“It looks functional, but most of it’s not, ” says wood turner Carole Floate of the lathe-shaped vases, bowls, and platters on display in Turned & Shaped, an exhibit of 35 pieces by members of the Chicago Wood Turners Association at the College of Lake County’s Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art. With a membership of about 200, the club, which meets monthly in Palatine, includes turners from the city, suburbs, and surrounding states–beginners, experts, and some who “just like to come and look.” The work in the show ranges from a pair of Windsor chairs to abstract sculpture. What you won’t find, says Floate, is anything carved–there’s a different club for that. “Turned & Shaped” runs through August 8 at the college, 19351 W. Washington in Grayslake. Artists will be on hand to-night for a reception from 7 to 9. Reg-ular gallery hours are 8 AM to 10 PM, Monday through Thursday and 8 to 4:30 Friday. It’s free; call 847-543-2240.

Last spring there was such a severe drought in southern India that a 12th-century Krishna temple that had more or less lain underwater since the KRS dam was built across the Kaveri River in the 1920s appeared aboveground, and priests were conducting services there. Unfortunately, the temple was all that remained of the 36 villages that were flooded to make way for the project. Around that time, Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy was agitating to stop the construction of the Narmada dam in the northern state of Gujarat. That dam–if built, the second-largest in the world–would displace over a million people and destroy three million acres of forest. “I began to feel as though every feeling in The God of Small Things had been traded in for a silver coin, and if I wasn’t careful I would become a little silver figurine with a cold, silver heart,” Roy says of her turn toward activism in Dam/Age, Aradhana Seth’s documentary on the campaign against the Narmada project. The dam has yet to be built, but Roy served a day in pri-son on criminal contempt charges as a result of her protest activities. Seth will answer questions after tonight’s screening, which is sponsored by the Public Square and starts at 7 at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago. It’s $10; call 312-993-0682.


“We’ve un-stocked the welfare pantry / to restock the wall street gentry / it’s economically elementary / because values don’t pay / yes, american dreams are on permanent layaway! / (there was limited availability anyway),” writes Brooklyn-based poet Alix Olson in “America’s On Sale.” Since her victory as part of the 1998 Nuyorican National Championship Slam Team, she’s been on the cover of Ms. and the Lambda Book Report, toured with the Butchies, and headlined NOW’s national conference. She’ll perform work from her new CD, Independence Meal, tonight at 7:30 at the Mountain Moving Coffeehouse for Womyn and Chil-dren at the Summerdale Community Church, 1700 W. Farragut, Chicago. Singer-songwriter Alix Dobkin opens. There’s a suggested donation of $15; call 312-409-0276 or see www.alixolson.com.


For the first time in its 14-year history, the Friends of the Parks will commandeer Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive for their annual L.A.T.E. Ride. The highway will be closed to auto traffic from Monroe to Bryn Mawr during the first leg of the 25-mile jaunt, which starts at 1:30 this morning and attracts some 10,000 riders. The festivities begin Saturday night at 11 at Buckingham Fountain, Balbo and the drive, with a set by the rock band L.U.V.; participants–who must wear helmets–are asked to get there by midnight. The event wraps with a postride breakfast that starts at 3:30 AM and ends at sunrise. The $45 entry fee benefits Friends of the Parks; call 312-918-7433 or see www.lateride.org for more.

“There are a lot of people out there with something to say, but we don’t necessarily have to hear it,” says Kimberly Weatherly, emcee and curator of the new poetry series Equilibrium Sundays. Weatherly, who’s no fan of open mikes or “bitter bitch poetry where females male-slam in a five-minute piece that could have ended after the first three lines,” says she’s carefully chosen the poets who appear at Equilibrium: “We’re weeding out the amateurs.” Poets are backed by a three-piece jazz band and a DJ spins between sets. Tonight’s performers will include Weatherly, who describes her own work as socially relevant and uplifting. It starts at 8 at the Spoken Word Cafe, 4655 S. King Dr. in Chicago, and there’s a suggested donation of $5. For more information call 312-360-1039 or E-mail speak_your_soul@yahoo.com.


“Acting saved my life,” says Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis in her new memoir, Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress. The book chronicles her years put-ting on plays in the backyard with her brother in Massachusetts, feuding with her physically abusive mother, and being told to change her name and nose. She spent three decades paying her dues before winning the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1988 for her work in Moon-struck. “Just a few weeks before I had been clipping coupons and shopping for bargain jeans while working 10 to 12 hour days at the theater,” she writes. “Now I was checking into the Four Seasons.” Dukakis–a cousin of former presidential hopeful Michael–will give a free reading tonight at 6 in Chicago at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, 312-747-4080. Tomorrow, July 15, she’ll appear at Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State (also Chicago), 312-606-0750.


Theatre of Western Springs’s annual acting classes for anyone who might want to join the ensemble begin today. Studio One is a free two-week course taught by TWS artistic director Tony Vezner and is one of two requirements for joining the company–the other is a season subscription to the theater. No experience is necessary; the classes include games and other training techniques in a “relaxed setting,” and they end with a production of short scenes. After that, aspiring actors are placed on the roster and merely have to await the casting call, as TWS never holds auditions. To be permanently eligible for roles, actors have to take a second course, also free, within two years. Studio One meets at 7:30 tonight and July 16, 19-21, 23, 24, and 26-28 at the theater, 4384 Hampton in Western Springs. Attendance at eight of the sessions is mandatory. Call 708-246-4043 for more information.


Twelve years after the publication of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, the Canadian author is on his ninth novel and the term “McJob” is in the dictionary. Hey Nostradamus!, Coup-land’s latest offering, begins with a Columbine-esque massacre in a high school cafeteria and traces the aftershocks of the event 12 years later in the lives of Jason (who lost his pregnant teenage bride in the attack), his new girlfriend, and his ultrareligious father. Coupland will read from Hey, Nostradamus! tonight at 7 at Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan in Chicago, 312-573-0564. It’s free.


“I don’t expect a lot of Arab-American comedians to wander in” for tonight’s Arab ComedyFest, says Ray Hanania, the stand-up comedian and former Sun-Times City Hall reporter who was abruptly canned as Jackie Mason’s opening act at Zanies last summer. He estimates there are about a dozen Arab-American comics in the U.S. (“That doesn’t include people who aren’t Arab but perform as Arab-Americans onstage,” he says). In November several of them–including Hanania–played two sold-out nights at Caroline’s in New York. He hopes to make tonight’s event, which will feature sets by Hanania and Sherif Hedayat plus an open mike, a monthly occurrence. It starts at 7 at Chase Cafe, 7301 N. Sheridan, Chicago. There’s a $13 cover, and it’s BYOB; call 773-743-5650 for more information.