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Friday 5/7 - Thursday 5/13

MAY

7 FRIDAY The Stray Show, Thomas Blackman Associates' annual expo of art from alternative galleries and collectives, kicked off last night and runs through Sunday, May 9, at 1418 N. Kingsbury. Featuring work from a wide range of emerging artists--and staged to coincide with the Art Chicago takeover of Navy Pier--this year the show also includes film and video programming by the Movieside Film Festival. It's open today and tomorrow from 2 to 10 PM and Sunday from 2 to 7. Tickets are $10; call 312-587-3300 or see www.stray-show.com.

During the civil rights struggle of the 60s, Muhammad Ali was an "important bridge between black nationalist and integrationist elements," says Michael Ezra, a professor at Sonoma State University who's written extensively about boxing. Ezra says Ali's creation of a Nation of Islam-run corporation to help produce his fights, his resistance to the draft and opposition to the war in Vietnam, and his attempts to get African-Americans to identify with nonwhites in other parts of the world all mirrored techniques of the mainstream civil rights movement. Ezra will expand on this argument in today's free talk, Muhammad Ali: Race Leader. It's at 3:30 at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton; call 773-442-5631.

Last year 26-year-old Jason West won the mayoral election in New Paltz, New York, and became the first Green Party mayor in that state. Early this year he made the news again as one of only three mayors across the country to grant marriage licenses to gay couples; he's now facing several misdemeanor charges for performing same-sex marriages. Tonight West comes to town for the rally The Battle for Equal Marriage, where he'll speak alongside former National Organization of Women president Patricia Ireland, veteran lesbian activist Robin Tyler, and the Illinois Green Party's candidate in the recent senatorial election, Scott Summers. It's tonight at 7 at the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence, and it's free; call 773-671-7770. A party to benefit West's legal defense fund follows at 10 at Atmosphere, 5355 N. Clark. There's a suggested donation of $10, and you must be 21 or over.

The artists featured in Gently With a Chainsaw are influenced equally by art history and the angst and irony of pop culture, says curator and School of the Art Institute student Lindsey Delahanty. The title of the show comes from the 1989 movie Heathers, minus a crucial vulgarity. Participating artists include Craig Doty, whose photo series "Crying Boys" shows shaggy-haired hipsters in tears, and Meg McCarville, whose installation of more than 300 photos documents her self-mutilating performance work. The show opens tonight with a free reception at 8 at Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton, and runs through May 17; call 773-412-7104.

8 SATURDAY Today, would-be organic gardeners can hit the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse Plant Sale, where thousands of vegetable, herb, and houseplant seedlings will be available. The heirloom tomatoes--which this year include the 1923 variety Abraham Lincoln, the fuzzy Garden Peach, and the popular Brandywine--go fast, so get there early if that's what you're after. If you're curious how to ensure that your plants bear fruit or flowers, you can enroll in a $40, four-week organic gardening workshop that starts May 13. The sale runs today and tomorrow from 10 AM to noon at 3501 N. Kilbourn. Admission is free; call 773-685-3351 or 773-685-3359 for info or to register for the class.

At today's free Art Chicago panel discussion, Chicago Critics on Chicago Art, six local critics will zero in on area artists they think deserve special attention, including abstract painter Anna Kunz, sculptor Steve Reber, and painter, illustrator, and typographer Joe Baldwin. Organized by Reader contributor Fred Camper, it runs today from 4 to 6 PM in room 203 at the east end of Navy Pier's Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand; the artists will be present as well. Call 312-587-3300.

9 SUNDAY The 2003 movie Playing for Change looks at buskers in LA, New Orleans, and New York who thrive on the freedom of playing whenever and wherever they please. It gets its Chicago premiere today at 5 PM at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. There's another show tomorrow at 8:15; local electronic improvisers MF Chicago will perform outside the theater beforehand. Codirector Jonathan Walls will answer questions after each screening. Tickets are $9; call 312-846-2800 for more.

10 MONDAY Kwame Amoaku's new documentary, F.E.D.S., draws on the stories found in the controversial hip-hop magazine of the same name--an acronym for "Finally Every Dimension of the Streets." Featuring segments on underground pit bull fighting, the evolution of gang turf in Compton, and the attempted murder of F.E.D.S. founder Antoine Clark, the film's scheduled to screen tonight at the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th and Lake Shore Drive, as part of the Russell Simmons Presents Def Filmmakers Screening Series. The evening starts at 6:30 with an open-bar reception; the movie's at 8. Tickets are $20; you must be 21 or over. See www.screeningseries.com. Call 201-222-1248 to confirm.

11 TUESDAY Spring brings warm breezes, colorful blooms, and a collective spike in horniness. The folks at Good Vibrations, San Francisco's legendary female-friendly sex toy shop, have dubbed May "National Masturbation Month," and to celebrate, their Chicago sisters at Early to Bed are holding a workshop titled Solo Flight: Masturbation Tips for Women. No demos, but they'll talk about the benefits of self-love and explain some techniques. It starts tonight at 7:30 at the store, 5232 N. Sheridan, costs $10, and is open to women only. Registration is requested; call 773-271-1219 or e-mail info@early2bed.com.

Be nice to your coworkers and underlings or they may end up exposing your bad manners in a book: The Second Assistant, a new "gossip lit" title a la The Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries, is a collaboration between former Hollywood development exec Mimi Hare and novelist Clare Naylor; they tell the tale of a onetime congressional intern turned talent-agency intern who finds herself sorting thumbtacks and counting the ice cubes in her boss's soda. Hare and Naylor appear today at noon at Barbara's Bookstore inside Marshall Field's, 111 N. State. It's free; call 312-781-3033.

Ann Arbor writer and filmmaker Davy Rothbart has put out only three issues of Found magazine, a compendium of lost homework, love letters, shopping lists, and other ephemera of daily life, but the gimmick has struck a chord: he's been profiled in the New Yorker, contributed to This American Life, been a guest on The Late Show With David Letterman, and landed a book deal. "Found notes and letters open up the entire range of human experience; they offer a shortcut directly into people's minds and hearts," he writes in the introduction to Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items From Around the World, out this month from Simon & Schuster. "It's startling and it's magical. Suddenly, we feel connected to this person we've never met before and probably never will, and in turn, to all people." Currently on tour promoting the book, he'll stop by the Empty Bottle tonight to share some of his finds. Members of the audience are encouraged to bring their own found photos and notes. It starts tonight at 9 at 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600, and there's a $5 cover; you must be 21 or over. See www.foundmagazine.com for more.

12 WEDNESDAY The analysis of DNA evidence has become a powerful tool in both solving crimes and in helping to exonerate the wrongly convicted. Today and tomorrow Rob Warden, executive director of the Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions (who with his colleague David Protess helped free the men known as the Ford Heights Four) will discuss the ramifications advances in DNA technology have for the judicial system in two free talks, both titled DNA and Justice. Tonight's discussion is at 6 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Pritzker Auditorium, 251 E. Huron; it'll be followed by a reception. Tomorrow Protess will speak at 6:30 (following a 6 PM reception) at NU's Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr. in Evanston. Call 312-695-1222.

13 THURSDAY Tonight at 5:30 DePaul University women's studies professor Laila Farah will use poetry and personal experience to try and shed some light on what it's like to be Arab-American after 9/11. Her new show, Living in the Hyphen-Nation, explores stereotypes of Muslim women and the institutional racism behind the use of profiling and secret evidence. Farah, who has toured the country with the show, performs at the new West Englewood branch of the Chicago Public Library, 1745 W. 63rd, under the auspices of the Public Square. Admission is free; call 312-993-0682.

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