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November 2009 Archives

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At least we can be sure Jay won't throw an interception on Monday. We think.

After yet another discouraging Bears loss on Sunday, there probably aren't too many people left in Chicago who would pay $150 to watch Jay Cutler and Greg Olsen play football.

But what about watching them watch football? The folks at HUB 51 are hoping so, as they bring in the two Bears on Monday, December 7 for live, play-by-play commentary of the Packers-Ravens tilt.

Of course, they seem to understand that two stars on an underachieving team may not be enticement enough. That's why the $150 ticket price includes premium open bar access and multiple food stations. We're not sure the mix of disgruntled diehards and unlimited alcohol will end well, but hey, it's for charity (proceeds go to the Jay Cutler Foundation and the Greg Olsen Foundation).

If you believe you have the offensive strategy to turn around the Bears season, you can tell the QB and TE yourself -- provided you can pony up the $300 for a VIP ticket which includes access to a pre-game meet-and-greet cocktail hour, as well as autographed team apparel.

The main event starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are available here.

"Why is tonight different from all other nights?"

That question may be easy for Jews to answer on Passover, but it's a whole different animal when it's posed on Christmas Eve. While much of the world is trimming the tree and toasting the upcoming holiday, many non-Christians find themselves passing by shuttered storefronts with nothing to do but consider which Chinese restaurant they'll be patronizing the following day.

But it doesn't have to be this way, especially not in Chicago. For the fifth straight year, the Matzo Bash is here to save the Semites from boredom. The six-hour party (8 p.m.-2 a.m.) at Enclave includes complimentary Absolut cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (via Steve's Deli) from 8-10 p.m. and live entertainment, DJs and dancing all night. And since you likely won't have to work the next day, you'll also get complimentary admission to the after-party at Cuvee.

Tickets are $25...but Centerstage is giving away 15 tickets for free! All you have to do to enter is take a brief survey to help the site serve you better. Click here by December 14. Survey's done, but we're not done giving away tickets! If you want in, become a fan of Centerstage on Facebook.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Brand BBQ Market
Take your barbecue up a notch in Logan Square

Off the Beaten Path: The Nil Tap
Everybody's welcome at this Northwest Side neighborhood bar.

Weekly Treat: Go Big at The Ashland
35-ounce domestic steins are just $6 tonight.

Man We're Crazy About: Hearty
The Hearty Boys revisit comfort food in Boystown.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

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It may not look like it, but this guy is in training.

Thirty-nine hours, two minutes and 25 seconds.

That's how long Chicago real-estate broker Jeff Miller spent watching televised sports on January 1 and 2, 2009, as part of ESPN Zone's annual Ultimate Couch Potato competition. Think you can beat that record? Enter this year's contest by December 9 and you could be in line to win the grand prize: a recliner, free cable for a year and $1000 toward a home sports theater.

Send your 200-word explanation of why you have what it takes to, um, sit on a couch and stare at a screen until your eyes bleed to couchpotato@espnzone.com. More details are available at www.espnzone.com/ultimatecouchpotato .


European Tour Option A: Strap on an enormous, obnoxious backpack, pay at least $1000 in airfare and spend a week sleeping in crummy hostels with hygienically challenged Europeans.

European Tour Option B: Grab your coat and $35-$60 and spend a week sampling tasty European brews from 12 different countries at a popular Chicago tavern, with your best friends in tow.

Yeah, we'll take Option B, thanks. The 29th Annual European Beer Tour comes to Quenchers Saloon November 27-December 4, and offers international beer lovers two ways to celebrate. You'll pre-pay for either a short (six beers, $35) or a long (10 beers, $60) tour, which you can share with as many friends as you like (you'll also get a commemorative shirt, glass(es), cheese and sausage plate(s) and a photo from the photobooth).

You'll be choosing your brews from 24 draught varieties, most of which are additions to the Quenchers stock of over 300 beers. Take a look at the list of options after the jump, and remember to drink slow; after all, you've got a whole week to savor the flavors.

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The Flecktones want you to sign up for the Centerstage contest.

Last December, music fans of all stripes gathered at the Congress Theater for the first-ever Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Fest, a day-long concert featuring big names like The Avett Brothers and David Grisman. Due to the impressive response, we're getting round two in a few weeks. This year's event offers another solid lineup, including Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dr. Dog, Emmitt-Nershi Band and Van Ghost, as well as 50-plus vendor booths, live improv, film screenings and more.

Tickets for the event are $35 (free for kids 12 and under), but Centerstage is giving away four pairs of passes for free! To enter the contest by December 4, head here.

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Last night, Brother Ali stopped by Metro (fulfilling a longtime dream in the process, he told the crowd) for one of the final shows of the Fresh Air tour with Evidence, Toki Wright and DJ BK One. The noticeably slimmed-down MC put on an inspired performance, offering songs from his fantastic new LP, "Us," as well as many older selections. Our favorite aspects of the show:

1. The earnest vibe. Many rappers talk about how their music is all about love, but when Ali says it, you actually believe it. This was a guy who just seemed so damn happy to be able to share his stories with the audience for an hour or two. While this earnestness can become a little tiresome on record, it only enhances the live experience. One of the night's most powerful moments came during "Forest Whitaker," which you might call the rapper's theme song. As a video with various people holding signs proclaiming what they didn't like about themselves (e.g., "My smile is crooked," "I have a big belly") played in the background, Ali (who's albino) delivered feel-good lines like "To everyone out there who's a little different / I say damn a magazine, these are God's fingerprints."

2. They came to rap. Don't assume from the above that this was just one big love-fest. The night featured some hardcore lyricism, and, in Ali's case, there was no need for the now-ubiquitous hype man. Through songs like "Blah Blah Blah," political rant "Uncle Sam Goddamn" (updated to call out Obama for not bringing home the troops) and the straight ridiculous boast track "Bad Mufu**er Pt. 2," the rapper proved he can entertain all on his own, and showed why he's the rising star of the Rhymesayers label (challenging Atmosphere for supremacy).

Ali's labelmates acquitted themselves well, too. Evidence (of longtime L.A. group Dilated Peoples) entertained with a set that showcased his lyrical chops and his sense of humor on songs like "The Cold Weather" and "Letyourselfgo," and Toki Wright also impressed with a thunderous, complex rhyming style. BK One, who was behind the decks for the entire three-plus-hour show, got his moments in the spotlight as well, and made us want to hear more from his Brazilian-influenced debut LP, "Radio do Canibal."

3. The awkward dancing. You know it's a truly rockin' show when even the most rhythmically challenged attendees have no qualms about shaking their bodies. And from our vantage point in the balcony, we saw several fans getting into the act, from the guy in the VIP section waving his fist in a vaguely Arsenio-Hall inspired way to a girl doing hula-hoop moves without the hoop. We need more of this at Chicago shows.

Want to find more great shows? Visit Centerstage Chicago for a full calendar of upcoming concerts.

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Mickey Mouse leads the holiday procession on Saturday.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
All day Saturday along the Magnificent Mile; free
Let the holiday season begin! Mickey Mouse leads the parade of floats down Michigan Avenue as more than 1 million lights are illuminated to kick off the season. There will be music all day at the Harris Stage (401 N. Michigan Ave.) including Plain White T's at 3 p.m. There's also a fireworks display over the river starting at 7 p.m.
Need some help getting into the holiday spirit? Check out our holiday guide.

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Just a quick note for all you deal-hunters out there: Billy Goat will be celebrating its 75th anniversary on Thursday with 75-cent cheezborgers and 75-cent beers at all locations (except O'Hare) all day long. And when we say all day, we mean it: the celebration kicks off at 8 a.m. at the 430 N. Michigan location with Guy Bauer from the Johnny B Show on 97.9 FM (The Loop).

For a list of all Billy Goat locations, search Centerstage or visit the official website.

Author Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything Is Illuminated) comes to the Harold Washington Library Center (400 S. State) tonight at 6 p.m. to promote his new book, Eating Animals in a free event. While he insists the book is not just about becoming vegetarian, we're guessing that after an hour or so of hearing about the meat industry, you're not gonna be feeling like grabbing a burger. With that in mind, here are some dinner spots around the library that go easy on the meat:

Opera
In addition to vegetarian-friendly dishes like spring rolls, Sichuan peanut noodle salad and several sides, the venerable South Loop Chinese kitchen offers a full vegan menu including eggplant quinoa with cilantro pesto sauce ($14), kung pao tofu ($16) and Hainanese-style Kaipong with twice-cooked coconut curry rice, stir-fried choi sum, forest mushrooms, peanuts and sweet peas wrapped in lotus ($14).

Amarit
Thai is usually a safe bet for veggie eaters, and at Amarit you'll be able to subsitute tofu for meat in most dishes, or just spring for a light meal of spring rolls, miso soup and cucumber salad. Other Thai choices in the area include Tamarind and Thai Spoon.

India Grill
For a quick Indian fix, you may want to stop into Chutney Joe's just down the street from the library, where you can top rice or naan with a variety of vegetarian entrees like red bean rajma, spinach paneer, gobi potatoes, garbanzo masala and kali daal for as little as $5.99. But if you want more of a sit-down meal, head a bit further south for a full slate of meat-free cuisine, including vegetable korma and bhindi masala (okra with onions, tomatoes and spices, $9.99). India Grill is BYOB.

For more vegetarian, vegetarian-friendly and vegan-friendly dining options around the city, visit Centerstagechicago.com.

Ok, so we don't have a Fashion Week like New York or Paris. But Chicago is coming up in the style world (check out this slightly condescending New Yorker piece for proof). To celebrate, and to continue the progress, Chifa Elite Fashion Explosion hosts a number of the city's top designers -- including Alonzo Jackson, Alice Berry and Kevin Hill -- at Loft on Lake, 1366 W. Lake, from 7 p.m.-1 a.m.

The event, organized by The Bumblebee Network, will include a runway fashion show, artist performances (from DL Johnson, UNMOVABO, poet Yolonda Curtis and DJ Corey Sanford) and, of course, tons of networking opportunities. Tickets ($45, available here) include food and drink and a portion of proceeds will go to BUILD, Inc., a Chicago youth organization.

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If you see something like this on Saturday, hop aboard. (via Flickr)

Santa, looks like you can put the folks at Miller/Coors on your "nice" list this year.

The Miller Lite Free Rides program, beginning this Saturday and continuing every Saturday through December 26 (plus New Year's Eve and New Year's Day), includes free double-decker buses running throughout the city from 8 p.m.-midnight, picking up inebriated passengers in the Loop, River North, Old Town, Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. In addition to being a great way to prevent drunk driving, we're guessing the rides will provide some good after-hours entertainment (no word on complimentary booze).

To find out if the party buses -- ahem, shuttles -- will be passing by your watering hole of choice (or planned New Year's Eve destination), call 1-800-FREE RIDES (1-800-373-3743), text "RIDE" to 44636 or visit www.MillerLiteFreeRides.com.

Note: If you prefer to hiccup in private, you can grab a cab quickly using the Our Town-approved GoFastCab text service.

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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Hit a yard sale with a whole lot of sass and class
Actress Niecy Nash, the host of “Clean House,” and the rest of the crew for the Style Network’s top-rated show will all be on hand from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a yard sale in the parking lot of the Harlem-Foster Shopping Center, 7300 W. Foster. Proceeds benefit a Chicago family who will be featured in a future episode of the show. For more information, check out the show’s blog at www.mystyle.com/mystyle/shows/cleanhouse/

Plan a nice dinner out
Bistro 110, 110 E. Pearson, is offering a $26.95 pumpkin prix fixe dinner menu that includes creamy pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli in brown butter sauce and traditional pumpkin pie. (312) 266-3110 or www.bistro110restaurant.com

Watch 76 trombones (more or less)
The Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band presents an evening of show tune standards in its fall concert “Broadway” at 7 p.m. at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge, Evanston. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Details: (630) 901-6947 or www.lakesidepride.org


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Saturday!

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The Addams Family opens this weekend at the Oriental Theatre.
(Jean Lachat/Sun-Times)

The Addams Family
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre; $28-$105
Catch the first family of goth as this much-acclaimed musical makes a brief stop in Chicago (it runs through January 13) before heading to Broadway. There's much to be excited about with the show, opening Friday: It is based on the New Yorker cartoons, not the campy '60s TV show (or the goofy movies of the '90s); Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth play Gomez and Morticia (cada mia!); and Andrew Lippa is in charge of the music. No word on if he got any help from Hammer.

It's been a bad week for local music fans (at least, for those who like options). Over the past several days, we've learned that...

Sonotheque is closing on Sunday, having been sold to a group that includes Paul Devitt, owner of the Beauty Bar franchise. It's too early to tell what the new space will become, but you can bet that the final few shows will be packed with folks paying their respects.

Bill's Blues Bar in Evanston has closed, citing financial difficulties.

Blue Chicago will close one of its two Clark Street venues (the one at 736 N. Clark) on January 2, 2010. The 536 N. Clark location will remain open.

Add this to the recent news that the city would be cutting or at least downsizing some of its biggest lakefront music festivals (a move that sparked an ever-growing "Save Chicago Music" petition), and things aren't looking so hot. Here's hoping next week brings some better news...

What Chicago music venue could you not bear to lose? Tell us in the comments.

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If you've been thinking of taking your kids to see the new YOU! The Experience exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, this Saturday might be a good time. With admission to the museum, you'll not only get to check out the human-size hamster wheels and giant hearts, but also enjoy the one-day-only Wonder Kids event. This day of interactive science experiments includes such activities as whole-body painting (paint with your elbows, knees or ankles), blind taste tests, fingerprinting and more. The event, a collaboration between MSI and the Chicago Children's Museum, runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Museum hours are from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, and admission is $12-$13 for adults and $9 for kids 3-11.

Every January, Schubas invites music fans to explore cutting-edge indie music in its annual Tomorrow Never Knows series. Think of it as a loosely packed, five-day-long Pitchfork Music Festival.

Well, for those of you hoping for more of the same this year, we've got some news: it won't be. Instead of five days of music at a single venue, you'll get it at two venues: Schubas and the newly opened Lincoln Hall is also getting in on the action.

The dates (Jan. 13-17) and initial lineup for the series were announced today, and single-show tickets and five-day passes go on sale Friday, November 13 at noon. Here's a taste of what's in store:

Wednesday, January 13
9 p.m.: The Cribs, Adam Green, The Dead Trees (Lincoln Hall)

Thursday, January 14
9 p.m.: Voxtrot, Solid Gold, Gemini Club (Lincoln Hall)

Saturday, January 16
2 p.m.: Paul Green's School of Rock presents Women Who Rock (Schubas)
10 p.m.: Final Fantasy (Schubas)
10 p.m.: Bowerbirds, The Rural Alberta Advantage (Lincoln Hall)

Sunday, January 17
2 p.m.: Paul Green's School of Rock presents Women Who Rock (Schubas)
9 p.m.: Clues (Schubas)
9 p.m.: Lee Fields & The Expressions (Lincoln Hall)

So, it's been a rough year for many Chicagoans. The murder rate is rising. The economy is tanking. The Cubs choked, again. But you know, there's always one place you can go to get away from all that, a place you know you'll feel safe and secure: home.

Of course, home usually comes with its own set of problems - annoying parents, socially awkward cousins, repressed childhood memories. So before you make that trip back, you might want to loosen up by partying on Thanksgiving Eve (aka Black Wednesday), the biggest bar and club night of the year.

Check out Centerstage's list of events, but before you make a decision, listen up.

We're giving away a free ticket ($25 value) to District Bar's party, which includes three hours of gourmet food, cocktails and beer (plus specials afterward). View the full menu here.

To enter, send a Twitter message ("Sign me up for Black Wednesday contest") to @CstageChicago by Wednesday, November 18 at 3 p.m.


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If you've got an extra $150, and you don't feel like spending it on 1/12 of a ticket to the Second City 50th Anniversary show, consider checking out tomorrow night's Millennium Network Chicago fundraising event at the House of Blues. Your ticket includes a performance by Common and an appearance by former President Bill Clinton -- see, the Millennium Network is a project of the Clinton Foundation, with the goal of addressing issues such as global warming, HIV/AIDS and childhood obesity. Take that, Carell.

Make your donation here (VIP tickets include a reception with Clinton from 8-9 p.m.).

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Sabor Saveur
Savor the flavor with imaginative dishes in Wicker Park.

Off the Beaten Path: Infusion Cafe
Lincoln Square café/lounge treats you like one of the family.

Weekly Treat: Cheap pints at Lion Head Pub
Domestics and imports are just $2.50 tonight in Lincoln Park.

Man We're Crazy About: Clutch
Start your engines at this auto garage turned burger bar.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Have you ever made a mixtape for a hopeless crush? Of course you have. Everyone's done it at one time or another. But not everyone is willing to share the crushing tales of heartbreak that are often intertwined with the sappy recordings.

Thankfully, there's Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves, a new collection of mixtape-related memoirs edited by Found magazine's Jason Bitner and featuring remembrances from the likes of Rob Sheffield (Love is a Mixtape), Ben Greenman (The New Yorker) and Rick Moody (The Ice Storm).

Bitner will celebrate the book's release tonight at Hideout (8 p.m., $5) with a group of special guests including The Onion A.V. Club's Kyle Ryan, artist Derek Erdman and illustrator Arthur Jones (who will tell the story of how he lost his virginity in Post-It Note form). While the event may unearth some long-repressed memories, it also promises to be full of laughter and fun. Who knows, you might meet even someone who will actually appreciate your Stone Roses-fueled courting ritual.

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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Ice, ice, baby
Cartier, Boucheron and Tiffany are all well-represented in the new exhibit “The Nature of Diamonds” at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Tickets, $13-$23, includes general admission. Call (312) 922-9410; www.fieldmuseum.org.

Take part in a Chicago tradition
The 102nd annual lighting of the Walnut Room’s Christmas tree happens at noon today at Macy’s, 111 N. State. Free. Call (312) 781-4884.

Or you could just get lit like a Christmas tree
Kit Kat Lounge (3700 N. Halsted) is celebrating the season with two Thanksgiving-themed cocktails: banana nut bread martini (Vox Vodka, Hazelnut liquor, banana liquor, vanilla, splashes of simple syrup and cream) and apple pie martini (Vox Vodka, Dekuyper apple liquor, Dekuyper butter shots, cream, vanilla, splash of cranberry juice). Each are $12.50. Call (773) 525-1111; www.kitkatchicago.com.


HEY! YOU GOT THREE BETTER ONES?
Tell us your three favorite things about Saturday!

As if we needed proof of how much everybody loves the Muppets, the Gene Siskel Film Center notes that the response to its "Muppets, Music & Magic: Jim Henson's Legacy" series last fall was so huge, they're bringing it back for another run (well, most of it).

Through December 2, the Center will show a number of films from the series, including Saturday's one-time-only show of "Muppets History 201: More Rarities from the Henson Vault," a followup to the popular Muppets History 101 from last year. In addition to several other compilations, you'll also be able to see special screenings of feature films like "The Muppet Movie" (celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009), "The Muppets Take Manhattan," "Labyrinth" and "The Dark Crystal." Check out the website for the full schedule.

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Artwork by Sergei Isupov looks over Navy Pier's Festival Hall
during SOFA setup Wednesday.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)

SOFA Chicago
Through Sunday at Navy Pier; $15-$25
Celebrating its 16th year, the Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair hits Navy Pier's Festival Hall to present work from top international galleries and dealers. Check out the opening night preview gala on Thursday ($50) to get a first glimpse at the show's best work. Hors d'oeurves and wine are included. Tickets for the rest of the show are $15 a day, or $25 for a three-day pass. Get them here or at the door. More: Check out the Sun-Times' SOFA photo gallery.

Open bars are all the rage in Chicago, but most of the time we're not sure why. With all the cash you pay up front, you spend most of your time lingering near the bar, sucking down watered-down well drinks as fast as possible in order to get your money's worth. Not exactly a recipe for a fun night out, in our opinion.

But there are exceptions, like this weekend's Drink for Hunger benefit -- a $30, three-hour open-bar event at AliveOne supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Over the past five years, the event has raised money to supply more than 25,000 meals to Chicago's hungry, but it doesn't feel like a charity event (beyond the stickers they ask you to wear); it feels like a party. In addition to all-you-can-drink microbrews, domestics, wine and cocktails, you'll enjoy DJ entertainment (funk, soul and hip-hop) and a raffle with some sweet prizes, including signed memorabilia from Ernie Banks and Ozzie Guillen, a $100 spa gift certificate, drink packages at local bars and more.

So go ahead, hit the open bar hard, knowing that you have our blessing. Just don't blame us when you have a massive hangover on Sunday morning.

Apparently, we weren't the only ones who heard a whole lotta grumbling about some of the choices made for this past summer's Lollapalooza lineup. Fest organizers were listening, and now they want you to back up your words. Until November 10, you can suggest artists for the 2010 fest (August 6-8) on the website. It's up to you whether you want to use your allotted five choices on obscure indie bands (like your own) or big-name hip-hop artists. This may just be a ploy so that Perry can pull out the ol' "if you didn't vote, you can't complain" excuse next summer, but it's worth a shot.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Lincoln Hall
Music club in Lincoln Park from the owners of Schubas.

Weekly Treat: Martini night at Smoke Daddy
They're just five bucks at the Wicker Park BBQ joint tonight.

Off the Beaten Path: Little Bucharest Bistro
Former Lakeview café finds a new home on the Northwest Side.

Man We're Crazy About: Pelago Ristorante
Fine Italian dining in the Gold Coast's Raffaello Hotel.

For more about what's going on this week, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

Did you bring a banana for lunch today? Put it to good use by taking it over to the Chicago Theatre box office. The first 100 people to do so (from now 'til 1 p.m.) will get two free tickets to the November 18 dress rehearsal of Cirque du Soleil's "Banana Shpeel." You can get your potassium fix another time.
(Thanks, Gapers Block!)

Are you that guy who can recite every line from "Caddyshack," or the girl who knows the climactic scene from "Titanic" by heart? You'll probably enjoy Movieoke, the interactive event that lets you re-enact your favorite movie scenes while they play out on-screen -- in other words, it's "movie karaoke," and it's hitting Chicago in a big way.

Aspiring Spaldings and Roses can do their thing tonight at The Whistler in Logan Square (8 p.m.) and next Wednesday at the Bucktown Pub. Want to make sure your favorite flick will be available to perform? Check out the full list of movies. (Phew, they do have "Darby Gill and the Little People"!)

After a weekend full of low-brow debauchery (and isn't that what Halloween is all about?), you're likely craving some culture. As luck would have it, two appropriately avant-garde events are on the slate for this week: the Umbrella Music Festival and the Outer Ear Festival of Sound. While you won't have to choose between the two, we thought we'd take a moment to lay out the key aspects of each. After all, if there's one thing you arty types appreciate, it's straightforward Microsoft Word tables...right?

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2009 is the previous archive.

December 2009 is the next archive.

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