Daniel Burnham’s visionary Plan of Chicago–unveiled 16 years after the 1893 World’s Fair–was an extension of the City Beautiful design concepts he developed in the expo’s famed White City, which, says historian Russell Lewis, gave fairgoers a sense that “the city was a spiritual place.” Burnham’s plan called for networks of boulevards, parks, and transit systems linking Chicago’s neighborhoods, and while some of his proposals–such as a grandiose civic center at Halsted and Congress–never came to fruition, others, including the preservation of the lakefront as public green space, have been key to the city’s development. Lewis will give a free lecture and slide presentation on Burnham’s vision called Soulful Beginnings: The Chicago Plan tonight at 5:30 at the Swedenborg Library, 77 W. Washington, Suite 1700, Chicago. A related workshop follows on Saturday, January 18, from 10 to 3; it’s $45. Call 312-346-7003.
The Chicago chapter of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) sent ten bus loads of protesters to October’s antiwar march on Washington, and they hope to dispatch even more to tomorrow’s follow-up rally and march on the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard to protest a war with Iraq. “This is going to be big, but we’re not sure how big,” says one of the organizers. “Many people think this will be the last demonstration before the war–that the U.S. is going to wait until January 27, when the UN inspectors make their report, and then launch the war.” A round-trip ticket is $80, but the send-off’s free. The chartered buses leave tonight at 5:30 from behind the School of the Art Institute on Columbus between Jackson and Adams in Chicago (they’ll return Sunday morning). Tickets should be purchased in advance but space may be available tonight on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 773-250-7006, E-mail email@example.com, or go to www.answerchicago.org for more information.
Each January, cows in southern India are decorated for the annual Pongol festival, a rice-harvest celebration that serves as an end-of-winter holiday. A highlight is the cooking of pongol, a dish of new rice and palm sugar; people shout “Pongol!” as it warms, and it’s considered good luck if the pot boils over. Chicago Tamil Sangam’s “Pongol Function” takes place tonight from 6:30 to 11 and includes music, a dance performance, a children’s skit, and a patti mandram (debate) in Tamil. There will also be two types of pongol and other food for sale. It’s at the Hinsdale Community House, 415 W. Eighth in Hinsdale. Admission is $8; call 847-441-5993 or go to www.chicagotamilsangam.org.
Stephanie Lenore Kuehn’s new play Final Angel is based on the 1994 rape of Chicago Bar Association employee and aspiring actress Lynn Green, who was taking a break on an unoccupied floor of the organization’s Loop office building when she was attacked by a homeless man. Green, who says she had a near-death experience during the crime, spent eight hours helping police draw a composite sketch of the man; he was nabbed the next day in front of the CBA. Green struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder for years afterward, and won a $2.2 million contributory negligence suit against the building’s management company in 1999. Produced by Green’s theater company, Fine Arts Enterprises, Kuehn’s play draws on Jungian themes and the Greek myth of the abduction and rape of Persephone to add context to Green’s story. Tonight’s performance is at 8, and the show runs through March 2 at Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago (773-327-5252); tickets are $27.
“Music is not man’s invention, but his heritage from the blessed spirits. Music…describes the very being of God,” said Tomas Luis de Victoria–perhaps the greatest Spanish composer of the Renaissance. His Missa o magnum mysterium will be performed today at 3 by Spain’s Coro de Canto Gregoriano, under the direction of Ismael Fernandez de la Cuesta, former choral master of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, who shot up the charts in the mid-90s with their recordings Chant and Chant II. They’ll be joined by the University of Chicago’s Motet Choir–who’ll perform the polyphonic portions of the mass–for the free concert at the U. of C.’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn, Chicago (773-702-7059).
“The fundamental crisis in black America is twofold: too much poverty and too little self-love,” wrote Cornel West in his 1993 best-seller, Race Matters. He went on to explain how cultural and institutional racism have created “the monumental eclipse of hope, the unprecedented collapse of meaning, the incredible disregard for human (especially black) life and property in much of black America.” West will give the key-note speech, also titled Race Matters, at Northwestern University’s observance of Martin Luther King Day. Today’s events run from 11 to 2 (during which no classes will be held) and kick off with speeches by various local notables, including Evanston mayor and NU alum Lorraine Morton. West’s talk will be followed by a book signing and a con-cert by the Northwestern Community Ensemble. Doors open at 10:30 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr. on the Northwestern campus in Evanston. It’s free but seating is limited; for more call 847-491-5441.
The tragedy of Emmett Till–the 14-year-old Chicago schoolboy who in 1955 was murdered by two white men while visiting relatives in Mississippi–made headlines again this month with the death of Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Widely credited with helping spark the civil rights movement, Till-Mobley refused to listen to authorities who told her not to look at her son’s brutalized body–instead, she opened his casket and showed the world racism’s ugly face. Emmett’s story reportedly inspired Rosa Parks not to budge from her seat on a Montgomery bus a few months later. After the men charged with his murder were acquitted, Till’s memory was further kept alive by photographer Ernest C. Withers, who self-published and distributed a booklet of his images from the trial called Complete Photo Story of Till Murder Case. Withers continued shooting major civil rights battles and became an insider in Martin Luther King’s circle. He still maintains a studio in Memphis and will give a free slide lecture, Photographing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, today at 4 at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Dr. at Northwestern University in Evanston (847-491-5401).
Luvjones Productions’ monthly showcase at HotHouse is called Tambayan (Tagalog slang for “chill spot”) and is hosted by KP of the Filipino hip-hop group the PACIFICS and Universe Neo of Contriband. Tonight’s installment starts at 9 and features DJ Stizo and local performance poet Gina Magsombol, who says in her bio that she “writes poetry to keep from going insane.” It’s at 31 E. Balbo in Chicago and admission is $5; call 312-362-9707.
Utopian thinking’s been around since Plato, but for some reason every stab at paradise–no matter how feasible and well-intentioned–seems doomed to fail. For the new book Visions of Utopia, University of Chicago emeritus professor of religion Martin Marty (who himself helped design a utopian city in the 60s) joined forces with New York Times critics Edward Rothstein and Herbert Muschamp to explore the history of utopian ideas. Looking at everything from the writings of Sir Thomas More and the architecture of Adolf Loos to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the authors come to disparate conclusions about the meaning of such efforts: Rothstein argues that utopias are only fully realizable in art; Marty holds that while they may be impractical there’s spiritual value in the process of trying to realize them. Tonight at 7 he’ll discuss the collaboration at 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, Chicago (773-684-1300). It’s free.
The Onion A.V. Club’s recent interview collection, The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations With Entertainment’s Most Enduring Outsiders, takes its title from Stephen Thompson’s 1998 discussion with thick-necked rocker-poet-actor-publisher Henry Rollins, in which he explained how he’s managed to avoid the fate of some of his contemporaries. “There are a lot of people–big metal guys–who are now working at Blockbuster, but they still have the eyeliner and the dyed black hair and the idiot stripper girlfriend, and they’re waiting for the next deal. They didn’t save the money. They didn’t realize how quickly it’d all be over. For a guy like me, I had 18 minutes instead of 15 because of tenacity, the will of the cockroach.” Several Onion writers, including Thompson, Keith Phipps, Tasha Robinson, Nathan Rabin, and Scott Tobias, will discuss the book tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1100 Lake in Oak Park (708-848-9140). It’s free.