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Can an upstanding werewolf-owning writer who is kind (enough) to (dress) animals (up in her own clothing) and donates money to NPR have a crush on a college student?

Yes. If that college student is the preternaturally poised, focused and articulate Jamie Lauren Keiles.

As a senior in high school, Jamie began the Seventeen Magazine Project, a social experiment which functioned as a sort of pro-teenager, feminist analysis of Seventeen Magazine and media culture at large. Since then, she has gone on to run the Chicago SlutWalk and write for Rookie, a website for and largely by teenage girls spearheaded by the equally poised, brilliant Tavi Gevinson who, side note, I sometimes think might be a robot. Fashion, writing and now singing? Save some attention for the rest of us, Gevinson!

But back to Jamie. Now a student at The University of Chicago (to which I absolutely did not lure her with promises of meta-feminist analyses and string cheese), Jamie is December’s Crush of the Month!

Hometown: Doylestown, PA
Profession: student mostly; writer when I’m feeling legitimate
Hobbies: hypothetical questions, food, hoarding jam jars and yogurt containers in case I need them in the future

Our Town What’s your experience been like at The University of Chicago?
Jamie Lauren Keiles Academically, masturbatory. I spent a lot of time sitting around and reading things with no apparent bearing on my future. I’m never really sure if I’m getting smarter, but sometimes when I’m drunk at parties I argue about theory, so I think I might be. Or maybe I’m just getting more pretentious.

OT You’re known for your Seventeen magazine experiment. What inspired it?
JLK Senior year of high school was boring and easy. Spent a lot of time in the library reading magazines—most of them of the non-teenage variety. Eventually I ran out of content and moved on to Seventeen. I was sort of dumbfounded at how inane the content was. It was like, I go to high school with tons of interesting and brilliant young women and the content being sold to us was 99% crap. The project just kind of seemed like a logical next step.

OT At an age when most teens are just scribbling in their journals, your writing was widely read. Any regrets?
JLK Looking back I’m embarrassed to have taken such public and definitive stances. I think I knew the “right answer” to things before I had the reasoning/historical perspective to legitimize my opinions. Reading some of my older stuff reminds me how much I have to learn before I’m actually smart enough to make such concrete statements again. I don’t think I would have changed anything though. Writing for a large audience taught me how to take criticism [and] made me more willing to put myself out there. I got a lot of the uncomfortable things about creative work out of the way early on.

OT What was it like to organize Chicago’s SlutWalk?
JLK As a learning experience, fantastic. I got to meet tons of people from all over the city. I learned a lot about managing conflict. Something our planning team really struggled with was being attached to a larger, global movement. The name recognition of SlutWalk came with a lot of baggage that we didn’t necessarily endorse, specifically in regards to trans and race issues. I think if I were ever to venture into large-scale organizing again I’d be more careful to have more control over the messaging of the event. The media (and the blogosphere) has the ability to take things out of context and use parts of a discussion to discredit an entire movement. Obviously SlutWalk wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t satisfy or meet the needs of everyone, but I think it was an important part of a conversation on feminism, and that sometimes got distorted.

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Oktoberfest Chicago
Friday-Sunday at St. Alphonsus Church (Lincoln and Southport); $5
As the festival season winds down, we now enter Oktoberfest season in Chicago. Find beer, brats and more. Music acts include locals 16 Candles and Rock Candy alongside traditional German acts like Die Musikmeisters Band. The area also has a lot of German history, and you could stand to learn a thing or two ... over a beer or two.

Lincoln Square Applefest
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Gidding's Plaza (4700 block of N. Lincoln Ave.); free
This family friendly fest offers live music, cooking classes, plus an appearance by Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine. And don't forget the pie-eating contest (as if you won't be staging an unofficial one throughout the day).

Sonnets and Striptease
4 p.m. Saturday at The Spot; free
This sex-and-literature themed variety show features new writing, Shakespearean burlesque acts and something audience-participatory called "Strip Sonnet." The totally free event celebrates the publication of "Erratica," a play by local writer (and Centerstage contributor) Reina Hardy. After a reading of the first act, stick around for striptease, a bad poetry contest, naked librarians, and more. It's a lot of entertainment for exactly zero dollars.

Hyde Park Jazz Festival
All day Saturday at various venues in Hyde Park; free
This jazz marathon (over 30 performances in 13 venues) offers 12 hours of non-stop music. Performers include Orbert Davis, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Reginald Robinson, John Burnett Orchestra and Dana Hall. See the full schedule here.

The National
7:30 p.m. Sunday at Riviera Theater; $29
There's so much baggage in sharp-dressed New Yorkers The National and their ocean-deep LPs of despair. But when the lights hit the stage, front man Matt Berninger turns their quintessential brood into fierce lashes uncommon to what he and the band lay down in the studio, which almost always tears up his vocals, but surprises all who think they're solely a sad-sack set. The artist formerly known as Final Fantasy, currently known as Owen Pallet, opens, teasing Andrew Bird violin backbones with digi landscapes and a bit of Rufus Wainwright lull.

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Chuck D will discuss blues, rap and race during the second Blues and the Spirit event.

Blues and the Spirit II
Wednesday-Thursday at Parmer Hall, Dominican University; $75
For its biannual symposium commemorating African-Americans' place in Chicago music, Dominican University hosts Public Enemy's Chuck D., as well as Dr. Karen M. Wilson and family members and friends of the late Howlin' Wolf. The event will be spread out over two nights, and include speakers, performances, awards and more.

Family Fun Festival
10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Millennium Park; free
The kid-centric event series kicks off another season today at Millennium Park, with performers Little Miss Ann and Ameba (1 p.m.). Also of note: the popular Wiggleworms sing-along (10 a.m.) and the Activity Zone featuring hands-on crafts.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead
7:30 p.m. at Court Theatre; $10-$40
Athol Fugard's collaboratively written story of a man who pretends to be dead in order to live explores identity and the political power of storytelling. This production, which closes on Sunday, features new, intimate staging by Court Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson.

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Mayfest Chicago
Thursday-Sunday at Lincoln and Leland; free
We're on board for any festival that celebrates its opening by tapping a keg of beer. At this traditional German fest, you can enjoy authentic food and music, including shows by the Polkaholics and Paloma. Oh, and beer. Lots of beer.

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DAS EFX
9 p.m. Tuesday at The Shrine; $10
Known by many for the classic 1992 album "Dead Serious," this Brooklyn-born duo (Drayz and Skoob) pioneered the "-iggedy" suffix which came to be used throughout rap (The most iconic is still probably "Chiggedy check yo self before you wriggedy-wreck yo self," from the 1993 single "Check Yo Self" with Ice Cube).

Tony Kushner
7:30 p.m. at Mandel Hall (University of Chicago); $20 ($5 for students w/ valid ID)
The "Angels In America" playwright stops by U of C for an intimate chat with Charles Newell, the Artistic Director of Court Theatre, in this latest edition of Artspeaks. Kushner's latest work, a translation and adaptation of Pierre Corneille's "The Illusion," is being performed at the Court through April 11.

Dogfloydapalooza 2
9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Bottom Lounge; $20
Prep for this week's Craft Brewers Conference with this second-annual party featuring the brews of Delaware's Dogfish Head and Munster's Three Floyds. There will be 10 special beers on draft in the Bottom Lounge's second-floor Volcano Room, and music provided by Andre Williams with the Goldstars (9:30 p.m.) and Jon Langford and The Cashed Jonnies (11 p.m.). Admission price includes your first pint.

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Fred Anderson (photo: Jazz Institute of Chicago)

Fred Anderson's Birthday Benefit Festival
Friday-Sunday at Velvet Lounge; $25-$30
This four-show celebration of the tenor sax legend includes an Asian Improv Records Tribute to the man on Friday, a Blackout Festival tribute on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday featuring a two-set jam with the man and his quartet (with Jeff Parker, Hamid Drake and Harrison Bankhead).

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Les Amis Creole perform multiple times during the U of C Folk Fest.
(photo via MySpace)

University of Chicago Folk Festival
Friday-Sunday at Mandel Hall; $20-$25
It's a big year for this celebration of traditional music, as the fest celebrates 50 years of folk. The event includes a range of performers, from Irish folk to Virginia bluegrass to Chicago blues, including Kim Wilson, The New Mules, Aaron Moore, Les Amis Creole and more. There will also be instrument workshops, dances and vendors (some free) throughout the weekend.

3 Things To Do Today

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Marriott Mixology Class
4-7 p.m. at Chicago Marriott Downtown; $10
If "Cocktail" is your favorite film, but you lack the skills to realize your dream, this class could help. Each participant at this hands-on training session will get individual instruction in making three cocktails using locally produced spirits: the Death's Door Vesper (vodka, gin and Lillet Blanc), paired with seared crab cakes and blood orange-fennel salad; North Shore Bee's Knee's (gin, honey and lemon), paired with bacon-wrapped chestnuts with honey glaze; and Templeton Manhattan (rye whiskey, Carpano Antica, bitters and a cherry), paired with house-cured ham Monte Cristo sandwiches.

The Liquid Burning of Apocalyptic Bard Letters
9:30-10:30 p.m. at Matilda
Several local writers -- Kevin Robison, Ian Randall, Aaron Cynic, Jeff Phillips and Daniel Mac Rae -- will read from their selected works exploring dystopia and apocalypse. Before and after the uplifting readings, you're invited to "mingle and chat about the apocalypse," enjoying $3 Point Pale Ale and half-price appetizers in Matilda's basement lounge, Baby Atlas.

The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900
Opening reception 5:30-7:30 p.m., runs through June 13 at Smart Museum of Art
Paris in the latter half of the 19th Century was not all bustling streets and lively cafes, despite what most Impressionist art from that time shows. In reality, the "City of Light" had a darker side, one captured in the private, shadowy works of lesser-known artists like Felix Bracquemond and Charles Meryon.

Seems like everyone's doing those end-of-year and end-of-decade lists right about now, and we're nothing if not bandwagon-jumpers. But instead of telling you what we think were the coolest bars, clubs and restaurants of 2009 (or making you cast your vote), we're going to let the numbers do the talking. Before the new decade begins, we'll be giving you the lowdown on what venues Centerstage users viewed the most during the past year, along with our ideas about why each was so popular. Did your favorite make the list?

Next up: Music Venues.

1. Aragon Ballroom
Top shows in '09: Thievery Corporation, Morrissey, Death Cab for Cutie, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, The Pixies

2. Checkerboard Lounge
Not as gritty as its original location, but you can't hold down the blues for long.

3. Green Dolphin Street
The Monday night "Boom Boom Room" industry parties put this one over the top.

4. B.L.U.E.S.
You can't beat the view of Lil' Ed rockin' out on top of the bar.

5. Barn at Arabian Knights Farms
The booking manager at this Willowbrook venue apparently has no limits, as you'll find everything from down-home country (it is a barn, after all) to street-friendly hip-hop.

6. Buddy Guy’s Legends
The rumors of this club's demise were greatly exaggerated...again.

7. Blue Chicago
Speaking of demise...the city will only have one Blue Chicago location in '10.

8. First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
The home of the traveling festival (Rock the Bells, Warped Tour) had another big summer.

9. House of Blues
You can get away with high ticket and drink prices when you host acts like Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and Etta James in an intimate environment.

10. Green Mill
Trends come and go, but jazz and poetry slams will always be cool.

For more top Chicago music venues, visit centerstagechicago.com/music.

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We have to give you credit, CTA. After all the ways you’ve screwed us over in 2009 (full buses passing us by, trains running express when we least expect it, the persistent odor of bodily fluids), you think you can make us forget all of it by offering penny rides on New Year’s Eve. And you know what? It just might work. Because instead of writing up a list of grievances, we’ve been busy brainstorming how to spend those cents between 8 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday. Here’s what we’ve come up with (not including all the New Year’s Eve events on the slate):

  • Hop on the Red Line and spend some time at the Jackson stop, where you’ll surely find a music performance in progress, whether it’s classical violin or jazz on electric guitar. Increase your enjoyment by stopping by Ceres Café for a drink with the traders first.
  • Take a ride over to the Chicago Blue Line stop to view the new installation from local artist Peter N. Gray. While you’re there, head above ground for a cocktail at the Matchbox and maybe a heart attack (the Three Little Piggies Sandwich) at the nearby Silver Palm.
  • Plan a Pink Line journey to 18th St, where the decorated station will have you in awe. Not only that, but perennial favorite Nuevo Leon is just a short walk away (and if you’re taking a ride on the tail end of the deal, Panaderia Nuevo Leon opens at 5:30 a.m.)
  • Pre-party with the Wildcat faithful at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston, off the Purple Line’s Dempster stop – the diehards have plenty to prepare for, as Northwestern plays its biggest football game in several years on New Year’s Day, against Auburn in the Outback Bowl at 11 a.m. (if you can’t bear to leave the city, try Lion Head Pub – by the Fullerton stop – or the brand-new Purple Haze, steps away from Belmont).
  • Ride the Brown Line out to Francisco, just so you can confirm it exists (seriously, it’s gotta be the least referenced stop on the North Side). The welcoming Montrose Saloon is a short jaunt south.
  • Go for a late, late dinner (or an early breakfast) at the 24-hour Huck Finn Donuts near the Pulaski stop on the Orange Line. We recommend the Donut Delight (topped with whipped cream and ice cream).
  • Brave the cold and take a walk to Promontory Point, near the Garfield Green Line stop in Hyde Park. It’s the perfect place to toast to 2010 (with non-alcoholic beverages, of course).


Got better ideas for how to take advantage of cheap public transit on New Year’s Eve? Let everyone know in the comments. And remember to check out Centerstage’s Virtual L to find the best spots near train stops year-round.

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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.

Erica Watson is a ...

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A lot of press releases for stage shows come across our desk here in Our Town, and most don’t do much to attract our attention. But our ears perked up when we got one that said “Fat Bitch!” in big pink letters on the top of it this week. It’s for a one-woman show by Erica Watson, who we had never heard of, but is a Hyde Park native and apparently was in the upcoming movie “Precious” (which we've heard really good things about).

The show, at the Chicago Center for Performing Arts starting Nov. 19 ($10-$15; five shows only!) is described as influenced by Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes and Mo’Nique. It is hosted by Nore Davis (who has apparently been seen on MTV, but not by us) and produced by NBA journeyman Nazr Mohammed(?). The tagline: "Yes! Erica Watson is a FAT BITCH! But society made her this way."

And that’s about all we have to say about that. But it wins the press release of the week award, and therefore we felt it deserved a shout out.

For more, check out Watson’s web site, or buy tickets here.

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8 Bold Souls are among the many jazz acts performing on Saturday. (Photo: via www.aacmchicago.org)

Hyde Park Jazz Festival
Saturday in Hyde Park; free
This 14-hour, multi-venue event is like a marathon for music fans, and, like any long race, the true rewards are near the finish line, with exciting performers like 8 Bold Souls, Garaj Mahal and Dee Alexander. Remember to pace yourself and stay hydrated as you travel to unlikely music spots like the International House of Chicago, Hyde Park Bank and Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center.

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African Festival of the Arts
All day Friday-Monday, Washington Park (51st and Cottage Grove), $5-10 or $30 for a weekend pass
The 20th installment of this immensely popular South Side festival finishes with a bang as the "Godfather of Funk" himself, George Clinton, headlines on Monday. Leading up to that, check out acts like The Pharcyde and Booker T. Jones (Saturday), Ahmad Jamaal and the Soukous Stars (Sunday). There's also a kids tent and a food court with traditional African fare.

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What would you deep-fry if you could deep-fry anything?

This isn't some philosophical question -- on Saturday, artists Philip Von Zweck and Kevin Jennings will be down at the Hyde Park Art Center from 5-8 p.m. with two deep-fryers ready for whatever edible items you want them to drop in. This "Fryvalry" (so named because it pits meat against vegetarian items) is free, so the only limit here is your creativity.

After you get your fill of grease, make sure to check out the rest of the Artists Run Chicago show, running through July 5.

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One hundred years ago, architect Daniel Burnham had a plan for the city of Chicago (you may have heard of it), inspired, in part, by the 1893 World's Fair -- the famed White City. Now you can get a taste of that monumental event, as the Museum of Science and Industry brings back its popular World's Fair virtual tour June 18-20.

Using real-time video simulation technology, the presentation (narrated by Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian for the City of Chicago) will feature new elements this time around, including the Fair's recreation of Christopher Columbus's three ships, the Convent of La Rabida and enhanced imagery of the Agriculture Building, the Casino and the Music Hall. No word on whether the "Devil" will be popping up anywhere.

The exhibit runs from 1-2:30 p.m. in the West Pavilion Auditorium, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $40 ($25 for members) and including general admission.

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Included in 312 Dining Diva's events rundown yesterday was a decidedly non food-related item: a celebration of neo-soul star Maxwell's first album in eight years, "BLACKsummers' night," going down at DuSable Museum on June 18 (ok, we guess some might say that Maxwell is, in fact, yummy.) Maxwell will be giving an intimate interview and signing autographs at the event (7-9:30 p.m.), but not performing.

According to the event Web site (check the sidebar), the evening is sold out. But as of this writing, there are still tickets available to catch him the following night at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. It's less than an hour's drive away -- just enough time for another run through "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite."

The recently renovated Smart Home at the Museum of Science and Industry is all about ecology (its subtitle is "Green + Wired"). So it's no surprise that the Home has opened up a free farmers market on its premises. Opening Friday, June 5, the free market (running on the first and third Fridays of each month in the East parking lot) will feature fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, baked goods, plants, flowers and even cooking demonstrations.

The first such demonstration will be extra special: The Hearty Boys (from the Food Network) will make an appearance on opening day at 11:30 a.m., offering some of their trademark food and personality.

The market runs from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; admission to the Smart Home or the Museum of Science and Industry is not required.

Not convenient for you? Head to Centerstage for a list of all farmers' markets.


Here are some recent restaurant/bar openings and closings.

OPEN:
Nightwood – The highly anticipated Pilsen sister restaurant to Lula Café opens tonight. The place is dinner only and BYOB for now.

Eivissa – Another long-anticipated opening is finally upon us. This Old Town Spanish restaurant serves the popular pintxos, which are like tapas for tapas, if that makes any sense.

Salute – Open for good now, this is one of those places where you can show off your cultured side by ordering the perfect wine selection to pair with your meal. Unfortunately, we have no culture, so we’ll just stick to our tried-and-true approach of getting the second-cheapest bottle on the list.

TEMPORARILY CLOSED:
Cafeteria Marianao – You’ll have to wait a bit for one of the best values in town, as they do some renovations to this popular Logan Square diner. You know a place is good when there are hardly any chairs in the place, yet people can’t wait long enough and just eat their sandwiches standing up.

CLOSING:
Dixie Kitchen – One of President Obama’s favorite places is shutting down for good on June 7. They’ll serve a lot of the same dishes in the nearby Calypso Café, and there are two other Dixie locations, in Evanston and Lansing. But still, it’s not the same. Come on, Barack. You gonna let this happen on your watch? You think McCain would let his favorite Tucson-area Outback Steakhouse close down without a fight? We’re just sayin’ …

Check back here every Tuesday with more openings and closings. And be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's list of new restaurants and bars.

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Johnny Drummer's one of many famous musicians you can catch on Saturday.

Can't wait for the Blues Fest to get a super-size fix of Chicago's most famous music? You don't have to. The Chicago Blues Tour returns on Saturday, offering admission to and transportation between seven clubs around the city from 8:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

The $40 tour includes stops at Lee's Unleaded Blues, Rosa's Lounge, Checkerboard Lounge, Rooster's Palace and Catcher's Inn, as well as the tour "hub," Wabash Tap.

In addition to artists like Linsey Alexander, Fantastic L-Roy and Vance Kelly, the tour includes three special events:


  • "Southside Showcase / Chicago Blues Festival Preview Jam Session", which includes a sneak peek at upcoming artists from this year's fest (including Johnny Drummer and the Starliters)

  • "Harmonica Showdown!" with five harmonica players going at it throughout the night

  • "Guitar Duel" between slide guitar master Li'l Ed (with his band the Blues Imperials) and young turk Pete Galanis (from Howard & the White Boys).

You're free to stay at each club for as long or as little as you like, as shuttle buses will be running regularly all night long. You'll start at the venue from which you purchase your tickets - or at Wabash Tap, if you buy 'em online.

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