105 - The Tory Atlas of the World

For me, this might be the original strange map. When I was a kid, I had the Spitting Image book that contained this map. I spent hours (well… whole quarters of hours) poring over it, chuckling away every time I ‘got’ a reference. For those who don’t know it, ‘Spitting Image’ was a British satirical tv show in the nineteen eighties, centred around hilariously exaggerated figurines of politicians, entertainers and other celebrities.


It being ‘eighties Britain, the butt of most jokes was the party then in power, the Conservatives (or Tories) and their leader, Margaret Thatcher. The ‘Iron Lady’ was mocked by exaggerating the perceived steeliness of her resolve, compared to which most other figures appeared to be comically weak. Especially her American ally, president Ronald Reagan, who was portrayed as the acme of cluelessness.

This map mocks the supposed world-view of the Tories, who were perceived as being extremely right-wing, unashamedly Anglocentric (even to the detriment of other parts of the UK), overtly racist and romantic about Britain’s imperial past. All of this is reflected on the map, which oversizes (former) British territories, minimizes others and renames quite a few.

Those readers not accustomed to foul-mouthed British invective should avert their eyes now. An overview, starting with Britain itself…

I’ve always wondered how people in the north of Britain (or England, for that matter) deal with the fact that the southeast of England is called the ‘home counties’, implying everywhere else on the island of Britain is somehow foreign. The map illustrates this dichotomy well, in oversizing the south of England (and incidentally the whole of Wales, without naming it), naming Scotland ‘Ghillie Jocko Land’ and connecting the two via the M1 motorway (effectively erasing the rest of England above Grantham). The Isle of Wight is also oversized, Northern Ireland is called ‘Bogland (UK)’ (the Irish republic is below sea level) and Iceland is conveniently British too.

The Americas:

Most of ‘real’ Canada is made up of ‘The Commonwealth (UK)’, leaving only a thin strip for Canada. The US is labelled ‘Yanks’ (with Washington named ‘Chez Reagan’), Alaska is ‘Eskimo Land’. The only label for the whole of Central America and the Caribbean is ‘West Indies and so on’, while ‘British Honduras’ (actually Colombia) is the former colonial name for present-day Belize. ‘Greasy Gaucho Spic Land’ is Brazil (although the gauchos live in Argentina, I thought) and ‘Various darkies, cannibals and huns’ occupy most of the rest of South America – ‘huns’ might be a reference to Nazi fugitives. Argentina gets a mention as ‘Argies’, which is almost correct and probably a badge of honour for having had the guts to invade the Falkland Islands, grossly oversized as they were successfully recaptured by Margaret Thatcher. Other Brititsh Atlantic possessions are also magnified: South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island (‘Where the triangular stamps used to come from, but now crawling with our coloured brethren, of course’).

Africa:

More racism like that in the naming of the Maghreb countries (‘filthy shoplifting Arabville’), Egypt (‘Gippos’), the Sahara and Sahel countries (‘Bongo Bongo Land’) and several of the incorrectly drawn West and Central African nations (‘Coon Coast’, ‘Slave Coast’, ‘Nignogeria’, ‘Nasty Smells’, ‘Begins with T’ and ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Land’). Exceptions are made for ‘British’ territories such as the neutrally termed ‘British Guyana’ (actually in South America, now the independent country of Guyana) and ‘Kenya‘ (though it is coloured in as an independent country). A huge swathe of Central and Southern Africa is taken up by ‘The Much Maligned South Africa‘, then still an Apartheid state. Two slivers of African coast are termed ‘Portugal’, supposedly in the eyes of Tories a country little better than an African one, and easily mistaken for one. Madagascar, finally, is disinterestedly labelled ‘Borneo?’

Europe: 

The Scandinavian peninsula is summarily divided between several ‘nordic’ countries, such as ‘Holland’, ‘Lapland’, ‘Finland’, ‘Denmark’, ‘The Other One’ and ‘Plucky Little Poland’.

Where Denmark actually is, ‘Pornoland’ is marked (Holland?), with below ‘Moustachioed Shortarses’ (I don’t know who these are supposed to be), ‘Frog Land’ (actually only half of France), ‘Slimy Dago Town’ (the other half; named after an insulting word for the Spanish) and ‘Gib’ (Gibraltar, occupying the whole Iberian peninsula). Southern Italy is ‘Wop Land’, northern Italy plus Switzerland is ‘Wog Land’ (the difference eludes me), most of the Balkans is called ‘Greek Homo Fellows’ and Eastern Europe is ‘Federal Republic of Bulletheaded Krauts’ (West Germany, actually). The text in the territory to the west is illegible on this map. To the east lie the ‘Commie Federal Republic of Sausage Eating Krauts and Lesboes’ (East Germany) and other communist states such as ‘Nicaragua’, ‘Austria-Hungary’, ‘Moldavia’ and ‘Transylvania’. The biggest country on the map, the Tories’ posturing notwithstanding, is the ‘Union of Soviet Russian Commie Bastards’.

Asia:

‘Slanty-Eyed Chinky Takeaway Land’ could have been a name for China thought up by upper-class British anachronisms such as Prince Philip. Japan gets a positive mention as ‘The Wonderful Hardworking Japanese’. Straight above lies the Kamchatka peninsula, incorrectly labelled as ‘Used to Be British, But Gone to the Dogs Now’. Coloured in British pink are an oversized Hong Kong, and the Philippines (labelled ‘Channel Islands’ and ‘Au Pair Land’). Australia is ‘Singapore’, Tasmania is ‘Thingy’. Indonesia is ‘No Idea’, ‘Nope’, ‘Who Cares?’ and so forth. The former British Raj in the Indian subcontinent is labelled ‘Pakis’, while the Middle East rounds out Asia with another ‘Portugal’ (on the southern coast of Arabia, where Yemen and Oman are), and a few other descriptions too nasty and in any case too illegible to reproduce here.

Please be assured that none of the prejudices expressed in this map reflect my own convictions. Except where they refer to the French, of course.  (Je plaisante, bien sûr!)

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Experts are already predicting an 'active' 2020 hurricane season

It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

Image source: Shashank Sahay/unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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