1. If you ever wonder what I'm talking about when I bring up depressing, de-industrialized midwestern America, visit Rockford. It looks like it was hit by chemical weapons or the plague; all of the buildings are standing but nary a soul is to be found. The only businesses operating downtown are bars (about 30, of course), churches, and payday loan sharks. Rockford appears to be in a pitched battle with Fresno and Olathe, KS for the most depressing places I've ever seen.
2. You should pay rapt attention to this blog, Apparatchicks. You should do so because it is good, which is the best of all reasons to do anything.