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JANUARY

30 FRIDAY

John Adams's opera The Death of Klinghoffer, about the murder of a Jewish passenger during the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, has been attacked over the years for being both pro-Zionist and overly sympathetic to the Palestinian hijackers. Penny Woolcock's film version, which has been praised and pilloried for its realistic treatment of the harrowing material, has its Chicago premiere tonight at 6 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, where it runs through Thursday, February 5. The film center is at 164 N. State in Chicago; tickets are $8. Call 312-846-2800 or see the movie listings for more information.

"Much of the most exciting music with vocals at some point or another features someone screaming their head off," says artist Marc Fisher, curator of tonight's free program Screaming in Music. It's the second event in "Selections," a series of listening parties at Mess Hall, a collectively run art space in Rogers Park. "Two hours of this could sound monotonous," he adds, "but my hope is that people will appreciate the world of difference--or enjoyable similarities--between James Brown and the Boredoms, or Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the Crucifucks." Beverages will be provided, and organizers promise that the volume will not be excessive--though earplugs will be available. It starts at 8 PM at 6932 N. Glenwood in Chicago; call 773-667-2297 for more information.

31 SATURDAY

Hot on the heels of the fourth World Social Forum, the annual international meeting of antiglobalization activists that concluded January 21 in Bombay, the first Chicago Social Forum will bring together activists from around the city for a day of more than 40 discussions and workshops. Subjects range from affordable housing to the war in Iraq, and scheduled speakers include Carl Davidson (cofounder of Chicagoans Against War and Injustice), Reverend Calvin Morris (executive director of the Community Renewal Society), and University of Chicago sociologist Saskia Sassen. It's today from 9 AM to 6 PM at Jones College Prep, 606 S. State in Chicago. Admission is $10, $5 for seniors, students, and the unemployed; the first 250 registrants also get a free lunch. To preregister or for more information call the American Friends Service Committee at 312-427-2533 or see chicagosocialforum.org.

The Culture Club of the Chicago Cultural Center is billing Spy Ball 2004 as an evening of "drinking, dancing, and espionage," though one suspects that the only actual reconnaissance going on will be the search for a cab at the end of the evening. Diversions include DJ Just Joel and local band Analog Radio, a video screen showing clips from spy movies, stilt walking by the Robot Liberation Front, and models wearing 007-inspired outfits from boutiques like Red Head and Dragonfly. Among the raffle prizes is a trip to London--Aston Martin not included. It all starts at 8 in the GAR Rotunda at the cultural center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago. Tickets are $50 in advance, $70 at the door, if available (the event sold out last year), and include free admission to an afterparty at Crobar, 1543 N. Kingsbury in Chicago, for the first 100 people to head over. They're available at the Shop at the Chicago Cultural Center or at www.spyball.org; proceeds from the evening support the center's free programming. Call 312-744-6630 for more information.

FEBRUARY

1 SUNDAY

If the Super Bowl's not enough to bet on, there'll be blackjack, craps, roulette, and more at the Saint Benedict Parish's Super Bowl XXXVIII party today. For those more interested in dependable pleasures, there'll also be a buffet provided by Leona's, unlimited beer, wine, and soda, and, of course, the game--on a 12-by-20-foot screen. It starts today at 3 PM in the gym at Saint Ben's High School, 3941 N. Bell in Chicago. Tickets are $25 in advance ($35 at the door) and benefit the high school's athletic association. Call 312-863-3155.

2 MONDAY

The Aztecs took their chocolate with no sugar added. Most would agree that we've since considerably improved upon their recipe. Tonight Gail Robinson of Marly Chocolates--an Evanston shop named for the Parisian palace where Marie-Therese of Spain introduced Louis XIV to the cocoa bean--will talk about the history of the delicious substance in her free lecture, Chocolate! A Consuming Passion. And yes, she'll bring samples. It's tonight at 7 PM at the Highland Park Public Library, 494 Laurel in Highland Park; call 847-432-0216.

In these sober times, the image of the hard-drinkin' writer is often more romantic than realistic--there's little time for the occasional cosmopolitan, let alone a hangover. Still, the idea that firewater lures the muse persists, providing fodder for still more art in the Neo-Futurists' chamber piece Drinking & Writing. "Writer-performers Sean Benjamin, Steven Mosqueda, and Diana Slickman cannily balance the ineluctable glamour of art-inflected alcoholism with relentlessly harrowing portraits of self-destructive genius," wrote Reader critic Brian Nemtusak when the show--performed in the friendly environs of an actual bar--premiered in 2002. "Like Charles Bukowski at his best, it's mostly, inexplicably, leavened with laughter and light." Remounted in Evanston after runs in Chicago and Arlington Heights, it starts at 7:30 tonight and every Monday at Nevin's, 1450 Sherman. Admission is $12, $8 for students; call 847-869-0450 or see the theater listings for more information.

3 TUESDAY

In the 1950s writers John Cheever and Allen Ginsberg both hinted at the discontent looming behind the facade of smiling nuclear families in gleaming kitchens--Cheever focusing on the sadness and disappointment of the upper middle class, Ginsberg moving from self-hatred to the hypocrisy of society. Tonight Great Books Foundation director Daniel Born leads a discussion called Writing the Tumultuous Fifties: Cheever and Ginsberg, which will focus on Cheever's story "The Country Husband" and Ginsberg's poem "America" (copies will be sent to participants beforehand). It starts at 6 with a tour through the Terra Museum of American Art's current exhibit of New York Times photos from the era. The Terra's at 666 N. Michigan in Chicago; admission is $15, $10 for students, and reservations are required. Call 312-664-3939.

4 WEDNESDAY

This month Chicago Shakespeare Theater teams up with Moliere master Brian Bedford to stage its first full production away from the cozy confines of its Navy Pier home. The Moliere Comedies--a double bill of the French satirist's The School for Husbands and The Imaginary Cuckold directed by and starring Bedford--opens tonight at 7:30 at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe in Chicago, where it runs through February 22. Tickets range from $20 to $65; call 312-902-1400 or see the theater listings for more information.

5 THURSDAY

Andy Kaufman ruthlessly toyed with audience expectations in the 70s, and more recently reality shows have made public humiliation a staple of popular culture. Still, prepare to squirm tonight at the hapless ventriloquists, dancers, and comedians in Forced Entertainment's First Night, in which viewers' reactions to performances gone awry are all part of the show. The British experimental theater company calls it "part TV variety show and part vaudeville." It runs tonight, Friday, and Sunday, February 6 and 8, at 7:30 PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago in Chicago. Tickets are $22; call 312-280-2660 or see www.mcachicago.org. At 9 on Saturday, February 7, also at the MCA, the group will present And on the Thousandth Night, a six-hour improvisation in which the company members try to outdo each other in telling tall tales. Audience members can come and go as they please and refreshments will be available until 2 AM. Tickets are $18. On Tuesday, February 3, at 6, the Institute of Failure, a collaboration between Forced Entertainment and local experimentalists Goat Island, will present a piece called Failures of Speech in the School of the Art Institute's auditorium, 280 S. Columbus in Chicago. Tickets to that are $15 ($10 if you have a ticket to First Night) and $3 for students, and are available through the MCA box office.

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