Former National Council for Geographic Education president and avid traveler Dorothy Drummond got the idea for her new book, Holy Land, Whose Land? Modern Dilemma, Ancient Roots, in 2000, while sitting on Suleiman’s Wall overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. “I was idly musing, ‘How did it happen that the land holy to three faiths can be kept secure only at gunpoint?'” she writes in the foreword. “Why is the Holy Land–today again, as so often in the past–a cauldron of conflict?” Her book–part history text, part travelogue–looks at the roots of the current strife and concludes with a wish: “Shalom Peace Salaam.” Drummond will give a free reading tonight at 7:30 at Borders, 1144 Lake in Oak Park (708-386-6927).


To help its 100-odd members write mystery stories with the bite of truth, the local lit group Sisters in Crime brings in expert speakers to address everything from hostage situations and tactical operations to forensic dentistry. Today at 11 AM representatives from the Plainfield police and fire departments will discuss All You Ever Wanted to Know About Arson and Were Afraid to Ask. The free event takes place at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 W. Madison in Forest Park (708-771-7243). For more information go to www.sistersincrimechicago.org.

The world’s earliest gardens may have been Middle Eastern desert oases cultivated around 2000 BC and intended as refuges from rather than celebrations of nature. Since then, gardeners around the world have tried to grow their own versions of paradise on earth. Photographic murals (supplemented by live re-creations) of the cream of the crop–from Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli to shogun Ashikaga Takauji’s Kyoto retreat–make up In Search of Paradise: Centuries of Great Garden Design, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The garden’s largest indoor show to date, it runs through March 30 in the Education Center. Today’s schedule of related events includes a free concert of Renaissance music by Choral Sounds of Chicago at 2 in the Alsdorf Auditorium. The garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Rd. in Glencoe. Admission is free but parking is $8.75; a $2 donation is suggested for “In Search of Paradise.” Call 847-835-5540.


Playwright Jamil Khoury, who was raised Syrian Christian in Mount Prospect, worked for the UN as a refugee affairs officer on the West Bank during the first intifada in the late 80s. “We were literally caught between rocks and bullets,” he recalls. His new play, Precious Stones, is set in Chicago in 1989 and is informed by the events in the Middle East at that time. It focuses on two women–a Palestinian in a sham marriage and an out Jewish lesbian–who organize an Arab-Jewish discussion group and then fall for each other. “I want to humanize this conflict,” says Khoury. “I want to tell a story that takes us away from headlines and imagery and violence and destruction and carnage. I want to put three-dimensional human faces on Palestinian and Jewish characters.” The play had sold out its opening night (Saturday) at press time; it runs through March 2 at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Studio Theater, 78 E. Washington, Chicago. Today’s performance is at 2 and tickets are $15 ($12.50 for students and seniors). For more call 312-236-6881 or see www.srtp.org.


This American Life host Ira Glass spent ten years of his youth in Hebrew school, but he says it didn’t exactly take. Now he’s stuck trying to figure out what it means to be both Jewish and a nonbeliever. “Should I pretty much just kiss the synagogue and the rest of Jewish life good-bye?” he writes in an E-mail. “I mean, I know that at some level I have no choice over the fact that I’m a Jew. I just am, and that’s that. But without God in there, it feels sort of silly and nostalgic to gather with the Jewish community in any way.” Nonetheless, he’ll discuss God, Man and Radio tonight at 6:30 with Rabbi Aaron Petuchowski at Temple Sholom, 3480 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. Tickets are $20 and include dinner; for reservations call 773-525-4707, ext. 324, or E-mail linda@sholomchicago.org.


On September 10, 2001, Miramax screened a rough cut of Phillip Noyce’s film The Quiet American, which was set to come out a few months later. But the movie, based on Graham Greene’s 1955 novel of the same name, has yet to get a full U.S. release. According to a recent article in the Independent/UK, Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein was worried that the film, set in Vietnam during the French Indochina War, might be seen as anti-American. The story focuses on the love triangle between a Saigon woman (Do Thi Hai Yen), a burned-out British journalist (Michael Caine), and an idealistic American aid worker (Brendan Fraser) who turns out to be a CIA operative. The film, scheduled for general release soon, gets its Chicago premiere tonight at 6 at Burnham Plaza, 826 S. Wabash. It’ll be followed by a discussion and cocktail reception with producer William Horberg and others at 8 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, Chicago. Tickets are $20 ($10 for just the movie) and proceeds benefit HotHouse and the Public Square; call 312-362-9707 or see www.hothouse.net.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon played a pair of cross-dressing musicians on the run in the 1959 Billy Wilder film Some Like It Hot. Now Curtis is back as the dotty millionaire smitten with one of the “girls” in Broadway in Chicago’s live rendition of the film. This is the second attempt to move this groundbreaking farce from screen to stage–a 1972 version was mounted as Sugar–and it’s been “reconceived” with a new book by Peter Stone and more Jule Styne songs. The gender-bending shtick probably won’t look as fresh as it did 40 years ago, the absence of Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe will lower the temperature, and the cavernous Rosemont Theatre is a less-than-ideal venue. But the adventures of Joe and Jerry, on the lam from the Chicago mob and hiding out in an all-girl band, might still be irresistible. Some Like It Hot opens tonight at 7:30 and runs through February 2 at 5400 N. River Rd. in Rosemont. Performances are at 7:30 Tuesday and Wednesday, 2 and 7:30 Thursday, 8 Friday and Saturday, and 2 Sunday. Tickets range from $29.50 to $59.50; call 312-559-1212.


The Guild Complex’s three-part series Exploring America in Change: Silenced Voices/Hidden Communities concludes tonight with readings by Cherokee/English/German-American writer Diane Glancy and Filipina writer Luisa Igloria. Igloria will read recent poems and part of her essay “Views of War and Citizenship From Between Two Shores,” in which she reflects on colonialism. She’ll also discuss how nonmainstream writers are pigeonholed–“either you’re ‘ethnic enough’ to fit into a niche market, or you’re ‘too ethnic’ to go over well with some idea of a broader and more universal audience–these opposing terms can be used whenever convenient,” she says. “I’m very aware of the specificity of my own formation and my writing, how it is not necessarily representative of a Filipino/Filipina position, although it may on occasion address parts of that larger or more collective experience.” The readings will be followed by a discussion moderated by author and former missionary Tom Montgomery-Fate; it all starts at 7:30 at the Guild Complex at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago. Admission is $7, $5 for students and seniors (773-227-6117).


Martha Clarke and Charles L. Mee’s dance-theater piece Vienna: Lusthaus (Revisited) consists of 32 tableaux set in naughty, turbulent pre-World War I Vienna and draws on the writings of (among others) Sigmund Freud, Peter Altenberg, Christy Honigman, and Sander Gilman and the paintings of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The original version of the show premiered in 1986 and won two Obie awards; the 2003 revision includes new material developed as the piece has toured over the years and boasts a 13-person ensemble and chamber music by Richard Peaslee, plus additional music by J.S. Bach, Johann Strauss II, and Eugene Friesen. Its Performing Arts Chicago run starts tonight at 7:30 and continues through Sunday, February 2, at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago. Tickets range from $29 to $35; call 773-722-5432 or see the Critic’s Choice in Performance for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Robert Emmet Bright, Carol Rosegg.