The debate on "family values" always comes down to whose family, and whose values. A three-day conference, called simply Family Values, at the University of Chicago this weekend will look at the issue's political, historical, and social parameters with presentations ranging from "Recycling the Myth of the Ideal Family" and "American Travel as Family Practice" to "Country Music and Family Values." Stephanie Coontz, who authored The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, keynotes the conference at 4 today in room 106 of Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St. Later, at 7:30, there's a "Family (Values) Video Night," featuring selections from the Video Data Bank, in room 307 of Cobb Hall, 5811 S. Ellis. There'll also be three panel discussions from 9:30 to 5:30 Saturday, with a final session at 10 AM Sunday. It's all free. Call 702-8274 for details.
You can come out in support tonight for Remains Theatre--the worthy ensemble whose members include Ted Levine, William Petersen, Amy Morton, and D.W. Moffett--at the group's annual benefit, this year called All-Star Night. The $75 ticket gets you games, auctions live and silent, and the chance to shell out further bucks in a raffle. First prize: a trip for two to London. There's an even swankier $150 ticket that gets you preshow chow at 6 at Bossa Nova. Remains is at 1800 N. Clybourn; things get under way at 7. Call 335-9595 for more.
The poetry newsletter Letter eX, a bimonthly 24-page tab, has been around for nearly ten years now. Tonight it's putting on The Subtopian Ball, a night of music and performance art to raise money for the publication. MC Lawrence Steger will perform and introduce the likes of poet David Hernandez, performance artists Cindy Salach and Joan Dickinson, country duo the Texas Rubies, hip-hop band He Who Walks Three Ways, and lots of others. It takes place at the Oak Theatre, 2000 N. Western, from 8:30 till very late. It's $8; call 252-2166.
If you miss the halcyon days of the gulf war and mighty Operation Desert Storm, hie thyself out to the O'Hare Air Reserve Station for the two-day 1993 U.S. Military Showcase. All five branches of the military--Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard--will have stuff on display: tanks, planes, rescue vehicles, Patriot launchers, and more. In addition an entire hangar will be given over to a show of new technology and a screening of Desert Storm footage. The reserve station is at the north end of O'Hare, with an entrance on Higgins just west of Mannheim in Rosemont. The show's open 9 to 5 today and tomorrow; admission is free. Call 825-5980 for details.
No Laughing Matter, a show of editorial cartoons on environmental issues, opens today at the Chicago Academy of Sciences, 2001 N. Clark. The exhibit, which was originally curated for an environmental conference in 1990 at New York's Hofstra University, brings together work from cartoonists representing more than 20 countries. Accompanying the show will be continuous screenings of the short Big Bang by Bruno Bozzetto, director of Allegro Non Troppo and other satirical animated films. Hours are 10 to 5 daily; admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for kids and seniors. It's free on Mondays. Call 871-2668.
The new production from Steppenwolf, Ghost in the Machine, is the story of two academic couples "who find themselves in a maze of mind games and deception," according to the folks at the theater. "The drama unfolds when one character discovers a piece of music he believes to contain a message from God." The play is the directorial debut of ensemble member Jim True, who was going to star in the company's first Shakespeare production, As You Like It. What was supposed to be a Steppenwolf reunion production, however, was scratched because of difficulties bringing together enough of the ensemble's far-flung members. Ghost in the Machine was substituted. It opens tonight at 7 at the theater, 1650 N. Halsted. Tix run from $21.50 to $31. The show continues Tuesday through Friday at 8, Saturday at 5 and 9, and Sunday at 3 and 7 through June 27. Some other matinees and a few off nights come into the equation as well, so call ahead at 335-1650.
Louis Farrakhan says that as he approached his 60th birthday he wondered what sort of gift he might offer "the citizens of Chicago." Overlooking, perhaps, some more obvious choices, he opted to undertake a musical concert--the minister was quite the violinist in his youth. He'll jam with the New World Orchestra, conducted by CSO assistant conductor Michael Morgan, at the Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland, tonight at 7. The tickets--which go for $100, $50, and $25--benefit the Muhammad University of Islam; $100 ticket buyers get to go to a postshow reception. Call 643-0700 for more.
To memorialize "the impress of extremity upon the poetic imagination," poet Carolyn Forche 13 years ago embarked on the rather emotion-straining task of collecting the most affecting work written about or in the midst of some of the most infamous events of the century. The book that resulted, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, features the voices of people on subjects from the Armenian genocide to Tiananmen Square. Forche will be at Barbara's Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway, tonight at 7:30 to read from and talk about the collection. It's free; call 477-0411 for details.
Frances Lear--canny, self-promoting, and talented author and entrepreneur--talks to the Women's Advertising Club of Chicago at a lunch meeting today. The founder of Lear's magazine and author of The Second Seduction will comment on "Marketing to Women." Cocktails are at 11:30 and lunch is at noon at Hat Dance, 325 W. Huron. Tickets are $50, $40 for WACC members. Call 263-2215 for info.
You can watch with amusement tonight as representatives from some of Chicago's most famous companies compete in the fifth annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee to benefit Literacy Chicago, the largest provider of literacy services in the city. Representatives from the Tribune, the Sun-Times, World Book, the AMA, the American Dental Association, the William Wrigley Jr. Company, and various banks and law firms will pay $450 to field three-person teams of precision spellers. The oral grilling will be hosted by venerable TV anchors Jack Taylor and Harry Porterfield from 5 to 8:30 in the second-floor cafeteria of the IBM Building, on the north side of the Chicago River at State. Winners take home round-trip tickets for two to anywhere in the U.S. on American Airlines. It's free to go watch. Call 236-0341 for details.
As the national debate over domestic-partnership legislation heats up, you can go to a meeting tonight and get your facts straight on the issues involved. The legislation, which has been adopted in a few cities, notably San Francisco, provides the opportunity for homosexual partners of city workers to receive benefits. At the same time campaigns continue for legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. The meeting is sponsored by NOW's Lesbian and Bisexual Rights Committee; it starts at 6:30 in suite 1200 of the Rodde Center, 4753 N. Broadway. It's free; call 922-0025.
People working to stop hunger will meet and network today at the one-day Northeast Illinois Hunger Conference. It's sponsored by the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, the second largest nondenominational emergency food provider in town. On the agenda: John Colgan, exec director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, delivering the keynote speech, a panel of government reps discussing "What We Can Expect From Our Government," and a variety of workshops. The event runs from 9 to 4 at the Quality Inn, Halsted at Madison. It's $25, which includes lunch and parking. Call 800-801-3800 for more.
The Lakefront Young Republicans say that they're the largest Young Republican group in the state. They've dubbed their May event "Membership Month" to encourage new members to come out and join. It's at Cairo, 720 N. Wells, starting at 6 PM, and free. Call 787-3235 for details.