Frederick Marx, one of the creators of the hit documentary Hoop Dreams, is the featured speaker at the Peace Museum's annual winter benefit tonight. He'll talk about making his seven-year chronicle of two Chicago teenagers consumed by the push to make it into professional basketball. The event will also honor artist Ilona Granet, who designed a series of public billboards about domestic violence, and nine other "community peacemakers." It takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, and tickets cost $65, which includes food, drinks, and a performance by local poetry stars Michael Warr, Cindy Salach, and Quarayshe Ali. For more information, call 440-1860.
New York performance poet Eileen Myles's newest work is Chelsea Girls, an autobiographical story cycle that moves from the writer's early childhood to her contemporary position as an acclaimed gay poet, novelist, journalist, and playwright with two decades of work behind her. Myles has a two-night stand at Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, at 8 tonight and tomorrow. Tix are $10, $6 for students. Call 666-7737 for details.
A "topping out" party marks the placement of the final structural beam in the Museum of Contemporary Art's spectacular new digs on East Chicago Avenue today at 10 AM. The museum will greet well-wishers with warm beverages served under a heated tent at Fairbanks and Chicago (one block east of Michigan Avenue). There'll be a few words, and visitors will get to sign the last beam before it's hoisted into place sometime around noon. The museum suggests dressing warmly in a manner befitting a construction site. It's free; call 280-1660 for more.
Amnesty International has two events going on today to observe 1994's Human Rights Day, which commemorates the signing in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a U.N. resolution that has yet to be put into practice by most countries, including the U.S. This afternoon you can stop by Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark, from 1 to 5 to sign greeting cards to Amnesty-tracked prisoners jailed for their beliefs. The organization claims that nearly half of the political prisoners receiving cards are either released or treated better. Later tonight is Amnesty's big party, Roots, Rock, Rights! A Celebration of Human Rights Activism, which features talks by three local human rights activists as well as music by the west African band Ghannata and the Afro-Caribbean group the I-Lites. The event is hosted by Stuart Rosenberg, former host of 'BEZ's The Earth Club. It's at 8 PM in the Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie. Admission is $7, $3 for students and those with a limited income. Call 435-6393 for information.
"What makes [filmmaker Alan] Rudolph so controversial is an insistent taste for counterpoint that compels him to challenge the conventions of romantic fiction without rejecting its spirit," according to organizers of the Toronto Film Festival, which nine years ago ranked Rudolph as one of the ten most influential directors of the decade. Rudolph's signature films--including Choose Me (1984), Trouble in Mind (1985), and The Moderns (1988)--are sometimes dreamy but always edgy romances that exude emotionality without a touch of sentimentality. Rudolph's newest film is the long-awaited look at acerbic writer Dorothy Parker and the wits of the Algonquin Round Table. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle premieres tonight at 8 PM at the Film Center, Columbus and Jackson, and Rudolph will be there to answer questions after the screening. Tickets cost $7; call 443-3737 for more.
Riksha, the local magazine devoted to work by Asian American writers and artists, is holding a reading and open mike tonight at 8 at ROK Coffee Emporium, 5067 N. Lincoln. Five bucks gets you poetry and prose from Dwight Okita, Luisa Carino, Mark Armstrong, and Steve Haruch. Call 348-8003 for more.
Phil Johnson, one of the performers in Les Miserables, takes a busman's holiday tonight to do a benefit called OK, So He Stole a Loaf of Bread . . . Proceeds will go to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It's at 8:30 at Cairo, 720 N. Wells. Admission is $9.95. Call 266-6620 for reservations.
NIMBY--which stands for "not in my backyard"--is shorthand for those who don't want anything from prisons to airports to public housing built in their neighborhood. To some people, it's a term of derision. For Jane Anne Morris, the author of Not in My Backyard: The Handbook (Silvercat), it's a call to arms. Morris's book is designed to help budding activists organize their communities around one specific issue. She'll be joined by Lynn Lawson, author of Staying Well in a Toxic World, for a series of discussions at three local bookstores this week: tonight at Booksellers Row, 1520 N. Milwaukee (489-6200); tomorrow at the Hyde Park Kroch's and Brentano's, 1530 E. 53rd (288-0145); and Wednesday at Borders Books and Music, 1500 16th in Oak Brook (708-574-0800). All of the discussions are free and start at 7 PM.
About a thousand years ago Central American Indians were building amazing structures. At an archeological dig near the city of El Tajin, excavators found a lightweight concrete roof measuring 27 feet by 143 feet supported by columns and load-bearing walls. Its use of concrete, formwork, and pouring and finishing techniques was a complex technical achievement, but little is known about its origins. The Structural Engineers Association of Illinois is sponsoring a breakfast talk about pre-Columbian building techniques by Mexican professor Raymundo Rivera at the Midland Hotel, 172 W. Adams; admission is $15. Registration begins at 7:30; breakfast is at 8; and the slide lecture is at 8:30. Call 372-4198 for reservations.
What to get for the person who has everything? Here are two truly unusual places for gifts. First up is the Chicagoland Discussion Group's annual Holiday Bizarre Bazaar, an S & M and fetish equipment fair with vendors like "master whip-maker" Joe Wheeler,"Kinky Santa," and an outfit called Dungeon-in-One. It's at 7:30 tonight at the Monte Vista banquet hall, 5145 N. Milwaukee. Admission is $5; call 281-1097 for info. Next up is an opening for a show of Mike Diana's cartoons. Diana is the publisher of the Florida-based zine Boiled Angel, which features his drawings of pedophilia, bestiality, cannibalism, child rape by foster fathers and clerics, and other cheery topics. Diana was recently convicted on three obscenity counts, but his first art exhibition opens tonight with a free reception at 8 at Goat, a poster and comics store at 3728 N. Clark. Call 348-6660 for details.
After a crash near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, rumors spread that the craft involved was a UFO. Some claim that a public information officer on a nearby Air Force base actually sent out a press release confirming the rumors--only to retract it later and say that the craft was merely a downed weather balloon. Intrepid reporter Donald R. Schmitt, director of special investigations at the Center for UFO Studies, will present a slide lecture called The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell at 7:30 tonight in room 250 of the UIC Science and Engineering Building at 845 W. Taylor. Tickets cost $8, $5 for students and seniors. Call 409-1781 for more.
The Community Media Workshop--which teaches nonprofit groups how to use the media to get their stories told--takes a look at the issues that got covered this year and the ones that didn't at today's brown-bag lunch discussion, What's News in 1994? Workshop president Thom Clark will moderate a panel with WGN Radio's assistant news director Wes Bleed, Tribune editorial writer R. Bruce Dold, and Chicago Defender city hall reporter Chinta Strausberg. It takes place from noon to 1:30 in room 806 of Columbia College's Hokin Center, 623 S. Wabash. It's free; you can buy lunch there, or bring your own. Call 663-1600, ext. 498.