Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘maps’

27 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Mapping European Stereotypes


Geopolitical cartography is all about an objective view of the world’s political conventions. But there’s nothing politically correct in Bulgarian-born, London-based designer Yanko Tsvetkov‘s Mapping Stereotypes project — a series of amusing, often tragicomically true maps of Europe based on various subjective perceptions and ideologies.

Europe According to USA

Europe According to France

Europe According to Germany

Europe According to Italy

Italy According to Posh Italians

Europe According to Bulgaria

Europe According to Britain

Where I Live

Europe According to Gay Men

Tsvetkov’s maps are available for purchase as prints, mousepads and t-shirts on Zazzle.

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04 JUNE, 2010

Historypin: Past Meets Present in Street View


What urban storytelling has to do with the end of WWII and Google Maps mashups.

Photographic Time Machine is one of our all-time most popular articles, but it spotlights projects that, while fascinating, are one-off art experiments. How fantastic would it be if there were a broader, more expansive platform for intersecting past and present through historical photography, a digital time machine of sorts? Well, now there is. Enter Historypin — a mashup of modern mapping and archival photos that offers a new way to explore and share history.

Developed by We Are What We Do, the social movement behind Anya Hindmarch’s now-iconic I’m Not a Plastic Bag bag, in partnership with Google, the project pulls photos from various national archives and private-sector collections, and “pins” them over Google Maps Street View to create a fascinating fold in the space/time continuum.

Archival photos can both be dated and geotagged, painting a precise portrait of how specific locations have changed. Users can even submit their own and write stories about them, adding a wonderful urban storytelling component akin to Hitotoki.

From 19th-century views of Baltimore and Potomac Railway Station to London’s iconic High Street on Victory in Europe Day in 1945, Historypin features nearly 2,000 photos and stories pinned just a couple of days after the official launch and has the potential to become the largest user-generated archive of historical images and stories, documenting not only how the physicality of our world is changing but also how our experience of it is responding to those changes — a priceless timecapsule of cultural change.

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02 JUNE, 2010

Books for Dad: 7 Esoteric Father’s Day Gift Ideas


Film neverland, copper, maps, and how to save dad from having a midlife affair.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, what better way to show dad some love than with a good book? We’re not talking your usual grilling/home-improvement/business books that are right up there with ties and bluetooth accessories on the scale of gift unoriginality. We’re talking smart, thoughtfully curated reads that are bound to inspire, delight, enrich and tickle dad’s curiosity. Here are seven we promise will do at least one of those.


If there ever was a perfect intersection of geekery, curiosity and artfulness, look no further than Theodore Gray’s superb The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe — a marvelous, beautifully photographed compendium of everything you could drop on your foot.

We couldn’t praise the book enough — it’s a handsome, lush volume of never-before-seen photographs of the 118 elements.

But it gets better: Depending on where dad falls on the tech adoption spectrum, you may also want to consider the fantastic accompanying iPad/iPhone app, which takes things to a whole new level with multitouch 3D. Though certainly on the priciest end, it’s wroth every gram of copper in every penny:

For the dad who: Loves the intersection of art and science and/or treasures gorgeously produced encyclopedic volumes


Speaking of epically beautiful volumes and equally epic price points, we aren’t saying this is an option for everyone, but if you’re feeling particularly fond of your dad this year, here’s something to put you on the favorite child list forever: Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made — a remarkable 10-books-in-one tome about the Napoleon biopic Stanley Kubrick spent years crafting but never materialized, including Kubrrick’s correspondence, research material, costume studies, casting considerations, location scouting photographs, sketches, and even the final draft of the screenplay reproduced in facsimile.

For a closer look at we can assure you is of the most ambitious books ever produced in the history of human civilization, see our full review from last year.

For the dad who: Worships Kubrick and/or is a general film nut and/or has expensive culture taste


Traditional travel books, with their expected exotic photography and mainstream tourist to-do’s, are not only contrived, but often backfire: Rather than allowing us to live vicariously through the lens of the photographer and the pen of the travel writer, they make us drool over all the places we’ll never get to see and leave us with little gratification. Enter The Meaning of Tingo: and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World — an entirely new way to explore the world in all its cultural diversity and interestingness, one that leaves you with something more than a lingering image of the Taj Mahal at sunset. Something you can drop at a dinner party and impress with your knowledge of the esoteric.

From BBC researcher Adam Jacot de Boinod, who swallowed some 200 dictionaries, The Meaning of Tingo finds words that the English language doesn’t have but needs. And because we know you’re itching to know: “Tingo” itself comes from the Pascuense language of Easter Island and means “to take all the objects one desires from the house of a friend, one at a time, by borrowing them.”

For the dad who: Loves language and/or is curious about the world and/or likes to impress his friends with his knowledge of the obscure.


If dad is headed for a midlife crisis (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?), there are better ways to jolt him out of than wtih a Ferrari and a mistress. Enter This Book Will Change Your Life — a compendium of 365 quirky, creative, comfort-zone-cracking daily exercises and mini-projects designed to turn your humdrum existence into an exhilarating free-fall into serendipity. Bonus points for the superb art direction, which transforms each daily idea into a visually indulgent mini-poster and makes the entire book a complete design treat.

Also worth checking out is the sequel, appropriately titled This Book Will Change Your Life, Again.

For the dad who: Is headed for that midlife crisis and/or has a penchant for creativity and quirk


More than three years after its publication, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness remains one of the best, most well-researched yet captivatingly digestible books on the art and science of what makes us happy, delivering a powerful punch of empowerment through enlightenment without ever stepping even remotely into self-help territory.

The book is an essential must-have without which no culturally-grounded contemporary home library is complete.

For the dad who: Resents self-help books but appreciates smart self-improvement with an intellectual edge


Staying with the design-and-fascination theme, we reviewed David McCandless’ excellent anthology of infographic brilliance, The Visual Miscellaneum, when it came out last fall and we still maintain it’s one of the most beautiful, fascinating, multiplicitously engaging books in existence. While it’s essentially a homage to infographics and data visualization as a visual storytelling medium, it is also relentlessly interesting in terms of the actual information being depicted — from the most pleasurable guilty pleasures, to how long it takes different condiments to spoil, to the creationism-evolution spectrum.

Read our full review for a sneak peek inside this treasure trove of interestingness and a closer look at what makes it so special.

For the dad who: Is endlessly curious about, well, everything and/or has a soft spot for feats of graphic design


As the stereotype goes, men may hate asking for directions, but they love poring over interesting maps. And nothing offers a more curious, esoteric, eclectically interesting treasure chest of fascinating maps than the blog-turned-book success story of Strange Maps, also previously reviewed.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book features 138 priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

See our full review for a sneak peek of some of the book’s remarkable maps.

For the dad who: Loves history and the obscure, especially a history of the obscure

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23 APRIL, 2010

The Beauty of Maps: Seeing Art in Cartography


What 13th-century astronomy has to do with the shape of the internet and the British Library.

We love maps. And we love data visualization, of which maps are among the earliest and most ubiquitous examples. As location continues to tickle the tips of trend analysts’ tongues and location-based applications take over the mobile landscape, it’s interesting — if not necessary — to understand the historical context of our relationship with location and geography.

That’s exactly what a new BBC series titled The Beauty of Maps: Seeing Art in Cartography explores.

The site features five of the world’s most beautiful historical maps, five of the most ambitious and fascinating digital ones available today, and video highlights that explore the stories and cultural contexts behind these maps. (While the video content may be restricted to people in the UK, we recently uncovered a nifty way to access blocked content on the web — and it includes a step-by-step guide to cracking the BBC iPlayer specifically.)

From Psalter’s cartography circa 1260 to a map of today’s global data exchange to a colorful NASA map of the dark side of the moon, the site is a treasure trove of cartographic fascination.

The effort is part The Map as Art, part Strange Maps, part essential education for the age of location.

To further indulge your cartographic cravings, we recommend these excellent resources for historical cartography and vintage maps:

Know a great source of cartographic inspiration? Do share below.

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