Friday 29

The 18th-century British sheriff John Howard traveled Europe trying to improve the conditions of prisoners and jails (“gaols” back then); his name and mission live on in the John Howard Association, which has worked for 91 years for safer prisons and more sensible sentencing practices. Today the group holds a town meeting on the subjects of overcrowding and sentencing reform with a luncheon following in the Empire Room of the Hotel Inter-Continental at 505 N. Michigan. The town meeting–moderated by WGCI’s Clifford Kelley–starts at 9:30, with a slew of prison experts and interested private citizens making up the audience. It’s free, but the luncheon, which gets under way at 11:30 with a cash bar, costs $50. The guest speaker at the luncheon will be Illinois Supreme Court chief justice Benjamin Miller. Call 263-1901 for details.

The multimedia ensemble of the Loofah Method comprises composer and saxophonist Mark Messing, violinist and accordionist Max Callahan, bassist Douglas Johnson, video artist Kurt Heintz, photographer Sue Walsh, and poet Cindy Salach. The group’s latest work, Relax . . . You’re Soaking in It!, a potpourri of media grotesqueries, includes “Media Says,” an audience participation version of the game Simon Says; “The Good Life,” a take on Dr. Seuss’s The Yax; and “I Dream of George,” about our president. These are your last chances to see the show, as the run closes with performances tonight and tomorrow at 10:30 PM at Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont; it’s $8, $7 for members. Call 281-8788 for more info.

Saturday 30

The people who are trying to rid the neighborhoods of crime always seem to focus on “drugs and gangs”–and that’s the problem. What if you don’t like gangs, but feel a little hypocritical about throwing kids in jail for taking drugs? That’s a subject you can bring up at Until Parents and Communities Take Control: Save Our Children From Gangs and Drugs, a conference sponsored by Parents Against Gangs and B.U.I.L.D. from 8 AM to noon today at the University of Illinois’ Chicago Circle Center, 750 S. Halsted. Cook County sheriff Mike Sheehan will be on hand along with other officials and activists. It’s free; call 227-2880 for details.

If you saw Bill Moyers’s PBS show on Alabama’s Wiregrass singers, you already know that Sacred Harp music is an 18th-century method of unaccompanied shape-note singing where participants stand in a circle to belt out selections from the 1844 Sacred Harp songbook. This weekend Chicago’s own Sacred Harp Singers host the Midwest Sacred Harp Convention, which will attract more than 400 singers–including the Wiregrass singers and their 94-year-old leader Dewey P. Williams–for two free all-day concerts starting today at the First Baptist Church at 607 W. Lake in Evanston, from 9:30 to 3. Tomorrow they’ll perform at the University of Chicago’s Ida Noyes Hall, at 1212 E. 59th, from 9:30 to 3. Call 486-7400 for details.

Tours of Chicago’s movie palaces get shorter every year; recently we’ve seen the demolition of the Woods and United Artists theaters in the Loop and the grand Granada up north. But the Chicago Architecture Foundation has at least six hours’ worth of sights left for its Chicago Movie Palaces by Bus tour, which starts this morning at 10. Twenty bucks ($15 for foundation members) buys a 40-minute slide show at the foundation’s offices at 224 S. Michigan and an extensive bus jaunt that makes stops at the New Regal at 79th and Stony Island, the glorious Uptown at Lawrence and Broadway, and other theaters in between. Call the foundation at 922-3432 for more.

Sunday 31

Even Sigmund Freud knew that sometimes a banana is just a banana, but the radical sex-education group the Ad/Vice Squad doesn’t agree. Thus their version of Sex Toys 101, called Basic Training III, a workshop on collecting budget-conscious erotic playthings. The group claims suitable toys can be found anywhere–“in grocery stores, tack shops, and hardware stores.” (Tack shops?) Five bucks gets you in; the class is upstairs at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont, at 3 PM. Call 342-2815 for details.


Monday 1

Sure we’ve got a recession, but Germans have more worries–ten million new countrymen and the European Community to boot. Hans Schneider, an economics prof at Cologne and former chairman of the German government’s Council of Economic Experts, will speak today on The German Economy: Between Unification and European Integration at Northwestern’s Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road in Evanston. It starts at 4, and it’s free. Call 708-491-2640 for details.

Tucked in among the Art Institute’s vast new galleries of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art, a $5-million, 16,500-square-foot show in the renovated Rice wing, is a spacious room that exhibits only four exquisite Japanese screens, but they are nearly upstaged by the shadowy, hushed aura of the space and its combination of muted light and a forest of black beams. The setting was designed by noted Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who will open the room at 5 PM and then give a lecture and slide show on his work at 6. It’s free, but of course there’s a $6 requested donation to the Art Institute. The museum is at Michigan and Adams; call 443-3949 for more information.

Tonight you could belly up to the bar at the Pump Room and hear the stars of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love crooning show tunes and pop standards from a program called “Anything but Love Songs.” Cast members Kelli James, Rob Lorey, Anne Nathan, and Alice Vienneau will give their free performance at 9 at the Ambassador East, 1301 N. State. Call 266-0360.

Tuesday 2

It’s Blues Festival time again. The annual free fest takes place in Grant Park from June 5 to 7, but you can get an early taste at 12:15 today when Chicago Beau, blues scholar and blues harmonica player, blows some harp with septuagenarian boogie-woogie pianist Pinetop Perkins at the Harold Washington Library auditorium at 400 S. State. It’s free. Call 747-4850 for more.

Wednesday 3

“Starting in the 1800’s, Paris, expanding upon the broad boulevards and stunning structures which Baron Haussmann had created for Napoleon III, moved towards a sumptuousness and extravagance in costume, architecture and decoration that was the wonder of the world. . . . This was the Belle Epoque, the beautiful era. It would die in 1914, a victim of the Great War, of the slaughter at the Marne and the Somme.” That’s David Garrard Lowe, a former editor of American Heritage, author of Lost Chicago and The Great Chicago Fire, and current curator of The Boulevards of Paris: Promenades of Pleasure, an exhibition of photographs opening–along with a lecture by Lowe–tonight at 8 at the Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton. It’s free, and the show stays up until August 13. Call 787-4071 for hours and info.

Frank Farrell wowed ’em at Club Lower Links last year with Homeboy, a loopy collection of home-themed readings. His latest concoction is Songs of Pogo, a collaboration with musician Ben Masterson based on the stories and songs written by Walt Kelly of Pogo fame. You can see the results for $7 at 8:30 tonight at Lower Links, 954 W. Newport. Call 248-5238 for more.

Thursday 4

If you took Saturday’s bus tour of movie theaters you saw the outside of the Uptown. Now here’s your chance to get inside one of the most extravagantly beautiful structures of its time, which has been shuttered for years. Tonight it will be open from 5:30 to 7:30 for a benefit for Colors, a nonprofit artisans’ gallery next door. John Kearney, the sculptor known for his fantastical bumper sculptures, will be on hand to show off his new medium, hinged bronze boxes in animal shapes. You can hobnob with him and take a historian-led architectural tour of the theater, 4816 N. Broadway, at 5:30 for $25. Call 878-1184 for details.