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« D.A. Justice | Main | Razib/Heather »

January 01, 2007


Donald Pittenger writes

Dear Blowhards --

* Cruising by the remainder shelves at Barnes & Noble recently, I spotted an historical atlas. No, no -- not an antique atlas, but an atlas with maps showing where the Scythians lived and neat stuff like that.

I love such maps. (Lord knows where the cartographers got the boundary data, the nomadic Scythians not being noted as great bureaucrats: The poor souls probably didn't even have a Census Bureau, let alone digitized geographic files.)

But that's not my point.

The atlas I saw had lots of color pictures along with the expected maps. I have mixed feelings about illustrated atlases.

My tendency is to be a map-purist -- just the maps, ma'am.

Yet I also see the need to plonk in pictures to ease the path of users who are very young or otherwise have a lot of ignorance regarding history or geography.

Moreover, real antique illustrated atlases can be pretty fascinating because the pictures show what places looked like 100 years ago or whenever.

[Pause for reconsideration]

Nuts to those wishy-washy thoughts I just expressed! Atlases are for maps. There are plenty of sources (current and historical) for pictures and other information about distant lands.

* Here's hoping you all spent New Year's Eve in a satisfying way.

For many years I simply went to bed early, perhaps in reaction to youthful disappointments from Eves that failed to live up to being The Greatest Party Ever With A Fantastic Date At My Side.

That also reduced exposure to highway mayhem from alcohol-fuelled drivers.

Nancy likes to party, so lately I've been staying up past my bedtime to do some New Year hailing. For 2006, we were at the Royal Hawaiian's outdoor cocktail bar. Last night the venue was Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.

And the event was a concert featuring Doc Severinsen, best-known for his ultra-long gig as Johnny Carson's Late Show bandleader.

After Carson retired, Severinsen kept up band-leading and branched out into conducting "pops" concerts for regional symphony orchestras, including Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Last night's concert, where Doc did double-duty as conductor and featured trumpet player, featured works by Strauss, Jr. along with medleys of Ellington and Gershwin. Oh, and Louis Prima's "Sing Sing Sing" as the finale.

Severinsen turned 79 last July and admitted at the conclusion of the show that he'd be retiring in the near future. Nevertheless, he was wildly dressed as usual and played a pretty mean trumpet. Great show.

I was halfway expecting the audience to be somehow different from the usual symphony crowd. But no, attendees looked about the same as they did in my previous visits to Benaroya so I can't accuse them of being classical music snobs even though more than a few looked the part.



posted by Donald at January 1, 2007


I really liked [urel=""]this historical map[/url] online, showing 5,000 years of religious wars in the Middle East in just 90 seconds.

Now, if Google Earth could just upgrade a bit more...

Posted by: ijsbrand on January 1, 2007 1:56 PM

But don't maps and pictures go together? in the sense that the older maps often have depictions of mythological figures or exotic animals or caravels or caravans or even famed explorers, in the maps' corners?

Posted by: ricpic on January 1, 2007 3:26 PM

Hope Severinsen got rid of the silly van dyke he sported on the Carson show.

Posted by: ricpic on January 1, 2007 3:41 PM

When I was fifteen, Doc Severinsen gave a trumpet clinic in a nearby rival high school band's auditorium. (The rival band's director was amazingly well-connected.) After he did his teaching thing, he just blew all us music nerds away for an hour, accompanied by the luckiest high school "jazz band" on earth. Great experience, great guy, incredible musician.

Posted by: Flutist on January 2, 2007 2:12 AM

I have twelve historical atlases, of which six are military history. I may not buy more though, because there are some huge on-line collections of historical maps. For instance the Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection at U of Texas has all of Shepherd's Historical Atlas and tons more.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on January 2, 2007 3:31 AM

Hand-drawn atlases and maps, even ones as humble as street maps, can be things of beauty. Digital maps and atlases may be easier to produce and more accurate, but don't have the same esthetic appeal.

Posted by: Peter on January 2, 2007 8:57 AM

ricpic -- He's down to a semi-bushy moustache.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 3, 2007 2:59 PM

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