Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Wisconsin - Bye bye Badger State!

Wow - I've spent more than two months blogging about Wisconsin, which is the longest I've spent on any place so far.  Mind you, I didn't blog for about a month during that period, as my non-armchair travelling took over, which is a good thing, right?  By the way, I have another blog covering a series of walking trips I'm doing - it's called http://www.walkingthechesters.blogspot.com/ - check it out if you haven't already!

Anyway, it's been an interesting 'virtual' journey to the Badger state.  As usual, I'm going to use this last blog post to summarise my learning about Wisconsin, including the things I didn't get a chance to blog about properly.

I've learned that Wisconsin is called the Badger state and that locals are nicknamed 'cheeseheads', a reference to the fact that the state is the US's second-biggest cheese producer.  I've learned about the Green Bay Packers and American football.  I've learned about the different types of badgers, including 'the world's most dangerous animal', the honey badger which, by coincidence, has cropped up in recent episodes of Glee (as shown on UK television - we're a bit behind the American showings). 

 I've read a biography of Oprah Winfrey, who spent part of her childhood with her mother in Milwaukee.  I've (re)watched The Color Purple and watched Oprah's version of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer prize-winning Beloved.  I've also done some research into Wisconsin-born Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July which was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.  I watched the movie again, as I haven't seen it in years and I wanted to see if I would view it differently as a 'grown-up'.  I have to say it brought tears to my eyes and I found it incredibly moving in a way that I might have glossed over when I was younger, so I guess the way you watch a movie can change as you get older? 

Lake Monona, Madison by nightbuses

I also watched an amusing Romcom, set in Madison, called The Last Kiss, starring Zach Braff (of Scrubs fame).  My expectations for the movie weren't that high, as I normally avoid Romcoms, but it was surprisingly good and made me chuckle, which was a relief after watching Beloved and Born on the Fourth of July!

I learned about the origins of the US political system, which has cleared up a lot of the confusion that I had in my mind - hopefully, I'll understand things a bit better, when the next US Presidential election comes round again.  I've also watched with interest, the developing situation with the trade unions in Wisconsin.  I've learned about the ethnic ghettos of Milwaukee, reputedly the most segregated city in the US.  I've also been shocked by the news from Marshfield, Wisconsin about a 63-year old man who was planning to shoot doctors and nurses at a Family Planning clinic in Madison, because of his anti-abortion views.  Marshfield is another side to Wisconsin that I've not had much time to discover.  It's predominantly white and was the centre of a controversy in 2003 when a Nazi-apologist organised a pro-Hitler exhibition in the local library. 

Wisconsin countryside by Darin
 I've read Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Milwaukee-born Jack Finney.  Although he was born in Wisconsin, Finney migrated to California, which is the setting for his novel.  I also watched three movie versions of the book, which was fascinating and a good overview of how the US has changed, culturally, since the 1950's. 

I cooked Wisconsin Bratwurst and Blue Ribbon Chilli and I had great fun listening to the music of Violent Femmes, Garbage, The Gufs and Bon Iver

Just this morning, I was researching into Wisconsin's state symbols.  Like most American states, Wisconsin has a state animal, flower, fruit, bird etc., but I was surprised to learn that Wisconsin even has an official state microbe!  Perhaps, less surprisingly, the state microbe is the Lactococcus Lactis, perfect for a state where dairy and cheese is so important! 

I've going to leave you with a YouTube video of the Wisconsin State Song, On, Wisconsin!  I'm not a big fan of militaristic anthems, but this did give me a bit of a giggle!  The words on the video have been adapted from the original, so the song can be sung during football matches.  Enjoy and up next month . . . X!

Image credits:

The beautiful photo of Lake Monona in Madison was taken by flickruser nightbuses aka Kyril Negoda, who works in design and is based in nearby Minneapolis.  You can see more of his photos at http://www.flickr.com/people/plasticboy/

The amazing image of the countryside in Wisconsin was taken by fellow-walker and flickruser Darin - who is a local Wisconsinite.  You can see more of Darin's photos at http://www.flickr.com/people/carquestguy/

Thanks to nightbuses and Darin for sharing these images with us through the Creative Commons License. 
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