72 - The World As Seen From New York's 9th Avenue
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Many New Yorkers feel their city is more than just the (self-proclaimed) capital of the world. They think it actually is most of the world, the rest of the planet merely being the unavoidable orchard in which their Big Apple grows.
Several cartoons illustrate this metropolitan hubris, and they do it so well – and with self-irony rather than sarcasm – that they can’t but have been made by New Yorkers. A nice one is Daniel K. Wallingford’s US map skewed to give NYC prominence over the rest of the country, which is mislabeled as a sign of New York arrogance and ignorance. That map dates from the nineteen thirties. I’m still looking for an image with sufficient resolution for me to post it here.\n
Another one is already on this blog (see post #37): a cover of the New Yorker magazine in the aftermath of 9/11 depicting the city as ‘Newyorkistan’: its neighbourhoods renamed after far-off places and lesser-known tribes. Which is another way to ‘think the world’ of New York.\n
The map in this post is another, earlier cover of the New Yorker. In 1976, artist Saul Steinberg drew up this depiction of the world as seen from New York’s 9th Avenue. Not being a New Yorker myself, I don’t know why this Avenue was chosen as the Centre of the World. Some observations:\n
- The map looks west, over 10th Avenue and the Hudson into the rest of the US. \n
- The US is presented as a rectangle, bounded by Mexico to the left, Canada to the right and the Pacific Ocean on the far side. \n
- Right across the Hudson lies Jersey – in nondescript terrain but owing to its proximity to NYC still in bigger type than the rest. \n
- Washington DC is already much smaller (and almost in Mexico). \n
- Some rocks and a single bush (funnily enough near Las Vegas, where there’s not much vegetation) form the only distinguishing features. \n
- The only places that are mentioned in further away than DC and Jersey are Texas and Utah (as states) and Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles (as cities). \n
- The US ends at the Pacific, across which are visible Japan (as a single island), which divides the land mass further away into China (to the left of Japan) and Russia (to her right). \n
Was this cover construed only to convey the fact that New York is rather self-centered? Or does the orientation also have some significance? Because it does seem strange that NYC, on the East Coast, has its back turned to Europe, which is completely absent in this map…\n
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.
- How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
- To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
- The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.