2002.06.20

Every which way but north

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So I was driving to work today and started thinking about maps. As an amusing exercise, and to explain why I was thinking about them, here’s a small peek into my brain’s inner workings.

My train of thought was pretty much spurred by a casual mention from the traffic reporter on the radio that there was a slowdown on I-5 heading into city center (that’s basically what we call “downtown” here; don’t know if it’s a west coast thing but it extends to B.C. too).

That brought to mind the layout of Manhattan, home of what is probably the most famous downtown area in the world. Pretty much anywhere you go on the island, it’s a given that “downtown” and “south” are interchangeable concepts, and likewise for “uptown” and “north.”

Whatever causes this association in the case of NYC, it’s pretty clear from looking at any map that we have an ingrained idea that “north” and “up,” at least in the visual realm, are more or less equivalent. You can come up with any number of logical explanations, including European cultural dominance during the golden age of cartography, or celestial navigation, but that’s not really the point of my story.

Anyways, I’ve decided that what I need to make my life complete (at least for today) is an upside-down world map. Not a normal map turned upside-down, mind you — still want to be able to read all the text. Hopefully, tastefully designed as well (after all, this would be for the living room). Eternal love and kisses to whoever points me in the right direction first!

P.S. The real reason I find this idea fascinating was only obvious after I started picturing upside-down countries in my head. Sure, who cares what an inverted Mongolia would look like, but how about a topsy-turvy Canada licking the bottom of the map with Ellesmere Island? Am I the only one who’s always thought Ellesmere Island looked like an upside-down tongue? Surely reason enough to get a map!
P.P.S. I suppose Italy wouldn’t be so intriguingly boot-like upside-down. At least, not without a tinge of mutant weirdness. On the other hand, the cognitive dissonance when trying to parse “Upper Egypt” and “Lower Egypt” would be history. Huzzah!

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