Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Retrospective Part II

Continuing my look back at some of my favorite posts from each month in 2008:


The U.S. Presidential Election was going strong. Both parties had narrowed down to their primary candidates, and the pundits and comedians were having a field day over verbal gaffs like, "the Iraq-Pakistan border" and "fifty-seven states".


In August I toured Mexico City and Morelos with Mrs. Cartophiliac. Many fine map postcards came home with us.


MMMmmmmmm.... Edible maps....


How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein, was the most interesting map book I read this year. It answered so many questions, such as why Texas and California are so out sized, especially when so many Midwestern states are nearly identical in size, and was Delaware really necessary?


The Presidential Election on November 4 brought forward a plethora of electoral maps, analyzing the results from every angle.


From the beginning of Cartophilia I have reveled in the beauty and challenge of maps in art. It has been fascinating to see how so many talented artists have chosen to use maps as the focus, or an important element, of their work. It has been my privilege to highlight so many of them here.

I hope you've enjoyed maps as much as I have this past year. In December I fell behind my usual pace for a while. Things got a little busy. Real life and all that, darn it. However, I have a nice backlog of interesting maps to share in the weeks to come.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Retrospective Part I

As 2008 comes to a close, I'll take a look back at some of the cartographic fun I've had with this blog. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Following are my favorite posts from each month.


January started with one of the most popular blog posts: The United Countries of Football.


In February, I shared more maps of my my imaginary country, Quastolia.


In March, I discovered one of my favorite websites, The Hand Drawn Map Association.


Another kind of hand-drawn map, in Say Yes! to Michigan.


May saw the first glimpse of a map of one of Michael5000's Forgotten Lands: Kim Chin Do.


One of my favorite boardgames that uses a map (actually most of my favorites do) is Railroad Tycoon.

Coming soon: July thru December!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Russian Academic Predicts US Disunion

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article about a Russian professor that is getting a lot of attention because of his prediction that the current economic crisis will lead to a break-up of the United States in the year 2010.

He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls "The Californian Republic," and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of "The Texas Republic," a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an "Atlantic America" that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls "The Central North American Republic." Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
Goodness! That is quite a prediction. I suppose I should mock this, but then they laughed when the collapse of the Soviet Union was predicted...

I guess it could be worse. Here in Ohio I'll take being subsumed by those evil Canadians over some of the other options...

HT to Pascal


2008 United Countries of Football

The NFL 2008 regular season has come to an end. Just as I did last season, I am playing around with the imaginary United Countries of Football.

What if the fans of each team formed their own country, and by the end of the season, Divisional Champions have "conquered" their foes? See the original post for more details.

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Friday, December 26, 2008


Every good fantasy story must have its own fantasy map! Angela Steele is a Cartophilia fan and struggling author. She sent a map of her fantasy world, "Circa".

I wondered if you might be interested in seeing this map I drew as the basis for a series of stories based on a mythical, medieval world. I created the map to 'position' my ideas for two large warring nations – Aregus where kings and their sons rule and the opposite in Cerenth where queens are monarchs and, naturally, the crown is passed to daughters.

Their conflicts were not just male and female in opposition but also the desire to capture the disputed islands to the west and north.

My original idea for Circa was vaguely modeled on the yin/yang symbol, forming a rough circle round a central sea. This in turn has a relatively small central island that neither the king or queen rules. Laye itself gains its security as the home of this world's spirituality, and therefore the resident priests offer counsel and some degree of mediation to both sides.

The map deliberately lacks fine detail as I hoped it would convey the ruggedness of wild and mountainous lands in which life is hard, battles fierce and communications always stretched.

The cities and islands named all appeared in this series of tales and helped me focus on the geography of certain events and relationships. The book itself had the map at the beginning and contained 17 stories – all of which I have to say had a strong sexual theme as well as politics and action ranging from piracy to foot soldiers and archers – and was offered for sale via a self-publishing service but sales were disappointing and after a year and half I removed it from the sales lists.

However I am pleased with the 'world' and the basis for its conflicts, but should I return to Circa it will be as the basis for a novel perhaps expanding on one of the stories - and trying not to take sides in this continuous war which can never really be won.
Good luck with your writing. Stick with it. Successful fantasy novels usually have a well thought out back story and "universe". Perhaps when you next go back to Circa you can create something that will catch the interest of publishers and readers.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ties for Christmas

Cartophiliac's family knows what he likes to find under his Christmas tree: Maps!

Wearable maps from Mrs. Cartophiliac and Miss Princess Cartophiliac:

A world map and the Battle of Waterloo. Cool!

For those of you that celebrate `em, I hope you all have/had Happy Holidays and a very Merry Cartigraphic Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Hey, I'm fairly tech savvy... For an old guy, I'm into a lot of this "Web 2.0" stuff. I blog don't I? I'm on Facebook... but I still don't get the whole Twitter thing... Why exactly do I want to spend time on yet another social networking site, posting about what I watched on TV today, what size coffee I ordered, or the weather? Even worse, why would I want to read anyone else's Twits? Don't I waste enough time already?

So, on Facebook, my friend, Hunter, posted this article from the Zen Habits blog: A Minimalist’s Guide to Using Twitter Simply, Productively, and Funly. The article's advice is: Try it, you'll get used to it... OK, that's the same advice I was offered when encouraged to begin smoking... However, another friend, Matt, pointed out that Twittervision 3D, mentioned in the article, is very cool. I must concede that point:

Jaxsomethingerother, from Jackonsville, Florida, appears to be mocking his friends up north for their recent cold spell...

Twittervision is a real-time geographic visualization of posts to Twitter. 3D is apparently the latest update to the original flat map application:

Yes! Now that was... not very interesting.

Except for the cool maps, I cannot say I'm sold yet on Twitter.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mapping Rats

From Time Magazine online: Mapping the Rats in New York City, by Christine Gorman.
Michael Mills, a veteran health inspector in New York City, helps create a map of the city you won't find in any guidebook: a rat map. That's right, a map of the New York neighborhoods that rodent populations call home.

The city's rat map was first introduced a year ago, with an intensive pilot program in the Bronx. Mills and other inspectors scoured the streets, building by building, cataloging rat hot spots — places that show so-called active rat signs, such as lived-in burrows, fresh droppings, telltale gnaw marks on plastic garbage bags — in an effort to target rodent-control measures more effectively. That geocoding information was entered into each inspector's handheld indexing computer and aggregated with similar data from all across the borough.

The New York City Department of Health and Hygiene provides a Rat Information Portal. From there you can pull up the Rat Map and retrieve rat data by borough, community district, zip code, or specific address.

Note the cute little rat icon that pops up when updating the map.

The most interesting book I have read on rats... OK, really the only book I have ever read on rats, is Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. I enjoyed reading this book, and not just because of the great map cover:

Sullivan provides a compact history of rats in North America, but focuses primarily on New York City. His "field studies" include spending weeks in alleys observing the daily life of rats, and riding with "pest control technicians".

Publishers Weekly said, "Like any true New Yorker, Sullivan is able to convey simultaneously the feelings of disgust and awe that most city dwellers have for the scurrying masses that live among them."

HT to La Gringissima for the Time article.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spice Maps

Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen is highlighting a homemade gift idea for your carto-cooking fan friends:

Package spices with cut out pieces of maps that highlight the country where the spice originates attached to the jar lid. Include recipes.

Can you identify which spices are likely to come from the places on the maps? I can identify four out of five of those places, but I cannot guess the one in the upper left. What country is that?

HT to Hunter

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Monday, December 15, 2008

A Ballot Buddy System

No, this has nothing to do with same-state marriage... Although these two would make an odd couple...

Randall Lane has an op-ed piece in today's New York Times about how to reform our electoral college system of electing a president, without amending the constitution.
Election theorists talk nobly of moving America’s presidential election to a popular vote, but that would require a Constitutional amendment. Swing states would never pass it, because it would mean giving up their influence. Neither would small states, which have a disproportionate influence in the Electoral College. But if every state apportioned its electoral votes as Maine and Nebraska do — one for each Congressional district, plus two for the overall state winner — millions more voters would suddenly become worthy of the candidates’ attention.
The way to make it happen, says Lane, is to get similar sized "red and blue" states to use the "buddy system" and take the plunge at the same time. That way, there would a less dramatic shift in electoral results. At least perhaps in the early going.

A change such as this would go a long way towards the ideal of truly having every vote counted and every vote courted.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Safari - Disney Style

My friend, Nancy, went to Disney World and brought back this terrific map postcard! A map of the Kilimanjaro Safaris' Harambe Wildlife Reserve, part of the Disney Animal Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida:

Daily excursions from sunrise to sundown. You will encounter many of Africa's wild creatures on the journey of a lifetime! Elephants, the Big Cats, herds of Antelope, Giraffe, Hippos, Tommies, Bongo, white and black Rhinos just to name a few.
Harambe qualifies as one of those imaginary countries I write about from time to time. I haven't been to Disney's newest "land", however according to Wikipedia, the official backstory says that it was once part of a Dutch colony, but a peaceful revolution made Harambe self-governing in 1963. Perhaps it is somewhere near Nova Hibernia...

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Next Country

The Next Country is a new collection of poetry by Idra Novey.

From the publisher: "In these powerful lyric poems, Idra Novey’s exploration of “country” extends beyond national boundaries into the countries of marriage and family, history and the unspoken, leading to a bold and imaginative reckoning of the self with the larger world."

To help convey this sensibility, the publisher used a piece by Matthew Cusick as the cover art. Cusick recycles old maps into this work.

From a 2006 exhibit at the Lisa Dent Gallery in San Francisco:
Matthew Cusick's newest paintings are a series of Texas highways traversing allegorical landscapes. For his second exhibition at Lisa Dent Gallery, Cusick has refined his technique of painting with maps, using them as a surrogate for paint - their inherent visual qualities of tone, value, and density employed to render the spatial image of the highways.
More examples of his cartographic art at: GeoCarta and Creative Mapping.

HT to La Gringissima

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Pier Gustafson

Pier Gustafson is a calligrapher, illustrator, graphic designer and artist. He specializes in customized invitations for weddings and other special events. Often, guests invited to these special events need a map to the location. If you look closely at the the invitation, you can often find a map incorporated into the design, or the map itself is the design. Two examples from Gustafson's map gallery:

Drawn tree branches made up the decorative motif of the invitation and the RSVP card as well as the envelopes. It seems that I needed to include them on the map, too. But rather than simply having them be decorative, I composed them into the actual roadways. (Though I think of myself as a realist, I did bend some botanical laws of nature with highways 12 and 37.)

The owner of a Victorian house planned a grand re-opening celebration after it had gone through extensive historic renovations. An elaborate claw-footed post holds a fringed be-tassled banner containing the text of the invitation. Only after you study it for a moment, do you realize that the post is actually the map directing his guests from Boston.

I recently discovered Pier's work after a return visit to The Hand Drawn Map Association.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

America Deflated

Often I have highlighted a map that provides an "inflated view" of its subject. In other words, making it appear larger (and by inference, more important).

Artist Nina Katchadourian has taken an opposite approach. She has taken a standard AAA road map of the United States and "deflated" it, to only include the portions that are relevant to her life:

Coastal Merger:
I was born in California, moved to the east coast for college, went back to the west coast for graduate school, and now live on the east coast again. This map reflects my bicoastal experience of this country.
From a purely technical point of view, I am impressed with the way she carefully matched up coastlines and highways to create a seamless merger. I wish I could get a closer look.

Katchadourian's work can also be seen in this collection, Opener 11: Nina Katchadourian: All Forms of Attraction and in my favorite "maps as art" book, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine Harmon.

Via Creative Mapping: "A blog dedicated to the creative use of maps in art or how to map information creatively. All in all we are dedicated to showing map art."

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Alphistia Inflated

As a homage to Saul Steinberg, the man who created what is arguably the most famous New Yorker cover, Tony of Alphistia has created his own "inflated view":

The original:

© The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Cover reproduced with permission of The New Yorker magazine. All rights reserved.
per Sheila Schwartz, Executive Director, The Saul Steinberg Foundation

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