The Kingdom of Wisdom, the Isle of Knowledge, and other whimsical geographic representations of the human condition
I love maps.
There's something about cartography that lends itself to visualizing
much more than land and geography. I've previously looked at how the London tube map
was appropriated as a visual metaphor for everything from The Milky Way
to the Kabbalah, and today we turn to seven cartographic
interpretations of the human condition, using the visual vocabulary of
classical maps to interpret various facets of the human psyche--a genre
that came of age during the late Renaissance, when it became known as
The Kingdom of Wisdom
In 1961, Norton Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, a timeless children's classic and one of our essential children's books
with philosophy for grown-ups. It tells the story of a bored little boy
named Milo who one day receives a magic tollbooth that transports him
to a fantasy land called The Kingdom of Wisdom.
Though at first he gets lost in the Doldrums, a grey place where
thinking and laughing are not allowed, he goes on to incredible
adventures before returning to his own room as magically as he had left
This map by mid-century American cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, depicts the marvelous land that Milo finds himself in as he follows his own curiosity.
Isle of Knowledge
Last week, delicious new work by designer Marian Bantjes (whose latest book, I Wonder, is among the most ambitious and beautiful visual communication volumes ever published) made the rounds--and for good reason: Isle of Knowledge
is a beautifully illustrated map of "the 'known' beyond which lie
monsters," created for the second installment in Bantjes's column for U.K.
illustration magazine Varoom on the theme of "Knowledge."
English artist Grayson Perry's 2004 Map of an Englishman
portrays his mind in a mock-Tudor etch of an imaginary island,
surrounded by the "seas" of his perceived psychological flaws--desires,
vanities, prejudices, fears. The island itself is vaguely brain-shaped,
turning the map into a kind of cartographic phrenology of the self.
Image courtesy of Grayson Perry and The Paragon Press via BBC
Carte de Tendre
Carte de Tendre
(Map of Tenderness) is a 17th-century French map by the writer
Madeleine de Scudéry depicting the peaks and valleys of amorous pursuit,
from the River of Inclination to Lake of Indifference to the Great
Spirit. With its undetermined itinerary that offers you multiple routes
to Tenderness, it's part map, part choose-your-own-adventure narrative
The Empire of Love
We first featured this extraordinary antique German map of Das Reich der Liebe
(The Empire of Love) more than three years ago, and it remains an
absolute favorite. Created by Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf in 1777,
it's a pinnacle of sentimental cartography, as detailed and obsessive
as love itself.
If you don't sprechen Sie Deutch, here's the gist:
DER JUGEND = Land of Youth (Forest of Love, Kiss Field, Flirting Game,
Charm Castle, Stream of Wishes, Worry-Free, Joy's Home, Beautiful House,
Source of Joy, Sweet Look, Wisecrack Place, Rich River, Warning Castle)
GABIET DER RUHE = Land of Rest (Nightcap, Grandfather City, Equanimity, Manly Place)
DER TRAURENDEN LIEBE = Land of Mourning Love (Anger's Home, Flood of
Tears, Whim Mountain, Complaint Place, Hopeless Mountains, Loathing,
Strict Place, Swamp of Profanity, Desert of Melancholy)
GABIET DER LUSTE = Land of Lust (Illness Valley, Weak Home, Intoxication Field, Lechery, Hospital)
GABIET DER GLUCKLICHEN LIEBE = Land of Happy Love (Lust Wood, Answered
Prayers, Pleasant View, Enjoyment, Tenderness, Good Times, Affection
Farm, Satisfaction, Compliance Mountain, Fountain of Joy, Marriage
Harbor, Reward City, Peace of Mind, Bliss Town)
GABIET DER HAGESTOLZE
= Bachelor Country (Stupidity Town, Rejection Place, Irritation,
Indifference, Place of Contempt, Reprehensibility, Old Age Mountains,
Separation, Hat, Obstinacy, Wrangler Hall, Exasperation Heath, Hamlet of
Death, Sea of Doubt)
GABIET DER FIXEN IDEEN = Land of Obsessions
(Place of Sighs, Desire Town, Unrest, City of Dreams, Bridge of Hope,
Disloyalty, Sweet River of Tears, Little Town of Instincts)
Many point to unromantic 20-somethings and women’s entry into the workforce, but an overlooked factor is the trouble young men have in finding steady, well-paid jobs.
TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
The world has many coming-of-age traditions: sweet sixteens, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras. But in one African country, 'initiation' is endangering the health of girls and boys.
CHIRADZULU, Malawi — A slight frame gives her the appearance of a child, but the hardened look Grace Mwase wears makes her seem older than her 14 years. In many villages across Malawi, a largely agrarian sliver of a country in southern Africa, custom dictates that both boys and girls as young as eight attend a rite of passage known as “initiation,” after which they are no longer seen as children. The practice is most entrenched in the country's south, where Mwase's Golden Village is located.
Mwase was just 10 when she was led, along with about a dozen other girls, to remote huts outside her village during winter vacation from school in August. The girls were accompanied by older women from their village in Chiradzulu district, near the border with Mozambique. The women, known as anamkungwi, or “key leaders,” told them that when they returned to their villages they should cook and clean—and have sex. According to Mwase, most of the two weeks she spent at the initiation camp were dedicated to learning how to engage in sexual acts. She had been excited for this time with friends away from home, but that feeling quickly gave way to dread as she learned the true purpose of initiation.
Thirty-one year old Ezra Cohen-Watnick holds the intelligence portfolio on the National Security Council—but almost everything about him is a mystery.
Just 24 days into his tenure as Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, Michael Flynn was forced to resign, having reportedly misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials. When Flynn departed, the men and women he’d appointed to the National Security Council grew nervous about their own jobs, and with good reason. The new national-security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, promptly began clearing out Flynn’s people, among them Dave Cattler, the deputy assistant to the president for regional affairs, Adam Lovinger, a strategic affairs analyst on loan from the Pentagon, and KT McFarland, Flynn’s deputy, who was eased out with the ambassadorship to Singapore. Even Steve Bannon, among the most powerful people in the White House, was removed from the meetings of the NSC Principal’s Committee, where he had been installed early on in the administration.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga. They are wrong.
In 1995, if you had told Toby Spribille that he’d eventually overthrow a scientific idea that’s been the stuff of textbooks for 150 years, he would have laughed at you. Back then, his life seemed constrained to a very different path. He was raised in a Montana trailer park, and home-schooled by what he now describes as a “fundamentalist cult.” At a young age, he fell in love with science, but had no way of feeding that love. He longed to break away from his roots and get a proper education.
At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.
Why some progressives are minimizing Russia’s election meddling
When it comes to possible collusion with Russia, Donald Trump’s most interesting defenders don’t reside on the political right. They reside on the political left.
Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich aren’t defending a principle. They’re defending a patron. Until recently they were ultra-hawks. Now, to downplay Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections, they sound like ultra-doves. All that matters is supporting their ally in the White House.
For left-wing defenders like Max Blumenthal and Glenn Greenwald, by contrast, ideology is king. Blumenthal and Greenwald loathe Trump. But they loathe hawkish foreign policy more. So they minimize Russia’s election meddling to oppose what they see as a new Cold War.
I used to adore the Pride and Prejudice author. But over the years I’ve grown more ambivalent toward her and the fervor for her work.
I once confessed to an audience gathered for a pre-show talk about Pride and Prejudice that I felt a bit salty to see so many of them in attendance. A few months earlier, I explained, I’d given an absolutely fascinating lecture on Mary Shelley to maybe five people, one of whom was my Aunt Carmen. The crowd for Jane Austen—and it was a crowd—laughed. A mix of students, folks from the surrounding towns, and my colleagues were there to see a stage adaptation of what is arguably the author’s most popular novel. It was my job to introduce the performance, and I was terrified. It’s no small thing to talk about Austen in public. There’s always a cluster of people who have been reading her since before they could walk, and they not only have strong opinions but also know her and her writing like my mother knew the Bible.
Inside the autopsy lab, pathologists talk about the emotional rewards of medicine's most-maligned specialty—and what it's like to work side-by-side with death.
It takes five hours to disassemble the body.
The dead man—“H: 71 inches,” as scrawled on the autopsy-room whiteboard—is laid out on a metal table, head propped up on a plastic block. The body is naked, marked only by a neon-yellow hospital bracelet and a paper toe tag. The flesh—now grey and exposed—is stretched tautly over bone. The feet are swollen, blackening; all the muscles are tensed, the face thrown back. It’s a wan, triangular face, with few wrinkles for a middle-aged man. The chin is dotted with stubble.
The man had died eight hours earlier at a hospital in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospital system, where the pathologist Jeffrey Nine directs the autopsy service. Nine suspects the man died of a heart attack, but the family wants to be sure, so Nine, his chief pathology resident, and two students training as pathologists’ assistants set to work performing an autopsy. (The man’s family wasn’t told that I would be present at his autopsy, but Nine made sure to shield me from any details that might identify the man.)
In the hierarchy of relationships, friendships are at the bottom. Romantic partners, parents, children—all these come first.
This is true in life, and in science, where relationship research tends to focus on couples and families. When Emily Langan, an associate professor of communication at Wheaton College goes to conferences for the International Association of Relationship Researchers, she says, “friendship is the smallest cluster there. Sometimes it’s a panel, if that.”
Friendships are unique relationships because unlike family relationships, we choose to enter into them. And unlike other voluntary bonds, like marriages and romantic relationships, they lack a formal structure. You wouldn’t go months without speaking to or seeing your significant other (hopefully), but you might go that long without contacting a friend.
A conservative group is resisting congressional efforts to kneecap FOIA.
The health-care clusterfudge continues. Senator John McCain has brain cancer. President Trump throws another public tantrum. Russia, Russia, Russia.
That about covers the Big Political Headlines of the week. Now for something really sexy: the creeping assault on the Freedom of Information Act.
Stop right there! No clicking over to that Tucker Carlson YouTube rant. This is another one of those ticky-tacky, below-the-radar issues that may sound like a nonprescription substitute for Ambien but is, practically speaking, super important—especially in the Age of Trump.
FOIA is what enables regular people to pester powerful federal agencies into handing over information about what they’ve been up to. FOIA’s website calls it “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.” Though a tad grandiose, that characterization is pretty much accurate. And never has such a tool been quite so vital as with the current White House, which has adopted a policy of unabashedly lying about pretty much everything.
What’s gained and what’s lost when religion becomes an individualist—or even consumerist—endeavor?
Two perceived qualities of Orthodox Judaism—authenticity and ancientness—are enticing people outside this religious tradition to pay for the chance to sample it. In Israel, secular citizens and foreign visitors willing to fork over $20 to the tour company Israel-2Go can embark on a trip to an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, where they’ll watch men in black hats and women in long skirts buying challah bread from a kosher bakery while a guide narrates the scene. They can also pay to take a tour of the menorahs in Jerusalem’s Old City alleyways during Hanukkah; eat a five-course Friday night Shabbat meal in the home of an observant family; or hear a lecture about the different nuances of the black-and-white garb worn by men from various ultra-Orthodox sects.