Read 26 Indy Reading Challenge for 2014

Early in January of 2014, Indy Star Reporter Michael Anthony Adams issued a challenge to Indiana residents for the new year:

New Year’s resolutions are rarely acted on. I’m guilty of it, and you’re guilty of it. The trick is to have support, which is exactly what #Read26Indy is. But instead of having a few friends hold you accountable for your vows, you have an entire city.

The pledge: I’m calling on every Hoosier to read 26 books in 2014. Think of it as your informal education, a collective challenge. One book every two weeks. That’s 20 pages a day (if you figure that the average novel is 280-300 pages long). When you start a book, let everyone know about it on Twitter by using the hashtag #Read26Indy. Feel like telling us what you’re drinking while you’re reading? Have at it, but use #Read26Indy. Can’t stand a character? Want to rant about it? #Read26Indy is your pedestal. The point is to read. Like Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad.”

Can’t decide what to read? Tweet it out. #Read26Indy has already gathered a large following, and people are eager to tell you about their favorite books. I’ll also be keeping this page up-to-date with what I’m reading and I urge you to join our Goodreads group, #Read26Indy, to discuss your picks with other readers.

Part way through January, they mentioned that comic books count! I could finish in a couple weeks if I include them. For my personal challenge, I’ll note comic books but not count them against my official total. I’m going to pin this post to my main page and update as I add titles throughout the year.

So far my finished titles are:

This Is How You Lose Her
Rated: 4 stars. Very well written with strong characters. I just had a hard time identifying with the protagonist, because all of his problems came through his own self-absorption.

The Goldfinch
Rated: 5 stars. Everything I love about reading – being so caught up that I forget the rest of the world exists, wanting to highlight whole passages and re-read whole sections, frantically looking up quotes and references to get at additional layers of meaning – all come together here. The book I set down after the I finished the last page is a completely different one than I thought I was reading after the first chapter, and winding up in a different place than I expected and yet feeling like it all made sense and could be true is, I think, a hallmark of a truly skilled author.

Hawkeye: Little Hits, Vol. 2
Rated: 4 stars. Smart and sardonic, the story of a hapless hero who seems to swing and miss an awful lot. Beautifully drawn work.

The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender
Rated: 4 stars. Available as a free ebook, so no reason not to pick up a copy. Worth reading for the discussion of the fallacies of The Golden Rule alone – Killermann suggest replacing “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” with the more thoughtful “do unto others as they would have you do to them” and his logic is impeccable; he challenged (and improved!) one of the basic principles I’ve always followed.

But the book really shines when it leads you through understanding of gender and especially how people who don’t conform to the male/female gender binary see themselves in the world. It’s eye-opening and will change your perspective in a healthy way for yourself and the people around you.

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Posted in Books I've Read

Things I’ve been doing lately (instead of blogging)

Things I’ve been doing instead of blogging:

  • Taking a scene writing class from the Indiana Writer’s Center (I also took a world building class at IWC taught by Maurice Broaddus). I don’t know yet if this is helping me write better, but it is helping me procrastinate.
  • Taking a sewing class from Crimson Tate our local fabric store. This is because I need to brush up on my sewing skills so I can hem my own pants and such. My rudimentary junior-high home-ec skills need some refreshment.
  • Getting a head-start on gardening. The winter was so harsh that I couldn’t wait to plan what the gardens were going to look like. So we got a load of mulch early in March and put it down on the front flowerbeds before the spring bulbs came up. Also, I started flower seeds in a mini green house, and I’m getting the kitchen window ready to use as a cold-frame to start herbs and veggies. I’m growing some lavender, two kinds of butterfly flower, indigo and a climbing passion flower.
  • Reading more fiction. My sleep doctor told me to stay away from computer screens in the evening so I can sleep better, and it really works. So I’ve been reading more print books and less iPad. Now I wake up at 5:30 am instead of 2:30 am, and I feel more refreshed. Also, I’ve finished more books. We’re reading Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, which in retrospect was a bad choice on my part. It’s a bit of a slog.
  • Therapy. No worries. Just dealing with stress from things that are beyond our control to fix.

IndianHeadTestPattern16x9

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Posted in Journal

The Art Assignment #3: Intimate, Indispensable GIF

In which The Art Assignment visits New York-based artist Toyin Odutola and receives the challenge to create a GIF! But not just any GIF–it must articulate something intimate that is indispensable to you.

My Entry: My (current) favorite words

Words: Intimate & Indenspensible

EPISODE 03 INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Think of something intimate that is indispensable to you. (It doesn’t have to be a body part. It can be an object, place, memory, anything.)

2. Depict it in the form of a GIF. You don’t have to make drawings—you can use photographs, make a sculpture, or whatever you like.

3. Upload and share it online using whatever social media platforms you prefer, being sure to tag it with #theartassignment so we can find it.

4. Fame and glory. (Your response might be included in a future episode.)

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Posted in Arts & Crafts, Brain Food, My Design Work

Essential Follow-up Reading on HJR-3

Indy StarThe intrigue behind the curtain cloaking the HJR-3 debate
“When the Indiana Senate cast its vote Monday on the proposed same-sex marriage ban, it all seemed pretty straightforward, even predictable. The vast majority of Republicans voted for the measure and it passed 32-17.

But outside public view, another story was playing out. In the days and hours leading up to the vote, a group of socially conservative senators was plotting in private to kill the marriage amendment.”

Commentary from inside the organization fighting HJR3 on this article: “I read it twice. A lot of it has an element of reality, some is off base. But we’ve got to be ready for 2015. No question.”

Digital Media News — Reporters Notebook: Indiana Senator’s Twitter War A Fascinating Read
“First, some disclosure. In Indiana State Senator Mike Delph’s world, I am a “liberal”. I am not a moderate, independent…nope…I am a “liberal” because I do not agree with his position regarding gay marriage. Second, Delph was punished, in part, for contents of a Twitter war that topped 250 tweets over two or three days best described as a melt-down over the demise of HJR-3 which was a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Indiana. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long has disciplined Delph — taking away leadership roles and even moving his seat — for violating Senate protocol when he tweeted about the same-sex marriage amendment. According to Long’s office, Delph used Twitter to report information, garnered from a GOP private caucus, on the fate of Senate action on House Joint Resolution 3.”

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Posted in GLBT Issues, Indiana

Excerpt: Untitled Short Story

I would not mind your thoughts on this, the beginning of a short story I’m working on (that is due Sunday! but we’ll just gloss over that for now). I’m hoping this will be a series of related short stories. It is in a particular genre, but I’d rather get further before I disclose that. It is unedited, because my trusty personal editor is up north visiting family. So all grammar errors and poor constructions are on me. I looked it over, but not carefully. Feel free to give me your ideas. I know that some of my sentences are long and rambling; that is intentional for now.

Every yard sale seem to have a personality of its own. It’s not just the objects out for sale that are important, but how they are arranged on display that catches a purchaser’s eye. What kind of table they are displayed on, and how objects are positioned with one another can change the way the buyer feels about a potential purchase. Chaotic jumbles can be either intriguing if they are filled with items that evoke times or loves long past, or confusing and mind-numbing if they are filled with items better left in a dust bin. But sometimes re-arranging those dust bin candidates in just the right fashion can transform them. A collection of translucent turquoise colored jelly glasses, purchased at the grocery end cap in 1985 for $1 a piece are probably better off sent to the glass recycle than left on this plastic folding table that should have been wiped down before objects were heaped upon it. But spirited across the church yard to the highly polished sturdy oak dining table and aligned neatly next to the turquoise milk glass vases, with a pretty green-blue flowered tablecloth folded neatly next to them, a dark wicker basket, crystal candle-holders and the off-white tapers plucked from a dingy box of candle ends complete the scene. As a last minute thought add in some solid teal cloth napkins rescued from a box of old handkerchiefs and neatly folded alongside, and you’ve evoked an early summer picnic on the front porch at your grandmother’s – matching colors and textures to delight the eye and set a scene. Helen Lake freely moved items around the sale without really thinking about it, suiting her own sense of style, because no one was paying enough attention to tell her not to do so.

The yard sale was held by the church every year and run by a phalanx of church and neighborhood volunteers. Helen wasn’t one of them; just a shopper and neighborhood resident, but at this sale it didn’t matter to anyone how the items were organized. There were not lots or booths or separate pay stations, just boxes of discarded items carted to the church yard for the annual sale because it was easier than taking them to the donation, and because no one in the neighborhood wanted to throw something away if they thought it might have some use to someone, even if it was clearly beyond any practical interest to anyone else. “Someone might want them” is one of those the silly sentimental things we tell ourselves about the objects that pass on to others. It’s much easier to allow others to throw things out for us at the end of a busy day; separated from the sentiment of uneasy memory, it’s painless for a garage sale volunteer to toss the worthless walkman cassette player with a broken rewind into the trash. Or for Helen Lake to do so as she moved quietly past the table, reorganizing the less-interesting trash items to a back table unnoticed as she picked out a handful of useful things to purchase for herself, and arranged things she didn’t need but she could see had value in a way that displayed them to their advantage.

The lack of attention to what Helen was doing on the part of her neighbors was as much careful as careless. True that volunteers were in a flurry of activity selling yard sale items and refreshments, bagging purchases and counting change, moving heavy items to the back of people’s cars and directing traffic. But none of the residents of Olden Green was unaware of Helen Lake’s presence in the church yard, as much as they might like to be. Helen Lake might be one of the neighborhood’s (and the cities’) most famous residents, but she was not popular in the downtown Indianapolis historic district where she lived. Helen Lake had opinions about the neighborhood and its residents, and while they might be easily dismissed by her neighbors on the neighborhood mailing list, they were less so when they were fictionalized and examined at great length in a hit novel beloved by millions of Americans from all walks of life, published in hardback and soft cover and then reprinted as a book club edition with a question and answer dissection about gentrification, urban development and provincial attitudes printed in the appendix.

The thing that truly infuriated her neighbors was not that Helen Lake was right. She was, of course, as everyone could tell when they secretly checked the book out from the library and read it. Taken out of the context of email exchanges and personal wrangling, placed in a fictional setting and thoroughly knocked to pieces in a leisurely and entertaining way, the bitter squabbling engaged in by the residents of the 20 square blocks of the midwestern city — arguments over new construction, parking issues, low-income housing and petty theft — could be seen for the misguidedness and prejudice that it was.

What really made her neighbors mad, though, was that Helen pulled her punches with a graciousness they didn’t deserve. She was content with popping the over-inflated beliefs and logical fallacies of her neighbors. She didn’t name names or take pot-shots. She didn’t expect that her neighbors solve problems that were beyond the scope of what individuals could do. She merely called upon them to think, and empathize, and take the lives of people other than themselves into account. She was careful to change the names of the innocent and guilty alike. She moved the locale to a less identifiable place in the city. No one who read the book outside of the neighborhood itself would ever think to associate the fictionalized version of their myopic little ward with the real version where Helen lived, and they were reminded of that fact every time someone asked them whether they were friends with their famous neighbor, and if they could get a signed copy of the book for them. But her neighbors recognized the nicer, less mean version of themselves that came from Helen Lake’s pen, and while the tone of the association meetings and email exchanges had changed radically to studious politeness and a grudging willingness to take into account all there residents of Olden Green of varieties larger and smaller, no one had gone out of their way to befriend Helen Lake.

Which is how she liked it.

olden-green

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Posted in My Writing

Zombie HJR-3: Out-of-state groups want to force HJR-3 onto 2014 ballot

According to RTV-6 News – Group may force HJR-3 on 2014 ballot:

Posted: 02/19/2014 Rafael Sanchez
INDIANAPOLIS – A national pro-marriage group is considering whether to take legal action to force HJR-3 on the Indiana ballot in November 2014.

The measure came to a halt on Monday, when the Senate did not return the bill its original status, in which it would impact civil unions.

The National Organization for Marriage tells RTV6 that they met with the House Speaker Brian Bosma on Friday.

“We are building a coalition of the willing and looking for legislators who are willing to join in this task,” said Chris Plante, regional director of NOM.

“We understand it will be heavy lifting, but if we all work together, we believe we have the law on our side. And we believe HJR-3 should go to the people in November 2014 as was promised by legislature on multiple occasions,” said Plante.

Nevermind what Hoosiers want; out-of-state interests are weighing in on what should happen in Indiana, which is at odds with their “states should decide marriage” stance. But anti-gay groups have never been big on consistency.

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Posted in GLBT Issues, Indiana

The End of HJR-3 for 2014 (with some thoughts on HB-1153)

Because in the past, I’ve been terrible about writing down the follow-up of the Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment, here’s a wrap-up post in case this comes up again in two years – HJR-3 passed through the state legislature, but we essentially “won” because we succeeded in keeping it off the ballot in 2014.

After my January 24th post, the amendment moved to the floor of the House of Representatives on January 27th. Stephanie and I attended the hearing at the Statehouse for that event, where they opted to remove the second sentence of the bill:

“A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

The amendment now reads only “Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana.”

This is significant because the second sentence had significant problems of interpretation that made it possible to discriminate against anything that resembled a domestic partnership, and threatened things like powers of attorney, living wills and directives, the ability to visit a same-sex partner in the hospital and other ramifications. Similar language in other states’s bills (Ohio, Kentucky) created problems for same-sex couples.

The companion bill – HB 1153, which was intended to “explain the legislative intent” of the second sentence died quietly in the House of Reps because it was no longer relevant. Did I ever post the content of HB-1153? I don’t recall. But here it is, and it reads as a roster of why the second sentence was a problem:

House Bill 1153
House Bill (H)
Authored by: Rep. P Eric Turner

Introduced Version
HOUSE BILL No. 1153
_____
DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL
Citations Affected: IC 1-1-5.6.
Synopsis: Marriage amendment ballot language. Requires that the question of approval of the constitutional amendment concerning marriage proposed by the 117th general assembly be placed on the 2014 general election ballot if the amendment is agreed to by the 118th general assembly. Prescribes the ballot language for the question. Describes the legislative intent of offering the constitutional amendment.
Effective: Upon passage.

Turner, Thompson
January 9, 2014, read first time and referred to Committee on Judiciary.

HOUSE BILL No. 1153
A BILL FOR AN ACT to amend the Indiana Code concerning marriage.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:

SECTION 1. IC 1-1-5.6 IS ADDED TO THE INDIANA CODE AS A NEW CHAPTER TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE UPON PASSAGE]:

Chapter 5.6. Marriage Amendment to the State Constitution
Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “marriage amendment” refers to any amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana concerning marriage that was proposed by the one hundred seventeenth general assembly (P.L.231-2011) and agreed to by the one hundred eighteenth general assembly.

Sec. 2. The general assembly intends and establishes that the purpose of the marriage amendment is to restrict the state, through legislative, executive, or judicial action, from creating or recognizing a legal status between unmarried individuals equivalent or substantially similar to marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman. The first sentence of the marriage amendment prohibits the recognition of marriage between persons other than one (1) man and one (1) woman. The second sentence of the marriage amendment prohibits the state from circumventing the mandate of the first sentence by creating or recognizing a legal status equivalent or substantially similar to marriage by a different name.

Sec. 3. The general assembly intends and establishes that the marriage amendment does not prohibit or restrict in any way:

(1) the extension of employment benefits by private sector employers, political subdivisions of the state, or state educational institutions to any beneficiary designated by an employed individual;

(2) the adoption and enforcement of local ordinances granting to any category or class of persons equal opportunities for education, employment, access to public conveniences, access to accommodations, or acquisition of property or to rent property;

(3) an individual from entering into or enforcing terms of a power of attorney, a will, a trust, or another similar lawful agreement or instrument (regardless of name) established for the benefit of another person;

(4) an individual from giving or enforcing a lawful consent or other instrument (regardless of name) that grants powers, rights, or privileges to, imposes obligations on, or provides for the use by or transfer of property to another person;

(5) the protections provided under Indiana’s domestic violence laws or who may qualify for protection from domestic violence; or

(6) action by the general assembly to protect or provide for the property, health, or safety of unmarried persons by appropriate legislation.

SECTION 2. [EFFECTIVE UPON PASSAGE] (a) If the amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana concerning marriage proposed by the one hundred seventeenth general assembly (P.L.231-2011) is agreed to by the one hundred eighteenth general assembly, the amendment shall be submitted to the electors of the state at the 2014 general election in the manner provided for the submission of constitutional amendments under

IC 3.
(b) Under Article 16, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana, which requires the general assembly to submit constitutional amendments to the electors at the next general election after the general assembly agrees to the amendment referred to it by the last previously elected general assembly, and in accordance with IC 3-10-3, the general assembly prescribes the form in which the public question concerning the ratification of this state constitutional amendment must appear on the 2014 general election ballot as follows:

“PUBLIC QUESTION #1
Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding the following language to Article 1:

“Section 38. Only a marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Indiana. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”?”.

(c) This SECTION expires July 1, 2017.

SECTION 3. An emergency is declared for this act.

HB-1153 came about to assuage the objections of many legal scholars who had studied the HJR-3 second sentence and its potential effects and pointed out unintended consequences that had already played out in other states with similar language, or that could be raised in Indiana.

The difficulty is that this bill had no teeth at all – it was a piece of legislation, but HJR-3 was an amendment to the Indiana constitution, where it held sway over this bill and potentially trumped it. HB-1153 could be repealed at any time, leaving the full force of the second sentence un-”interpreted” intact to be carried out.

I wonder how much of an impact reading this bill had, actually, on our state legislators. It surely indicated in plain language the many ways that HJR-3 could be interpreted negatively in ways that were punitive toward same-sex couples by our legal system, and spelling out potential discrimination based on HJR-3 that starkly is pretty damning. It may have been intended to remove the sting of HJR-3′s “second sentence” but I think it probably had the opposite effect in that it highlighted all that could go wrong.

After the second sentence of HJR-3 was removed from that bill in the House, HB-1153 was no longer relevant and passed into oblivion a few days later.

The removal of the second sentence in the House was very exciting because it meant that it would be much harder to to get the Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment onto the ballot this fall in time for 2014 elections. It would have to be put back into the bill by the Indiana Senate and then voted on by both the Senate and the House before voters could see it.

So the bill passed to the Indiana Senate Rules Committee on February 13th, where they declined to hear any amendments to add the second sentence back in.

Senate Hearing Rules Committee

There was great drama surrounding the Rules Committee hearing because the GOP caucus met ahead of the hearing, and Senator Mike Delph from Carmel tweeted the results of the caucus meeting – that there were not enough votes to put the second sentence back in – before the hearing happened, alerting the crowd to what was going to happen.

That didn’t sit well with Senator President Pro Tem David Long, the caucus head. It’s bad form for caucus members to reveal caucus business.

Then as the committee began to meet, they opened with an anti-gay prayer by William Hunt, New Life Church, invited by Senate chaplain.

The bill sailed through the committee as is, first sentence only, very quickly, although it was noted by many people that this was considered impossible even six months ago:

Senator Mike Delph went on to spend the weekend tweeting his anger about the GOP caucus electing not to add the second sentence back into the bill, and delivering rather passionate lectures on god, same-sex marriage and the responsibilities of Indiana churches to back legislative efforts.

It was a very entertaining weekend, and I make sure to screen-cap all of it for posterity.

After that great drama, on Monday, January 17th, the Senate passing the amended version of HJR-3, still without the second sentence, through the full Senate.

This was the vote count:

yea nay vote sheet hjr3

The passage almost seemed anti-climatic, except for some really great speeches delivered by Senators on the floor – Jean Breaux, Karen Tallian, Jim Arnold, Tim Lanane, and Greg Taylor all spoke passionately against HJR-3. It was cathartic to hear them. At the end…

Ultimately, HJR-3 isn’t dead. It still could be passed through another state legislature in 2015 or 2016 and be on the ballot in 2016. I’m not sure which version could or would be considered, so it’s worth keeping the text of HB-1153 around in order to remind people about that second sentence and what it could do.

It does seem a lot less likely that the amendment will pass in 2016 with several federal legal battles on the horizon, though.

Washington Post – Race on same-sex marriage cases runs through Virginia:

The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor is confronting judges with a paradox. On the one hand, the opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and joined by the court’s four liberals noted that defining marriage is traditionally a power reserved for the states.

On the other, the opinion dismissed Congress’s arguments as to why the federal government should recognize only traditional definitions of marriage. It said the arguments were mostly window dressing for unlawful prejudice based on sexual orientation.

State courts and federal judges have embraced that latter reasoning to trump the rights of states, and bans on same-sex marriage have been found unconstitutional since June in New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah. The Utah and Oklahoma decisions are being appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver.

In effect, said William Baude, a law professor at the University of Chicago who follows the issue, the majority’s language in Windsor has been viewed as “permission” for judges “who might already have been inclined” to believe there is a constitutional right to marry.

Given this, 2015 and 2016 are going to be really interesting years, politically.

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Posted in GLBT Issues, Indiana

Volkswagen Microbus 2014 and Concepts of the Past

Volkswagen has a long history of threatening to bring back the classic Volkswagen Microbus, with lots of concept cars produced, but no versions that are actually available in the United States. I’ve gotten excited about every potential version and blogged about it repeatedly, but we never actually see anything interesting come out of it.

I got excited this morning about an article claiming that a version would come out this year, with photos of round headlights that I had never seen before. For a bit I actually bought it, although I shouldn’t have. When you compare the photos in the article to the 2001 model, it becomes clear that this is a photoshop job where they altered the front of the 2001 and put in rounded headlights. And also, Car Talk announced last August that the long-planned 2014 version was killed off.

2014 Microbus Front

2014 Microbus Side

2014 Microbus Rear

The text from the faked article is cribbed from 2011 articles on VW’s concept. Sadly, this is what could have been:

Volkswagen Microbus 2014 is ready to show its new model of microbus until the last 10 years ago VW shows off microbus segment. This car will be built in Europe and would become the competitor of Honda Adyddey, Nissan Quest, and also Toyota Sienna. The final motivation for this New VW Microbus is to maximize the investment in the group MQB “matrix” platform. Volkswagen Microbus 2014 price will start from $30,000, but we expect it to be closer to $40,000. Volkswagen Microbus 2014 Release Date is held in the fall of 2013 with sales beginning in 2014. Interior, it is design in minimalist concept on 2014 Volkswagen Microbus. There are gauges and control group around the steering wheel and also pair of slim-section 3-passenger bench seats which can be folded to create a makeshift bed.

Volkswagen Microbus styled under VW Geoup design, Walter deSilva and also VW brand deputy, Klaus Bischoff. New VW design will show its characteristic, such as, a basic box with rounded lines, a bulldog nose with oversize VW logo, a gently curved windshield, a space-efficient wheels-at-the-corners stance, and 4 conventionally hinged side doors instead of rear sliders or the original T1 s dual French rear doors. Volkswagen Microbus 2014 would be available with turbocharged, four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines; a hybrid is a strong possibility. VW said that the 2014 Volkswagen Microbus will be 3,200 pound curb weight would be running from 0 to 62 mph in 11.5 seconds with the power of 199 pound feet of torque. Further, 170 h 2.5 liter in five-cylinder, 2000 hp 2.0 liter turbo-four and 140 hp 2.0 liter TDI turbodiesel-four will equipped by Front wheel Drive. The six-speed manual and six-speed automatic function are both available.

Previous VW Microbus Concept Cart teases came in 2001:

2001 VW Concept Car

2001 VW Concept Car

This concept was widely critiqued for having square headlights and looking too much like a minivan. I would have bought one, though. I have several toy cars of this 2001 concept. This version was scheduled for 2004, but never came to fruition.

In 2007, Volkswagen came out with the spaceup! blue concept car that was supposed to resemble the classic bus. I wrote about it enthusiastically at the time, even though it’s kinda hideous.

space up! blue VW bus

space up! blue VW bus

space up! blue VW bus

This one never came out here – dunno if it was released in Europe. I was enamored of the solar panel roof, though.

2008 brought the VW Routan, which is nothing like a Microbus, and I had some strong words for it:

VW Routan

Fucking Routan. I was especially pissed about the Routan because to advertise the damned thing, they mocked up a working version of something closer to the classic – the 1964 Microbus Chameleon concept in which they updated an original 1964 bus with new interiors and fancy gadgetry:

Volkswagen Deluxe Microbus Chameleon

Volkswagen Deluxe Microbus Chameleon interior

Rude to tease us with something so cool in a commercial for a vehicle that was basically a Dodge minivan with a VW badge

In 2009, Canadian designer Alexandre Verdier came out with a Microbus design that was the closest thing to perfect that I’ve ever seen. It was not an official VW concept carl, but there were some cool features. But it did make me drool.

Verdier Microbus Concept Car

Verdier Microbus Concept Car

Verdier Microbus Concept Car

Verdier Microbus Concept Car

In 2011, Volkswagen introduced this Bulli concept that was supposed to go into production in 2014:

Volkswagen Concept Bulli Front

Volkswagen Concept Bulli Interior

Volkswagen Concept Bulli rear

Volkswagen Concept Bulli Top

This was the version that died in August. It doesn’t grab me, but I would have test-driven it. I still like the idea of a hybrid bus with solar panels. But something closer to the design of the original, ideally. Dunno if it will ever happen now.

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Posted in Brain Food, Geek Bling

Goodness, gender roles and how to fix a broken gender system

Stemming from a facebook conversation with a friend, about this sentence:

“To be a good man, one must surround himself with good women.” – Steve Lund

I want to capture here on my blog what I wrote in response to this on Facebook, because there are themes in what I wrote that run through the fiction that I’m writing. I’m going to paraphrase some of the comments because it was rather lengthy. If I do so in a way that doesn’t honor their meaning, I apologize. I challenged the idea of that Lund quote with this:

Here’s why that’s problematic – it’s not the responsibility of women to make men good. It’s the responsibility of men to make themselves good, whether they’re surrounded by good women or not.

To be fair, I didn’t stop to look up Steve Lund or what the context of this statement is. Perhaps I should, and I will at the end of this post, but for the most part, we were parsing this one sentence in our discussion.

David countered my challenge with some thoughtful discussion about male and female role models and what we are taught:

Steph and Sherry, I believe the intent of this statement is that as boys grow into men, they should seek out female role models as well as male role models.

Girls are encouraged to have male heroes and role models from infancy. To the contrary, boys are told never to model behavior after anything female, ever – that female heroes are notable exceptions and are only role models for girls, not boys. Boys are encouraged to surround themselves with men of qualities they would like to emulate. I believe Mr. Lund is saying that amid this pressure, males need to actively seek out and surround themselves with good female influences, too.

That’s an interesting thought, but I still think it’s focusing on the wrong thing. Tracy added this…

Well, lets see if the opposite makes sense or insulting, “To be a good woman, one must surround herself with good men.” Hummm…

I think she was on the right track there, because it started to try to flip the perspective. It didn’t quite help David out of his focus on the current state of affairs between men and women. He wrote a whole series of thoughtful comments about our how children are taught male primacy and how that can damage both boys and girls as they learn how to live in our society:

But, acknowledging that the world is broken, I see no harm in reminding guys that women matter and even though we boys were told otherwise while growing up – men should include women and women’s opinions as equal – and men should include those equal women among the folks they choose as friends, role models .. and heroes.

Am I wrong in thinking this damage to the American male worldview is something that needs corrected, that men need to be challenged and reminded to think differently in regard to women?

So, to more thoughtfully answer Tracey’s query, I think reminding girls and women to include men in their worldview is deeply offensive; reminding boys and men to include women in their worldview is a necessary course correction until the world is no longer broken in regard to gender disparity.

I was really thinking out loud during most of this – trying to mull things over and acknowledge my own limitations as a man who has no idea what women experience while simultaneously noting the bizarre anti-women gender-based indoctrination I experienced as a child growing up in Northern Indiana.

I think in asking those questions he’s going far beyond where Lund was going, but also not quite far enough to get us where we need to go. I can actually see some harm in reminding guys that women matter in the way that Lund is doing, because it still reinforces gendered thinking, and doesn’t demand people step outside their role. So I tried a different way to jar perspective, coupled with stepping back several large steps to contemplate what we’re even talking about:

I appreciate you thinking the whole thing through this thoroughly, because I knew you would. Definitely the damage to the male’s world view needs to be corrected, but I don’t know that Lund’s solution is the proper one, or enough to fix things, or specific enough for it to be clear what he actually means.

Let’s take out the genders altogether, as a game. “To be a good person, one must surround oneself with good people.” That makes a lot more sense, except that – must one? Practically, yes – anyone that doesn’t grow up being taught to behave well will probably not spontaneously grow a conscience without examples.

We make systems in society to move people that way. Outside of parental teaching, education and the school system are in place to provide that. And socially this is what we use religion for, because it’s easy and lazy and it’s a “do what I say because I said so and I’m bigger than you are” way of controlling people.

But in theory, should we expect people to be “good” without something propping that up? Are the “role models” in Lund’s example just crutches the way that religion is? Ideally, we do have some expectation as a society that people find their own way to a moral compass, somehow. Education and religion are guardrails to get us there, (although I think we’d agree that religion guardrail is pretty damned rickety) but Lund’s own sentence seems to suggest that the responsibility is on the individual to school themselves: “one must surround oneself.”

So if ideally we expect people to school themselves on good behavior, but practically we have social systems to get them there… what happens when we add gender back in?

“To be a good man” – doesn’t that suddenly sound jarring? We were talking earlier about “goodness” as a concept, but suddenly it seems we may not be talking about goodness at all, but about what being a man means. Are we talking about morality, or about gender performance? Do those two things have anything to do with one another? What does gender add to this conversation?

I don’t know enough about Lund to know whether the problem he was fixating on was actually about creating a better society, or about fixing the broken world view about gender, or about performing a male gender role properly. Obviously fixing the second would make better the first, but was his sentence actually concentrating on the first or the second or the third?

For the sake of kindness I’m going to throw out the third – that he was talking about whether he was performing “man” properly – and posit that he was talking about being a better human being.

I do agree that we have a broken societal system when it comes to gender. But the is way to fix that to double-down on gender roles and expectations, or is it to remove gender from the equation and ask that we observe and have empathy with people as human beings first and gendered individuals second?

Could a good man, surrounded by other good men, fix the male world view without good women being in the mix? If we are relying on the individual to take some responsibility as Lund is, then yes, we should expect that.

What is the responsibility of good women here? Well obviously to school ourselves, but is being available to good men as role models our only task? And is there a difference between being a good man and a good woman? What is that difference? Is there some expectation of women here that we don’t have of men?

It should be apparent now, that Tracy’s gender flip is really important, and actually does work to call Lund’s thought into question “To be a good woman, one must surround herself with good men.”

Regardless of our immersion in a broken world view about gender, we still need to think of ourselves as humans first and gendered creatures second if we are going to break free of that broken world view at all.

I’m sure that there will be more to this conversation, but I wanted to capture at least what I wrote here, because these are themes that run throughout my fiction and I want to return to them again as I’m writing.

Lund’s quote seems to come from this interview: The Man Sphere – Men We Admire: Steve Lund.

Do I wear blue because I'm a boy, or am I a boy because I wear blue?

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Posted in Feminism & Women's Issues, Religion

A Brief History of Indiana’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment

I try to follow and post about the Indiana’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment every time it’s come up in the Indiana State Legislature, and here is a short history that I’ve been able to cobble together from past posts. This is mainly a testimony to my sketchy blogging more than anything else, as I seem to have often failed to follow up on posting about the outcomes of various bills. I’ll attempt to update this page with more research on bilerico.com and the Indiana legislative archives when I we are not in the middle of a legislative fight and when my internet is a lot more reliable than it is today.

In January of 2014, HJR-6 was re-named HJR-3 and introduced to the House Judiciary Committee. It got stuck in committee because it didn’t have the votes to move, so Brian Bosma moved it to the Elections Committee where it passed.

In January of 2013, HJR-6 (which is now the current bill HJR-3) was filed but never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers indicated that they preferred to wait until the Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act were announced.

In March 2011, HJR-6 (which is now the current bill HJR-3) was being pushed through the state legislature for the first time. The LGBT Community held a rally to protest it.

In February of 2008, SJR-7 died after Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City refused to hear the legislation in the House.

In January of 2008, Representative Eric Turner, ranking Republican on the House Rules and Legislative Policy Committee, tried to amend a property tax bill to add SJR-7 after it looked like it would never make it out of committee to be heard.

On April 3rd, 2007, SJR-7 died in committee, unable to make it out of the Indiana House of Representative’s Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee.

On March 29th, SJR-7 testimony to the House Committee for SJR-7 revealed that the language in it had been rejected for the federal version of this amendment by Robert Bork because it was too ambiguous.

In the spring of 2007, SJR-7 became was being pushed through a house committee.

On February 8th of 2007, SJR-7 passed the Indiana Senate and was sent to a House committee to be heard.

On January of 2007, SJR-7, an Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment was re-introduced to the State Lesgislature.

On March 8th of 2005, we held a rally to oppose SJR-7, the first wave of an attempt to pass the Indiana Marriage Discrimination Amendment. This was the language of SJR-7:

DIGEST OF INTRODUCED BILL
Definition of marriage. Provides that marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman. Provides that Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Notice the second sentence of that bill – at time, we noted how flawed the language of the second sentence (different language than today’s HJR3, but still really flawed and problematic) was.

Prior to SJR-7 in 2005: There was a great deal of awareness in Indiana that a Marriage Discrimination Amendment was probably coming. There was an attempt to pass one on a federal level in 2003-2004 before the plan was blocked in Senate and the failure of Massachusetts ban on same-sex marriage and subsequent marriages triggered a flurry of activity in red states like our when opponents of same-sex marriage rights realized their days were numbered.

I really think there was a prior attempt at an amendment in the late 1990s or early 2000s, because I recall when I was more politically active in LGBT Fairness that we covered the issue and when we were fighting the state statute. I don’t have specific bill numbers or information about those attempts yet.

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Posted in Feminism & Women's Issues, Indianapolis