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It's Godzilla's 50th anniversary, and fans of the Big G and other kaiju, or movie monsters, can celebrate at this weekend's G-Fest XI, a convention with panel discussions ("Godzilla's Best and Worst Foes," "G's Dead! Now What?") and screenings of Godzilla films in versions rarely shown stateside. Special guests include Teruyoshi Nakano, who did special effects for several Godzilla movies, and Asian cult film and chop-socky expert Brian Thomas. There'll also be merchandise, video games, costume and trivia contests, and a Clash of the Kaiju board-game tournament. Registration starts today at noon at the Holiday Inn O'Hare, 5440 N. River Road in Rosemont; official events get under way at 5. Meanwhile, the nearby Pickwick Theatre, 5 S. Prospect in Park Ridge (847-604-2234), will show Godzilla vs. Monster Zero at 2 PM and Terror of Mechagodzilla at 10 (both are $5). G-Fest continues from 10 to 10 Saturday and 10 to 9 Sunday, July 10 and 11. Daily admission is $15, $5 for kids; a weekend pass is $29, $10 for kids. Call 630-551-0394, see, or see Movies for more.

So-called Gypsy music encompasses a wide variety of styles, having been influenced by everything from flamenco to classical to modern pop. While the local quintet Tamburitza Rroma plays traditional eastern European Gypsy tunes showcasing the tambura, a string instrument, the Balkan Cabaret performs accordion-heavy "urban folk songs" that evoke the atmosphere of a run-down cafe in Sarajevo or Sofia. Both are featured at tonight's Night of the Gypsies II, which starts at 9:30 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo in Chicago, 312-362-9707. It's $15 and you must be 21.


Now that everything's in bloom, are you wishing your high school botany wasn't so rusty? Catch up in two hours at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Botany for Beginners. The garden's Wayne Becker will review the principles of plant diversity, the dynamics of photosynthesis, the basics of plant classification, and some things you probably never knew about life forms with pistils, stamens, roots, and leaves--including the sneaky ways they use mammals to achieve their own biological ends. The class runs from 1 to 3 today at the garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd. in Glencoe. It's $30 ($24 for members), plus $10 for parking. Call 847-835-5440.

Three and a half years after its founding, the independent arts and culture journal Bridge has grown from a thrice-a-year affair published out of its founders' apartment to a 501(c) nonprofit with its own event space and more than 800 subscribers. Tonight the Bridge Magazine Relaunch and Release Party celebrates a new newsstand-friendly magazine format for the publication, which will now come out every two months. The July/August issue includes an interview with landscape artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, an account of a walking tour of Millennium Park with architect Frank Gehry and sculptor Anish Kapoor, and an essay on J.D. Salinger by humorist Jonathan Ames. The party, with free beer and noshes and music from DJs Piko Piko and Andrew Rigsby, runs from 7 to midnight at Schopf Gallery on Lake, 942 W. Lake, Chicago. Admission is $10, $5 for current subscribers, or free for new subscribers (a year's $30). Call 312-421-2227 or see

Richard T. Crowe, "Chicago's original and full-time professional ghost hunter," tells scary tales during his Supernatural Cruise along the Chicago River and the lake. Among the tour sites are the Civic Opera House--which Crowe says electricity magnate Samuel Insull had built in the shape of a throne so that his spirit could perch upon it and keep watch over the city--and the site of the 1915 Eastland disaster, on the river between Clark and LaSalle. "There's a constant whirlpool near the bridge, almost like there might be some sort of ghostly action there," Crowe claims. He'll also spin yarns about ghost ships and a possible "Lake Michigan Triangle." Boarding begins at 10:30 PM at the Mercury Cruise Line dock at Michigan and Wacker in Chicago; the tour runs from 11 PM to 1 AM every Saturday night through Labor Day. It's $24 and reservations are recommended; call 708-499-0300.


There are those who pass time on the el reading, those who yak on cell phones, and those who enjoy simply taking in the sights of the city. For the window gazers the Chicago Historical Society today offers a guided tour of the Brown Line, from the close-up views of Loop architectural details to the back porches of Lakeview and gardens of Ravenswood, with some history thrown in. Life Along the L runs from 1 to 3; meet five to ten minutes beforehand at the southwest corner of Wabash and Randolph in Chicago. The tour's $10, $8 for CHS members, and reservations are required; call 312-642-4600 or see

Today the U.S. men's national soccer team--featuring Chicago Fire stars Chris Armas and DaMarcus Beasley (the U.S. team's leading scorer)--makes its first appearance in Chicago in more than ten years, taking on Poland in a warm-up to the semifinals of the World Cup qualifying matches. It's all part of a doubleheader at Soldier Field, 14th Street and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago: the international match is at 6 and at 8:30 the Chicago Fire meets the New England Revolution. Tickets run from $28 to $80; call 312-559-1212.


Dude, remember when we were, like, 16 and you pretended to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, so we could--oh wait, that was Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Tonight Cans Bar and Canteen's movie night offers a John Hughes double feature of Ferris and Sixteen Candles. It starts at 7 and admission is free (though the beer's not) at Cans, 1640 N. Damen, Chicago, 773-227-2277.


Had it with smoke, earsplitting bands, and hangovers? The Chicago Area Runners Association's Fun Runs give you a chance to meet people while raising your heart rate. A three-to-six-mile run (or walk) starts at 6:30 PM today from Running Away, 1753 N. Damen, Chicago. Afterward everyone heads to Piece, 1927 W. North, for a free beer and slice of pizza--not exactly health food but hey, at least you made an effort. It's free; call 773-395-2929 or see for info on this and other Chicago-area group runs.


Diane Wilson's book Back in Control: How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Inspired in Your Career Transition teaches people how to deal with the stress and uncertainty that work changes, good or bad, can bring on. "Feeling out of control is really normal--you have to work through it," says Wilson, a career coach and counselor and a former contributing columnist to the Trib. Tonight she'll give a miniseminar, Getting Past Emotional Unemployment: Finding Yourself and a New Currency in Work, at a reception and book signing benefiting the nonprofit Career Transition Center of Chicago. It's at 6 at the East Bank Club, 500 N. Kingsbury, Chicago, 312-527-5800; tickets are $50 and reservations are recommended. Wilson also pitches her stuff at 7:30 on Thursday, July 15, at Borders Books & Music, 1144 Lake in Oak Park. It's free; call 708-386-6927.


Sometimes compared to 1994's Hoop Dreams, the 90-minute television documentary Chiefs covers two seasons in the life of the hardscrabble Wyoming Indian High School basketball team, offering a frank portrayal of the challenges of life on the Wind River Indian Reservation. It's showing on VHS today in conjunction with the Newberry Library's photo exhibit on Wind River Arapaho, "Ni'iihi: In a Good Way." The free screening starts at 5:30 at the Newberry, 60 W. Walton in Chicago; afterward Native American Educational Services College dean Lola Hill gives a talk. Call 312-255-3700 for more.

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