By Bill Wyman

Friday 26

Writer, journalist, and chair of Harvard’s African-American studies department, Henry Louis Gates Jr. has also been on the board of the University of Chicago’s Critical Inquiry since the early 80s. He’s in town today to accept the journal’s Distinguished Editorial Achievement Award and to give a free lecture, “The New Black Renaissance.” He talks at 4 at the Max Palevsky Cinema, 1212 E. 59th. Call 702-8477 for details.

Dissident Wole Soyinka has been harassed mightily by the various rulers of Nigeria since 1986, the year he became the first African to win the Nobel Prize for literature. The playwright, novelist, poet, and memoirist speaks tonight at 6 in the Art Institute’s Rubloff Auditorium, 230 S. Columbus. Tickets are $8, $7 to members and students. Call 443-3600 for details.

A month after the end of transit and government worker strikes that brought Paris to a standstill, participants and analysts are still assessing who won what. Activists and writers will look at the issue today in the panel discussion France: What Kind of Victory?, featuring Mia Butzbaugh, a Labor Notes correspondent who just got back from France, and Keith Mann, a French labor historian and activist with the local branch of Solidarity. It happens at DePaul University’s Schmitt Academic Center, 2320 N. Kenmore, at 7:30 tonight. It’s $4, $2 for students and the unemployed, free to DePaul students. Call 409-5150.

Billed as a “glesbian soap opera,” Gays of Our Lives is the story of a “merry widow” who takes off “from her home base, where her kinky kids comprise a mixed bag of sexual choices, to her nautical family, the hilariously horny crew aboard the U.S.S. Brandy, heading for destinations of danger and delight in exotic ports.” The show is performed in three parts, the first of which opens tonight at 10:30 and runs through February 10; parts two and three follow in successive three-week stints. The show’s at the Zebra Crossing Theatre, 4223 N. Lincoln; tickets are $8 per part; call 248-6401 for details.

Saturday 27

Supporters of high-speed trains linking midwestern cities say that frequent and reliable service would strengthen central business districts. You can hear more about the concept today at a daylong conference of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association titled High Speed Rail: The City Builder. Experts on aviation, trains, stations, and rail politics will talk at the affair, which takes place at the law offices of Keck, Mahin & Cate, on the 49th floor at 77 W. Wacker, from 10 to 3. The $20 cost includes lunch. Call 409-2029 for more.

“For over 25 years, Robert Adams has photographed the land, specifically the American West, as it has been transformed, disfigured, and domesticated by the hand of man,” write the folks at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. “His images are at once beautiful and unsettling, and each pointedly emphasizes that while the mark of man abounds in the landscape, nature’s redemptive beauty and simplicity is transcendent.” A new show, Robert Adams: Selections From “Listening to the River” and “West From the Columbia,” opens today at noon at the museum, on the ground floor of Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan, and runs through March 23. It’s free. The museum hours are Saturdays from noon to 5, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 to 5, and Thursdays from 10 to 8. Call 663-5554.

“Why does my cat do that?” is of course one of the great unanswered mysteries of the universe. But Mary Bouhl, head of Chicago’s Animal Protective Association, will shed light on feline behavior today. Harmony House for Cats, a not-for-profit, cageless, no-kill cat shelter, and Animal Lovers, Inc., are sponsoring the event, which runs at the shelter, 3809 N. Kedzie, from 4 to 7 and includes Bouhl’s talk, a tour of the three-story operation, and a wine and cheese reception. It’s $7 (proceeds benefit Harmony House), free to Animal Lovers members. Call 463-6667.

Sunday 28

The Little City Foundation, which helps people who are mentally retarded, autistic, or otherwise developmentally challenged, is looking for 500 good-hearted souls to attend its 15th annual Super Bowl party. The game will be shown on a 35-foot-wide TV screen, and a wide selection of food and drinks will be available. Sportscaster Mike Leiderman will emcee, and the Bulls’ cheesecake corps, the LuvaBulls, will entertain during time-outs and commercials. Proceeds from the $150 tickets benefit the foundation. Things get under way at 3:30 in the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. Call 708-358-5510, ext. 807, for more information or to reserve tickets.

Monday 29

James Fallows, among the smartest and soberest of our national political writers, will be discussing his new book Breaking the News: How the Media Undermines American Democracy at the University of Chicago tonight. The Washington editor of the Atlantic Monthly and an NPR Morning Edition commentator, Fallows has written extensively on defense and the Far East. According to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, which is sponsoring the free event, his latest work, however, is a harsh analysis of how “news coverage creates a sense of helplessness in the American public.” Fallows appears at 7 at the Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th. Call 752-4381 for more information.

Tuesday 30

Representatives from such companies as Speedscan and Elek-Tek Inc. will be at the Chicago Bar Association’s third annual information and technology show today to show off their products and talk about their services. Lawyers can learn how to access legal information on-line by attending the seminar “The Attorney’s Internet Primer.” The event runs today from 10 to 4 at CBA headquarters, 321 S. Plymouth Court. Admission is free. Call 554-2000 for more information.

The fourth annual Toast to the Chicago Cultural Center celebrates youth involvement in the arts tonight. The center–home to the Museum of Broadcast Communications and many art exhibits, plays, and literary events–will toast the efforts made to educate area youths in the arts with a two-hour reception that includes music and dance concerts throughout the building. Among the performers are the Chicago Children’s Choir, singers Jamie O’Reilly and Rodrick Dixon, and dancers from Hedwig Dances. The $40 ticket–$15 for teens–includes beverages and hors d’oeuvres. It’s from 5:30 to 7:30 at the center, 78 E. Washington. call 332-2334 for more.

The Chicago Sinfonietta’s performance tonight of Darius Milhaud’s La creation du monde, a work based on African creation myths and 1920s Harlem jazz, will be accompanied by a slide show of images of African and African-American art from the Art Institute. The group also tackles Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, with Jodie DeSalvo as the featured soloist, Mozart’s Eine kleine nachtmusik, and Argentinian Alberto Ginastera’s Estancia. The show’s at 7:30 at Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan. Tickets are $12 to $30. Call 857-1062.

Wednesday 31

The Guild Complex’s Musicality of Poetry Festival continues tonight with the program Fusing Poetry, Rap, and Soul, featuring singer-songwriter-guitarist Nicholas Barron. Barron, who learned to perform on the streets and in the subways, is the founder of the Coalition for the Advancement of Street Art (CASA) and has played regularly in the city’s jazzier bistros. His show is at 7:30 and is accompanied by the Guild Complex’s weekly open mike. It’s $7–$5 for students, $3 for open-mike readers–at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Call 278-2210 for more.

“Jamaica Kincaid has said that virtually all of her work is autobiographical,” observe the folks at Barbara’s Bookstore; “The Autobiography of My Mother is Kincaid’s effort to tell the story of her mother as she imagines it would have been without children.” Kincaid, the celebrated author of Lucy, Annie John, and A Small Place, reads from her new book tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s, 1350 N. Wells. It’s free. Call 642-5044.


Thursday 1

The Friends of Downtown will discuss the city’s plans for a Cancer Survivor’s Garden in Grant Park at its February meeting. The garden will be part of a network of gardens set up nationwide as places of reflection for those who’ve survived cancer. Scheduled to open in June, it will border Lake Shore Drive sloping south from Randolph Street to Monroe Drive and will be marked by two 48-foot Corinthian columns. The talk is at 12:15 today in the meeting room of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It’s free. Call 726-4031 for more.