Computer artist Brian Rudin thinks that his field is a little "creatively repressed." With the national Computer Graphic Convention hitting Donnelly Hall this Sunday, the Columbia College computer arts professor thought he'd show some of his colleagues what could be done. He corralled about two dozen artists, most of them local, and told them to start taking risks. The result, dubbed Tree, features a variety of "paintings" created on a computer screen, a virtual-reality installation, and, among other things, an elaborate piece in which participants interact with a computer fortune-telling program, a lot of floor space, and a cake. Yum. The show's up through August 18 at the MWMWM Gallery, 1255 S. Wabash. There's a free opening reception tonight at 6; otherwise, the gallery's open Thursday through Saturday from 1 to 5. Call 786-0782 for more.
Walter Benjamin: Marxist Moses, an evening of readings and discussion of literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin, celebrates a man who is now considered one of the 20th century's most influential thinkers. An acclaimed journalist and critic, Benjamin was driven out of Germany by the Nazis; he turned to academics in France, but committed suicide while on the run from the gestapo in 1940. Tonight's reading of his work is an event Benjamin might have approved of. He believed that language creates our reality, and he had an inordinate fondness for quotations: "The ideal piece of criticism was in his eyes a mosaic of quotations," writes J.G. Merquior. The featured readers at this Guild Complex event are playwright Warren Lemming, poet George Drury, and the Reader's own Jerry Sullivan. It all starts at 6:30 at HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee. It's $4. Call 278-2210.
You can check out a large selection of art from behind bars at a daylong show of work from inmates of the state's prisons today. There's no word whether any celebrity felons will be participating, but more than a thousand works from less-celebrated losers will be up for sale from noon to 5 today at the Jessie "Ma" Houston Park, at 50th and Cottage Grove. (Today's the park's rededication ceremony as well.) Prices range from $3 to $300, with the proceeds going to the artists, less a 10-percent gallery fee. It's free to go look; call Jeffrey Whitfield at 815-727-3607 for more.
The Psychotronic Film Society promises "over 200 mind-numbing movie ads from the golden age of drive-ins" at the 1992 Drive-In Movie Ads Festival and Hot Dog Roast at Dreamerz, 1516 N. Milwaukee, tonight from 7 to 10. Included are trailers to such filmic trash as I Dismember Mama, The Wildcat Women, and I Drink Your Blood; $3 gets you the clips and a hot dog grilled on Dreamerz's cozy patio. Call 738-0985 for more.
A lion dance, folk dancing, martial arts, and the traditional male hot legs contest are the highlights of the 14th annual Chinatown Summer Fair, starting at 10 today on Wentworth just south of Cermak. There's also the usual allotment of street sales, food, arts and crafts displays--even a farmer's market. It's all free; call 225-6198.
If you've been a steady attendee at the Ad/Vice Squad series of sex workshops, you're well familiar with the uses of a variety of sex toys. The self-proclaimed purveyors of "safe, sane, consensual, fun, radical sex education" are now offering a slightly more advanced class, Basic Training IV: Spanking and Paddles. It costs $5 to attend, and starts at 3 PM at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont. Call 342-2815 for more.
A comely array of bachelors and bachelorettes and an equally attractive spread of date destinations will be on the block tonight at Stop AIDS Chicago's Cruising for a Dreamdate benefit auction. The remarkable Alexandra Billings (currently wowing 'em in Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack) will man the podium, taking bids for hot dates to restaurants like L'Escargot and Wishbone and theaters like the Goodman and Second City. It all begins at 7 tonight at the Vortex Night Club, 3631 N. Halsted. The $15 ticket gets you Billings, comedian Lori Noelle, a buffet from Bella Vista, and an open bar from 7 to 9. The auction starts at 8:30. Call 871-3300 for more.
The University of Chicago Press's 100 years as one of the nation's most prestigious scholarly imprints will be feted at a Regenstein Library exhibition through September 12. Letters, galleys, manuscripts, reviews, and more than 150 first editions are on display in the special-collections department of the library, at 1100 E. 57th. It's open 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and free. Call 702-8705 for more.
The hip new way to analyze how government works puts theory aside and concentrates on what actually gets the job done. That a government commission has been set up to look into this is probably a good example of government's missing the point, but the National Commission on the State and Local Public Service has been established anyway. Tonight, Bill Moyers's Listening to America takes a look at both the commission and the Illinois group the Government Assistance Project, and ends up finding no less than three Chicago programs of worth: the west-side police station that's made a priority of community outreach, the neighborhood organization that preserved the manufacturing base of the Clybourn corridor, and the revivification of the city's neighborhood parks. The hour-long show starts at 9:50 on Channel 11. Call 456-7747.
Chicago's National-Louis University is doing its part in the rebuilding of Poland by entering into a partnership with the first private business school there, the Nowy Sacz Podhale School of Business in Nowy Sacz, a town about 60 miles south of Krakow. National-Louis will be providing curriculum and faculty and will oversee the operation of the school as well. The school's founder, Polish senator Krzysztof Pawlowski, will be the guest of honor at a fund-raiser tonight: $100 gets you dinner and dancing to the dulcet tones of the Anthony Kawalkowski Orchestra at the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan. Things get under way at 6; call 708-256-5150, extension 5432 for details.
The Friends of Downtown has campaigned for a more vibrant downtown for 11 years. Tonight is the group's annual Jazz Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. Thirty-five dollars gets you an appetizer buffet, a two-hour cruise, and music from Fireworks Cubed, a jazz duo who'll debut a new work, "Backyard Monsters," inspired by the current Field Museum exhibit on insects. The boat departs at 6 from the southwest side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Call 977-0098 for reservations.
Amateur video makers are invited to bring just about anything--"your thesis project, your video of Aunt Mary's 80th birthday party, your latest experimental oeuvre, any work in progress, any finished work, any footage you like"--and get some feedback from some pros at 7 tonight at the Center for New Television, 1440 N. Dayton. It's free. Call 951-5717 for more.
The nagging guilt we've been feeling lately--it's hard to explain, but it has to do with our having contributed to society's neglect of the art of the business card--has been greatly eased by the news that a massive display from the Business Card Archives' 35-million-strong card depository opens today in Chicago. Yes, that's 35 million different business cards, representing everything from the Arizona Ostrich Farmers to Submarine Combat Systems and from the Surfers Hall of Fame to the JFK Assassination Information Center. Curator of this important collection--"the world's only archives for preserving business cards for posterity"--is Iowa's Walter Day, who's in town for the conference of the National Association of Quick Printers, at the downtown Hyatt Regency, 151 E. Wacker, through Saturday. Day will show thousands of samples from his collection at a booth in the conference's trade show, open today and Friday from noon to 6 and Saturday from 10 to 4. Admission is $10. Call 644-6610.
There's really no point in treasuring a lifetime's worth of collected books if you're not going to take proper care of them. That's why preservation expert Joan ten Hoor will give a free talk on How to Be Your Books' Best Friend at 5:30 PM at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. Call 943-9090 for more.