Monday, April 30, 2012

Canadian Stereotype Map

 Long time reader and sometime guest blogger Canada has sent me a map of stereotypes of Canada.  The map matches many of my own thoughts and questions about various provinces of Canada including:
  • Why I hear about protests in Quebec more than elsewhere.  I assume it has something to do with the Quiet Revolution's breakdown of traditional controls.
  • Why I associate Irish-Canadian music with Newfoundland and nowhere else.
  • My belief that British Columbia is just a cultural extension of the San Francisco-Portland-Seattle urban complex.
However, it was quite surprising to me that there was no reference to Eskimos or American Indians aka First Peoples for Nunavut.  83.6% of the total population of the territory self-identifies as Inuit.  You think this unique geopolitical, integrated homeland would get some mention.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Deadly Hotspots Map: Countries Leaders in Unique Ways to Die

The BBC has created a map showing world leaders in unique accidental, incidental, and sickly ways to die.  Various countries are listed with a unique way of die they lead in.  Next time I try to use the lawnmower I will realize I am in the worse geographical place to operate one. 

Some countries lead in behavioral categories which could easily be avoided: Ukraine with heart disease, Moldova with liver cirrhosis, South Africa with drunk driving, and Zimbabwe with AIDS.

Others are just sad: South Korea leads with female suicides.  Something is horribly wrong in a land where women no longer have families and lose all hope to live.

Of note, even though meteorites have yet to take anyone out this century, Antarctica would be the worse place to avoid a falling sky due to the fact it has been hit fifteen times more than any other place on Earth.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"East Sea" versus "Sea of Japan" - The Korean Lobby Loses the Battle over 1928

The Korean-American community is pushing hard to have the sea east of Korea and west of Japan, commonly known as the Sea of Japan, labelled as the "East Sea" or at the very least "Sea of Japan/East Sea".  A recent push to have all Virginia geography textbooks label the sea with "East Sea" failed (northern Virginia has a large Korean-American population and they form a powerful voting bloc).  The same lobbying group is expected to appear before the U.S. Board of Geographic Names soon.  Finally, they e-mailed me with their claims and demands.

The lynchpin of their argument rest on the claim that the sea was universally known as "East Sea" until 1928, when Imperial Japan registered "Sea of Japan" with the International Hydrographic Organization to show to the world that they controlled "the sea like a lake which was engulfed by Japan and occupied Korea."  (There are claim of older European trade maps showing both names but both sides counter each other saying those were provisional cartographic markings or are merely ignored).  The Korean e-mail stated that English-language maps labelled the sea as the East Sea up until Imperial Japan forced the name change.

I decided to investigate.  Using the Complete National Geographic (let me print full size maps, please!) I was able to find the March 1904 map entitled "Korea and Manchuria" which shows "Japan Sea".  This map was made six years before Japan annexed Korea in 1910 and twenty-two years before the claimed 1928 Japanese policy change. 

Japan Sea was used for the body of water 22 years before the alleged 1928 name change.  Image courtesy of National Geographic
Only since 2003 has National Geographic began to use "East Sea".  In the July 2003 map "The Two Koreas" the text states National Geographic uses "Sea of Japan (East Sea)" but gives preference to East Sea when displaying water within Korea's borders.

The Japanese Government has released official statements that the 1928 claim is bogus.  On this point the Japanese are right and pro-Korean forces are wrong.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Imagery Interpreation and Remote Sensing Games

My very first experience in the geographic subfield of imagery interpretation, learning the geography of a place via aerial images, was through the game Spycraft.

Someone's video about Spycraft.  Imagery interpretation section from 0:45 to 4:15

I have always found imagery interpretation, whether the picture and metadata come from satellite or plane, fun.  It is a sort of an adventure to discuss why everything is the way it is and to spot anomalies. 

Fortunately the fun can still be experienced online for free.  Several organizations have posted educational activities games dealing with imagery interpretation and remote sensing.

America's Central Intelligence Agency has the game Aerial Analysis Challenge in which one pretends to be an imagery analyst.

Natural Resources Canada has an educational and in-depth imagery interpretation site with a twelve question activity.

The Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo has the Remote Sensing Quiz which provides an educational challenge on remote sensing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food Deserts in America: Geographic Reality or Politicized Myth?

A Food Desert is defined as an area which lacks easy access to groceries.  This can range from a poor urban neighborhood where one has to take a series of buses to get to a grocery store to a rural county where one has to drive several miles to buy food.  The term "food desert" has entered the American lexicon in part because of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program which in part discusses how food deserts force families to buy unhealthy foods which in turn causes high rates of obesity and other illnesses.

The White House has released a video featuring food deserts.

A TEDx Talk from Chicago further discusses food deserts in detail

There is a new wave of information documenting the geography of food deserts.  Scientific American just published their study on food deserts with maps and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a zoomable map of food deserts down to the census tract.

Food deserts and health issues.  Maps from Scientific American.  Click to enlarge.
While food deserts become a geographic topic of interest and importance in the United States some are challenging there prevalence.  New RAND studies states that poor urban neighborhoods, the poster geographical region of food deserts, not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than affluent neighborhoods, but also have more grocery stores and supermarkets as well.  Further, neither studies found a connection between the studied food environments and obesity.

A professional partisan professional, non-geographer stated to me that food deserts are "overhyped myths" by "the First Lady to pretend she cares so she can rally votes for Obama [for the upcoming election]."  She further claims that rural areas include farms and people who are use to having to travel more than a mile for almost everything.  The partisan professional went on to claim that the correlation on the various maps do not fully match up and that the Department of Agriculture map did not reveal its data on convenience stores et al versus grocery stores.

My food geography studies are fairly limited so I honestly have to say I do not know enough to make any judgement call on food deserts in the United States.  It is undeniable there are regions where food access can be somewhat difficult but whether or not this translates into the health issues as claimed by some seems up for question.

If there are any geographers who have experience in food geography I would love to hear from you in either the comments forum or through a guest post.

Fucking, Austria 168 Miles from Changing its Name to Fugging, Austria

Fucking, Austria is a village of 104 people in the state of Upper Austria near the German border.  The village is named after an ancient Bavarian nobleman named Focko.  The towns name, while unfortunate in English-speakers' ears, is perfectly fine and to say it is not a swear.  Sadly, English-speakers from the of American occupation troops after World War II who discovered the village to immature present-day tourists cannot move past the similarity of the village name from the swear word.

Due to thefts of road signs, horrible phone calls, and horrible tourists, the villagers finally gave up and voted to change the name of the village to Fugging.  Unfortunately for the village, there is already village named Fugging in the state of Lower Austria and Fugging does not want to share the name.  To top it all off Fugging, Lower Austria claims to be named after the same nobleman.

The village of Fucking thought it was one vote away from changing names but instead has found itself 168 miles (267 km) away from the name change.

View Larger Map

Austrian law is murky on if the village of Fugging can stop Fucking from changing its name.  The final decision may come down to Austria's equivalent of the board of geographic names.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Types of Maps Blogs

The Sami people of Europe have over three hundred words for snow (Eskimos in fact have a regular sized vocabulary for the word despite the urban legend).  The reason for this large lexicon is that the Sami operate and experience snow so much that they need a large word bank to describe the exact definition of what they operate in.  Cartographers and geographers likewise use maps for so many things that we need so many definitions for particular maps.

In what may be either a class project or the weirdest case of semi-plagiarism in the blogosphere there are several new blogs which give examples and definitions of various types of maps.  Map Catalog, Matt Mudano's Map Blog, The World of Maps, and Maps Galore all have fifty some examples of various types of maps.  Planimetric, Cadastral, Choropleth, Dot Distribution, and more shown and described.  The definitions are short but it does a good job making the map type easily understood.

If you need to know what a certain map type is then the above blogs are a descent place to start.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Obama Bad at Geography, Good at Geographic Policy with the Falkland Islands

American President Barack Obama created controversy when he used the word “Maldives” in an effort to appeal to Latin American countries as a sign of the United States’ neutrality between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands.  The statement at the Summit of the Americas conference is newsworthy for two reasons.

First, the Maldives are actually an island chain in the Indian Ocean approximately 8,000 miles (13,000) kilometers away from the disputed Falkland Islands.

Second, many British and pro-British news source are claiming that Obama has betrayed the United Kingdom by not using the term F"alkland Islands".  “The Malvinas” is used by Argentina and their supporters.  While the political arguments of whether Obama not changing the official policy of American neutrality on the issue is harming relations is up for debate, the simple fact is Obama followed U.S. geographical policy.

The words used for the islands are very political.  The term “Falkland Islands” is derived from Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount of Falkland.  The “Falkland Islands” dates back to 1690.  The term “Islas Malvinas” comes from the original French name of the island, Îles Malouines, or St. Malo Islands, named after the homeport of the settlers who landed there in 1764.  Recently, the term “Islas Falklands” has come into use by the island's small Hispanic population.

According to the U.S. Board of Geographical Names, the official geographic names body for the United States, the approved name for the islands is “Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)”.  Approved variants are “Falklands”, “Malvinas”, “Islas Malvinas”, and “Iles Malouines”.  The CIA World Factbook follows American policy in using Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), unlike in other times such as what the United States considers the capital of Israel.

The only transcript I can find right now about what Obama said is from the AFP in Spanish on a Cuban news website.  The article stated Obama said

Y en términos de las Maldivas, o las Falklands … nuestra posición en esto es que vamos a permanecer neutrales.

President Obama does not speak Spanish, which obviously means he spoke in English.  A translation of the above would mean he said

“And in terms of the Maldives, or the Falklands … our position in this is that we are going to remain neutral.”

So Obama meant to used both the terms “Malvinas” and “Falklands”.  Both terms are acceptable under U.S. policy.  Using one and not the other would have been read as a political policy change in the heated atmosphere of the summit.  To use a term like “Islas Falklands” would have been illogical since Obama does not speak Spanish and probably be viewed as forcing a political name into the Spanish lexicon.

"He is Risen" Around the World

This past Sunday was the start of Easter for Eastern Christianity.  Now Christians of either Western or Eastern rites can exchange the Paschal greeting of "He is Risen" which is responded with "He is Risen Indeed" or "Indeed, He is Risen."

The website Pascha Polyglotta has the Paschal greeting in over 250 languages.  One can browse a list of languages or use the map function.  Each country page has the greeting said in a .wav file for easy listening.  Sadly, many multilingual countries only have one or two of their main languages displayed.  However, this is a very neat tool showing the universal greeting in the many babels of Earth.

I decided to randomly pick one country from each continent at random for interest sake:

North America - Haiti, French Creole:  Jezikri leve ; anverite Li leve.
South America -  Colombia, Spanish:  Christo ha resucitado ; en verdad ha resucitado
Europe - Romania, Romanian:  Hristos a-înviat ; adevărat a-înviat
Africa - Lesotho, Sesotho:  Kriste o tsohile ; ha mannete o tsohile
Asia - Thailand, Thai:  Pha Kristo Tiao klap pen kune m lèo ; ting ting phra tong klap pén kune ma
Greater Australia - Samoa, Samoan:  Ua toe tu le Keriso ; ioe ua toe tu Keriso

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The RMS Titanic and the Geography Grab-Bag

 April 15, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  If one's Titanic addiction is not satisfied with the reshowing of the 1997 movie and all the television specials then there are some geography and geography-related tidbits out there to help quench the need for all things Titanic.

ESRI has created a map show the homes of all Titanic passengers.  The map shows their destination, class, whether or not they survived, and more.  Interestingly the passenger lists included rich Latin Americans, middle class Japanese, and poor Chinese as well as the well known and stereotypical Americans, British, and Irish.  Surprisingly there were two South Dakotans on the Titanic (which equals the total number of people from states which were part of the Confederacy).  Both South Dakotans were Norwegian, South Dakota has a large Norwegian population, in origin and were in third class.  (Hat tip:  Google Maps Mania)

Google Earth Blog has download links for the Titanic's wreckage on the ocean floor in Google Earth.

National Geographic has a Titanic page with plenty of articles and features on the ship.

For those wanting a full virtual tour of the ship I recommend the out-of-print adventure game Titanic: Adventure out of Time.  The unofficial fan blog has plenty of information on the game.  The game came complete with a walking tour which allowed the player to ignore the game and walk around the ship with various tour guides in certain spots.

The below video is from the game.  Stop the video at 6:30 if you do not want to ruin the game's ending.

The last bit I have is the sad story of the Titanic Memorial in Washington DC.

Photo by Catholicgauze
The memorial was commissioned by the Women's Titanic Memorial Association and dedicated in 1931.  The memorial was in memory of all the men who died on the ship offering their place on lifeboats to women and children.  It was a monument to the chivalry of those men.  The dedication on front and back reads

APRIL 15 1912


The memorial was placed along New Hampshire Avenue at the start of Washington's Rock Creek Parkway.  This was and still is a very prominent position in the capital near the White House and major entry/exit ways for the district.

View Larger Map

However, as the 1960s progressed the ideas of chivalry faded away.  The monument suffered along with its virtues.  The prime location was declared the spot for the new Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  The monument was moved out of the way into a corner of southwest DC near the area known as the Waterfront.

View Larger Map

This area became a ghetto as white flight occurred.  Only in the last ten years has the area begun to recover.  However, the neighborhood is far from perfect and the monument is still overlooked by many as it sits at the end of a river walk up against Fort Lesley J. McNair.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

To Scale Chart of Underwater Depths

The online comic xkcd has made another geography-related post which shows underwater and underground depths to scale.  The chart is as massive as it is fascinating, be sure to click to enlarge to full size.  Some of the fascinating things I have learned are
  • The emperor penguin can dive deeper than an Ohio class nuclear submarine can.  The leatherback turtle can outdo them all, though.
  • The Edmund Fitzgerald, the Kursk, and the Lusitania all sank in water shallower than the ships were long.
  • James Cameron is lucky he has not been eaten by giant squid.
  • The Soviet Union's Kola Borehole is the most interesting geology project I never heard of.

Click for xkcd original

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Lost National Geographic Theme: Part II - The Sound

Last week I wrote about acquiring the original National Geographic March written by Thomas F Darcy Jr in 1936.

So far there have been two developments.  First, I made contact with the historian's office at the National Geographic Society and they are looking into whether or not they have a copy of the march and if anyone at National Geographic is aware of the march.  So far it looks like the march was indeed lost.

Secondly, and more importantly for this blog post, I worked with pianist Grant Nakano to produce a music video of the song.  Here below, is the piano version of The National Geographic March, which was previously lost to time

The march is definitely tied into my thoughts of the 1920s and 1930s with its band sound.  I imagine an old silent newsreel showing explorers climbing a high mountain or showing some exotic land (a recommendation I may have to try is to attempt to read an old National Geographic article while playing this song in the background, maybe that will make the march "come alive").

I still prefer the "new" theme because its neo-classical feel seems timeless as opposed to Darcy's tribute song which sounds come from a closed era.

I will keep readers updated on whether or not the National Geographic Society truly forgot of the song.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Azawad: The World's Newest Unoffical Country

The flag of Azawad.  From Wikipedia
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has declared Azawad, officially the northern section of Mali, independent.  To understand this event and why it matters one must understand the geohistory of the region.

Using the Lost Lands Map Technique it is clear the MNLA value northern Mali (Azawad) and not the southern half.  From Wikipedia

In December 2010 a Tunisian lit himself on fire to protest against the corruption rampant throughout Tunisia.  Because of the events unleashed by this incident the sub-Saharan country of Mali has lost control of its lightly-populated northern half to Tuareg rebels.

The tie-in involves the Tuaregs' population range.  The Tuaregs are a nomadic ethnic group which has its roots mixed from Berber tribes men and sub-Saharan Black Africans who adapted to the Saharan Desert.  Their lack of unity and no valuable land combined with European colonialism prevented the Tuaregs from gaining a geopolitical power platform.  Because of this Tuareg's are a demographic minority in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.  Their nomadic nature and unique background has set them apart from populations in the other countries.

Population range of the Tuareg.  From Wikipedia
Tuaregs have attempted several rebellions in Mali and elsewhere but have lost to both European powers and independent African countries.  Libya's former leader and pan-African advocate Muammar Gaddafi harbored many Tuareg fighters and used them as desert shock troops against tribes which "got out of line."  With the spreed of the Tunisian-started Arab Spring and then the fall of Gaddafi many Malian Tuaregs returned to their native homes and started a rebellion which quickly swept over the northern, underpopulated part of the country.

The speed of the Taregs onslaught led many Malian military leaders to accuse the democratically-elected, pro-France, American-backed government of corruption and ineptitude.  In March the military overthrew the government and a stand-off continues between the new junta and elements of the old government.  The junta is popular on a domestic level because it promises to reclaim the the lost northern lands.  However, both France and the United States want the democratic government back in power. The Western powers have cut off both military and humanitarian aid to Mali until the democratically elected government is restored.

The reason this matters to a Western-mind is the War on Terrorism.  Mali claims the MNLA has ties to al Qaeda and other Islamist militias.  The MNLA denies this and says Mali is using the al Qaeda-card to scare Western powers to back Mali in its effort to reclaim the north.  Analysts disagree on whether or not the MNLA would make Azawad an al Qaeda-haven.  However, a growing power in Azawad is Ansar Dine, an openly Islamist militia which embraces al Qaeda ideology.  Ansar Dine is a rival to the MNLA as Ansar Dine seeks to create an Islamic State of Mali not limited to the Tuareg dominated north.

Azawad is currently universally unrecognized and the fear of Islamists gaining a foothold in Africa scares many important political powers.  In order to gain independence, Azawad-leaders first need to gain control of the country from local power leaders, warlords, and Islamists.  Then it needs to show a harmless figure to other political powers.  Only then will other countries recognize it.  This is only possible if Mali does not crush it first.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Congratulations to the 2012 National Geographic Bee Finalists

This post is dedicated to all those in 2012 who are National Geographic Bee Finalists.  Good luck this May! (And congratulations doing better than I ever did.  I only managed to get into the State Finals).

Be sure to check out earlier posts to where I linked to helpful study aids for this and any other geography bee.

Daniel Picard, 7th Grade, Berry Middle School, Hoover

Andrew Hull, 6th Grade, Rogers Park Elementary School, Anchorage

Raghav Ranga, 8th Grade, St. Gregory College Preparatory School, Tucson

Christian Boekhout, 6th Grade, Hot Springs Intermediate School, Hot Springs

Gilberto Marxaach, 8th Grade, Academia del Perpetuo Socorro, San Juan

Varun Mahadevan, 7th Grade, Prince of Peace Lutheran School, Fremont

Pranit Nanda, 6th Grade, Aurora Quest K-8 School, Aurora

Michael Borecki, 7th Grade, Middlesex Middle School, Darien

Tomasz Mroz, 5th Grade, North Star Elementary School, Hockesin

Dominik Muellerleile, 8th Grade, Wiesbaden Middle School, Wiesbaden, Germany

Matthew Wilson, 7th Grade, Blessed Sacrament School

Maya Patel, 8th Grade, Liberty Middle School, Tampa

Sahr Singh, 7th Grade, Dodgen Middle School, Marietta

Mika Ishii, 4th Grade, John Wilson Elementary School, Honolulu

Matthew Miller, 5th Grade, Russell Elementary School, Moscow

Conrad Oberhaus, 6th Grade, Daniel Wright Junior High School, Lincolnshire

Caroline Peterson, 8th Grade, St. Joseph County Homeschoolers, South Bend

John Mahoney, 7th Grade, Stillwell Junior High School, West Des Moines

Ganesh Aruna, 8th Grade, Overland Trail Middle School, Overland Park

Nikhil Krishna, 6th Grade, Corbin Intermediate School, Corbin

James Anthony Stoner, 8th Grade, Jesuit High School, New Orleans

Benjamin MacLean, 8th Grade, York Middle School, York

Adam Rusak, 8th Grade, Lakelands Park Middle School, Gaithersburg

Karthik Karnik, 8th Grade, King Philip Regional Middle School, Norfolk

Philip Huang, 6th Grade, Wayne County Home Educators, Farmington Hills

Gopi Ramanathan, 8th Grade, Sartell Middle School, Sartell

Josh Waldbieser, 8th Grade, Margaret Green Junior High School, Cleveland

Jack Langen, 8th Grade, West Junior High School, Columbia

Rosie McCormack, 8th Grade, St. Joseph Catholic School, Missoula

Jack Nussrallah, 6th Grade, Mary Our Queen School, Omaha

Nikolas Papameletiou, 8th Grade, St. Anne Catholic School, Las Vegas

Neelam Sandhu, 7th Grade, Ross A. Lurgio Middle School, Bedford

Siddharth Kurella, 8th Grade, Crossroads North Middle School, Monmouth Junction

Gabriel Cuneo, 6th Grade, Shepherd Lutheran School,  Albuquerque

Aparna Nair-Kanneganti, 8th Grade, Henry H. Wells Middle School, Brewster

William (Frank) Kenny, 8th Grade, Charlotte Latin School, Charlotte

Tanner Carlson, 7th Grade, Horizon Middle School, Bismarck

Hayden Toftner, 6th Grade, Olentangy Berkshire Middle School, Galena

Ari Papahronis, 7th Grade, Sequoyah Middle School, Edmond

Pragyna Naik, 6th Grade, Franklin K-8 School of Choice, Corvallis

Leonard Calvo, 7th Grade, Bishop Baumgartner Memorial Catholic School, Guam

Arnav Jagasia, 8th Grade, Radnor Middle School, Wayne

Maxwell Levine, 6th Grade, Wheeler School, Providence

Krish Patel, 6th Grade, Pinewood Preparatory School, Summerville

Adam Wiegert, 7th Grade, Patrick Henry Middle School, Sioux Falls

Alexander Wilaniskis, 7th Grade, East Ridge Middle School, Whitesburg

Rahul Nagveker, 8th Grade, Quail Valley Middle School, Missouri City

Anthony Cheng, 8th Grade, Midvale Middle School, Midvale

Christopher Gish, 8th Grade, Sharon Academy, Sharon

Kevin Zhan, 8th Grade, George H. Moody Middle School, Henrico

Nicholas Helmer, 8th Grade, Discovery Middle School, Vancouver

Andrew Christy, 6th Grade, St. Francis Central Catholic School, Morgantown

Vansh Jain, 8th Grade, MHLT Elementary School, Minocqua

August Prevedel, 8th Grade, Rock Springs Junior High School, Rock Springs

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Lost National Geographic Theme: Part I - The Discovery

The National Geographic Theme by Elmer Bernstein is the closest thing to an anthem geography has.  Just sit back and imagine the glories of geography for a moment as you listen:

This theme from 1966 has resonated through the imaginations of generations.  It ignites the spirit of discovery and exploration.  It is National Geographic.  However, it is not the first National Geographic theme. 

The local library I go to has a librarian whose personal hobby is collecting old sheet music.  During a recent trip he told me how he had a copy of the "National Geographic song from the 1930s."  Interested, I made a deal with him to trade some geography books in my personal collection for the sheet music.  It was a good deal.

Jackpot! Scan of the cover.
The sheet music is entitled "The National Geographic March" and was composed in 1936 by Thomas F. Darcy Jr in 1936.  Darcy was the head of the United States Army Band during the time of the composition and had a long career in the military and military music.  The march was dedicated to then National Geographic President Gilbert Grosvenor.  While there is no official stamp of National Geographic approval in the booklet the name, cover, and dedication somesort of de facto approval.

Currently I am contacting people I know in National Geographic to see if there is any historian office I can contact about this music.  However, from personal knowledge, old National Geographic contacts, and an extensive internet search I believe National Geographic has forgotten this piece of music.

Sadly the music is beyond my piano playing "abilities" which my mother tried so hard to teach me.  I am trying to get some personal contacts to play the music for recording and sharing.  The sheet music is embeded below and I am willing to e-mail anyone a copy if they can aid in creating a computer music file or uploading a video of them performing the piece onto YouTube.

I will post any updates on my effort to find out more about this music and hopefully share the sound of this music so it can be heard again after being apparently lost to time.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Scriptural Way of the Cross Map

In 1991 Pope John Paul II created the Scriptural Way of the Cross, stations of the cross modeled solely on the Biblical account of Jesus' death.  The Scriptural Way of the Cross was not a replacement for the traditional Stations of the Cross (link to my Google Maps mashup of the traditional way) but another method to focus on Christ's passion.

Some of the more radical traditionalist Catholics do not like the Scriptural Way of the Cross because it is new and therefore somesort of neo-Protestant, Catholic-light plot.  One complaint I have heard against the scriptural version by a traditionalist was that unlike the traditional Way of the Cross the new way did not have actually, geographic locations associated with it.

This, however, is not true.  Below I have made a Google Map of the Scriptural Way of the Cross with the Bible passage associated with them.  This map can give geographic minded Christians something to meditate on this Holy Week.

View Scriptural Way of the Cross in a larger map

Traditional Stations of the Cross Map, How the Stations Came to Be, and Jerusalem's Mixed Reputation

View Larger Map

The above map, made by me, shows the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked with his cross.  Each marker is one of the fourteen traditional stations.

The Stations of the Cross is based after one of the earliest Christian pilgrimage practices: walking the path Jesus did on his way to be crucified.  Those who could not travel to Jerusalem recreated the important part of the city by making stations in churches and other places so one could walk and mediate on Jesus' final trek without the dangerous and/or costly journey.

I say "important part" because early Christianity had a love-hate relationship with the place now known as the "Holy City."  On the positive Jerusalem had the first church council, where it was declared one does not have to be a Jew to be Christian, and one of the main patriarchs of the united Church was the head of the Church of Jerusalem.

However, the city Jerusalem had major baggage for Christians.  Jesus himself let out a statement of despair about how Jerusalem could have been great but for its unwillingness to follow God:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? (Mathew 23:37)

The Apostles did their best to get away from Jerusalem.  The first few martyred died around Jerusalem while the rest managed to spread out.

View Where the 12 Apostles Died in a larger map

Jerusalem's patriarch was the minor player in the biggest league (Antioch had the scholars, Alexandria had the theologians, and Rome had the power).  No major Church Father argued for Jerusalem to be the center of Christendom and the Church.

Jerusalem remained a sort of backwater even after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  The Temple Mount remained primarily ruins as Christianity taught Jesus and the Church were the new temple.  The site of the old temple had little meaning.  When Helena, Emperor Constantine's mother, allegedly found holy relics of Jesus they were not enshrined in the Holy City but instead taken out.  The universal faith kept the capital of David on the back burner.

It took the fall of Jerusalem to Muslim forces for the status of Jerusalem to rise in the Christian mind. Since then, from before the Crusades up until today, many Christian pilgrims have made their way to Jerusalem.  Walking along the Way of the Cross is one of the main attractions that many still do.  And Christians around the world, including an increasing number of Protestants, continue to do the first virtual pilgrimage every year by mediating along the Stations of the Cross.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April 2012 Travel Photo: Cherry Blossoms of Washington D.C.

The Cherry Blossom Trees of Washington DC's tidal basin bloom only for one week in the early spring.  The blooming event has turned into a huge tourist/local celebration for Washington.

View Larger Map

The cherry blossom trees were a gift of friendship from the government of Imperial Japan to the people of the United States in 1912.  However, few know that National Geographic's writer Eliza Scidmore, who's duties brought her to Japan, was instrumental in pushing for cherry blossom trees to be planted near the tidal basin due to the beautiful water reflections they cast.

Today cherry blossom trees are found throughout the United States, as well as Japan of course, and continue to symbolize the start of spring for many.

"The Most Beautiful Tree in Japan" from the July 1914 edition of National Geographic shows National Geographic's early use of colored-in photographs and is one of the magazine's many ties with Japanese cherry blossom trees.