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Friday 7/19 - Thursday 7/25

JULY

19 FRIDAY In 1953, the Chicago Latvian Organization Association decided to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first Latvian Song Festival, which had been held in Riga just as the first Latvian independence movement was coming into being. The U.S. version started as a one-off for Latvians who'd left their country when it came under Soviet control after World War II, but it kept going every few years, even after Latvia regained its independence in 1991. This weekend some 1,000 singers, dancers, actors, and musicians will descend on Chicago--which has a Latvian population of 10,000--for the 11th U.S. Latvian Song Festival. Today's highlights include a performance of the musical Lolitas brinumputns at 10:30 AM at the Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo ($30, $15 for those under 18); a folk-dance competition at 3 at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine ($20 and $12); and a 10 PM concert by Latvian pop group Brainstorm at Metro, 3730 N. Clark ($30). The festival begins Thursday, July 18, and runs through Sunday at several locations. For a complete schedule call 312-861-5219 or log on to www.latviansongfest.org.

Each fall, thousands of activists from the School of the Americas Watch go to Fort Benning, Georgia, to protest the existence of the SOA, a 56-year-old military school that has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in combat and counterinsurgency tactics. Recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the SOA is, say its opponents, directly linked to decades of human rights violations perpetrated by such notorious graduates as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. To commemorate the 1989 massacre in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests, one of their coworkers, and her daughter by SOA-trained soldiers, the protesters annually trespass on SOA property and, every year, some are arrested. The trial for the most recent arrests took place last week, and of the 37 defendants 13 were found guilty, including 2 from Chicago. Tonight there will be a fund-raiser for their legal defense; Sones de Mexico and others will perform. It starts at 7 at Saint Gertrude's Church, 1401 W. Granville. For more information call 312-641-5151.

20 SATURDAY Last year the Smithsonian Institution asked the Dalai Lama to perform a healing act in the wake of September 11. He sent the monks of the Drepung Loseling monastery to New York and D.C. to make Metrupa mandalas--elaborate sand circles, named for one of the five transcendental Buddhas, that are believed to transform hate into insight and are appropriate when mass deaths have occurred. Over the past week Nawang Chojor, senior monk at the Dalai Lama's personal monastery, has been creating a similar mandala at the Unity in Chicago spiritual center. It will be ceremonially dismantled and swept away as part of today's Tibetfest, which will also include Tibetan movies, music, chanting, lectures, films, and food. It's from 10 to 7 at Unity, 1925 W. Thome. Admission is $7, $5 for seniors and students, free for kids under 12. Call 773-743-7772 or see www.buddhapia.com/tibet.

21 SUNDAY There have never been any wild lions in China, and no one knows exactly how the Chinese lion dance came into being. But there's no shortage of myths. One says a group of kung fu practitioners went up a hill to kill a lion. To celebrate, the villagers below followed the steps of the lion killers, and the tradition was born. The ancient dance is used to mark special occasions, like today's Chinatown Summer Fair. In addition to the noon dance there will be pony rides, karaoke, Chinese food and crafts, a petting zoo, and a cute-baby contest. The free fest runs from 10 to 8 on Wentworth between Cermak and 24th (312-225-6198).

22 MONDAY Melvin Purvis, the G-man responsible for killing John Dillinger on this date in 1934, was surprised by "the morbidness displayed by the people who gathered around the shooting. Craning necks of curious persons, women dipping handkerchiefs in Dillinger's blood. Neighborhood business boomed temporarily. The spot where Dillinger fell became the mecca of the morbidly curious." For the past 23 years, the John Dillinger Died for You Society has been making a pilgrimage to that spot in commemoration of the death of Public Enemy Number One. The free event starts at 8 PM at the Red Lion Pub, 2446 N. Lincoln, where organizers will screen Dillinger-related videos and newsreels. At 10 ghost hunter Richard Crowe and Psychotronic Film Society head Michael Flores will lead a procession to the alley near the Biograph Theatre where Dillinger was gunned down. Call 773-348-2695 for more. At 10:30--the exact time he was shot--there'll be a short ceremony: Crowe will talk about the psychic legends surrounding Dillinger, Flores will address "the Dillinger heresy" (Why didn't the FBI just arrest the unarmed gangster?), and Mike Dietz will play "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

23 TUESDAY Not long after Blair Kamin became the Tribune's architecture critic in 1992, rumors started flying that his job was on the block. Kamin put up a good fight though, and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work; the

incident inspired the title of a recent collection of 61 of his columns,

Why Architecture Matters: Lessons From Chicago. Kamin, who writes in his introduction that the city "often serves as the great American exaggeration, expressing at larger scale--and often in excruciating contrast--design trends evident elsewhere in the country," will discuss his book tonight at 7:30 at Borders Books and Music, 1144 Lake in Oak Park (708-386-6927).

The city's Outdoor Film Festival boasts seven weeks of classic movies--from tonight's screening of Dr. Strangelove to the 1954 Dorothy Dandridge vehicle Carmen Jones to the Marx Brothers comedy Horse Feathers--and free valet parking for bikes. But leave Rover at home, please, as dogs can get stressed out by the crowd. Screenings take place tonight (and every Tuesday through August 27) around 8:30 in Grant Park near Monroe and Lake Shore Drive. For a complete schedule call 312-744-3315 or see www.cityofchicago.org/specialevents.

24 WEDNESDAY Last fall Aaron McGruder's popular Boondocks comic strip was pulled from several newspapers because of its critique of post-September 11 America; one strip showed radical young African-American protagonist Huey Freeman calling the FBI with the names of Osama bin Laden's coconspirators--the first on the list was Ronald Reagan. In response, McGruder temporarily replaced his regular strip with a scathing patriotic spoof called "The Adventures of Flagee and Ribbon." Tonight McGruder and local journalist Robert "Scoop" Jackson (former editor of XXL and author of The Last Black Mecca: Hip-Hop) will discuss our brave new world as part of the Guild Complex's "Exploring America in Change" series. It starts at 7:30 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $12, $10 for students and seniors. Call 773-227-6117 or see www.guildcomplex.com.

25 THURSDAY Aaron Carter and his wife were driving through Mississippi and discussing the legacy of the civil rights movement when they came upon a sign. Panther Burn, five miles, it read, and Carter, a playwright, thought it would make a great title for his new script about a group of modern-day African-American revolutionaries. Masquerading as an Aryan power group, they kidnap a trio of middle-class blacks in a bid to win support for some hate-crime legislation. "What I am trying to do is look at the idea of how far we have come, and what frustrations still remain and where those frustrations can lead a person," says Carter, who moved to Seattle from Chicago two years ago. The first-ever staged reading of Panther Burn takes place tonight at 7 at the Chicago Cultural Center's Studio Theatre, 78 E. Washington, as part of Prop Thtr's New Plays Festival, which runs through August 18; there's a second performance Saturday, July 27, at 7. Tickets are $10 or pay what you can. Call 773-348-7767 for more information.

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