Monday, July 21, 2014

How Hollywood Movies have Repeatedly Destroyed America



The blog Concourse has a good series of maps which, while self-admiringly is not comprehensive, shows the location of various disaster/monster movies.  Monsters, Creatures, Climate, Geological, infections, mankind, alien attacks, space rocks, superhero battles, and a sharknado have all taken their toll on the United States.

Interestingly, New York was the early center of disaster films but as the United States grew so did the location of movie apocalypses. New York City and Los Angeles still remain the scene of most incidents but a bias seems to dominate as the third largest city, Chicago, lags behind film industry-cities such as San Francisco and Washington.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hunt at Home for Invasive Plants in Hawaii

There is yet another opportunity to be an at home imagery interpretation geographer thanks to the Nature Conservatory and Digital Globe.  It is now possible to look at imagery to find invasive plants in Hawaii's forests.  The effort is trying to find Australian and African plants that are competing against native Hawaiian trees thus altering the local ecosystem.

Do not worry if you do not know one tropical tree from another as the program is very easy to use and provides enough examples to help you identify invasive plants

Monday, July 07, 2014

July 2014 Travel Photo: Empire State Building


New York's official nickname is the "Empire State."  While some theories claim George Washington gave the state this nickname, notably due to its key role in the country's economy, there is no confirmed reason on how New York earned this name.

The Empire State's economy, and that of all the United States, suffered severely in the crash of 1929.  As part of the effort to reassert the economy and New York's role as a producer, construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930 (with plans only a few weeks old) and was finished in 1931.

The building was the tallest in the world until 1972 (now 23rd) and remains a cultural marker for New York City.

Friday, June 27, 2014

100 Years Ago Today: The Assassination that Changed the World

USA for democracy by allying with unstable radical anti-minority republic-at-home-empire-abroad France, stable constitutional monarchy-at-home but empire-abroad United Kingdom, and absolutist Russia against most social democratic-friendly but turned military dictatorship Germany, unstable but trying to find peace Austria-Hungary, and the genocidal nationalist Ottoman Empire. 
One hundred years ago today Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by Serbian terrorists backed by rogue elements of the itself-rogue state of the Kingdom of Serbia.  The war which resulted from the assassination ended in a poorly thought peace treaty by the Allies which in turned directly led to World War II and the Cold War.  Spin-offs of these wars include the murder wars of Latin America, the cable wars of Africa, and conflicts in the Middle East.

That one assassination deeply impacted borders around the world but especially in still changing Europe.



Pray for peace.

Blessed Emperor Karl I of Austria-Hungary.  The only man open to peace and because of that he was bypassed by his allies and exiled by his opponents. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Cup Tie-Ins Show Geographic Illiteracy

Americans' interest in soccer (association-rules football) comes in go with the tide peaking at the time of the World Cup.  Every four years there is a surge of caring which recedes soon after Team USA's loss and elimination. This year the World Cup has caused an all time high in soccer-interest.  Team USA's victory over Ghana led to an outpouring of sports patriotism... and geo-illeteracy.

First Delta decided to celebrate victory by tweeting an image which represents the United States with the Statue of Liberty and Ghana with a giraffe. A major problem with the image is that giraffes do not live in Ghana.  All Africa is treated the same much like all Indians are thought of as the same in Siouxification.  Oddly, the sin Delta committed is the same that Kwanzaa is by nature treating all Africa as the same.

Next is a photo making the rounds claiming to show how most are immigrants.  The purpose of to the photo is to support immigration reform.  The problem with this image is that it is a racist and probably full of lies (not just untruths) because none of the players are actually immigrants.  It claims those with Hispanic-names are immigrants even though they were born in the United States and those born outside the United States are immigrants even though all of them were born citizens because of their parents.

Finally, Google cannot tell the difference between Ghana's flag and Cameroon's.

Geo-illiteracy is common and the World Cup is only making it more noticeable

Monday, June 16, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq and What?

The Sunni Islamist terrorist army swarming over western and northern Iraq refers to itself as الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام, which translates to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.  The term "al-Sham" is the reason the group is sometimes referred to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and other times as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

The term al-Sham (Sham, for short) in Arabic means the land of the left hand because it was to the north of Arabia.  This refers to the person facing the rising sun in the east east in Arabia thus leaving north on the left hand side.  Sham has long been used in classical Arab and Islamic geography to mean Syria, however, not the land of the modern Syrian Arab Republic (سورية , Syria) but the historic region of greater Syria.  For example, the Roman Syria included modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey while Ottoman Syria also included Israel, Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Basically, the historic region of Syria is a near perfect match for the western concept of the Levant.

So, a close to literal translation has the group being "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria", however, most readers are likely to confuse greater Syria (al-Sham) with the modern state of Syria.  Because al-Sham is a near perfect fit for the concept of "Levant" and they have made clear their goals are more Leavant-oriented I recommend using the term the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The ISIL is not a fan of the small boundaries of the Syrian Arab Republic and prefer al-Sham instead. Photo via Twitter.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Middle East War (Iraq Front) Maps Batch 1: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's Advance

Note: Both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Leavant as well as the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hizbollah axis view the Syrian Civil War and the new Iraq War as one-in-the-same.  It is time we do too.

There are a lot of maps out there showing what is going on in Iraq.  Some are better than others and most tell only a part of the story. However, by combining the maps together one can gain a good understanding of the situation on the ground.

The Washington Post has a good map showing the ethnic breakdown of Iraq as well as the latest updates.  Note how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), aka al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)) has been temporally stopped at Samarra, the northern outpost of Shia Iraq.  The remaining 100 miles to Baghdad will be much harder if not impossible for ISIL as they will be fighting on Shia Arab land against Iranian-trained local militias and not on Sunni Arab land against poorly motivated troops.  Also note how the Kurds have advanced outside their Regional Government and into disputed Kirkuk.  This will pose problems in the future as Baghdad will be unlikely to reassert control in Kurdish-annexed Kirkuk.


Long War Journal has a great map showing cities and towns in Iraq and Syria occupied by ISIL.


View Iraqi and Syrian Towns and Cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in a larger map

This Washington Post map shows ISIL controlled areas as islands of population surrounded by desert connected by the only major roads in the hinterlands of Iraq and Syria.  Although I do not think ISIL control is that solid, established in eastern and central Iraq as shown.  (The West Bank is shown separate from Jordan but the text buffer covers most of the border)



While I do not like this map on Twitter showing ISIL control as a solid block, it does a good job showing how the group is focusing on controlling the oil wells and fields.  ISIL likely is selling this oil on the black market thus making it a self-sufficient terrorist army.


This map by a Twitter user, Ghazi, is quite good.  It explains areas of control versus areas of freedom of movement, and it shows how the post-World War I division between Syria and Iraq is basically over (for now at least).


Finally, though no longer novel it is always important to note geographic knowledge is power.  Here is a photo via FlashPointIntel of an ISIL officer planning the offensive using Google Earth.