Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bad Stripe Is Evident in More QOL Indicators

The Bad Stripe is a section of the US that runs from extreme southwest Pennsylania along the Appalachians, turns west and decreases in intensity through western Kentucky and Tennessee, and extends through Arkansas and into eastern Oklahoma. As noted before, it consistently shows lower values for happiness and human development indices. For US demographics and geography buffs: it's not the Black Belt, which abuts it further southeast and closer to the coast. It is clearly, however, a cultural boundary zone between north and south - basically, from the southern shore of the Ohio River to the Deep South - and the part that extends west of the Mississippi may be a result of having been settled by Appalachians, since Americans have tended to in-migrate east-to-west. But the reasons for the Strip and whether it really has resulted from the same factors remains unclear.

Below are two maps from the several earlier articles showing the frequently re-emerging Bad Stripe: increased voting GOP for president in 2008 (bright red is 15% or more increase since 2004), and self-reported by congressional district, also 2008.

So it was with great interest that I read this Medium article ("The Origin of Populist Surges Everywhere", there's another more-intense-Republican-voting map, as well as these two: death by overdose (mostly opioids, i.e. pain meds) on top, and firearm suicides on the bottom - "diseases of despair", as the author calls them.

Paintings of Unnoticed Places

Westside San Joaquin

I've run across Stephanie Taylor's work before, in the hospital where I work, and on every occasion they were paintings non-iconic, obscure, but nonetheless unique and immediately identifiable aspects of California. These are places we aren't supposed to see, because they aren't how the place wants to think about itself, but we see them anyway. Consequently it's exciting to see them represented. I was moved to write about them and post some here after a trip to the Crocker Museum in Sacramento. I've always had kind of a strange fascination with boiling a place down to its authentic essence - taking the semantic mean, I guess you could say - and while usually I feed this addiction by poring over maps and narratives, here she's accomplishing the same thing visually. (Of note, as I looked through her work I noticed that she draws the occasional map.) Through these non-places, she lets California speak for itself, in the same way that Terrence Malick's New World let the real Tidewater Virginia speak for itself. Some of these places, specifically, are the Salton Sea, the rivers in the Central Valley, the golf courses in SoCal - oddly, places that many Californians would not recognize - but that if you're observant and you've been up and down the state, you immediately know. I guess my enthusiasm can be excused as resulting from the kinship I feel, after having often been in and around these places that we're not supposed to notice, and so has she, and more importantly I wonder if she found them all the same way.

A second observation is in order about her portraits, rather than the landscapes (although I've included only landscapes here). Paintings of people are, I think, necessarily more honest about the intrusion onto the subject the act of capturing them represents. Non-candid photography of casual subjects often seems a bit disingenuous to me. Clearly the subject knows s/he is being photographed, yet the speed of the shutter leaves us thinking that somehow we're seeing them in the moment as they actually are, not how they are for the camera. When someone is being painted, we know they sat for it, that they posed, that they moved during the process.

You can see more at this Bee article, as well as at her studio.

Above: two Salton Sea images. Next two below: Southern California.

Two below: scenes from the Central Valley.

Two below: a foothill-looking forest,
and one getting into higher in the Sierra.