Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rivoli fundraiser to be held Sat. at Athenaeum

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:59 PM

  • The Rivoli plays the 1929 talking picture 'Marriage Playground.'
For every Vogue and Circle Theatre — vintage movie houses successfully repurposed for new lives — there is a Rivoli, which became a porn theatre (and occasional repertory house) while others were converted for more sustainable use. But a small crew of Eastside residents are working to restore the Rivoli to some manner of its former glory — whether by revamping the facade and streetscape, or by mounting a full restoration of the entire structure, which remains intact despite years of water damage.

The Rivoli Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., the non-profit organization which acquired the theater in 2007 with the goal of both rehabilitating the Rivoli and adapting it for reuse as a community cultural center, will hold its second annual Rivoli Revue on Saturday at the Athenaeum Theatre. The event is as much a consciousness-raiser as a fundraiser, and exact use of funds will depend on amount of funds collected, according to Center treasurer, Jeremy Stephens, who tells NUVO that his organization is, “in the grand scheme of things, in the beginning of restoration efforts.”

Stephens explains: “For example, if we raise enough money to restore the marquee, we will undertake that project; however, if we raise some lesser amount, then we will likely put the funds towards restoring the facade to its original brick or a similar project that is smaller in scope.”

Plans for marquee and facade restoration are available on the organization's website,, including the conclusions of a 2003 Ball State design charette, which include proposals for the removal of a rooftop marquee that wasn't part of the building's original design and installation of colorful lighting, flags, trees, an IndyGo stop and an inlaid crosswalk. The charette document also notes the quality of the building's original construction materials: “Built by Universal Studios in 1927, the theater was constructed in Spanish mission style of the finest materials available, including fine sweet gum woodworking, leaded glass windows with copper window sashes and solid brass door fittings. The floors, inside as well as outside, were made of Georgia white marble.”

A sketch of proposed streetscape improvements prepared by Ball State in 2003.
  • A sketch of proposed streetscape improvements prepared by Ball State in 2003.

Those materials haven't all survived, but Stephens contends that the structure is still worth saving, both for its historical relevance — entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the Rivoli was the largest single-level theater in Indianapolis when built — and its potential for sparking neighborhood development. “The cost to restore the theatre is minimal compared to the anticipated economic benefit that re-opening the theatre will have to the 10th Street corridor,” he notes.

The rehabilitation process has been a gradual one: In 2009, The Indianapolis Star published an article similar to this one concerning the board's efforts, noting that restoration efforts had first begun in 2004, when the theater was acquired by a consortium of neighborhood groups that ultimately did little toward the cause of restoration. Center chairman Mark Dollase told The Star then that nearly $1 million would be required to replace the roof alone.

Stephens says the organization is still in the board development and fund raising stage, with the first priority being the stabilization of the roof to prevent further deterioration. “Following the stabilization of the building, it is the board's intent to completely restore the theatre with the ultimate end-use being a multi-faceted arts center allowing use for concerts, plays / dramatic productions and classic movies,” he says. “Currently, the board is closer to the beginning than the end of the project; however, the board itself is comprised of dedicated members with an unparalleled passion for the building and the arts as a whole.”

Performers at the Rivoli Revue will include musicians Lindsay Crane, Victoria Chavez and Jessica Kelley, Dance Kaleidoscope member Mariel Greenlee and burlesque ensemble Creme de les Femmes. WZPL host Nikki Reed will emcee. Tickets are $15, with a silent auction running from 6 p.m. and the show beginning at 7 p.m.

The Rivoli in 2011.
  • The Rivoli in 2011.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Inside Thebes: Where's the script?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

The people of Thebes throw up their hands, overcome by the plague. - SCOT MCKIM
  • Scot McKim
  • The people of Thebes throw up their hands, overcome by the plague.

Three years ago, NoExit Performance Group hit its stride with its production of Antigone in the gardens of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Director Georgeanna Smith turned the Lilly House into the castle of a Greek dynasty — and the grounds into that dynasty's kingdom — for the production. This spring, the company returns to the IMA to mount the entire Oedipal play cycle (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone) in repertory, meaning that one cast will present all three plays.

The big question here is: Have the members of this relatively young theater company bitten off more than they can chew? I can't observe the process entirely impartially; I'm a member of the four-person chorus for all three plays. But I do have the advantage of being embedded in a sense, and NoExit's leadership generously granted me permission to write about the rehearsal process, including any roadblocks. For the next three months, I'll write about the experience; here's my first installment.

Week One: Oedipus Rex

The trilogy begins with the downfall of Oedipus, who was fated to murder his father and bed his mother. In Colonus, we follow him into exile as his sons wage battle against each other for the right to rule. Lastly, in Antigone, his feisty daughter born from his own mother's womb fights for the right to give both of her lifeless brothers a proper burial.

We're starting from the beginning, with Oedipus Rex, directed by Michael Burke, who's a little overwhelmed. "The magnitude of this project didn't hit me until I sat down and looked at the schedule," he tells us. A general buzz of agreement resounded through the overwhelmed cast of sixteen; we've just seen the rehearsal schedule for the first time, too. "But it's going to be epic," he assures.

All of us are a bit nervous about having signed on for such a long commitment, with many in the cast having come straight off other performances, including Eclectic Pond's A Midsummer Night's Dream and PaperStrangers' The Pillowman. Burke has set an incredible pace for himself as a director in the past six months. He assistant directed Dracula at the Indiana Repertory Theater, a production he then helped to remount at Geva Theater Center in New York. He performed in NoExit's Nutcracker, mounted The Pillowman at Big Car Service Center and led a street performance troupe during the Super Bowl festivities.

Burke dives into the script during rehearsal. - SCOT MCKIM
  • Scot McKim
  • Burke dives into the script during rehearsal.

While his schedule may seem packed, it's not out of the norm for a director trying to make a name for him or herself. All that work has helped him build a sturdy resume and portfolio — and to score an interview at Yale's School of Drama upon his first application. (Many Yale graduates apply several times to the program before even being asked to interview.)

But the downside to Burke's artistically fulfilled life is becoming ever apparent during this first week of rehearsal. Upon arriving for the first rehearsal, one question is hot on everyone's lips: "Where is the script?"

When the cast list was sent out last summer, we were told to expect scripts by the first of the year. But our in-boxes have lain barren for months.

"The script is still an amorphous blob in my mind," explains Burke. "I had about half of it written, when my computer lost it." We spend the first two days working on a Fellini-esque opening dance number depicting Thebans-turned-showgirls overcome with plague. Our director has bought himself more time, and the dance number, set to Rufus Wainwright's "Oh What a World," has real potential to be fabulous.

Georgeanna Smith and Tommy Lewey demonstrate dance moves as Nan Macy looks on. - SCOT MCKIM
  • Scot McKim
  • Georgeanna Smith and Tommy Lewey demonstrate dance moves as Nan Macy looks on.

I pull Burke aside one night, asking him, "Are you shitting yourself about the script right now? I've noticed you're not as confident as you normally are coming into the process."

He chuckles, sighs and concedes, "I'm a little beaten. And it's not lightly that I would admit that. I like to keep myself busy, but I've gotten to the point where this is an unsustainable pace at which I'm operating. The reason that I'm not as confident right now is because I haven't had the time to mediate on this while I let it grow. None of my ideas are really rooted yet."

When the script finally materializes later in the week, it's a very rough cutting of Sophocles' text with a few pages from Seneca's adaptation. As we flip through the pages during a first read, the words "Oedipus is a Dick" stand alone, in bold, on a single white sheet of paper.

"That came out of frustration, but it's kind of has the vibe I want the chorus to exist in throughout the story," explains Burke.

As the week progresses, we begin to make sense of the mass of papers, cutting, editing and rewriting. We struggle, but we work together knowing there's no choice put to soldier on. With such a condensed rehearsal process — only three weeks for Rex, cut short by Burke's involvement with the Super Bowl — there is barely time to breathe.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman playwright

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Zehra Fazal at DivaFest 2011.
  • Zehra Fazal at DivaFest 2011.
On the cusp of DivaFest, IndyFringe head honcho Pauline Moffat drops me a line to share a rather depressing post to a Guardian blog. The numbers first: Women write only 17 percent of produced plays, according to the Sphinx Theatre Company.

(Or, rather, according to the New York State Council on the Arts; because the Sphinx website didn't have ready documentation for that 17 percent claim, I'll assume it comes from this study, prepared in 2002, which shows that women were on the writing team for only 17 percent of plays listed by American Theatre magazine for the 2001-2 season, though that number goes up to 18 if you subtract Shakespeare from the equation.)

But, hell, let's not get caught up in those numbers, because there's also an interesting 2009 study cited in the that Guardian blog. Actually, it's two studies in one. First, a Princeton econ student, Emily Glassberg Sands, poured through info on playwrights in the Dramatist's Guild and (an online database for playwrights). She found that there were more male playwrights than female and that men produced more plays, on the whole, than women.

Then she sent out identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers, half of them written by a Michael, the other half by a Mary. Mary's scripts received significantly lower marks, many of them given by female directors and managers.

Which brings us back to DivaFest, IndyFringe's annual showcase devoted to developing and performing plays by female playwrights, often based out of Indy. It's a two weekend effort this year (March 16-18 and 23-25), featuring six plays (an increase from last year's quota of five). And if we can trust the numbers — and not that we really need to — it's a necessary corrective to an evidently sexist theater scene.

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Meeting up with Indy's Francophones

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Benoit Menez and Claire Ty at Cornerstone.
“The French are free electrons," Benoit Menez told me a few weeks back during a French Social Night at Cornerstone Coffee House (located within the sprawling Moe & Johnny's complex). “We’re not as gregarious as the Germans.”

Despite Menez’s contention, you can often find a dozen or so of these “free electrons” at Cornerstone engaged in friendly conversation during these bi-monthly meet-ups. The freewheeling conversations, mostly in French, cover just about every topic imaginable.

Menez, an engineer who works at Roche Diagnostics, came to the United States from France in 1998. But one of the things that you quickly realize, at these meet-ups, is that only a fraction of the participants are native-born Frenchmen and Frenchwomen.

Often the participants (and organizers) of these events come from Francophone countries, such as Senegal or Lebanon, where French is spoken as a second language.

Claire Ty, who was also at the Cornerstone on Feb. 9, immigrated to France when she was five years old. In her native Cambodia, French is still spoken as a second language due to the history of French colonization there. Ty came to the United States in 1998, and she is currently an attorney practicing in Fishers.

The Alliance Française, which sponsors the French Social Night, has had an Indy chapter since 1989 to serve people like Ty as well as native-born Frenchmen. It also serves to educate Americans about French language and French culture. Some of the other activities the Alliance sponsors are wine tastings and Bastille Day celebrations.

That so many French-speakers have found themselves in the Circle City is no accident. The presence of high tech firms in the Greater Indy area, like Roche and Thomson, acts as a magnet for highly-skilled workers from all over the world.

While many participants have international backgrounds, you don’t have to be a Francophone to participate in these free-spirited conversations. You don’t even have to know any French. It’s rare, in fact, that someone in the conversation group doesn’t speak good English. But an interest in French language and culture (that is, being a Francophile) doesn’t hurt. And one of the things you learn, when you participate in these groups, is that there are many varieties of French.

A topic of discussion that Benoit Menez engaged in that evening, in fact, was how one particular French word, gosses , means different things on different sides of the Atlantic. In France gosses means children, while in Quebec the word is slang for testicles.

Menez also shared his impressions of the United States when he first arrived in this country. “I was surprised by the religiosity, the number of churches per square mile,” he said.

The next Indianapolis French Social Night is tonight (Feb. 23) from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Cornerstone, 651 E. 54th Street. Meet-ups, held on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, are free with no reservations required.

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Oscars noms to screen at Toby Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 1:54 PM

Chico & Rita
  • 'Chico & Rita'

The Indy Film Fest crew has a busy weekend planned.

On Friday, they'll kick off their free short film series, The Nooner, at 12 p.m. at the Earth House, with a program including 2011 winner God of Love (a charming, B&W tale about a modern-day Cupid that took home a prize at Heartland before winning the Oscar) and 2010 winner The New Tenants (shot in the Chelsea Hotel and starring writer David Rakoff and super-detective Vincent D'Inofrio).

Then there's the Oscar party Sunday at Forty Five Degrees, featuring door prizes, a silent auction and other fundraising fun.

But what we're most concerned with here is a triple-header Saturday at The Toby featuring three films nominated for an Academy Award this year. The good folks at the Fest provided screeners ahead of time, so here's our take on all three — and one figures that Chico & Rita will look a heck of a lot better on the big screen than on the tiny one I watched it on, though it looked pretty good even in adulterated form. Single screenings run $5 for IMA members and $9 for the general public; the three-film bulk rate is $12 for members and $20 for outsiders.

3.5 stars (R)
Bullhead jumps back and forth between a crime drama storyline and and a character study. When director Michael R. Roskam focuses on the tragic, brutal life of steroid and hormone dependent cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), the film is riveting. When he follows the crime drama about a deal between corrupt cattle farmers and the local mafia gone horribly wrong, it's not nearly as good. But Jacky's story is so compelling that it's easy to sit through the other parts. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In Dutch and French with English subtitles. 124 minutes. At the Toby at 8 p.m. Saturday. (Ed Johnson-Ott)

BULLHEAD - In Select Theaters February 17 from Drafthouse Films on Vimeo.

Hell and Back Again
4 stars (NR)
Photojournalist Danfung Dennis presents a documentary look at Sergeant Nathan Harris during his time in combat in Afghanistan and back home as he recovers from severe injuries and tries to readjust to life. Dennis' footage shot while embedded in Afghanistan is fascinating, especially the exchanges between the soldiers and the local farmers. The footage of Harris back home is even better, as we get to know a distinct personality different from the sort of man you usually see in soldiers-before-and-after-combat features. Insightful and adroitly edited. Don't miss this one. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 88 minutes. At the Toby at 3 p.m. Saturday. (EJO)

Hell and Back Again - Trailer from New Video on Vimeo.

Chico & Rita
2.5 stars (NR)
An animated film from a Spanish team familiar with the Cuban music scene (one of its directors, Fernando Trueba, has directed Buena Vista Social Club-style documentaries on the jazz talent in the country), Chico & Rita enchants on a visual level, its pen and water color-esque backgrounds bustling with life and full of detail during the film's first act in Cuba, then reminding of busy New Yorker covers with a move to NYC. Pity the story — an on-again, off-again love story between pianist Chico and singer Rita set largely in the '40s and '50s — is a disappointment, too invested (albeit knowingly) in pulpy Hollywood cliches of the era (A Star is Born, in particular). Still, the music is also a pleasure, with setpieces involving an out-of-control Chano Pozo and Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto drawing laughs, particularly if the viewer knows a little jazz. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 94 minutes. At the Toby at 5 p.m. Saturday. (Scott Shoger)

Trailer Chico & Rita from estudiomariscal on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Are City doc series launches at IMA

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Paul Liebrandt with pig's head in 'A Matter of Taste.'
  • Paul Liebrandt with pig's head in 'A Matter of Taste.'

The minds behind the We Are City film series — which kicks off Thursday at the IMA — hope to spark foster active discussion on urban life via three documentaries.

“We need constant creative effort to improve the way life is lived in the Circle City. The We Are City series is a way into that,” says Anne Laker, director of public programs at IMA. “The films and conversation are about pushing Indy's envelope. What needs to happen to continue to bolster the biking culture in our city? What can we do to be more consciously creative when we look at planning for the housing needs of those who are struggling to make it?”

We Are City kicks off with A Matter of Taste on Feb. 23, a documentary that follows New York chef Paul Liebrandt over several years as he navigates his way through the competitive world of haute cuisine and struggles to make a name for himself. Special guests include Becky Hostetter of Duos mobile kitchen, Cynthia Wilson of Kountry Kitchen and Neal Brown of The Libertine and Pizzology.

“After the film, Michael Kaufmann will ask [attendees] about how Indy's sense of place is defined by food,” explains Laker, an occasional contributor to NUVO. “How are their establishments more than just places to eat? Then, everybody's invited to take matters into their own hands at "action tables" where meaty questions will be posed about how to advance Indy's food culture. Two local food critics will be hosting a table, as will Indy Winter Farmer's Market executive director Laura Henderson.”

The series is presented by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Wishard Health Services with support from Butler University Center for Urban Ecology, URBN DSGN, Big Car, The Platform and Indiana Humanities.

We Are City Film Series 2012
All screenings at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Tobias Theater, 400 N. Michigan Road; $5 public, $3 IMA members

A Matter of Taste (2010, dir. Sally Rowe, 72 mins.)
Thursday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
A film profile of New York chef Paul Liebrandt, following him over the course of almost a decade as he defines his artistic culinary vision.

A Matter Of Taste - Trailer from Sally Rowe on Vimeo.

With My Own Two Wheels (2010, dirs. Jacob Seigel-Boettner and Isaac Seigel-Boettner, 44 mins.)
March 22, 7 p.m.
This documentary weaves together the experiences of five individuals into a single story about how the bicycle might change the world.

With My Own Two Wheels Trailer from Jacob SB on Vimeo.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History
April 5, 7 p.m. (2011, dir. Chad Friedrichs, 79 mins.)
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth tells the story of the transformation of the American city in the decades after World War II, when suburbanization led to destitute urban cores, increasingly segregated by class and race.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: an Urban History — Film Trailer from the Pruitt-Igoe Myth on Vimeo.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Slideshow: IUPUI International Fashion Show II

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 1:00 PM

On Friday, Feb. 17, at the IUPUI Campus Center, an overflow crowd was treated a fashion show that spanned the global gamut, from The Philippines to Iran to Morocco to the United States.

A presentation by the IUPUI International Club, this performance was headed up by Evangeline Hodgson (creative director and head coordinator), Susana Bickel (I-Club vice president and co-coordinator) and Nick Pitts (runway director).

Over 300 people were crammed into the room as models walked and danced the runway, to the world-music sounds of DJ Kyle Long. In addition, audience members were treated to three cultural dances: Honduran Punta, Indonesian Magpag and Salsa.

Donations collected at the event will go to an underprivileged school in Akuapem, Ghana.

International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow)
International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow) International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow)

International Fashion Show pt. 2 (slideshow)

IUPUI hosted an International Fashion Show, Highlighting fashions from around the world.

By Dharma Syamim Fikri

Click to View 9 slides

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Slideshow: IUPUI International Fashion Show I

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 12:31 PM

On Friday, Feb. 17, at the IUPUI Campus Center, an overflow crowd was treated a fashion show that spanned the global gamut, from The Philippines to Iran to Morocco to the United States.

A presentation by the IUPUI International Club, this performance was headed up by Evangeline Hodgson (creative director and head coordinator), Susana Bickel (I-Club vice president and co-coordinator) and Nick Pitts (runway director).

Over 300 people were crammed into the room as models walked and danced the runway, to the world-music sounds of DJ Kyle Long. In addition, audience members were treated to three cultural dances: Honduran Punta, Indonesian Magpag and Salsa.

Donations collected at the event will go to an underprivileged school in Akuapem, Ghana.

International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow)
International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow) International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow)

International Fashion Show, pt. 1 (slideshow)

IUPUI was host to an international fashion show, showing off fashions from around the world.

By Dharma Syamim Fikri

Click to View 25 slides

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hair of the God: On United Methodism

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Phil van Hest

Hair of the God: Church reviews by Phil van Hest

Being a new resident of Indianapolis and a Los Angeles refugee, I've noticed that folks around here are very religious. They’re religious about football, drinking, their lawns — and sometimes even God. My opinions on the first three are pretty solid, with only God remained “undecided.” My formative years were spent as an atheist, until I realized that what bothered me about “religions” was their claim to truth. Being an Atheist seemed like committing the same error as those religions so confident in their belief; merely saying “Nuh-uh” to the faithful’s “Yuh-huh” feels less than constructive.

Behold! My commitment to agnosticism continues apace with Hair of the God, a series of church and sermon reviews. As with much of my life, this began as a joke and became a true truth investigation. I’m heading into the wilderness in search of peace and love, but mostly understanding. Starting with Church seemed like a good a place as any. Hope to see you there.

Meridian Street United Methodist Church, Rev. Ann Rosebrock
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Upon entering the sanctuary, everyone gets a program. Across the top it says, “Meridian Street United Methodist Church: Unexpected.” As the choir filtered in, standing to either side of a pipe organ in front of a big cross and behind an altar and a pulpit — and as I looked down to my pew to find a conveniently located Bible, hymnal and offering envelopes — I began to think that maybe “unexpected” was supposed to be ironic.

The most unexpected thing to happen so far was the listing of “acolytes” in the program. My only experience with that word is from World of Warcraft, where acolytes are primarily spell-casters in service to the Cult of the Damned. Here they took the form of adorable candle-holding young ladies.

I still don’t know a Methodist from a mineralogist, but despite my early suspicions, much of the service was unexpectedly refreshing. Associate Pastor Rev. Peter Curts appeared enthusiastic announcing the Super Bowl Sunday church parking lot tailgate party (for the glory of God) and reminding everyone about the Financial Peace University Class. This seemed like the right amount of practical religion — football and wealth building. God loves people who help themselves help other people to help themselves.

Pastor Rev. Ann Rosebrock delivered the main performance as a “meditation” entitled “Reality Check.” Pastor Rosebrock appears a confident and happy woman, and her living warmth is contagious — I smiled along as she confessed her love for The Apprentice. Her comparison of the show to God’s love, for which none of us are competing because we are all His forgiven and beloved children, was joyful and coherent.

The theme of Rosebrock’s piece was baptism and the renewal of baptismal vows. Since it is predominantly children who are baptized, she suggests that those adult children could do worse than renew their vows. This seemed prudent — I missed the details, but on the surface baptism involves a conscious rejection of evil and the devotion of one’s life to serving Christ. How is an infant supposed to affirm that? Would spit-up represent evil and the child’s rejection of God's beneficent love?

As she elaborated about the spirit of God entering Jesus at his baptism and how the contemporary ritual represents our own incorporation with the Lord, it dawned on me that there was to be a renewal of baptismal vows ceremony that very hour. Oddly, this gave me the same kind of pre-stage fright I get when it’s show time and I don’t know my lines.

Instead of debating it, I just got in line; I was there to participate after all. I don’t know if I’ve ever been baptized, but Rev. Ann reaffirmed my vows anyway, with positive words and a watery cross on my forehead. As I walked back to my seat, I noticed a subtle but real sensation of ease and simplicity. Before I could meditate on that, before I even reached my seat, I noticed the fluted columns along the wall were in desperate need of re-caulking. I dropped a note along with my offering, “For God’s Caulk.” I have much to learn.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

New fed transportation bill is bad for bicyclists

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Kevin Whited (center) biking along the Cultural Trail.
  • Kevin Whited (center) biking along the Cultural Trail.

If you liked the '50s through '70s - which saw an increase in air pollution, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, plus traffic fatalities for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists - you'll love Congress’ new transportation bills.

On the other hand, if you like the trends of increased bicycling, walking and more mass transit, I suggest you get involved.

Two versions of what may potentially become new transportation law are making their way through Congress. The House bill is currently known as “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act,” or HR 7. The Senate’s version is “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, or MAP-21.

I know what you’re thinking at this point: “Where are they coming up with these crazy names?” “What cool acronyms they make!” But it’s here where things begin heading south for anyone interested in bicycling, walking and even mass transit.

Let’s focus on bicycle growth in the U.S. and Indiana, so we know why we want the Senate or House bills to fail. First, you’ve probably noticed an increase in bicycling locally and nationally. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, commuting to work via bicycle increased 64% from 1990 to 2009 and in Indiana for the same time period the growth was 96% (6,150 to 12,059).

If we look at all trips, which the Census doesn’t measure, we would see an even larger increase. All one has to do is examine the number of bicycles parked at the Pedal & Park corrals in Central Indiana. Tom McCain, Pedal & Park program director, reported 5,029 bikes parked in 2011, up from 3,924 in 2010. If local trends match national trends, this increase can be attributed to safer and connected bicycle specific infrastructure that’s been funded through various transportation programs.

Now let’s get back to why MAP-21 & HR 7 may well spell disaster for non-motorized transportation and mass transit.

HR 7 would eliminate programs such as Safe Routes to School, which funds infrastructure (e.g. crosswalks, bike lanes, etc.) and non-infrastructure programs (safety programs, etc.) near and at schools; and Transportation Enhancement (TE) programs which help fund similar infrastructure and much more (the Monon was paid for in large part by TE funds).

In addition, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program would be altered considerably. This program can be used to fund non-motorized transportation in cities with unhealthy air quality — if the project can be shown to decrease air pollution.

Under the new program, reducing congestion would be prioritized over the reduction of air pollution.

While this may not appear horrible on the surface (i.e. automobiles moving at a consistent speed produce less pollutants than automobiles in stop and go traffic), it inevitably signals to traffic engineers to speed up traffic at the expense of other road users.

Indianapolis already doesn’t currently meet EPA standards for healthy air. Think more asthma and other associated lung disease and increased traffic fatalities for bicyclists, pedestrians and even drivers themselves.

The Senate’s bill, MAP-21, which will be brought to the floor next week, is not much better.

Walking and bicycling programs, while not completely eliminated, suffer disproportionate cuts in funding and increased competition from other transportation programs (e.g. road construction).

Take a minute to let your Senator and Congressman know how you feel by calling and then writing them a letter or email.

Kevin Whited is Executive Director of INDYCOG.

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Give Indy Reads your tired, weary books, CDs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 9:05 AM

Actually, a correction to that headline: Indy Reads is indeed looking looking for used books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks and video games to stock a community bookstore, but the adult literacy organization would rather they be in gently used, rather altogether weary, condition.

Surplus media is destined for Indy Reads Books, a used bookstore soon to open downtown along the Cultural Trail. The store will raise money for Indy Reads, the only organization in the city using volunteer power to provide free, basic literacy tutoring to illiterate or semi-literate adults.

Book and media collection boxes are located at:

Indy Reads Office, 2450 N. Meridian St. (open 12-5 p.m., weekdays)

WFYI, 1630 N. Meridian St. (9 a.m.-5 p.m., weekdays)

The Best Chocolate in Town, 890 Mass Ave. (11 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Saturday)

Global Gifts, 446 Mass Ave. (10 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday)

The Athenaeum-YMCA, 401 E. Michigan St. (5 a.m.-9 p.m., weekdays; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., weekends)

Additionally, book drives are planned for the Butler (Feb. 24) and IUPUI campus (March 1). Donations are tax-deductible, though benefactors will need to keep track of what they've donated, as Indy Reads will make out receipts only after the store has opened.

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Show Indiana authors love, respect, money

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM

You, the devoted reader of Indiana-made poetry and prose, have until March 23 to pipe up and say who should be awarded a 2012 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, bestowed annually upon three writers doing quality work likely to have a lasting impact. Any published writer born in Indiana or who has lived in Indiana for at least five consecutive years is eligible for recognition in one of three categories, as follow:

National author: A writer with Indiana ties, but whose work is known and read throughout the country. National authors will be evaluated on their entire body of work. ($10,000 prize)

Regional author: A writer who is well-known and respected throughout the state of Indiana. Regional authors will be evaluated on their entire body of work. ($7,500 prize)

Emerging author: A writer who has published no more than two books during his/her lifetime. The title(s) must have been published within the last 10 years. Emerging authors will be evaluated on these specific works. ($5,000 prize)

Nomination forms and eligibility guidelines are available at A ticketed awards dinner will take place Sept. 29 at the Central Library. Each author's hometown library will receive $2,500, in addition to the author's individual prize. Last year's winners were Margaret McMullan on the national level, Helen Frost on the regional level and Micah Ling as an emerging author.

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