Friday 5

In some circles the debate over national health care revolves around questions of how and when rather than whether. Not so with the American Hospital Association, who along with other less-advanced but powerful lobbies are part of the reason why tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Representative Marty Russo, who supports a national health plan, will face off against Bruce McPhearson, vice president of the AHA’s office of public-policy analysis, in a debate sponsored by the Healthcare Communicators of Chicago at 1:30 PM on AHA’s home turf, 840 N. Lake Shore Drive. It’s free, but call for reservations at 708-295-7339.

Did you know that John Chancellor grew up in Chicago, attended the University of Illinois, and cut his reportorial teeth at the Sun-Times? The former NBC anchorman, now a correspondent and commentator for the network, will talk about Politics and Capitalism at 3 today in the Max Palevsky Theater in Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., on the University of Chicago campus. It’s free; call 702-8359.

Dan Ziembo named his new show of acrylic paintings Visual Palindrome after his explorations of mirror images and symmetry in landscapes, which accordingly carry names like “Ekal II Lake.” The free opening reception takes place tonight from 5 to 8 at the Roy Boyd Gallery, 739 N. Wells; call 642-1606.

Saturday 6

“We firmly believe social change is possible,” say the folks at Lake Street Resources, a partnership of Northwestern University’s Volunteer Network and the United Equity Group. The latter is a real estate firm temporarily turning over a property at 1915 W. Lake for a Get to Know Your Neighbors Barbecue in the midst of the massive Henry Horner housing project. There’ll be a raffle, live rap music, food, and, the groups hope, a lot of interaction between university students and project dwellers. Things get under way at 8 AM with a lot cleanup till noon; the picnic runs from noon to 4. It’s free. The group also needs volunteers; for more info call 708-869-5763.

When the tony Francis Parker School holds a garage sale, you can expect to see some good stuff. This sale will include an extensive collection of designer clothes and high-ticket items such as a computer and color TVs. The sale–which benefits the school’s scholarship fund–runs from 9 to 4 today and from 1 to 4 tomorrow at the Francis Parker School, 330 W. Webster. Admission is free. Call 549-1884 for more.

Some days there’s nothing to do but go out and cut some brush. If you have that urge, the Forest Preserve District of Will County can help today with a free Prairie People work day from 9 to 1. They’ll provide the gloves, tools, water, and brush. You bring a bag lunch. It’s at the Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, on Division Street east of route 53 in Lockport. Call 815-886-3537 for more info.

Sunday 7

Ever wanted to throw a pie in the face of a bad poet? Here’s your chance at the fifth annual Neutral Turf Chicago Poetry Festival today at the east end of Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. The pie-tossing booth is just a start: You can see poetry-slam competitors vie for a trip to Mexico City, a performance by the Neo-Futurists (the ensemble whose Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is now in its fourth year), even a poet from Chicago’s Chinese sister city, Shenyang. There’ll also be a bunch of open-mike poetry booths sponsored by the likes of Club Lower Links, Estelle’s, the Guild Complex, and others, a “poetry band” called the Funky Wordsmyths, and more. It’s all free, from 11:30 to 6. The festival can use some help as well; for more info, or to volunteer, call 278-2210.

Monday 8

Clothing designers Janet Jaffke and M.J. Ernst are teaming up with the Abiogenesis Dance Company for what they call a guerrilla fashion show at the Sa Ga Launderbar, 3435 N. Southport, tonight at 7:30. The dance group’s tendency to perform in odd places (previous venues include Lower Wacker Drive and New York’s Guggenheim Museum) fits well with the designers’ desire to get away from “ladies’ luncheon” or nightclub fashion showings. Tonight’s show features clothes modeled by the dancers. It’s free to watch, and don’t forget your laundry. Call 342-4425 for more.

Clare Boothe Luce’s razor-sharp explication of prefeminist sexual politics, The Women, made for a biting theatrical experience in the 1930s with its all-female cast. Tonight, Cloud 42 theater company will present its all-male staged reading of the play at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, at 8. An underground run of the play took place last spring at the Halsted Theatre Centre, where it drew sizable crowds despite no advertising; Cloud 42 calls tonight’s show a “second annual farewell performance.” Tickets cost $12, $10 in advance. Call 489-4464 for details.

Tuesday 9

In The Power Broker, Robert Caro’s brilliant biography of New York city planner Robert Moses, Caro traces the extraordinary phenomenon that accompanied the building of the myriad bridges and tunnels in New York City in the first half of this century: in every case planners confidently predicted that the new bridge or tunnel would solve the city’s congestion problems once and for all. That never happened, of course, because each new passage became congested immediately upon opening. The moral is that traffic will always be with us; no matter how many roads you build, cars will materialize to fill them up. You can talk about how to get the feds to recognize this truism–and to redirect federal money to mass-transit, pedestrian, and bicycling projects–at a free Illinois Environmental Council brown-bag lunch today at 12:15; it’s in the 14th-floor conference room at 407 S. Dearborn. The subject is Illinois’ Federal Transportation Dollars: Directing Them Away From More Road Building. Call 554-0086 for more.

Wednesday 10

If you haven’t been keeping abreast of the silicone implant debate, you can get an update tonight at a Northwestern Memorial Hospital lecture, The Silicone Controversy: Fact or Fiction. Dr. Thomas Mustoe, the hospital’s chief of plastic surgery, will talk about the health risks of implants, the various options women face, and what the future holds. It’s $5, which includes a wine-and-cheese reception starting at 5:30; the talk runs from 6 to 7:30 in the Thorne Auditorium at the Arthur Rubloss Building, 375 E. Chicago. Call 908-8400 for more information or to make the required reservations.

Having endured the slings and arrows of both outrageous fortune and Spy magazine as the country’s second most maligned young writer (after Bret Easton Ellis), Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and Ransom, has returned with what is reputed to be a fine book, Brightness Falls. He’ll read at Barbara’s Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway, at 7:30 tonight. It’s free to listen. Call 477-0411.

Thursday 11

If the eager and quite extensive reporting on the mechanics of the rise and fall of the great flood proffered by the Sun-Times and Trib wasn’t enough, try the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois’ breakfast meeting, where they’ll host a technical recitation of the problems in sealing the Hubbard Street hole and getting all that water out of the Loop. The people doing the explaining are those in a position to know: John Kenny, Jr., the vice president of Kenny Construction, who oversaw the city’s response to the disaster and found himself an unlikely TV star, and Case International VP Jerry Parola, who handled the plugging of the tunnels. The meeting starts at 8 in the Bismarck Hotel, 171 W. Randolph; the $18 ticket ($15 for association members) buys the talks and breakfast. Call 372-4198 for more.