November 4, 2009

Alphabet Google Earth By Thomas de Bruin

google_earth_abc_debruin.jpg

I've been spending a bit of time recently in the Netherlands version of Google Earth, and the geometry of the Dutch landscape is really distinctive. And educational! Thomas de Bruin has assembled the entire alphabet, upper and lower case, plus numbers and punctuation, using only Dutch sites on Google Earth. They look fantastic. They should be in a book. Or two.

alphabet_city_johnson.jpg

After all, Stephen T. Johnson won the freakin' Caldecott for his 1995 book of found letters, Alphabet City, and he got a follow-on out of the deail, too, City by Numbers, which is alright. [Johnson's images are actually photo-realist drawings, very nicely done. Whether the children's book industry or Johnson's artistic muse wouldn't let him just go with the original photos in 1995, I don't know.]

What I do know, though, is that Johnson's latest book, A Is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet, is a horrible, pretentious mess. Letters are hidden in awful Pop-inflected paintings or sculptures, which would be acceptable if they were just illustrations.

But if Johnson actually thinks that he's making good work by treating contemporary art history as a stylistic dress-up box, he's deluded. And if he is doing it cynically, as the traditionally trained artist's bitter critique of the current art world's preference for "anyone could make this crap," then it's a disservice to kids. Either way, it sucks. [But we appreciate the sentiment, Mom, and have tried to turn reading it into a teaching moment.]

UPDATE: Thomas de Bruin himself adds [or I add, since the comments weren't working, sorry] a challenge to all the residents of Google Earth:

Thanks for mentioning my alphabet. You're right about the geometry of the Dutch landscape being distinctive. I really like flying around my own little country in Google Earth.

I'd like to see more people creating a Google Earth alphabet for their country.

Thanks,

Thomas de Bruin

UPDATE UPDATE: Surprisingly, even with that parenthetical, there was a bit of blowback from Grams over saying the book she gave us sucks. Who knew? I tried to explain that it was Johnson's art that sucks, not the gift. What it boils down to, though, is that the FCC's new blogger freebie disclosure regulations destroy families.

Google Earth Alphabet - The Netherlands photoset in Thomas de Bruin's flickr stream [flickr via boingboing]
de Bruin also provided a KMZ file for doing your own alphabetic flythrough in Google Earth [keyhole.com]

1 Comment

Almost everything these days seems like a teaching moment. Parents go overboard with that crap. I remember the original book, Alphabet city. I remember reading it to my boys at the St Paul Childrens museum. I thought it was pretty interesting, but hardly worth a Caldecott. Now, the google earth alphabet. THAT'S Cool! :-)

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