The world is pretty good. It's a big ball floating in space around the sun, just the right distance away for trees, flowers, rivers, and mosquitoes to exist. Humans, too - just like you - live and have done lots of stuff on the planet. Whether it's playing catch at the park, mucking around with your girlfriend behind the bike sheds, or thinking of obscene names for your boss while he's telling you to do something you don't want to do; you're a human and you are doing stuff, contributing to the history of mankind.
This atlas is about the oceans, the islands, the continents, and the nations that make up those continents. And it's about the history of those nations that make up those continents. And the animals and plants in those nations that make up those continents.
But most of all, my loves, it's about you. (Not you personally. More "you" generally as humans.)
Commonwealth of Australia
Famous for its XXXX-ing funny beer commercials, non-stop beach parties, hats with corks dangling from them, Kylie, and cricket players with moustaches and/or fluorescent sunscreen, Australia is a pretty darned big island, and is situated a bit up from Antarctica, about a third of the way to Japan.
Australia was invented by Queen Victoria one day when she was a bit bored and thought that there wasn't enough parts of the world that she owned, so she called upon England's great and good builders to make an especially big and bleak island 'as far away as fucking possible.' Figuring there'd be some more contracting work once the basics were done, the engineers and construction workers decided to have a nice area for themselves next to all the desert-y stuff, and they named it after Her Majesty's favourite peacock, Sydney.
Australia is also known for it's made-up wildlife. There's a bouncy thing called a kangaroo, and another inspired by a cartoon character called the Tasmanian Devil. A third, the koala, was manufacturered by Japanese toymakers when research found that nobody thought kangaroos were 'really, really
The most impressivest thing about Australia is called Uluru, or Ayers Rock. It's big, red, and in the middle of nowhere. If you can't be arsed to go - and frankly, who'd blame you - just cut a potato in half lengthways, cover it with paprika and put it in your cat litter tray. Then stare at its majestic beauty.
One of the best known tax havens in the world, mainly because the banks are run by parrots and turtles who pretend not to speak English when the FBI turn up wanting to have a look around. It also helps that they employ crocodiles as security guards.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
République Centrafricaine/Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka
Having a stroll around Africa one day, two Frenchmen called Pierre et Jacques chanced upon a bit of land between the Ubangi and Shari rivers. Pierre stroked his waxy moustache and tried to look clever. 'Have you got a headache?' asked Jacques, rummaging around his satchel looking for the Ibuprofen. 'Non, Jacques, non!' replied Pierre, 'I think this is a new country I've found here. I will call it...erm....'
Pierre looked in pain again.
'What, Pierre, what will you call it?' whispered Jacques. Pierre's mind had gone blank. Jacques looked at the map, then tentatively suggested, 'Maybe c'est la République Centrafricaine!' Pierre sniggered. That's a rubbish name, he thought.
On returning to Paris, everyone else agreed and decided to call it the Ubangi-Shari.
Jacques had the last laugh, though; upon achieveing independence, the Central Africans decided that République Centrafricaine was in fact a pretty good name after all, and all the children did drawings of Pierre looking stupid, holding up a sign saying Ooh la la, I am stupid Pierre!
Territory of Christmas Island
Every single one of the 1,500 or so inhabitants of this island in the Indian Ocean (an overseas territory of Australia) is sick to death of the song Jingle Bells
République de Côte d'Ivoire (Republic of Côte d'Ivoire)
The problem with having an ivory coast is it really isn't much fun sunbathing and reading your Patricia Cornwell next to a big pile of rotting elephant carcasses.
Situated halfway between the UK and Iceland in the Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands were uninhabited until around 3000 BC when a bored Egyptian king decided he fancied a fishing trip, and went off on his holidays with a bunch of mates. It took them quite a while to get there, mind, what with them walking like Egyptians; but once they did arrive, they set down the sheep they'd brought (so that they could have a few lamb casseroles to break up the inevitable monotony of eating fish all the time), got their rods out and went cod-crazy. Once they'd had their fill they went home, leaving behind a couple of un-eaten sheep and a bit of graffiti scratched into a rock proclaiming that 'Pharaoh woz ere.'
Fast forward to 800-and-something AD when a bunch of Norwegians sailed to the islands, found the sheep and the graffiti, and came to the fairly reasonable conclusion that sheep could write. The sheep then enjoyed a period of several hundred years of being in charge of their Pharaoh Islands until the Danes came along with their fancy Bibles and big sheep-killing knives and took charge. Today, the Faroe Islands is self-governing; although, should the sheep ever rise up and try to reclaim the islands, the Danish military would lend the Faroese people some big knives.
República de Guatemala (Republic of Guatemala)
Hi! Welcome to the CIA Show! Yes! Here we see the unmistakeable boot-print of American foreign policy! Marvel at democratically elected governments being overthrown cos the USA don't like 'em! Gasp as anyone disagreeing with the USA is shut up - permanently! Go gung-ho 'Let's Roll!' when the US-supported military dictatorship kills around 200,000 Guatemalans! And praise God for those cheap bananas in your kitchen!
Kyrgyz Respublikasy/Kyrgyzskaya Respublika (Kyrgyz Republic)
Kyrgyzstan is the world's leading exporter of typos.
Muso oa Lesotho (Kingdom of Lesotho)
Lesotho is landlocked and entirely surrounded by South Africa. It's also pretty high up; most of the country is over 1,800 metres above sea level.
The government of Lesotho is currently planning to build a 100 mile-long cantilevered water slide, one that will stretch all the way to the Indian Ocean so that the Basotho don't have to take their passports with them when they fancy a paddle. Exactly how they'll get back to Lesotho without setting foot on South African soil is the main reason why the diving board hasn't been built. That and the more pressing problem of having one of the world's highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection, the prevalence rate of which is estimated to be a damned scary 29%.
Aomen Tebie Xingzhengqu/Região Administrativa Especial de Macau (Macau Special Administrative Region)
The unofficial anthem of Macau is Summer of '69
by Bryan Adams. It can be heard daily being sung by young and old alike atop the steep hills of the city. Although a popular artist in Macau, Adams has angered many residents by refusing to offer more details about his summer of 1969. A letter writing campaign regarding the topic in 1997 brought only polite rejections from Adams, his fan club, and record label. The main points which the Macanese require answers for are:
What is the name and location of the five-and-dime store where you bought your first real six-string?
You played until your fingers bled; did you have to go to hospital?
Why did Jimmy quit?
Did Jody get married in a church? Is he still together with his wife? Is she pretty? Can we see a photo of her, please?
Do you still believe they were the best days of your life? We only ask because we'd have thought that recording All For Love with Rod Stewart and Sting must've been a very good day too.
Present day Mongolia is a landlocked country wedged 'twixt Russia and China, but back in the day it was the centre of a massive empire. Indeed, at its peak, the Mongol Empire stretched all the way from central Europe to the east coast of present day China, forming the largest contiguous empire ever ever ever. That was all the doing of Ghengis Khan who, after getting a baseball bat on a trip to a 20th Century shopping mall with time travellers Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted (Theodore) Logan, began bashing the hell out of people. Bullied as a child with taunts of 'Ghengis Khan? Ghengis Khan't
more like!', he set about proving his classmates wrong with his trusty Louisville Slugger; first by unifying nomadic tribes to form a Mongol nation, then by expanding that nation every which way but loose. Anyone that stood in his way: whack! Khan and his men whacked an estimated 30 million people during the times of their empire.
Skipping ahead, and not bothering to explain the disintegration of the empire or anything from the intervening 800 years, present day Mongolians really like the crappy 70s band Smokie.
The locals were out on the streets. 'I want my MTV!' they shouted. 'No!' replied the Governor, 'the BBC will do you just fine'.
But the locals persisted, sick as they were of just watching British telly programmes. A few miles away, Mark Knopfler, of the popular rock group Dire Straits, was playing Connect Four with Sting over a nice glass of iced tea on the gold-plated terrace of Air Studios. Sting started to repeat the crowd's echoey chant in a slightly haunting manner, strangely reminiscent of the melodic line of the Police's hit song Don't Stand So Close To Me
. 'Hold on,' said Knopfler, fingers a-bristlin' with finger-pickin' creativity, 'I'll get my guitar'. And so it came to be: Money For Nothing
. And your chicks for free.
It was a good 15 years before Montserrat got its MTV, cos, amongst other things, Hurricane Hugo messed things up real bad in 1989. When MTV did arrive most of the islanders were disappointed to find that MTV no longer showed DeBarge, Timex Social Club and Colonel Abrams videos; just shows about tarting up old cars, The Osbournes
(which they quite liked, as it goes), and Spring Break-ing idiot students eating dog poo from the inside of a rotting whale carcus for $70 in front of a delirious crowd of their drunken peers.
'We no longer want our MTV!' they cried. 'Make your bloody minds up,' said the slightly irked Governor, rolling her eyes and silently mouthing the word 'wankers' to her colleague, the Chief Minister.
Ripublik Naoero (Republic of Nauru)
This island, a bit east of Papua New Guinea, used to be called Pleasant Island. The name of the island was changed after an infamous event known as Unpleasant Day.
After a hard day's phosphate mining, an argument about which town should be Pleasant Island's capital broke out in a pub. Two blokes had had a couple too many and started duffing each other up in the car park. One of them sprained his ankle when he fell over a kerb, the other lost a fingernail. The other islanders were shocked and appalled. They vowed never to have a capital city.
Sultanate of Oman
Arabic hip hop slang for 'oil man'.
República del Perú (Republic of Peru)
What is now Peru was once the centre of the Inca empire. They were getting along quite nicely thank you very much, until the Spanish came along and laughed at them for worshiping a sun god (something they could see) rather than the Catholic God (something nobody's ever seen). Once they'd done laughing, Diego y Pedro noticed there was a ton of gold just lying around, so they emailed their boss back in Madrid:
Send more men, there's a crap-load of gold here, we can get really rich!
There's some wicked funny animals that look like horse goats, I'll send some photos in my next email.
Oh, and some of the chicks here are hot too : )
Pretty pissed off with affairs as they were, the natives built a town on a mountain and made it look old and crumbly, named it Machu Picchu (after the architect's pet spaniels, Machu and Picchu) to attract middle class European students and their parents' Western Union money.
Peru shares Lake Titicaca - the world's highest navigable lake - with its neighbour Bolivia. Like Timbuktu (in New Zealand) and Kathmandu (Norway), Lake Titicaca is one of those places that everyone's heard of but don't know where it is. It probably isn't even where I've just said it is.
Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino (Most Serene Republic of San Marino)
, eh? A bit up itself that, isn't it?
Surrounded on all sides of its 61 km² by Italy, San Marino is one third of the very exclusive enclave club (Vatican City and Lesotho are the other members). It's also one of the most geek-friendly countries in the world due to its postage stamps being only valid for use within San Marino, and its euro coins being of sweat-inducing interest to collectors.
Here's Tom with the sport: San Marino's national football team was invented to let every other team feel good about themselves for a few hours, what with them never having won a competitive match ever
, and the San Marino Grand Prix doesn't actually take place there, it takes place about in the Italian town of Imola.
The only artificial lighting allowed by Slovenian law is the sculptures of Dan Flavin.
Jumhuriyat as-Sudan (Republic of Sudan)
In the 16th century, Sudan was ruled by some people called the Funj. They were so much fun they had a J at the end of their name just for a laugh. It was all bouncy castles, mini golf, and clowns with squirty flowers back then. Until, that is, the Egyptians came along with their moody cats and stuff, and turned everything into a right bummer.
But help was at hand, in the form of those jolly Brits who were snaffling up as much of the world as possible in an effort to get some people to play cricket with them. Wishing to impart some of his military and colonial knowledge onto the 'savages,' a Britisher called Peter took a young native aside.
"Listen here, old bean," said Peter, whittling an ivory tusk into an oboe for his wife. "What we're going to do is create two colonies; one in the north and one in the south of this God-forsaken sandpit you call home. And here's some advice should the King's Empire ever fall, which I bloody-well doubt, but anyway. Number one, tuck your shirt in and put some shoes on! You're not at a bloody holiday camp, man. Number two, keep this north-south divide going. By Jove! It's a winning policy!"
And with that, Peter beat the young chap to within an inch of his life and went off to eat some puréed giraffe's wings.
So, by the time Sudan gained independence in 1956, the North and South were already at it hammer and tongs. This went on until 1972 when they decided to have a break, and went about their own business for 11 years until President Gaafar Nimeiry fancied having the south as well as the north. Twenty years and over 2 million dead Sudanese later, some sort of agreement was come to where, again, the south is kinda in control of its own affairs.
But the happy days didn't last too long. Feeling a bit peeved about being in a neglected part of the country, some rebels in Darfur started demanding the good stuff. More fighting, loads of dead people, words like 'ethnic cleansing' and 'genocide'... it's all gone tits-up, and is anything but funj.
Republiek Suriname (Republic of Suriname)
In the mid-seventeeth century, the English and Dutch were having another big old battle about various stuff. When that all came to an end, and the opposing sides did the photo where they smile and pretend to sign a document, the Dutch traded Manhattan for Suriname. Like a second-hand car dealer swapping a clapped-out old banger for a Bentley, the English couldn't help but snigger.
'Hey, why all the laughter, guys?' asked Frans Thijssen, the Dutch fella.
'Nothing! Honestly, just, y'know, a private joke about some bloke we know back in Ipswich,' lied Paul Mariner, as he dug his elbow into his compatriot Kevin Beattie to stop him chuckling.
Taiwan (Republic of China) is claimed by China (People's Republic of China). Taiwan views itself as a independent state. Just in case the PRC gets a bit shirty, though, the Taiwanese have built two massive paddles on the sides of the island so they can sail away.
About half of the population of Tajikistan is under 14 years of age. After becoming independent from the Soviet Union, Tajikistan was plunged into civil war. On one side were the grown-ups demanding that chores were done, on the other side were the children fighting for later bedtimes. Eventually in 1997, a UN-brokered peace deal led to slightly later bedtimes, an extra biscuit after dinner, and lawns being mowed weekly.
Al-Jumhuriyah at-Tunisiyah (Republic of Tunisia)
Tunisia's queen is the well-known pop singer Dido. White Flag is still number one in the Tunisian charts, and any record that approaches selling more copies in any given week is promptly banned. Most people secretly want to shoot themselves every time it comes on the radio.
República Oriental del Uruguay (Oriental Republic of Uruguay)
Snuggled between Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay's capital Montevideo is soon to be re-named Montedvd to make it sound less eighties.
There you go, that's a healthy chunk of the sort of thing you'll find in Atlas, Schmatlas
As mentioned before, it's in the shops now.
Thank you for your time.