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Friday 10/25 - Thursday 10/31

OCTOBER

By Cara Jepsen

25 FRIDAY Spirituality, "the black aesthetic," and black nationalism are the themes of this year's Black Writers' Conference, a three-day event featuring discussions, performances, workshops, and readings. Tonight--the second day of the event--starts off with registration at 3, followed by a reception at 5. Harvard University professor Cornel West, author of Race Matters and Keeping the Faith, gives the keynote address at 6:15, and at 7 readings will be given by poets, including Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, and Nikki Giovanni. It's at the Robinson University Center at Chicago State University, 9501 S. King. You must sign up for the entire conference to gain entry to any of its events; it's $55, $45 for students ($10 discount for advance registration). Call 773-995-4440.

The events surrounding this year's two political conventions that didn't make the news are documented in two videos: Breaking Conventions, produced by the Los Angeles Alternative Media Network, looks at Republican National Convention protests at the Mexican border and such interest groups as Bikers for Gingrich. CounterMedia Chicago's Off the Record chronicles community dissent and police response during the DNC. The two videos will be screened tonight at 7 at the New World Resource Center, 1476 W. Irving Park, followed by an informal discussion of media strategies and the Chicago Police Department. It's free; call 773-348-3370.

At least one person will undoubtedly arrive dressed as the Deep Tunnel at this year's Friends of the Chicago River Halloween Boat Float. The fund-raiser features food, drink, and dancing as well as a contest for best river-themed costume and a silent auction (items include tickets to see Show Boat). The four-hour cruise starts tonight at 8:30; meet at Wacker Drive on the south bank of the Chicago River, between Wells and Orleans. It's $60 to ride the Jamaica (heated), or $35 for the Buccaneer (unheated). Reservations are required; call 312-939-0490.

26 SATURDAY Court Theatre founder and humanities professor Nicholas Rudall will give the keynote address at today's Humanities Open House, the University of Chicago's daylong series of lectures, tours, and performances exploring history, world cultures, and the arts. The event includes a talk by English professor Homi Bhabha on why cultural diversity provokes anxiety, a performance by the Motet Choir, and Deborah Gillaspie speaking on the history of Chicago jazz. The festival runs from 9:30 to 4 at the University of Chicago. Registration starts at 8:30 at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th. All events are free, but you must register to attend. Call 773-702-4195.

If getting chased by monsters while hip-hop music blares in the background is your idea of fun, you may want to check out University Park's Fright Night. The all-ages outdoor event features a haunted hayride, a bonfire, games, and beasts galore. The $3 admission also includes hot cider and a haunted walking tour of Pine Lake. It's tonight from 5 to 8 at Pine Lake at Old Monee Road and University Parkway. Call 708-534-6456.

27 SUNDAY According to naturalists many of the wild plants in the Chicago area are edible--including garlic mustard, wild carrots, and wild parsnips. At today's Wild Food Ecology Outing, participants will look at the ecology and environment of Big Bend Lake in Des Plaines and determine the edibility and usefulness of the area's plants. Meet at noon (you'll return around 3:30) at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood. It's free; call 312-243-5619.

Though the prize money doesn't come close to the loot at the Miss America contest, the dresses at this year's Miss Gay Universe Masquerade Pageant are sure to be better. The winner of the drag contest will walk away with $200 in cash and prizes, and audience members who arrive in costume (drag or otherwise) can also win prizes. It's from 5 to 9 at the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door; proceeds benefit the Asian American AIDS Foundation. Call 773-989-7220.

28 MONDAY Two of the best local alterna-country bands, Freakwater and Handsome Family, play tonight at a Halloween-themed show, The Darker Side of Country. The event features decorations by performance artist Matthew Owens and takes place from 7 to 11 at Wishbone, 1001 W. Washington. Admission is $5; food and drinks will be available for an additional charge. Call 312-850-2663.

Director Alexander Rogozhkin's comedy The Hunting Party: Russian Style, tells the story of a Finnish student who joins a Russian hunting group. Sergei Ursuliak's melodrama Russian Ragtime looks at a young man who struggles to escape the Soviet way of life. Both directors will introduce their films tonight as part of the first annual Russian Arts Festival--a five-day celebration of Russian theater, film, and visual arts that starts today and runs through Friday. The Hunting Party screens at 6 and Russian Ragtime at 8:30 at the Fine Arts Theater, 418 S. Michigan. Tickets are $7 for one film or $12 for both. Call 847-831-0660 for more.

29 TUESDAY Former Chicago radio personality Jay Marvin is one of 28 poets whose work appears in the latest edition of the locally published Tomorrow Magazine. It contains the self-described depressed, insecure, and in-need-of-love host's long prose poem "Death Comes in an Envelope," as well as an award-winning monologue, "Kreskin Be Damned," written by playwright Jamie Pachino. Eight writers will read from their work at tonight's release party, including Batya Goldman, Rex X. Burwell, Pamela Miller, and G.S. Kaplan. It's at 7 at Borders Books and Music, 2817 N. Clark. It's free; call 312-984-6092.

30 WEDNESDAY In recent years doctors have been prescribing Ritalin for kids with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at a rate that rivals the amount of Prozac prescriptions given to middle-class women. As with Prozac, the use of Ritalin sparks debate: supporters believe that curbing violent behavior at a young age through drugs can keep children from becoming violent adults; others think we're overmedicating our kids. Seeking the Genesis, a new play by Kia Corthron, examines the debate by focusing on an African-American single mother raising two kids in a housing project. Worried that her son Kite will follow the lead of his older brother, a 15-year-old gang member, she agrees to medicate Kite at the suggestion of a teacher, and the results prove disastrous. The play will be performed tonight at 7:30 at the Goodman Theatre Studio, 200 S. Columbus, and runs through November 17. Tickets are $18-$26. Call 312-443-3800.

31 THURSDAY The public is encouraged to wear costumes to Redmoon Theater's Halloween Lantern Parade and Spectacle. The parade starts tonight at 6 at the Logan Square Monument (at the intersection of Milwaukee, Kedzie, and Logan) and returns to the park a half hour later, when the festivities continue with skeleton dances, fire breathers, jugglers, and live music. It's free; call 773-388-9031.

You can view your aura in "60 seconds or less, guaranteed," claims Mark Smith, author of In a New Light: A Personal Exploration of the Human Aura. In his book he also reveals the aura colors of such celebrities and public figures as Jackie Onassis, Jerry Garcia, Al Gore, and James Taylor. Find out your true color tonight when Smith speaks at 7 at Transitions Bookplace, 1000 W. North. It's free; call 312-951-7323.

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