Saturday, November 10, 2012

Anime Maps

A Satellite Image of Hurricane (Sandy? no, not Sandy) turned into an anime character. 

Following upon my blog postings about Anthropomorphic and Zoomorphic maps, there is apparently a new trend in creating maps of countries (and other geographic features) that resemble anime characters.  I discovered this because all of a sudden my blog posting (#2) about the topic of anthropomorphic maps received like about 5,000 hits in one days, and I looked back to see where they were all coming from.  It was this Japanese site that had referenced my post in discussing the map of the US that looked like an eagle.  My previous posts on the topic:

This is the new(ish) one that sparked the storm: the map of the UK turned into a Victorian girl.  They clearly didn't know what to do with Northern Ireland!  See for the full evolution of the image from map to girl.

I actually think I like this one even better.

See also original Japanese site for some additional very clever transformations of countries into people:

Friday, November 9, 2012

The African Presence in Europe

“The Three Mulattoes of Esmereldas” (1599), by Andrés Sánchez Gallque, depicts a father and his two sons, descendants of African plantation slaves and New World natives, who were leaders of an Afro-Indian community.  This is one of the works in “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe," at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.  (From: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid)

This exhibit “African Presence in Renaissance Europe” appears to be a very interesting visual depiction of 15th and 16th century European perceptions on race and “otherness,” in a time before plantation slavery in the New World forever altered Western views of race and white superiority.  New Yorkers – you are only 2 ½ hours from Baltimore by Amtrak train, so if you are looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving break, this might be just the ticket! 
I am copying below the article (a review of the exhibit) from The New York Times in its entirety. 

A Spectrum From Slaves to Saints
‘African Presence in Renaissance Europe,’ at Walters Museum
Published: November 8, 2012
BALTIMORE — In a fall art season distinguished, so far, largely by a bland, no-brainer diet served up by Manhattan’s major museums, you have to hit the road for grittier fare. And the Walters Art Museum here is not too far to go to find it in a high-fiber, convention-rattling show with the unglamorous title of “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe.”

Visually the exhibition is a gift, with marvelous things by artists familiar and revered — Dürer, Rubens, Veronese — along with images most of us never knew existed. Together they map a history of art, politics and race that scholars have begun to pay attention to — notably through “The Image of the Black in Western Art,” a multivolume book project edited by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr. — but that few museums have addressed in full-dress style.
Like the best scholarship, the Walters show, organized by Joaneath Spicer, the museum’s curator of Renaissance and Baroque art, is as much about questions as answers, and makes no bones about that. Many wall labels begin with an interrogative, suggesting that a museum visitor’s reading of a particular image carries as much weight as the curator’s.
And, like most ambitious but risky undertakings, it has flaws. There is evidence of budget limitations. Although no corners were cut in getting crucial European loans, the catalog — a good one — has come in a third smaller in size than planned and with signs of changes-at-the-last-minute production.
The presence of a chatty “resource center” midway through the show, with gamelike audience-participation activities on offer, will rile museum purists. (I have no problem with it.) And, in a show that tackles the issue of race head-on, the line between an objective view of the past taken on its own terms and interpretation of it in light of the present can sometimes feel precariously drawn.
But in the end none of this matters. The show is so interesting to look at and so fresh with historical news as to override reservations. It does what few museum shows ever do: It takes a prized piece of art history, one polished to a glow by generations of attention, and turns it in an unexpected direction, so it catches the searching, scouring rays of new investigative light.
Europe’s ties to Africa were ancient but sporadic. Particularly strong bonds were forged during the heyday of the Roman Empire. And in the 15th and 16th centuries, the period covered by the Walters show, they were renewed. True, as early the eighth century a pocket of intercontinental culture had sprung up in Muslim-occupied southern Spain. But it wasn’t until that occupation was coming to a close that a broader exchange began.
By the mid-1400s an expansionist Europe was hungry for new materials and markets, and a globally minded Roman Catholic Church sought new members. Well before Vasco da Gama first sailed around Africa, Portuguese merchants had opened trading depots along its west coast. And enterprising Africans were coming to Europe.
In 1484 a Congolese delegation visited Lisbon on a diplomatic mission, and Ethiopian Christian pilgrims were establishing permanent communities in Rome.
Superficially Africa and Europe had embarked on an age of cosmopolitan rapport, an idea promoted in art. It was during this period that the convention was introduced of including a black African as one of the three foreign kings in images of the Adoration of the Magi. A beautiful early-16th-century Flemish example and one with, exceptionally, two black figures, tenderly particularized, opens the Walters show on a utopian note, with a vision of multicultural harmony.
In reality harmony was rarely associated with Africa in the European mind. Known primarily secondhand from sensationalizing ancient texts, the African continent was often depicted in the Renaissance as a place of freakish beasts and bestial, violence-prone, naturally subject peoples. The attitude found its place in Renaissance decorative objects like oil lamps and door pulls cast in the shape of African heads, and in paintings that routinely included dark-skinned figures as servants or slaves.
Slavery had a long institutional history in Europe, and for centuries most slaves were white, from the eastern Mediterranean and Russia. The source changed with the beginnings of an African slave trade in Europe in the mid-1400s. And the complexion of European art, subtly but surely, changed with it.

We find a hint of this in a minutely detailed late-16th-century painting of a city square in Lisbon bustling with black- and white-skinned figures from across the social spectrum. We find it again in an exquisite drawing by Dürer of a demure 20-year-old black woman named Katharina, a slave in the household of a Portuguese patron the artist visited in Antwerp in 1521. And we find it once more in a fragmentary painting by Annibale Carracci. The original picture seems to have been a portrait of an aristocratic woman accompanied by her female slave. But only the likeness of the slave survives, and her face, with its simmering, level-eyed gaze, is unforgettable.

Being a domestic slave in urban Europe was not necessarily a lifelong condition. (The situation was very different on New World plantations.) Slaves could be freed by owners and take up independent professions. The two black men, one young, one older, in a pair of fleet chalk drawings from around 1580 by Paolo Veronese might have worked as his assistants or apprentices, much as the former slave and mixed-race painter Juan de Pareja did in Velázquez’s studio in Madrid.
De Pareja went on to have a painting career of his own, though he is largely remembered as the subject of one of Velázquez’s most magnificent portraits. But in general the names of black sitters in Renaissance paintings — and, no doubt, of black artists — are lost.
Who is, or was, the slightly stunned-looking man wearing drop earrings, a gold chain and pearl-encrusted cap in “Portrait of a Wealthy African,” by an unknown 16th-century German or Flemish artist? Or the regal-looking personage, head swathed in a milk-white turban, in an oil sketch whipped up on a sheet of repurposed accounting paper by Peter Paul Rubens?
Portrait of a Wealthy African, Flemish or German, ca. 1540, Private Collection, Antwerp
Rubens’s sitter is so attractive, we’d love to know his story. And we’d especially love to know the story — the true, gossip-free story — behind the sitter in an Agnolo Bronzino portrait whose name has survived. He’s Alessandro de’ Medici, who ruled Florence for seven years before being assassinated in 1537, and who is thought by historians to have been the illegitimate child of a pope-to-be, Clement VII, and a black or biracial woman.
Alessandro’s dark skin was remarked on by contemporaries, who nicknamed him Il Moro (the Moor), a generic term for African in 16th-century Italy. In Bronzino’s painting the subject’s complexion is inconclusively ruddy. But another portrait, this one of the ruler’s young daughter Giulia, has been cited by some scholars, who point to the child’s black facial features, as confirmation of Alessandro’s ethnic heritage.
Together these portraits probably attest to the reality of African DNA flowing through Medici blood, and through the very center of the European High Renaissance. But they are at least as interesting for the reactions they have provoked. Until recently art history has ignored, denied or at best tiptoed around their racial content, just as it has skimmed over the black presence in Europe as a whole. The Walters exhibition not only asserts that presence, but positions it as a contributing factor to a crucial moment in the forming of European cultural identity.
By the early 17th century that moment seemed to have passed. Europe’s attention turned to the Americas and to Asia. Africa became what it had started out being for Europe: a supply center for natural resources and cheap labor. Old attitudes of fear and disdain toward Africa — still the dominant view in the West — returned and hardened.
So: Renaissance followed by regression is the show’s bottom-line theme. Or is it? One of the saving graces of art — what keeps you coming back to it — is that it isn’t a bottom-line business. You think you’ve come to an end, a conclusion, and there’s always more: the exception, the extension. And so it is in this case: African Europe lived on, in new places, and in new guises.
Toward the end of the show, in a 1599 painting called “The Three Mulattoes of Esmereldas,” we see three dark-skinned men in European court attire but also wearing large gold nose ornaments and holding spears. The painting, now in the Prado, was done in Spanish colonial Ecuador. It depicts a father and his two sons, descendants of African plantation slaves and New World natives, who were leaders of an Afro-Indian community. In this painting, commissioned from an Ecuadorean artist as a gift to Philip III of Spain, they present to Europe as what they are: related, different, equal.
African Europe also continued to flourish on home turf in, among other places, popular religion. The exhibition’s final image is a resplendent 18th-century carved wood sculpture of a Roman Catholic saint, Benedict of Palermo (1526-89), who was born into a family of African slaves in Sicily, led an exemplary life as a Franciscan monk there, and was canonized in 1807.
This saint is sometimes referred to as Benedict the Moor or Benedict the African, and in the sculpture his racial identity is emphatically conveyed: his grave face and extended hand are a rich ebony black, their darkness framed and amplified by the brilliant gilding of his robe.
By the time this sculpture was carved around 1734, Benedict had long since attracted an ardent following, in Europe, in the colonial Americas and in Africa. Today he’s the official patron saint of African-America, with churches in his honor from Bahia to the Bronx. And images of him, no matter how stylistically varied, continue to combine traces of Renaissance Europe and of Africa. In him the two are inseparable, are one.

Slide show:
Walters Art Museum Website about the exhibit:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Obama Won the Election

Map showing the results of the U.S. Presidential Election 2012
Became more: Democratic (blue); Republican (red).  From The New York Times:
How Obama Won Reelection

 For those of you who, like me, tried very hard to stay awake long enough to see which candidate was projected by CNN as the winner of the US Presidential race last night, it was finally called at 11:18 PM, but of course, there are some states (FLORIDA!!! AGAIN!!! They need to get their act together!) that are sill up for grabs.  Nevertheless, Obama received the necessary 270 electoral college votes, and then some, early enough to call by the professional prognosticators, even without the dithering of Florida’s critical 29 electoral votes. 

Here are some interesting maps of the election results.  I was struck by how red the country could be, whether looking at the state-by-state view, or especially by the county-by-county view, but still come up with a “blue” result overall.  This has to do, obviously with the variable distribution of population, giving more weight to population centers (e.g., cities and populous suburban areas) and less so to rural and relatively unpopulated areas.  This points out the fallacy of coloring in maps with nominal data, when the size of the geographic unit has little to do with its real impact for the variable in question (in this case, electoral votes).  Still, it is striking how divided the nation is, whether it is on geographic lines, racial/ethnic lines, economic lines, gender lines, or a generational divide.

State and County maps of election results, For full size interactive maps, see:

This explains where Obama’s support came from.  He got even less of the white vote than he had in the 2008 election, and kept about the same percentage of women voters (55%), but had major gains in the youth vote in key battleground states (although losing some of the youth vote in other states), and perhaps most significantly, had overwhelming support from the Latino/a voters.    
“President Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points, 8 percentage points more than in 2008. Among the swing states, the president made the biggest gains in Colorado, taking 74 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 61 percent in 2008. In Florida, President Obama’s gains among Hispanic voters helped him take the state. He won 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 57 percent in 2008 and 44 percent for John Kerry in 2004.”

How Obama Won Reelection

Also, see the Washington Post website for a nice series of maps on the "Margin of Victory" at the state and county level, and state-by-state analysis of the election. This one shows how strong or weak the vote was for Obama or Romney.  The county one is especially interesting, because the parts of the country that are red are VERY red, almost the entire middle of the country and the deep south. Check out the County Margin map, it's a proportional symbol map showing the margin of victory in thousands of votes.  Very nice!

OK, here's another one, (Thanks Steve Duncan!) for sending some great cartograms of the election, the one above showing the relative importance of the states vis-a-vis electoral votes, but this website has a nice animation of election advertisement spending in the various swing states. Really informative!   See

Here's another interesting one (sent in by Aviva Rahmani.  Thanks Aviva!) showing the considerable spatial correspondence between areas of slavery/non-slavery in 1859,  racial segregation areas in 1950,  and red/blue voting states in 2012.  It's not a perfect match-up, and there are some interesting differences (e.g., Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Florida) , but wow, remarkably similar.

What The 2012 Election Would Have Looked Like Without Universal Suffrage
These five maps look at how the 2012 election would have played out before everyone could vote.  [Some of the reader's comments about the maps mention the flaws in the argument presented by these maps, but keep in mind as you look at them that they are supposed to reflect what TODAY’S United States would have looked like in the 2012 election if only certain of our citizens were allowed to vote.  Obviously, in 1850, not all the states were states, etc.  Also, I believe in the early US, not only was the right to vote restricted to white men, it was further restricted to white male property owner (no poor guys need apply).  So there are some grains for salt here to be taken in interpreting these maps, but all in all a sobering look at how differently elections can turn out when the right to vote for major constituents of our population is disallowed or suppressed.] 
Map 1: 1850
Before 1870, only white men could vote. Here's how the election would have looked before the 15th Amendment.

“President Barack Obama has been elected twice by a coalition that reflects the diversity of America. Republicans have struggled to win with ever-higher percentages of the shrinking share of the population that is white men — "a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world," in the words of one strategist.
But at America's founding, only white men could vote, and the franchise has only slowly expanded to include people of color, women, and — during the Vietnam War — people under 21. These maps show how American politics would have looked in that undemocratic past.” From:
See the website for the rest of the maps on what the election would have looked like without the black vote, the youth vote, and women’s vote.  

Also check out the collection of pre-Election Maps 2012 at