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Friday 12/21 - Thursday 12/27

DECEMBER

21 FRIDAY The Illinois Central, the Iowa Interstate, and the Iowa Northern are a few of the legendary railways that photographer David Phillips will cover in tonight's slide show, The I's Have It: Railroads Beginning With the Letter I, part of the December meeting of the Railroad Club of Chicago. Established in 1934, the RCC is the city's oldest organization for railroad enthusiasts and these days boasts 150 members. The meeting--which is open to the public--starts at 7:30 at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington. A $3 donation is requested; for more information call 847-251-2262.

22 SATURDAY Speaking of trains, the CTA Holiday Train travels the Brown and Orange lines today and tomorrow. The six-car train is decorated inside and out with 35,000 lights plus bows, garlands, and other trimmings and includes a flatcar featuring Santa and his reindeer. Of course, it still costs $1.50 to ride. Call 888-968-7282 for complete schedule information.

"Experimental film long on imagination but short on budget" is how the Chicago Underground Film Festival describes the work of Cleveland filmmaker Robert C. Banks Jr. He started scratching film with a pen in 1978 when, he says, he "didn't even know who Stan Brakhage was." Over the years he's painted, written on, bleached, and made collages from film, then combined the results with found and new footage to explore such subjects as racism, commercialization, and representations of women in contemporary America. He'll answer questions about his work tonight at 8, when CUFF will screen Rage Against the Dying Light: 12 Years of Robert Banks at Cinema Borealis, 1550 N. Milwaukee, on the fourth floor. It's $6. Call 773-293-1447.

23 SUNDAY Seventeen years before marketers realized people would pay good money to sing off-key with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, the Music Box Theatre began holding its Christmas Sing-along, which annually draws a sellout crowd to watch White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen and sing carols with Santa in between. (They also like to hiss and moan when party pooper Rosemary Clooney and evil Old Man Potter appear on-screen.) This year it runs December 21 through 24 with White Christmas at 1 and 7 and It's a Wonderful Life at 4 and 9:45 on Friday, Saturday, and today; on Monday White Christmas screens at 1 and Wonderful Life at 4. There will be sing-alongs after each film. Admission is $10, $15 for the double feature; call 312-902-1500 or stop by the theater's box office at 3733 N. Southport for tickets.

24 MONDAY Last year Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake celebrated their tenth annual Winter Solstice Percussion Concerts with ten early-morning performances that they said might be their last for a while. But they're back this year for the 11th round of their enchanting, hour-long improvisational shows, which begin quietly in the dark and gain intensity as the sun rises. Performances are Saturday, Sunday, and today at 6 AM at Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield. Tickets are $13 and can be purchased in advance at Bookworks, 3444 N. Clark. Call 773-871-5318 or see the Critic's Choice in Section Three for more.

25 TUESDAY Not long ago there wasn't much for non-Christian kids to do in Chicago on Christmas Day, so the Spertus Museum started offering a program for them. Over the years the event has evolved into Something Else! A Jewish Community Festival, with activities for all ages. This year's offerings include entertainment by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and former U.S. juggling champion Andy Head as well as crafts projects, games, and storytelling; participants also get admission to the exhibit "A Gateway to Medieval Mediterranean Life: Cairo's Ben Ezra Synagogue" and a visit to "Tel," the museum's hands-on model of an archaeological dig. It's today from 11 to 2 at the museum, 618 S. Michigan. Admission is free, but a donation of nonperishable food is requested and reservations are required for the "Tel" exhibit. Call 312-322-1747 or go to www.spertus.edu for more.

26 WEDNESDAY Besides being a champion of the working class, Indian filmmaker Guru Dutt was drop-dead gorgeous (recently voted one of India's "100 Most Handsome Men of the Century") and a talented dancer to boot. His first starring role was in 1953's The Hawk (which he also directed), the story of a 16th-century woman warrior who leads an uprising in Malabar against Portuguese invaders. Dutt, who has been compared to everyone from Federico Fellini to John Huston, died of an apparent suicide in 1964. His musicals are being screened this month at the Gene Siskel Film Center in a series called Guru Dutt: Bollywood Goes Noir. The Hawk plays tonight at 7 at 164 N. State. Admission is $8; call 312-846-2800.

27 THURSDAY The Producers knocked 'em dead here before becoming the hottest ticket on Broadway. The backers of Sweet Smell of Success--a new musical based on the 1957 film about a ruthless gossip columnist and a sleazy press agent--are betting that lightning will strike twice. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Craig Carnelia, book by John Guare, and direction by Nicholas Hytner, it very well may. The show stars John Lithgow and Brian d'Arcy James. Previews began Sunday at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; it opens officially on January 13, runs here through January 27, and hits New York in February. Today's performances are at 2 and 7:30 PM, and tickets range from $35 to $75.50--$2 less than for regular performances. Call 312-902-1400.

DECEMBER 28-JANUARY 3

Next week is the Reader's second annual all-fiction issue, which means no Calendar--here are some things to do while we're gone.

What is it about puppetry and black birds, which figured so prominently in Redmoon Theater's recent Winter Pageant? Former Redmoon artistic director and cofounder Blair Thomas will perform a 15-minute scroll-and-shadow puppet show based on the Wallace Stevens poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" as part of a collaboration with musician-composer Michael Zerang called 108 Ways to Nirvana, #12, #27, and #36. Zerang will also do a solo percussion piece, "The Third Pythia of Flin Flon," and the pair will work together on "Buster Keaton and the Buddha." This first installment in what they "envision to be a long-term collaboration" opens Friday, December 28, at 9 and runs through January 20 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Tickets are $12 (312-902-1500).

The College of Complexes took its name from "a psychiatric term for repressed ideas that compel expression" and since 1951 has convened over 2,500 meetings featuring speakers on a staggering array of topics. "The Playground for People Who Think" wraps up its 50th year Saturday, December 29, at 8 with an open mike "in which C of C 'regulars' recap the major events and evaluate society during the past 50 years." It's at the Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln. Tuition is $3, and a purchase of food or drink is required; call 312-326-2120.

At the end of each year I dig out the list of things I meant to do over the previous 12 months and cross off only about a third of them. Perhaps those who attend the free Setting Your Intentions for the New Year workshop, on Sunday, December 30, will have a bit more success. Don Donini, the workshop leader, says, "The workshop digs into what gifts each human being wants to give themselves." It's from 1:30 to 4:30 at Unity in Chicago, 1925 W. Thome (773-973-0007).

Admission to the Field Museum's exhaustive Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth exhibit is $16 for adults, and it's wise to reserve a ticket in advance. But for $45 you can buy a "Queen for the Day" VIP ticket and bypass the proles in line (provided it's not between 11 and 1:30 on a Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday, when everyone is equal). The special price also includes afternoon tea at the Four Seasons Hotel. The show runs through March 3, and this is its only North American stop. It's at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. Call 312-922-9410 or log on to www.fieldmuseum.org for more information about the exhibit. For tea reservations, call 312-649-2352.

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