Voices STD (Stuff to Do)—January 25, 2008

By Ben Rossi

Friday / January 25

It sounds like a creative writing major’s arch-attempt at magic realism: A cranky and utterly obscure recluse, living in a one-room garret on Chicago’s North Side, creates out of the bare materials of an impoverished life a sprawling epic of other worlds and ethereal visions. It is difficult to say which is the more marvelous, Henry Darger’s massive work or the fact of his creating it. In any case, the Smart Museum’s recently opened exhibition of some panels from In the Realms of the Unreal, as well as art supplies and pictures of Darger’s apartment, is bound to inspire awe and a greater appreciation of the power of art. Or you could come away thinking Darger was a loon and his art simply a symptom of his malady. Either way, the fascinating case of Henry Darger will not fail to move you. (Smart Museum, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., free)

Acclaimed 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, plays at Doc tonight. The film explores the little-known world of competitive video gaming through the story of two arch-competitors. Billy Mitchell has perfect games in a number of 80s arcade games, a hot sauce franchise, and—one must assume—the first pick of the arcade groupies. Steve Wiebe is an unemployed unknown, but his skill and determination eventually threaten Mitchell’s preeminence. There must be a showdown. Despite its mock-pompous title and insignificant subject, King refuses to condescend, and with this sympathy what could be merely amusing becomes poignant and compelling. (Max Palevsky Cinema, 11 p.m., $5)

Saturday / January 26

Going on all day at I-House, the 2008 Annual China Symposium, co-sponsored by the U.S.–China Peoples Friendship Association and the Center for East Asian Studies, offers a multi-faceted look at Chinese society from some of Chicago and the world’s top academics. Starting off in the morning with discussion of ancient Chu culture by U of C graduate students, the event will culminate in a keynote address by Sun Zhe, Professor of International Studies at Qingjua University, and an afternoon of lectures on three tracks: Arts and Philosophy; Commerce; and Society, Science and Technology. A reception with Chinese appetizers will be held afterwards. To register in advance, go to www.uscpfa.org/chicago. (International House, 10 a.m.–5:45 p.m., $5 for students)

Here are two truths that need no demonstration: Drinking is fun and comedy is fun. Anyone who’s ever been to a comedy club knows that the funniness of the show is often proportional to the drunkenness of the audience. Finally, the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts has done something interesting with this insight. And it’s a hit. A collection of skits about drinking, called “Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Show,” shatters the fourth wall with a beer bottle, with actors challenging the audience to drinking games and the like. (777 North Green Street, 9 p.m., 21+, $15)

Sunday / January 27

Backed up by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra winds, Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker will perform Mozart’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 21, along with his E-flat major Piano and Winds Quintet and a Bartok piece. (Mandel Hall, 3 p.m., free)

A fascinating reimagining of a classic Wild West story, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford broods over the mythology of the West, pulling it apart and building it up again in every scene. The center of the film is Casey Affleck’s brilliant turn as Robert Ford, the infantile hero worshipper who adulates and later resents Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt. Pitt is a towering, fearful figure, but it is Affleck whose cowed eyes and desperate malice stick with you. (Max Palevsky Cinema, 1 p.m., $5)

So you and your friends are polo players, but horses aren’t a dime a dozen these days. What do you do? Bring your bike over to Humboldt Park Sunday and find out. Chicago Bike Polo hosts a little three-on-three action for all you cycling and polo enthusiasts. Watch out for mallets in the spokes. (1116 North Kedzie Avenue, 2 p.m., free)

Monday / January 28

Probably the best movie promotion of the season (not that that says a lot), Focus Features hosts a Belgian Ale night at the Map Room in honor of In Bruges, a new movie starring Colin Farrell. All ales are $1 off, and there will probably be a lot of promotional loot to be had. (1949 North Hoyne Street, 5 p.m.–8 p.m., over 21)

Tuesday / January 29

Check out the Oriental Institute’s expanded gallery of ancient Nubian artifacts, many of which are on display for the first time. Items include what could be the world’s oldest rug. (Oriental Institute, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., free)

Wednesday / January 30

As part of the Big Problems curriculum dealing with issues of global concern (I know, it’s a little vague), U.C. Berkeley Associate Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities Jodi Halpern will give a lecture called “Emotions and Decision-Making Capacity.” (Billings Hospital, MacLean Center, Room W 717, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, 11:30 a.m., free)

Thursday / January 31

Celebrate the opening of the Smart Gallery’s new exhibition, Adaptation, a group show in which contemporary artists Guy Ben-Ner, Arturo Herrera, Catherine Sullivan, and Eve Sussman recreate great artworks, literature, film, and ballet in their video installations . The artists will engage in a discussion about their work in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center, followed by a reception at the Smart. (Smart Museum, 5:30 p.m., free)


The January 25 voices column “STD (Stuff to Do)” incorrectly referred to the Smart Museum of Art as the Smart Gallery.