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Al Knows US

This week’s New Yorker has an article by staff writer John Colapinto on the newest US senator (and my college classmate), Al Franken. I haven’t read the article yet. It just appeared online today, and I’d rather wait to get the print version. But I’ve looked at an accompanying blog post by Colapinto in which he compiles video clips of Franken and of the senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar.

The first clip, which I’ve provided above, is of an appearance by Franken and his comedy partner Tom Davis on Letterman in 1987. Colapinto notes that “Anyone who doubts Franken’s patriotism—and I suspect some people at Fox News do—should go to the 6:36 mark, where you can see Franken draw a map of the United States, freehand, in less than two minutes.” I’m not entirely sure what this has to do with patriotism, but I must say, I’m impressed. Do watch, starting at that 6:36 mark.

I know the layout of the 48 contiguous states as well as the next guy. Point to any one of them and I’ll tell you instantly what it is. But Franken does something more challenging. He draws them all from scratch. Even the blocky states of the west can be a little tricky. Take the 42nd parallel for instance. It’s the border between Oregon and California. But Oregon is wide (west to east) and California is narrow. What’s next? Nevada of course, on the south side. But just how far east does it run? Where does Idaho come in on the north. And Utah to the east of Nevada on the south. And how does Wyoming fit into Utah to the east of Idaho? When I see it on a map, it all makes sense, but I would have some trouble reproducing it freehand.

Not Al. Have a look.

Categories: Geography, Politics
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