Who is the highest selling artist from your state?
What’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota?
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.
This is a mysterious map. Obviously about music, or more precisely musicians. But what’s Eminem doing in Missouri? Kanye West in Georgia? And Wiz Khalifa in, of all places, North Dakota? None of these musicians are from those states! Everyone knows that! Is this map that stupid, or just looking for a fight? Let’s pause a moment and consider our attention spans, shrinking faster than polar ice caps.
This is a map of the best-selling artists in each state, it says. And then to clear up the ambiguity, it adds: FROM not IN each state.
And that checks out, at least concerning the birthplaces of the aforementioned trio:
- Though associated closely with Detroit, Eminem was born Marshall Mathers on October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri.
- Kanye Omari West was born on June 8, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Chicago with his mother when he was three.
- Wiz Khalifa is a military brat, born Cameron Jibril Thomaz on September 8, 1987, at Minot AFB in North Dakota. He lived in Germany, the UK, and Japan before settling in Pittsburgh.
But hey, isn’t Dave Matthews a native of Johannesburg, South Africa? What’s he doing in Virginia? Because he’s not mentioned as a solo artist, and bands are not born but formed (an important distinction). That seems to be the criterion here: the Dave Matthews Band took shape in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Backstreet Boys – two Floridians, two Kentuckians and a New Yorker – saw the light of day in Orlando, Florida in 1993.
This map popped up last year on r/MapPorn, Reddit’s corner for cartography nerds, where it generated almost a thousand comments. Since we couldn’t find a link to the data used for the map, we did some digging of our own and ended up at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which keeps track of music sales in the U.S.
The Gold & Platinum section of the RIAA website ranks (1) artists by their all-time sales (but not by the state of birth). Cross-referencing with the map, the ranking (of both albums/EPs and singles sold) produces this Top 10:
- Garth Brooks (OK): 148 million.
- Elvis Presley (MS): 146.5 million.
- Eagles (CA): 101 million.
- Michael Jackson (IN): 81 million.
- George Strait (TX): 69 million.
- Aerosmith (NH): 66.5 million.
- Madonna (MI): 64.5 million.
- Mariah Carey (NY): 64.5 million.
- Whitney Houston (NJ): 58.5 million.
- Kenny G. (WA): 48 million.
The RIAA ranking does not make a distinction per state (either of birth or residence) and indeed also includes non-American artists. The Beatles top the overall list (178 million units sold). Garth and Elvis come second and third. Led Zeppelin, Brits as well, occupy #4 (with 111.5 million units sold). In fifth overall place are the Eagles, #3 in the ranking that conforms to this map.
Things quickly go wrong. Brooklyn-born Billy Joel, #6 in RIAA’s overall ranking (with 82.5 million), does not get to splash his name across his native state. That honor goes to Mariah Carey (scoring 64.5 million units). Similarly, it’s not Bruce Springsteen (65.5 million) but Whitney Houston (58.5 million) who ‘owns’ New Jersey on this map.
What gives? Are we counting the wrong things? Instead of checking the total for Albums/EPs and Singles, let’s try just Albums/EPs. And yes, now Whitney resoundingly beats Bruce, 17.5 versus 3.5 million. And Mariah outsells Billy.
But solving one problem just causes others. Album-wise, the Eagles’ 2.5 million total sales pale into insignificance versus Katy Perry’s 98 million – yet it’s not her name splashed across California. But wait… despite scoring 98 million in the Album/EP category alone, Katy Perry seems to disappear in the combined Album/EP and Single ranking.
We’d love to get to the bottom of this. But now our head hurts, and we need to lie down. Can anybody point us to a valid source that makes sense of this map? Please help us out via the email below.
Strange Maps #901
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
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Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
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