Clarence Darrow always knew the value of words, but he would never have guessed his words would be worth a million dollars today. More than 800 of Darrow's letters and documents (valued at a cool $1.5 mil) will be offered this weekend at the Chicago International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe. The event expects more than 70 dealers from around the world selling rare books, manuscripts, maps, and prints. Ten bucks will get you in to the opening tonight and admission through the weekend; otherwise, it's $5 tomorrow and Sunday. Hours are 5 to 9 tonight, noon to 7 Saturday, and noon to 5 Sunday. Call 708-835-4990.
The self-described "socialist-feminist" organization known as Solidarity is offering a forum tonight on the surprises the Republican-controlled Congress has in store for us. The Contract on America: What It Means, and How to Fight It features Solidarity national committee member Stephanie Luce; it's at 7:30 tonight at the Resurrection Lutheran Church, 3306 N. Seminary. Admission is $4, $2 for students and the unemployed. Call 409-5150.
Everyone knows Martin Mull the comedic actor and sitcom star. To the cognoscenti, he's always been Martin Mull the maker of pretty amusing comedy albums. But only real Mullheads know that he's also a painter and writer. This version of the man will be on display tonight at Borders bookstore when he reads from his latest tome, Martin Mull: Paintings, Drawings, and Words, which includes samples of his artwork and musings on his creative process. It's at 7:30 tonight at the store, 830 N. Michigan; admission is free. Call 573-0564.
Organizers of three big garage sales are hoping for good weather today. First up, there's the 15th annual Ravenswood Manor Community Garage Sale from 10 to 4; more than 50 families are participating in the sale, which takes place between Montrose and Lawrence from Sacramento east to the Chicago River. Maps will be available at each garage on the route; call 478-2624 for more. Farther south, there's Old Town's James-Kilmer Garage Sale, courtesy of the residents of 1555 and 1560 Sandburg Terrace, around Clark and Germania, from 11 to 5; call 654-1560. Finally, there's the annual Great Parker Garage Sale, at which folks from the tony Francis Parker School in Lincoln Park contribute their castoffs to raise money for the school's scholarship fund. It takes place from 9 to 4 today and 1 to 4 tomorrow at the school, 330 W. Webster; call 549-0172.
Betcha didn't know that today was the 2,618th birthday of the Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly known as Buddha. The Buddhist Council of the Midwest is holding the 11th International Visakha Festival to celebrate. Things get under way at 3:30 with an opening ceremony featuring a procession of reps from nearly every Southeast Asian country and a talk from Thudten Norbu, brother to the Dalai Lama. Then there's "A Taste of Asia," a smorgasbord of food from the Pacific Rim. At 5:30 there'll be workshops on meditation, and at 7 music and dance from Asia. It's at Roosevelt High School, 3436 W. Wilson; admission is free. Call 327-1695.
Pros Arts Studio, a community arts organization in Pilsen, hosts its annual benefit auction and Grito Competition, in which contestants cry "for the love they left behind." Points are awarded for "passion, length, and pitch," so sincerity probably won't cut it if you don't have the pipes. Music will be provided by the Tex-Mex band Gloria y Los Naranjos. It's held tonight from 8 to 1 at El Centro de la Causa Community Center, 731 W. 17th; admission is $7. Call 226-2990.
The Chicago Cultural Center's upcoming celebration of weddings--call it Nuptualooza--takes a literary turn today with a staged reading of George Bernard Shaw's Getting Married, the playwright's subversive dissection of the sacred rite. The show is a presentation of Shaw Chicago, a group of Shavian disciples in the midst of its second full season of readings from Shaw's plays. The show runs 3 PM Sundays and 7 PM Mondays through June 12 (no performances May 28 and 29) at 78 E. Washington. It's free, but you have to call 744-7648 for reservations.
Fans of Alexander Calder's monumental Universe sculpture in the lobby of the Sears Tower will want to check out Calder's model for the 1974 work, now on exhibit on the Delaware side of the John Hancock Building, 875 N. Michigan. The mobile, all in primary colors, features revolving abstract pieces symbolizing the turning of the heavens. For more info, call the Richard Gray Gallery at 642-8877.
A new performance space in Piper's Alley debuts tonight with the Song of Singapore. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1991, takes place in a nightclub just before the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1941. The show is billed as an "environmental piece," which is the 90s name for dinner theater: the $45 to $55 tickets include a three-course Chinese dinner. It opens tonight at 6 and continues in an open run. See the Section Two theater listings for more information, or call 988-7664 for reservations.
Charles Rosen--whose 1972 opus The Classical Style made him a leading commentator on music and won him the National Book Award to boot--has just published The Romantic Generation, a guide to works by composers like Chopin and Mendelsohn. He'll be talking about his book, and illustrating his points on piano, at 7:30 PM in the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall, 1135 E. 57th; it's free. Call 752-4381 for details.
Artist Sharon Hyson has been working with prisoners in the Cook County Jail. She'll talk about Artmaking as a Tool for Personal Exploration and Healing today at 5:30 in the Illinois Art Gallery, on the second floor of the James R. Thompson Building (formerly the State of Illinois Building), 100 W. Randolph. It's free. Call 814-5322.
Three interesting literary events are being held tonight. First, Russell Banks--perhaps best known for his 1985 novel Continental Drift, though he's also a respected poet and short story writer--hits town for a 6 PM gig for the Poetry Center in Fullerton Auditorium of the Art Institute, Adams and Michigan; admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors. Call 368-0905. (Banks also appears tomorrow night at 7:30 at Barbara's Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway; call 477-0411 for details.) Farther north, the Guild Complex presents UpState/DownState, a reading featuring writers from Eyeball magazine, including editor Jabari Asim, publisher Ira B. Jones, and associate editor Andrea M. Wren. They'll be joined by poet Marvin Tate, author of Schoolyard of Broken Dreams. It's at 7:30 at the HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; admission is $5, $2 if you're performing in the accompanying open mike. Call 278-2210 for more. Finally, yet farther north, Women & Children First Bookstore is hosting author Caroline Bird, who says, "There's no end to what a woman can do when she's finally free to do what she pleases." She's talking about female retirees, the subject of her new book, Lives of Our Own: Secrets of Salty Old Women. An octogenarian herself, Bird will talk about her book at 7:30 at the bookstore, 5233 N. Clark. Call 769-9299.
"Media archaeologist" Rick Prelinger has devoted more than ten years to collecting "ephemeral" films--advertising, industrial, and educational movies that exist in a parallel universe to the entertainments conjured up when most people think of cinema. The Video Data Bank this weekend is screening four nights' worth of his findings, all under the title Our Secret Century: Revelations From the Prelinger Archives. Organizers say the films "demonstrate how corporations, institutions, and government culture labored to create and sustain a single national culture--playing on deeply held, complex feelings like individualism, fear, and security." The first program, "The Behavior Offensive," shows today at noon; the second, "The Rainbow Is Yours," tonight at 7. The third, "Films of Menace and Jeopardy," is tomorrow at 7, and the last, "Capitalist Realism," shows at 5:30 Saturday. It's all free, in the School of the Art Institute's Flaxman Screening Room, 112 S. Michigan. Call 345-3550 for more.