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The U.S. used to lead the world in leisure time, but today the average American works 400 hours more a year-that’s ten full work weeks-than the average German. The Seattle-based organization Take Back Your Time is working to slow us down by lobbying for legislation mandating a minimum paid vacation of three weeks a year and a cap on mandatory overtime. This weekend they’re hosting the Take Back Your Time Day National Conference, and for a group advocating a slower pace of life, they sure pack a lot into a few days: workshops on the Puritan origins of our overdeveloped work ethic, problems of overscheduled families, health hazards of overwork, strategies for decelerating workplace culture, and more. The conference begins with a 7 PM reception Thursday, June 10, and resumes today at 9 AM. Speakers include Loyola philosopher Al Gini and journalist Carl Honore, authors of The Importance of Being Lazy and the new In Praise of Slowness, respectively. It continues through Sunday at Loyola University, 6525 N. Sheridan in Chicago. The day rate is $35; the whole shebang costs $100. Preregistration is encouraged; call 206-293-3772. For a full schedule go to www.timeday.org.

If you attend a performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Circle Theatre tonight or tomorrow you’ll get free admission to “Off the Page 4,” a champagne brunch and discussion with the play’s creator, Rupert Holmes (of pina-colada song fame), on Sunday, June 13. Holmes won Tony awards for best book and best score after the interactive mystery opened on Broadway in 1985 (it also won the Tony for best musical that season); his more recent work includes Say Goodnight, Gracie. The brunch, which begins at 11 AM at the theater, is open to anyone with a program from the show (or, if this weekend sells out, a ticket to a future performance). The Mystery of Edwin Drood runs through June 27 at Circle, 7300 W. Madison in Forest Park. Performances are at 8 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and at 3 on Sunday. Tickets are $22, $20 for seniors and students; call 708-771-0700.


Patricia Wells reviews restaurants for the International Herald Tribune, gives cooking courses in her Paris studio and her home in Provence, and writes cookbooks. She’s in town to promote her latest tome, The Provence Cookbook, which contains recipes for dishes like baked arugula omelet and three-pear cake as well as tips on local marketing and the best way to peel tomatoes. Today she’ll sign copies at 2 PM at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm in Winnetka. Call 847-466-8880. At 4 PM she’ll be at Trotter’s to Go, 1337 W. Fullerton in Chicago, where there’ll also be wine, cheese, and food prepared from her recipes. Call 773-868-6510. Both events are free.

Go as bare as you dare at the local installment of the World Naked Bike Ride, during which riders from Los Angeles to London will pedal in their birthday suits to protest global oil dependency and “inject the hearts of our neighborhoods with the reality of our beautiful bodies.” Skateboarders, skaters, and joggers are also welcome, and the modest (or, God forbid, chilly) are free to keep their clothes on. The organizers emphasize that the ride isn’t meant for sexual kicks and that total public nudity is illegal, so if you want to stay within the law, stick it in a sock or slap on some electrical tape. The preparatory partying and body-painting kicks off at 7 PM at Buddy, 1542 N. Milwaukee in Chicago, 773-342-7332. The parade will set out on an undisclosed route at 9 and return to the gallery about 90 minutes later for debriefing and further partying. It’s free, but participants are encouraged to bring food, drink, or a donation. Go to www.worldnakedbikeride.org/chicago for more info.


Runners not ready to commit to 26.2 miles can instead take part in the second annual Chicago Quarter Marathon. The 6.55-mile race starts at 8 AM today at 34th and Shields, next to U.S. Cellular Field, and heads east to the lakefront and back. There’s no race-day registration, but you can sign up through Saturday, June 12, at New Balance Chicago, 2369 N. Clark in Chicago. See www.chicagoquartermarathon.com or call 312-347-0233.

Local online mag Sixosix and Wicker Park’s Akira boutique are behind tonight’s multimedia Garden of Eden event, held in the courtyard of the Galleria Marchetti banquet hall. Amid hors d’oeuvres from SWK restaurant, makeovers, massages, and palm readings, there will be a fashion show of “teeny tiny summer clothes” by local designers Threadless, Armed and Dangerous, and Nena, plus national brands. Quarter Mile will play, and admission ($8 in advance, $10 at the door) also gets you into Crobar later tonight. It’s from 5:30 PM to midnight (the fashion show is at 7) at 825 W. Erie in Chicago. Tickets are available at Akira, 1837 W. North. Call 773-489-0818 or see www.606mag.com for more.


The ongoing HotHouse series Conversations with Composers/Chicago Now features live interviews with notable jazz musicians. Today educator and historian Timuel Black talks to Ed Wilkerson about his career and his group 8 Bold Souls. The band will play after the interview, and the whole thing will be recorded for an upcoming compilation CD. It starts tonight at 6:30 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo in Chicago (312-362-9707). It’s free.


Some new and striking architecture goes on view today, but humans can’t tour the interiors. For the Birds: An Amazing Exhibition of Birdhouses showcases more than 100 avian abodes by local artists and architects, including the firm of Perkins & Will, whose skyscraper for birds resembles a modernist shelf set on its end, and Frank Gehry (who’s conveniently been designated “an honorary Chicagoan”). Most of the birdhouses are on display in the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens from 8:30 AM to 10 PM; some exceptionally delicate ones will be inside the Clarke House Museum, which is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 3 PM. Both are at 1827 S. Indiana in Chicago; the park is free but it’s $7 to get into the museum, $6 for students and seniors. The exhibit runs through October 15; call 312-744-6630 for more info.


If Leopold Bloom were a real person, it would have been 100 years ago today that he embarked on the ramble around Dublin famously described in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Today’s do it yourself Bloomsday Reading-performed open-mike style in three-minute increments-might be entertaining for those who loved the book. If you couldn’t get past page three, never fear-there’s beer. Playwright and novelist Jeff Helgeson emcees the event, which also features readings by actors from the Excalibur Shakespeare Company of Chicago. It’s from 7 to 9 PM on the second floor of the Red Lion Pub, 2446 N. Lincoln in Chicago (773-348-2695). It’s $3, and you must be 21 or older.


Tonight at 8 journalist Amy Goodman kicks off a weekend of “debate and discussion about how to change the world.” The muckraking host of Pacifica’s Democracy Now! and author of The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them was digging for the facts behind the WMD mission in Iraq long before the mainstream media began to question what the Bush administration was feeding them. Socialism 2004, an international conference that covers everything from the relevance of Leninism today to the “Wal-Martization” of the United States, continues through Sunday at the Holiday Inn Chicago O’Hare, 5440 N. River Road in Rosemont. (Goodman’s speech is at the Doubletree Hotel next door.) Registration is $75; daily admission Friday or Saturday is $30 and single events are $6. See www.socialismconference.org or call 312-458-9380 for more.

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