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Friday 9

It's not happenstance that Pinball Expo '90 is being held here--Chicago has long been the pinball capital of the world, with the headquarters of game manufacturers Bally and Williams both in town and that of Data East in Melrose Park. Is Pinball Old at 60?, Cable Lacing--A Lost Art, and Pinball Wizardry Skills are just three of the many talks this weekend at the Ramada Inn O'Hare. Other attractions include pinball machine exhibits, a tour of the Data East factory (today at 1:15), a talk by designing whiz Steve Ritchie (today at 4), and an international pinball tournament (beginning tonight at 7 and continuing tomorrow night at 7:30). First prize for the tournament is a $3,000 brand-spanking-new machine featuring the Simpsons, complete with the digitalized voice of Bart advising players not to have a cow. The whole shebang begins this morning at 8:30; $45 gets you into everything except Saturday night's banquet, which is $35--or you can shell out $5 for entry to the exhibit halls (the price doesn't include lectures) or the tournament or $10 for the tour. The Ramada Inn is at 6600 Mannheim Road in Rosemont; call 800-323-3547 for information.

The Chicago Park District's chrysanthemum collection--the largest municipally owned assortment in the country--will be put to the task of saluting the Soviet landscape design today in PUF: A Salute to the USSR at the Lincoln and Garfield park conservatories. ("PUF" is for "peace, understanding, and friendship.") Two landscape designers from Kiev were commissioned to do something with the two conservatories; you can get tours of the resulting gardens, hear Russian music, and see displays of Russian art and architecture daily. The Garfield Park Conservatory is at 300 N. Central Park; Lincoln Park's is at 2400 N. Stockton. Both are open 10 to 6 Saturday through Thursday, 9 to 9 Friday. It's free; call 294-2493 for more information.

Albert King--he of the blistering leads, "Laundromat Blues," and trademarked southpaw Flying V guitar--plays tonight and tomorrow night, around 9:30, to celebrate B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera's third birthday. The club's at 1124 W. Belmont; admission is $10. Call 525-8989.

Saturday 10

When the Veterans of Foreign Wars--vocal and often threatening opponents of flag burning in general and of Dread Scott Tyler in particular--aren't waging assaults on the First Amendment, they're out demonstrating for MIAs and POWs. Today local VFW post 1604 and the Chicago chapter of VietNow are holding a 24-hour vigil for POWs and MIAs from Illinois. The vigil, at 4127 N. Paulina, begins at 10 AM today and goes till 10 AM tomorrow. At vigil's end, participants plan a march down Irving Park Road to the intersection of Irving, Damen, and Lincoln, where they'll raise a flag. Call 549-3478.

Sunday 11

"58,000 of our friends died in Vietnam for nothing," say the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "Now Bush wants to sacrifice another generation for oil." Instead of mourning already fallen comrades (MIAs and POWs), Vietnam Veterans Against the War want to prevent creating more of them in the future. They're holding a demonstration to this end today at the fountain memorializing Vietnam veterans at Wacker and Wabash. Things get under way at 11. Call 327-5756 for more information.

Sessions on Yiddish literature, humor, theater, and journalism are all part of Yiddish in America, a conference today at the Spertus College of Judaica, 618 S. Michigan. The keynote speaker is Dr. Jack Kugelmass, currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of many ethnological tomes, among them From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry. Other speakers include Columbia College prof Philip Klukoff (on journalism) and Spertus dean and professor Nathaniel Stampfer (on literature). The five-hour conference starts at noon, and participants choose two sessions to attend in addition to the keynote speech. You don't even have to know Yiddish. The cost is $20 at the door. Call 922-9012 for information.

Monday 12

The Com Ed debate continues, with a poignancy peculiar to Chicago: sure, municipalization looks more attractive than Com Ed, but who the heck wants the city council running the electric company? This and other issues of a more serious sort will be discussed at Chicago's Electric Options--An Environmental Perspective, a free forum at the University of Chicago this evening. Present will be David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, Alderman Larry Bloom, and reps from labor, the Daley administration, and the Chicago Electric Options Campaign. It starts at 8 on the third floor of Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th. Call 702-9793 for more information.

Tuesday 13

Though known in his day as a conservative Republican, former Illinois governor William Stratton supported fair-employment practices and civil rights legislation, instituted lots of public-works building, and rejected legislation that would have imposed loyalty-oath requirements on public employees. This is in sharp contradistinction to the career of, among others, his rough contemporary Ronald Reagan as governor of California. Stratton and his biographer, David Kenney, are appearing tonight at the Sulzer Regional Library to talk and answer questions. Kenney's book is called A Political Passage: The Career of Stratton of Illinois. The library is at 4455 N. Lincoln; things get under way at 7. The free affair is brought to you by the Ravenswood-Lake View Historical Association. Call 728-8652 for more information.

Wednesday 14

It's election wrap-up time again, and not a moment too soon. The Sun-Times's Carol Ashkinaze, the Chicago Reporter's Laura Washington, City and State's Ellen Schubart, and out-of-towner David Broder of the Washington Post are gathering at lunchtime today to Wednesday-morning-quarterback the elections. The Metropolitan Planning Council and the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs of Roosevelt University are sponsoring the forum, to be held at the university's O'Malley Theater, 431 S. Wabash, on the seventh floor. Registration is at 11:15; the session begins at 11:30 and lasts until 1. Feel free to bring a box lunch. It's $5, free to Roosevelt students and faculty and to MPC members. Call 922-5616 for details.

Victim of COINTELPRO (the FBI's notorious radical harassment program) and self-proclaimed political prisoner Dhoruba al-Mujahid Bin-Wahad is in Chicago today. Bin-Wahad and the group under whose auspices he'll be appearing, Freedom Now! (the "campaign for amnesty and human rights for political prisoners in the USA"), say there are more than 100 political prisoners in the U.S. right now. He'll be speaking today at 2:30 at DePaul University Law School, 25 E. Jackson, room 905, with a reception to follow. He'll also speak Friday evening at a dinner at the Commuters' Center at Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; dinner's at 5 and the program begins at 7. Today's talk is free; Friday's program costs $10, $5 without dinner. For more information, call 663-4399.

Thursday 15

All artists create their own canvases, and Professor Bubbles uses, as his name implies, the soap bubble. Reputedly able to create bubble chains, make bubbles walk tightropes, and even encase members of the audience in giant-size bubbles, the good professor will be demonstrating his skills today at the opening of a discount toy store, Toys for Less. The store is being operated until December 23 by the Jewish Council for Youth Services to raise money for people with developmental disabilities. Toys for Less is at 6113 N. Lincoln; Professor Bubbles hits the stage at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM. It's free. Call 726-8891.

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