Sunday, 2 June 2013

Indiana - The Final Word

As well as being my final word on Indiana, this blog post marks my 200th entry on Learning about the World!  It's been almost four years since I started writing this blog and I sense that that is a reasonable amount of time in blog years.  With almost 26,000 page views from 141 countries, I'm quite happy with the way this blog has developed.  The 141st country the blog got a hit from, in April of this year, was Guatemala, which also happens to be the very first country I blogged about in September 2009.

A summary of the themes

It's taken a while to research and blog about Indiana - mostly because myself and my partner moved to a new flat at the end of April, so we were busy packing, unpacking and setting up our new home.  Nevertheless, I somehow found time to learn about Indiana being the Crossroads of America.  I learned about the Jackson 5 and Dr Kinsey's ground-breaking research on human sexuality.  I read Slaughterhouse 5 by one of Indiana's most famous writers, Kurt Vonnegut.  The very first meal I cooked in our new home was the Indiana dish - Pork Tenderloin sandwich

Tools for research

I read three books as part of my research about Indiana:

Research for Indiana blog posts
Slaughterhouse-Five, or the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969) Kurt Vonnegut

You Are Not Alone: Michael, Through a Brother's Eyes (2011) Jermaine Jackson

Alfred C. Kinsey: Sex - the Measure of All Things - A Biography (1999) Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

I also watched quite a few movies set in Indiana, including:

Breaking Away (1979) directed by Peter Yates - I'd seen this incredibly poignant and funny movie when I was in my early teens and I remember trying to teach myself Italian after seeing this movie.  It was a real joy to see it again through adult eyes. 

A History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg - East Coast gangsters arrive in small town Indiana determined to make life hell for coffee-shop owner Tom Stall (played by Viggo Mortensen).  I quite enjoyed this thriller and probably wouldn't have watched it, if I wasn't blogging about Indiana.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) directed by George Roy Hill - I'm really glad they made a film version in the '70's, as I think it would be impossible nowadays to make this movie, in the way Hill did - I loved this interpretation of the book - it's quite odd and psychedelic and I think it complements the novel well. 

Hoosiers (1986) directed by David Anspaugh and starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper.  It's also a movie of its era - an enjoyable 'underdog' story about a basketball team from a small town in Indiana who make it to the state championship finals.  A real feel-good movie, perfect for whiling away a rainy Sunday afternoon!




Bloomington (2010) directed by Fernanda Cardoso - a mediocre 'coming of age' story about a young celebrity who tries to escape the pressures of California by studying at Bloomington university in Indiana - she falls in love with one of her professors and they have a fraught relationship that I found very unbelievable - still, all in the name of research!

As well as listening to lots of Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson albums, I listened to three of Indiana's most famous musical artists; John Mellencamp, Axl Rose from Guns'N'Roses and Cole Porter

Mellencamp was a name I'd heard of, but this was the first time I listened to his music - it's definitely enjoyable and reminded me a lot of Bob Dylan. 

Guns N'Roses are a band that I grew up with, although I've never been much of a fan - Guns N'Roses fans in my school tended to be homophobic, right-wing bullies and there used to be quite a bit of rivalry between the rockers and Goths (like me) who listened to The Cure.  Having said that, with the distance of time and adulthood, I was surprised to find that I know their music quite well and - guilty pleasure - I've enjoyed re-discovering their greatest hits (although I'll be loyal to The Cure until the end!)




And I absolutely adore Cole Porter's music - he was such a prolific and talented artist.  I'd no idea that he was born in Indiana and only found out towards the end of my initial research, otherwise I would definitely have spent more time researching his eccentric and wildly artistic life!

It's fair to say that I've been spoilt for choice this time, with lots to read, listen to and watch. 

Other themes

If I'd had more time, I would have looked into the following additional themes:

German-Americans
Algonquian languages
Ghost legends of the Mid-West
Former Indian names for US cities
The Ku Klux Klan, who had their first headquarters in Indiana
Private Slovik
Great inventors
Basketball

Dinner party trivia

And I learned some trivia which will come in handy for dinner parties:

People from Indiana are called Hoosiers which comes from the dialect of English spoken in Cumbria and is believed to mean 'hill folk'
Fort Wayne was built on the site of the (Native-American) Miami capital, called Kekionga
The fridge, calculator and jukebox were all invented in Indiana
Fort Wayne has the US's highest population of Burmese-Americans
The first professional basketball game was played in Fort Wayne in 1871
There are more than 1,000 lakes in Indiana
The pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly and Company is based in Indianapolis
The largest coal mine in the US is in Indiana
Indianapolis is the least segregated city in the northern US

In the News

Whilst Oklahoma has been recovering from a terrible series of tornadoes, I've noticed the following news stories related to Indiana:

Sullivan High school traditional prom bans gay students

Gunman scare at Indianapolis university

Extreme weather conditions (blizzards and floods) in the state

School voucher system upheld by Supreme Court

Indianapolis voted as one of the worst-dressed cities in the US

45 years since the death of Martin Luther King - Indianapolis the only major city not to break out in riots at the news

Paul McCartney to play Indianapolis

Death of Otis R. Bowen, 44th Governor of Indiana

The Final word in Underdogs

One thing I learnt about Indiana (and the Mid-West in general) is that people there love a good underdog story.  Whether it's the cyclists in Breaking Away or the basketball players in Hoosiers - the story of small town athletes making it big touches on something that seems to run deep in the mid-Western psyche.  I guess it's a bit like 'middle-child syndrome' - the mid-Western states live in the shadow of their more famous east-coast (New England) and west-coast (California) compatriots.  I've noticed a similar theme in the popular TV show Glee, although this is set in neighbouring Ohio. 

I guess then Hoosiers will be happy with the outcome of last weekend's Indy 500 car race.  It's hard to blog about Indiana and not acknowledge the importance of the Indy 500 - the World's Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  Every year racing drivers from all over the world compete in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - driving 500 miles in 200 laps of the speedway - it sounds fast, furious and exciting!

This year's winner was Tony Kanaan who is Brazilian, of Lebanese descent.  It took 12 attempts at the Indy 500 before Tony could claim the title - a true underdog story, if ever I heard one!

Well, here's to the next 200 blog posts - up next, J . . .

Image credits

The image of the book covers was taken by me.

The Hoosiers trailer and Guns 'N'Roses videos are from YouTube. 
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