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Strange Maps is moving. From July 20, this weblog will be hosted by Big Think, a brain-tickling cornucopia of opinion and information, covering a broad church of topics. Those topics will henceforth include, via this blog, the fascinating field of cartographic curiosa.
We at Strange Maps (*) are thrilled, and not half humbled to be associated with a content provider of such depth and breadth. That’s not to say this was an easy decision. After all, for almost four years since its inception, this blog has been able to be as unfocused, irreverent and just plain wrong as it couldn’t help itself to be…
… and so it shall continue to be. Strange Maps will retain total editorial independence (**). The strange maps on Strange Maps will still be selected and presented by the same, sole blogger. The criteria will remain the same: maps must be visually arresting, tell a good story, and be generally too weird, obsolete or otherwise irregular to merit inclusion in a ‘normal’ atlas. Your submissions and your comments remain most welcome.
So if we keep the menu, why change the venue? Cooperating with Big Think will allow this blog to access an interesting, and hopefully interested new audience (and vice versa, which is what’s in it for them). It will give this one-man operation access to the knowledge and experience of an entire team of online-savvy creative minds. And it entails a commitment on the blog’s part to post more regularly than has been the case until now.
The result should be a blog that’s even more fun to make, and to read.
One final thing: don’t worry about changing addresses in your bookmarks or feed aggregator: you will be automatically taken from this place to our new little corner of Big Think.
See you there tomorrow!
UPDATE 20 July 2010:
* Strange Maps’ first post is up over at Big Think. Please find it over at:
(*) Editorial we. I at Strange Maps doesn’t quite sound right, though.
(**) and, how else to put this, corporate independence. This temporal agreement that may be cancelled or renewed at either party’s behest.
Sao Paulo is the only one of Brazil’s 26 states to include a map of the entire country on its flag; the Paulista state motto exhorts its citizens to Let great things be done for Brazil. And yet, Sao Paulo State historically harboured a more persistent regionalist, and even separatist sentiment than any other Brazilian state.
Sao Paulo is the richest, most populous state of the Brazilian federation. It is also the West’s most populous sub-national entity (*). At over 42 million inhabitants, Sao Paulo would rank 31st out of the world’s 223 independent countries, just behind Tanzania and right in front of Argentina. It would be the fifth most populous nation of the Americas (after the US, what would be left of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia). According to some reckonings (**), the eponymous state capital with its 11 million inhabitants is the biggest city in the Western world.
Population size isn’t the only thing that matters, though. Even back in 1842, when still very sparsely populated, Sao Paulo demonstrated the go-it-alone streak in its character by rebelling against the Emperor. The Paulistas expressed this streak politically by their adherence to the PRP (Partido Republicano Paulista), founded in 1873 to advocate the overthrow of the Empire in favour of a republican system.
When the republic of Brazil was eventually proclaimed in 1889, the PRP got its hands firmly glued to the levers of Brazil-wide power, which it shared with the PRM, from neighbouring Minas Gerais state. The arrangement saw the PRP and the PRM divvy up the presidency and political influence in the capital Rio de Janeiro. It was a cohabitation known as cafe com leite (‘coffee with milk’), as Sao Paulo’s economy was based on the former, Minas Gerais’ on the latter commodity.
This map celebrates Sao Paulo’s separateness from the rest of Brazil by portraying it anthropomorphically. The unnamed lady – let’s call her Paula – thus serves as Sao Paulo’s very own version of France’s Marianne or the UK’s Britannia: a symbolic female as allegory of the state’s unique history, territorial homogeneity and separate future. One could say it does so better than the French or British figureheads, as ‘Paula’ actually coincides with the borders of her state.
The emblematic female wears the state flag in her hair, but the slogan is not the one referred to earlier. It reads Everything for Sao Paulo. It would be interesting to learn how the PRP managed to balance the inherent separatism of its regionalist agenda with the demands – and the benefits – of its share in federal governance. Or maybe it didn’t, in the long run. For the PRP/PRM cohabitational system collapsed in the early 1930s, with the power-grab of Getulio Vargas, who abolished both parties and went on to establish a populist, authoritarian Estado Novo. The more regionally inclined elements in Sao Paulo State opposed this evolution. Incipient rebellion turned to inchoative secession in 1932, but the so-called Paulista War was crushed by federal troops in a few months’ time.
Many thanks to Vinicius Morello – definitely Brazilian and possibly Paulistano – for sending in this map.
(*) and not the world’s, as reported earlier (see comments). And only if one excludes England, the grounds for which are somewhat debatable (i.e. England’s historic and demographic importance for the UK is such that it is more than a mere ‘sub-nation’).
(**) the ones that exclude the suburbs.
The exemplary specimen of what were labelled, in the early 1980s, the ‘chattering classes’, was Islington Man (*). Both terms described a certain type of city-dwelling British liberal, self-assuredly spouting enlightened opinions on how to improve society at large, and indeed the world in general. One of the early highlights in Islington Man’s existence was the release in 1984 of the Band Aid charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas? After that, not much more was heard of him. Indeed he may have become extinct. Maybe for lack of an Islington Woman.
In this new century, opinions – high-minded, interesting, or otherwise – are exchanged online rather than at the dinner table. Chatter has a new gold standard: Twitter. The microblogging site, best resumed as “the web’s text message service” (at max. 140 characters per tweet), is only four years old, but already counts over 100 million subscribers. These generate 750 tweets per second, or 65 million per day, or 4 billion in this year’s first quarter alone.
It’s not yet clear if the twittering classes of today are direct descendants or rather more distant relatives of their chattering antecedents. But this map does show that the HQ of blah has moved: Islington Man has yielded to the Soho Twit.
This tweetograph translates location and amplitude of twitter traffic in London (**) to a format we instinctively understand: a contoured map. It borrows from your basic standard relief map the isolines (each connecting locations with the same altitude) and the range of colours (bluish green, brown, beige through white for ascending altitude), in the understanding that higher altitudes chime with peaks in Twitter traffic. London’s localities are renamed to reflect the highs and lows of this nifty, post-orographic representation.
The centre of the map, and of London’s tweeting community, is the area of Central London comprising Soho Mountain and Picadilly Rock. Traffic (or altitude) radiates out from that summit fairly evenly through Westminster Rock, Waterloo Hang, Hydepark Steep, Victoria Point and Smithfield Moor. The even pattern is interrupted by a small elevation labelled Liverpool Street Hill to the east, Hackney Downs Hill further north-east, Peckham Crag to the south-east and a freestanding hill complex to the west (Holland Park Hill, White City Peak and Earls Court Hill). A smaller, single elevation to the south is called Battersea Hill.
The overall appearance of London on this map with a radius of 30 km is of an island set in an encircling – and indeed circular – sea. This is reminiscent of the ancient Greek world view (discussed in #288).
The fantastic London tweetograph and similar ones detailing the local Twittersphere in New York, Paris and Munich were produced by Fabian Neuhaus of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL). Called New City Landscape Maps, they can be seen in greater detail here on Mr Neuhaus’ Urban Tick blog and on the tweetography subset of his Flickr pages.
Many thanks to Tom Anderson, Alex den Haan, Jedidjah de Vries, Jon Morris, Matt Schneider and Joel Winten for sending in this map, which was also discussed here on Londonist and here at the Daily Mail.
(*) Note the slightly derogatory tone in both labels, the former referring to the inane nature of the communication thus described, the latter a pastiche of Piltdown Man, Java Man and other eagerly studied species of early humans (some of which turned out to be fakes).
(**) Based on data for May 2010, taking into account tweets sent from mobile devices that include geospatial information at time of message.
Between 1934 and 1959, The Three Stooges produced 190 short films for Columbia Pictures. While all exhibited the Stooges’ trademark slapstick humour, gaining them a cult following, only one of the zany troupe’s shorts is of interest to the admittedly rather narrow field of curious cartography.
Malice in the Palace (1949) is set in a fictionalised, funnified Middle East, where Moe, Shemp and Larry run the Cafe Casbah Bah. Two of their customers, Gin-A Rummy and Hassan ben Sober, are plotting to steal a giant diamond from the tomb of Rootentooten. However, when they discover the diamond is already in the possession of the Emir of Schmow, they start yammering and are kicked out of the Cafe. The Stooges then decide to retrieve the diamond themselves, using a map left behind by the unsuccessful plotters.
MOE to SHEMP and LARRY: “Now, here, study this map closely!”
(Moe is now showing Shemp and Larry the route they are going to take to get to the castle as Moe is using a knife to lay out their travel route.)
MOE to SHEMP and LARRY: ”We start here at Jerkola, down the Insane River, over the Giva Dam, through Pushover, across Shmowland, to the stronghold of Shmow.”
The map, shown briefly in the film, is of a continentful of countries with strange names and odd shapes, clearly designed to look and sound ‘foreign’. What does this ‘Map of Starvania’, designed merely for the purpose of unsophisticated comedy, unconsciously reveal of mid-20th-century America’s attitudes towards the exotic, the un-American?
Firstly, the name: Starvania. It continues the tradition of using vaguely latinate toponyms as shorthand for exotism. Previous examples include Ruritania, others are Syldavia and Borduria (all mentioned in #461). Intriguingly, by referring to ‘starvation’, this toponym may demonstrate a mental equation made by Americans between distance from their Land of Plenty and the incidence of famine (the greater the former, the likelier the latter). Considering that the Second World War had only recently ended, this might have indeed been a prevalent attitude in the US at the time.
Secondly, the shapes: The Great Mitten floating around to the left of the main continent is of course a reference to Michigan’s lower peninsula (see also #454). Maybe not foreign, but at least a funny shape. The main continent is a profile facing left, attached to the bottom is an Italy-shaped boot called Hot Foot. Italy being the Old Country of so many Americans must have figured prominently in any brain-storming session on ‘foreignness’.
Some of the foreign-looking names actually sound quite familiar; these are wordplays such as Isle Asker (“I’ll ask her”), Rubid-Din (“rub it in”), Cant Sea (“can’t see”) and the aforementioned Giva Dam (“give a damn”). Other plays on words, sounding less foreign, are Bay of Window (“bay window”), Corkscrew Strai(gh)ts (a corkscrew being the opposite of straight), and Hot Sea and Tot Sea (“hotsie totsie”, for something or someone pretty).
Other names are extended riffs on actual foreign toponyms: I-ran, He-ran, She-ran, They-ran and Also-ran. Another set consists of Egypt, You-gypt and We-gypt (on the left, partly outside this image). The first set works a bit better than the second one, but both reflect an unfamiliarity with these foreign placenames.
A further set of names reflect directly negative references, sometimes with the flavour of contemporary street vernacular: the Vulgar River (just north of Double-Crossea, on the right), the Insane River (running through Staywayoff, at the centre of the map), Jerkola, Slap-Happia, Hangover, Pushover.
Least but not last, there are a few names that seem to reflect nothing much more than map-filling noise: Woo-Woo and Oomphola. Or the rudimentariness of these names might be understood to reflect on the lack of sophistication of the places they denote.
A clever play on words is Mikey Finlen, referring both to Finland and to a ‘Mickey Finn’ – slang for a drink spiked to incapactiate its imbiber (hence “to slip a mickey”). Less clever: Lake of Lamb (“Leg of Lamb”, supposedly). Other names are self-explanatory, inexplainable or unreadable due to low image quality.
Many thanks to William Angiolillo for sending in this map.
To my admittedly vague recollection, The Streets of San Francisco was a mid-Seventies tv series very appropriately named after its main character. I was too young to follow any of the cop show’s plot. Until a few moments ago, I didn’t even recall that its stars were a young Michael Douglas partnered with the eternally avuncular Karl Malden. But I do remember the car chases, mainly because they were set on the improbably-angled, gravity-defying streets of San Francisco.
When I say remember, I exaggerate. Those car chases have melded into a single Generic San Francisco Car Chase, for which you need: several police cruisers, sirens wailing, in hot pursuit of a getaway vehicle (all cars preferably pre 1980); a route down precariously steep streets (rarely up, for obvious speed-related reasons); the cars giving chase in permanent near-collision with the cross-traffic on level avenues and bending their fenders in a constant bump and grind on roads not inclined to accommodate high speeds; and to top it all off, split-second views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, both parked on the glistening blue waters of the Bay below the city.
San Francisco’s iconic topography – with grades of up to 31% – is as much a tourist attraction as its cable cars or the sea lions at Fishermans’ Wharf. But the city’s hilliness is more than just ankle-biting eye-candy. Its elevation, mainly in the city’s centre, is responsible for a 20% variance in annual rainfall throughout its eastern and western precincts, with bay-fronted neighbourhoods in the east also significantly less cold, windy and foggy than those facing the ocean.
These maps present San Franciscan peaks and troughs of a different, less savoury kind. Although the information they convey is as real as the city’s actual orography, these infographics express incidence of crime rather than elevation above sea level. By mimicking cartographic methods of height demarcation, the mapmaker has hit upon a visually very arresting method to frame raw crime statistics in a geographic context.
These maps were made by Doug McCune, who plotted the 2009 data for eight different types of crime out on a map of San Francisco. Mr McCune produced two map versions for each type of crime, a satellite view and a bird’s eye view. The latter’s more slanted perspective works better for presenting ‘hilliness’.
Mr McCune goes on to comment on some of the resulting crime topography of San Francisco, which I shall summarize here:
- Many maps peak in the Tenderloin District (in the north-east).
- Some crime is extremely concentrated (e.g. narcotics), others are more spread out (e.g. vehicle theft);
- Prostitution arrests mainly occur around Shotwell Street, one of the frankly quite numerous toponyms in San Francisco that can be interpreted in a lewd manner.
- A valley dividing the peaks in the Mission and the Tenderloin is the location of the 101 freeway.
If only Messrs. Douglas and Malden had known about this back in the day…
Many thanks to all who sent in these maps (found here on Mr McCune’s blog): Andrew M. Galleni, Geoffrey Engelstein, Brian Kavanaugh, John O’Brien, Jeff Crocombe, Kate Loux, Taed Wynnell, Kelley Ketchmark, Sarah Schoenfeldt, Elise K and Brian Ogilvie.
Every disaster is always bigger than the last one. Newspapers and tv anchors have to say that, don’t they? Otherwise it wouldn’t be news. But those slick-covered birds look the same every time. A bit distressing, but what’s a pelican for, at the end of the day? To be honest, this disaster is getting a bit boring. Haven’t they capped that well yet?
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (1) is the worst environmental disaster in US history. But it’s a catastrophe of the creeping, cumulative kind, composed of images familiar from earlier ecocides. How to get a grip on its width and breadth? Obviously: a map. Ingeniously: a map of the area affected by the oil spill transposed on your geographic location of choice – your home, for optimum shock effect.
This simple act of teleportation, by the almost appropriately named website www.ifitwasmyhome.com (2) , puts a stark perspective on the disaster’s geographic impact, now stretching from the coast of Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The immediate, visual result is immensely more powerful than crude statistics (3):
Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 (killing 11 crew), over 1 million US gallons have been spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day, by now adding up to almost 50 million gallons. A recent study by the University of Miami puts the surface of the oil spill at about 10,000 square miles (almost 26,000 square km), or triple its size on May 1st. This means the affected area is rapidly approaching that oft-cited (4) unit of large-surface measurement, the size of Belgium (11,787 sq mi, or 30,528 km2).
The spill’s size is less abstract (and more ominous) if transported from its aquatic domain to a land-based vantage point. Centred on London (placing the gushing wellhead somewhere below Westminster), the area affected by the spill covers most of southern England, almost touching Swansea in Wales and nearly spilling over onto the French coast at Dunkirk. The area does look a lot larger than Belgium, to the spill’s east. One assumes that the calculations of Miami U refer to the darker-shaded areas within the total affected region.
Superimposed on a map of the Los Angeles area (zoomed out a bit more than the London map), spillage threatens to swallow Lompoc, and has engulfed lovely Oceanside – all the while extending as far inland as Death Valley, not too far from the Nevada border.
You too can centre the spillage on your hometown. Go to the website (cf. sup.) See how far you would have to travel to stay clear of the oily mess. Then zoom out to see how large it is on a global scale (spoiler: quite large!) Maybe not the most uplifting of pastimes, but an intelligent way to impress the scale of this disaster on our minds, saturated as they are by superlatives.
Many thanks to Stannous Flouride for sending in this link.
(1) Or the BP oil spill, if you insist on naming, shaming and/or blaming the guilty.
(2) If it were my home, indeed. There is no need to compound ecocide with grammaticrime.
(3) excusez le pun.
(4) an entire website is dedicated to the recurrence of this rather unusual unit of surface.
With Justice and Piety, reads the Latin emblazoning this 17th-century illustration, a map that shows Bohemia as a stylised rose. If that region is in bloom, the map suggests, it is precisely by the application of those virtuous qualities. They were not randomly chosen. Iustitia et Pietate was the personal motto of Leopold I (1640-1705), archduke of Austria, king of Bohemia (1), and prince, duke, lord and landgrave of much, much more.
Leopold was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1658, a title that had been in his Habsburg family for centuries. However, realising the increasing weakness of this institution (2), Leopold instead shifted his political energy to the consolidation of his Austrian, Hungarian and Bohemian dynastic territories. Vienna was to become the focal point for this newer empire, which would eventually become the Austro-Hungary Double Monarchy.
This map illustrates that ambition to consolidate, showing Bohemia as a Habsburg power flower. It was first drawn up by the Silesian cartographer Christoph Vetter (b. 1575, d. 1650), copper-engraved by Wolfgang Kilian (in 1668), finally to be included in Bohuslav Balbin’s Epitome historica rerum bohemicarum, a national history and geography of Bohemia from antiquity to the present day (i.e. 1677).
It shows, in the aforementioned botanical shape and form, the 18 administrative subdivisions of Bohemia, starting with the Districtus pragensis (i.e. Prague) at the centre. Leaves peeking out from the actual flower indicate neighbouring regions: Palatinatus bavariae pars (Bavarian palatinate), Austriae pars (Austria), Moraviae pars (Moravia) and Silesiae pars (Silesia) – the one on the top is illegible, as are other leaves nearer the root of the flower’s stem.
That stem firmly connects the flowering Bohemian rose to the fertile soil of Vienna, the Habsburg’s political centre. For those still not clued in to this not too subtle form of cartographic propaganda, the Latin text at the bottom explains: “There grew a graceful Rose in the Bohemian woods, and an armoured lion standing guard next to her. That Rose had grown out of the blood of Mars, not of Venus. [...] Do not fear, lovely Rose! There comes the Austrian. [...] The Rose of Bohemia, bloody for all the centuries, where more than 80 battles were waged. She has been now drawn in this form for the first time.”
It is rather common in curious cartography to anthropomorphise countries, as previously shown on this blog in entries #141 (Europe As A Queen), #171 (John Bull Bombarding France With Bum-Boats), and #278 (Ice Coffee Town). Morphing maps into allegories vegetal rather than animal is rarer, though not unheard of. The most famous example is the delightful map of The World as a Cloverleaf, discussed earlier in #87.
This map was sent in by Alissa Fowler, who provides this link at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. Unfortunately, it is in black and white. Coloured contemporary versions of Bohemiae rosa do exist, but only a rather smallish version is findable online (here).
Update 8 June ’10: I have found a colour version here, and replaced the b/w one.
(1) Bohemia together with Moravia constitutes the historical ‘Czech lands’; both now form the Czech republic.
(2) Voltaire quipped that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Its origins were in Charlemagne’s imperial coronation on Christmas Day 800 AD, and it lasted until Napoleon abolished it in the early 1800s. Throughout that millennium, this ‘first Reich’ covered most of Germany and much of the neighbouring countries, but never constituted anything more than the fiction of unity.