From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Power of Five (9)—Interstate Highways

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Power of Five"
One year ago on Round and Square (29 June 2012)—Primary Sources: In the Park
Two years ago on Round and Square (29 June 2011)—Seinfeld Ethnography: Sleep Desk
[a] Connected RF
Below, I list the "Five Interstate Highways." U.S. Interstate Highways.

This vast river system was created during the Eisenhower administration, and the many millions of vehicles that float upon it in all parts of the country—and in all of the cardinal directions—are testimony to the awesome power of it all. The beauty of these rivers is that their currents go "both ways." They are dotted with construction cones, little green mileage markers, as well as big green (and brown) signs. Vast oasis sites are scattered like so many sand bars in our midst.
[b] River System RF

The "boats" range from little Hyundai canoes to big, fast, scary barges with funny names like Peterbilt, Kenworth, and International. They have even funnier nicknames, such as Tiltin' Hilton, Anteater, and Flying Coffin. And don't even try to transfer the terminology you will learn to even other English speaking nations. No, that is a little too much load to put on the ol' lorry...or ute.

I remember, many years ago, reading the opening lines of William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways. He excoriated the Interstate highway, and stressed that "real life" takes place on state highways, county roads, and various American byways. At the time, I was impressed. Over the years, though, the image stuck with me, and began to cloy. I mean, really? 

In an otherwise engaging book, this seems to be just an American traveler-way of expressing "exoticism." It's a little akin to an anthropologist saying "Oh, so you did your fieldwork in, um, Britain? How nice. I did mine in New Guinea." You see, New Guinea always wins the prestige argument among anthropologists, with almost any place in sub-Saharan Africa a close second. Well, "...real life takes place on backroads" is just a little bit too much of a display of authenticity for my tastes.
[c] Back road RF

And life? You want to see life? Go to a big truck stop, such as the Iowa 80 Truckstop near Walcott, Iowa. Better yet, go to a smaller one, get yourself a cup of coffee, and just watch and listen. 

Now that's fieldwork.

Just make sure that you are not on an intestate highway. That could be a problem.

So these are the Five Interstate Highways. From many, five. I have a suspicion that this list could get some opinion going. I'm not sure, but there is something about long-traveled routes and a little bit of aging that creates nostalgia. Car and Driver nostalgia. 

So, of all the winding ganglia that could be chosen, these are the five. Together, they represent are the totality

Remember, if you think that this is a "top-five" list, such as you read on Yahoo, you are very badly mistaken. No, these are totality

If that doesn't make sense...go back and read the introduction and the links!
[d] Flow RF

The Five Interstate Highways
(feel free to click the links)

Honorable Mention**
Route 66 
** The RSQ board will occasionally make use of the "honorable mention" opportunity to throw in a few more things to think about. The board quite obviously had tongues in cheeks with the first one.

'nuf said. The cosmologists have the last word.

The Five Great Tours de France
[e] Haulin' Long RF


  1. ? Post-colonialist fieldsite, post-socialist fieldsite... I think we have some major dibs on those guys Rob. Do you also know people who go on business trips to North Korea?

    Seriously though, wanted to say, I have Russian friends (and have met strangers too) who want to come to the US and DRIVE THE INTERSTATES. It's a really nice juxtaposition with Americans who want to ride the Trans-Siberian...

  2. Beautiful. That is really funny (and, as you say, has parallels all over the world).