Call them hopeless utopians, but the organizers of today's Conference on Sustainable Communities envision a future where "good paying jobs, respect for the environment, and the empowerment of communities are achieved together." Chicago's Center for Neighborhood Technology is hosting the conference, which kicks off at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan, at 9:20 AM with a talk by Barry Commoner, one of the country's premiere environmental and social activists. (He also ran for president in 1980.) Workshops run through 5; a reception follows. Registration--the fee is $85--begins at 8:30. Call 278-4800 for more info.
Prof and poet Sterling Plumpp--he's the author of Johannesburg and Other Poems and a teacher at UIC--teams up with blues harp demon Sugar Blue for a night of poetry and music. The event is the latest installment of the Duncan YMCA "Writer's Voice" series, and it starts at 7 tonight at the Duncan YMCA, 1001 W. Roosevelt. Admission is $7, $5 for Y members. Call 421-7800.
With the large exhibition Abstract: Chicago, Klein Art Works capo Paul Klein has assembled what he calls a comprehensive overview of the subject through the work of nearly 80 local abstractionists. In the accompanying catalog, contributors proffer drawings and their take on how the city of Chicago has affected their work; answers range from lots ("I have always felt the need to make my work colorful and explosive") to not at all ("My visual and conceptual biases were fairly well established before I became a Chicagoan"). The show opens with a free reception this afternoon from 2 to 6 at the gallery, 400 N. Morgan. It'll be up through the end of the year. Call 243-0400 for more.
The fifth annual Christmas Is for Kids Charity Auction--the rock-'n'-roll-oriented affair sponsored by Jam Productions and WXRT--collects cool stuff from musicians all year and then gives you a chance to buy them. On sale this year: signed guitars from Pearl Jam and Robert Plant, a pair of Marky Mark's Calvins, an autographed dress and earrings from the B-52s, and lots more. WXRT morning jock Lin Brehmer and Bob Sirott host. Things get under way at 7 PM with a buffet dinner catered by Vivere, Babaluci, R.J. Grunts, and others; the auction proper starts at 8. Buffet tix are $25, $20 in advance; for just the auction, it's $12, $10 in advance. It's all at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Call 915-4440, ext. 712, for details.
Deep Dish TV, which calls itself the country's premiere grass-roots satellite network, produces and distributes alternative programming to like-minded groups across the U.S. Tonight's screening to benefit Deep Dish features Deadly Deception, the Academy Award-winning documentary on General Electric's involvement in nuclear weapons development; Stony Does Houston, a short look at the Bay Area street performer's confrontations with Oliver North, Jack Kemp, and others at the 1992 Republican convention; and Staking a Claim in Cyberspace, a Deep Dish-produced look at the developing information superhighway. It starts at 7:30 at the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Hall, 333 S. Ashland, and costs $5. Call 738-1400 for more.
If the punch line is "Dogs do not have problems expressing affection in public," "Dogs don't feel threatened by your intelligence," or "No dog ever voted to confirm Clarence Thomas," you know that the setup must be Why Dogs Are Better Than Men. That's the title of Reader cartoonist Jennifer Berman's new collection. She's signing it, accompanied by some of her favorite canines, at the Women and Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark, from noon to 1. Call 769-9299 for more.
Tap legend Jimmy Payne, the Chicagoan who taught Lena Horne and June Allyson the basics of hoofing and choreographed films and Broadway shows, is giving a free tap dancing demonstration today to help celebrate the opening of the newly expanded Wesley's Shoe Corral. It's in the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 1506 E. 55th St. Payne will be there from noon to 3 today. Call 667-7463.
Quondam teen heartthrob David Cassidy has stitched together a lucrative career on the back of the nostalgia craze, doing everything from appearing on Broadway (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Blood Brothers) to singing the theme to the NBC series Laroquette. To mark the rerelease of the original Partridge Family albums on CD, he'll be making an appearance at Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark, at 6 this evening. It's free. Call 477-5994.
"We stand at the edge of a new millennium . . . but we fear for the future." That's from the statement of purpose of the Third Millennium, a group that seeks to unify the alleged disaffection of Generation X-ers. The New York-based organization is starting up a Chicago chapter; toward that end it's throwing the Ultimate Twentysomething Quiz Party tonight at 6:30 at P.J. Clarke's, 1204 N. State. Cover is $10. Call 281-6528 for more info.
Like Johnson and Johnson's handling of the Tylenol tampering cases, Pepsi's smooth reaction to the rash of reports of syringes found in cans is sure to go down in the annals of PR history. Pepsi PR manager Ann Ward is in town today to give the inside story. She speaks at a lunch meeting of the International Association of Business Communicators at Michael Jordan's restaurant, 500 N. LaSalle. Things get under way at 11:30; tickets are $30. Call 332-0147.
The controversies engendered by her first book, The Beauty Myth--the best-selling examination of the way society's focus on looks and figures undermines female self-esteem--prompted author Naomi Wolf to look at the conflicts and controversies inside feminism for her new one, Fire With Fire. Wolf calls for "a new consciousness of what it means to be a woman" and "a critique of the tendency feminism has had . . . toward phrasing status in terms of victimization and helplessness." Wolf speaks tonight at Waterstone's Booksellers, 840 N. Michigan, from 6 to 8. It's free, but seating is limited, so reserve a spot by calling 587-8080.
The twist, break dancing, and ballet set to the music of Handel, James Brown, and Led Zeppelin pretty much defines the approach of the Doug Elkins Dance Company. The New York outfit is in residence at the Dance Center of Columbia College this week. There's a free lecture and demonstration today at Columbia's Hokin Student Center, 623 S. Wabash, at 1. There's also a free preview performance at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State, at 12:15 tomorrow. Regular performances are Thursday through Saturday, December 11, at 8 at the center, 4730 N. Sheridan. Tickets are $12-$15. Call 271-7928 for more information.
When activities ranging from the wacky to the intolerant to the criminal are practiced by almost every religious sect in America, it's hard to take seriously the title of Stephen Carter's new book, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion; most people think the religions themselves are doing the job quite well. But you can hear him explain as he discusses the work at the Max Palevsky Theater in the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., from noon to 1:30 today. Call 702-7712.
Fans of Bertie Wooster, the vacuous but lovable English fop, and Jeeves, the imperturbable gentleman's gentleman, will be overjoyed to hear that the City Lit Theater Company is mounting Right Ho, Jeeves, an adaptation by Mark Richard of a typically tangled Wodehousian tale. The show is ongoing at the studio theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph). It plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7; tickets are $15. There are also matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3, with a traditional English tea served an hour beforehand for an additional $11. Call 271-1100 for reservations and information.