Friday 14

Solstice Saturnalia: A Celebration of the Dark is the name of Randolph Street Gallery’s decidedly nontraditional Christmas party. The gallery promises a variety of alternatives for the terminally tired-of-Christmas–pagan worship to the “corn god,” a “frenzied Mythraic celebration” to dispel the night spirits, and a salute to the modern “shopping maul.” There’ll be story telling, dancing, singing, and other performances; the gallery suggests imaginative costuming and a participatory spirit. The gallery is at 756 N. Milwaukee. The evening starts at 8:30; it’s $10, free to members. Call 666-7737 for more information.

My first engagement was in Chicago / I played for some people I never seen before / It was good, too / They liked it! That’s Bo Diddley, on the aptly titled “Story of Bo Diddley.” He came to Chicago at seven, grew up boxing and playing guitar–playing a square guitar–and eventually invented a shuffle-cum-battering-ram style of rock ‘n’ roll strumming that informs the music to this day. He recorded R & B, soul, doo-wop, and novelty numbers that still sound fresh, and released the immortally titled album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger. He plays tonight and tomorrow at B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera, 1124 W. Belmont. Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues open. The shows begin at 9; tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call 525-8989 for details.

Saturday 15

The south-side Institute of Positive Education opened their first bookstore 16 years ago; they now claim that the African American Book Center has the most complete collection of black literature in the midwest. Their second store is having its grand opening today, with poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks reading and signing books from 2 to 4. Next Saturday, Useni Eugene Perkins, author of The Afrocentric Workbook, will be there from 2 to 5 to do the same. The new branch of the African American Book Center is at 1801 E. 71st St. The readings are free. Call 752-2275 for more information.

Sunday 16

For the past six weeks the Spertus Museum has been collecting new and used Jewish children’s books for kids immigrating from the Soviet Union. Today they’re going to their new owners at a Hanukkah book party. Several hundred of the young immigrants are going to be bused in for an afternoon Hanukkah celebration, with story telling in Russian and English, tours of the museum and the attached Artifact Center and Asher Library, and refreshments. The museum is still looking for books–you can drop them off there, at 618 S. Michigan, or call 922-9012 for information on drop spots around the city. The fun today runs from 1:30 to 4; it’s all free.

From Cagliostro’s cannibal suspenders / to Hegel’s gold-plated shadow / unanalyzable lions / cruelly drift / on the slow surf of misnomers. Now that’s what you’d call surrealist poetry; it’s from Lamps Hurled at the Stunning Algebra of Ants, the newest collection by Franklin Rosemont. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont have been Chicago’s reigning surrealists for more than 20 years. Their organization, the Chicago Surrealist Group, ran the Gallery Bugs Bunny in the late 60s, and some years later their Gallery Black Swan hosted the World Surrealist Exhibition in 1976. (Along the way Franklin found time to be “morally disqualified for military service,” in the words of the U.S. government.) Their Black Swan Press is supposed to be the nation’s leading surrealist publisher. The Barbara’s Bookstore at 3130 N. Broadway is saluting Black Swan with a large exhibit of early editions, posters, photos, and miscellany; the display will be up through the end of January. Today at 4 there’ll be a party to celebrate Black Swan’s 22 years of publishing and Rosemont’s new book. It’s free; the phone is 477-0411.

God’s Acre are a no-nonsense power trio who traffic in amusingly sarcastic (“Hippie Trilogy,” “Seven Things to Do on Speed”) and very loud grunge rock. They’re headlining tonight’s benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Also on the bill are local legend Green, vehicle for the baroque-pop visions of Jeff Lescher; Trenchmouth, a reggae-metal assault squad; and the Mystery Girls. At Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; the show starts at 9 PM. Tickets are $5, with the entire door going to the MDA. Call 525-6620 for info.

Monday 17

With all the fun changes in Europe recently, the dutiful, doughty Peace Corps is finding itself revivified–the program, which dispatches U.S. volunteers to underdeveloped countries, is finally breaching the borders of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary. (The corps says that it will be entering more new countries in the next year–in Eastern Europe, sure, but in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well–than it has in nearly 20 years.) The organization is changing with the times in other ways as well–it’s not all digging irrigation ditches anymore; instead there’s a focus now on environmental issues, small business development, and new programs dealing with a growing urbanization worldwide. The Peace Corps is presenting a film and an informational seminar today in the Public Library Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It goes from 5 to 7 tonight in the fourth-floor meeting rooms. It’s free; call 353-4990 for more information.

Tuesday 18

In pre-glasnost days, artists had to rely on puns, metaphor, and parody to get their points across–“when you look at a poster, it may not be what it seems at first glance,” says Dana Bartelt. From her own collection and her travels Bartelt has assembled more than 200 works from Czechoslovakian artists for Contemporary Czechoslovak Posters, continuing this week at the American Center for Design Gallery, 233 E. Ontario. Included are film, theater, commercial, political, and environmental posters; it’s supposed to be the first exhibit ever of Czechoslovakian posters in the U.S. Admission to the gallery is free; it’s open 9 to 5 weekdays. Call 787-2018.

Poinsettias are the stars of the 78th Annual Christmas Flower Show at the Garfield and Lincoln park conservatories. Major supporting roles will be filled by Christmas peppers, Jerusalem cherries, berried rouge plants, and firethorn plants; blue bee-balm, paper-white narcissi, and winter marigolds will make special appearances as well. Admission is free; the conservatories are open 10 to 6 Saturday through Thursday and 9 to 9 Friday. (They’ll be closed Christmas and New Year’s days but open 9 to 5 on the eves.) The Lincoln Park Conservatory is at 2400 N. Stockton; 294-4770. Garfield Park Conservatory is at 300 N. Central Park; 533-1281.

Wednesday 19

The Carter Woodson Regional Library, named for the famous historian, opened on December 19, 1975, the 100th anniversary of Woodson’s birth; 15 years later, the library is well respected, particularly for the Vivian G. Harsh collection on black studies. The library is celebrating its birthday tonight with a free reception and program; it starts at 6 at the library, 9525 S. Halsted (881-6936).

Many of us who own personal computers and operate them quite well, thank you, still haven’t the faintest how they really work. It’s with an eye to explaining this that the North Shore chapter of the Chicago Computer Society is sponsoring a public deconstruction of a personal computer. An IBM PC will be taken apart and put together again at the group’s regular meeting tonight; the idea is to see how the thing works and become familiar with how to perform upgrades and the like. The chapter claims more than 500 members; the meeting is at the Lincolnwood Hyatt, 4500 Touhy Avenue in Lincolnwood. Things get under way at 7. It’s free; call the society at 794-7737.

Thursday 20

Over the past seven years, New Moms has grown from one staff person–its founder, Ellen Kogstad Thompson–to five full-time employees, two interns, and dozens of volunteers. The project–which provides services for teenage single mothers–now has two office locations and five apartments where mothers and kids can live. The organization provides shelter and day care; in return, the moms contribute ten hours of work per week. New Moms gets all the profits from tonight’s performance of Touchstone Theatre’s The Little Prince. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for children; the show starts at 7:30 at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont; call 327-5252.