NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (5)

By: Nicholas Rombes
October 14, 2021

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of (one of) their nerdy obsessions.

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OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS

The maps—some of them enormous—are tucked into pockets or envelopes attached to the inside boards of books with titles like Geology of the Grey Eagle and Some Nearby Chromite Deposits in Glenn County California (published by the Department of the Interior at the United States Government Printing Office, 1944), Chromite Deposits in Central Part Stillwater Complex, Sweet Grass County, Montana: Geological Survey Bulletin 1015-D (Government Printing Office, 1955), and Deep Wells of Nebraska: Nebraska Geological Survey, Bulletin 4, Second Series, 1931). For someone of my generation these books and pamphlets conjure artifacts from unmade, imaginary episodes of The X-Files, or the obscure small print on the back of a worn copy of an VHS tape from the early 1980s, or a piece of mail delivered, years late, from the dead letter office.

The fold-out geographical survey maps that come with many of these books are so intricate and detailed and obsessively precise in their design, so unlike any other form of printed material. The maps, during a dark time of my life, helped shore me up against a deep and seemingly bottomless sadness. Because, late at night, when the worst angels of thought seemed to perch at every neural connection, switching every good thought into its opposite, the maps, unfolded and spread out on my office desk or floor, offered me a respite from, well, from me. There, in the color-shaded boundaries and arcane labeling of chromite layers, granular harzburgite, hornblende schist and amphibolite, and weisner quartzite I discovered an alien mental landscape into which I could, temporarily, escape.

The power and pull of the maps today is that they were not created to be art, which lends them a super-charged, ambiguous aura. They were designed, carefully, to be of practical use, although the fact that so many of the books (most of which I’ve purchased from used book stores and eBay) appear never to have been cracked open makes you wonder. Or else, maybe the maps that were used in the field, during excavations and mining operations, are the ones that don’t exist anymore, and so what we are left with are the rare unused ones.

Map auteurs, I call them, and their names are listed on tiny print on most of them. The unsung Godards of the geologic cartographic world. The enormous Geologic Map of Alabama, “Engraved and printed by the U.S. Geologic Survey, S.J. Kubel, Chief Engraver and George W. Stone, Editor, 1926.” Or the Montana Stillwater Complex Map, “Triangulated by D.C. Cox.” People, gone and forgotten, who could not have known that their intricate labors of love would, decades later and obscured by time, bring happiness to someone like me, who still spends nights when the darkness comes, tracing lines on smooth paper with his fingers. Thinking about deep, geologic time. And giving me hope that even the smallest, most obscure art that I create today might, if I’m lucky, be discovered by someone someday in the long future and bring them a bolt of happiness, too.

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NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Peggy Nelson | Andrew Sempere on NERDING | Blanca Rego on RAIN | Lucy Sante on PSEUDO-AMERICAN PSEUDONYMS OF FRENCH PULP WRITERS DURING WWII | Heather Cole on AMERICAN GIRL | Nicholas Rombes on OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS | Susan Roe on TIME | Mark Kingwell on SCALE MODELS | Jessamyn West on THE POST OFFICE | Josh Glenn on ARDUIN | Vanessa Berry on NEWSAGENCY AESTHETICS | Toby Ferris on BRITISH/EALING WW2 FILMS | Annie Nocenti on MOSS | Adam McGovern on JOAN SEMMEL | Gabriela Pedranti on ILLUSTRATED BOOKS | Miranda Mellis on DOUBT | Tom Nealon on PAGE EDGES | Mandy Keifetz on KLINGON CONFIDENTIAL (NOVEL EXCERPT) | Eric Weisbard on SUMMATIONS | Kio Stark on LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION CODES | Charlie Mitchell on REPO MAN | James Parker on SEINFELD | Heather Kapplow on NOTHING | Russell Bennetts on VIDEO GAMES: MODE 7 | Vijay Parthasarathy on VIRTUAL TRAVEL | Marc Weidenbaum on NERD PROXIMITY.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | PAGE EDGES | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms

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