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Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who won a Pulitzer in 1970 for breaking the story of the My Lai massacre, returned to the spotlight with his May 1 New Yorker story on the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. Today he visits his alma mater, the University of Chicago, to give the keynote address at a conference called "Constru(ct)ing the Current: Theorizing Media in a New Millennium." The two-day symposium will explore how media decide which events merit coverage; topics include blogging and partisanship in journalism, the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera, the "televising of fear," and the coverage of terrorism over the years. Registration begins today at 9:30 AM at International House, 1414 E. 59th in Chicago; Hersh speaks at 4:45 and a reception follows at 6:15. There are also sessions on Saturday from 10 to 5. Admission is free; call 773-702-4181 for more information.

Would-be superstars get a shot at, if not fame, then at least local notoriety tonight at South Side Idol. Contestants will choose a karaoke song to perform and do their best to impress judges Tim O'Malley, a Second City veteran and Beverly resident; Daily Southtown entertainment writer Eloise Valadez; and Rob Quicke of Saint Xavier University's radio station. They'll pick ten finalists and the audience will vote on the winner. Prizes range from $25 to $100. It starts at 7:30 PM at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th in Chicago. It's $10 to enter (you must be 16 or over) and $5 to attend. Call 773-445-3838.


The location of the Du Page county seat was once a hot issue. Wheaton wrested it from Naperville in an 1867 referendum--but Naperville refused to turn over the county records, so the Wheaton city fathers grabbed them in a midnight raid, bringing them home to a hastily built courthouse. Less than 30 years later, when that building was crumbling (supposedly weakened by prisoners' tunnels under the jail), Elmhurst threatened to take the county seat to its village, where a proper facility would be constructed. Wheaton responded in 1896 with a fortresslike Romanesque courthouse at 201 Reber Street. Now a branch of National-Louis University (the county seat, while still in Wheaton, moved to a modern facility in 1991), it's one of the sites on today's Wheaton History Center's three-hour bike tour of the town. Led by WHC president Alberta Adamson, Pedal Into the Past starts at 9 AM at Midwest Cyclery, 117 E. Front in Wheaton. Coffee, doughnuts, and a box lunch are included in the $20 charge. Call 630-682-9472 for reservations.

Running a restaurant doesn't leave much time for other pursuits, but in the last few years Steven Chiapetti--chef at Oak Park's Cafe le Coq and former proprietor of Mango and Grapes--has found a way to cultivate photography as a hobby. Edible Art, a show of his photos, goes on view today at Gallery 500 Wells in Chicago. It's divided into three sections: "Heat of the Moment," which captures activity in the kitchen; "Natural Flow," images of raw ingredients; and "Edible Art," photos of artfully arranged dishes. Chiapetti's currently talking with several new Chicago restaurants about taking photos for their walls and menus. The show runs through May 27 at 500 N. Wells in Chicago and gallery hours are noon to 8 PM Monday through Saturday. It's free; call 312-222-1880.


It's Studs on Studs today as Studs Terkel talks with journalist Pete Hamill, who edited the new Library of America edition of James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy, first published in the 30s. Generations of writers were influenced by the no-nonsense urban saga of the rebellious and ultimately doomed Studs, who grows up Irish-American on the south side in the 20s and 30s, although Farrell's frank accounts of his characters' sex lives and depiction of the hollowness of domestic, religious, and educational institutions invited a lot of criticism. The conversation begins at 3 PM at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark in Chicago. A book signing with Hamill follows. Admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors; call 312-642-4600.

Today's Highland Park Strings concert was to have been the debut duo performance for husband-and-wife violinists Robert and Laura Chen, but there've been a few changes. Laura Chen, expecting the couple's second child, has bowed out; she's been replaced by Rong-Yan Tang, who joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first violin section last fall. The program remains unchanged, with Robert Chen, a CSO concertmaster, and Tang performing Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor and Mozart's Concertone for Two Violins, but the ensemble will be directed by guest conductor Francesco Milioto, substituting for ailing music director Francis Akos. This is the concluding event in the Strings' 25th anniversary season; like all Strings concerts, it's free. It starts at 3 at Highland Park High School, 433 Vine in Highland Park. Call 847-579-3123.


Golf coach Wendy Hart won't help you with your stance, but she can offer some techniques to overcome the kind of performance anxiety that results in ugly divots and balls in the sand trap. In tonight's class, My Best Golf, she'll teach players of all levels how to master their minds and emotions to promote "instinctual play" and other mental tools to gain confidence. It's from 5:30 to 8:30 at Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph in Chicago. It costs $35; call 312-742-8497 to reserve a spot.


The formidable Lorenza de'Medici is descended from the famed Italian dynasty, but instead of following her ancestors into arts patronage, she became an expert in Italian wine and gastronomy. She's written more than 36 cookbooks and runs the prestigious Villa Table cooking school every summer in an 11th-century Chianti abbey-turned-winery. Her talk today focuses on the gastronomic traditions of Tuscany, a region known for its beef, hearty soups, and classic wines. It starts at 5:30 PM at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, 500 N. Michigan, suite 1540, in Chicago. It's free, but reservations are requested; call 312-822-9545.


This month the Gene Siskel Film Center, in conjunction with the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, is showing some recently restored prints of six films by Fernando de Fuentes, the godfather of Mexican cinema. Tonight's offering is Let's Go With Pancho Villa! (1935), which follows the stories of six young men swept up in the Mexican Revolution. De Fuentes considered it his greatest film, but the somber tale was censored by the government and disliked by the public for its depiction of the disillusionment and corruption of the era. It plays tonight at 6 at the Film Center, 164 N. State in Chicago, 312-846-2600. Tickets are $9; see the Critic's Choice in Movies for more.


New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik made the most of his five-year stint in Paris, writing innumerable columns on the minutiae of la vie quotidienne for the magazine and collecting the best in his 2000 book Paris to the Moon. He's one of the latest in a long line of American artists and writers-all the way back to Thomas Jefferson-who have succumbed to the city's siren song. He'll touch on the expat phenomenon and ask whether we could be facing the end of our love affair with France in today's talk, Babylon Regained: Americans in Paris From Franklin to Fitzgerald, which complements the exhibit "A Transatlantic Avant-Garde: American Artists in Paris, 1918-1939" at Chicago's Terra Museum of American Art. It's at 6 PM in the Grand Ballroom of the Wyndham Hotel, 633 N. Saint Clair in Chicago. A reception follows at the Terra, 666 N. Michigan. Admission is $15, free for students with ID. Call 312-654-2255.

For the last few years University of Santa Barbara archaeologist Mark Aldenderfer has been working with colleagues from China's Sichuan Union University on a dig in Piyang, in western Tibet, at the site of a large temple and monastery believed to date back to 1000 AD. As many Tibetan sites were destroyed or damaged during the Cultural Revolution, the excavation--the first Western-sponsored project of its kind in Tibet--may yield significant discoveries. Aldenderfer will give a talk about his findings called Mysteries of an Ancient Tibetan Monastery tonight at 7 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Admission is $16, $14 for students and educators. Registration is required; call 312-665-7400.

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