My Book of Maps

by Bryan

Among the many things that make me a festering nerd of the highest order, I have a giant National Geographic Atlas of the World that I’ll occasionally study over meals. Not only that, I’ve done it since I was a child. Not only that, I’ve done it with the exact same book. The book I own is the 1970 National Geographic Atlas of the World, and I see no reason to update it. I can always find a current map of the world, but what I didn’t know until the fall of the Soviet Union, and what is more pronounced now, is how much a map is just a snapshot in time when the word “map” is commonly used to signify the exact opposite. (This phenomenon is what my friend over here has basically devoted his recent life to studying, and which I wrote about here.)

Last night I thought about going through the book and pulling out the examples of countries whose name had changed, a change which usually precipitates a host of similar changes. Off the top of my head, you’ve got Rhodesia, Burkina Faso, Benin, North/South Vietnam, East/West Germany, the USSR, the borders of Israel/Palestine, Yugoslavia, Egypt (listed as the United African Republic; is that still so), Namibia, NOT “Zaire” (which went to and from that name between then and now), Guinea-Bissau is listed as “Portuguese Guinea” (that could be a technicality) — and I realize I’m only scratching the surface here. I find the whole thing compelling. It’s like a treasure map. A colorful, vibrant treasure map that costs $150 new. So yeah, I like my old map.

I think Ben would kill me if I did all this talking about maps and didn’t do this, so here it goes. And FWIW, as I’ve caught up on about a decade’s worth of music in the last 10 months, the YYY’s are at the absolute top of the list: