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It’s that time of year again, and The Chicago Art Department is trolling for funds. Dedicated to the watering and feeding of burgeoning Chicago artists, CAD was founded in 2004, and since has generated exhibitions, artist residencies, classes and workshops.

This year their telethon-themed benefit will feature a tuxedo-clad host wrangling all manner of entertainment, including Paper Machete, a live magazine focused on political and cultural commentary. A guest of Paper Machete, Chicago jack of most trades Robin Okrant will perform.

I’ve known Robyn since, as students in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s masters program, we met in some forgettable performance-related class. Robyn proved more memorable. Not only does she remind me of everyone with whom I made Challah at Jewish day camp, but endlessly creative, she always seems to have some new endeavor up her sleeve.

Our Town: You’re perhaps most recognized for your “Living Oprah” project. How did that come about?
Robyn Okrant: My inspiration for “Living Oprah” was a burning desire to learn why the media and celebrities have such a strong influence over women. I decided to be a crash test dummy for a whole year and see what would happen if I lived according to Oprah Winfrey's Best Life advice. I thought of my project as part social commentary, part fascination with Oprah's fervent fans, part honest investigation. Is it even possible to live according to someone else's ideals and find happiness? And if it's not, why are we knocking ourselves out trying to live up to a bar that's set impossibly high?

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.

3 Things To Do Today

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Ted Nugent, Val Halla
9 p.m. at House of Blues; $36
Get a case of Cat Scratch Fever with this classic rocker, who grew up in Palatine. Even though ultra-conservative Uncle Ted might protest, it’s probably a good idea to leave your guns at home for this show.

Dental Society Midwinter Meeting
8 p.m. at Chicago Dramatists; $20-$25
Spend a surreal night on stage at this hilarious gathering of dentists, which closes this weekend. Laughing gas is optional.

“The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History”
10 a.m.-5 p.m. at DuSable Museum of African American History, $1-$3
Check out more than 50 historical photos from Stephen Shames, who was the official photographer of the Black Panthers.

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Tuesdays on the Terrace: Julia Huff
5:30 at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Local product Julia Huff takes the stage at the MCA to show off her nu-jazz skills. The singer, who is also an aspiring actress and model, impresses with her beauty, then dazzle with her vivacious voice.
julia-huff.jpgJulia Huff

DM Stith, Inlets, Silje Nes
7 p.m. at Andrew Rafacz Gallery
Stith has impressed with his debut LP, Heavy Ghost, with swooning bursts of piano and horns adding to his brooding mood music.Opening are two baroque pop newbies, one from Brooklyn (Inlets) and one from Norway (Silje Nes).

Movies in the Park
6:30 p.m.; free
The Park District’s annual summer film festival continues today, with two shows. Check out the classic "Breakfast at Tiffany's" at Erie Park (630 N. Kingsbury St.) and Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in "The Wedding Singer" the Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St.). Both shows start at 6:30.

jd blog pic.jpg
photo: Patty Michels

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.

When we’re feeling glum, my dog and I like to dress up as James Dean and Natalie Wood and head for the planetarium. If we are in particular need of a pick-me-up, we chickie-run there on our bicycles. (You’d be surprised at how competitive the dog is; I always ditch first. But maybe that’s just 'cause her collar gets caught.) True, the Adler Planetarium is not the Griffin Observatory, but neither are the dog and I iconic movie stars. Sometimes one makes do with what one has. Well, right now, you can make do for free (which, coincidentally is what the dog does), because the Adler Planetarium is offering gratis general admission through June 11. Just leave your pistol at home, Plato.

While there is an additional fee for special shows, the dog and I plan to enjoy Planet Explorers, a space adventure that allows children ages three to eight to investigate all aspects of space exploration. We’ll also visit the Moon, a permanent exhibition which features the restored Gemini 12 spacecraft. After that we’ll probably grab some panini at Café Galileo, at which point I’ll look deep into the dog’s eyes and, gesturing toward the majestic Chicago skyline and the boundless firmament beyond I’ll say, “Once you been up there you know you've been someplace.” That’s usually when she steals my panini, and I get mad because Natalie’s much too ladylike to ever do that. “You’re tearing me apart!” I’ll say, but only half-heartedly, since we’re both overtired. Time to call it a day. We have big weekend plans. We’re gonna put on our custom-made Rhett and Scarlet costumes and pretend Andersonville’s Midsommarfest is the burning of Atlanta. Care to join?

Whether you got the day off or not, you should still give our ol' hero Casimir Pulaski some respect today. Here are five ideas:

  • Get an ethnic education. Head to the Polish Museum of America to learn more about where the great man comes from. Now that the crowds from this morning's celebration have died down, you'll be able to browse the archives with ease. Don't miss the Joseph Conrad exhibit. Open until 4 p.m.; $3 suggested donation.
  • Review your military history. Pulaski was a huge part of our country's Revolutionary War victory. Find out more about the past at the Pritzker Military Library, open until 4:30 p.m.
  • Eat Polish food. There's a Chicago restaurant specializing in pretty much any kind of traditional delicacy you crave. For pierogi, we'd suggest Kasia's, Podhalanka or one of these other favorites. If you're more into meat, the new Lincoln Square location of Gene's Sausage.
  • Take a trip. Hop on the Orange Line and get off at the Pulaski stop, where you'll find plenty to keep you entertained 'til late in the evening -- from pizza and donuts to a classic Chicago tavern.
  • Listen up. Does this Sufjan Stevens song have much to do with national history? Not really. But it's still a darn good listen.

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People Under The Stairs
10 p.m. at Subterranean; $15
With seven albums to their credit, People Under the Stairs have proven time-and-time again that good, old-fashioned party rap never gets old. Their latest project, "Carried Away," continues the tradition with non-stop, body-rocking tales of uninhibited debauchery (there's a song called simply "Beer"). It's laughs and straight boom-baps all the way through, but though both Thes and Double K may seem like jokesters on the surface, there's no questioning their undying love for hip-hop.

Adler After Dark
6-10 p.m. at Adler Planetarium; $15
The theme for this month's installment of the 21-plus series is "Star-Crossed," with interactive demonstrations including "How Hot Can You Make Your Partner?" and "Extreme Attractions." There will also be a special presentation from Dr. Marvin Bolt on "Star-Crossed Lovers." DJ Sean Alvarez will spin throughout.

National Drink Wine Day
If you were thinking of taking the night off from drinking, think again. We've basically gotten an executive order to imbibe today, and thankfully there are some pretty easy ways to fulfill our civic duty. Two we like most: Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar's Tuscany Wine Dinner (7 p.m., $50), a four-course menu with pairings, and half-price ($55) bottles and $15 glasses of Alpha Estate Unfiltered Blend Florina Greece 2006 at David Burke's Primehouse.

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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.

If you think the Shedd Aquarium is just a place to take out-of-town guests interested in the underwater world, you'd better open your eyes. Like many of its Museum Campus cohorts, has a whole lot more going on outside regular hours. For proof, here are two recent events (one coming up soon, and one just passed):

On Wednesday, January 27, experts from Plitt Seafood Company will be on hand to lead you through a $50 class on rolling your own sushi (with sustainable seafood, of course). The admission fee also includes sake, a tour of the aquarium and coffee and themed desserts. You must be 21 to register (312-692-3206 or

Last night, AKIRA and the Lyric Opera teamed up for a fashion show/launch party for Kraken rum. As this NBC Chicago video shows, it was anything but a dull night at the museum.

View more news videos at:

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Adler After Dark: Extreme
6-10 p.m. at Adler Planetarium; $15
The Planetarium's evening series continues with a night of "extreme" fun, including a screening of "BLAST!", a film about space exploration; music from the Cano Bros.; and exhibits on extremly cold temps and helium-balloon travel. Cocktails and appetizers are included in the admission price, as is the run of the entire museum, including the Doane Observatory telescope.

The Long Room 10th Anniversary Celebration
6 p.m.-2 a.m. at The Long Room; free
The laid-back beer bar in North Center toasts a decade of drinking with this party featuring appetizers from Cafe 28 (6-8 p.m.) and brews rolled back to 2000 prices (expect $3.50-$4). Long Room t-shirts will be raffled off between 8 p.m. and midnight.

Helping in the Wake of the Quake
6-9 p.m. at English; $20 minimum donation
Join other concerned Chicagoans at this Twitter-formed benefit event to help respond to the earthquake destruction in Haiti. Your donation (which gets you a drink and light appetizers) will go toward Heartland Alliance. The efforts continue through Sunday at many Chicago restaurants, where you can add $1 donation to your bill.

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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.


Look outside.

Ok, now stop whimpering. You're a Chicagoan, not a D.C. resident! A little snow isn't going to stop your life...but you will have to adapt (that stickball game you were planning might have to wait 'til the plows come take care of your street). In case you weren't quite ready for this blizzard, we're compiling a handy list of all the things you can do in the Chicago area when it's snowing. Have ideas to add? Let us know in the comments.

  • Sledding. Time Out Chicago's got a great guide to area hills. Just be careful - a co-worker here took a spill last week and broke a bone!
  • Skiing. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, there are places to ski in the midwest. Centerstage runs down all the options for bunnies and experts alike. (Cross-country, too.)
  • Museums. Make the most of your indoor time with an educational visit. The Local Tourist has compiled a list of all free museum days in 2010.
  • Workouts. Don't feed us that line about needing an extra layer of fat. These fitness options at local gyms will keep you on track instead of in hibernation. Check out these winter sports leagues, too.
  • Drinking and Eating. This is what you were waiting for, right? Nothing like sitting by the fire with some booze and comfort food. Here are some great places to do just that. (And since you won't be flying anywhere anytime soon, some where you can pretend you're on vacation on a tropical island).
  • Reading. The Chicago Reader's annual fiction issue is online for your pleasure. For more inspiration, check out Jonathan Messinger's Books of 2009, or locally based sites like Bookslut and PopMatters.
  • Sex. Heat things up in the bedroom with advice from our favorite sex columnist, Anna Pulley (aka Centerstage's former Carnal Consultant)
  • Loafing. If you just want to sit and watch TV, that's fine, too. Visit The TV Paige for ideas...and buy tickets now for the B-Fest a full 24 hours of bad movies in Evanston. Of course, that's in a few weeks -- hopefully, this storm will be over before then.

What else you got, Chicago?


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.

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;

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;

Tell us your three favorite things about Saturday!

Imagine what this will look like...after dark.

One of Chicago's biggest lakeside tourist attractions just got a little cooler - and we're not talking about the frigid environs at the top of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel.

We're talking about Adler After Dark, the new, 21-plus program that kicks off this Thursday at the Adler Planetarium. From 6-10 p.m., guests can enjoy cocktails and appetizers while checking out all the museum's exhibitions, sky and space shows, interactive live demonstrations, space-themed pub trivia and even tours of the huge Doane Observatory telescope (available only to Adler After Dark visitors). DJ D-Rek provides the soundtrack.

This week's event is free, while subsequent events (occurring on the third Thursday of each month) will be $10 in advance and $15 on-site.

Looks like the rest of Museum Campus is gonna have to step up its evening game. Get ready for "Night at the Field Museum" with Ben Stiller.

Make Cap'n Slappy and Ol' Chumbucket proud on Saturday. (via

Shiver me timbers! Is it International Talk Like a Pirate Day again already? Seems like just last month we were shouting "avast!" at unsuspecting children. No matter. Come this Saturday, September 19, we'll be ready to parrrrrty. To make sure you arrrre too, we've compiled a list of ways to celebrate like a true pirate. Use at your own risk:

  • Storm one of the many ships cruising the Chicago River and demand to see the "plank." If you can't afford the tour fee, or you're prone to seasickness, just do the same thing at the ship-shaped El Barco.
  • Heckle the parrotheads at the Landshark Lager Oyster Fest (sponsored by Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Brewing). Actually, we'd suggest this any year.
  • Try to count all the decorative birds at Lakeview's Parrots. "One! Two! Three! Fourrrrrrr!"
  • Run aimlessly through noted parrot-haven Hyde Park in full buccaneer gear, calling desperately for your lost pal "Arrrrchie."
  • Head to the Cubs game armed with some Willie Stargell quotes. See who gets the joke. (Make sure to stop into the Captain Morgan Club to order a noggin o' rum.)
  • Hit the barrrr. Actually, five of 'em. The Booty Pub Crawl (beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, $20) starts at McGee's and moves on to Wrightwood Tap, Durkin's, Duffy's and Redmond's. A buffet, rum punch and domestic drafts are included in the price, and a free trolley will be your vessel for the night.
  • Learn how pirates really talked. The eye patch-obsessed Field Museum will be hosting all sorts of activities from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., including treasure hunts, sword-fighting performances and even an appearance from Navy Pier's mascot, Patch the Pirate Dog. Kids are encouraged to dress up - and we guess parents can, too. Free w/museum admission.

Got any other ideas? Let us know, matey!

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There’s still plenty of summer left and plenty of activies to enjoy this weekend:

The Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, condenses things down into 2-1/2 hours in its 3 p.m. performance of “The Arabian Nights.” Tickets: $52-$56. Info: (312) 337-0665 or

Blues musician Taj Mahal opens for Bonnie Raitt at Ravinia, Lake Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park. Tickets: $32-$80. Info: (847) 266-5100 or

“The Fighting Temptations” screens at 8:30 tonight at the DuSable Museum in Washington Park, 740 E. 56th Pl. It’s free.

Tell us your three favorite things about Saturday!

If you've ever thought you could rock "The Amazing Race," but are a little camera-shy, we've got an event for you. Actually, make that several events. In the next few weeks, Chicago will be inundated with scavenger hunts and races that'll test your physical and mental prowess, as well as your knowledge of the city. Get your team together and head out to these competitions:

  • August 1: The Great Urban Race will send over 1,000 participants (in two-person teams) all over the city for puzzle-solving, physical challenges and more. The top 25 teams will have the opportunity to go on to the national championship and a chance at $10,000. $60/person if you register by Friday; $70/person day of race.
  • August 22: City Chase, known as the world's largest urban adventure series (it's been around since 2003) asks two-person teams to complete a variety of challenges (some involving working with competing teams) to earn ChasePoints. The team with the required amount of points that crosses the finish line first will earn a trip to the national championships in Quebec City. $193.50 per team.
  • True hunt-junkies will want to keep an eye on Watson Adventures, which organizes events throughout the year in museums and neighborhoods city-wide. Upcoming adventures include "Starring the Loop" Movie Locations (August 1, September 12, October 10), Murder at the Art Museum (August 15 & October 31) and the Field of Screams Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt (September 26). Events run from $19.50-$32.

Planning a trip through the Art Institute

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The Art Institute of Chicago — like any great, acclaimed, monstrous museum — is not the kind of place you can just pop by, drop in and dabble. To really see what interests you and to make the most out of your time (and, now that it costs 18 bucks, money), you need a plan. You need a map. An interactive map would be even better.

So here it is. The museum just launched a new interactive floor plan and gallery tour on its Web site. Nicely dubbed Pathfinder, the map allows you to click your way through the hallways, galleries and libraries, showing you the hallmark pieces and information about each spot. You can thus plan your attack and move through the place like a ninja.

"The Modern Wing has really been the impetus for numerous widespread changes in the ways the museum makes itself accessible to all visitors, both virtual and real," James Cuno, president and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute, says in a statement. "We have a new building, with its fresh approach to our collections, to the city, and to the landscape around us. And now, with our new interactive pathfinder on the web, we are bringing these fresh approaches to the hundreds of thousands of people who come to our website seeking information about our museum and collections."

3 Things We Love About ... Saturday

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“All over the world. Everybody’s got the word,” quipped the singing muses of “Xanadu,” and this week we’re all about globe-trotting without ever leaving the city limits:

1. It’s like Epcot Center, but for barbecue
Fork and the Road’s International Barbecue Tour Bike Ride kicks off at 11 a.m. at Pause Cafe, 1107 W. Berwyn. The tour features stops at various Pakistani, Korean and Chinese barbecue joints. The 14.5-mile bike ride and tasting is $50 a person. Can’t make this tour? The next BBQ Bike Ride is slated for Sept. 5. Visit

2. Paris in the summer
The comedic cabaret duo of Colleen McHugh and Miriam Plotkin toast (and roast) the French in their annual “tour de farce,” “Bastille Magnolias.” Storm the barricades of Davenport’s Piano Bar, 1383 N. Milwaukee, at 8 tonight; $29. Details: (773) 278-1830 or

3. Venice on Lake Michigan
It’s the 52nd annual Venetian Night at 8 tonight. More than half a million people are expected to attend the annual parade of decorated boats. Monroe Harbor from Shedd Aquarium at Roosevelt north to the Chicago Yacht Club at Monroe is rumored to be the best place to view the proceedings. Fireworks will follow. Free;

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