Sunday, January 29, 2012

Super Bowl Village

Super Bowl numerals on Monument Circle
Today we headed downtown to take a look at the Super Bowl Village and the related activities that have been set up in preparation for the World Championship of All Football—and to get in a good walk, which, for various reasons, we have not had the chance to do for awhile. To prepare for all of the traffic downtown, of both the pedestrian and vehicular varieties, I took no special precautions whatsoever. I took the same route—straight out Michigan Street from our house, and then turn north on Park Avenue and park the car, for free, anywhere along the sidewalk between Michigan Street and Mass Ave.

From there, it’s a bit of a hike down to where the Super Bowl Village is set up along Georgia Street between whatever this week’s name is for where the Pacers play on the east end and the Manningdome on the west end; but we were in the mood for a good walk, so it wasn’t a trouble. There are also a number of concert stages, the giant Super Bowl numerals up on Monument Circle, and—of course—the zip line. We bypassed the NFL Experience that is set up inside the convention center, because that would have cost $70 for the three of us to get into.

32 NFL teams, 32 specially-painted IndyCars

Those faint black lines at the top center are the four zip lines over Capitol Avenue. The convention center is on the left.

In addition to all of the NFL-related activities going on—which mostly involved just walking around and people-watching—there were food trucks lined up for most of the afternoon along one quarter of Monument Circle (and a tiny sliver of Market Street), which is another good reason to come downtown for Super Bowl activities. I’ve mostly just read about all of the food trucks that have started to appear in Indianapolis, and I always have to work on Fridays, which means that I have not yet had a chance to get to one of the food truck frenzies for First Friday (heh) in the parking lot of the Murat. The only food truck fare I had had before today was West Coast Tacos and the NY Slice, and I tried both of those at the Irvington Halloween Festival (though not in the same year).

Today we tried food from the Scratch truck; and lest you think noshing on food purchased from a vehicle powered by a generator is daft, here’s some of what they had on the menu today: The Scratch Burger, with a third pound of ground beef, arugula, gorgonzola, and bacon marmalade; Green Chile Mac and Cheese, with roasted poblano peppers, red bell peppers, red onions, sweet corn, and pepper jack cheese; and Texas-style chili (no beans) topped with cheese and onions. And those were just the things we tried. Check out the magic internets for the rest of the menu that they will be serving all throughout the Super Bowl period.

Amy and Jackson took turns tackling each other on some replica field turf that had been installed over part of Capitol Avenue, below the zip line; and while they were doing that, I watched people sailing down the zip line—including one guy who held onto the harness in such a way that his head was actually pointed toward the ground while he zipped. (The actual turf that they were playing on was surprisingly photogenic.) I would have liked to try the zip line, but I had no interest in waiting in a line that I had heard took up to six hours to get through.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Indiana: Working Hard to Be the Most Ignorant State in the Union!

Indiana House Bill 1073, which would have cleared the way for meaningful mass transit for at least Marion and Hamilton Counties, went down in committee, 10-11, because of right-to-work language included in the bill. It is, of course, no secret that Republicans are against labor. Speaker Brian Bosma, a disgrace of a politician, has rammed right-to-work down the throats of Hoosiers who don’t want it (like the guy in the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo who raped Lisbeth’s mouth), but that’s not enough for these right-wing monsters in the Statehouse. They can’t just have union-busting right-to-work. They also have to destroy the possibility of mass transit by including right-to-work language. How much more embarrassing can this incredibly backward, hilljack state get?

Answer: Quite a bit. Now the mouth-breathing Retardlicans want to pass a bill that would allow the teaching of creationism in science classes. That’s sort of like teaching woodworking during band class. Earth to right-wing, conservative, Republican retards: CREATIONISM IS NOT SCIENCE! It is no way, shape, or form, science. It is a belief system—period, end of report, next case.

Would you believe that I am actually not fundamentally opposed to the teaching of creationism in schools? I’m really not. I don’t believe in it, of course, because it is nonsense (creationism is about as valid as saying that yellow and blue make twelve); but I am not opposed to its being taught—in religion or philosophy classes, where it belongs. It’s so embarrassing to be a citizen of Indiana right now. The people who run this state, and the monkeys who vote for them, are so fucking ignorant.

Click here to find your state legislator. Let them know that you support House Bill 1073, and that you oppose Senate Bill 89.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


So I got this e-mail from MoveOn today, with a link to a petition that one of its members had put together. The petition opposes the new right-to-work legislation with which the majority Republicans are currently tyrannizing the minority in the Indiana House of Representatives. I’m not 100% sure where I stand on right-to-work (despite being married to someone who belongs to a union), and I’d like to read more about it, though without any of the spin that I imagine I would get from the “sources” on each side. The Republicans support the measure, which means it’s probably bad, but I don’t get the impression that it’s like the social conservative issues, which are pretty much black and white and about which Republicans and conservatives are completely incorrect.

There was a Contact link on the web page where you actually signed the petition, so I sent an e-mail to the guy who set it up, asking if he might point me in the direction of some good information. Hopefully I will get more of a response from him—read, any kind of response at all—than I have gotten from various Republicans I have contacted in the last few months, including John Gregg, Mike Pence, and Cindy Kirchhofer. (And yes, I am well aware that, being a MoveOn person, he is likely to steer me toward left-leaning sources. As long as it’s not cherry-picked studies from either of the sides directly involved in the process, or the shady fund-raising groups that they have in their employ, I don’t really care where it comes from.)

This is yet another minor attempt at civic action on my part. I know it’s not much, and I know that Indiana will never be cured of its conservative sickness until all of the liberals and moderates stand up and make their voices heard—which, yes, involves more than just signing internet petitions and writing the occasional incendiary blog post that almost no one reads—but right now, this is pretty much all that I can do. It’s not enough, and I know that, and it’s there in my head to work on it more; but there are a lot of other things in my head that I’m also trying to work on, and there just isn’t enough time in the day for all of those things.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Jeopardy! Online Test

I finally signed up to take the Jeopardy! online test, and it starts in less than four minutes. I always used to hem and haw and make excuses about why I never did this, but once I switched over to the fancy high-speed interwebs - and realized that you did not HAVE to take the test on the date/time specified for your time zone (which was always Tuesday night for me, a night when I always have to work) - I decided that I was pretty much out of excuses. Now it's under 90 seconds until the test starts, so here we go.

And nine minutes later, the test is over. I looked at the website this morning - okay, this afternoon - and read that the test would only take about ten minutes, for 50 fill-in-the-blank questions. That turned out to be the case, and even though I knew it was going to be quick, it seemed to go a lot quicker. I had hoped to keep track in my head of all the questions I knew I got right, but I wasn't more than about ten questions into the test before that idea went out the window. I didn't get an answer typed in before the time was up for two of the questions, and there are at least two that I know for sure that I got wrong.

I don't imagine that I will actually get on the show, but I guess it was about time for me to at least take the test and have a go at it. They used to have a practice test on their website, and I took that once and got 30-ish right out of 50. The website said before the test that you generally needed to get around 35 questions right to have a chance to get on the show. I know I got quite a few right tonight, but I don't think it was 35. I couldn't even get 35 when it was practice and there was no pressure to get the answer typed in before the time ran out. Oh well...

Monday, January 16, 2012


I’m still in the early stages of parenting, and Jackson isn’t yet to the point in life when much of what he does each day is separate from either me or Amy; and so with that in mind it’s hard for me to get much of a grasp on whether or not society as a whole needs a gentle reminder that older kids live in a world that is almost entirely separate from that of their parents. I have no doubt that I will need to be reminded of that truism one of these days, and when that day comes, I hope to be able to reach for a copy of this film on DVD—or to be able to stream it from my iCloud account, or from Netflix, or whatever—so that I can laugh like an idiot at what short-sighted clowns grownups and parents can be when they lose sight, even for a moment, of that seemingly basic fact.

Carnage opens with a playground scene shown in its long view, and a developing argument between two young boys. They begin to swat and slap at each other, and then one of the boys picks up from the ground a stick so long that it might as well be called a branch; and with this weapon, he strikes the other boy across the face. Fight over, fade to black. The next scene—the second of what will be a total of four scenes in the film—opens in the apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet, with Penelope sitting at her computer and composing a letter—a statement, rather—expressing her and her husband’s view of what happened between their son, Ethan, and Zachary, the boy with the stick from the previous scene. Thanks to Zachary, Ethan has cuts and bruises on his face, and has lost two teeth.

Two incisors, his mother specifies. Not necessarily because incisors are any more important than other teeth—but mostly just because Penelope Longstreet (Jodie Foster) likes to specify things. Zachary’s father, Alan, takes issue with Penelope’s description of Zachary as being “armed with a stick,” and eventually gets her to acquiesce to using the phrase “carrying a stick.” Once the parties involved—Penelope and Michael (John C. Reilly) and Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, respectively) are satisfied with the statement, Penelope prints a copy and hands it to the Cowans—specifying, of course, that this just represents the statement of the Longstreets, and that she expects a statement from the Cowans to follow in due course.

Other than the long shots of the boys in the opening scene (and later in the closing scene), these are the only cast members who are actually seen on screen. Consider for a moment the filmmaking pedigree here contained: Roman Polanski—thrice nominated for and once awarded the Best Director Oscar—co-wrote and directed this picutre, and he brought in Foster, Reilly, Waltz, and Winslet to act in it—a group of actors with four Oscars between them. And the four of them (plus the crew) are going to occupy this single apartment set for the next eighty-odd minutes. This is one of the reasons that adapting stage plays to the big screen can be difficult. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert notes that plays structured in this way are especially well-suited for the stage; and then he goes on to say that he is “not sure it called out to be filmed.”

I disagree wholeheartedly, and for a couple of reasons. The first is that a stage play is likely to be seen by far fewer people than a feature film—even a fairly small feature film such as this. That’s unfortunate, especially in this case, because there is some surprisingly funny social commentary that takes place in the film’s short running time (80 minutes). A lot of that commentary is directed toward the role that cell phones play in most people’s lives, how ridiculous are the people who are tied to those goofy devices. I’m completely in favor of anything that helps people to understand and treat their addictions to their cell phones. The film also comments on other material goods, and to a lesser extent on the lifestyles of people who care too much about material goods.

The second reason that I disagree with Mr. Ebert is because of the kind of film that this is. For the most part, you have four people, in one apartment, talking to each other. You know—actors acting the lines of a solid screenplay. Things that you have to think about a little bit. No explosions. Sure, some of the dialogue feels a little bit theatrical, and the characters are exaggerations; but the film was shot in real time, making it necessary for the cast learn all of their lines in one go, both of which are practically unheard of in the movie world. (Check out the production notes here.)

So what happens in the film? The four parents talk over what is to be done about the mess their kids have gotten themselves into. Alan, a lawyer, constantly excuses himself to take calls on his cell phone; Penelope tries to be all new-age parent-y, wanting the boys to get together and talk about their feelings, while she does an increasingly poor job of keeping a lid on her nearly boiling rage at what has happened to her son; and Michael and Nancy, at first, attempt to run interference for their respective spouses. Then they break out the Scotch. Watching these actors portray the actions and reactions of their characters is a real treat, especially as the film progresses and the dynamics of the conversations evolve and opinions and allegiances undergo both subtle and not-so-subtle changes. The ending is especially satisfying (other than the extremely silly and entirely out of place penultimate scene), the back end of the frame employed in the opening scene, which, when juxtaposed with what goes on between the bookend secnes, puts a pretty funny perspective on the way parents behave with respect to their kids.

Deep Thoughts #71 - Special Topical GOP DOA Edition

Instead of a reasonable person, the ignorant Republicans (redundant, yes) would rather nominate a weasel who’ll say anything to get elected.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Verdell Jones III Gets Booed? Really?!

I couldn’t bring myself to read the article in my e-mail about IU’s loss to Minnesota last night until just now, when I got home from work; and what I found when I read the article is that Verdell Jones III was apparently booed by the fans last night at the Assembly Hall. That ain’t even close to cool. Sure, dude had an off night—maybe the mother of all off nights—and didn’t score a point. The article says that Jones III got booed when he came back into the game with less than a minute to play—how’s that supposed to make him feel when it’s crunch time and he’s a senior whose best moment of the night might be the last sixty seconds of the game?

I didn’t see the game, or even listen to it on the radio, so I don’t know how the whole thing went down, nor what Jones III might have had the chance to do in that last minute; but I just don’t see how you boo the guy, especially when the game is close and you still have the chance to win. The season is barely half over, and this remarkable Indiana team has already given us so much more than even the biggest believers thought was possible when the season started. They hung the first loss of the season on then-#1 Kentucky, on what might have been the most dramatic shot in Indiana basketball since Keith Smart drained a baseline runner to win the national championship over Syracuse in 1987; they gutted out a win over then-#2 Ohio State, to become the first Indiana team ever to beat both a #1 and a #2 in the same season; and they’ve even done the little things that aren’t so sexy, like winning road games—something they did not do very often during Tom Crean’s first three seasons as Indiana’s head coach.

They play hard every night, but this is the Big Ten, kids; and for all of their achievements, this remains an Indiana team that is, in many ways, dramatically overachieving. They’re going to have their off nights. They’re going to lose games. Did I mention this is the Big Ten, maybe the deepest conference in the country? It also needs to be noted that Minnesota, despite the fact that they had not won a league game before last night, lost their first three league games by a combined 16 points—and Illinois needed two overtimes to beat the Gophers, in Champaign. Minnesota only lost to Michigan, in Ann Arbor, by 5. They were 12-1 before opening league play, and that included back-to-back wins over Virginia Tech and USC. Much as I hate to see Indiana lose, Minnesota was due for that first league win—and Indiana was probably due for a loss at home.

And there will be more losses. Some of them will be at home. Indiana has come a long way from the rock bottom they found themselves in after the Kelvin Sampson tornado blew through; and Tom Crean has done what can only be described as an amazing job picking up the pieces and bringing Indiana basketball back to national prominence, where it had stood proudly for so many years under Bob Knight; but there is still a long way to go, and there are going to be bumps along the way, off nights for everyone, from seniors like Jones III to freshmen like Cody Zeller.

But don’t boo them. These guys deserve way better than that, especially the guys like Verdell Jones III, who have been around for the entirety of the post-Sampson era. It’s those guys who have played hard, and fought, and hustled to get Indiana back to being the kind of place where kids like Cody Zeller want to come to play basketball. He could have followed his brother Tyler to North Carolina, one of those programs that never seems to have an off year. My buddy Scott likes to say of those kinds of programs that they don’t rebuild—they reload. I don’t know if Indiana is ever going to be that kind of program again, but thanks to guys like Jones III, who kept on fighting even when the losses were coming in droves, Indiana is…well…we’re back, baby!

Deep Thoughts #70

BREAKING NEWS! France loses AAA credit rating! President Obama in danger of losing support of those self-identified as Parisian-Republicans!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mama Irma Restaurant

Today we had lunch at yet another new establishment in Fountain Square, Mama Irma Restaurant. Just northwest of Prospect and Shelby on Virginia Avenue, the restaurant is small but comfortable, the walls a bright, but not overhwleming, yellow. Someone forgot to give owner Hilda Cano a copy of the memo that says any new restaurant in Fountain Square has to ooze with a vaguely pretentious air of trendiness. I’m not sure if it was the bright colors on the walls, the minimal decor, or the way that our server knew the menu cold, including pronunciations; but something about the place was charming right down to the ground, in a “where everybody knows your name” kind of way.

The restaurant features the cuisine of Peru, about which I knew practically nothing before we sat down to eat. I don’t know much more about it now, except that the menu is long on rice and noodle dishes, fried seafood, and a ceviche that the two press reviewers who wrote about the restaurant in NUVO and the Star couldn’t get enough of. I had the Arroz con Pollo, described as “cilantro base rice, paired with chicken, and vegetables.” Amy had the Camarones al Ajillo, “sautéed shrimp in special Peruvian garlic sauce, served with fried Yucca root.” We also got an order of fried plantains to start, though that and the entrées came out together, after what felt like sort of a long time, given that we were the only two diners in the restaurant, other than a couple that was already on dessert.

The plantains were tender and sweet, but not as crispy as some, and a little bit on the soft and oily side. That could be the way they eat them in Peru (though Amy’s fried Yucca root, nearly a kissing cousin to the french fried potato, was quite crispy), but it could also be an indication that the temperature of the fat they were fried in wasn’t high enough. A minor quibble, though, as they provided a nice counterpoint to the savory, earthy flavor of my chicken and rice. I wasn’t sure I could taste cilantro the way I was expecting to taste cilantro; but once again, that could just be the Peruvian style, and the fact that I’ve never experienced it before to know what it tastes like. Whatever I was tasting, it was very good, and very hot (not spicy, but hot like it had just come out of the pan or the oven), and very satisfying. Amy’s shrimp also were very good, their garlic seasoning a bit more familiar.

Toward the end of the meal, the owner, Hilda Cano, came out of the kitchen and said hello both to us and to the other couple, who were finishing their dessert and settling up. She addressed the gentleman by saying, “You’re back!” He had apparently been in a day or two earlier, and had come back because he had to have some more of the ceviche, which he said he had been craving and could not get anywhere else. It was not the sort of thing you would have experienced in a chain restaurant, where the manager wears a hands-free communication device and makes the rounds asking how everything is only because the corporate policy says he’s supposed to. He doesn’t really care what you think of your meal, only that you finish quickly so he can turn the table; and, of course, chain restaurants do not have actual owners—never mind owners who are actually in the kitchen cooking the food that you eat.

Fountain Square has so much going for it in terms of food that you could eat one meal a day at a different independent restaurant in the neighborhood, and it would be going on a fortnight before you had to repeat yourself—maybe even longer than that. I’m not actually keeping score. Go all the way back up Virginia Avenue into downtown proper—with a side trip up College Avenue to hit Iaria’s and the Milano Inn, and you could well go a month without eating at the same place twice, and without eating at a chain place at all.

And I was mostly kidding when I made that crack about being too trendy earlier. I’ve only gotten that vibe at one place in Fountain Square, and the food was so good that it wound up not bothering me. Most of the places are comfortable and kitschy and historical; and Mama Irma Restaurant totally gets the neighborhood vibe. Run, don’t walk, yo.

1058 Virginia Avenue

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Deep Thoughts #69 - Special Topical Strategy Failure Edition

I’m glad that Bill Polian is unemployed, but now they need to start breaking up the Bible Study Club by firing Pudgy Dungy—er, Jim Caldwell.

Deep Thoughts #68 - Special Topical Strategy Failure Edition

If Bill Polian has to hock his Super Bowl ring for beer money he should give Rex Grossman first dibs since he owes half of it to him anyway.