Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Detroit-Block by Block

National Geographic has a wonderful map showing population density by block. The dense areas have a vibrant color scheme, while the blocks with the highest level of abandonment are shown with the colors of the encroaching prairie.
The level of detail is impressive. However, the dull gray colors for non-residential and mixed use areas give a sense of deadness to some of the most vibrant areas of the city. The parks color also gets lost in all this detail. 
Below the map several highlighted neighborhoods (outlined in red above) are detailed with buildings outlines and photos.
There are also profiles and interviews of residents who are seeking to turn the city around. The article forgoes the larger business community (whose contributions have been detailed elsewhere) to focus on these residents.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gotham City Mapped

Batman co-creator Bill Finger first named Gotham in 1940 for Batman #4. However, the city was not mapped until 1998, when a plot involving a catastrophic earthquake required a map. Artist and illustrator Elliot R. Brown was hired for the task.
The city has always had a resemblance to New York but, according to Finger "We didn’t call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it." With no formal training in cartography, Brown was tasked with creating a city that had all the necessary diverse elements.
"The DC Comics editors made it clear that Gotham City was an idealized version of Manhattan. Like most comic book constructs, it had to do a lot of things. It needed sophistication and a seamy side. A business district and fine residences. Entertainment, meat packing, garment district, docks and their dockside business. In short all of Manhattan and Brooklyn stuffed into a … well, a nice page layout." - Brown
Early sketches of his map can be seen on his website, including this one.
The city needed to be an island so that federal agents could seal it off from the mainland by dynamiting the bridges and tunnels. In addition to the New York elements, he also added some "Chicago-like" bridges in the middle of town, to "add some story potential."

Here is one version of the final product as it appeared in the comics circa 1999, via Smithsonian.
So where is Gotham City? It is often considered to be on the east coast of the United States but it's an open question due to some contradictory descriptions of it's location. From io9's Is Gotham City Really in New Jersey?
Gotham also has been hit by earthquakes (1999's No Man's Land...), sits in the Central Time Zone (Man-Bat #3), and was a cowboy town in the 1800s (2011's All-Star Western).
The Batman wikia has a modified google map placing Gotham in Great Bay, just north of Brigantine (and Atlantic City), New Jersey.
The io9 page shows this image from a 1978 comic also placing Gotham in South Jersey but on the Delaware Bay, across from Metropolis (Metropolis, Delaware?)

That's a lot of action for an area mainly populated by horseshoe crabs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Google Pac Man Cartography

The Google Maps Pac Man April Fool's map has been up for a while now and has been mentioned all over the web. They have transformed the world into a giant Pac-Man maze. I decided to take a look at some of the more interesting and/or well-known places on earth to play. Some of them look fantastic even if the street patterns are a bit vague at that close a zoom level. Enjoy!

I have always been really bad at Pac-Man. Here I am about to get eaten by Pac-Man bullies on the suburban Rochester, New York street where I spent much of my formative youth.
Getting mugged in Queens Park, Toronto, Canada.
The Battery, Manhattan, NYC
 Chased by Putin's thugs outside of Red Square, Moscow
Climbing up the mountain to get to Machu Picchu in Peru.
The Ginza area, Tokyo, Japan
Stupidly chasing my tormentors in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
 Circling the Arc de Triomphe, Place de L'Etiole , Paris
Finally, getting a measure of revenge near the Royal Residence in Central Marrakesh, Morocco.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Thriving Prohibition Booze Industry

Fortune Magazine published an article in 1931, during Prohibition, mapping out the thriving liquor industry of the time. Click the map for full resolution and a full legend.
Despite all the stories about rum-running, imports were much less significant than locally made beverages. Another big factor was "diverted" alcohol. This is alcohol that was produced for industrial purposes but then taken and re-distilled to remove toxins. Distillers posed as varnish, perfume or other chemical makers.

The map shows the regional patterns (easier to see on the full version) of liquor types and import routes. The south and rural areas (the smaller yellow splotches) had thriving local distilleries that created hard liquor from sugar cane, molasses or corn. Beet sugar was popular in Colorado and other western states. There was a large beer belt across the Midwest and into Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Wine* was (and still is) mainly produced in California and the eastern Great Lakes region. The small pink areas are places where smuggling and diverted alcohol predominated, and the green areas in the Northeast were where fruit liquors such as Apple Jack were made.

The little droplets along the Canadian and Mexican borders represent "border seepage."
Despite the picture above less than 3% of all liquor consumed was imported.

The article describes at length the quality of each region's booze heaping praise upon Maryland and Berkeley County, South Carolina while dissing Texas and Kansas.

Kansas, though righteous, has bad tastes. It drinks such nauseous home products as “sand-hill rye,” “sugar-moon” whisky, spiked beer, spiked soft drinks, and poorly made home-brew.
The full story archive can be seen here. It's long-winded but interesting. The main takeaway is that despite being illegal, the liquor industry of the time was about as normal as any other industry.

*Wine had a special status as it is part of religious ceremonies. It was also easy to create from a grape juice concentrate that could be legally transported.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Fresh New Six Pack of Maps

Spring beer season is back! A few years ago I posted some maps from the bottoms of beer packaging. Here are some new examples from my obsessive collection.
From California comes this dry, hoppy map from Anderson Valley Brewing. An extra malty monochrome color scheme adds a nice finish that smoothes out the jagged edges of the mountain roads.
This colorful map from Louisiana's Abita features floral notes and a complex coastline.
 Oregon's Full Sail uses some complex topography to balance out its simple map profile. Fruited plains accompany purple mountains gracefully. Good eye feel.
Shiner's complex geography pours into a smooth, straightforward map. A red star adds hints of location.
There are two ways to enjoy a Boulevard map from Kansas City. The outer more complex view gives way to a more blocky, local feel finished off with a large, red building.
This dark, chocolatey map comes from Avery Brewing of Boulder, Colorado. The deep cocoa malt is easily traversed by lighter milk-chocolatey passages. DO NOT use this map to find the brewery. They have moved out to the edge of town.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How Ukraine Became Ukraine

The Washington Post has a pretty good map series titled "How Ukraine became Ukraine"
Unlike some of their previous 40 Maps articles, this one explains the history of the region without the clickbait.
Russian claims begin with the settlement of the Rus people in and around Kiev. Their trade routes with the near east went through the Crimean peninsula. Control of parts of the area has continuously shifted among the Mongols, Russians, Swedes, Turks, Hungarians, Slovaks and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Under Soviet rule, much of the rural population was displaced or starved to death, Their settlements were replaced with native Russians, complicating the ethnic picture of the region. The complete text and map set can be seen here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Selma March Byway

Fifty years ago, on March 7th, 1965, the first Selma to Montgomery March for civil rights was attempted. Several hundred marchers planned to follow US Route 80 (The Jefferson Davis Highway) to the Alabama state capital in Montgomery. They made it as far as the Pettus Bridge (see Selma detail map below) before being attacked by state troopers and forced to turn back.  Two days later a second march was planned but was also cut short by a court order. The third march began March 21st and included 25,000 people with the protection of federal troops. The 54 mile walk to Montgomery was completed in three days.
The route of the march is now one of America's Byways...
Journey through history along the trail that marks one of the major historic events in 20th-century American history, the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Wind through the streets of Selma; pass through countryside where marchers spent the night on their way to Montgomery.
...and also a National Historic Trail

The Selma Voting Rights Movement that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, introduced in Congress during the third march.