Some claim the women's movement is irrelevant these days, but the ongoing battle over reproductive rights and class-action sex discrimination lawsuits at major financial firms suggest otherwise. This weekend the Veteran Feminists of America take a look at past struggles and plan for the future at a conference cosponsored by UIC's Center for Research on Women and Gender. Unfinished Business of the Women's Movement: Dangers and Opportunities starts today with a tour of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, Chicago, at 3. Then the action moves to the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan, Chicago, where cocktails at 6 will be followed by an awards ceremony honoring second-wave feminists, with speakers Carol Moseley Braun and former Rainbow/PUSH Coalition cochair Reverend Willie T. Barrow. Saturday at the Chicago Circle Center, 750 S. Halsted, Chicago, there are sessions on topics like women's health, voting, religion, and feminist solutions to work-family conflicts; panelists include writer Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood) and Congressman Jan Schakowsky. Tonight's dinner is $45, Saturday's sessions are $50 ($35 for students), and a Saturday-evening party, also at the center, is $20. Call 312-413-1924 or see www.vfamidwest.org.
A publicity shot for Blood and Sand, with Rudolph Valentino clutching the breast of a bejeweled and swooning Nita Naldi, provides a glimpse of the frankly sexual packaging that rocketed Valentino to fame. In this 1922 movie, directed by Fred Niblo, he plays a bullfighter led astray by Naldi's vamp. It screens tonight as the final installment in the Silent Film Society of Chicago's "Silent Summer" series; Dennis Scott accompanies the film on the organ and the West End Jazz Band opens the show at 8 at the Copernicus Center's Gateway Theatre, 5216 W. Lawrence in Chicago. Tickets are $11; call 773-205-7372 or see the movie listings.
The Bristol Renaissance Faire re-creates a fanciful piece of old England in the fields of Kenosha every weekend during the summer, complete with Robin Hood, his Merry Men, and the Virgin Queen herself, who parades through the "village" daily at half past noon. The Faire--full of armored knights, swashbuckling swordsmen, gypsy bands, madrigal singers, and about 200 artisans making and selling their crafts--continues this Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 7 PM just west of the Russell Road exit off I-94 before closing for the season September 6. Tickets are $18.50 for adults, $9.50 for kids 5 to 12. See www.renfair.com for discounted advance purchase, or call 847-395-7773.
An estimated one in three Chicago adults is functionally illiterate. The outdoor music festival Rock for Reading aims to raise money for institutions that promote solutions. Dreamed up by local singer-songwriter Alice Peacock, the fest features performances by Kelly Hogan, Anna Fermin, Otis Clay, Kurt Elling and Von Freeman, Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, and Peacock herself. A kids' stage features folkie Ella Jenkins and puppetry by Akuba's Dream. It's from 1 to 11 PM at the New City YMCA, 1515 N. Halsted, Chicago. Admission is $10, free for kids under 6. Call 773-868-3010 or see www.rockforreading.com.
Local wordsmiths converge in Lincoln Square this weekend for the Chicago Poetry Fest. Today there are readings by more than 35 poets, plus book signings by Marc Smith, Susan Cherry, Beatriz Badikian, and Charlie Newman. Performances are near the fountain on the 4700 block of North Lincoln in Chicago; signings take place at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln. The fest continues Sunday, August 29, with an "adults-only poetry party" at Weeds, 1555 N. Dayton, Chicago; performers include festival organizer C.J. Laity, Marvin Tate, and Maggie Rubin. Hours both days are 3 to 8; call 773-506-8120 or see www.chicagopoetry.com.
Self-defense isn't about brute strength: in many cases keeping your wits about you is more important. For example, says Jen Albert of the all-female stage ensemble Babes With Blades, "if someone is choking you they've got both of their hands on your neck. You still have your hands, which are available to go for the eyes or the throat." This spring the group started staging quarterly self-defense workshops; at today's Beat the Streets: Active Resistance, led by karate black belt Patricia Charatin, participants will practice commonsense techniques to confront, disarm, and escape assailants. The program is geared toward women, but men are welcome too. It's from 12:30 to 3:30 at the Sheil Park field house, 3505 N. Southport, Chicago. A $5 donation is suggested. Registration is required; call 773-392-8414.
Since the four radio plays in Strawdog Theatre Company's show Strawdog Wireless: Programme II are supposedly being broadcast on the fictional station WRLS, the audience is also treated to news, short pieces, commercials, and a behind-the-scenes view of what happens when the station has technical difficulties. The show's today at 3 (and Monday and Tuesday at 8) at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway, Chicago; the production runs through August 31. Tickets are $8; call 773-528-9696 or see www.strawdog.org.
For about a million years during the Pleistocene era, hominids dwelled in a complex of limestone caves in northern Spain's Sierra de Atapuerca. Today the area is the site of a major excavation providing an invaluable fossil record of H. antecessor, which some researchers suggest may be the last ancestor Neanderthals and modern humans had in common. Today University of Zaragoza paleontologist Gloria Cuenca will give a talk about the site's contribution to our understanding of our ancient past, The Atapuerca Project and Human Evolution in Europe. It's at 6 at the Instituto Cervantes, suite 2940 in the John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan, Chicago, 312-335-1996. It's free.
For the most part saxophonist Ravi Coltrane has eschewed works by his famous father, preferring to tread his own path. But at the request of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, he's written a composition referencing John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Supreme, recorded 40 years ago. Tonight at 8 he'll perform "Reflections on a Love Supreme" as well as works by his father at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, Chicago. It's billed as the kickoff to the Chicago Jazz Festival, but unlike the action in the park it's not free; tickets run from $15 to $45. Call 312-334-7777 or see www.jazzinstituteofchicago.org. A preconcert gala includes cocktails with Coltrane and 'Trane biographer Ashley Kahn, music by Willie Pickens and Ari Brown, "prime concert seating," and a three-month membership to the institute; that'll set you back $150. The reception's from 6 to 7:30 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Chicago; call 312-427-1676.
If you're feeling guilty about an out-of-control shopping habit, put your consumerism to good use at today's ninth annual Bloomingdale's Shopping Benefit. A $10 ticket from one of more than 70 participating local charities gets you 15 to 20 percent off regular and sale merchandise at the 900 N. Michigan and Old Orchard stores and the Bloomingdale's Home Store in the former Medinah Temple on Wabash in Chicago. All proceeds benefit the Today's Chicago Woman Foundation; for a list of participating charities see www.bloomingdales.com or call 312-951-8976.
If you wanted to relive the 80s this was the summer to do it, what with tours by the Cure, the Pixies, and now Siouxsie Sioux. The leader of the Banshees plays tonight at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Doors open at 7:30 and the show's at 9. Tickets are $35 and you must be 21; call 312-923-2000 or see www.hob.com. See Spot Check for more.