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August 5, 2008 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Humorist and candidate for the US Senate for Minnesota Al Franken draws a map of the United States from memory.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (83 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
While cool, this suffers from a distinct lack of video.
posted by knowles at 7:42 AM on August 5, 2008


Video.
posted by pmdboi at 7:46 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, how'd he do .... besides "Better than I would"?
posted by ElvisJesus at 7:46 AM on August 5, 2008


He did this on Saturday night live once or twice.

Pretty impressive, actually.
posted by RavinDave at 7:47 AM on August 5, 2008


Yay, geography! If he knows all the capitals, I'll be doubly impressed.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2008


OK, the video is titled "Al Franken draws the United State of America." FAIL.
posted by desjardins at 7:50 AM on August 5, 2008


I hear Jesse Ventura can draw an almost perfect smiley face from memory.
posted by starman at 7:50 AM on August 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


He did this on Saturday night live once or twice.

Yeah, and apparently the event in the flickr set and the one in the video were different days, so I guess the post could read: Al Franken can't stop drawing the map of the US from memory.
posted by micayetoca at 7:51 AM on August 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


I can do that, as long as you don't expect me to go on past Wyoming and Colorado.

I wish there were more candidates like Al Franken who care more about the average guy and realize that the rich and powerful are way over represented in the US today. We are moving more and more towards the third world model where a few own everything and the rest are veritable serfs. Before long there will be no incentive to sneak across the southern border because things will have reached a state of equilibrium in the Americas.

I am becoming a fan of wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. If you're getting the majority of benefits, why shouldn't you contribute more?
posted by Daddy-O at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Politicians with a knowledge of geography must be stopped before they repatriate their homelands.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:56 AM on August 5, 2008


*Pfft*

He totally fucked up the scale though.



Pretty impressive, actually.

Totally. If I was capable of this, I would do it every chance I got too.

posted by quin at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think if I tried this it would be the reverse of that famous New Yorker cover. I could get the eight or so western states, but east of the rockies my map would taper off into an uncharted area labeled "flat" and then a foreshortened bit labeled "small states of the east," with Florida stapled on below.

It's a pretty good trick he has there, and keeping with the jokes while drawing.
posted by Forktine at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2008


Another amazing thing he can do. Besides writing his books, I mean. I applaud this.
posted by grubi at 8:04 AM on August 5, 2008


Counterminous is SO 1957.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:04 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Very impressive. I don't want to brag, but my illustrations of Saskatchewan and Kansas have drawn* more than their share of praise.

*Ha!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:06 AM on August 5, 2008


He's smart enough, so the map is good enough, and doggone it, I like it.
posted by roystgnr at 8:07 AM on August 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Oh Al, pleeeeease win this November. I'm in a prolonged state of denial, and in my mind this is still Paul Wellstone's senate seat...help me get over that.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Watching this reminded me of something I used to do, when I did public education work.

The team I worked with developed a presentation/act that required me to quickly paint some birds on a mural. Now, I have very little artistic talent, but to get around that we very, very faintly drew the outline of the birds in pencil ahead of the presentation. When it came time to paint, I could fill those outlines in three strokes - it looked fantastic and made me look like some kind of talented artist.

I'm not saying that Al Franken is doing something like that here, but it was the first thing to come to mind.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2008


reeks of effort. fail.

/irony (actually i loves me some franken)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:11 AM on August 5, 2008


By contrast, GWB can't find his ass with both hands and a flashlight.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:15 AM on August 5, 2008


Apparently FDR had a map of the US in his office showing all the counties in all the states (and yes, parishes for you Louisianans). FDR would invite visitors to draw a line on the map and he would name all the counties the line went through. Of course, Franken is no FDR, despite the similarities of their first names, but still, it's nice to see someone running for office who got further in school than My Pet Goat.
posted by ubiquity at 8:15 AM on August 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


I grew up in MN, Franken spoke at my university once. The place was packed, and he was fantastic. He was funny, but he seemed to really care about the issues, and wasn't afraid to show emotion over the things he cared about.

:: hopes for win ::
posted by craven_morhead at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2008


I remember there was an episode of the Australian game show Who Dares Wins where people on the street were challenged to draw a map of Australia from memory.

One guy drew a really great one but the weird thing was half of them didn't remember Tasmania (one of 6 states) and almost all of them forgot the Australian Capital Territory.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:17 AM on August 5, 2008


I wish there were more candidates like Al Franken who care more about the average guy

That elitist knob? Check the youtube video, he's using a human easel.
posted by sleevener at 8:18 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


"By contrast, GWB can't find his ass with both hands and a flashlight."

... and an GPS-ready Ass-O-Meter®.
posted by RavinDave at 8:19 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Last I heard he was moving up in the polls. He'd started out behind thanks to the fact that he hadn't paid state taxes in like 10 states or something, and had made a bunch of 'naughty' jokes in the past.
posted by delmoi at 8:23 AM on August 5, 2008


I'm very good at drawing Colorado and Wyoming. When I'm feeling adventurous I'll draw Utah.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:23 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


That elitist knob? Check the youtube video, he's using a human easel.

Searched, could not find. Please link to it sleevener.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:25 AM on August 5, 2008


RCP polling data
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:26 AM on August 5, 2008


Please link to it sleevener.

Here you go. (via pmdboi up above)
posted by sleevener at 8:32 AM on August 5, 2008


I knew a guy (now a woman) who could not only draw a map of the US with all the states, but she was obsessed with area codes and could draw in all the area code boundaries.
posted by Falconetti at 8:32 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I could actually do a pretty good job with this, as far as remembering all the states and their locations relative to each other. But there's no way that I'd get the shapes right. The end result would be technically correct but laughable.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:32 AM on August 5, 2008


I can do that, as long as you don't expect me to go on past Wyoming and Colorado.

I don't trust those square states in middle anyhow. :P
posted by marxchivist at 8:33 AM on August 5, 2008


It's cool and all, I guess, while he's talking policy, but that was one of my standard parlor tricks - on a bar etch-a-sketch - about five years ago. Drunk.
posted by notsnot at 8:34 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's cool and all, I guess, while he's talking policy, but that was one of my standard parlor tricks - on a bar etch-a-sketch - about five years ago. Drunk.

Cocktail napkins. All continents, all countries, all capitals, with elitist labeling ensuing. My father would bemoan that I couldn't open up a geography store, and I'd respond that at least it got me laid. Sometimes.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:42 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Previously, Supply Side Jesus from Al Franken and Don Simpson. Now animated.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:49 AM on August 5, 2008


Where's Alaska? And Hawaii?

EPIC FAIL!
posted by sfts2 at 8:50 AM on August 5, 2008


That's nothing.

I can belch the alphabet.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2008


despite the similarities of their first names

Wait...what?

AL Franken and FRANLKIN Roosevelt?
posted by briank at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2008


For one of my political science classes in college, part of the final exam was:

* Draw a map of the world. It doesn't have to be perfect or to scale, but it has to contain all the major recognizable features.

* Label the map with 50 countries and 50 major geographical features (mountains, lakes, oceans, etc), which will be selected at random at the time of the exam.

* List the population of these 50 countries, within a +/- 1 million margin of error.

A lot of rote memorization, sure, but very, very interesting ("Holy shit, Bangladesh! 150 million? Are you fucking kidding me?")
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:53 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


jsacvimbi:
"All continents, all countries, all capitals..."

I drew a quick Mercator-style map of the world, with the Prime Meridian and Equator, in class one day to teach the students about the Cartesian Coordinate System. Unfortuately, most of the students couldn't even pick out the continents.
posted by notsnot at 8:54 AM on August 5, 2008


Minnesota, You will get some hilarious press conferences if you elect this guy, although you'd enjoy him more as say governor where he speaks more to the press.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:06 AM on August 5, 2008


A lot of rote memorization, sure

Yes, a lot of what I know about history/geography was learned by rote, but every once in awhile someone would come up with an interesting tie-in with the modern era that made things fall into place. Aside from that, I'm a popular teammate on trivia nights.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:07 AM on August 5, 2008


Whoop dee doo. What's his face is as dangerously annoying as his female Bizarro Ann Coulter. Despite the fact that he can trace a map with the best of us. And then auction it off? What the what? "Oh I'm sorry, do you want to pay for this map I just drew?"

No. No, we don't.
posted by Avenger50 at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2008


He did this on Saturday night live once or twice.

. . . and it was brilliant. Also easier to see than this one.

It was 05 November 1988 (I have learned). He was on Weekend Update blandly discussing the electoral prospects of GHW Bush and Dukakis state by state, and the humour in the piece was how it slowly dawned on you what he was doing and that he could do it.

It's a great parlour trick and I really really hope it's for real and doesn't involve tracing faint outlines invisible to the viewer. The resulting map in the SNL performance was 'off' enough that you could believe he'd done it freehand, after much practice.

I would dearly love to see video of that performance again.
posted by Herodios at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2008


Thank you, Avenger50, for your deep, insightful remark, which tells us so much about your political stance.
posted by grubi at 9:20 AM on August 5, 2008


I'm with you briank, wha?!
posted by annaramma at 9:21 AM on August 5, 2008


Thank you, Avenger50, for your deep, insightful remark, which tells us so much about your political stance.

Really, grubi? Do you know what Bizarro means? Or do you think my political stance means I'm voting for Superman? Because you'd be more right. More deep, insightful remarks to follow.
posted by Avenger50 at 9:23 AM on August 5, 2008


He seems pretty big on the biofules kool aid. :(
posted by jeffburdges at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2008


Anyone is better than Norm Coleman. Seriously. Good luck Franked, but Minnesota sold out to the GOP long ago.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:36 AM on August 5, 2008


He seems pretty big on the biofules kool aid. :(

You ever try making kool-aid with (consumable) ethanol instead of water? Delicious!
posted by luftmensch at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2008


I would definitely look daily at a site where MeFites submitted their personal attempts at drawing the United States/the world/whatever from memory and one such attempt was posted per day. People who like to create affiliated sites may steal this idea from me free of charge.
posted by Kwine at 9:39 AM on August 5, 2008


Wait...what?

AL Franken and FRANLKIN Roosevelt?


AL -> FRANLKIN

See it now?
posted by inigo2 at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish there were more candidates like Al Franken ...

Franken is a brilliant veteran TV comedy writer/performer (I even recall him on SNL when he was first billed with that other guy, as "Franken and Davis"). He's also a better-than-average exponent of liberal rhetoric on radio. Maps aside, how does any of that qualify him for the United States Senate?
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2008


only one qualification needed--that people want him to represent them
posted by found missing at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2008


Whoop dee doo. What's his face is as dangerously annoying as his female Bizarro Ann Coulter.

And he can't even bowl!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


only one qualification needed--that people want him to represent them

Oh, I see. So no one really reeds any real qualifications for being responsible for major decisions in a high federal or state office, except being likable by the populace. Wow, this democracy thing has come a long way.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2008


Sorry. "really reeds" should be really needs, obviously.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:13 AM on August 5, 2008


That's a very cynical view. You must be a republican sensing an impending democratic juggernaut. Condolences.
posted by found missing at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2008


Good luck Franke[n], but Minnesota sold out to the GOP long ago.

how again? Minnesota has voted democratic in every election since 1972, and is poised to do so again.

not that i think Franken will win, unfortunately. i like the guy, but he's a weak candidate. i don't think Ma and Pa Nelson are going to vote for a celebrity again, not after Ventura.
posted by RedEmma at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2008


That's nothing. Give me a slice of American cheese and I'll bite you a perfect Idaho.
posted by Spatch at 10:35 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Related: elephant self-portrait video.

i.e. practice makes perfect.
posted by swift at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2008


Some friends and I used to do this to kill time in our more boring college classes. I noticed a friend sketching a map of the lower 48 instead of sleeping as usual, and realized that it would be a lot more subtle than my usual crossword puzzle. After a few sessions most of the people in our little corner of the classroom picked it up.

Each of us developed our own techniques for getting the details right, and each of us started with our own home states. One person spiraled outwards from Iowa, another filled in New England and worked southwards. I always started in the Southeast corner and worked north and then west. It's definitely an acquired skill. My first maps always had the western states disproportionately small, but I improved over time.

One friend, the ringleader of this particular activity, used to draw all kinds of maps from memory. I was especially impressed by his European and African maps, major rivers included.

Personally, I live drawing horses and donkeys from memory. There is some difficulty to drawing the legs just right.
posted by Alison at 11:05 AM on August 5, 2008


seekerofsplendor, that's right, nobody needs "real" qualifications other than being well-liked for the job. The theory is that the populous will elect those they feel can best represent their concerns, or "represent" them.

There isn't an exam or anything, aside from the one in the public eye.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


inigo2 -- go back and look at the original comment:

Of course, Franken is no FDR, despite the similarities of their first names.

It was a lame remark by ubiquity, made only lamer by the fact that he screwed it up.

See it now?
posted by briank at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2008



only one qualification needed--that people want him to represent them

Oh, I see. So no one really reeds any real qualifications for being responsible for major decisions in a high federal or state office, except being likable by the populace.

Seekerofsplendor, how did you get "being likable" from "people want him to represent them"?

Any number of right bastards have been elected to public office in the US over the years, bastards who either said, did, or promised the right things to their constituency. LBJ and Nixon, to name two. Many many more at the state and local level. Likability is one reason someone gets elected, but far from the only one. Nor is it predictive of performance in office.

Please refer to US Constitution Article I and Amendment XVII. You'll find no requirement of previous experience, education, financial assets, family, membership in secret societies, nor land ownership. For damned good reasons.

found missing is quite right. Whether a candidate is qualified for the office is the aggregate judgment of the constituency -- which is to say, that people want him to represent them. Because this democracy thing -- goofed up as it is -- has come a long way.
posted by Herodios at 11:39 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see craven_morhead covered much the same ground a few minutes ago.
Didn't mean to pile on.
posted by Herodios at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2008


So no one really reeds any real qualifications for being responsible for major decisions in a high federal or state office, except being likable by the populace.

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." -- Winston Churchill

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2008


"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill

Rat own.
posted by Herodios at 11:53 AM on August 5, 2008


I hear Jesse Ventura can draw an almost perfect smiley face from memory.

That's former Resident Fellow of the Kennedy School of Government Ventura to you, bub.
posted by dhartung at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2008


"Under My Thumb": Al Franken does a killer Mick Jagger impression on TV's Solid Gold (Quicktime)
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:06 PM on August 5, 2008


I am becoming a fan of wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. If you're getting the majority of benefits, why shouldn't you contribute more?

You should. And that's why you already do.
posted by mattholomew at 12:17 PM on August 5, 2008


I'm not surprised. He also designed the logos and album cover for "America's Greatest Hits," as weand Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Oh wait. That was Phil Hartman.
posted by ericbop at 12:39 PM on August 5, 2008


-as well as
posted by ericbop at 12:40 PM on August 5, 2008


Loyola University New Orleans, freshman year World Civilization I with Fr. Ben Wren -- he had us learn to draw a freehand map of the Eurasian land mass, with prominent cities labelled in Latin, Greek, Chinese and Japanese by the end of the semester.

That was quite a class.
posted by chuq at 1:00 PM on August 5, 2008


See it now?

I know, I saw what he did; so I tried to help out by making that connection between their first names (turning "Franklin" into "Al").
posted by inigo2 at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2008


America's penis (Flordia) is way too small.
posted by dawiz at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2008


But does he remember Poland?
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:40 PM on August 5, 2008


I could, maybe, draw the Nine Nations of North America as taught to me in middle school.

No, I guess I probably couldn't.

Seriously, what hippie on the Eugene School Board in the early eighties approved that for addition to the curriculum?
posted by geekyguy at 6:27 PM on August 5, 2008


SeekerOfSplendor: "Maps aside, how does any of that qualify him for the United States Senate?"

That's unfair. That's like saying, "aside from his familiarity with the pigskin, why does that professional football player have the qualifications to play football?"

If you can draw a map of the US freehand that actually looks kinda like a map of the US? You get to run for senate if you want. Heck, they let people run who can't draw water from a faucet.

In fact I'd like to see McCain or Obama do this trick. Maybe Franken can teach a seminar. It'd be cool if all citizens learned how to do this. Back when I was in elementary school they made me learn the names of the states and the capitals, but I didn't have to actually draw it out. I'm a kinetic learner. In hindsight maybe that woulda helped me learn them better.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:49 PM on August 5, 2008


I am becoming a fan of wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. If you're getting the majority of benefits, why shouldn't you contribute more?

You should. And that's why you already do.


Errr... generally not, is my understanding, on a cents-on-the-dollar basis. Largely because the wealthier you are, a) the more tax breaks you have access to, and b) the wealthier you are, the faster your wealth increases, faster than taxation does.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:05 PM on August 5, 2008


I finally got to see the video... People start boing as he drew Texas. I thought at first it was because they noticed he was drawing it lopsided. You try drawing Texas. It IS lopsided. You can't draw it without it being lopsided. Then it occurred to me they were booing Texas cuz that's where they think Shrub is from.

George W. Bush was NOT born in Texas. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut. It is true he spent some of his childhood in Texas. I spent some of my childhood in Michigan, but I was born in Texas. That makes me a Texan, not a Michigander. Shrub ain't a Texan.

So... boo Connecticut!
posted by ZachsMind at 9:37 PM on August 5, 2008


Cool trick. :) I can draw a chessboard from memory, myself.

(Also Scrabble. Also Monopoly. And though I can't draw the board from memory, my knowledge of European geography is pretty good, albeit 108 years out of date. "Trieste? It's on the sea, in Austria-Hungary, between Tyrolia and Armenia.")
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:10 AM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


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