By Cara Jepsen


As if being in two highly regarded bands (the Mekons and the Waco Brothers) and drawing a regular comic strip or two (Great Pop Things, Rock Around the Clock) weren’t enough, the well-rounded Jon Langford is also an accomplished painter. His reworking of publicity photos from country music’s heyday in the 1940s and ’50s are at once disturbing and nostalgic and have graced several recent album covers, including the most recent release from Mekons coconspirator Sally Timms. Langford’s first major solo show, “Hard Country,” features paintings, etchings, and monoprints. The free reception tonight is at 6 at Eastwick Art Gallery, 245 W. North. Call 440-2322.

The city’s only ice skating school, operated by the Park District at McFetridge Sports Center on the northwest side, offers inexpensive, year-round lessons in figure skating and ice hockey, as well as hockey leagues and open skate sessions for freestyle and speed skating. This year the school’s student show and recital, Hot Tix to Broadway, samples well-known musicals and features skaters of a wide range of ages and abilities. Guest skaters include former U.S. Nationals competitor Ray Belamonte and Ice Capades veteran Larry Holliday. The show begins at 7:30 tonight (with evening and matinee shows Saturday and Sunday) at McFetridge Sports Center, 3843 N. California. Tickets are $3 to $6. Call 742-7585 for more.


The local chapter of the Jane Austen Society has some 300 members who get together several times a year to discuss Austen’s life and novels; they also donate money to high schools to help them purchase Austen novels and videotapes. Whether they’ll include money for Clueless, which is based on Emma, has yet to be determined. Today they’ll show the five-hour BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, which recently ran on A & E, without commercials from 11 to 5 at Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett. There will be two breaks, and viewers are advised to dress comfortably and bring their own lunch. Call 334-7644 for more.

Chances are he’ll leave the opaque projector at home, but Ed Paschke, whose recent work has included a lot of self-portraits, will create a new piece of art at tonight’s “Bare Walls ’96” benefit for the School of the Art Institute. Paschke and 100 other artists will create new work on one-yard sections of a canvas spread across the school’s Gallery 2. Each section will then be auctioned off from 6 to 11 at the gallery, 847 W. Jackson. Admission is $25 and includes food and live music. Bidding starts at $50. Call 899-5158.

Animator Bill Plympton’s short, simply drawn cartoons depict whimsical yet over-the-top scenes from everyday life and always get the most laughs at animation festivals. His best work includes Your Face, 25 Ways to Quit Smoking, How to Kiss, and Plymptoons. After drawing and coloring 30,000 cels to make the 1992 full-length feature The Tune, Plympton has turned to the less labor-intensive art of live-action filmmaking. His new feature, Guns on the Clackamas, is a pseudodocumentary about filmmaking that promises to contain equal elements of This Is Spinal Tap and Blazing Saddles. Plympton himself will be present tonight to show it–as well as the animated shorts Draw!, Plympmania, and How to Make Love to a Woman–at 7 at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $7. Call 281-9075 for more.


Jewish and Muslim scholars and community leaders will explore the commonalities between their religions at the second annual Jewish-Muslim interreligious conference. Participants will break into groups from 10 to 5 today to discuss specific issues like historical intersections between the two faiths, at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 618 S. Michigan. It’s $30, $15 for students, and includes lunch. Call 322-1769 for more.

The question is what isn’t Lester the Leprechaun going to do at the Skokie Park District’s lunch with a leprechaun. Lester the lepre-clown doesn’t talk but oversees games and activities, rides a tiny bicycle, and executes other stunts aimed at kids. He performs today from noon to 2 at Oakton Community Center, 4701 Oakton in Skokie. The $4 fee includes a McDonald’s lunch and shamrock hunt. Call 847-674-1511 for more.


Les Brown was abandoned by his parents when he was six years old. In school he was labeled a slow learner and told he wouldn’t amount to anything. But Brown, the author of the book Live Your Dreams and host of a plethora of videotapes and PBS specials, proved his detractors wrong and now motivates others to do the same. Tonight he’ll speak on “the power to change”–focusing on self-esteem, achieving goals, and overcoming fear of failure–from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Rosemont Convention Center, 9301 W. Bryn Mawr. It’s $195. Call 800-279-2222 for more.


Yale University professor and writer Stephen Carter believes that this country is experiencing an integrity crisis–that Americans care more about winning than playing by the rules and that we are losing essential values and ideals. Funny, I always thought winner-takes-all was de rigueur in a capitalist country. Carter will discuss his views and sign his new book, Integrity, tonight at 6:30 at 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th. It’s free; call 684-1300.

A distant, cyber-savvy relative of the cardboard glasses of the 1950s, the special headsets for the premiere of the 3-D feature Wings of Courage create a 3-D effect with infrared sensors that trigger liquid crystal lenses to open and close 48 frames per second. The headsets are also equipped with their own sound system, creating a sort of 3-D sound. The IMAX theater’s six-story screen will undoubtedly enhance the film, a drama about three French aviators making the first airmail flights into the Andes Mountains and the women who loved them. Its director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, will speak and answer questions after the screening. Admission is $11. It happens at 6:30 at Navy Pier’s IMAX theater, 600 E. Grand. Call 467-0500 or 509-8000 for more.

Criminal parents beget criminal children, and the only way to save the youngsters is to permanently remove them from their homes of abuse and squalor. That’s the conclusion of criminologist and anthropologist Mark Fleisher’s new book, Beggars & Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals, which contains unsentimental case studies of lifelong hustlers and criminals. He’ll sign copies tonight at 7 at Borders Books and Music, 2817 N. Clark. It’s free; call 935-3909 for more.

Deregulation doesn’t seem to have done much for consumers in terms of their cable TV and telephone bills; at the same time it’s created a lot of bad TV commercials and unsolicited phone calls. Sure there’s choice, but at what cost? At best, changes in the electricity industry may lead to consumers choosing their own utility company. At worst, they could create a new monopoly. Those issues, plus the question of nuclear safety, will be discussed tonight from 7 to 9 at a free community forum, The “Fallout” From Utility Deregulation. Guests include Elise Caplan of the Citizens Utility Board and Jim Seidita of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. The forum takes place at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston. Call 847-869-7650 for more.


The period between the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Pullman Strike of 1894 was one of the most vibrant in Chicago’s history, as people reevaluated how they thought about cities. They tended to fall into two camps: one saw Chicago as having a transcendent purpose confirmed by the ordeal of the fire, while the other saw the American city as the center of social conflict and disorder. Northwestern University professor Carl Smith, author of Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, The Haymarket Bomb and the Model Town of Pullman, will give a free talk today called “Urban Renewal on the Grandest Scale: The Imaginative Rebuilding of Post-Fire Chicago” at 5:30 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Call 744-6630.


Sadie Benning’s raw, confessional videos are riveting; they’re almost disturbingly personal, and yet any woman who’s been lonely, misunderstood, or felt “different” can identify with Benning’s deadpan realism. Her six-minute video, If Every Girl Had a Diary, is one of eight “best of” shorts that kick off the 15th International Women in the Director’s Chair Film and Video Festival. The program also includes music videos, animation, drama, and documentaries, including Suzanne Suzanne, Camille Billops’s profile of an African-American woman who survives her father’s abuse only to end up abusing drugs. The screenings start at 7 at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, and will be followed by an opening-night party with dancing, food, and drink. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors. Call 281-4988 for more.

Authorized biographies tend to be less interesting than the books that don’t have the subject’s cooperation; a self-serving documentary about Hugh Hefner released a few years ago comes to mind. Sticking to the party line, after all, is boring. Even worse, though, is a biography about someone whose work leaves you indifferent. For some people, Stone: A Biography of Oliver Stone, James Riordan’s new authorized biography of the sledgehammer-wielding filmmaker, will fall into both categories. Riordan will sign copies at 7 tonight at Borders Books and Music, 830 N. Michigan. It’s free; call 573-0564 for more.