swedish population sit in front of the TV and watch the ceremony and the great banquet afterwards.

I am so happy for having Obama as president-elect, it will feel different traveling to the U.S. now, and so happy because the G-bay is not affecting him in spite of R attempts to make it do so.

The crisis hasn't really hit us here yet, but I suppose it will soon.

ab said...

And Sara - now I am deeply impressed by your husband...

Corey Wilde said...

The bright spot in these difficult days for me is seeing people who rarely used to talk about politics or social issues now speaking frequently, and in a more informed way than four years ago. I had my annual dinner this evening with old schoolchums and for the first time the talk wasn't just catching up on each others' lives. Everything from what an Obama presidency might achieve or not, to the Illinois governor's case, to various local issues affecting our infrastructure and employment rate was on the table. And I could be wrong but I think everyone enjoyed the evening more than in the past. We weren't living in the past, we were in the present and looking forward to solving some of our problems.

ab said...

Corey Wilde: That sounds so encouraging! People not afraid of talking about politics, and interested too!

Dana King said...

This is corny, and a hard-boiled crime writer should be ashamed to say so publicly, but my daughter was awarded a full-tuition, four-year scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, with guaranteed admission into the Pitt Medical School if she keeps her grades up.

I don't really need anything else for a kick ass Christmas.

As a former brass musician, I know a few members of the Millar ensemble personally. A most talented and professional group.

Sara Paretsky said...

Dana, what lovely news to carry you through to the new year. And yes, Libby, AB, Corey, it does feel, as John XXIII said, as though a window has been opened so that a little fresh air can blow on us. I get private daily solace from reading, from sitting in the Osaka garden while my dog races around looking for--whatever dogs look for. I try to rejoice in the small things, but I do long for big change, too.

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