John Steinbeck, sitting down to woo Elaine Scott by correspondence, wrote, "Am a widower with 10,000 acres in Arizona and seven cows so if you can milk I will be glad to have you give up that tinsel life of debauchery and sin and have you come out to God's country where we got purple sage." This and other love letters by Napoleon, Emma Goldman, Walt Whitman, and Charlotte Bronte will be the subject of a lecture and reading by Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke University and author of the newly published The Book of Love. Her talk starts at 5:30 PM at the Three Arts Club, 1300 N. Dearborn. Tickets cost $20, $35 for couples and include champagne and hors d'oeuvres; call 939-5212 for reservations.
If you haven't seen sexually active bottle-cap characters, well, you've never seen the work of artist Bill Swislow. Like many artists, say the folks at the Aron Packer Gallery, Swislow digs the bottle-cap medium for "its metallic or colorful qualities, its crimped edges, and its possibilities for repetitive patterns." Swislow, along with Mr. Imagination, Clare Graham, and various anonymous artisans will exhibit their work in Bottlecap: A Survey of Contemporary and Vintage Bottlecap Artwork at the gallery, 1579 N. Milwaukee, suite 205, through February 28. There's a free opening reception tonight from 6 to 10. Call 862-5040 for more.
It's Battle of the Saxes time again at the Green Mill. Tonight and tomorrow two local young contenders face off: Eric Alexander placed second in the 1992 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and has a couple of records about to be released. Chris Potter was a third-place winner in the 1991 Monk competition and plays around in the Red Rodney Quintet and Paul Motion's Electric Be-Bop Band. The pair will take each other on at 9 tonight and 8 tomorrow at the club, 4802 N. Broadway. Cover is $7; call 878-5552 for details.
A bunch of 400-pound blocks of ice will be the center of attention today outside Melvin B's cafe, 1114 N. State, where ten sculptors will vie for a $500 prize. The ice-sculpture contest commences at noon; spectators like you will vote to determine the winner. It's free. Call 751-9897 for more.
Most attacks on environmentalists are politically motivated, of course; but some are actually quite sound. For example: Do environmentalists really understand the economic implications of the positions they espouse? Today at 1, local environmentalist Bud Polk will do his part to fix this knowledge gap. He'll present Economic Literacy for Environmentalists, a free talk at the North Park Village Administration Building, 5801 N. Pulaski. Call 744-5472 for info.
The Museum of Science and Industry kicks off its annual Black Creativity 1993 salute with a gala dinner tonight. This year's event is built around two exhibits: Songs of My People, a collection of 150 photographs chronicling the black experience by a corps of more than 50 of the country's leading black photographers, and The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, a display of inventions by blacks. The opening-night gala begins with a cocktail reception at 6:30 and includes tours of the exhibits and dinner. It's all at the museum, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; tickets are $150. Call 684-1414 for details.
Antiwar songs, Old English ballads, Irish fiddle tunes, gospel songs, mountain music, and other musicological excursions are in store as the Old Town School of Folk Music presents Jeff Warner and Jeff Davis today at 4. It's $8, at 909 W. Armitage. Call 525-7793 for more.
Four premieres make up the core of tonight's concert by the University of Chicago's Contemporary Players. The full program, which starts at 8 at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., includes Irwin Bazelon's Legend and Love Letters, Richard Wernick's Cadenzas and Variations no. 2, and Schoenberg's Phantasy. Two additional works are Two Rhapsodies, by Edwin Dugger of the University of California at Berkeley, and Transformational Etudes, by New York composer Edward Smaldone. Dugger and Smaldone will talk with University of Chicago prof Anne Shreffler an hour before the show. The talk's free with a ticket, which costs $12, $6 for students. Call 702-8068 for more.
Is all the commotion about the steady decline of rain forest acreage overdone? You decide: The Smithsonian's Judith Gradwohl says that there used to be four billion acres of rain forest, equivalent to an area about twice the size of the U.S. Forty percent of that is now gone, most of it eliminated in the last 30 years. This trend is continuing at a rate of 28 million acres per year, or about 54 acres per minute. The exhibit Gradwohl curated, Tropical Rainforests: A Disappearing Treasure, includes a slide show, interactive video, models of trees, diorama, maps, murals, and all manner of other stuff that can tell you more about deforestation, plant and animal diversity, and conservation efforts. The show stays up at the Chicago Botanic Garden until March 28; it's open 9 to 5 daily, till 8 on Thursdays. Admission is $2, $1.25 for seniors and Chicago Horticultural Society members, and a buck for kids. There's a $4 parking fee, waived for members. The garden is on Lake Cook Road a half mile east of the Edens in Glencoe; call 708-835-5440.
James Hugunin, a School of the Art Institute instructor on photo history and contemporary theory, will provide a context for The Photographic Order From Pop to Now, an exhibit of more than 50 multiple-image photographs now showing at Northwestern's Block Gallery, 1967 South Campus Dr. in Evanston. His free talk, which starts at 11:45 today, includes a guided tour of the show. Call 708-491-4852 for more.
Former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand will provide a glimpse into his current project, a book about Edward Hopper, at a lecture this evening at the Art Institute, home of Hopper's Nighthawks. The lecture starts at 6 in the Fullerton Auditorium at Michigan and Adams; it's free, as is the Art Institute on Tuesdays. Call 443-3625 for details.
Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton have at least two things in common: the first is that they designed their inaugurations to be evocations of an America reclaimed from a corrupt elite, and the second is that they both faced an enormous national debt. (One potential difference between them is that Jackson's inauguration was a historic "People's Day," and before he left office he'd paid off the national debt.) These similarities are what prompted Clinton to ask Jacksonian scholar Robert Remini, a professor emeritus at UIC and author of no less than 12 books on Jackson and his presidency, to speak at the inauguration. Remini's supposed to be back from D.C. today, and he's scheduled to talk at 6 PM about the two inaugurations at the Arts Club of Chicago, 109 E. Ontario. It's free, but they'd like you to call for reservations, at 787-3997.
Joseph Fernandez, chancellor of the New York City schools and the author of the modestly titled Tales out of School: Joseph Fernandez's Crusade to Rescue American Education, speaks at 5:30 today in the Sullivan Room at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan. It's $10, free if you're a schoolteacher. A reception follows; call 341-3510 for more.
Jung worked with Freud for five years before breaking with him in 1913 over their diverging views on psychology and psychoanalysis, primarily because Jung distrusted Freud's insistence that most neuroses had their roots in the libido. Tonight's talk at the C.G. Jung Institute today nicely underscores the difference in their approaches: A lecture called "Pinocchio: The Lie and the Sacrifice" would undoubtedly have a rather different slant if it were a Freudian institute hosting the affair. The lecture, by institute student Kenneth James, starts at 7 at the institute, 1567 Maple in Evanston. It's $15, $13 for members. Call 708-475-4848 for more.
Lisa Buscani went to her first poetry slam on a lark way back in 1987; now one of the city's most popular poet-performers, she's recently come back from Boston, where she competed in the 1992 International Poetry Slam against 14 competitors and placed first! She'll read from her collection of performance pieces called Jangle tonight at 7:30 at Unabridged Books, 3251 N. Broadway. It's free; call 883-9119 for info.