RELATED: Our calendar of things to do this winter—from December to February

Three great lectures month by month

'Sizwe's Test' by Jonny Steinberg

AIDS in Africa and Beyond: The Story the Media Missed

In the course of writing his 2008 book about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the journalist Jonny Steinberg uncovered fascinating insights into why men in particular resist HIV testing. His book’s subject—called Sizwe, a 30-year-old shopkeeper in a rural village—shows how stigma and the fear of whites can endanger a population. Free. December 1 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr., Evanston

There’s No Such Thing as Very Unique

Art historian Susan Tallman explores the value our society attaches to unique objects. Take, for example, a work by Félix González-Torres: The sculpture is made up of sheets of paper, which viewers can remove. “So you have to go to the museum to see it as a sculpture, but it also exists on a thousand walls scattered around the world,” Tallman says. “Which is pretty great.” Free with admission. January 12 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.

Wine & Wildlife: Animal Attractions

Mating experts talk about the sex rituals of Amur tigers, black rhinos, and red pandas, then ply you with Champagne and chocolate. $45. February 14 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. or 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr.

Skill Up: Eight invigorating classes

by Nina Kokotas Hahn

Illustration by Colin Johnson

STRUM AND TWANG  Carole Lanialoha Lee-Sumberg’s Pacific Islands Ukulele 1 class at the Old Town School of Folk Music will run through a spirited roster, including ukulele tunes, Hawaiian stories, and even kanikapila, an island-style open jam session. But wiki-wiki: The classes fill up quickly. $160. 4544 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-728-6000. The next sessions run from January 9 to March 4 on Mondays, 6:30 to 7:50 p.m.; Thursdays, 5:30 to 6:50 p.m.; and Sundays, 12 to 1:20 p.m.

COVER UP  Drag that beloved eyesore up from the basement, because its time has come: Recovered Interior’s reupholstery class can show you how to revive even the rattiest old thing. The instructor will approve your chair in advance and guide you through deconstructing and redesigning it. Two weeks later, you’ll be sitting pretty on your very own work of art. $300. 3065 N. Rockwell Ave.; 773-656-3206. The next four-class session starts December 7.

THROW A KEGGER  Ed Seaman, the enthusiast behind the Home Brew Shop in St. Charles, claims that making beer is as easy as boiling water. In an intimate setting, three instructors—Seaman, his son Mike, and Kyle Teichart—cook up a demo batch as they explain fermentation, sensory evaluation, and how to make consistently good home-brew. $25. 225 W. Main St., St. Charles; 630-377-1338. The next classes are January 8, 15, and 22 from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

SEW SEW  Think you could do better than the whining divas on a certain fashion design competition show? Test your mettle at the School of the Art Institute’s Fashion Intensive, where students complete one Project Runway–esque assignment: Craft a garment from geometric pieces of fabric. The class meets daily for a full week in the school’s glorious work studio and culminates in a professional photo shoot—of a model in your daring new creation. $525. 36 S. Wabash Ave., 7th floor; 312-629-6170. The next session runs from January 9 to 13.

OCCUPY EVANSTON  Want to bring your A-game the next time your alderman holds a town hall event? Enroll in Urban Politics in Chicago: Transparency Project, a full-term class at Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies. You’ll learn how to find and scrutinize public government data, made available through Open Chicago, an initiative of the office of Chicago’s inspector general, Joe Ferguson, who is a guest lecturer. $1,495. 1845 Sheridan Rd., Evanston; 312-503-6950. The next class runs Wednesdays from January 4 to March 14 from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m.

RE-CREATE LIFE  Dreamy miniature landscapes are all the rage. Learn to pot your own in the terrarium class at Sprout Home. Create something woodland, whimsical, or lunar—your teeny glass wonderland is limited only by your imagination. $35 to $300, depending on materials. 745 N. Damen Ave.; 312-226-5950. The next classes are December 14 and 28 from 6 to 8 p.m.

HARNESS INVERTEBRATES  Composting is more complicated than just tossing banana peels into a bucket. Add worms to the equation and the uninitiated tend to slink away. Taught by members of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, Kitchen Sink Composting may be the class you’ve been waiting for. Covering the basics of indoor worm bins, the instructor will demonstrate how to set up and maintain one. $40. 300 N. Central Park Ave.; 773-638-1766. The next class is December 17 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

TAKE TO THE SKIES  Winter offers surprisingly ideal flying conditions—excellent visibility and smoother air—so now may be the best time to learn to be a pilot. The two-hour Downtown Adventure Total Immersion Flight taught by appointment by the Chicago Executive Flight School challenges students to plunge right in. You’ll act as the instructor’s copilot from start to finish: Turn the key, taxi, assist with takeoff, perform climbs and turns—do everything except land your Cessna during a flight that culminates in an eye-level approach toward Willis Tower and the Chicago skyline. $249. 1005 S. Wolf Rd., Ste. 202, Wheeling; 800-901-0730.


What Film Buffs Are Watching: Smart House

Pass the popcorn!

A scene from 'Diary of a Country Priest' by Robert Bresson
Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest

Night of the Demon, December 1 at 7 p.m. A few years ago, Martin Scorsese placed this 1957 British thriller on his list of the ten scariest movies. Directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Dana Andrews, the black-and-white atmospheric piece features a demon that probably wasn't frightening even when the movie was first released. But the film’s mounting suspense makes it nerve-racking—and worth watching. $5. Max Palevsky Cinema, 1212 E. 59th St.; 773-702-8575,

The Films of Robert Bresson, January 21 to February 29 Although Bresson was a major influence on New Wave filmmakers, the critically acclaimed French director never found much of an audience outside cineastes. Here is a rare chance to watch his entire oeuvre in 35 mm. Diary of a Country Priest is probably his best-known movie, but take a chance on Les anges du péché. Made in 1943, it features a woman wrongly convicted of a crime and follows her revenge. $11. 164 N. State St.; 312-846-2800,

Sundance Film Festival, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. The Music Box presents a feature film that has just screened at the Sundance Festival. This popular event is a tantalizing bit of high-wire programming and a great way to catch a movie with early insider buzz. In 2010, Philip Seymour Hoffman made an appearance at the screening of Jack Goes Boating, his directorial debut. $10. 3733 N. Southport Ave.; 773-871-6607,


Engage and Fascinate the Kids

CHICAGO CHILDREN’S CHOIR In January, at its eight neighborhood locations, the choir holds auditions for boys and girls grades 3 and up. These choirs rehearse twice a week—great training for the competitive Concert Choir, which holds a special tryout every June.

KIDS SCIENCE LABS This kids’ center in Lincoln Park is offering some intriguing classes: one about the immune system and another about building a green home. Weekly classes run from January 3 to March 10 and are $220 to $360 per ten-week session.

FERMILAB Trek out to our local high-energy particle physics laboratory in Batavia to attend Code Cracking, Cryptograms, and Other Mysteries (December 3) or Flight and Fashion (December 10), in which kids design airplanes and clothing. All classes are $28.


Photography: (terrarium) Matthis Helmick; (plane) margotjh/istockphoto; Illustration: Colin Johnson© Everett Collection