Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nether Regions

American regionsI’m having a relaxing day watching football on TV, because today’s Notre Dame game against Southern Cal isn’t until 7:30 pm. It’s the first night game here in something like twenty years, so the place should be rockin’! (I.e., people will have more time to party.) We’ll head out in a little bit to grab a bite to eat, and hopefully hook up with my sister her husband and some friends who will be tailgating. GO IRISH! It’s supposed to get down to the low 40s (F) tonight, so I’m dressing in layers, and I’ve got a scarf and gloves. (I shall fluff them before leaving. Private joke!)

I read a really interesting article today: “A Geography Lesson for the Tea Party” by Colin Woodard. It’s fairly lengthy, but I found it a fascinating read. It’s got several things I love, like politics, history, and regional differences. What Mr. Woodard posits is that our political terrain is much more complicated than north vs. south, or the coasts vs. the heartland. He divides the country into eleven distinct political regions, and relates the popularity of the tea party to various regions.

These regions have shifted and changed over our history, and although it’s a slow process, it does happen. Mr. Woodard believes that the unique psychological, historical, and nationality makeup of the regions forms their political leanings and whether they accept or reject tea party ideas. I think it’s obvious that he’s not enamored of the tea party, and he lays out his reasons for thinking that it will not be a lasting phenomenon, or at least not win over the majority of the country.

I found the entire article really fascinating, and I would tend to agree with most of it. I found that the map was accurate at least for my area. People often make remarks to me about Indiana being such a Republican-leaning state, and overall it is. They wonder how I can stand it. Well, the counties closest to Lake Michigan and the Chicago area are Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and my county, St. Joseph. We all tend to lean and vote Democrat, for the most part (in the rural areas of the counties, not as much). I think it has mostly to do with the strong manufacturing and union presence in these counties. The county immediately to my east, Elkhart, is strongly Republican, as are the counties to my immediate south. The larger cities and college towns also tend to lean Democratic. So I’m floating in a little blue sea amidst an ocean of red!

Indiana, according to the article, seems to have three different political attitudes or regions: Yankeedom (that’s me), the Midlands, and Greater Appalachia. Based on migration patterns and the history of settlers over the years, this makes a lot of sense to me. I can’t speak to the accuracy of what he writes about the other regions, really, because I’m not as familiar with those areas. If you live in those areas (and you have the time to read the article), do you agree with the assessment of the author?

I also found it fairly encouraging, because I don’t think the teabaggers are going to take over the country. They’ve driven the debate to an unwelcome extent, even to the point of harming the country’s recovery in order to damage President Obama. I think this small faction had some legitimate things to say about government spending (although I still wonder where they were when President Bush was driving up the deficit with two unfunded wars and an unfunded prescription drug program), but they’ve pretty much jumped the shark, and the majority of Americans recognize that and do not approve. The tea party has had their moment in the sun (I hope they made sun tea while they were at it), and the world has moved on.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

YOU’RE out of order!

I used to say to my mother, “You love Zeke more than you love me.” She said, “No, I hate you all equally.”
~~ Rahm Emanuel, when asked if there was a favorite child in his family
A few weeks ago, author Jeffrey Kluger was on “The Colbert Report” pitching his new book The Sibling Effect. As someone with two older sisters, I found it a very fun and interesting interview. I was happily surprised to see him get the cover of a recent Time issue. That article dealt more about favoritism, and I can’t speak to that. Did my Dad have a favorite daughter? Did my Mom? I never got the impression that any of us were the favorite. Although I’m sure that if they had to choose, it would be me.

I kid, I kid! I know for sure that Dad was proud of all of us, because he often said so, and Mom reiterates that now. My sisters and I are similar in a lot of ways, especially in being fairly easy-going and quick to laugh, but of course, we have our different traits, too. I’ve been fascinated by that for many years now, and have done a little reading on birth order. I recall getting a book about the subject, and as soon as it came in the mail, I opened it up and found the chapter about youngest children. This is what I read:

BLOCK First of all, I want all you babies of the family to know that I’m on to you. I know you have just skipped the first eight chapters and started right here. I understand. Like any last born, I would have done the same thing. I hope you’ll go back later to read some pretty important stuff you missed. (from The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman)

I laughed out loud. Busted! I did indeed go back and read the entire book, and enjoyed it. I found that I fit quite a few traits of last borns, but considering the large difference in ages between us (my sisters are 13 and 9 years older than me), I also have some characteristics of an only child. My oldest sister was out of the house by the time I went to elementary school, and the other was gone by the time I got to high school, so then it was just me and the parentals. As the baby of the family, I’m supposed to be charming, people-oriented, tenacious, affectionate and engaging, uncomplicated, and attention-seeking. The downside is that I’m also supposed to be self-centered, temperamental, spoiled, undisciplined, and absent-minded. According to Kluger, last-borns have a bright wit, a natural charisma, and perceptiveness. This ability to disarm and charm is developed as a survival skill in a setting where you’re the smallest. (I wonder if my lack of height also has something to do with that? Hm.)

SistersI’ll cop to all those good things, but I don’t accept the not-so-good ones! Nah, I know that I can be guilty of the latter behaviors. I like to think that my baby-of-the-family status is balanced out by some of the only-child characteristics, including being confident, a perfectionist, organized, logical, and scholarly. It has been said about me, “Well, Beth’ll do what she wants to do,” which is true; I’m glad to say that most of the time I’m fairly responsible about my decisions, although I have definitely made some bad ones. I have a rebellious streak in me, but I’ve tried to temper that a bit over the years. I was also rather painfully shy when I was younger, so the comedian in me didn’t come out until later. One of my favorite things is to make someone laugh!

I don’t think birth order defines us any more than our astrological signs define us, but it does make considerably more sense that our personalities would be shaped by our interactions with our parents and siblings, rather than by the influence of the stars.

How about you? Do your personality traits jibe with what is said about your birth order? Who’s the baby of the family like me? Email me so we can start a club and talk about how awesome we are, okay? [wink]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perfectly said

99 percentNo matter how hard I try, on here or on Bookface discussions, I will never be able to articulate how I feel about the Occupy protests as well as this guy does: Open Letter to that 53% Guy.

After dealing this evening with someone who said that part of the demands of the Occupiers included the right to shit on police cars and to have sex on the streets, I have to wonder about the mental soundness of anyone who would misinterpret the movement in such a ridiculous way.

I honestly can’t understand the willingness of some to just bend over and take it and think that because they were raised to believe in the “American dream” (whatever that means anymore) it’s perfectly okay to work two jobs or 60+ hours in order to make it happen. You might want to check the rulebook (that Constitution thingy) and realize that you are not indentured servants and that you should not have to work yourselves to death in order to make a decent life for yourself and your family.

It’s nothing I haven’t written before, but I give Mr. Udargo credit for saying it better than I’ve ever been able to say it.

Now a little music. Since someone said that our demands include the right to have sex on the streets, let’s all dance to Pizzaman!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Way of All Flesh

The Walking DeadI was going to make a joke about brain-eating zombies and the Republicans, but I decided not to. Ha! No, I’m actually taking a break from politics in this entry (although I’ll probably watch the first hour of tonight’s debate...I’ve discovered that an hour is about all I can stomach) to write about my current favorite TV show, “The Walking Dead.” (AMC 8/9 pm Central/Eastern)

I’ve dug zombies (see what I did there?) for a long time. I remember seeing the original “Dawn of the Dead” in the theater with my sister Diana (also a fan of horror movies) and being totally creeped out. I’m sure I saw “Night of the Living Dead” as a kid, because I was always watching such movies, but I’ve watched it more times as an adult. I wouldn’t say that I’m a zombie aficionado, because I haven’t seen every zombie movie that’s been made, but it definitely is one of my favorite genres. There is so much you can do with the subject, you know? Slow zombies, fast zombies, infection, alien invasion, adult zombies, kid zombies, and so on. In “Zombieland,” we even got Bill Murray Zombie. (The same can be said of vampire movies, which I also love, but there are some differences, both physically and psychologically. A topic for another day.)

One of the most fascinating aspects of zombie movies to me is the one I just mentioned: the psychological. How do survivors deal with the post-apocalypse world? How do you deal with possibly having to face consumption by a dead loved one, and are you able to put your feelings for them aside in order to save your own life? Will you be strong enough to hang on in a world gone mad, or will you “opt out?” Much has been written about the political aspects of the zombie genre, and I think it’s a legitimate discussion. There is the mindless shuffling of the zombies, which is related to both Republicans and Democrats, as well as to our consumer-oriented society. (George Romero did this best in “Dawn of the Dead,” with the zombies inhabiting a shopping mall.) And of course, there’s the requisite gore. When you have to kill a zombie by nailing them in the brain, you’re bound to have some gore.

“The Walking Dead” incorporates all this to perfection. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, and I’m amazed at the amount of gore they get away with on AMC...and they’ve even stepped it up the second season. It’s a goo fest, make no mistake about it. Those scenes are satisfying for the squirm factor, but the best part of the show is how the survivors are dealing with this odd new world into which they’ve been thrown. The power structure is fascinating, with Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his deputy Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) being the de facto leaders of the group. However, Rick has doubts about his ability to lead; he does the best he can, but there are inevitably those who criticize his decisions. Shane brings a different dynamic to the power structure, especially since everyone originally thought Rick was dead, so Shane took Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) under his wing and into his bed; he also became a substitute father for Rick and Lori’s son, Carl. When Rick shows up, miraculously alive, the resentment of Shane and the anger of Lori (she thought Shane was lying about Rick being dead, but he really did think that he was) become part of the mix.

The Walking Dead2I won’t go into all the relationships in the show, but that should give you an idea of the complexity of the interaction, and the potential for both conflict and cooperation. I find that I’m as fascinated by the continuing character development as I am by the whole zombie apocalypse storyline. In the very first episode, I recall saying that I hoped Shane would get eaten by zombies soon, because of his rather misogynistic attitude; he has since become one of my favorite characters. He thought he was doing the right thing by taking Lori and Carl as his own family and trying to protect them, but with the return of Rick, he’s angry and hurt. He tries to shut down and plans on taking off on his own, but with the ending of the season premier, it looks as though he regains his compassion and will probably stay a part of the group. Can the conflict between him and Lori be resolved? Can Shane let it go and find someone else? What will happen if Rick finds out that Shane wasn’t just protecting his wife, he was screwing her, too? I’m telling you, I’m dying to find out. Well, not literally! I will not be reading the graphic novels to find out what happens, though. I want the show to surprise me.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this show. Usually if I’m watching something, I might be at the computer, or doing something in the kitchen, but not for this one. I plant my ass on that couch and am glued to what is happening. (Hint: do NOT call me while it’s on!) The tension is almost unbearable at times, and it would probably take a nuclear bomb to disturb my focus. It is incredibly well-done—I would say movie quality rather than TV quality—and well-directed. Frank Darabont is the director. That’s the guy who wrote the screenplays for and directed “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile.” Yeah. He’s pretty good. With a wonderful cast and incredible makeup artists (the best zombies you’ll ever see), it’s a combination that can’t lose.

This was my ode to “The Walking Dead.” If you don’t like it, make like a zombie and bite me! [grin]