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Looking to shop local this Holiday season? Look no farther than Woodland Grove Gallery, owned by husband and wife team Tobin Fraley and Rachel Perkal. Not only does the duo show work by artists both regional and national, they are also the creators of The Humbug, a Christmas book and product line available at the gallery. Our Town spoke with Fraley about art, business and Humbugs.

Our Town What’s your favorite part of owning a gallery?
Tobin Fraley Rachel and I are good partners because we both have different strengths. She is amazing in working with customers and her knowledge of the business side of retail is terrific. I really enjoy designing the spaces and setting up product in the stores. And we both love the hunt for new artists and products.

OT You’re responsible for bringing Lyman Whitaker's Wind Sculptures into town. What attracted you to them?
TF Rachel and I first saw Lyman's wind sculptures at a gallery in Santa Fe in 2005 and we were instantly entranced. At that point Lyman's sculptures were in about 10 galleries around the world and they were not looking to expand that number. Occasionally I would check back with them and then, last summer, I spoke to Lyman's wife Stacey, and she said that she would stop by our gallery when she was out in Chicago visiting a friend in June. Stacey came by and we instantly connected. So in July, Lyman and a small crew came to Long Grove and we installed 40 wind sculptures. It was wonderful working with Lyman and the wind sculptures have been a great addition to the gallery.

OT How do you choose artists to showcase?
TF We really only offer work that we like. It is much easier for us to sell a person's work that we would have in our own home, plus we get to enjoy it every day at the gallery. Overall, the retail business is a lot of very hard work, but the pleasures outweigh the difficulties because we are able to meet so many great people and work with such incredibly talented artists from around the country.

OT What’s the story behind the Humbug?
TF One day around Christmas in 1997 I asked Rachel if she thought that Humbugs would make cute Christmas ornaments. Now Rachel had been the creator and manager of Hallmark's Keepsake Ornament Collectors Club, so she definitely had some expertise in this field. She first question was "What's a Humbug?" I said that it's a little bug that gets into mischief around Christmas. A Humbug is what knocks ornaments off the tree when you're in the other room and why brand new Christmas tree lights go out. She then said, "Write a story about this little guy." So I did.

OT What’s the response been like?
TF There is a little mischief in all of us and the Humbug, despite his nature to cause trouble, is basically good at heart and cares about others. People seem to fall in love with the Humbug. Especially little kids. Many times we have had someone purchase a copy of the book before reading it, take it home and then come back the next day to buy ten more copies to give to all of their friends.

OT In a time of economic uncertainty, you’ve managed to grow your business. Any secrets or advice for small business owners?
TF Tenacity and determination are probably our biggest allies in keeping our businesses going. Over the years, we expanded the gallery four times and have opened two women's clothing stores and a garden shop called the Artistic Gardener. But this was all accomplished prior to the economic downturn. Certainly these last few years have not been easy and there were a number of times when we had to assess whether we should continue. But we believed in what we were doing and so we borrowed and used portions of our IRAs to get us through the worst days. The other thing that has sustained us is the loyalty of our regular customers. We feel that the people who shop with us are a part of our extended family and I think that they must feel the same.

Born in 1951, Tobin Fraley spent his first ten years in Seattle, Washington, growing up in and around his grandfather’s amusement park. His interest in photography began in high school and the political environment of Berkeley in 1968 offered him a chance to practice with the camera. As a center of counter-culture and a flashpoint for anti-war activity, there was no lack of relevant subject matter to photograph. But it was not until years later that he began to study photography in earnest before owning and operating Zephyr Press, a wall calendar publishing company. In 2000 Tobin and his wife Rachel moved to Long Grove and settled next to the Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve and now own and operate several shops in downtown Long Grove. He is the author of three books on the history of Carousels along with a holiday children’s story titled, A Humbug Christmas. Fraley currently teaches photography at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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Photo by Patty Michels

In 2006 I moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to attend graduate school and right away the city seemed a perfect fit. Sure, I spent nine months out of the year shivering at bus stops or worse, wearing a down vest in my own freaking apartment, but have you seen the glazed expression that passes for affability in LA?

I don’t do fake, I don’t do easygoing and I certainly don’t do Sasquatch boots with shorts. So while LA does have its benefits (warm weather, content-less conversation, the possibility of running into Liz Phair at ArcLight (which totally happened to me—double parenthesis!--)), Chicago feels like home.

Yet since moving here, I’ve lost countless friends to the West Coast. This is not ironic, merely irritating. What with winter’s encroachment, I’m making it my mission to fight for our fair city. In that spirit, I’ve compiled the following list.

Things to Do in Chicago this December That Won’t Make you Decide to Move to LA:

1. Attend Nickel History: The Nation of Heat, New Etchings by Tony Fitzpatrick at Firecat Projects.
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Possibly my favorite aspect of living in Chicago, Fitzpatrick seems the ultimate Renaissance Man. A poet, writer, artist and actor, Fitzpatrick is the kind of prolific which usually requires methamphetamines, but as far as I can tell, Fitzpatrick is fueled by nicotine, dirty jokes and the sheer necessity of realizing his artistic vision.

In lieu of electing him mayor (which is actually my goal—the man has more intelligent things to say about politics (and zombies) than any “politician” out there), go see his gorgeous new work on display through Christmas. More information here.

2. Read the brilliant Sara Levine’s highly anticipated novel, Treasure Island!!!
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Okay, technically you could read this sardonic jewel in any location, but Levine is a growing presence in the Chicago literary scene; she belongs to the Windy City man. [Editor’s Note: The author meant to leave out that comma. She is in fact referring to a single entity known as The Windy City Man who she believes nests beneath one of her floorboards. Let’s not disabuse her, shall we?] Having crafted a protagonist as fascinating as she is morally questionable, Levine says, “The literature of malcontents is not without pedigree. Achilles brooded. Odysseus was a selfish jerk. And Dostoevsky's underground man—who'd pick his profile on Match.com? Bernhard, Beckett, Nabokov... obviously my heart belongs to the misfits and misanthropes and criminals.”

And my heart belongs to Sara Levine. Learn more about Treasure Island!!! here.

3. See "Let it Ho!"
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This burlesque-inspired revue features five of the funniest Broadz in Chicago showcasing an unaccountably rare combination of sex appeal and smarts. This year’s holiday show offers two new songs, fresh scenes and the same raunchy hilarity you’ve come to expect. I asked Broadz member Ricky Dickuless (Amanda Whitenack) what she likes about the holidays and she had this to say: “My favorite part is the Ham seasoning. Ham is a versatile and underrated dish. Ham can be served cold on bread or hot in a stew or at room temperature on my thighs to a single man looking for a free meal with benefits. I'm single. I'm lonely. And I have a freezer full of ham. My real number is (773) 484-5623.”

I’m totally setting her up with the Windy City Man. He likes Ham. For tickets to "Let it Ho!" go here.

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“Masks,” says Jeff Semmerling, “are tools of revelation” rather than “disguise.”
A Chicago mask-maker and Filament Theatre Ensemble advisory board member, Semmerling is not only an internationally renowned artist, but also a mask historian and teacher. Though he started out working with puppets after graduating from Northwestern’s Theater Department, he zeroed in on mask making after visiting New Orleans in 1981. Semmerling spoke with Our Town about his work with kids, sources of inspiration, and how one of his masks came to be shown on America’s Next Top Model.

Our Town When did you first become interested in masks?
Jeff Semmerling I played with puppets as a child quite seriously, then got very involved in the theater. Masks were right there under all the things I was interested in. Theater was interesting to me mostly because of the ‘we’ thing of working on something bigger than myself. Masks do the same thing in a more direct way. They make us less about ourselves and more about a spirit of ‘we.’ [Masks] melt social restraints and distance. So damn healthy!

OT Your bio says you have the “unique ability to understand masks and how they relate to their wearer from the inside out.” Can you talk a little about this?
JS When we sell masks we set them on tables, hundreds of masks, and we stand behind the table and we watch people play with the masks. I've watched people fall in love with a mask, but leave without buying it, only to dream of it that night and come back the next day for it. Part of it, and it is only part, is that when you obscure the "identity" self the playful self is set free to be playful. The mask invites people to step out of their walls of protection, not just the wearer, but people who encounter the extra-terrestrial being that is, yet is not, before them. They are forced to be here now! Art at its best makes us really perceive.

OT What inspires you?
JS When I wintered in New Orleans [after college] and saw what happens when a whole city shuts down to party in costumes and masks, my eyes went up like roller blinds. Everything I loved about watching and doing theater was all happening at the same time with no line between the audience and the performer. These days, my customers, serious costumers, and the theaters, dancers and opera productions that need masks. I also love to play, so wearing [masks], that keeps me going too. When I travel I always make sure to have a pocket size silly face-changing mask, it makes it all so much more fun than if I were just getting pictures of myself in front of famous sites. You meet people and have some really genuine connections. The masks are like an open invitation for the best stuff to happen.

OT I hear one of your creations has appeared on America’s Next Top Model.
JS A fellow named James St. James has one of my Crazy Smile Masks and has made several appearances on the show. One of his resume pics features the mask and they always show that photo when they introduce him. It is quite a striking image. Those smile masks are really powerful!

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A blogging bonus: meeting interesting people through artists I already admire. Take Lauren Levato. An insect obsessed visual artist with a background in journalism and women’s studies, Levato’s current exhibition, “Lantern Fly Sex Cure: New Insect Drawings,” is now on display at Firecat Projects. Although I initially knew Levato only as Tony Fitzpatrick’s publicist, as I learned more about her, I felt a growing kinship. When I read on her website that she was raised by wolves, I knew we had to talk.

Our Town When I was eleven, my best friend and I communicated by howling at each other (in public). What’s your proof you were raised by wolves?
Lauren Levato My family. No really, we used to say that a lot when I was a kid and one day, when our family was in a particularly destructive era, I was like “actually…yes.” It’s used as an implication of lack of manners or refinement, but when taken in terms of a fairy tale it means you have something other – an intelligence that goes beyond human capacity or understanding. There are examples in literature and mythology of the feral child having a preternatural intelligence. I identify with [that]. It’s one of the reasons I can walk into a room and tell you where the insects are in seconds.

OT Why the insect obsession?
LL My grandmother [collected] Monarchs and their mimics and I remember collecting with her. I found a jar of her specimens in my studio one day in 2005 and since I’ve focused on insects almost exclusively. [Also], I grew up in Indiana and that place is lousy with insects, especially cicadas. Everyone was horrified to walk through hundreds of them on the sidewalk but I remember clearing a space and sitting down in this massive pile of them with their orange-red eyes.

OT You call insects stand-ins for humans. Why?
LL We share many behaviors and sometimes their anatomy reminds me of ours. People can call it anthropomorphizing, but here’s a great example: When faced with fire the scorpion will sting itself. We all know people who self-destruct when faced with a threat.

OT How has your background in women’s studies played into your art?
LL My best friend and I [ran] a non-profit organization that helped survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence use art and writing as a way to process through stages of healing. Rewarding, but it took a lot out of me. [Women’s Studies’ influence] is much more subtle now, [but] those concerns that take a person into a women’s studies program and that are generated in such a course of thought are always there.

OT Take us through how you create a drawing from inspiration to completion.
LL Having an obsession helps, that’s for sure. I read a lot of scientific writing, biology books, and mythology. Read them all together and you start learning and combining really different ideas. Or you stumble across some interesting tidbit that stays with you forever. For example, the poster image for “Lantern Fly Sex Cure” is the piece “From the Bodies of Dead Horses” and that title and idea come from the old belief that wasps sprung from the bodies of dead horses. Now this was an observable fact – some wasps are carrion insects and their young hatch from a dead body. Or they swarm and take nutrients they need. Whatever the case, people saw wasps emerging from horse carcasses, and the folktale stuck. Pair that myth with my imagination. When my dad was having quintuple bypass ten years ago, I got through the surgery by imagining when they cracked open his chest, the doctors would get hit in the face with a field of Gerber daisies. Or bats would fly out and circle the room. I laughed at these ideas, especially because dad was a real cranky dude. When it was time for the show, I started drawing an anatomical heart and the wasps made their way in and there you have it. Years worth of research and mental imagery came together into one piece.

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Here are things I pretend to understand:
Numbers longer than four digits
Fractals
The word ‘hegemony’
The difference between broasting and roasting
Twitter direct messaging
Why the Beatles are important
The problem with free radicals
How to tell time
Post-modernism

I got to thinking about these items while reading Psycho Dream Factory, Chicago writer/artist and Green Lantern Press founder Caroline Picard’s gorgeous new book. In the introduction, Lily Robert-Foley writes that the stories collected within the volume deal with reappropriated images, with copies that destroy the original; that Picard’s work makes “an explosion between the point of origin and the point of arrival, thereby opening a new space.”

I’m pretty sure Robert-Foley believes CDF postmodern. Here are my clues:
-this word pairing: copy/original
-gathering tension between my shoulder blades

I kind of assume everyone understands everything better than I mostly because whenever I call my mother to ask how to hard-boil eggs she either says “Same way as last time,” or “How do you not know how to do this yet?” But just in case you’re similarly confused about post-modernism, when I spoke with the seriously brilliant Picard about her celebrity-sprinkled book and the show she’s concocted in conjunction, I swallowed my pride (also my gum, but that’s another story) and asked her to explain post-modernism. Turns out even those who function within post-modernism are more concerned with making art than labeling it. As it should be. Now if only I can find someone to teach me how to pronounce San Luis Obispo.

Our Town Give me a one-paragraph crash course in post-modernism.
Caroline Picard I will fail miserably. [A teacher] showed me a Derrida art piece. He set up a chair in a gallery. Next to the chair he'd posted a photograph of the chair. Next to that he'd posted text: "chair." I think my teacher said, "This is postmodernism." I liked the teacher because she was an angry old hippy who cussed under her breath; because I liked her I believed I understood. The truth is, I wasn't exactly thinking about postmodernism when I wrote these stories. I was thinking about how you can take celebrities and use them like dolls.

OT You do, however deal with the issue of sameness, which is kind of postmodern, right?
CP I got interested in appropriating images and manipulating them. I was thinking a lot about Woody Allen's movies, how--particularly in his films with young people (like Christina Ricci and Jason Briggs, for instance) actors imitate Woody Allen's style of speech and behavior. In Anything Else, you suddenly have more than one Woody Allen-ite in every scene. When Ricci and Briggs talk to one another they reflect a similar neurotic affect back and forth. When that happens, I feel like the narrative of the story collapses; as a viewer I'm suddenly more interested in the directorial conversations that lead to this display of sameness than I am in the actual movie. I suddenly wonder about the actors' freedom [within this] narcissistic Woody Allen fantasy. Also, a book I was reading about Michael Jackson brought up this idea that everywhere he turned, he saw some version of himself. In a car, he would hear his songs on the radio, at the grocery store he might see himself in the tabloids. What happens to "the self" under those circumstances?

OT Why do celebrities fascinate us?
CP I’m into thinking about their placement, particularly in supermarkets. They’re all over the aisles before you check out--so clearly as a thing to consume. Also they're next to candy; these images of lifestyle connect directly sustenance. At the same time, the worldview perpetuated by magazines like Us or Star is really narrow--lots of white people talking about babies and the celebration or collapse of monogamy. Who got what new plastic surgery. I feel like celebrities also represent a particular and pervasive idea of success--one that spreads through other fields. Fame and recognition is a measure of achievement. The marketability of oneself is more important (in many cases) than the integrity of what is being produced. The actor is legitimized if he or she gets a spot on a glossy magazine. In a more general way, those ideas of success speak to a very basic desire to be acknowledged, recognized and known but that impulse has become commensurate with human capital. Something to be bought and sold. One sort of amazing example, celebrity perfume. You can buy J-lo perfume, or Jessica Simpson perfume. A kind of purchasing of essence to fulfill some deep desire to become them.


Words That Kill

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I’m a fan of combining the contrasting: Cottage cheese and French dressing, unexpected, yet delicious; plaid and floral-print, if they share a palette, why not? Sarah Palin and erudite discourse … well, some things just don’t mix. Others, however, beg to unite. For example, comedy and poetry, a union masterminded by Fyodor Sakhnovski and Mojdeh Stoakley (pictured), the brains behind Words That Kill, a monthly poetry/comedy/performance mash-up. The event is just one of the many exhibitions produced by Sakhnovski and Stoakley’s collective/company, Lethal Poetry. With WTK’s third season launch party set for Thursday, Jan 20th, Sakhnovski spoke to Our Town about his event’s aim and inception.

Our Town What inspired you to combine comedy and poetry?
Fyodor Sakhnovski Bringing more than one creative community together always seems to enhance and excite the experience. Comedians and poets live in separate worlds, and people who may be really into comedy might not even experience [Chicago’s] rich poetry community. Many may have prejudice against the other form of expression, so it's a chance to expose artists to one another.

OT Any memorable past performances?
FS Comedian Scott Derenger performed with us several times, but during the first was blown away by performance poetry, so much so that he forgot his own set. It was really funny and kinda precious. I guess he hadn't been to a performance poetry show before, and thought he was booked to perform at some boring monotone reading. We were also one of the last stages where the late Kent Foreman performed after a long hiatus from the Chicago scene.

OT Why make Words That Kill an all ages event?
FS Historically Chicago is a 21+ city. There are a lot of talented youth who need a place to express themselves and learn, but the best is when some 17 year old can teach a 50-year-old how it's done! Age doesn't define talent - but if you nurture it when it's beginning it will only get better.

OT Tell us about your new space.
FS creative lounge CHICAGO is a particularly beautiful gallery. We’re most excited [that] it's in the heart of Wicker Park, a neighborhood which has an history of nurturing the spoken word community.

OT What can we expect from your next shows?
FS This month is a rapid fire retrospective of several of the best performers from our previous seasons, [including] Marty McConnell, HBO Def Poet, Emily Lake and others. Then we'll dive into our main showcase section with our "super feature" Amy David, who has represented Green Mill in 3 National Poetry Slams! Also, Keith Ecker, co-host of Essay Fiesta - another charitable literary event. There will be refreshments for the guests, free wine (for those 21+), and DJ Limbs will be spinning all night! In February [look forward to] poets and comedians lamenting strange, or entangled relationships! This is not a Valentine's love celebration.

Catch Words that Kill Thursday, Jan 20th and every third Thursday of the month at creative lounge CHICAGO. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 or free with canned goods donation.


A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM

I’m thinking of a cultural object: Bigger than a breadbox and founded by Caroline Picard, The Green Lantern harkens to Chicago’s grassroots literary history and DIY philosophy.

Despite coincidental Trekkie and comic book connotations, The Green Lantern has nothing to do with GenCon and everything to do with art. Simultaneously a non-profit paperback press and gallery, GL publishes and distributes emerging and/or little-known works.

Additionally, as a venue, it showcases emerging and mid-career artists of all media. Begun out of Executive Director Picard’s Wicker Park apartment, GL was recently shut down for lack of a business license due to improper zoning. Now, however, the ambitious and newly relocated GL is back with a parade of upcoming projects and Gallery Director Abby Satinsky on board. Picard took a seat in the captain’s chair (ba-dum-bum) to discuss her multifaceted brainchild.

KerryMaiorca-250.jpgBY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM

African-American history month, I get. Women’s history month too; both represent necessary and legitimate reactions to the white male-centric hetero-normative hegemony of antidisestablishmentarianism. (Editor’s note: That was just a cavalcade of big words. She has no idea what she’s talking about.)

But sometimes I question the American impulse to devote finite periods to specific groups or activities. Example: National Talk like a Pirate Day. “Trendy” in the way of mustaches, haiku and Betty White, the Sept. 19 holiday devoted to (what else?) speaking like a pirate seems in bad taste given the recent rise in Somali piracy. But I’ve buried the lead in a shallow grave; this blog’s topic is actually National Yoga Month. More justifiable than Pirate Day, perhaps of less socio-politically supercalifragalisticexpialadosious (Editor’s Note: Ignore her; she’s doing it again) than all those history months, NYM was conceived by California organization Yoga Health Foundation to attract novice yogis to the spiritual and physical practice.

Here in Chicago, studios like Bloom Yoga are bending over backward and then binding to offer special deals and events. Owner Kerry Maiorca (above), who was inspired to open Bloom in 2004 to “create a yoga studio that would be welcoming and unintimidating to all students, regardless of their fitness level or previous yoga experience,” says NYM has spurred a surge of new students.

3 Things To Do Today

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My Morning Jacket
7 p.m. at Charter One Pavilion; $46
Expect to see a return to the reverb-to-the-heavens Southern Kentucky soul for this quintet, which will kick it old school from Z (2005) and the more progressive Evil Urges (2008), and maybe a few new ones from an expected album in the next year or so.

Jason Adasiewicz
5:30 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art; free
See the jazz composer/percussionist at the Tuesdays on the Terrace series.

Rosh Hashana Boot Camp
6:30 p.m. at Spertus Institute; $18
Learn tricks of the Jewish cooking trade with Spertus kosher catering executive chef Laura Frankel.

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Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.

Chicago writer and actor Rebecca Kling has something many artists would kill for; having lived in first a male and now an increasingly female body, her grasp of the human experience is arguably greater than most. Trans Form, her 2009 one woman show, both educational and fanciful, “explored how being closeted [and] coming out felt as a trans woman,” but with her newest project, Uncovering Mirrors, Kling hopes to “look forward, instead of focusing on what's past.” Part of the Chicago Fringe Festival, Kling’s show investigates “how someone who has spent a few years transitioning claims that identity and presents it to the world.”

Refreshingly idealistic, in conversation Kling projects wit and self-awareness, clearly articulating her writing process and objectives.

“My overarching goal for any artistic project,” she says, “is to learn something about myself. The easiest aspect of creating a show is discovering a general theme or themes. For Uncovering the Mirrors, it's examining how I can find comfort and pride in my identity. Much more challenging, is the nitty-gritty of writing. I always have difficulty letting go of things that aren't working. For example, I recently came into possession of a 1975 Growing Up Skipper doll; when you twist her arm, she grows taller and sprouts boobs. It's absolutely absurd, and I really wanted to work it in [but she] wasn't right for this show.”

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Nelson Algren Birthday Party
8 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Cultural Center; $10
Celebrate what would have been the 101st birthday of the famed Chicago writer, whose gritty works about the city include The Man with the Golden Arm and Chicago: City on the Make. This year's fete is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, who wrote the Algren-esque People's History of the United States. There will be a cash bar and door prizes at the event.

3 Things To Do Today

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David Morales helps Boom Boom Room celebrate tonight at Green Dolphin.

Boom Boom Room
10 p.m. at Green Dolphin Street; $10
The venerable house-music event celebrates its 19th birthday with a special installment featuring DJs David Morales and Hector Romero, in addition to residents, Diz, Uncle Milty, Just Joey and Michael Serafini. RSVP to rsvp@boomboomroomchicago.com.

Policeman's Log
9:30 p.m. at Gorilla Tango Theatre; $10
There are two sides to every story, but only one version of the truth. Pulling actual police reports from recent newspapers, the cast of "Policeman's Log" will show audiences how the incidents 'actually' happened. This fully improvised show will shine a new light on those who break the law, and those who uphold it. Tonight's performance is the final one in the run.

Get It Together Again
8 a.m.-7 p.m. at Chicago Tourism Center Gallery, 72 E. Randolph; free
This exhibition of work by local, national and international artists is organized by Chad Kouri of the Post Family and Ed Marszewki of Co-Prosperity Sphere. It includes over 25 works on paper, mixed media and installations like Adrianne Goodrich's grocery store shelves with hand-drawn products (pictured). Guests can create their own collages with provided materials (or you can bring your own).

Haven't gone to the Art Institute during one of its free days this month? Maybe this will convince you.

Tonight at 6 p.m., there will be a school-oriented flash mob at the museum. Just show up wearing the assigned color for your college (or just pick one, if you went somewhere different). Then give in to the power of group thinking. (via Gapers Block)

3 Things To Do Today

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Que for the Choir: A Benefit for The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

8 p.m. at darkroom; $15
Local chamber-pop favorites Scotland Yard Gospel Choir were involved in a bad van accident in September, cutting short their tour and leaving the Bloodshot Records artists with a lot of medical bills to pay. Thankfully, their compatriots in the Chicago music scene are coming to their aid with this benefit show featuring The Whiskey Drifters, Mikey Peterson and The Trust, Weepin' Willows and DJ sets by Bald E., DJ MR and DJ Elia. There will be free chili, BBQ and vegetarian fare courtesy of Man B Que.

The Following Are Pages Torn From Our Most Favorite Imaginary Books
4-10 p.m. at OhNo!Doom Gallery; free
This is the second-to-last week to catch this innovative show, featuring original children's stories by local authors, with accompanying illustrations by local artists. We're especially excited for the creation of standouts Joe Meno and Cody Hudson, Amy Guth and Pea-Be and Lindsey Markel and Jason Brammer (links go to Centerstage interviews with the artists).

Alec Ounsworth, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons
8 p.m. at Schubas; $15
It's not always a shortcoming, wearing influences on your sleeve. Especially when they're Byrne or Bowie. As the frontman of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Alec Ounsworth has had the pleasure of playing in front of both of his idols (when folks cried 'rip-off', the legends came to see for themselves). Ounsworth has proven to be the real McCoy, creating some of the most infectious and genuine indie rock of the decade. His first solo effort spills over with the same horn-driven blasts of pop cacophony that made him someone to watch. Same story with Evanston's folk poster-child Ezra (Dylan, ahem) Furman, save for the celebrity audience members and solo split off.

quennect42.jpgIrvine Welsh fans lounge at Quennect4 before the author's reading in 2008. (photo: Jhonathan F. Gomez)

There's underground, and then there's underground -- and Quennect4 was certainly the latter. Operating without a license for the past four and a half years, the gallery and performance space hosted all manner of events, including parties, concerts, fundraisers, festivals and more (as well as participating in legit activities like the Humboldt Park Arts Fair, Peace Festival and the Wicker Well World Music Series). Notice that we're speaking of the place in the past tense; that's because as of January 5, Quennect4 received a Cease and Desist order from the City for its unlicensed operation.

The folks in the "Q4 Tribe" aren't giving up without a fight, though. They've recently launched a fundraising effort in order to take the steps to make the place a legally recognized establishment where the creative juices can continue to flow. Want to help out? Visit Quennect4's Kickstarter page to pledge funds toward the $3,600 goal (you only pay if the full amount is reached).

3 Things To Do Today

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Black Math will give you a good association with numbers. (photo: Dana Browning via MySpace)

Black Math
9:30 p.m. at Hideout; $8
Hissing intimacies of underground '80s new-wave cassette days, these local bedroom popsters spend much of their time shrouding their vocals and synths in Depeche Mode brood and songs about "Reckless Thoughts" and a "Bottomless Sea." But if you stick with the lo-fi catharsis long enough, the band will treat you to sunshine-reverb punk shakers that could be Jesus and Mary Chain B-sides.
For more shows, check out the Centerstage music calendar or sign up for the events newsletter.

Italian Cinema Night
7 p.m. at Salute Wine Bar
Every Thursday, this Gold Coast wine bar shows a classic Italian film, offering half-price pizzas to those who choose to partake in the cinematic experience. February is Sophia Loren Month, beginning tonight with "Two Women," for which Loren won an Academy Award for Best Actress (the first to win one for a non-English-speaking performance). If you can't make it tonight, consider the upcoming films: "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" (February 11), "Marriage Italian Style" (February 18) and "Houseboat" (February 25).

Faces of Poverty
5:30-8 p.m. at Black Walnut Gallery
Police officers see things differently from the rest of the population -- including poverty. Their views are the focus of this photo exhibit, which displays the work of those pursuing a master's degree in police psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Participants were asked to take photos at the beginning and end of a course, and the results show much about the officers' journeys. The exhibit event, which will include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, is open to the public, but an email RSVP to jpssj@adler.edu is encouraged.

Artists - want to get your work seen by the masses? Whether you're an established professional, an emerging outsider or a struggling student, submit your stuff to the Chicago Art Open Exhibition. The deadline for submissions is Friday, January 29, and the exhibition runs April 21-May 8 at the River East Art Center (435 E. Illinois).

While the show is open to most, there are some stipulations -- you've gotta be at least 18 and live or work in the greater Chicago area. For all the rules, and to enter, go to the website.

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Kit Kat Grand Unveiling Party
6-8 p.m. at Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club; free
The popular Lakeview lounge recently underwent major renovations to create a "South Beach-meets-Hollywood vibe." Come see the new fabric-covered ceilings, animal-print wallpaper and more at the "Revealed" soiree, a white party (read: wear white) including an Effen White-hosted bar and complimentary passed appetizers.

Cabinet of Curiosities
6 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art (Puck's at the MCA); free
The MCA's series of "un-lectures" continues with a presentation curated by No Coast, the Pilsen gallery and art store. "Heaven Is Real" will be themed around our relationship with death and dying, including performances from Acephalous, Andre Callot, Brandon Joyce and others. For more, check out Centerstage's interview with No Coast. Don't forget, the MCA is free all day today.

Juniper Mays

8 p.m. at Reggie's Music Joint; $5
Folk and bluegrass group Juniper Mays – Robert McHugh, Erik Smith, Dan Schmelzer and Kyle Hendrix – pays lighthearted ode to the "trials and tribulations of living life," "women" and "Ireland," among many other twenty-something struggles. It's all nestled within Phish guitars, chug-a-lug bass trains and McHugh's slightly rusted pipes, which invite comparisons to the Avett Brothers and O.A.R. Mr. Blotto also performs.

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Sketch Thursdays
6-8 p.m. at Continental Lounge; free
The West Town art series returns for its fourth installment, which will be the same as the others: local emerging artists creating work live, then selling it off for affordable prices. Guests can enjoy complimentary refreshments while they witness the action. Want to be a participating artist? Contact Matthew@westtownchamber.org, or visit the Facebook page.

Addicted to Celebrities
8 p.m. at J Bar
Award season is here. Celebrate at J Bar's Golden Globe-themed event featuring a red carpet photo session, $6 cocktails and champagne, complimentary appetizers and more. The party will be hosted by NBC Chicago celebrity writer Kim Peiffer. Make sure to dress your best!

Rock Bottom tapping party
6-7 p.m. at Rock Bottom Brewery; free
Just days after the recent opening of its new bistro, RB Grille, this River North restaurant/brewery is busy again. Brewmaster Pete Crowley introduces his new "My Sweet" Cherry Wheat (a wheat ale brewed with 160 gallons of dark sweet cherry juice) with a free "tapping party" offering up samples and a paired family-style dish courtesy of chef Christopher McCoy. The event is open to all members of Rock Bottom's Mug Club. It's free to join, and we're betting they'll be signing up new card-carriers in droves tonight.

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Freaks & Flash
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art
Whether you think of your body as a canvas or not, you'll be mesmerized by this display of tattoo art (and circus banners featuring tattooed performers). The focus of this exhibit will be on Midwestern collections and collectors from the turn of the century to the "Renaissance" of the 1960s and 1970s. Runs through January 9.

Holiday Leftover Show-a-Rama
7 p.m. at Holiday Club; free
Spend too much money over the holidays? You can save a little cash tonight, because this variety show from the n.u.f.a.n. ensemble costs nothing. You'll get more than you pay for, too: music, improv and sketch comedy (including somethign called the "Eat or No Eat" sketch). $3.50 frozen PBR schooners should make it all go down smoothly.

Butch Walker
9 p.m. at Schubas; $20
The L.A.-based singer-songwriter, who's written tunes for everyone from Weezer to Avril Lavigne, kicks off a four-night, career-spanning stand as he goes through his 2004 album, Letters, in its entirety. If that's not your favorite, submit your requests via Twitter using hashtag #butchwalkersetlist and Walker just might play it during Friday's fan-centric show.


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