Last year on this, the biggest shopping day of the year, there were Buy Nothing Day anticonsumerism actions in over 30 countries. In Vancouver, a gold-clad Mr. Materialism thanked shoppers for their enthusiastic spending; in Kyoto, a “Zenta” Claus sat meditating in the lotus position for eight hours on the city’s busiest shopping strip. The annual protest, started eight years ago by the Vancouver-based Adbusters Media Foundation, encourages spontaneous pranking and DIY street theater by whoever wants to participate–or you can simply buy nothing. It takes place all day today, all over the city and suburbs, and it is, of course, free. For more information call 800-663-1243 or visit

Twenty gingerbread houses decorated by members of the Elmhurst Artists’ Guild go on display today in downtown Elmhurst shopwindows. You can’t eat ’em, but a dollar raffle ticket buys a chance to take one home when the show, GingerArt House Walk, comes down on December 22. You can buy a ticket and pick up a map from any participating merchant; proceeds benefit Du Page County’s homeless. Also notable among Elmhurst’s seasonal festivities: a free kids’ holiday movie every Saturday morning through December 16 at the York Theatre, 150 N. York. Tomorrow’s feature is 1983’s A Christmas Story. Doors open at 10; the show starts at 10:30. Call 630-993-1600 for more information.

“We used to get a lot of people who were outraged and would say ‘How dare you!'” when Fur-Free Friday started 15 years ago, says Kay Sievers, director of Animal Rights Mobilization of Chicago, the local sponsor of the annual multicity antifur protest. These days, passersby occasionally join the leafleteers. “Fur has become an issue that has sunk into the public conscience. Sales are way down, but nowadays they’re selling a lot of things with fur trim.” Today’s free march–the largest such demonstration in the midwest–starts at noon at the northwest corner of State and Adams in Chicago and proceeds north and east, concluding with a rally at the Water Tower, at Michigan and Chicago, around 1:30. Call 773-381-1181 for more.


The Chicago Institute for the Moving Image is devoted to sponsoring projects “that attempt to synthesize the five senses, explain phenomena associated with the nervous system, and reveal the whole of various psychological processes in their parts.” The topic of today’s Intention, Movement, Perception conference is the languages of the brain and body. Speakers include Second City founder Paul Sills, holographic theory and film history expert David Bychkov, and Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer, co-author of This Is for Everyone and president of the Hebrew Seminary for the Deaf. The conference is from 10 to 3 at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago. Tickets are $25 and include lunch; $5 all-day parking is available one block north. Call 847-922-0767.

Herman Schuniman perished when his ship went down in our fair lake on November 23, 1912. The load of Christmas trees he was bringing from Michigan to Chicago went down with him. I’m not sure what the message is there, but–oh yeah, his wife took over and made sure some trees got here anyway. Folksinger and Great Lakes music scholar Lee Murdock says his Christmas Ship Concert celebrates Schuniman’s spirit and harks back to a time when Chicago was the “number one seaport in the world.” The storyteller and baritone will accompany himself on guitar at 7 tonight at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie. Tickets are $20, $16 for children 12 and under. Call 847-673-6300.


Lucy Lawless’s character Xena was a hit before she even had a show, first appearing in a March 1995 episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as a bloodthirsty conqueror out to get the series’ hero. A few months later a toned-down Xena, bent on helping the unfortunate rather than killing them, debuted on her own spin-off. The show’s scheduled to end next summer, and Lawless won’t be appearing today, but the annual Xena: Warrior Princess convention carries on this weekend. Today’s guest stars include Virginia Platt (Cyanne, queen of the Amazons) and William Gregory Lee (Virgil). There will also be trivia and costume contests, autograph signing, a screening of bloopers from the show, and, of course, a vending area. The convention is Saturday and today from 1 to 7 at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare, 8535 W. Higgins, Chicago. Tickets are $20, $10 for kids aged 7 to 12 and free for those under 7. Call 773-693-4444 for more info.

“White Christmas” will be on the program along with Barber’s “Agnus Dei” when the concert group of the Chicago Children’s Choir comes to the suburbs. The choir was founded in 1956 and now serves 3,000 kids aged 4 to 18. The concert contingent, 125 voices strong, is the varsity team: they’ve sung with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera and have toured the world. They’ll perform at 5 today at Winnetka Congregational Church, 725 Pine in Winnetka; on Saturday, December 2, at 8 at Saint Barnabas Church, 101st and Longwood in Chicago; and on Sunday, December 3, at 5 at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake in Oak Park. Tickets are $20, $15 for seniors, $10 for students. Call 312-849-8300, ext. 222, for more.


Last summer the city asked 4,000 artists from a wide range of disciplines to assess their space and technical-assistance needs. The folks at the Department of Cultural Affairs wouldn’t tell me what they found, but did say that only one out of four artists responded. The 3,000 creative types who lost the form are invited to come and throw in their two cents when the results are revealed at today’s Chicago Artists Surveyed discussion. It starts at 6 at the Randolph Cafe in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago (312-744-4405), and it’s free.


Two heavyweight authors hit Chicago for free readings tonight, and if you’re quick you can catch them both. Downtown at 6 Anna Quindlen, the lighter of the pair, will promote her new tome, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, in which she declares that life is “glorious and that you have no business taking it for granted.” She appears at the Harold Washington Library Center auditorium at 400 S. State; call 312-747-4080. On the north side Margaret Atwood, who recently won the Booker Prize for her novel The Blind Assassin, which was cited by judges as “far-reaching, dramatic, and structurally superb,” will read at 7:30 at the Swedish American Museum Center, 5211 N. Clark. It’s also free, but ticket holders who have purchased the novel down the street at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299) will be seated first.


There will be juggling, magic, and little boys flying through the air at HotHouse tonight, when Douglas Crew (of the Midnight Circus) hosts his monthly Backyard Variety Show, a showcase of “new vaudeville” talent. Guests include magician Tevell Rose, performer Miss Foozi, the Chicago Boys Acrobatic Team, and Evelyn Weston taking requests on her musical saw. It all starts at 8 at 33 E. Balbo, Chicago, 312-362-9707. Admission is $8.


“We especially want our children–all children–to remember that more democracy is always a possibility if they are willing to carry on the precious heritage with vision, courage, and compassion,” write Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cornel West in the introduction to their new book The African-American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country. In it the pair profile 100 influential African-Americans from the past 100 years, from Booker T. Washington to Jimi Hendrix to Colin Powell, and argue that the U.S. would be a much different place without their contributions. West will discuss the book tonight at 7 in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago’s Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University, Chicago. It’s free; call 773-684-1300.