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Friday 4/12 - Thursday 4/18

APRIL

12 FRIDAY In today's zero-tolerance political climate, one gets the feeling the prodigal son would be shot dead if he tried to come home. Organizers of the conference Doing Justice to Mercy: Contemporary Problems and Prospects in Criminal Justice, held today and tomorrow at the University of Chicago's divinity school, estimate that over 14 million American citizens will spend the majority of their lives in prison. Panelists will examine dilemmas such as how to balance the suffering of crime victims against the punishment offenders endure. The free conference runs today from 9 to 4:30 and tomorrow, April 13, from 9 to 3 at Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th on the U. of C. campus; call 773-702-3037 for more information.

13 SATURDAY Often accompanied by beer, Factory Chicago's comedy is now half-baked! For its new show, Lab Rats, the troupe will put up a different slate of chancy experimental shorts every Saturday night in April; the meatier and better-received pieces may eventually become full-length Factory plays. "You will pay seven dollars," says company member Noah Simon. "You will be entertained." Sketch writers include Ryan Oliver and Jennifer Pompa; onstage are Allison Cain, Jennifer Grace, and Chas Vrba, among others. It's at 10:30 at Angel Island, 731 W. Sheridan, and tickets are $7; for reservations call 312-409-3247.

West Side Mentally Retarded Children's Aid/Austin Special promises "good, clean, used items for less" at its annual rummage sale today. Proceeds benefit the developmentally disabled; it's from 9 to 4 at the Austin Special Sheltered Work Center, 5414 W. Diversey; call 773-282-9992.

14 SUNDAY If they're at all like science fiction conventioneers the horror fiction fans and would-be authors attending this weekend's World Horror 2002 convention, which begins on Thursday and is headquartered at the Radisson O'Hare, will spend this afternoon strewn helplessly around the brunch buffet, nursing three-night hangovers. Programming begins at noon on Thursday with seminars on writing and career development, and the partying kicks off at 6 with a mixer at B.L.U.E.S. (2519 N. Halsted, 773-528-1012). Friday evening the convention's toastmaster, cartoonist and author Gahan Wilson, will interview guest of honor Neil Gaiman, of Sandman fame. Saturday Gaiman interviews another honored pen, Gene Wolfe, and there's a vampire masquerade ball at 10, followed by the beloved annual "gross-out" storytelling contest at 11:30. Tonight's Dead Dog Party, scheduled for 9 PM, should help the living dead wean themselves off the ethanol and trudge back to the working week. Admission for the whole weekend is $130 at the door; daily passes are $35, and rooms at the hotel (if there are any left) are $95 per night. The Radisson O'Hare is at 6810 N. Mannheim in Rosemont, 847-297-1234; organizers and information are on-line at www.whc2002.org.

15 MONDAY Albert Lamorisse's classic 1956 film The Red Balloon shows a boy accepting the companionship of a friendly balloon with a passive hospitality that, extended toward a human stranger, should have gotten him a monthlong grounding. The film ends, illogically, with the child intact; in 1998 Don Hertzfeld amended this oversight with a four-minute animated parody, Billy's Balloon, in which the balloon repeatedly attempts to murder the boy. The cartoon won the Slamdance Film Festival's best short film award in 1999; both flicks will be shown tonight at 8 at Doc Films in the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th. The showing is part of the Springtime in Paris series; this program is padded out with An American in Paris, Vincente Minnelli's 1951 musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. Admission is $4; call 773-702-8575.

Nobody wants to live next door to the crack dealer--not even for convenience's sake. Nor, though, do city dwellers want to get priced (or bulldozed) out of their homes, however decrepit. As part of the annual "Chicago Matters" series, which this year focuses on housing, WBEZ will air segments on the effects--good, bad, and weird--of real estate speculation and urban renewal. This week's programs concentrate on the experiences of residents of the public housing complexes the city's currently flattening; anecdotes and analysis will be heard at 7:50 AM and 5:50 PM today through Thursday at 91.5 FM. A pretaped town hall meeting, Is It Gentrification or Renewal?, airs tonight at 7.

16 TUESDAY If the thought of listening to a writer to whom other writers refer as a writer's writer doesn't make you drowsy, get your insomniac self down to award-winning nature scribe Barry Lopez's lecture and book signing today at DePaul University. Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men, will read from Light Action in the Caribbean, his most recent book of short stories, tonight at 7 in room 120 of DePaul's student center, 2250 N. Sheffield. It's free; call 773-325-7447 for information.

17 WEDNESDAY Tonight, as on the third Wednesday of every month, the self-proclaimed "beer geeks" of the Chicago Beer Society will relax their tasting standards and enjoy gulps, not sips, of brew during social night at the Map Room, 1949 N. Hoyne (773-252-7636). Not that CBS members tend to drink like sommeliers anyway: for every tasting or home brewing seminar listed on the group's Web site (www.chibeer.org), there's also a bar crawl, picnic, or cruise. It starts at 6 and beers are 50 cents cheaper if you have a CBS membership card; for information on joining their ranks, visit the site, E-mail membership@chibeer.org, or write to PO Box 1057, La Grange Park, 60526.

For the foodies: tonight at 6, Chef Francois, of Geneva's Chez Francois, will give a demonstration of southern French cooking at the downtown Alliance Francaise. Treats include canapes with goat cheese, anchovies, and ratatouille; baked monkfish, Catalan style; and gateaux aux noix et miel (honey and walnut caramel pastries covered with chocolate ganache). It's $50, which includes wine. The AF is at 810 N. Dearborn; reservations are recommended. Call 312-337-1070.

18 THURSDAY The Fifth District congressional primary gave Chicago a colorful glimpse at two Clinton advisers--glamorous Rahm Emanuel and working-class hero Pete Dagher--who gave the president their all when they were young guns. But how do the guts of a commander in chief's grease machine look to a career cog with three decades in the public relations industry? Rick Jasculca, who runs the PR firm he cofounded in 1981, was lead advance for international summits and peace talks during the Clinton administration. He'll give a talk tonight at 7 as part of the Presidency in Perspective series, put on the road by the Smithsonian Institution and hosted here by the Chicago Historical Society, where it began its run March 21. The next (and final) speaker, playwright Anna Deavere Smith, will appear Tuesday, May 7. Tickets to each lecture are $20. The CHS is at 1601 N. Clark; call 312-642-4600 for reservations.

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