The sixth annual Midwest Radical Scholars & Activists Conference this weekend at Loyola--The Rise of the Right: What Does It Mean? What Can We Do About It?-- will feature seminars, talks, and panels on topics like "Hegel, Marx, and the Current Crisis," "The Militia Movement: Myth, Reality, and What to Do About It," and "Psychic Structures and the Right: Homophobia, Sexism, and the Male Identity Crisis." The conference runs from 1 to 10 PM today, 11 to 5 tomorrow, and 9:30 to 3 on Sunday. It's at Loyola's Centennial Forum Student Union, 6525 N. Sheridan. Registration is $25, $15 for students. Call 384-8827 for details.
The title of the photography exhibition German Physiognomy and Palmistry seems a bit at odds with the work's purported subject, "incidents in Germany involving violence by youth groups against foreigners." Perhaps the creators of the installation, German artists Ludwig Rauch and Johannes Kubiak, will explain the connection between subject and title at an opening reception tonight from 6 to 9 at the Beacon Street Gallery, 4520 N. Beacon. It's free. The exhibit's up through January 15; the gallery's open from 11 to 4 Wednesdays through Saturdays. Call 708-232-2728.
WFMT's Ray Nordstrand, a friend and mentor to many of Chicago's folk performers, gets honored at a dinner tonight at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bonnie Koloc and Corky Siegel will perform; Rich Warren (Nordstrand's successor as host of the Midnight Special on WFMT) and Old Town School executive director Jim Hirsch emcee. Tickets are $75. It starts at 8 at the school, 909 W. Armitage. Call 525-7793.
Randolph Street Gallery's Sounds Good to Me series of avant-garde sound performances concludes this weekend with a pair of workshops by Chicago artist, musician, and sculptor Bill Close. (For his current exhibit, "Cyclical Resonance Installation," he's turned the gallery's performance space into a string instrument.) At this weekend's workshops he'll help participants build their own "birimbow," a takeoff on the Brazilian stringed instrument called the berimbau. It's from noon to 3 today and tomorrow at the gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee. It's $20, $10 for students and members. Call 666-7737 for reservations.
The annual Mad Hatter's Ball celebrates the achievements of Chicago's athletic and adventurous Lookingglass Theatre Company. Besides staged scenes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, this year's edition includes a game of "Simon Says" led by the company's current favorite son, David Schwimmer, from the TV show Friends. The $75 ticket gets you a catered dinner, open bar, and a croquet game; there are also deluxe tix at $150, and lesser ones at $25. It starts at 7 at the Bismarck Hotel, 171 W. Randolph. Call 563-9622 for reservations.
The local chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War holds a Halloween party tonight at 8 at 3935 N. Marshfield. The prize for best costume is a North Vietnamese army helmet with insignia. Admission is $7 to $10. Call 327-5756 for more.
The Prairie Fire Organizing Committee is attempting to drum up support for 15 activists for Puerto Rican independence who are in prison for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government. At a workshop from 1 to 4 this afternoon members of the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War will talk about the independence movement in general, the status of the prisoners, and efforts to free them at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, 1671 N. Claremont. It's $3, $10 if you want a copy of a book about the prisoners, Can't Jail the Spirit. Call 278-6706 to register.
South African union leader Ben Peterson, president of the South African Turning Wheel Worker's Union and a longtime antiapartheid campaigner, speaks at 4 this afternoon in room 605 of the Chicago Circle Center, 750 S. Halsted. It's free. Call 708-383-4707.
Mario Cuomo, the eloquent liberal whom New York voters tossed out of the governorship last year, visits Chicago today to talk about his new book Reason to Believe. The folks at Barbara's say that the book "places the current conservative agenda in historical perspective and in so doing brings its failures, absurdities, and cruel streak to light." He appears this afternoon at 12:30 at the Old Town Barbara's Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells. It's free. Call 642-5044 for details.
TriQuarterly's tribute to Joyce Carol Oates culminates this afternoon when the poet, playwright, essayist, novelist, professor, and critic gives a free poetry reading. It's at 4 at Northwestern's Annie May Swift Auditorium, 1905 Sheridan in Evanston. Call 708-491-7614 for more. Later today Oates journeys down to Hyde Park to read from and sign her latest novel, Zombie. That free reading starts at 7:30 at Breasted Hall, 1155 E. 58th. Call 57th Street Books (684-1300) or the Seminary Co-op Bookstore (752-4381) for more info.
The new Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier promises a safe Halloween for kids with the Greatest Pumpkin Party, which features trick-or-treating, mask making, ghost stories, and two buffet suppers (one for the kids and one for adults). It's from 5:30 to 8 at the museum, 700 E. Grand. Admission is $75 per family; proceeds benefit AIDS PAC. They're suggesting reservations at 853-3131.
Rebar is a chamber music ensemble that concentrates on avant-garde improvisation in the manner of Edgard Varese and John Cage. According to the folks at the Near Northwest Arts Council, Rebar "concentrates on ambient conditions, timbral rather than pitched intervals, and on musical (and, possibly, psychological) noise functioning spatially rather than as a narrative exposition of melodic and harmonic themes." Led by CSO oboist Robbie Hunsinger, the group includes Pat Lawrence on double bass and Carrie Biolo-Thompson and Tim Mulvenna on percussion. They play at 8 tonight at the Near Northwest Arts Council, 1579 N. Milwaukee. Tix are $5. Call 278-7677 for details.
Chicago's annual Celebrity Chair Auction raises money for Christopher House and CYCLE, two social service agencies for disadvantaged kids. Chairs to be auctioned off have been autographed by celebrities as diverse as Colin Powell, Boy George, Tom Hanks, and Muhammad Ali. Sixty smackers gets you admission to the auction and food from a consortium called the Women Chefs of Chicago. It starts at 6 tonight in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton, 160 E. Pearson. Call 527-5948 for details.
Robert Richfield says he got interested in hypnotherapy five years ago after one hypnosis session helped him kick a bad nicotine habit. Now he's a "certified hypnotherapist" (whatever that means), who'll be demonstrating the "power of the subconscious" at a free workshop on weight loss through hypnosis at 6:30 tonight at the Mayfair branch library, 4200 W. Lawrence. Call 744-1254 for details.
Science writer Virginia Morell limns the life and work of the Leakey family, "the first family of anthropology," in her new book Ancestral Passions. The Leakey dynasty began with Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey (1903-1972), who discovered fossils suggesting that our human ancestors originated in Africa rather than Asia. Morell talks about him, his wife, Mary Leakey, and their son Richard tonight at 7 at the Field Museum, Roosevelt Road and Lake Shore Drive. It's $7, $5 for museum members. Call 322-8854 for details.
To promote his memoir Last Night on Earth, choreographer Bill T. Jones makes an in-store appearance tonight at 7:30 at Unabridged Bookstore, 3251 N. Broadway. It's free. Call the store at 883-9119 for more info.