For a city where a lot of people don't even want to take the bus in cold weather, Chicago has a strong bicycling culture. Today and Saturday the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Conference brings together two-wheel advocates for sessions devoted to bike-friendly street design, project funding, and tips from Europe. Local officials confirmed to speak include 16th Ward alderman Shirley Coleman and transportation commissioner Miguel D'Escoto. The conference runs from 7 to 4 today and 7 to 3 tomorrow at UIC's Chicago Illini Union, 828 S. Wolcott in Chicago. Tonight at 7 the action moves to the Chicago Cultural Center for the Bike Town Bash, where attendees can dance, snack, and bid on bike-themed photos from a related show and competition. It's in the GAR Rotunda at the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago. On Saturday, rain or shine, the conference wraps with a ride through Pilsen, Bridgeport, and Chinatown, followed by happy hour at the Handlebar, at 2311 W. North in Wicker Park. You must reserve a spot by the 19th by calling Alex Wilson at 312-427-3325. Conference admission is $85 per day or $160 for both; tickets to the bash are $30 with tickets to the conference, $60 without. Call 312-427-3325 for more information or register at www.biketraffic.org/conference.html.
Chicago Jazz Ensemble founder William Russo died last year, and at first it was hard to imagine the group without him. But the CJE has carried on, performing this year with an impressive series of guest conductors. It'll close its season this week under the direction of virtuoso trumpeter Jon Faddis (who's "absorbed the [Dizzy] Gillespie tradition better than anyone, alive or dead," according to Reader critic Neil Tesser). The program includes Lalo Schifrin's Gillespiana Suite and the premiere of a new work commissioned for the ensemble, Slide Hampton's Africa Suite. It starts at 8 tonight at Highland Park High School, 433 Vine in Highland Park. There are additional performances at 8 on Saturday, March 20, at Huntley High School Performing Arts Center, 13719 Harmony in Huntley, and at 7:30 on Wednesday, March 24, at the Hinsdale Central High School auditorium, 55th and Grant in Hinsdale. Tickets range from $20 to $34; call 312-344-6245.
In their quest to make it to the top, contestants on the reality show The Apprentice must hawk lemonade, have their failures exposed to millions of viewers, and get fired by Donald Trump as he does that weird thing with his hand. One of them should really take the opportunity to ask the Donald what the hell is going on with his hair. Today prospective CEOs can get a shot at fame and fortune at an open casting call for the second season of the show. Wristbands will be distributed at 9 AM (but you should probably get there much earlier to get in line) and the interviews will start at 10 AM at the NBC 5 offices in NBC Tower, 454 N. Columbus in Chicago. It's free. You can download an application at www.nbc.com/nbc/theapprentice.
Today's antiwar protest and rally hopefully won't be a repeat of last year's, with its mass arrests, but since the city has denied the organizers a permit to walk in the street, it might not be a bad idea to bring bail money. The march marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. It starts at noon at Michigan and Pearson, and the rally is at 1:30 in Federal Plaza, Dearborn and Adams in Chicago. For more info call 888-471-0874 or go to www.chicagoantiwar.org.
Woody Allen notwithstanding, the image of Jewish women in film has gone beyond two-dimensional renderings of the nagging shrew and the spoiled princess in recent years. That didn't happen by accident, says Patricia Erens, who teaches film studies at Northwestern University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: "I always predicted things weren't going to change very much until women got their hands on the means of production." She notes that a big leap forward occurred in the 90s: A Price Above Rubies (1998) peeked inside the Orthodox world, while A Walk on the Moon (1999) examined the way a working-class Jewish housewife grappled with 60s counterculture. Today at 2 she'll discuss her findings and show film clips in her talk, You've Come a Long Way, Baby: Jewish Women in Films. It's at the Spertus Institute, 618 S. Michigan in Chicago. Admission is $12, and reservations are requested; call 312-322-1743 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enter "happy baby" in the search box on Amazon and you get a bunch of child care how-tos and a couple of colorful teaching books for tots. But in Stephen Elliott's new novel, Happy Baby, published last month by MacAdam/Cage, a 36-year-old Chicago man recounts his experiences of sexual abuse in the city's juvenile-detention centers. Elliott himself was a ward of the state of Illinois as a teenager; after a rough adolescence, he won scholarships to the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. Now he's got several books under his belt and lectures at Stanford University. Today at 4 he'll read with Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, at Barbara's Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells in Chicago. Call 312-642-5044.
Bingo purists may prefer to fill their cards in fluorescent-lit church basements, but some players like the extra pizzazz of Disco Bingo, with drag queen Paula Sin-claire as hostess and Divine-esque "personality" Miss Foozie calling out the, ahem, balls. Music is by DJ Martin. Doors open at 9 PM, and the hopper starts turning at 10, at Rehab, the front bar of Circuit, 3641 N. Halsted in Chicago. There's no cover, but you must be 21 or over; call 773-325-2333.
The "international" in the Chicago Cultural Center's International Dinner and a Movie tonight is the dinner, provided by Bridgeview's Polo Cafe and Catering: wok-cooked turkey with a hoisin-plum sauce, pasta primavera, and creme brulee au chocolat. The featured film is Home Movie (2001), directed by Chris Smith, one of the brains behind the 1999 indie hit American Movie. Another documentary, it examines five weird homes and the people who live in them, including a couple who've shacked up in a missile silo and an inventor who's outfitted his home with all manner of automated devices. Dinner is $22; the film, to be introduced by Onion movie critic Keith Phipps, is free, but reservations are recommended. It starts at 7 (the film's at 8) at the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in Chicago. Call 312-744-6630 for info, 312-742-8497 for tickets.
Jessica Stern, a public policy lecturer at Harvard, spent four years interviewing members of extremist Jewish, Muslim, and Christian groups to write Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. In today's lecture, Where Are We in the War on Terrorism?, she'll discuss what she's learned. Sponsored by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the evening starts at 5:30 with a cash bar; Stern speaks at 6. It's at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 E. Walton in Chicago, and tickets are $35. Call 312-726-3860.
Husband-and-wife team Alicia Fortinberry and Bob Murray claim to have a "breakthrough approach to treating depression that has shown itself far more effective than drugs, psychotherapy, or both treatments combined." Fortinberry (a Feldenkrais practitioner) and Murray (a psychologist) blame the isolation of modern life, rather than genetics, for a "pandemic" of clinically unhappy people. Their method sounds like a spin on what mom used to promote--make friends, lose the bad habits, stand up straight--but they say it works for 94 percent of those who try it. They'll discuss their new book, Creating Optimism: A Proven Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, at 7:30 tonight at Borders Books & Music, 1500 16th in Oak Brook. It's free; call 630-574-0800.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Abbott.