27 FRIDAY "I've followed the development of Battery Park City since it was a landfill site in the Hudson River created by the excavation of the World Trade Center," says Art Institute lecturer Jane Clarke. The newly created land in lower Manhattan came under the jurisdiction of the state of New York, which required that it be of use to the public--hence the parks and gardens surrounding the site's apartment towers--and that the architects work with artists on site-specific artworks. The last addition was Fritz Koenig's 1971 bronze sculpture, The Sphere, which was salvaged from the rubble of the World Trade Center and now serves as a memorial to the victims of 9/11 at Battery Park's Eisenhower Mall. Clarke will give a slide lecture called Battery Park City: From "Art at the Beach" to Ground Zero today at noon in the Art Institute's Morton Auditorium. It's free with admission to the museum ($10 suggested donation for adults, $6 for children, students, and seniors), which is open today from 10:30 to 4:30 at Michigan and Adams in Chicago. Call 312-443-3600.
Central Electric Railfans Association president Jeff Wien recently transferred to video some eight-millimeter footage he and other rail enthusiasts shot in the 40s and 50s of the local electric (or "traction"-driven) trains. He'll screen classic Chicagoland traction videos--including footage of the el, streetcars, and the North Shore Line, an electric railroad that once operated between Chicago and Milwaukee--tonight at 7:30 at the CERA meeting in the second-floor auditorium at 205 W. Wacker in Chicago. Admission is $5; call 312-346-7365.
28 SATURDAY How much of a toll has West Nile virus taken on the local bird population? Today's 41st annual Chicago North Shore Bird Count, part of the annual Audubon Christmas Count, will help determine the damage. Among the birds that might be spotted are red-breasted nuthatches (scarce this year), American robins (coming from Canada), and--along the lakeshore--the ducks of winter: bufflehead and common goldeneye. The count will cover Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Glencoe, Highland Park, and Wheeling. Call 708-867-6660 to sign up for a team; some experience is helpful. If you'd rather monitor your bird feeder from your kitchen, or are just starting out as a bird watcher, call 847-359-6185. A second count will be taken New Year's Day in the Waukegan area; call 630-725-9416.
The Field Museum has been holding its annual Peaceable Kingdom musical showcase throughout the week after Christmas since 1998, but this year, in perhaps another instance of widespread belt-tightening, it's been cut back to one day. The lineup includes the Polish-American Lira Singers, the Mexican-American string ensemble Cuerdas Clasicas, and the African-American teen gospel choir Imani Ya Watume (whose name means "messengers of faith" in Swahili). It's today from 11 to 2 in the museum's Stanley Field Hall, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and $5 for children. The museum is open from 9 to 5; call 312-922-9410.
The wrinkled, skeletal body of an Iraqi child propped on a white pillow and a hazmat-suited team standing on an overturned tank are among the images included in Children of the Gulf War, a new traveling exhibit of the work of Japanese photojournalist Takashi Morizumi. The photos, in part, are intended to connect the high rate of birth defects and cancer in Iraqi children to the U.S. military's use of depleted uranium in weaponry during the gulf war. The Arlington Heights-based group Friends of the Green Planet is sponsoring the exhibit's three free stops in the burbs. It's on display today from noon to 4 at Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton (847-392-0100) in conjunction with a screening of the video Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium, the Pentagon's Secret Weapon. Tomorrow, December 29, it'll be at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle (847-843-2567), from 1:30 to 4:15. And on Monday, December 30, it's at the Des Plaines Public Library, 1501 Ellinwood (847-593-4401), from 2 to 8. From January 10 through February 9 it'll be installed at the DePaul University library, 2350 N. Kenmore in Chicago (773-325-7506).
29 SUNDAY Austrian-born novelist and screenwriter Peter Handke (who cowrote the script for Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire) got a lot of flak for coming out on the side of the Bosnian Serbs in 1999, giving back his Buchner Prize to protest the NATO bombing and writing a book called Justice for Serbia. He made his directorial debut in 1977 with The Left-Handed Woman, based on his experimental novel of the same name. It was shot by Robby Muller, who told the British Film Institute's Keith Griffiths that Handke was an unusual director. "He gave me a memo...and it was only literature about the next day. There was no camera point of view, nothing, only what happened in the scene the next day. I would start reading and rereading it as a book. Then I discovered that everything he described could only be seen in that room with two different camera points of view." Ultimately, says Muller, the experience was "a big adventure." The film's not available on video but you can catch it today at 12:30 (in German with subtitles) at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton in Chicago. Tickets are $7; call 773-281-4114.
30 MONDAY Comedian Armando Diaz moved to New York some years ago but the long-running ImprovOlympic show whose debut he directed in 1995 still bears his name. Currently titled The Armando Diaz Experience Presents the Mosaic, the two-act show features Second City and ImprovOlympic veterans and kicks off with a sketch inspired by a suggestion from the audience; that in turn informs the scenes that follow. It plays tonight (and every Monday) at 8:30 at ImprovOlympic, 3541 N. Clark in Chicago; tickets are $10 (773-880-0199).
31 TUESDAY The annual New Year's Eve meditation for world peace was started in 1986 by the Institute for World Peace Through Prayer and Meditation as a way to promote understanding by linking religious communities and peaceniks worldwide at noon Greenwich mean time. There'll be a local installment today from 6 to 7 AM at the Theo-sophical Society, 1926 N. Main in Wheaton; it's free, but donations of food or paper goods for the Humani-tarian Service Project are encouraged. For more call 630-668-1571, ext. 301, or see www.theosophical.org.
At tonight's Big Bang Birth of a New Year Party, the turntable talent includes LA-based trance DJ BT, Holland clubhouse trance jock Ferry Corsten, local techno freak Green Velvet, and others. It's from 8 PM to 3 AM at the Odeum Sports and Expo Center, 1033 N. Villa in Villa Park. Tickets are $45 in advance, $50 at the door (630-941-9292 or go to www.groovetickets.com or www.source7.net).
1 WEDNESDAY "Last year it was pleasant and dry. It was cold, but not bad," says Chicago Cycling Club member Julie Sherman, coordinator of the New Year's Day Weather Be Damned Ride. "It's hard to predict what Chicago will be like on January 1, but since this is an El Nino year it should be warm." The 15-mile noncompetitive ride averages a pace of 10 or 12 miles an hour and ends with lunch at Le Peep, 1000 W. Washington, Chicago. Riders should convene today at 10 AM at the Waveland clock tower, between 3700 N. Lake Shore Dr. and the lake. The ride's free but lunch isn't; call 773-227-6776 or see www.chicagocyclingclub.org.
2 THURSDAY A group of folks in Evanston and Chicago formed Neighbors for Peace a few days after September 11, 2001, and have been holding informal weekly meetings ever since. In the last year they've also organized candlelight vigils, formed a Noam Chomsky reading group, and launched an open mike night that happens every Sunday at Mulligan's Cafe, 7644 N. Sheridan in Chicago (773-743-7855). "Our agenda is to stop the war before it starts," says a member. The group meets tonight from 7:30 to 9:30 in the basement of the rectory of Saint Nicholas Catholic Church, 806 Ridge in Evanston. For more information call 847-331-6022 or see www.neighborsforpeace.org.