The Weekly Roundup: 12.25.2009

Book Thieves
When I was in California, I stole The Dharma Bums (1958) by Jack Kerouac. That is the only thing I’ve ever stolen in my adult life. I was reading it in the bookstore, because I didn’t have any where else to go besides a room I had rented in a seedy motel until I could find a place to live. It was really speaking to me, since I was going through a period of troubled travels. I looked down at the price on the back of the book, and thought, “I can’t afford this, and I bet Kerouac never wanted enlightenment to cost this much anyway.” So, I just got up, and walked out with it. A couple years later, I gave it to my brother to read on his six-month trip to Bolivia. I just felt that by stealing the book I had given it a transient existence that needed to be passed on. According to The New York Times, I am apparently far from alone in my Kerouac theft; though as a woman, a minority among book thieves.
Essay: Steal These Books by Margo Rabb

This Monday: A Summation in List-Form
Saturday I went out walking in the blizzard for two hours with a friend. The isolation was serenely surreal. Unfortunately, following that up with a late night led to my body coming apart at the seams, like my muscle fibers and bones were being pulled towards different dimensions. Monday was a day of little things that made all the difference.
SEE: The Hokkaido, Japan, 2005-2009 series by Michael Kenna
LISTEN: This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About (1996) by Modest Mouse (especially track #15: Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds)
WEAR: two layered cardigans
DRINK: organic, fair-trade Wake Up Blend coffee from Trader Joe’s
READ: A Wild Sheep Chase (1982) by Haruki Murakami
EAT: stayman winesap apples
PLAN: gift exchange with friends featuring wine and cheese
TALK: to dearest Cricket about taking a trip to visit her, wherever her wanderlust takes her in these here northeastern parts.

Happiest States
Happiness can be a difficult thing to quantify. Traditionally, the studies that have been conducted to determine which geographic areas or demographics have the happiest people have relied on self-conducted surveys. However, earlier this month a new kind of study was published that used objective factors, such as the cost of living and air pollution, to determine the average level of happiness in each state. Interestingly enough, the results correlate to those of studies that used survey results as data. So, maybe happiness can be quantified, and we can definitively say if we are happy. Now for an even bigger question: is being happy what’s best for us? If “ignorance is bliss”, and ignorance isn’t what’s best for us, maybe being happy isn’t necessarily good. Regardless of these grand philosophically musings, here are the top ten happiest states in America based on the results published in Science by Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick) and Stephen Wu (Hamilton College). I certainly fantasize about living in #1, #4, and #7.
1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine
Research finds the happiest US States match a million Americans’ own happiness states

NPS Shows Route 66 Some Love
I've found yet another reason to love the National Park Service: they are providing funding to do a sociocultural survey of the portion of Route 66 that runs through California. I have driven parts of Route 66 that run parallel to Interstate 44. In every town I stopped, I would ask a someone local where the best diner was. I'd head on over, and order up apple pie with vanilla ice cream just like Sal Paradise in On The Road (1951) by Jack Kerouac. It truly is a landmark of American culture, and deserving of funding and attention from the NPS. A link to the full story from the LA Times is below, and it includes a really amazing photo of the Cadillac Ranch installation in Amarillo, TX.
Route 66 -- immortalized, but mortal by Martha Groves

Wilco - I'm Always in Love
Several bands I'm friends with cover this song, and they all do versions I love. Still, sometimes you need to return to the original. I hadn't seen the music video before this week, but I like it. Oh so low-fi, oh so love!

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