Thursday, January 04, 2007

On meridians (sort of), and a "charmingly ramshackle agglomeration" of links

As you'll see below, I've recently been bumping into lots of posts about places by my blogging betters, and all that talk reminded me of this graphic, which I'd used in an earlier post but hadn't said anything about. Well, that, combined with the fact that someone recently found this blog via a Google search for "muse of Wichita, Kansas." Just know that I laughed at that long before
you did.

This map purports to show the ISP locations of bloggers throughout the world (click here to see a larger image). What's immediately striking to me about this map is the relatively-empty space down the center of the US, another sort of continental divide. What's even more striking about it is that the well-defined eastern side of that space almost exactly corresponds with the location of the 100th meridian, the longitude that happens to correspond, more or less, with the boundary between the moister and drier sides of the nation (more here for the curious, including a new (to me) word, "isohyet"). More symbolically, though, the line came to signify in the late-19th and 20th-century American consciousness a kind of frontier: life to the west of that line would be harsher because more at the mercy of the extremes of heat, of cold, of drought and cloudbursts. That land would be destined to be sparsely populated because of those facts. It also happens to be, one critic has speculated, the meridian the title of Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian makes reference to. Finally, the 100th meridian runs through Kansas--just to the west of Dodge City, in fact.

Of course I wasn't thinking of the 100th meridian when I named this blog. But of late, my own posts about the idea of place and those of others I've read make me wonder, given that relative lack of bloggers to the west of Wichita (something that members of the Kansas Guild of Bloggers have noted in the past), about the relative absence from this blog of Kansas-centric posts, whether that is something to be remedied. I would hope my readers would find such posts to be of interest; apart from
that, though, they would give this blog a stronger sense of location in a physical space, as opposed to a virtual one.

Something to muse on.

But for now, below the fold, that promised "charmingly ramshackle agglomeration":

That phrase, by the way, is from Conrad Roth, who used it to describe the post below this one. It so happens that his blog, Varieties of Unreligious Experience, is celebrating its first anniversary. Conrad and his wife took an end-of-year trip to the Bay Area, and while there he took the time to write and post three lengthy photo-essays of his jaunts in SanFranciso and Berkeley. Here and here are the accounts of two, very different trips through San Francisco; and here Conrad wanders about the Art Deco mecca that is Berkeley (who knew??) and recounts a feast at his hosts' house that will make your tastebuds dance.

Speaking of both place and the Bay Area, I have linked to posts in Camille's blog, 327 Market, before. What is intriguing about her blog is that, though she doesn't hide the fact that she lives in the Bay Area, she refers to specific towns in the area by using names she has invented for them that evoke, for her, some sense of what that place is like. It's a pretty nifty palimpsest. At any rate, a while back she initiated a series of posts called The 327 Gazetteer that describe and provide some of the history of these different places. They are all worth reading, worth scrolling to the bottom of her page to find the links, but her most recent post, "The Hamlet," is especially striking in its intimate treatment of this place . . . wherever it is.

Hank's posts at his blog, A Lake County Point of View, are (usually) less about place than they are attempts to restore or remind us of the origins of things and how, more often than not, language, its etymologies functioning like Proust's madeleine cakes, serves as both the record of and the connection to those origins. Sometimes they are about various places, though, some accidentally arrived at, as in his marvelous post, "Garden Clocks I, or: Finding the Time to Garden." Shorter Hank: if it had not been not for people trying to grow things, we'd never have needed to invent time. But read the whole thing, as they say. Meanwhile, though, "Migrating to Modern II(?)" defies easy summation. It's ostensibly about art, which Hank professes to know nothing about, but it's also about, in no particular order, the various associations the color blue has had over time, beer, Yves Klein, modernism, representation, music, naked women, and a memorable adventure in aesthetic experimentation with a woman named "Muffin or something." I almost forgot to mention the footnotes-within-footnotes, whose corkscrewy convolutions are integral to this whole crazy carnival of a post. You'll end up learning something, too. The year is very young, I know, but this post will be difficult to top for Best Post I've Read in 2007.

Speaking of time and place, in this post Winston of Nobody Asked . . . talks about a place we've all only now begun to visit: 2007. It's an inspiring reminder to us to be mindful of leftover business from the past year(s) but not feel burdened or confined by it.

And speaking of art and place, I'll conclude this collection by urging you to visit a blog that Conrad links to but which I visited for the first time today, Heaven Tree. This blog is the work of a fellow who lives in Thailand and goes by Gawain and focuses on discussions of Asian arts and cultures (along with attempts to identify cross-cultural similarities between Asian and Western art), aesthetics and taste, philosophy, history, etc., etc., etc. The posts are long but elegantly written and approachable, and you'll feel smarter without feeling as though you've been talked down to. A good starting place would be his recent post, "Some familiar unfamilar Chinese theories of painting." Given my utter ignorance of Chinese painting, it means nothing to say that I learned much from that post, but what's truly instructive are the links Gawain makes between Chinese theory and Western ones. Gawain does an admirable job of making the unfamilar a bit less so.

I hope you enjoy what you find in these very different places.


j.d. said...

Also, I can't help but notice how long the KGB blogroll has gotten.

Ariel said...

Your observations on about the 100th meridian line are fascinating. (And the McCarthy reference reminds me that I have the last two books in the Border Trilogy waiting on my shelf...)

On the topic of "place," I think this blog has a distinct Kansas flavor, but I'd argue that your Stretch of River posts define it even more strongly in a "spatial sense."

Conrad H. Roth said...

It may be worth noting that what you see as the location of your readers is not necessarily at all accurate--what you see is the location of the user's 'name server', which may be across the country. When my Berkeley family view my blog, for instance, it shows up as New Jersey. The white line in the middle of your map may indicate only the absence of central servers there... But I shouldn't let that spoil your poetry!

John Baker said...

Very interesting post. I can see I'm going to have to return here and read more.

Winston said...

Thanks for the eddication. Examining a blowup of the map, I spotted something that to me was quite curious. Look at the Aleutians. There appears to be an ISP on every rock sticking out of the water between Alaska and the Asian continent.

Will come back by and explore some of the links you offer as time permits.

John B. said...

Thanks to all of you for visiting and for your generous comments.

j.d.-The blogroll is long, but unfortunately many of those folks' blogs are either moribund or just no longer exist. So, like western Kansas, the roll is becoming depopulated.

Ariel, sometimes it's hard to see what one's writing is doing for anyone other than oneself, so I need to think about your observations. What I had in mind when I said that in this post was that there are a couple of specific-to-Wichita things I've thought were worth devoting some attention to here that, for whatever reason, I've just not sat down to write about. But the weekend yawns emptily, so . . .

Conrad, now there you go, trying to spoil my stout-Cortéz-silent-on-a-peak-in-Darien moment. When I saw the map, I'd assumed that what was being plotted were GPS locations for computers and not server locations.

John, welcome sir. I'm pleased to know you found something worthy of your attention here. I took the liberty of visiting your blog, and I see you're an honest-to-goodness writer. I look forward to returning to your place as well.

Winston, that which you note about the Aleutians was fascinating to me as well. The other big observation I'd make is that, before I saw this map, I would have thought Brazil and the Philippines would be much redder than they appear here, judging from the number of blogs from those places that I've seen. The map makes pretty clear, though, that this whole Internet thing we think is enmeshing the world still has a ways to go.