John Updike calls Yale history prof and fellow writer Jonathan D. Spence "a demon researcher with the flair of a poet." Spence, the award-winning author of several books on China, will discuss his new tome, The Search for Modern China--which chronicles four centuries of Chinese history from the decline of the Ming dynasty to last summer's Tiananmen Square riots--in a free lecture today at 4 PM at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St. The talk is sponsored by the school's Asian Students' Association. For more information, call 752-4381.
The Kent State students who so vehemently protested the Vietnam war back in 1970--prompting the Ohio National Guard to shoot and kill four people--provide quite a contrast to the school's current conservative student body. At least that's what Oscar-nominated director James Klein found while making Letter to the Next Generation, which compares the two eras. It includes both archival footage and news coverage of last year's 19th-anniversary candlelight procession at Kent State. It debuts tonight--the 20th anniversary of the shootings--and runs for two weeks at Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton. Show times are 7 and 9 PM Monday through Saturday, 5:30 and 7:30 PM Sunday. Tickets are $5, $3 for Facets members. Call 281-9075.
According to founder Joe Crosetto, the Art-O-Rama gallery will be showing "some awful, some profoundly stupid, and some profoundly relevant" work at its inaugural show, Cigs & Beer. About 80 "unsavory" artists from Chicago, California, and Michigan contributed various artworks on the title's theme: "Some are nice, others not," says Crosetto. If you want to risk it, the opening's from 6 to 9 tonight at 3039 W. Irving Park. It's free; 588-1876 for details.
Paula Pia Martinez is one of six artists who refused to go along with Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg's attempt to "fix" the controversial "Chicago Show" after a blind jury picked mostly white artists: she turned down Weisberg's invitation to participate as one of 20 additional minority artists, pointedly telling reporters she wanted to be included in the show for her artistry, not her ethnicity. In Once, an exhibition of 11 Latin American artists, Martinez is included for all the right reasons--her large, colorful, and intensely emotional canvases. The show, which runs through the end of May, opens with receptions from 6 to 9 tonight and from 1 to 5 tomorrow at the Latino Arts Gallery, 850 N. Milwaukee. Regular gallery hours are 11 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. Free admission; 243- 3777.
Sensei Bodhin Kjolhede, the director of the Zen Center in Rochester, New York, visits Evanston today to teach an introductory workshop on Zen Buddhism. It runs 9:30 to 4:30 at the Zen Center, 2029 Ridge Ave. The requested contribution is $30, $15 from students and seniors. Call 708-475-3015.
The posters decorating the offices of Salsedo Press trace the history of Chicago's left and progressive communities: they advertise antiwar rallies, prounion meetings, Latin American solidarity, and women's liberation. You can check them out at tonight's 17th annual Cinco de Mayo/May Day Blast. In years past Studs Terkel, Ed Asner, and various groovy aldermen have popped in for a dance or two. The $10 cover buys you beer, live music, and a mean dance tape. It starts at 10 PM at 320 N. Damen. Call 666-1674.
Say I'm a Jew is a 30-minute videotape by award-winning video maker Pier Marton that features interviews with 16 children of Holocaust survivors. Starting today, the tape will be screened as part of the Spertus Museum's installation of portraits of the 16 interviewees, mounted on slate-painted walls so that viewers can record their responses in chalk. The installation runs through August 26 at the museum, 618 S. Michigan; doors are open 10 to 5 Sunday through Thursday, 10 to 3 Friday. Admission is $3.50, $2 for kids, seniors, and students. More info at 922- 9012, ext. 248.
Quicker hospital reimbursement procedures--especially from medicaid and medicare--and better allocation of government funds for the operation of community hospitals and trauma centers are two of the goals of the community groups leading tonight's candlelight vigil at Christ Hospital, the only level-one trauma center serving the city's south side. Concerned Citizens for Emergency Services and Homeowners & Tenants United to Save Englewood will gather at 7 at the hospital, 4440 W. 95th in Oak Lawn. Get details at 874-3394 or 488-2170.
The Rattlers, a western swing band that includes members of the Pump Boys and Dinettes cast and of the Jump 'n the Saddle Band, returns to the Deja Vu for a series of first- Monday-of-the-month engagements. Also on tonight's bill is storyteller Eskimo Al. The band starts at 9:30 at 2624 N. Lincoln. There's no cover; 871-0205.
The Chicago Historical Society takes a look at how America's four basic clothing groups--leather jackets, jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers--have changed and endured over the past 50 years in its exhibit Leather Jackets and Jeans: Street Cool to Oak Street Chic. The society, at Clark Street and North Avenue, is open 9:30 to 4:30 daily, noon to 5 Sunday. Admission is $1.50, 50 cents for kids and seniors, free Monday. Call 642-4600.
George Dunne, who came into county government during the Richard J. Daley administration and was also part of Harold Washington's reform movement, has seen it all. He'll be reminiscing as well as forecasting when he speaks today on The Future of Cook County Government as part of "The Future of Chicago" series at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The free lecture starts at 1:30 PM at the John Paul II (Newman) Center, 700 S. Morgan. 996-8282 for details.
Men who sing in barbershop quartets and other choral formations are invited to a free musical open house at 7:45 tonight at the First Baptist Church of Evanston, 607 Lake St. in Evanston. There will be refreshments, sing-alongs, song teaching, quartetting, octetting, and a performance by the Shoreliner Chorus of the North Shore chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. "Wives" and "sweethearts" are welcome too. Call 708-475-2999 or 708-328-0921.
A Different War: Vietnam in Art, an exhibit that looks at how the war affected American art over the last two decades, features 108 works by 54 artists: paintings, sculptures, photos, works on paper, video, and mixed media constructions. (The show's catalog includes an essay by feminist critic Lucy Lippard.) It opens today and runs through June 24 at Northwestern University's Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, 1967 Sheridan Road in Evanston. Regular gallery hours are noon to 5 Tuesday and Wednesday and noon to 8 Thursday through Sunday; admission is free. Various lectures and tours and a reading of letters and poems are scheduled throughout the exhibit; call 708-491-4000 for more info.
Northwestern alum Garry Marshall started out writing for comedians Jack Paar and Joey Bishop in the early 60s before moving on to TV (The Odd Couple, Happy Days) and movies (Beaches, Pretty Woman). In June, Wrong Turn at Lumpfish, the play he wrote with Lowell Ganz and is directing for Steppenwolf, will open at the Apollo Theater Center. Tonight at 7:30, Marshall will speak at his alma mater; the free lecture takes place at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 1979 Sheridan Road in Evanston; more info at 708-491-5000.