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Friday 12/25 - Thursday 1/7

DECEMBER

By Cara Jepsen

25 FRIDAY Reasons people could give for not participating in the monthly Critical Mass bike ride, according to the group's tongue-in-cheek list: "Global warming is caused by bovine flatulence, not cars," "How am I going to eat, talk on my cell phone, put on my makeup, and listen to my self-help tapes on a bicycle?" and "There's nowhere to park my Land Rover during the ride." Christmas is no excuse not to join the fun. At least a handful of the hale and hearty--dressed in bells and Santa hats--will meet today at 5:30 in Daley Plaza. Today's route will probably include a stop at a homeless shelter or two, since participants are asked to bring cans of food to the event. Meet at the Picasso at the plaza, 50 W. Washington. It's free. Call 773-486-4861 for more.

26 SATURDAY Boxing Day means different things depending on who you ask. Some say the name comes from the tradition of opening church alms boxes on the day after Christmas, when their contents were distributed to the poor. Other sources say it comes from a medieval tradition in which lords gave their servants presents on December 26. Whatever the case, it eventually became an official holiday in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, but not the U.S. That didn't stop Ernest Hemingway's parents from filling their children's stockings with chocolate mice on this day each year. The ritual will be resurrected at today's Boxing Day Celebration at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace at 339 N. Oak Park in Oak Park. The Ernest Hemingway Museum down the street at 200 N. Oak Park will also be open, and chocolate mice will be on sale in the bookstore. It's from 1 to 6; admission is $5, which gets you into both places. Call 708-848-2222 for more information.

27 SUNDAY Do little girls still dream of heading to New York to become one of the glamorous Rockettes? While more modern females may grow up to be cardiologists than chorines, the New York institution is still alive and kicking after some 70 years. Today's the last day of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which boasts favorites like "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity" finale. The venerable show is at noon, 3:30, and 7 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road in Rosemont. For tickets, which are $24.50, $39.50, and $54.50, call 312-559-1212.

28 MONDAY The Shedd Aquarium is the perfect place for frazzled types to gaze serenely at the mysteries of the deep and escape the in-laws and the credit-card bills for a while. The aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive (312-939-2438) is open two hours later than usual, from 9 to 8, from December 26-30. Admission is $11, $9 for seniors and children age three to eleven.

29 TUESDAY Despite a six-week midwinter shooting schedule and a budget of $650,000, the production designer for Ramin Niami's 1997 film Somewhere in the City still asked him to choose from seven shades of brown for one of the sets. "It was then that I realized I was lucky to have found people as obsessive as myself about detail," the Iranian-born director wrote in his production notes. The paint was for the apartment of Sandra Bernhard's character, Betty, a self-obsessed therapist looking for love in all the wrong places. Other actors in the ensemble piece about the bizarre, overlapping lives in a New York tenement include Bai Ling as a Chinese student in search of a green card, Ornella Muti as a European diva, and Peter Stormare as a Shakespearean actor with man problems. The movie will be shown tonight at 7 and 9 (it runs through Thursday) at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton (773-281-4114). Tickets are $7.

30 WEDNESDAY Today is the fifth day of Kwanza, the seven-day African-American holiday founded 32 years ago by scholar Ron Karenga. The title of the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company's children's musical, Cornstalks and Candlesticks, refers to two of the festival's symbols--cornstalks for children, candlesticks for the roots of African-American culture. The company will perform the show at 12:15 in the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theatre, 78 E. Washington (312-744-6630). Admission is free.

31 THURSDAY Aikido is a refined system of martial arts that has little to do with colored belts, street fighting, or tournaments, and everything to do with resolving conflicts and avoiding injuries. The defensive art is said to develop character traits like compassion, courage, endurance, and inner strength. The public can get an idea of what it's all about tonight at Navy Pier's New Year's Eve overkill, which in addition to aikido demonstrations from Japanese Cultural Center students at 8, 9, 10, and 11 PM in festival hall B includes live music, Hawaiian dancers, DJs, dancing, crafts, in-line skating, movies, a game center, and an outdoor midnight countdown with fireworks. The events start today at 11 AM at 600 E. Grand. It's free (though there are fees for skating, games, and the Imax theater). Call 312-595-7437 for details.

JANUARY 1-7

We're taking the week off at the Reader, but here are a few things to do in the meantime:

The family-owned restaurant now known as Jim's Original Hot Dog Stand has survived both world wars, the King riots, and City Hall's 1994 eradication of the old Maxwell Street Market. But the landmark, which moved to its current location at 1320 S. Halsted in 1939, probably won't make it through the University of Illinois' expansion plans. Until then, Jim's (312-666-0533) will continue to push its hangover food--hot dogs and fries ($1.45, including tax) and Polish sausages ($2.10). Manager George Panus, who said he will "probably" work Friday, New Year's Day, slaps together sandwiches with lightning speed.

Only three days into the new year and presumably there's already been ample opportunity to break those heartfelt resolutions--like eating reasonable amounts of food, not repeating gossip, and being nice to people. Participation in the annual blood drive at the West Suburban Temple Har Zion might cancel out the minor transgressions. Donors may even get extra karmic credit, since the drive comes at a time when blood supplies are normally at their annual low. More tangible benefits include free blood pressure and iron-count checks and refreshments. It's from 9 to 1 on Sunday, January 3, in Gottlieb Community Hall, 1040 N. Harlem in River Forest. Call 708-366-9000 to make an appointment. To find out about other donation opportunities, call Lifesource Blood Services at 847-298-9660.

Remember those TV commercials in which a man extolled his wife's virtues, attributing them to regular consumption of Geritol? At the end, he says, "My wife--I think I'll keep her." Other equally nauseating slogans over the years have included "Want him to be more of a man? Try being more of a woman," "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," and Clairol's sexual double entendre (thought up by a female ad executive) "Does she or doesn't she?" These ads and over 500 others are included in the exhibit Dream Girls: Images of Women in Advertising. The print, TV, and radio ads are arranged chronologically and according to five female icons (or stereotypes) that have evolved over the years: homemaker, independent woman, love tutor, sex kitten, and superwoman. The exhibit opens Thursday, January 7 (hours are from 10 to 4:30), and that night at 7 Ellen Moran, executive vice president of the advertising agency Bozell Worldwide, will give a presentation on its cultural, historical, and social contexts. The exhibit is at the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the lecture is in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, both of which are inside the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. The exhibit runs through February 28; it and the lecture are free. Call 312-629-6000 for more.

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