My New Atlas

First, a quick RIP to Robert B. Parker. I was never a fan, but my mother LOVED “Spenser: For Hire” and the books that spawned the television show. She watched the show because of Avery Brooks who played Hawk. My ladylike, genteel mother adored the ex-mob enforcer with the gold earring and black glasses who beat the crap out of people without breaking a sweat. She also liked “Kojak,” so it must have been something about those bald heads.

As for the main topic, my featured Christmas present this year was the Atlas of the World by Oxford. It is a thing of beauty with glossy pages crammed with information and stunning photographs, including satellite shots of the earth from space. The gazetteer alone is worth the price, with each country’s flag and thumbnail map displayed alongside relevant information about population, geology, economics, politics, etc.

This big, gorgeous book takes up so much space I have to clear my desk of everything else (not a bad thing). But I really do need to buy a stand so I can return the antique foot stool to the living room. But there’s hardly room in the office for a book stand.

It is so much more satisfying than computer generated maps, which seem to lack perspective no matter how far out one zooms and contain hapazard information: I’ve heard of the Gildersleeve section of Portland, Connecticut (last I knew much attenuated descedants of the settlers still lived in the area), but on a couple of maps it looks like a separate town. Ditto Goodrich Heights in Cromwell. At this point that section should be called TCP River Highlands. in honor of the pro golf course and multimillion dollar condos that have just about consumed the Christmas tree farm along the main road.

The biggest culprits are computerized map directions.  They all need help. A couple of years ago Larry and I decided we wanted a lobster bake for New Year’s, so we used MapQuest to go to Bud’s. We drove and drove, and when we finally arrived, I realized that the map directions had taken us miles out of our way. The young woman who waited on us said, “Oh, yeah, those directions suck!” The detour seemed to be an effort to avoid a railroad underpass, which trucks couldn’t clear. Otherwise it made no sense to go west some eight or ten miles and then loop back east.

Thank God GPS has negated most online maps. It’s not perfect, but it’s sure an improvement.

Now that I have this big gorgeous atlas with perspectives from space and with scales where one inch equals almost 790 miles down to (up to?) one inch equaling sixteen miles. The earthquake in Haiti got me thinking about the static nature of the printed atlas. Even though the book is just a year old, it’s already outdated with the population decimated and many physical features changed beyond recognition. New satellite shots can get tucked into the pages to update it but there will still be a sad testament in updated population figures with the untold lives lost and people, especially children, who move or are adopted away. Of course the same thing has happened many times over the years, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the Balkans division and redivision. Goodness knows how long Iraq will look like it does, let alone other parts of the Middle East. I don’t think it will justify buying another atlas, but you never know …

One big, unforgivable complaint nearly ruined my thrill over this glorious book. My hometown of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, is nowhere to be found in the 448 pages. Neighboring Clinton appears, but there is mostly a big gap between New London and New Haven. The authors explain, “Settlement symbols and type styles vary according to the scale of each map and indicate the importance of towns on the map rather than specific populations figures.” Ha! Fort Saybrook was the site of the original colony in 1635, the original home of Yale College, and the burial place of Lady Fenwick, originally declared the first white woman to die on Connecticut soil but in revisionist thinking the first one with a monument that survives to this day. What’s Clinton’s claim to fame? A nearly defunct Chesebrough Pond factory (HQ is in Greenwich), downscale marinas and an outlet mall that brings in busloads from various cities in the Northeast. I’m lodging a complaint as soon as I look at some more of the amazing photos.

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One Response to “My New Atlas”

  1. Harv Says:

    1. Your mother would have loved me if she liked bald heads.
    2. You should have called us if you wanted to go to Bud’s to pick up lobsters – it’s a 5 minute drive from our house. Let’s see – Mapquest vs. Harv and Nancy’s directions.

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