Atlas of Prejudice: The European Age of Incest

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The short essay The European Age of Incest and the map Europe According to Charles V (1555) are taken from the first volume of the Atlas of Prejudice by Yanko Tsvetkov. The book was first published on the German market in 2013 where it became an instant hit selling more than 10 000 copies. The English version of the book was published worldwide on August 11 and is currently available on Amazon.

There weren’t any iPhones in the Middle Ages and nobody today assumes the opposite. Even though we are aware of the immense technological gap between our time and the medieval period, there are some political differences which aren’t so easy to spot. One of the most significant is that the term nation didn’t actually exist. The concept of a national state emerged during the 17th Century, after the Thirty Years’ War.

In 16th Century Europe, states covered the territories owned by the aristocracy associated with a particular crown. Whole regions switched ownership as frequently as Imelda Marcos switched shoes. Royal marriages were political acts through which empires were consolidated or partitioned. Unwilling to share power with strangers, ruling aristocrats started to marry their close relatives, which along with the benefits, brought many genetic disorders.

One of the most powerful monarchs Europe had ever seen, Charles V, by the grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Italy, King of all Spains, of Castile, Aragon, León, Navarra, Grenada, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Majorca, Sevilla, Cordova, Murcia, Jaén, Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, King of Two Sicilies, of Sardinia, Corsica, King of Jerusalem, King of the Western and Eastern Indies, Lord of the Islands and Main Ocean Sea, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Neopatria, Württemberg, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Asturia and Catalonia, Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Gorizia, Barcelona, Artois, Burgundy Palatine, Hainaut, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Roussillon, Cerdagne, Drenthe, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgau, Oristano and Gociano, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Biscay, Molin, Salins, Tripoli and Mechelen, was a product of centuries of exquisite royal incest.

As a consequence, he suffered from severe case of mandibular prognathism, a genetic disorder which develops an abnormally extended chin, a condition that colloquially carries the name of his dynasty—Habsburg jaw.

He was unable to chew his food properly, suffered from indigestion and usually ate alone. Logically, the abundance of such genetic defects also meant abundance of power, wealth and land.

There is a famous quote attributed to him: “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”

Apart from letting us know that in the early 1500s horses were fluent in German, those words are a testament to His Majesty’s cosmopolitan spirit.

Being the undisputed ruler of Spain, Charles V had direct access to the immense resources of the Spanish colonies in America. Centuries ahead of his time in terms of fiscal innovation, he borrowed heavily from Genovese bankers, using the loans to finance wars and chase the French out of Northern Italy. On their way home, they famously brought with them Leonardo da Vinci who was seduced by Francois I, the king of France himself.

That’s one of the reasons the Mona Lisa is now in the Louvre but don’t blame Charles V about it. Nobody could have foreseen that a common portrait of a woman with questionable beauty could one day become the most famous painting in the world.

Francois I was the arch-enemy of Charles V. Un­­able to forget the Italian loss, the French king resorted to extreme measures. He allied himself with the only man who could rival the power of Charles V: Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

For the first time in history a Christian kingdom entered into a political alliance with a Muslim power. Suleiman twice laid siege on Vienna, wreaking havoc among the Catholic world. When he retreated, probably out of negligence, he forgot several bags of coffee and a basket of croissants. The Austrians found them irresistible and stole the recipe, which was in turn stolen from them by the French, who today consider it part of their cultural heritage.

Atlas of Prejudice (English Edition) Out NOW!

Atlas of Prejudice by Yanko Tsvetkov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. The Atlas of Prejudice, also known as the book which was written in English but was first published in Germany, is a continuation of the highly successful Mapping Stereotypes project by visual artist Yanko Tsvetkov. Started in January 2009, the project soon became a viral online sensation. It even received Twitter’s equivalent of an Academy Award:

Two years after, the Guardian newspaper summed up its qualities with the grammatically correct sentence: “No matter where you’re from, you should be able to find something here to offend you.”

The project was gradually expanded to contain more than 40 stereotype maps, which the author describes as cartographic caricatures ridiculing the worst excesses of human bigotry and narrow-mindedness. (I’m speaking in 3rd person to make myself look important.) The essays that accompany them narrate the story of the project and contemplate humanity’s affair with prejudice since the dawn of civilization. They offer an even deeper but equally hilarious perspective on our inherent tendency to randomly blame people simply because someone convinced us that they ate our breakfast.

According to this book, the first domesticated animal was not the dog, but the scapegoat. The razor-sharp irony of the author will guide you through the delusions of the ancient civilizations of Greece and China, reveal the stupefying amalgam of superstition and paranoia of the Middle Ages and it will leave you begging for more with a grotesquely hilarious prediction about the future of Europe.

You can get the book on Amazon.com. If you live across the Ocean, there’s Amazon UK.

Update: The Russian edition of the book, Атлас стереотипов и предрассудков, was published by Alpina Non Fiction in September 2013. The second volume of the Atlas of Prejudice is scheduled for publication in Germany next year by Knesebeck Verlag.

Gazpacho Recipe According to Americans

Gazpacho Recipes from all over the World

What It’s All About

Gazpacho is a cold summer soup coming from Spain, the ancient homeland of all Hispanic people, which nowadays is ruled by Europe.

Enjoying this raw and sometimes overwhelming mix of fresh ingredients is an acquired taste, so this recipe is for those of you who would describe themselves as culinary adventurous.

Things You Should Know Before You Start

It’s always a good idea to take precautions when you deal with fresh ingredients. As live products who haven’t undergone thermal or chemical treatment, they are potential carriers of harmful bacteria and viruses.

Remember to always buy your products form a trusted grocery shop. In case of doubt, ask your local grocery shop assistant about the sanitary procedures. Never touch fresh fruits or vegetables with your hands! Bacteria is sticky, especially in a moist environment. Because most of the essential gazpacho ingredients like tomatoes and cucumbers consist primarily of water, which means an extremely high level of moisture, you should handle them with extra caution.

Another potential danger may come during transportation. In hot climates, and I assume you would want to consume gazpacho in summer, fresh vegetables rot easily. The process actually starts immediately after the tomato is removed from the plant. If handled improperly and kept in non refrigerated storage spaces, the amount of bacteria increases by the hour. The seeds inside the vegetable have been known to germinate when the temperature is too high, so perhaps it would be a good idea to bring a cooler with you and keep the ingredients inside it until you come back home.

Once you get to the safety of your kitchen, you can carefully unpack everything directly under running water, so you can prevent potential contamination of your utensils. After a good rinse, put the ingredients on a large plate and gently rub them once or twice with a kitchen paper soaked in antibacterial soap. Rinse again and let them stay in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the gazpacho.

Ingredients and Equipment

Here’s the actual list of ingredients according to Andalusian tradition. As it’s always the case with ethnic food, some things will be impossible to find. For example Europeans consume stale bread, which is a habit they inherited from ancient times. For some reason they still insist on doing it (A pinch of history: they even beheaded Marie Antoinette because she wanted to replace their stale bread rations with cake). Another difficult thing to find may be Andalusian onions.

1/2 lb. tomatoes
1/4 lb. Vidalia onion
1/4 lb. cucumber
1/4 lb. green bell pepper
1/4 lb. red bell pepper
3 table spoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 ounces of Doritos

To process the ingredients, you will need the following appliances and utensils:

1 Vitamax High Performance Turbo Instablender
1 Avalon Advance Multifiber Ultrastrainer
1 Slice’n’Dice knife
1 Black Hole Jumbo Superpitcher
1 Grab’n’Dump spoon
1 ZeepLock plastic bag

If you don’t have the exact same stuff at home you can use alternatives. As always, I would advice caution. You know the rule: if it ain’t branded, it’s probably Chinese.

Preparation

Now that you have everything you need, let’s start the preparation process. Cut the tomatoes in large pieces, while carefully removing the stems and scooping out the seeds. You don’t want one of those stuck between your teeth because they may cause excess plaque, caries an abscess or even cancer. Do the same with the bell peppers. Slice the onion and the cucumber in small cubes. Add everything into the Vitamax High Performance Turbo Instablender.

Take the Doritos, place them in a plastic ZeepLock bag and crush them emphatically. Carefully add the golden Doritos powder to the Vitamax High Performance Turbo Instablender. Finally, pour in the olive oil and the vinegar. Start the Vitamax High Performance Turbo Instablender at low speed, then gradually increase and let it blend until the mixture becomes silky smooth.

Start pouring the gazpacho in the pitcher through the Avalon Advance Multifiber Ultrastrainer. Periodically remove the accumulating sediment. When done, drop several ice cubes and add salt according to your taste. Enjoy your gazpacho fresh. Never let it sit for more than an hour because it may accumulate bacteria. Do keep in mind that, if left unattended, the vitamins in the mixture will self destruct in about 30 minutes. Leftovers can be kept in a freezer for up to a week.

Europe According to Luxembourg

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When the editors from the German magazine Der Spiegel asked me if I would agree to make a map according to Luxembourg, I had a lot of doubts because I didn’t know enough jokes about the tiny country, except the fact that once its territory resembled the shape of an angry amoeba. Those people really lucked out when Germany, Belgium and France clipped their borders. Now the country looks neat and tidy.

The Spiegel team had a Luxembourgian colleague who was kind enough to share many useful suggestions and after several days of additional research and googling for weird facts, I got it all on paper. I spared some truths though. Did you know Morrissey wrote a song about a “buck-toothed” girl form Luxembourg who spends her summer all alone in her house? Sexy, no? This is why all countries should have a sea shore!

Bulgaria Moderna Font in a Fowler Museum Art Book

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Designing a font is like raising a child. You know your job is truly done only after it leaves home and becomes independent. The Bulgaria Moderna font was one of those kids that mature faster than you expect them. It was barely few months old when I received the first request for use. Since then, it got 3 major updates and reached more than 28.000 downloads. And even though the fourth update got delayed several times since I started working on my book, the project is far from over.

One of the biggest incentives for me to continue developing the font is that it gets used in so many creative ways. I was even contacted by the architect of a historical Bulgarian town who wanted to use it on a commemorative plate. To see his letters chiseled in stone is the dream of any typographer, dead or alive.

Another dream, equally exhilarating, is to see your font used in a book. To become aware that someone you don’t know picked it among millions of others and decided to weave it into the typographic fabric of his project. As a writer who has designed his own book after countless tests, I know how much thought goes into such decisions.

Few months ago I was asked to license my Bulgaria Moderna font for use in a book project accompanying an exhibition by the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Titled Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe: A History in Layers, the book is a one way ticket to Ethnographic Wonderland. It explores 19th Century costumes from Southeastern Europe and every single chapter heading in the giant, lushly illustrated 276-page eye-candy is adorned in Bulgaria Moderna glyphs, up to the cover itself.

And as much as it tickles my creative ego, it’s also a deeply humbling experience because the depth of knowledge and the attention to detail in this book vastly outstrip my own. It’s not every day that I get a lesson in my own history from people across the ocean. This makes me happy.

You can find the book on Amazon.

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Europe According to the British Tories

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Something really strange started to happen to the British Conservatives since they came to power. A significant part of them feels so frustrated with the European Union they are eager to take every opportunity to disrupt the ties Britain has with it, regardless of whether it makes sense. Their latest panic attack? The tsunami of potential immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania after the lifting of the work restrictions at the end of this year. Some conservatives seem so eager to play the scare card and collect any momentary dividends that they literary came up with something brilliantly retarded. You think the word is too strong? Well judge for yourself from this report in the Guardian:

Please don’t come to Britain – it rains and the jobs are scarce and low-paid. Ministers are considering launching a negative advertising campaign in Bulgaria and Romania to persuade potential immigrants to stay away from the UK…
The idea, however tentative, appears to clash with the billions of pounds Britain spent on the Olympics, partly to drive up the country’s reputation. It also emerged as the Home Office launched a guide to Britishness for foreigners who would be citizens which opens with the words: “Britain is a fantastic place to live: a modern thriving society”.

It really takes a lot of panic (or cynical opportunism) to assume that you need to trash your own country’s reputation to avoid immigration. The only meaningful explanation is that those who mastered the plan think such trashing will have a precise surgical effect, as if they are aware of a special communication channel which will restrict the message only to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals and also impede them from sharing it with anyone abroad.

I am happy to report that the plan backfired even before its implementation. Apart from the usual Twitter backlash, a Romanian advertising company took advantage of the stupid situation and created its own campaign, inviting Britons tired from the rain to come over and enjoy a better weather. One of the leading Bulgarian bloggers, Boyan Yurukov, took things even further and started an initiative urging anybody from the island to move permanently to Bulgaria.

Somewhere in the middle of this storm I’m throwing my own two cents, the map of Europe according to the Tories you see above, now officially part of my Mapping stereotypes project. Cheers and remember that the German edition of my Atlas of Prejudice book comes out this month. Unfortunately it’s too late to include the current map in it but maybe there will be enough pages in the coming English edition.

Who knows…