Saturday, December 31, 2005

Decorators' Showcase Impasse

I get so tired of Democrats in Indiana slagging Gov. Daniels every time he takes a decisive stand instead of letting himself get run over. The latest kerfuffle (written up over at Liberal Indiana and reported in the Star on Thursday) has been around the use of the Governor's mansion for the 2006 Decorators' Show House, an annual fundraiser for Wishard sponsored by St. Margaret's Hospital Guild. At issue is the governor's (and Residence Commission's) requirement for use of the mansion: that the decorators respect the tradition of the historic home and their designs reflect it. Considering that every paint swatch and piece of art of the last renovation (during O'Bannon's term) was overseen by the Commission and state archaeologists from the DNR (yes, we have a few), I was surprised at the venue choice initially for these very reasons. This week, organizers announced they couldn't work with the approvals needed, that was getting too "complicated", and cancelled the event scheduled for April 21-May 14, 2006.

For those not familiar with the event, the committee chooses a large home, usually on Meridian St. or nearby and asks the owners to move out and give the decorators full control. The decorators create dream rooms and thousands of people shuffle through making "gee whiz" comments engaging in this weird form of Indiana voyeurism, the home tour. Sometimes the creations are wonderful and but in the past few years, they've been increasingly over the top. Some are just plain weird. So, when the Guild asked to use the Governor's mansion as their next target, Daniels agreed but with the caveat. Apparently the event was cancelled when the Residence Commission didn't go for many of the "unique" designs. The commission asked that it be "about the house" not the designers' individuality. The committee felt there wasn't enough time to ask designers to rework designs and pulled the plug.

If it's true that the decorators weren't willing to work under what those horribly restrictive conditions, then the event committee and fundraiser participants have lost sight of the event's true mission. I'd also wonder why they weren't realistic about these issues earlier? Anyone who's been to the event in recent years could have seen this coming. So why didn't the committee have a backup? Why didn't they foresee potential problems in using a public space and plan ahead for design approvals? Oh, wait. You mean, this is a fundraiser that decorators use to compete with each other on and use as a business showcase?!

This is no Daniels debacle. It's one created by the committee and local decorators. St. Margaret's Hospital Guild has no one to blame but themselves for not being out in front of this. Do I sound like I'm being harsh? Yes, I do, but I have run large fundraising events with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake (including most recently two years co-chairing a $200,000 annual charity auction gala in Indianapolis), and I'm truly surprised that they weren't realistic about the use of this space. What decorator in town doesn't have to work around client demands or simple client boundaries? *That* is the challenge of being a great decorator. In a world of 48-hour home makeovers, it's hard to believe that these local decorators weren't willing to re-do and re-submit less radical designs to the Residence Commission.

Sadly, organizers have cancelled the event instead of asking decorators to rally for true charity instead of their own personal gain. But, of course, it's easier to cancel. Maybe the Guild should mount a fundraising campaign with the State Dem Party laying the blame at the feet of the Governor and use that money to fill the $250,000 budgetary void for Wishard this year.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

An Indiana News Day

If I were a news editor in Indiana, there would be days I just couldn't resist making fun. This would be one of those days. I'm horrible and mean to make light of others' misfortunes, so some day, I'm sure my karmic retribution means I'll be one of those people who slips, falls, and drowns in a vat of beer on a brewery tour. That, or I have a secret love-connection with the night editor at

And Pick Up Some Glade, too: Two trucks collide on I-65 causing a liquid soap spill that closes the interstate. One person injured, but clean.

Sorry, Honey! In Gary, an auxiliary police officer shot at a charging pit bull and accidentally shot her fiance in the leg instead. She has been suspended for "retraining".

Girl Injured in Fork Incident: An Indianapolis 11-year-old is in the hospital after her 10-year old brother accidentally stuck her in the head with a flying barbecue fork. Ouch. Poor kids. The sister is in critical condition at Methodist.

House Speaker Stung in Judicial Shocker: In the "you didn't have to be a political operative to see this one coming" department, Federal judge David Hamilton says "no" to House Speaker Bosma's request he change his mind banning Jesus from House prayers. Bosma branded an idiot for asking.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What I'm Reading Right Now

Traveling means reading, usually a lot of reading. (I always overpack books worrying that I'll get bored while trapped on the airplane.) When traveling home to see my dad, it also means The Book Swap! We mostly share the same tastes in books although he reads more political and military biographies than I do and I read a few more novels. Each time I see my dad, I bring the latest books I've read along and he swaps me the ones he's finished. If it's something I want to re-read, I hungrily wait for the next swap since we both read on deadline.

He recently told me that he has a ritual to reading the books we swap. He puts them in a stack in random order and always starts the next book on the top of the stack. Sometimes he pulls a book out of the stack to start with that he wants to read first, but otherwise, he reads whatever pops up next. This system would probably never work for me, but he checks random books out of the library, too, so he has a better tolerance for hits and misses.

In the stack I just picked up: The Fall of Baghdad (by Jon Lee Anderson), Great Tales from English History (part of Robert Lacey's popular UK series), Mark Svengold's Big Weather, 21 (the final book from Patrick O'Brian), Election 2004 (from the Newsweek reporters), a really terrible Tom Clancy book, and The Dante Club. (I sometimes feel guilty passing on books like The Dante Club because, you know, he *is* 86-years-old and I hate for him to waste time on something that he might not like, but he said he finally slogged through.)

The batch I took to swap included Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (he's read all the Harry Potter books), Cowboy Lingo (a wonderful Ramon Adams book), Mr. Timothy (another Dante Club knockoff), and Earthquake (Simon Winchester's latest.) I gave him permission to skip all the boring seismic history sections. Plus, I warned him about Winchester's huge gaff toward the end where he claims Kansas is bordered by Texas and Missouri.

In the meantime, fear of fears happened! I ran reading material. Rummaging through the airport gift store rack on the way home, I found Amy Tan's newest, Saving Fish From Drowning. I'm quite engrossed in her delicious tale of murder, spirits, and tacky American tourists who get what's coming to them on a trip to China and Burma/Myanmar. I think my dad will like this one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Seeing Munich

I sometimes joke that I feel like I have absolutely nothing in common with my sister's family. And while that may be true, I have to appreciate that my entire family is at least well-educated. After the ritual over-eating engaged in my most families on Christmas Day (along with the ritual present opening), we decided to go to a movie. Even though we have a wide age and socio-economic range, there was no discussion of The Ringer or Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Ultimately, we narrowed it down to Munich and Walk the Line (with a random vote or two for The Chronicles of Narnia). In the end, we decided to see Munich.

I'm going to digress here and note how much I love, sociologically, the process in which 7 people with decidedly different tastes decide which movie to see. To start, there has to be an unwritten law of respect among each others' choices. And also an unwritten rule that each person gets one true veto -- "I just don't want to see xxx." But no one person can veto each film, and of course, each person has to have a range of films that they'd be willing to see.

My sister lived in Hollywood for a number of years and has experience in the film industry. She's actively involved in the Oklahoma Indie film scene, so she's a shoo-in for anything that might be an Oscar or award film. Everyone also recognized that our 86-year-old father isn't going to be in for something really off-the-wall, like the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (which happens to be one of my niece's favorite films.) My nephews (26 and 22 respectively) are smart enough to know that no one is going to be up for The Ringer (a comedy about rigging the Special Olympics), and certainly I'm not silly enough to suggest that two grown, male, college graduates are going to enjoy, say, Sarah Jessica Parker in The Family Stone. (I'm not even sure *I'm* going to enjoy SJP in that movie.) We all agreed that King Kong was just three-hours of our lives we weren't going to get back.

Memoirs of a Geisha was in the running, but vetoed by at least one of the boys. My sister wanted to see The Chronicles of Narnia, but I used my veto on that one. We all said "no" to Syriana. No one wanted to think that hard on Christmas Day -- although most of us plan to see it (especially my recently graduated -- and commissioned -- nephew). The Producers was briefly mentioned but I think my father may have nixed that one. So, Walk the Line or Munich it was. We let my father decide and while we all figured he'd go for Johnny Cash, he opted for fighting terrorists and the 1972 Olympic hostage situation instead.

Afterward, we all agreed that it's a film you have to process before discussing, but at the very least, I've concluded that Munich should be required viewing for American citizens. The secret battle fought by Israel in the 1970s against the PLO and PLO-sponsored splinter groups (like Black September) parallels so many of the issues we face with terrorism and national security today. And no matter how you look at it, the moral and real implications are the same. What will it take to achieve true peace? I'm not sure anyone has an answer to that. They didn't in 1972 and we certainly don't know in 2005, but Munich reminds us that we each control what we are personally willing to do to achieve it. While I'm not sure it's an Oscar winner (personally, I still liked Capote better), I think Spielberg raises some interesting issues -- and not just from a one-sided perspective. The meaning for today's world is important. Plus, Geoffrey Rush is a lock for Best Supporting Actor based on his role as an Israeli case-officer.

Home from the Holidays

I am back and blogging again! Based on the number of folks who slowed down their posts last week, I don't feel bad for taking a little hiatus. I suspect this week will be a bit busier: lots of year end round ups and bored people stuck at home on vacation. But not me! I'm back from a short trip and working on a book all week. Most all of my friends are out of town, and I don't have a single appointment until Saturday! The week is full of possibilities!

Here are a few things still on my end of year "to-do" list:

*Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately, not showing here yet. It wasn't showing in Oklahoma City either (no big surprise there), and I may have to defer this film until mid-January when it debuts at the newly re-opened Key Cinemas in Beech Grove. (Key Cinemas is back open as an art house for those of you who haven't heard after their brief change in format. Look for them to keep carrying edgy art films not available anywhere else including the new Landmark Art Cinema at the Fashion Mall. If I recall the article I read last week correctly, Brokeback Mountain may open at Key Cinemas before it plays at Landmark.)

*Exhibit of the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art (ends Jan 29) This exhibit has received rave reviews from across the country and puts together some of the best contemporary artists working today with the common thread of Native American backgrounds and themes. (Plus, I've heard great things about the Sky City Cafe.)

*Lord of the Rings exhibition at the Indiana State Museum (ends Jan 3) I really just want to see all the geekily popular Lord of the Rings props in detail. Plus, I think it's been a great experiment at getting literally thousands of new people to the State Museum. The board took a risk on this one but I think they did the right thing!

*Memoirs of a Geisha: This one is showing in town and I'll pop out to see it this week. I loved the book and have heard the mixed reviews, but still want to take a look. Plus, I'm trying to get through most of the potential Oscar films.

*International Arts and Crafts at the IMA (ends Jan 22) I must be the only person in town who hasn't seen this exhibition, but I just haven't attended any events at the IMA for a while. But I do want to get out to see this exhibition as well as the recently re-opened contemporary galleries. I'm also kind of curious to eat at Puck's (see Feed Me/Drink Me for more.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why It's a Slow Blog Week

My horoscope from yesterday: Cancer (June 22-July 22): A concerted effort to increase your cash flow will pay off nicely. Throw yourself wholeheartedly into a lucrative or moneymaking assignment.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

John Spencer, RIP

So sad, but today's news is reporting that actor John Spencer has died of a heart attack at age 58. He was most recently known for his Emmy-winning role on The West Wing. He played Chief of Staff (and recent Vice Presidential candidate) Leo McGarry. Ironically, his character on the show suffered a heart attack last season. He was a frequent movie actor and some of us from the 80s remember him as Tommy, the street-smart lawyer from LA Law.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Movies in Theaters -- Bah Humbug!

What is it with people who talk through movies?! Maybe I've just had bad movie karma, but three of the last four movies I've seen in a theater have been ruined by chatty people who seem to be oblivious to the fact that their need to keep each other posted about the plot, characters, or dialog disturbs everyone else. (Additionally, one was interrupted by a fire alarm that required an evacuation of the theater.) There's a lot to be said for watching a movie in your own living room so you can either chat at will -- or enjoy it in peace!

Last September, Todd Wagner spoke at a luncheon for the Indiana Venture Idol Competition, the day before the Indiana Venture Conference. Wagner, who sold with co-founder Mark Cuban for $8 billion, has been in Hollywood where he is involved in both 2929 Productions and the Landmark art theater chain (which just opened in Indianapolis.) Wagner and Cuban are pretty controversial in Hollywood since they're not only learning the business as outsiders, but trying to make the traditional studios think in some new media ways.

One trail they want to blaze? Simultaneous release of feature films in theaters along with the DVD, VHS, and digital versions. Frankly, with the growth of reasonably priced plasma, high-def and big screen televisions along with surround sound, home theater systems, and all manner of digital playback, I'd rather see a movie at home. Dare I say it? Size doesn't matter! Well, screen size, that is. I'd rather have an intimate experience with the film in a smaller format, than endure talking, poor quality, interruptions, and cavernous (or too tiny) theaters that are too hot, too cold, or uncomfortable along with parking, crowds, and slow moving ticket lines.

Studios are, of course, worried that releasing a DVD and theater version at the same time will hurt already slumping box office sales as well as DVD revenue. But, as a customer, if I already avoid theaters unless it's a film I really want to see, it's going to be worth it to me to see the film sooner. I know I can't be the only consumer who feels this way. For many, a $20 DVD is still cheaper than two tickets, travel time, snacks, and parking. For that price you can watch it once and still be ahead.

And just in case you're curious? Here are the last four films I've seen:

Pride and Prejudice, Castleton Arts on a Saturday afternoon. Packed theater (very small) and two older ladies next to me who talked loudly through the entire film discussing characters, plot points, and reminding each other of who was who.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Glendale on a Monday evening. Wallet stolen out of my handbag during the film by the kids sitting behind me.

Walk the Line, Circle Center, weekday evening, 8 people in the theater, 2 of whom laughed and snickered through the entire movie. Fire alarm went off forcing evacuation of the theater about 5 minutes from the end of the movie (right over the marriage proposal.)

Capote, Landmark, weekday evening, 7 people in the theater, two of whom sat in my row and gave each other a running commentary. "Where's Truman? What did they mean? Is that Kansas City? Who's that woman?" (Although nothing could disrupt Philip Seymore Hoffman's fantastic performance.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bosma, Give It a Rest!

Fresh on the heals of Matthew Tully's column on the disorganized mess that is the Marion County GOP, House Speaker Brian Bosma is still gnashing his teeth about the recent judge's ruling banning prayer in the Indian Statehouse. News outlets are reporting that Bosma has called in the Attorney General to file motions to change the ruling and put/or put it on hold. Brian! Give it a rest!

Look, if you guys hadn't been pushing the limits of a house prayer by having a hand-waving, hallalujah-yelling, 15-minute Gospel invocation, you wouldn't be in this mess to begin with. I'm all for an invocation, but as state legislators, you of *all* people need to be respectful of other people's beliefs. Christian right-wing tunnel vision is what got you in this mess to begin with. Plus, let's just say if my workday started with a mandatory gospel hand clapping sermon that got louder and more rowdy each time, I'd be upset, too. I consider myself a good believer and a Republican, but I was offended (and embarrassed) just listening to the sound byte of the "invocation" in question. I would have walked out of that session right along with the others. It was completely inappropriate in the statehouse.

And you know what more inappropriate? The hoops you're jumping through to get this decision overturned. You pushed it. Take your lumps for it. Let's move on. The state has more important business to get to.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pointers! Get 'cher cold pointers here!

Busy, busy these days with a short attention span...ooooh, shiny.

Indianapolis On My Mind: stations blogger Adam Schefter in Indy until the Colts lose (if they loose -- woo-hoo!) (With an assist from TorporIndy.)

Too many cocktails? Too much party food? The Erudite Redneck shares the "real" hazards of holiday party-going.

Have an eyesore in your neighborhood? Send all your best holiday decoration pics to IndyScribe for their holiday photo contest.

Twelve Days of a Hoosier Christmas: The IndyStar editorial board gifts us with their holiday card featuring Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Forbes Fictional 15

Forbes has released the top 15 richest fictional characters. I would have pegged Lara Croft as richer than the Howells (I mean, look at that house she has versus the Howell cruise on the SS Minnow.) And I was surprised Monty Burns doesn't fall higher on that list -- but, you know who can compete with Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor. (You know, Lex just doesn't show it, he has a Warren Buffett kind of humility except when he's out, you know, trying to destroy the world.) JR Ewing dropped off the list while Lucius Malfow debuted (as the other only non-billionaire on the list which must irritate him.) Willy Wonka was worth less than I thought -- all that R&D is *expensive*. And Santa, well, hey, that's quite an opperation he has up there.

Check out Forbes for the entire list and profiles as well as info on age, location, and net worth.

The List:

1. Santa Claus
2. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks
3. Richie Rich
4. Lex Luthor
5. C. Montgomery Burns
6. Scrooge McDuck
7. Jed Clampett
8. Bruce Wayne
9. Thurston Howell III
10. Willy Wonka
11. Arthur Bach
12. Ebenezer Scrooge
13. Lara Croft
14. Cruella De Vil
15. Lucius Malfoy

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Aaah, my suit!" Wolfe and writers on Simpsons!

TOM WOLFE is screaming. He screams softly, this Southern gentleman, his trademark white suit unwrinkled, his spats unwavering even as a giant granite boulder hurtles down upon him. It looks to be the end of the pioneering New Journalism author of "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.""Aaaaaaaahh! Wait, no, that wasn't good, let me start over."

"How did you scream last time a boulder was hurtling toward you?" asks Carolyn Omine, executive producer of "The Simpsons.""Why don't you try, 'Aaaaahhhh, my suit!' " suggests a rail-thin, nerdy-looking writer, from the front of the Fox recording studio.

The LA Times gives us a preview of an upcoming Simpsons with Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Frantzen voicing themselves and "parodying highfalutin literary culture." The animators will capture Wolfe in signature white suit and "bug-eyed glory." And more wonderfully, how a Simpson's spot is today's height of fame. (Chabon's father touts how he knew his son would win a Putlizer but he had no idea he would ever be so accomplished to appear on the long running animated show.) And best of all, we get to see our literary icons feeling just as silly as anyone else as they try to voice animation.

Franzen: "Gaa! Dajjjmit! Ach! Rrrr!
Writer: "How about, 'Nooo! My prescription-less glasses, the ones I wear to look smart!' "

Franzen: "My trademark glasses!"
Omine (Producer): "Let's continue with Jonathan, because you have to whack Michael with a chair. Some more pain sounds, please."

Writer: "How about saying, 'You fight like Anne Rice!' "

Eventually, it's time to encounter that same runaway granite chunk that flattened Tom Wolfe. Franzen's scream has a hint of falsetto; Chabon writhes as he lets out an anguished moan.

Franzen and Chabon fight! Wolfe is flattened! Gore Vidal lives! (D'oh did I give away the ending?!) I can hardly wait!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why I Love America

Today at Meijer I saw a man buying a carton of ice cream, a two-liter bottle of soda, and a new pair of pants.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wacky Crime Ensues

In the true-but-sad category, Indiana papers have been chock full of nuttiness lately.

Rib Roasts and Sirloins and Ham, Oh My! In Marion, a man leads police on a high-speed chase chucking hunks of stolen meat out the window as he fled. Police spent 90 minutes afterward picking up hunks of meat along the way.

City Moves to Shut Down Mistress Ann: The city files to close the business of a local Meridian-Kessler S/M Dominatrix accusing her of sexual torture. (Nuvo has profiled this woman a few times.)

Earn More! Work at Home! Police bust a woman allegedly running an illegal massage business and prostitution business from her Indianapolis home.

It's been a banner week for the undercover vice squad, however, less known was the story yesterday of three teenagers who were mugged -- one shot -- for their shoes and electronic gear. Violent crime in Indianapolis is on the rise -- up 11 percent says the IBJ this week -- while officials argue over police mergers and plan for a potentially nasty election year for Marion County Prosecutor. Whether it's the holidays or heavier media coverage, violent crime seems to becoming an issue in Marion County. I'd like to see some positive news from a few other divisions of the police force. Maybe they should reassign some vice detectives to armed robbery. They seem to be getting the job done.