At this year’s International Vintage Poster Fair, elegant ads for French cognac and Bally shoes dating from the 1890s to the 1980s are on sale alongside hundreds of propaganda posters from China’s Cultural Revolution. Ah, the delicious irony of lounging on the couch watching a Simpsons rerun under a rendering of a square-jawed peasant exhorting you to “Advance victoriously while following Chairman Mao’s line in literature and the arts.” There’s a preview tonight from 5 to 9 (the show continues Saturday from 10

to 7 and Sunday from 11 to 6) at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago. Admission tonight is $25 and includes wine and hors d’oeuvres plus a one-day reentry pass. For Saturday or Sunday only it’s $12; for both it’s $20. Call 800-856-8069 or check out


The vague promise of warmer temperatures makes you want to cast off your winter coat and shimmy in the sun–but where? Well, there won’t be any tanning opportunities at tonight’s Carnaval, but the artists behind the nonprofit arts organization Collaboraction are doing their best to bring a bit of South America to the midwest. There’ll be a fashion show of Brazilian bikini designs and couture from the Wicker Park vintage shops Una Mae’s Freak Boutique and Lilly Vallente, plus samba dancers, Brazilian batacuda percussion, body and face painting, and a set by DJ Julio Bishop. The event is a fund-raiser for Sketchbook, Collaboraction’s annual festival of short plays, art, and music that begins later this month. Admission is $20 and tickets must be purchased in advance; it includes drinks, so you must be 21 or over. It’s at the MCA Warehouse, 1747 W. Hubbard in Chicago. Call 312-226-9633 or go to

There’s no telling what you’ll find at the Chicago Rocks & Minerals Society’s 55th Annual Silent Auction of Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, and Lapidary Treasures: “I still curse myself for letting that lapis lazuli free-form carving go for 25 bucks a couple years ago,” says the society’s Jeanine Mielecki. Some of the goods and gadgets will likely appeal only to the trained geologist, but ordinary rock fans may find some cool fossils, jewelry, or a good book. The show opens at 5 and each table of items will come up for bidding in random order starting at 5:30. It’s at the Salvation Army-Irving Park Corps building, 4056 N. Pulaski in Chicago. Admission is free; call 773-774-2054 or e-mail


General Tommy Franks was installed as head of U.S. Central Command in June 2000 and soon found himself directing the post-9/11 attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re still mired in both messes, but Franks executed his own exit strategy last August: he retired, cut a book deal with a major publisher, and hit the lecture circuit. Today at 2 he’ll discuss The Global War on Terrorism: From Policy to Practice at the Dan and Ada Rice Center of Benedictine University, 5700 College in Lisle. Tickets range from $35 to $500 (the top price includes a reception). Call 630-260-0626.


In November Lincoln Park cooking school the Chopping Block opened a new location in Lincoln Square. Tonight chef Sara Salzinski–who’s put in time at Ambria and Blackbird–will wean students from Chinese takeout by showing them how to make wonton soup, a crispy noodle pancake with vegetables, kung pao chicken, and Szechuan eggplant. The $75 class is offered from 6:30 to 9:30 at 4747 N. Lincoln in Chicago; there’s also an earlier session from 10 AM to 1 PM. Call 773-472-6700 to preregister. Visit for a complete schedule of classes.


Digital cameras may have made it easier for the average Joe to take great photos, but capturing the fantastic images found in National Geographic requires more than an $800 Canon and a tripod. Swedish wildlife photographer Mattias Klum and four assistants once schlepped about 4,500 pounds of equipment into the middle of the Borneo rain forest on a 14-month mission to “capture the ‘soul’ of the forest and its inhabitants.” Klum’s more modest undertakings include traveling to Southeast Asia to take photos of king cobras and visiting six countries to document people’s relationships with horses for an upcoming book. He’ll talk about his art and experiences today in his lecture, The Passion of Seeing Wildlife. It’s tonight at 7:30 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Tickets are $24 ($22 for museum members) and preregistration is required; call 312-665-7400.


Beth Finke was 26 years old and on her honeymoon when she began to go blind from diabetes, which she’s had since childhood. After she lost her sight she lost her full-time job, gave birth to and raised a severely handicapped son, found a niche as a nude model for art students, and became a National Public Radio commentator. She’s also written a well-received book about all of this, Long Time, No See, published last year by University of Illinois Press. She’ll speak at 7 tonight at the Des Plaines Public Library, 1501 Ellinwood in Des Plaines. It’s free; call 847-376-2787 for reservations.


Columbia College’s Eighth Annual Story Week Festival of Writers–actually ten days of author readings, panel discussions, book signings, and more–kicks off today with a conversation between John McNally, whose novel The Book of Ralph was published this month by the Free Press, and Colson Whitehead, whose most recent work, The Colossus of New York, is a collection of essays about New York City. That’s at 2 and will be moderated by Mara Tapp; at 6:30 the writers will read from their work and answer questions from the audience. Both events are free and take place in the auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State in Chicago. Upcoming events include a presentation on book and magazine publishing by Paris Review executive editor Brigid Hughes and literary agent Stephanie von Hirschberg and a conversation between authors Jane Hamilton (Map of the World) and Lorrie Moore. Most events are free; call 312-344-7611 or 312-344-8559. See the Story Week sidebar at for a full schedule.

As any Scrabble veteran can tell you, the game can get as tense as high-stakes poker. Fittingly, local filmmaker Scott Peterson went to Las Vegas to make the 2003 documentary Scrabylon, about the 2001 World Scrabble Cham-pionship. Like the recent hit movie Spellbound, Peterson’s film focuses on the personalities who populate a wordy subculture, such as professional Scrabblist Joel Sherman, nicknamed “GI” for his unending stomach complaints, and Chicagoan Marty Gabriel, who likes to psych out his opponents by drinking vinegar straight from the bottle. It’ll be screened tonight at Columbia College during a break in a four-round tournament among 16 top players. The competition begins at 3:30; the film starts at 7 and will be followed by a Q and A with Gabriel. The final round will begin at 9. It’s all free and takes place at the college’s Hermann Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash, first floor, in Chicago. Call 312-344-6733.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Alyce Henson.