The xkcd from last Friday, “Island Storage,” is the most recent map-related way that Randall Munroe has hurt us in the eyes.
SMBC on GPS
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has a take on what GPS does to our ability to navigate.
‘What Is a Map’: A Terrible Educational Film from 1949
Sometimes a terrible old movie is only watchable when you add an audio track in which it’s being brutally and relentlessly mocked: this was the MO of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, the latter featuring plenty of MST3K alumni. Such is the case with this 1949 educational film, late 1949, “What Is a Map,” which takes an awfully long time to (a) well, do much of anything and (b) get to the subject of maps, so RiffTrax’s version makes it a bit easier to stomach. A bit.
Another Onion Riff on Fantasy Novels and Maps
The Onion: Underwhelming Fantasy Novel Starts With Map Of Ohio. “Feeling let down to see a straightforward rendering of the Midwestern state, local reader Kyle Nuebart reported Friday that underwhelming fantasy novel Dayton Rising featured a map of Ohio in its opening pages.” I’m impressed that they went to the trouble of creating a fantasy map of Ohio to illustrate a one-joke article (admittedly, it’s a really good joke).
Previously: The Onion on Fantasy Maps.
All Online Maps Don’t Suck?
The notion expressed in Monday’s xkcd, particularly in the alt-text—
OpenStreetMap was always pretty good but is also now really good? And Apple Maps’s new zoomed-in design in certain cities like NYC and London is just gorgeous. It’s cool how there are all these good maps now!
—is unexpectedly more on point than not.
In 2013 I wrote a screed saying that all online maps sucked: that no one map platform had a monopoly on errors. At the time Exhibit A for the suckiness of online maps was Apple Maps; since then, and particularly since 2018, Apple has been putting in the work. Not that they’re done, but still: the product is fundamentally better now than it was then. And it’s not like the other platforms have been idle in the meantime. No one platform is going to achieve Cartography’s ideal of the universal and accurate Map—that’s inherently unachievable—but better? I’ll take better.
xkcd’s Madagascator Projection
Uncharacteristically for xkcd’s Bad Map Projection series, the Madagascator is actually totally legitimate as a projection. Not that it’s any less mischievous, mind.
Update, 3 May: Turns out there was more to this xkcd cartoon. See Mercator: Extreme.
xkcd: The Goode Homolosine to the Rescue!
Randall Munroe’s map projection humour is increasingly on point, as last Friday’s xkcd demonstrates. (The mouseover text is even better: “There are two rules on this ship: Never gaze back into the projection abyss, and never touch the red button labeled DYMAXION.”)
Previously: xkcd: The Greenland Special; xkcd: All South Americas; Blame the Mercator Projection; xkcd’s Time Zone Map; xkcd’s Liquid Resize Map Projection.
States of Confusion
Richard Peter Johnson has been posting quizzes on Reddit where the shapes of countries and U.S. states are flipped, rotated and/or inverted and you’re challenged to identify them. It’s actually harder than you might think—especially when they’re inverted or mirror-flipped—and messes with your perception in the way that, say, upside-down world maps do.
xkcd Sabotages Those Flag Maps
Maps where countries are coloured in with flag patterns: I’ve seen a lot of them around, especially on Reddit, but I haven’t necessarily liked them; xkcd’s comic from last Wednesday goes one step further in that it offers a way to hack them.
A Map of Every Chinese City
Inspired, he says, by Itchy Feet’s maps of Every European City and Every American City, Alfred Twu has come up with a Map of Every Chinese City. (Chinese version here.) Twu is no stranger to these parts: he worked on rail maps for California and the Northeast Corridor some years back.
Previously: Itchy Feet’s Map of Every European City; Itchy Feet’s Map of Every American City.
xkcd: The Greenland Special
At some point, xkcd cartoonist Randall Munroe is going to put out a book focusing on his map-related cartoons, isn’t he. The latest in his “Bad Map Projection” series (previously: All South Americas, Time Zones, Liquid Resize) is The Greenland Special, an equal-area projection except for Greenland, which uses Mercator. And I thought he was messing with us before.
xkcd: ‘No, The Other One’
How this map isn’t nothing but Columbuses and Springfields, I have no idea.
The Contiguous 41 States—Wait, What?
The thing about this xkcd cartoon is that at first glance it’s entirely plausible: Randall has done violence to state boundaries while maintaining the rough overall shape of the lower 48. He’s snipped out seven states without anyone noticing if they don’t look too closely.
Previously: xkcd’s United States Map; ‘They Just Wanted to Fix Some Things About the State Borders’.
Scarfolk Map Announced
A map of Scarfolk has been announced. For those blissfully unaware, Scarfolk is Richard Littler’s fictional, satirical English town locked in a 1970s-era dystopia. Littler has been producing deeply creepy examples of graphic design—public information posters, mainly—purporting to emanate from Scarfolk authorities on his blog and in two books so far. This “road and leisure map for uninvited tourists,” which apparently comes with a postcard and visa, costs £12. As they say in Scarfolk: For more information please reread. [via]
SMBC Takes the Mercator Projection into Its Own Hands
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s take on the Mercator projection is … not what you’d expect. The punch line is similar to Christopher Rowe’s short story, “Another Word for Map Is Faith”: if you can’t make the map conform to the territory, make the territory conform to the map. Since we’re dealing with the Mercator projection, this requires some … escalation.
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