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By Cara Jepsen

FRIDAY 23

This year's African Festival of the Arts--an annual celebration of African-American creativity and diversity--is a sanctioned Democratic National Convention event, which means if you call up the mayor's office (744-3315--ask for the hot line), you'll hear it mentioned on the recorded list of DNC to-dos. Tonight's opening reception includes appearances by Living Single's T.C. Carson and artist Samuel Akainyah. It starts at 6 in the Harold Washington wing of the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place. The reception is $30 and includes a one-day pass to the festival, which runs from August 31 to September 2; $50 also gets you a weekend pass and a tour of six of the city's black-owned galleries, to be held next Friday, August 30. Call 955-2787 for tickets or info.

They may not know how to dance, but at least the Dems have decent taste in music: to kick off the convention, queen of soul Aretha Franklin and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis will give a free concert this evening at Grant Park. The show's from 7 to 10 and will be followed by a fireworks display. It's at the Petrillo Music Shell, Columbus Drive at Jackson. For more information call 744-3315.

Tinkertoys first hit the shelves in 1914; a year later more than a million cans of the construction sticks and wheels had been sold. But that wasn't the only thing the Tinker Toy company made--between 1916 and 1941 it also manufactured dolls, art sets, and games. Northbrook author Craig Strange's favorite is a springy, posable 1920s doll called Gym Tinker; he'll discuss that and his new book, Collector's Guide to Tinker Toys, tonight at 8 at Barnes & Noble, 1701 Sherman in Evanston. It's free, and Strange will provide cans of toys for children to play with. Call 847-328-0883 for more.

SATURDAY 24

If you dare attend, after last week's Reader cover story detailing the dangers of air shows, the 38th annual Air & Water Show hits the ground running today and tomorrow from 11 to 3:30. The action is centered at North Avenue Beach at North Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. It's noisy, it's crowded, and, tax dollars notwithstanding, it's free. Call 747-0832 for info.

Known for its climax--filmed on location at the 1968 Democratic National Convention--Haskell Wexler's 1969 film Medium Cool eschews traditional storytelling in favor of documentary-style filmmaking to tell the story of a Chicago news cameraman. This weekend a 35-millimeter print of the film will be shown at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport; Wexler, a Chicago native, will speak before the screenings. It's at 11:30 AM today and tomorrow; tickets are $5.50. Call 871-6604 for more.

Treatment on demand, medical use of marijuana, and, of course, politics are among the topics at the Festival of Life's Stop the Drug War Day. It kicks off a week of rallies and marches offered as an antidote to the convention; each day focuses on a different subject, including political prisoners, constitutional rights, and the environment. Today's march to the Federal Plaza starts at noon at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park, Columbus Drive at Jackson, and returns to the park later in the afternoon for speakers and music. It's free; call 296-2442 for more info on the week's events.

The most political thing at this weekend's Bucktown Arts Fest will be the intermittent excerpts from the rock musical Hair, performed by cast members. The free fest includes live music, poetry readings, and work by 136 artists. It runs from noon to 8 today and noon to 7 Sunday at Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley. Call 489-4662 for info.

Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, Julianne Malveaux, Walter Mosley, and Stanley Crouch are among the scholars and authors at today's Chicago '96 Symposium: Addressing the African American Agenda, a forum that will examine issues blacks will likely face in the next century. It's from 2 to 5 at Columbia College's Getz Theater, 72 E. 11th. The $12 fee includes a subscription to QBR, the Black Book Review; students get in free. For more information call 663-1124.

SUNDAY 25

One of the south side's biggest community events is the annual showcase of artwork by students and faculty from the Hyde Park Art Center's classes and outreach programs. This year's student-faculty show, Homegrown, opens today with a reception from 3 to 5 at the center, 5307 S. Hyde Park. It's free; call 324-5520 for more.

MONDAY 26

Panelists at today's Hemlines, Headlines, Partylines: Women, Media and Power--including CNN's Judy Woodruff, syndicated columnist Molly Ivins, NPR's Nina Totenberg, and U.S. representative Barbara B. Kennelly--will discuss what it's like to be a female Capitol Hill reporter as well as look at how the media covers women. The two-part program begins at 9:30 AM in the basement of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, where the Association for Women Journalists will release the results of a telephone survey on gender and news coverage; the panel discussion follows from 10 to 11:30 in the auditorium. Both events are free. For more information call 747-4050.

In his book One More River to Cross openly gay African-American author and DNC speaker Keith Boykin uses personal anecdotes, historical facts, and interviews to examine the perceptions blacks and gays have about themselves and each other as well as society's acceptance--or lack thereof--of its minorities. He'll speak tonight at 7:30 at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway. It's free; call 883-9119.

TUESDAY 27

Money and Politics: Are Dollars Buying Democracy? The short answer is yes; for the long answer, you can check out today's panel moderated by former Texas governor Ann Richards, which includes political consultant and American Express shill James Carville and former senator Bill Bradley. It's sponsored by the Creative Coalition, a group of individuals from the art and entertainment industries dabbling in social and political issues (Alec Baldwin is the current prez). Tomorrow's panel includes TV producer Steven Bochco, rapper/activist Chuck D, and film critic Michael Medved, who'll discuss What Is the Entertainment Industry's Responsibility to Not Offend Its Audience? Both events take place at noon at the Goodman Theatre, 200 S. Columbus. Each panel is $15, $10 for members. Call 443-3800 for tickets.

Advocate correspondent John Gallagher and fellow journalist Christopher Bull spent five years researching their new book, Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement and the Politics of the 1990s. Tonight Gallagher will discuss the impact the religious right and the gay community have had on each other as each group's political clout has grown. He speaks at 7 at People Like Us Books, 1115 W. Belmont. It's free; call 248-6363.

WEDNESDAY 28

At press time the organizers of today's Radical Chicago Historical Bus Tour weren't sure exactly where they'd all be going, but no doubt they'll make stops at the Amphitheatre and the site of the Haymarket riot of 1886. Wherever the destinations, the five-bus tour departs from the Autonomous Zone, 2311 W. North, at 10:30 AM. Tickets to ride are $2 and must be purchased in advance by calling 278-0775.

Learning to breathe properly--including slowing down your breathing--is the most important way to manage stress according to the folks conducting tonight's health-education class on relaxation and stress management. The class will also touch on muscle-tension exercises and biofeedback. It's from 6 to 7:30 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, 345 E. Superior. It's free, but space is limited. Call 908-6044 to register.

Goth author Anne Rice is currently on a 40-city, 55-day road trip to promote her latest work, Servant of the Bones, a novel that eschews vampires and witches in favor of a genie who deals in Jewish and Christian mysticism. Rice will sign copies from 6 to 10 at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway. It's free; call 883-9119.

THURSDAY 29

Chicago writers have been busy lately, and the subject matter isn't just popular TV shows. Reader contributor Adam Langer's book The Madness of Art recently hit the shelves, former Subnation food writer Amy LaBan has written a new book, Cheap Chow Chicago, and Julie Cowan and Christine Kordiuk's book Chicago's Daily Grind rates Chicago's coffeehouses. The four scribes will be on hand to discuss their books at a free release party tonight at 7 at Borders Books & Music, 2817 N. Clark. Call 935-3909 for more.

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