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15 FRIDAY In the 90s, conceptual artist Robert Blanchon made waves with his Art Against AIDS billboards and deeply personal work like 1992's Untitled (Protection), which paired a letter informing his parents of his HIV status with his mother's rambling, evangelical response. Last fall he was set to begin teaching at his alma mater, the School of the Art Institute, when he died of complications from AIDS. The new exhibit Minimal Provocations: The Art and Influence of Robert Blanchon is meant to construct "a (fictional) dialogue between those who were influenced by his personal instruction and the artist/teacher who no longer exists." The free opening reception is tonight from 5 to 7; at 6:30 curator Shay DeGrandis (a friend and colleague of Blanchon's) will discuss his legacy. It all takes place at SAIC's Betty Rymer Gallery, 280 S. Columbus (312-443-3703).

The 2,030 children who live in the Chiapas community of Polho haven't been able to go to school since April 1997, when the Mexican government pulled the town's 19 teachers out of the area. But recently a group of education professionals sponsored by Ta Spol Be--Building a Path has been teaching the kids and training their parents to be bilingual teachers. Tonight Casa Guatemala brings Ta Spol Be representative Elvia Sanchez from Chiapas to explain her group's work and discuss new Mexican president Vicente Fox's attitude toward the beleaguered southern state. It's at 7 at Inspiration Cafe, 4554 N. Broadway, second floor. There will also be marimba music by the youth ensemble Kolojel Junam, poetry by Rogelio Olguin, food, and a crafts market. Admission is $6; call 773-334-9101.

16 SATURDAY A few weeks ago ABC radio abruptly dumped WXCD FM's classic rock format in favor of "The Zone--The Best of the '80s and Beyond." Management also cleared out most of the on-air staff, including local rock radio vets Bob Stroud, Allan Stagg, and Patti Haze. The last lends her smoky voice to a reading of children's holiday tales tonight at 7 as part of Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic festival, where kids can also sit on Santa's lap, sing to various animals, and play games. It's from 4 to 9 at the zoo, 31st and First in Brookfield. Admission is $7, $3.50 for children and seniors; parking is $4. Call 708-485-0263.

Just because the American Journalism Review describes Ira Glass's public radio show This American Life as "the vanguard of a journalistic revolution" doesn't mean there won't be whoopee cushions, noisemakers, and other sophomoric surprises at this hometown stop on the show's fifth anniversary tour. Show contributors Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, and Ian Brown will read stories about birthdays and anniversaries (and the band OK Go will play in between) at two performances today at 4 and 8 at the Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo. Tickets are $15 and $25; call 312-902-1500. An edited rendition of the show will air December 30 on WBEZ.

17 SUNDAY People who think seagulls are white pigeons are giving the gulls a bad rap, says Jim Landing, conservation representative of the Fort Dearborn chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society. "They're scavengers that help keep the city clean; they're like the people who go out and collect aluminum cans. They're good citizens." They also mate for life and raise their young together, which is more than can be said for most citizens. Landing will lead a recreational search--not a count--for winter gulls, snowy owls, and other cold-weather birds during this weekend's Gull Days, which are Saturday and today from 9 to 11 AM at Montrose Point, about a quarter-mile east of the Montrose bait shop (at Montrose east of Lake Shore Drive). It's free; call 312-996-3118.

18 MONDAY Teen angst, superheroes, romance, and terror are elements the performance collective Park Avenue Produce looks for when sifting through classic comic books for Captured Aural Phantasy Theater script material. The weekly multimedia event combines radio-style dramatic readings with special effects; there's also live music, slides, films, and door prizes. It's tonight at 8:30 at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. The show will be followed by music from LeRoy Bach and Edward Burch. Cover is $5; you must be 21. Call 773-227-6398.

19 TUESDAY A third of the objects in the traveling exhibit Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur come from the burial chamber of Puabi, a queen who was about 40 years old and just under five feet tall at the time of her death, between 2600 and 2500 BC. In addition to jewelry, headdresses, and elaborately decorated vessels, her chamber contained the remains of more than a dozen attendants. The exhibit, which features 157 Sumerian artifacts excavated in Iraq by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and '30s, is open today from 10 to 5:30 (and runs through January 21) at the Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 E. 58th. Admission is $5, $2 for children. Call 773-702-9514.

20 WEDNESDAY Experts estimate that three to six million Americans will be affected by panic disorder at some point in their lives. But because the symptoms--which can include feelings of doom, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling in the extremities, fear of choking or smothering, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea--are similar to those related to other medical problems, only one in three sufferers will be correctly diagnosed. You can find out more about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of panic disorder today from noon to 1:30, when the Panic/Anxiety Recovery Center screens the Discovery Channel documentary Things That Go Bump, which features PARC clinical director Mark Pfeffer and four local clients. It's at PARC, 680 N. Lake Shore Drive, Suite 1325, and it's free, but reservations are required. Call 800-800-1453.

21 THURSDAY Just over six months ago tenor saxophonist Vandy Harris had to cancel a show at HotHouse because he was too sick to play. The longtime AACM member has been diagnosed with a chronic respiratory illness, and, like many self-employed musicians, he has no health insurance. Tonight's Benefit for Vandy Harris is intended to help cover his medical bills; the lineup includes Ernest Dawkins and New Horizons, the AACM Large Ensemble, Ultimate Unity, and members of Muntu Dance Theatre. It starts at 7 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Call 312-362-9707.

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