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<b>SAD STATE?</b>  We may only rank 38th on the happy meter, but New York couple Chris and Carol, in town for their godson’s wedding, seemed in good spirits at the downtown Farmers Market.

Paul Wellman

SAD STATE? We may only rank 38th on the happy meter, but New York couple Chris and Carol, in town for their godson’s wedding, seemed in good spirits at the downtown Farmers Market.


Sweet Tweet Balance Sheet

S.B. Scores Number 38 on the Happy Meter


Thursday, August 15, 2013
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WHY NOT NO. 1? What happens when you put a bunch of math geeks in a room with rows of computers? They come up with studies, the latest “proving” that Santa Barbara is only the 38th “happy” city in the U.S.

They claim that if you want happiness, go to Napa. It’s No. 1 on their scorecard. It’s got all the wine you can drink. Other than that, I’m not sure why the high marks. You want the saddest place in the U.S, go to Beaumont, Texas. It’s dead last.

Did these geeks actually talk to real living people? No. Folks, I’m sorry to tell you that we have arrived at a time when communication is no longer measured by speech or even the written word but by tweets. They broke down Twitter mini-sentences emanating from 373 urban areas into individual words.

Barney Brantingham

Millions of them. Places that tweeted more “good” words, like “rainbow” and “love,” got higher marks on the “hedonometer” (their term) than places tweeting lots of bad words, like “cancer,” “fatal,” and “terrorist.”

Other downer words: “No.” “Never.” “Wrong.” “Don’t.” And a plethora of curse words dooms your town or state to statistical gloom. “People curse more as the day goes on,” observed Christopher Danforth, a coauthor of the study announced by the University of Vermont.

“In the South, more people are cursing,” he said. “A tapestry of negative words,” according to the study. Oddly, in all this frenzy of cuss-counting, the F-word doesn’t matter. It’s considered neutral because, according to the study, it’s used about as often in expressing something positive, as in “F– me, I got an A on my English paper,” as in something negative, “F– you and the horse you rode in on.”

Southern states tend to be poorer, the study noted, and cursing your luck counts against you. And, of course, Texas has to contend with Governor Rick Perry, always a downer on the happiness meter. States with more natural disasters also bring out the negative tweets, as you might expect.

If a boring town like Napa can get top rating through happy talk (everyone must be jabbering tweet-wise about wine), how come a nice place like Santa Barbara gets consigned to the moody blues?

Spanish words were nixed out of the running, so about a third of our population was deep-sixed, tweet-wise. “Beach” is one of the happy words that count, so how come we’re not No. 1?

A highly detailed, color-coded (red for happy spot-lets, blue for sadness) shows that high-happiness reddish states were a fairly solid block west of Texas, whereas Rust Belt states to the east pretty much have the blues. It also showed a pretty solid line of happy red dots all along downtown State Street. No doubt people are happy when they’re shopping, tweeting the heck out of bargains.

So what’s up with Beaumont, which these guys say is the saddest place in the whole continental U.S.? Well, for one thing, it’s an industrial town on the poor Gulf Coast ​— ​and it’s in Texas.

Just how valid the study is can be debated. The authors point out that only 15 percent or so of online adults regularly use Twitter (I don’t) and that “18-29 year olds and minorities” tend to be more highly represented in such studies.

In some ways, the results, while reducing happiness to numbers, are not terribly surprising. Happiest state: Hawai‘i. Manhattan is a happier place than Harlem. Wealthy people and places are happier.

Upshot: Instead of moving to Napa, drink our own wine, and get richer if you can.

CABARET: If you gathered a bunch of talented kids from area high schools and put them under the direction of Otto Layman, with choreography by Christina McCarthy, musical direction by John Douglas, costuming by Lise Lange, light design by Spencer Michaels, and set design by David Guy, voilà! You’d have a bang-up production of the musical Cabaret, a bittersweet excursion of Berlin in the early 1930s. The show featured tarts from the seedy Kit Kat Klub, love and pain, and the whole damn thing, all the decadence the Santa Barbara High auditorium could hold and, increasingly, the dark shadow of Hitlerism. It was an outstanding, moving production, and my only regret is to inform you that the special summer musical was only staged last weekend. Xeni Tziouvaras was sensational as Sally Bowles.

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I don't think it's that mysterious why SB doesn't rate among the happiest places. SB may well be one of the nicest places on Earth. It may be in fact too nice and as a result is always attracting new residents. Coupled with the national problem of the rising wealth gap, this creates a downward pressure on lifestyle that is amplified by the city's attractiveness. Affluence becomes a necessity, and in pursuit of it, SB residents become aggressive about selling SB to others. SB is a sell-out city, with real estate and tourism as the main products. A few will succeed in this strategy and rise up the hill to a bigger house and country club membership, while most will find themselves no longer viable and have to leave town while a new crop of wealthier residents arrive. It's like working at a company that prefers to hire from outside rather than promoting from within. It's a problem of morale.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 9:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

City-data says the county population has decreased 4.1% since 2000, and 36% of residents have incomes under 40K/year. The poorest age group in Santa Barbara is 18-24. I don't know how that compares with other places, but that age range has a pretty good overlap with the age range represented most in this survey.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 12:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@native2sb ... I think there's a lot of truth in your assessment.

The latest time-series data (1980-2010) is showing the south coast is growing older and the middle class is in decline:

http://www.missionandstate.org/featur...

http://missionandstate.org/ms/wp-cont...

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 1:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

agree native, & I got here in '66 so must be a near native, ahh, almost indigenous! When you write "SB is a sell-out city" I can certainly concur in most areas. If we just said weather/climate I'd put this REGION #1.
The actual City of SB does have a morale problem, the news so often highlights the recent gang killings or convictions, our public schools are horribly underfunded [despite Prop 30!], underemployment is rampant...kinda goes on (I sound like BC here). But the biggest factor is the widening scale of economic inequalities. The rich are getting really richer, the middle group is hanging on desperately, and more and more are falling into heavy debt and endemic poverty. Gini coefficient. This is NOT happening in most of the EU!
check EB's webrefs (thanks for these), SB County is getting older and the middle class is shrinking.
Dramatically raise taxes on downtown bars and evening establishments, eateries, and hotel bed tax...pour it into additional assistance for our beleaguered public schools. Fire Cam. Go back to Helene Schneider's 2012 4 points reform and at least work to reform and cap public pensions the City is liable for. Cut at the top, in order to save and pay out the rank and file.
Another huge plus about the SB region is its easy access to local backcountry treasures: silence and solitude and almost-wilderness! For water-lovers, there's the beach and surfing.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 2:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's not about how much people are making annually in S.B., it's the fact that living there is too expensive. The "middle class" in S.B. would be upper class in most other places in the country.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 2:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

taking it one step further, Bill, most Americans [say, upper 3/5th or so] live materially better than most folks in the rest of the WORLD. We are the Empire, though fraught with problems.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 18, 2013 at 11:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe bailing out a failed banking system was a mistake.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
August 20, 2013 at 12:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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