American actioner stars, from Stallone to Eastwood to Van Damme to Chuck Norris, are united by a tendency toward the humorless. Hong Kong’s dazzling Jackie Chan–star of zillions of funny high-speed kung fu pics–avoids this problem studiously with goofy subtexts and a giddy penchant for fluid physical movement. Chicago’s annual Hong Kong film love-in, Hong Kong Over the Edge, continues with a reception for Chan tonight at the former Playboy Mansion, Hefner Hall, 1340 N. State, from 7 to 9. It’s $20. Chan will also appear tomorrow night, to talk about his films and show what should be a pretty terrific selection of film clips, at the Rubloff Auditorium in the Art Institute, Michigan and Adams; 7 PM, $12. Call 443-3733 for details.
Jimmy Walker has been playing the blues for about as long as there’s been blues to play; he’s celebrating his 86th birthday at B.L.U.E.S., 2519 N. Halsted, this weekend. The barrelhouse-blues piano player came to Chicago when he was 3 and began playing piano at 19; over the ensuing six and a half decades he’s been a regular on the Chicago scene, playing with everyone from Memphis Slim to Elmore James. His annual birthday party at B.L.U.E.S. has become something of a tradition–it was his 74th birthday party, held above the Biograph Theatre in 1979, that convinced the owners of B.L.U.E.S. that a new blues club in the area was viable. The shows this weekend feature Walker and his four-piece band; admission is $7 tonight, $8 tomorrow. Music gets under way at 9 both nights. Call 528-1012 for details.
It scarcely seems possible, but it’s time again for the annual Lake County Model Railroad Club Spring Open House. On the agenda for today and tomorrow–beside some requisite model railroading–is info on “Operation Lifesaver,” the club’s ongoing program on railroad crossing safety. The club will distribute pamphlets for adults and coloring books for kids to spread awareness on “this important safety issue.” It goes from 11 to 6 today and tomorrow at 107 S. Main in Wauconda. It’s free, though the club accepts donations. Call 248-3281 for more information.
Media Stereotyping of Women of Color sounds like one of those tired, academic leftist issues, but as a recent controversy demonstrates–the respected Philadelphia Inquirer suggested in an editorial that the “impoverishment of black America” might be abated by persuading welfare mothers to use contraceptive implants–it’s still alive and well. A panel today on the subject is sponsored by the Community Film Workshop and Women in the Director’s Chair. Among the participants: WLS’s Christina Adachi, psychotherapist Maria Teresa Pizarro, filmmaker Debra Robinson, and Achy Obejas, journalist and critic and quondam Reader calendar writer. It’s at the workshop offices, 1130 S. Wabash, suite 400, from 1 to 4 today. Admission is $5, $4 for members of the workshop or Women in the Director’s Chair. Call 427-1245 for more information.
When he first saw a kakapo, novelist Douglas Adams nearly swooned: “You want to hug it and tell it everything will be all right, though you know it probably won’t.” The line comes from his newest book, a decided departure from his usual fare, the best-selling Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels. His newest book is Last Chance to See, the account of a worldwide journey he took with zoologist and coauthor Mark Carwardine to track down exotic and endangered species, from New Zealand’s kakapo (a parrot) to Komodo dragons in Indonesia to Zaire’s white rhino. Adams will be at Kroch’s & Brentano’s, 1711 Sherman in Evanston, today at 3:30 to read from his book and talk about his trip. Monday night at 7:30 he’ll be at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells. Call 708-328-7220 (Kroch’s) or 642-5044 (Barbara’s).
The Up Down Sons of Briar–a group of defiant lovers of smoking who meet once a month at the Up Down Tobacco Shop in Old Town–are holding their 11th annual Chicago Pipe Smoking Contest. Each smoker brings his or her own pipe and is given exactly 3.3 grams of cube-cut burley. Everyone lights up at once, and he who puffs the longest wins. It starts at noon at O’Brien’s Sirloin Inn, 1528 N. Wells. Entrants are still being accepted (there’s a $5 fee), or you can watch for free. Call 337-8025 for details.
“What interests me is what remains of the built or natural environment after the human has disappeared,” says photographer Alice Hargrave. “I am interested in the relationship between architecture and nature, how they can illustrate the passage of time, the human mark left upon them.” Hargrave has taken her camera to East Saint Louis (“a sort of postindustrial wasteland”), the Desert du Retz in France (“an 18th-century fantasy garden”), and deserted bathrooms in Wicker Park–among other places–and the result is The Architecture of Memory, an exhibit on display at the Public Library Cultural Center’s first-floor east gallery through March 23. The center, at 78 E. Washington, is open 9 to 7 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 6 Friday, and 9 to 5 Saturday. Free; call 346-3278 for more info.
The IIT 100, a drag race cum tug-of-war for racing cars made out of two-liter bottles, gets under way today at 4 PM. The site is the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Hermann Hall Ballroom, 40 W. 33rd St. Eighty teams will fashion racing cars from kits provided by the school; they are given a 7.2-volt motor, pegboard, brass tubing, washers, rubber bands, and some other necessary items. The teams provide their own two-liter pop bottle and battery pack. There will be three flights: IIT students at 4, high school students at 5, and IIT alums at 6. Three overall winners each get a $150 grand prize. The race is full up with teams but you can watch for free. Call 567-7517 for more info.
Three local writers will assemble themselves for questioning at the meeting of the Society of Midland Authors today. Connie Fletcher recently published What Cops Know, a trenchant distillation based on extensive interviews. Alex Kotlowitz has turned his noted Wall Street Journal piece on kids growing up in the Henry Horner Homes into the about-to-be-published There Are No Children Here. And the Reader’s own Robert McClory is the author of The Man Who Beat Clout City, a biography of Renault Robinson. The society meets in the Fellows’ Lounge of the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, today at 5:30 PM. It’s $6. Call 708-383-7568 for details.
The indefatigable National Seminars, Inc., which sponsors seminars on grammar but can’t produce a coherent press release, has a new one for you: Powerful Filing and Records Management, from 9 to 4 today at the Marriott, 540 N. Michigan. The company promises talk on topics like “Assess your needs and problems,” “Set goals,” “Identify concepts that meet your needs,” and “Tools for eliminating lost files.” You also get a “comprehensive workbook” and coffee breaks, all for just $98. Call 800-258-7246 for details.
Two rather different prescriptions for women’s well-being are being proposed tonight. The first: The 750-member Chicago Women in Publishing begins a three-evening series on personal development. Stress Management for Publishing Professionals includes talk about balancing career and family and recognizing symptoms of stress. Next week the topic is career advancement; March 28 is a talk on financial planning in an industry with low remuneration. The talks being at 5:45 the next three Thursday evenings at the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association, 250 S. Wacker. It’s $30 per session or $85 for the series ($20 and $55 if you’re a member). Call the group at 715-1010 for details.
The second: A perhaps less pragmatic approach to a similar subject is offered by the Artemisia Gallery tonight in a lecture by Gloria Feman Orenstein, author and shamanist. She’s calling her talk The Reflowering of the Goddess, based on her book of the same title; Orenstein will discuss “the reemergence of the goddess in the contemporary feminist arts and the magical power of the female symbol of creation.” Orenstein has recently been studying shamanism, with a Lapp shaman; her next book will be called Light in Darkness: Shamanistic Teachings from the Land of the Midnight Sun. Artemisia Gallery is at 700 N. Carpenter. It’s $3 and starts at 7. Call 226-7323 for details.