S-Town, Maps, and the Passage of Time

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re considering or are just starting to listen to S-Town, don’t read further unless you’ve listened to at least as far as the very end of the second episode.

I mean it.

OK, here we go.

Like John B. McLemore, the man at the center of the S-Town podcast, I’m obsessed with time. Well, maybe not as obsessed with it as he is. But I’m always thinking about it.

Another obsession I have, that we have not, at least by mid-episode 3, heard is (or, rather, was — there’s the first spoiler) shared by John B., is with maps.

(I’m calling him “John B.” rather than just “John” because that’s what the people who were close to him call him. I’m not sure if he liked that or not, but I’ll assume he was OK with it.)

I had already read enough in a review, not to mention on the S-Town website itself, to know that someone else in the story actually dies, and that this most likely would be revealed at the end of episode 2. And, with the heavy foreshadowing early in that episode, it was not much of a surprise to me when it happened — who, or how. (Yes, even the method, which is revealed early in episode 3. That’s foreshadowed too.)

This is a true story of a real person’s life, so I am not trying to make light of it. I felt a genuine loss, and I’ve only known about this person for a few hours.

But let’s go back in time a bit.

I listened to episode 1, and the first 15 minutes of episode 2, when I was out running. I ended up listening to the rest of episode 2 in bed last night, finishing it well after midnight. But before I listened to that final half hour, I spent at least as long looking at satellite views of Woodstock, Alabama in the Apple Maps app on my iPhone… hunting for John B.’s hedge maze. I knew I was close when I spotted the South 40 trailer park that had been mentioned in episode 1.

I might have saved myself some time by searching on the latitude and longitude coordinates rattled off in episode 1 — curiously specific, I thought, even though producer Brian Reed had edited out the last bit, to respect John B.’s privacy. That struck me as odd right away… and also seemed to be a bit of foreshadowing, that maybe John B.’s privacy didn’t really matter so much now.

As I was saying, I might have saved myself some time, but I didn’t feel like going back and hunting for the exact spot in episode 1 where the coordinates were named. More fun to just explore the satellite images until I spotted a circular hedge maze in the woods.

But that wasn’t the first thing I spotted. First I spotted John B.’s school buses… the ones Brian Reed said he was using to age lumber. There were three now, not two. I panned a bit to the west and saw the house, then north and there it was… the hedge maze.

John B.’s house, school buses and hedge maze, from Apple Maps satellite view.

Excited by my discovery, I took to social media. Then I decided to see if anyone else on Twitter had possibly found the maze as well. Of course they had.

Except… wow. That looks a lot different. At first I was second guessing that maybe @RASEC29 had found the wrong maze… or that I had.

John B.’s property as seen in Google Maps.

I mean… where were the school buses? And the house… it looks… so overgrown.

That’s when I knew.

The satellite images in map apps aren’t dated (although I think that may be changing), so I have no idea exactly when these different images were taken. I don’t know if John B. was still alive in the Apple one, or if it’s just that the buses hadn’t yet been cleared away, the maze abandoned, the yard overgrown. And in the light of day, with a better view on my computer, the land doesn’t seem quite as devastated in the later photo as it did when I saw it at around midnight, on my iPhone screen. It’s a different time of year, and a different time of day. Things are brown instead of green, shadows fall in a different direction.

But clearly, time has passed, things have changed, John B.’s world has decayed, much as he obsessed over.

I have so many more things I would like to say, but… time. Also, I’m not even halfway through the series yet, so there is much I still don’t know that is yet to be revealed. Or not.

So I’ll leave it at this. As the quote on John B.’s astrolabe reads, life is “tedious, and brief.” I’m sorry John B. never made it out of his Shit Town, if that’s what he really wanted to do, but I’m glad he shared his story. And I hope he’s wrong about, you know, everything being doomed.

Update: Several other people have now replied to @RASEC29, including @tifotter, who has posted dated images from Google Earth:

Apparently there is now a sprawling metropolis in northwestern North Dakota, or… something

As any regular reader of this irregularly-updated blog knows, I love maps. That I didn’t become a cartographer is mainly a result of the times in which we live, although given the tech geekery of GIS, it’s still not a convincing explanation.

Anyway, as a map lover, I geeked out today when The Atlantic Wire had a post about new nighttime satellite imagery released by NASA, including this amazing “map” of the US, with its major metropolitan areas aglow with artificial luminescence.

Knowing the US map as well as I do, I was immediately able to pick out most of the major cities. Starting with my home in Minneapolis, I proceeded to identify Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, etc.

And that’s when it hit me. I know there’s no major US metropolitan area between Minneapolis and Seattle. So… what is that huge glowing area in what appears to be northwestern North Dakota? I wondered. Atlantic Wire’s Dashiell Bennett wondered the same thing, and came to the same conclusion as I did:

One thing that sticks out for us is the surprisingly large bright spot in what appears to be an otherwise dark North Dakota. Could that be the state’s exploding oil industry working overtime?

I’ve created an animated GIF illustrating the situation. Using the NASA photo published on the Atlantic Wire post, I overlaid a map outlining the state boundaries, dropped in markers for some recognizable cities in the western US and Canada, and then… that big weird area in North Dakota.

I decided to take a closer look at just what is around that huge glowing area in North Dakota. I zoomed the satellite photo and overlaid it on another map outlining counties and rivers in North Dakota to try to make sense of it. Surely North Dakota’s population centers must be near all of that light, right?

Not so.

At this level of zoom, on Google Maps, only four towns in the entire western half of the state are populous enough to be identified: Williston, Minot, Dickinson and Bismarck. And of those four, only Williston (population 14,716, according to the 2010 census) is in the glowing area.

So… yeah. This light is not coming from a city. At least, not a well-planned, livable city densely populated with humans. I’m no expert on the topic, but I am well aware of North Dakota’s current shale oil boom and the controversies of the hydraulic fracking techniques that must be used to extract it from the earth. It’s just kind of interesting, I think, to see yet another consequence of fracking: light pollution.

For further reading… well, just Google “Williston fracking”.

The Minnesota inferiority complex (and major league sports)

Twins UnderdogI love maps. I love charts. I love rankings. I love comparing the quantitative differences between major cities. I don’t know why I love this stuff; I just do. So bear with me while I geek out on this a little.

Minnesotans (at least, I think it goes beyond me individually) sometimes have an inferiority complex, especially those of us who live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. We are a major city, the 16th largest metro area in the country. We have a diverse and strong economy, with a prominent national and international role in medical technology, arts and design, retail and manufacturing. We have an excellent arts community, and the highest number of theaters per capita of any American city besides New York. We have excellent parks and recreational opportunities. And, as I’ll get to in a minute, we have teams in all four major league sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL). In short, this is a great American metro area, and the gem of the upper Midwest.

And yet, we feel inferior. We feel inferior to Chicago. We feel ignored by the rest of the country, who think of this only as a place too cold to ever visit, much less live in. (Never mind the fact that in July and August this place can be unbearably hot, and we typically experience warm weather from April to October.)

I was reflecting on this today, partly as I marveled at the fact that the comparatively tiny city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has managed to retain an NFL team since the league’s inception (though that’s mainly due to their unique ownership arrangements). I thought about how it always seems like our sports teams are the ridiculed underdogs, occasionally openly dismissed by sportscasters despite their successes. (I’m thinking particularly of the loathsome Cris Collinsworth and his generally disdainful commentary on the Vikings’ pair of ignoble defeats on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in recent weeks.)

I also think about this a lot whenever talk of one of our major league teams relocating comes up. There are frequent cries that this market is simply too small to sustain the teams it has. Never mind the fact that in every one of the leagues its four major teams participate in, Minneapolis-St. Paul is above the median market size (even ignoring Green Bay). We are one of only 13 markets with teams in all four sports. And I think we deserve to keep it that way. But I wanted to have a more complete picture of how the leagues and the markets they “live” in break down, so I created a table. I found the 50 largest metro areas in the country, and compiled data on the number of teams each has in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. I decided to throw in MLS too, since it’s growing rapidly in popularity (not that you’d know it around here). Here’s what I came up with:

Rank City Population NFL MLB NBA NHL MLS Total
1 New York, NY 19,006,798 2 2 2 3 1 10
2 Los Angeles, CA1 12,872,808 2 2 2 2 8
3 Chicago, IL 9,569,624 1 2 1 1 1 6
4 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX 6,300,006 1 1 1 1 1 5
5 Philadelphia, PA 5,838,471 1 1 1 1 1 (2010) 5
6 Houston, TX 5,728,143 1 1 1 1 4
7 Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL 5,414,772 1 1 1 1 4
8 Atlanta, GA 5,376,285 1 1 1 1 4
9 Washington, DC 5,358,130 1 1 1 1 1 5
10 Boston, MA 4,522,858 1 1 1 1 1 5
11 Detroit, MI2 4,425,110 1 1 1 1 4
12 Phoenix, AZ 4,281,899 1 1 1 1 4
13 San Francisco/Oakland, CA3 4,274,531 2 2 1 5
14 Inland Empire, CA4 4,115,871 0
15 Seattle, WA5 3,344,813 1 1 1 3
16 Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN 3,229,878 1 1 1 1 4
17 San Diego, CA 3,001,072 1 1 2
18 St. Louis, MO 2,816,710 1 1 1 3
19 Tampa Bay, FL 2,733,761 1 1 1 3
20 Baltimore, MD 2,667,117 1 1 2
21 Denver, CO6 2,506,626 1 1 1 1 1 5
22 Pittsburgh, PA 2,351,192 1 1 1 3
23 Portland, OR 2,207,462 1 1 (2011) 2
24 Cincinnati, OH 2,155,137 1 1 2
25 Sacramento, CA 2,109,832 1 1
26 Cleveland, OH 2,088,291 1 1 1 3
27 Orlando, FL 2,054,574 1 1
28 San Antonio, TX 2,031,445 1 1
29 Kansas City, MO 2,002,047 1 1 1 3
30 Las Vegas, NV7 1,865,746 0
31 San Jose, CA 1,819,198 1 1 2
32 Columbus, OH 1,773,120 1 1 2
33 Indianapolis, IN 1,715,459 1 1 2
34 Charlotte, NC 1,701,799 1 1 2
35 Hampton Roads, VA8 1,658,292 0
36 Austin, TX 1,652,602 0
37 Providence, RI 1,596,611 0
38 Nashville, TN 1,550,733 1 1 2
39 Milwaukee, WI9 1,549,308 1 1 2
40 Jacksonville, FL 1,313,228 1 1
41 Memphis, TN 1,285,732 1 1
42 Louisville, KY 1,244,696 0
43 Richmond, VA 1,225,626 0
44 Oklahoma City, OK 1,206,142 1 1
45 Hartford, CT 1,190,512 0
46 New Orleans, LA10 1,134,029 1 1 2
47 Buffalo, NY 1,124,309 1 1 2
48 Birmingham, AL 1,117,608 0
49 Salt Lake City, UT 1,115,692 1 1 2
50 Raleigh, NC 1,088,765 1 1

An interesting list, and it led to a few surprising observations:

1. There are the “old” major cities and the “new” major cities. Strong representation among the major sports leagues — especially the older NFL and MLB — is more common among older, more established cities, even though they may be on the decline in recent decades, like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Kansas City. On the other hand, cities that have grown substantially in recent decades (even though they may be very old cities) typically either have no major league teams, or if they do, their teams tend to be in the newer (or more recently-expanded) NBA, NHL and MLS: cities like Las Vegas, San Antonio, Austin and Orlando.

2. Certain sports are more established in different regions. All of the sports seem to have their greatest representation in the oldest and most densely populated region of the country: the Northeast. But that area is especially well-represented in the NFL, whereas the NFL’s representation in the South is more sparse and newer — expansion teams like Jacksonville and Carolina — which may be due to college football’s comparatively strong popularity in the South. The rapid expansion of the NHL and NBA over the past 20 years has also led to more teams in markets in the South and West that have not typically been home to major sports franchises.

3. Major sports teams make a “major” city. Cities that have major league sports teams — especially those cities with multiple teams — seem bigger and more “important” than those that don’t, regardless of their relative populations. This is highly subjective, I realize, and maybe it’s just my own impression of those cities. But I think the frequent national exposure a city receives as a result of hosting a major team (especially an NFL team, as this is clearly the biggest “event” sport in the country today) creates a nationwide impression of that city as being major in a way that almost nothing else can. (Perhaps this is why we in Minneapolis-St. Paul fight so hard for our status as a “major league” city, and why our governor once compared a Vikings-less Minnesota unfavorably to Des Moines, Iowa.)

Consider for a moment your relative impression of Austin, Texas to that of Milwaukee. Which one seems like a more “major” city to you? Now compare their populations on the chart. Or, compare your impression of New Orleans to Providence, Rhode Island. (I think the fact that I feel compelled to name the state of the city without a major sports team in both of these examples says it all.)

It’s a big reason why all of the sports teams in Minnesota use “Minnesota” in their names instead of “Minneapolis.” Until the Wild arrived in St. Paul, it would have been accurate to discuss the Minneapolis Twins, Minneapolis Vikings and Minneapolis Timberwolves, but what would that do to St. Paul’s reputation and self-image? It’s bad enough as it is.

Addendum: After writing this post, I discovered a handy and closely-related chart on Wikipedia listing US and Canadian cities by number of professional sports teams. Of note: the only city in the United States that is not in this list of the top 50 but is home to a major sports team is, of course, Green Bay. Nine Canadian cities have at least one team in these “American” sports leagues (mostly NHL). There are a few variances in the population rankings comprising this list vs. those I used for my list. Some may be simply out-of-date, but others may be based on different interpretations of what constitutes a metro area. Most notable in this regard is that San Jose is typically considered part of the San Francisco Bay Area rather than a distinct metro area.


1 Los Angeles did, of course, have two NFL teams for many years, until the Raiders returned to Oakland and the Rams fled to St. Louis, of all places, after the 1994 season.

2 Detroit fascinates me for many reasons, not least of which being its ability to hang on to both its four major sports teams and its 11th place ranking (though it’s slipped from its one-time peak at number 3) among major U.S. metro areas.

3 San Francisco’s position at number 13, along with its lack of NHL and MLS teams, may appear somewhat arbitrary; I’ve typically seen San Jose lumped into the same Combined Statistical Area, bumping it up to sixth place and, along the way, giving it San Jose’s NHL and MLS teams.

4 The Inland Empire lacks any major sports teams, true. It also lacks any kind of cohesive center or place of relevance (beyond jokes about funny-sounding place names like Rancho Cucamonga) in the minds of anyone besides its residents. Having lived there myself (in Claremont and Upland) for a little over two years in the late ’90s, I take that personally. It is most especially ignored by those who live in the Greater Los Angeles Area west of the San Jose Hills.

5 I still can’t believe the Supersonics ended up in Oklahoma City. That’s crazier than the Rams going to St. Louis.

6 Denver’s the smallest city with full representation in the five major league sports. But given that Denver is the outpost of metropolitanism for several states — I can attest from first-hand experience that there are people in northeastern Montana whose “local” TV channels are the Denver affiliates — its radius of influence significantly exceeds its immediate physical region.

7 While it’s true that the rapid growth of the Las Vegas metro area over the past 20 years may explain its lack of major sports franchises, the reluctance of the leagues to become (ah-hem, openly) involved in the world of sports gambling is also a well-known factor.

8 Hampton Roads probably suffers mainly from an identity crisis. Officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News MSA, a name that doesn’t really roll off the tongue, Hampton Roads is one of the oldest established population centers in the country, but it doesn’t seem to have the requisite prominent central city to attach sports teams to. However, it does look like Norfolk has come close to acquiring at least one major team in recent years. (Unfortunately I lost that citation among the mountain of links I clicked on to compile this list.)

9 I never realized Milwaukee was so far down on this list. I guess that’s what having a well-known Major League Baseball team for decades will do for a city.

10 And I’m really surprised New Orleans is this far down on the list, even after the population drop in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Fear of a Blank Planet

No, I’m not referring to the most recent Porcupine Tree album (although I do highly recommend it). I am referring to my rather strange phobia.

This fear — well, not really so much a fear as just a source of inexplicable anxiety — is something that’s been with me for so long (and is so inconsequential most of the time) that I scarcely think about it, and even more scarcely ever think about how weird it is. But today in conversation with a couple of co-workers, I happened to mention it for some reason, and I really think they thought I was nuts.

So what is this phobia of mine? I’m afraid of blank spaces on maps. What does this mean exactly? It means that studying a map, and letting my eyes drift off into an unmarked void (or even worse, scrolling Google Maps to a point where recognizable features disappear) freaks the shit out of me. It’s even worse when I have Google Maps in aerial view, and I scroll off into open water, or God forbid, zoom in to a level where they don’t have any photos. (And don’t even talk to me about the cheese on Google Moon!) I’m immediately overcome with a visceral agitation at the site of, well… nothing, and I have to scroll the map back to civilization (or at least non-nothingness) or close the window immediately.

I searched for any sign online of anyone else with this particular quirk, but came up empty. The promising term “cartophobia” turned out to refer to the much more mundane (and much more understandable, I suppose) “fear” of maps in the sense that a person is intimidated by maps and doesn’t understand how to read them. My problem, I think, is precisely the opposite: I love maps and can study their minutiae in detail for hours. And I think that is exactly why “voids” on the maps freak me out so much… it’s like stepping into non-existence.

Although I don’t know the date, I can pinpoint the first moment in my life when I was struck by this fear: I was probably around 10 or 11, and my parents had gotten me a large poster-sized map of the world, for which I was quite grateful. I enthusiastically unrolled it and began examining it in detail. After what was probably several hours, I got ready to put it away, and then I made that most dreadful mistake: I looked at the blank reverse side. It’s nearly impossible to convey this in a way that doesn’t sound completely stupid, or that effectively communicates the apocalyptic panic that ensued. It really felt like I was staring right into the heart of nothingness, like the universe didn’t exist.

Certainly this phobia of mine is a minor inconvenience at best. It is not incapacitating in any way. As I said, I rarely think of it, and although I think I’ve talked to SLP about it, this is probably the first time I’ve ever mentioned it to anyone else in my entire life. But still, it’s real. And still, I wonder if anyone else has ever experienced it.

A Virtual Tour of the Salton Sea

I’ve always been fascinated with maps, and with studying all of the intricate details of various random places on the planet. Perhaps the one place that has provided me with more morbid fascination than any other, though, is the Salton Sea.

Most people who know me well have already been regaled with tales of the bizarre origins and even more bizarre current state of the nation’s largest cesspool. I’ll leave it to you and Google to learn more on your own. I do hope someday to get around to scanning the photos an old California acquaintance took for me there, though: countless dead fish washed up on a foul beach; the rusted-out shell of a half-submerged bus; and more scenes too depressing and/or disturbing for words.

But back on the topic of Google, one of the great wonders of “Web 2.0” (the quotes aren’t part of the name, but they should be) is Google Maps, particularly the satellite image feature. While I find it somewhat disturbing that Google makes available to any lunatic with Internet access a fairly detailed aerial photograph of my house, I love being able to use it to vicariously explore areas that would either be too expensive or impractical to visit for real.

Sadly, it’s too late for vicarious exploration of the Salton Sea, at least parts of it. My curiosity got the best of me (and SLP), and I actually dragged her along on a day-long trek to that God-forsaken hell hole back when we lived in Southern California in the late 1990s. But we only explored the eastern shore, specifically the Salton Sea State “Recreational” Area (quotes mine) and the “lovely” village (quotes no one’s) of Bombay Beach. The bitter remnants of foolhardy land developers’ shattered dreams in the western shore towns of Desert Shores and Salton City are far superior in their desolation. (That said, there was still a moment in Bombay Beach, while driving along the nearly abandoned waterfront, where I was on the verge of a panic attack after being overcome with dread and foreboding.)

Here’s good place (Fig. 1) to start our virtual aerial tour of Desert Shores. Both Desert Shores and Salton City present some indication of the scope of those aforementioned shattered dreams in the form of pointless grids of unused dirt roads stretching a considerable distance inland from the shore.

Figure 1
Figure 1.

But the waterfront is still the most fascinating — and terrifying — place for me. Note the artificial peninsulas jutting into the water, perfectly designed for primo waterfront property with boat access. Oh but wait, most of the peninsulas are completely featureless, save for the discolorations left behind by the mobile homes (Fig. 2) that, at some time in the distant past, had once been there. (Mobile home footprints are pretty easy to figure out… but I have no idea what the hell happened here [Fig. 3].)

Figure 2
Figure 2.
Figure 3
Figure 3.

Of course, some hardy souls won’t be dissuaded so easily by the fear of others, the lack of any semblance of a viable local economy, or the putrid stench of decay that blankets the area. Here we see a (relatively) thriving street (Fig. 4) with three lavish compounds, one with a swimming pool (why?) and another with a tennis court.

Figure 4
Figure 4.

And what can I even say about this image (Fig. 5)? Here, at the end of the most miserable stretch of waterfront property in the known universe, it appears someone has parked their car for some nefarious purpose. My theory is that it was a suicide, perhaps decades ago, and I may be the first person since the event to notice that the car is even there.

Figure 5
Figure 5.

See how depressing this place is? I’m 2000 miles away and it’s making me lose the will to live.

Moving on… on a lighter note, I believe I’ve found the thriving commercial hub of Desert Shores (Fig. 6). (The Sea and Sun Motel is likely nearby.) Just off the four-lane (I know, I can’t believe it either) highway that skirts the western edge of the town, I see several cars and a few semi trucks. And a large building with two large, empty parking lots. But there’s a lot of activity across the street to the south! Oh wait, I think that’s a junkyard.

Figure 6
Figure 6.

There is one segment of the tourist market that is drawn to the area: the kind of people for whom this sort of landscape (Fig. 7) inspires excitement. Much of the desert wasteland of inland Southern California — south of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, north of the heavily irrigated Imperial Valley agricultural area (an artificially lush area whose early and ongoing development were largely responsible for both the initial and accidental creation of the Salton Sea and for its perpetually increasing putrescence), and east of any place a rational person would ever care to venture — is designated for recreational use of the kinds of loud, heavily polluting, generally obnoxious all-terrain vehicles that are rightly banned throughout the vast majority of civilization.

Figure 7
Figure 7.

So, let us conclude today’s lesson geography lesson on this positive note: for every crazy place on Earth, there’s some crazy person who will like being there.

For instance (you knew I couldn’t just leave it at that): Moving a hundred miles or so to the northwest, here we have a look at an interesting stretch of the Cajon Pass (Fig. 8). You’ll notice four distinct bands of pavement here. The two on the right — four lanes in each direction — are Interstate 15, the main route connecting the greater Los Angeles metro area to the High Desert cities and on to Las Vegas. The two on the left are “Historic Route 66,” now San Bernardino County Road 66.

Figure 8
Figure 8.

But wait, look closely! Back before I-15 was there, Route 66 was a divided 4-lane, but now that’s clearly superfluous, and San Bernardino County has decommissioned half of the road and turned it back into a 2-lane. I once drove this stretch on a return trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles where I decided (insanely, as it turned out — almost worthy of a resident of Desert Shores) to eschew the Interstates and see if it was still possible to make the trip entirely on alternate routes. My idea was that I’d follow Historic Route 66 as much as possible, but I discovered somewhere in the vast stretches of desert east of Barstow that while the road technically still existed, it was no longer maintained. I also discovered just how much damage scorching desert sun can do to pavement in a couple of decades. So before long I was back on I-40, but as soon as 66 was passable again, I exited the Interstate. So here it was in the Cajon Pass that I discovered the curiosity that is the decommissioned half of Route 66. The pavement is still in relatively good condition, albeit overgrown with weeds. The maintained 2-lane is excellent and a joy to drive compared to the exercise in anxiety that I-15 poses (with speeds averaging 85 to 90 MPH in the slow lane, and perpetually heavy traffic). But the decommissioned half is far more interesting. There are many median crossings, and although the road is no longer open to traffic, the county makes no effort to keep people off of it. I noticed a surprising number of sad looking old men sitting alone in their parked cars in shady spots, staring up at the trees… the mountain… the sky… the drifting memory of an idealized past, gone forever.

A note on the images contained on this page: These are screen captures from Google Maps. I realize these are copyrighted, and I am making no attempt to pawn them off as my own. The only reason I’m including them instead of just linking to Google Maps (which I am also doing) is because as I learned when I sent one of the links to a friend, the image on Google Maps is cropped to the size of your browser window, so despite the coordinates I’ve set, what you see may not be exactly what I was intending for you to see. So, in other words, yes, I copied these images from Google Maps, but it’s their own fault. And they should also remember that the only money I make off this site, pitiful as it is, comes from their own ad service, so they’re making money here anyway… surely more than I am.

A note on the Salton Sea itself: I’ve just learned that there’s a documentary out now called Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer and narrated by John Waters. I have not seen it but it looks interesting, and is probably more enlightening on the nature of the place than spending an hour looking at satellite photos. I just hope it includes a visit to the site of Figure 3. (The link to the trailer on the official site doesn’t seem to work, but I found it on YouTube.)

Addendum (October 30, 2006): While there is (obviously) plenty to talk about just within the Desert Shores area, I would be remiss if I neglected to give more than passing mention to the saddest and most incredible area of the land surrounding the Salton Sea, that being Salton City itself, an extensively planned yet sparsely developed area (have a look — zoom out and pan around to see just how expansive it really is… or would have been) that one could envision having developed into a metropolis to rival a reeking version of Palm Springs.