Clarence Wood, executive director of the city's Commission on Human Relations, makes much of his "free" services to the city--he's on a $1-a-year contract while the Chicago Community Trust pays his salary--but he rarely mentions that his assistant, Shari Jones, collects more than $45,000 of taxpayer money as a consultant to CHR. In the three months Wood has been in office, he's managed to alienate the gay and lesbian committee, the women's and Latino commissions, and many of the black aldermen who are trying to create an African American advisory council. Still his views will be highlighted at today's media forum, The Condition of Human Relations in Chicago. Wood will speak after presentations by the Tribune's Clarence Page, the Chicago Reporter's John Schrag, and Channel Five's Lydia Talbot. The program starts at noon in the lower level of the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington. It's free. Call 782-3511.
Fifteen Contemporary Artists From Mexico, opening tonight at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, may well be the largest and most comprehensive collection of contemporary art from Mexico to ever tour the U.S. The exhibit, which runs through March 11, brings together artists from many different (and often competing) Mexican galleries. The opening, which is free, runs from 6 to 8:30 at the museum, 1852 W. 19th St. Museum hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free. Call 738-1503.
Headlining Chicago Authors Read for Rights: Words on the Struggle for Freedom are Margaret Burroughs, cofounder of the DuSable Museum; Leon Forrest, chair of Northwestern's African American studies department; Larry Heinemann, National Book Award winner; and S.L. Wisenberg, a local writer. They will read from their own writings on human rights as well as works by prisoners of conscience, and will be joined by Amnesty International's midwest director, Marjory Byler, and Linda Valerian, a Minnesota activist. Sponsored by Amnesty International, the program begins at 7:30 PM at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. The suggested donation is $5. Call 427-2060.
It's kid heaven today at the 400 theater in Rogers Park. A Special Gift From Santa features one hour and ten minutes of cartoons, candy donated by the Farley Candy Company, and visits with a bilingual Santa. And it's all free. Sponsored by the 400 and the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation, the show starts at noon at 6746 N. Sheridan. Call 784-9100.
The intense commercialization of all things Christian can make the holiday season difficult for non-Christians. When Chanukah and Christmas Collide is an outreach program for non-Jews and recently converted Jews who want to support their Jewish relatives and friends during this time, The free seminar runs from 12:30 to 2:45 PM at Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan. Lunch will be served at 12:15; $5 for adults, $2.50 for kids. Child care is also available. For more information call 561-5173.
Two tables constructed from materials scavenged from the historic Granada Theater in Rogers Park, jewelry made out of rubber and industrial scraps, and non-S and M leather face masks are among the unusual gift items under $100,000 at the Artists Alternative Christmas Bizarre, a benefit for Theatre of the Reconstruction's 1990 season. Mr. Imagination and his sand sculptures will also be around. The sale runs from noon to 8 PM at the Garage, 1843 W. North Ave. Call 227-7756.
At today's World Music Holiday Concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Nyhabingi Drum Choir will perform music of Jonkanu, an annual Jamaican festival, including chants and dances that are the roots of contemporary reggae. Arnold and Sima Miller, internationally acclaimed performers of Hebrew and Yiddish music, will play Hanukkah songs. And Cuerdas Clasicas, a 15-member string and tambourine ensemble, will join in with traditional Mexican Christmas music. Show time is 3 PM at 909 W. Armitage. Tickets are $8, $6 for members, and $5 for seniors and kids. Call 525-7793.
The centerpiece of Traveling the Pacific--the first exhibit a $4.2 million project at the Field Museum of Natural History--is a full-scale re-creation of a Pacific coral island complete with a "windswept ocean front," a "mid-island forest," and a "quiet lagoon beach." A museum team made five trips to Pacific islands to get samples and make casts of hundreds of plant leaves and entire areas of coral-reef flats. The exhibit also includes a fiberglass lava flow, a "seafaring survival" computer game, authentic island canoes, a reconstructed New Guinea village from 1910, and a modern market modeled after one in Tahiti. The exhibit is free with museum admission, which is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and kids between 2 and 17, and free to everyone on Thursdays. The museum, open daily from 9 to 5, is located at Roosevelt Road and Lake Shore Drive. Call 922-9410.
Eyesore 3--the third in a series of screenings devoted to underground, experimental, and obscure films--features Tom Palazzolo's 1960s films America Is in Real Trouble and The Story of How I Became the Tattooed Lady of Riverside, David Hauptschein's Fecundation, Bill Stamets's Presidential Appearances (B/W Version), Jenny Magnus's Sorcery Arousal, and whatever Norm Bruns decides to bring. It's all at Club Lower Links, which is really underground at 954 W. Newport. The films start at 8:30 PM; there's a $4 cover. 248-5238.
Christmas peppers, Jerusalem cherries, blue bee balms, paper-white narcissi, winter marigolds, and traditional poinsettias will highlight the Park District's 77th annual Christmas Flower Show, which runs through January 7 at the Garfield Park and Lincoln Park conservatories. In keeping with the Park District's 1989 "Salute to France" theme, the exhibits are designed to resemble formal and informal French gardens. The flowers can be seen from 10 to 6 Saturday through Thursday, 9 to 9 Friday, and 9 to 5 on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Garfield Park's conservatory is at 300 N. Central Park; Lincoln Park's is at 2400 N. Stockton. Admission is free; a free guide service is available to groups who arrange for it in advance. For information about Garfield Park call 533-1281; about Lincoln Park 294-4770.
When Ann Christophersen and Linda Bubon founded Women & Children First ten years ago, they just wanted a bookstore that followed their own reading tastes, particularly for books by women writers. But as Christophersen became more and more involved in political activities, the store gradually turned into a community center of sorts. Bubon, whose son Max was born three years ago, has put much of her energy into programming for families and children. An accomplished professional storyteller, she offers Kiddielit for City Kids, featuring lively stories, songs, and nursery rhymes for children two to five years old every Wednesday at 10:30 AM. The programs are free at 1967 N. Halsted. Call 440-8824.
The thousand points of light strung along the walkways at the Brookfield Zoo lead to magicians, storytellers, strolling carolers, polar bears, and penguins. At the Children's Zoo, Santa and Mrs. Claus will welcome visitors during the zoo's Holiday Magic Evening Festival from 5 to 8:30 PM today and tomorrow. The zoo, open every day from 10 to 5, is located at 8400 W. 31st St. in Brookfield. Admission is $2.75 for adults, $1 for seniors and kids. Children under three get in free. For more information call 485-0263.
The Adding Machine--about individuality, progress, and the age of technology--hasn't been produced very often since Elmer Rice wrote it in 1923. The script calls for the kinds of scenery changes that require Steppenwolf-like budgets. But the current Hystopolis Puppet Theater production--the troupe's first for adults--uses shadows, Bunraku, and other tricks to solve the problems. Show time is 8 PM Thursday through Sunday (no performance December 24) at 441 W. North. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors students. Call 787-7387.