Rural neighborhood churches, once the heart of many Iowan communities, are disappearing along with local schools. The result is a tear in the social fabric of life in the Midwest. “There is no glue holding these communities together ... and it’s making us forget how to neighbor. ... If someone is working all the time and has less disposable income, where can they go for help? It used to be church. Now?” ... “you can’t survive unless you become a neighbor and then let other people neighbor you in turn.”
The Canadian Pacific Christmas Train is a rolling holiday party for a cause. Two beautifully lit trains - on a US Route and a Canada route - cruise through the Midwest, stopping in 150 towns along the way to present live music and light shows while bringing donations of cash and food to local food banks.
Night Physics is a webcomic (currently updating bi-monthly) on tumblr that is sometimes about anthropomorphic animals in a "tough-but-doomed little mountain town somewhere in the American Midwest" being asked what they dream about, and sometimes about some friends living in that town "as they try to navigate relationships, sexual ethics, suburban legends, ancient myths, haunted houses, and psychedelic wastelands--often all at the same time." The story begins when two friends consume exactly too much of a new drug and have revelatory visions about their lives - and afterward, one can't seem to stop having them.
One year later, Wessington Springs High School senior Owen Witte chronicles the story of the tornadoes that descended on his home town and destroyed more than 50 homes and left 77 people homeless. Witte's story artfully conveys the heroism and resilience of his 950-person community.
Oklahoma. This was a place where Kathryn's workplace had a cussing jar, a quarter per swear, and the words written on it, “Let Go and Let God.” Here, Christianity was the religion — Tracy and Kathryn were believers — and Oklahoma football was the religion — Tracy and Kathryn were believers — and people could be decent and kind and judgmental, sometimes all at once, which was why, when Tracy told some Rotary Club friends that she and Kathryn were getting married, she kept her eyes planted above their heads so she wouldn't have to look at their faces.
"But it wasn’t sugar, heaps of which are sucked down daily by the middle and upper classes, that guided his and my grandma’s dental fates. And it wasn’t meth. It was lack of insurance, lack of knowledge, lack of good nutrition – poverties into which much of the country was born." Sarah Smarsh in Aeon on the sociological, political, and medical intersection of bad teeth.
Massive earthquakes in Chile and Japan have been found to cause the dramatic increase in violent quakes around fracking's largely unregulated wastewater injection wells observed in the Midwest in the past two years, where injected water acts as a lubricant for geological faults that were previously thought to be "dead" or stable for millions of years.
How do you define the Midwest? As part of their exhibit Reinvention in the Urban Midwest (in most-certainly-not-in-the-Midwest Boston) Sasaki has created an online tool for people to contribute what the boundaries of the Midwest are for them. Results can be sorted by respondents' percentage of time spent in the Midwest and state of birth. An Atlantic Cities article shows one writer's opinion, and also links to Bill Rankin's similar Midwest mapping project on his always-excellent Radical Cartography site. An excerpt from The Midwest: God's Gift to Planet Earth has a more irreverent take on mapping the region.
Tom Roeser was unhappy about the decline of his town, Carpentersville, IL. So he decided to do something about it. Roeser bought some foreclosed properties, renovated them, and then rented them out for below market value.
Chicago has been having some fairly remarkable weather lately, even by their standards. On the 25th of January there was more than an inch of snowfall recorded for the first time in 335 days, a new record. Then a surge of warm air from the south brought a temperature of 63 degrees at O'Hare airport on January 29th, a new record for that date, exactly one week after a temperature of 9 degrees was recorded (which, combined with the 35mph winds on that date, produced a windchill factor of about -20f). The current forecast (at time of posting this) calls for a high of only 14f on Friday (Feb. 1st), another significant temperature swing within a few days.
I grew up in Minnesota, home of a particular passive-aggressive communication style which is summed up nicely by this chart and subsequent comments. Of particular import is the difference between "that's different" and "that's sure different" (though there isn't mention of "that's real different," which I think means just about the same thing) and examples of Minnesota Enthusiastic Neutral. Also worth noting is the classic book by sometime A Prairie Home Companion regular Howard Mohr, How to Talk Minnesotan. [more inside]
How comedian Tom Arnold's little sister Lori started the Midwest meth epidemic. (NSFW Playboy link: Instapaper, Readability mirrors.) [more inside]
In a first-person tale of woe, a beleaguered New Yorker stranded in the Land of Lard related his struggle to find adequate vegetarian options [NYT link, featuring obligatory pic of sullen, obese Midwesterners]. Reactions came swiftly, albeit indirectly [also NYT] since, curiously, the article itself lacks a comment section. Best comment: the one touting the multiple and tasty options, including veggie dogs and veggie chili on coney dogs, at the dive bar just across the street from the KC Star. Despite an apparent unfamiliarity with such staples as grilled cheese sandwiches, the cub reporter's failure probably won't keep him down for long. [more inside]
"When we started Windy City, it was a means to an end, because there wasn't a distributor in Chicago that wanted to touch craft beer," Mr. Ebel says. "We went around to bars and they said, 'Great beer. How many free cases can you give me?' We just had to walk out of those accounts, set a price, and stick to it. And nobody asks us that anymore." Pay-to-play contreversy in the Chicago beer scene, with appearances from a who's who of Midwest beermeisters: Tracy Hurst of Metropolitan Brewing Co., Deb Carey of New Glarus Brewing Co., the Ebel Brothers of Two Brothers Brewing Co., and Josh Hall of Goose Island Brewing Company
A map and discussion of those areas of the US in which grocery stores outnumber bars. In which the regional number of bars per capita is arrived at, and outliers found. A boring person would conclude that these numbers are inversely correlated with population density. A more obviously correct conclusion, of course, is that the Midwest knows how to get down.
John Dillinger was paroled from Indiana State Prison in May 1933 after serving eight years for assault and battery and attempted robbery and launched a Midwest Crime Wave from June 1933 to June 1934. [more inside]
The Midwest Teen Sex Show is a podcast for teens and adults covering the wonderful, awkward, stimulating, sticky world of sex.
Lie Down for America, by Thomas Frank. "'How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?' she asked. How could so many people get it so wrong?"
Forgotten Detroit ; the Book-Cadillac, an abandoned hotel in Detroit; Indiana Historic Architecture; the history of Hammond, Indiana; Marktown Historic District, East Chicago, Indiana. The American Midwest seems to be full of interesting, crumbly places.
RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). Perhaps a better way to experience Iowa than the CornCam... or consider smaller rides.
Louis Sullivan had been one of the most successful architects of the late nineteenth century, working at the forefront of early skyscraper design. But by the turn of the century, his distinctive style had fallen out of fashion, and his major commissions dried up. Sullivan took jobs where he could find them, and between 1908 and 1919 designed small banks in eight midwest towns. Tiny yet elegant, they are sometimes referred to as his "jewel boxes." See examples in Owatonna, Minnesota; Grinnell, Iowa; West Lafayette, Indiana; Sidney, Ohio; and Columbus, Wisconsin.
If you live in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky or Pennsylvania (“the Euchre belt”) Euchre might be a familiar pastime or at least well, familiar. The game is not exclusive to those areas but is most concentrated in the Midwest. It used to be one of the most popular card games the U.S. but lost out to bridge. Today the game has somewhat of a cult following in Midwest towns and especially on college campuses. It is a fast paced thinking game that combines strategy and skill with luck that can eat away hours of a person’s life. If you have never played the game I encourage you to read an introduction and try yahoo games. (I hope this is not too common to bring up, but I rarely see anyone playing online not from the states listed above.) Warning popups.
Midwest gas prices declaired unfair. I guess, you know, $1.80 a gallon was fair, ok even, but $2.15 isn't. Take your time. no really.