Sunday, July 22, 2018

Netflix & Chill #46: A Wrinkle In Time

Watched On: DVD (Redbox)
Released: 2018
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Pena, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Pick: Mine

I made it a point to read the book before I ever got around to watching this movie and it's still kind of shocking to me that it was as big of a box office disaster as it turned out to be. As adaptations of source material go, this movie does an excellent job bringing the book to life. That's not to say it's a bad movie, however. It just feels a little flat in places- but that's not necessarily it's fault.

The movie opens with thirteen year old teenager Meg Murry (Storm Reid) struggling to adjust to both her school and home life, ever the disappearance of her father, Alex (Chris Pine), nearly five years before. No one is certain what happened to Alex, but Meg and her mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) think that he proved his theory and was transported to another world.

That night, Meg's brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) welcomes a mysterious stranger, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) to their house. Before she leaves, she reveals to Kate and Meg that the tessarect that Alex was working on was, in fact, real. The next day, one of Meg's classmates, Calvin (Levi Miller) shows up and they go visit the house of Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) who speaks only in quotations and seems to already know Charles Wallace.

When the three kids find themselves in their backyard, a giant Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) appears and reveals that three ladies are astral travelers and leads them through a tessarect taking them to the distant and beautiful planet of Uriel. Mrs. Whatsit transforms into a beautiful flying green creature and takes the three of them into the upper atmosphere where they see The IT. The IT, they learn is a dark shadow/entity that's taken over the planet Camazotz. The three women think that Meg's father has been captured and taken there. To confirm that, the tesser to another planet where a seer known as The Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) resides.

The Happy Medium confirms that Meg's father is, indeed, imprisoned there. He explains that the IT represents all the bad emotions in the universe and only the good people can fight it's encroaching spread. The Three Mrs. propose they go back to Earth to regroup, but Meg's strong will to find her father diverts the tessarect to Camazotz. Upon arriving, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who are unable to stay as the darkness of the IT is too strong, but they give Meg three kids: Mrs. Who's glasses, the knowledge of her faults and a command never to separate.

The trio treks through various traps on the planet until they finally reach a beach, where they meet the IT's bodyguard, Red. (Michael Pena). He offers them food and tells them that Alex is safe and happy, but when they are starting to feel comfortable Charles Wallace tells them that the food tastes like sand. Red then starts repeating the times table and hypnotizing Charles Wallace taking control of his mind.

Meg and Calvin find themselves in an empty room, which Meg uses Mrs. Who's glasses to get out of the room and free her father. Reunited, they attempt to free Charles Wallace, but he and Red use the IT's power to drag the three of them toward the brain at the center of the IT. Alex opens another tesser and prepares to get Meg and Calvin out there, but Meg overrides herself out of the tesser and goes alone to rescue Charles Wallace herself. Her love for her brother and her acceptance of her own imperfections frees both Charles Wallace and Camzotz itself from the IT. They all return home, Meg's family reunites and Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit leave Meg with the knowledge that she can now tesser herself.

Overall: This was a faithful adaptation of the book- maybe even a good adaptation of the book. But I think it felt flat in places because of the book- if that makes sense. The Honest Trailer mentions that the character of Calvin just sort of shows up, randomly- which is true, but also is pretty much what happens in the book. They also make a slight change at the end in the book, Meg, Calvin and her father escape to the planet Ixtel and Meg has to overcome her anger at her father's abandonment of Charles Wallace before she can go back and rescue him. In the movie, the whole sequence on Camazotz feels underdone. In the book, it feels like a more satisfying climax. I don't know if that was why this movie felt a little flat, but when you're dealing with wrinkles in time, the last thing you want is a movie set to 'wrinkle release.' My Grade: ** out of ****

Saturday, July 21, 2018

This Week In Vexillology #263

This Week In Vexillology we're doing something a little different. I was digging around for inspiration and I stumbled across this article from that was published all the way back in 2013 ambitiously entitled The Coolest Flags In Human History. I'm not going to break down every flag on their list- some of them are quite cool and I've done them before like The Most Serene Republic of Venice. Others I own, like British Columbia. Some of are thankfully consigned to the ash-heap of history (Rhodesia and pre-1994 South Africa.) But out of that list, here are two of what I consider to be the coolest:

This, along with Northern Ireland are the two flags of the British Isles that I don't own- and it's probably the one Isle that people outside of the UK probably overlook. Yes, it's the Isle of Man:

How cool is this flag? The central symbol is a triskelion, which features three armored legs with golden spurs on a red background. It's been the official flag of the island since December 1st, 1932- before that, the flag was simply the Union Jack. The symbol is taken from the Coat of Arms of the Island- and has appeared on versions of it as far back as the 13th Century. In Manx, the flag is known as ny tree cassyn or "the three legs" and as to why it was originally adopted on the island, no one really knows. (The Manx Language is another fascinating rabbit hole worth diving down, though I'll admit I need to brush up on the Gaelic languages and their origins.)

Next up- and buckle up, kids, because we've got this flag:
First of all: COOLEST FLAG EVER.  All the other flags from history can go home, because this badass tiger flag wins the grand prize. Unfortunately, history doesn't really care how cool your flag is, because in this case, the Republic of Formosa was proclaimed on May 23rd 1895 and extinguished by the Japanese on October 21st of that same year. Here's the interesting historical mystery that I'm finding...  there's not really a good explanation that I can find for what it means. This is a pretty good picture of a current replica that's on display in the National Taiwan Museum

This is a pretty good explanation of the meaning behind it- it seems kind of boring, but the Qing of Mainland China had a dragon on their flag, so the Taiwanese wanted to distinguish themselves from their mainland counterparts and went with a tiger instead. I don't really have a 'vexillology related' stop on my bucketlist, but no kidding: I would go to Taiwan to see this bad boy. It's super cool.

For real, before we go: go check out all the flags on that list and see them for yourselves. They're worth a peek. Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tintin, Ranked

What can you say about Tintin? He's been around for decades- was one of the most popular comics of the 20th Century. He's spawned a television cartoon (which I remember watching on Nickelodeon) and more recently a movie (two more of which are apparently coming, though it's been awhile since the movie dropped.)

He hasn't been free from controversy- Tintin In The Congo is hard to find these days for a reason, the least of which is (what I'm guessing) the somewhat 'problematic' portrayal of Africans in the Belgian Congo when the reality of that chapter of colonial history was dark indeed. For sure, if there's an aspect of these books that makes me cringe somewhat, it's his portrayal of Africans. Herge's portrayal of Latinx individuals and cultures tends to be a bit better, though his portrayal of indigenous folks and Asians is somewhat mixed. He's excellent in The Blue Lotus, somewhat less so with his portrayal indigenous people in Tintin In America.

Some of these books are better than others...  some of them I would put right up there as masterful works of the medium. I've had all of these books for awhile now and so I decided to sit on down and rank them. So, from the top:

Cigars of The Pharaoh/The Blue Lotus: I don't think I ever realized that these two books were so tightly connected. I knew that they were somewhat connected, but The Blue Lotus is pretty much a direct sequel to Cigars of The Pharaoh. The introduction of Rastapopulous (seen again in The Red Sea Sharks) what starts as a trip to Egypt and dabbling in 'curse of the Mummy' type drug smuggling conspiracies leads to an oddly timely sequel set in a China that's on the verge of war with Japan. (Herge manages to be pretty...  progressive? direct? about knocking down western stereotypes of China.) By itself, I would say The Blue Lotus might be one of the best Tintin books of the bunch. For sure, Cigars and Lotus represent the best of the sequel pairings of the series.

Tintin and The Picaros: The gang returns to San Theodoros to try and free Bianca Castafiore from the clutches of General Tapioca who has imprisoned her on charges of being a spy. Jungles, guerillas, revolutions, carnivals- this one has it all and might be my personal favorite of the series.

The Castafiore Emerald: The one where they don't go anywhere, Bianca Castafiore comes to them and loses her emerald in the process. Fun, humorous and full of light comedy this is one of the best in the series to me. Herge proves that he doesn't have to send Tintin all over the globe to carry an great a story.

Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon: Man, I really want to put these two at the top of the pile, because given the fact that they were published first in 1952, seventeen years before we landed on the moon, they hold up really, really well. (Plus, given that SpaceX is working on perfecting reusable rockets that land just like this one does, it seems oddly prescient in many ways.) One of the best Tintin stories, hands down.

The Black Island: This one kind of threw me for a loop at first. It starts almost in media res, with Tintin going to help a plane that's made an emergency landing and getting shot for his troubles, but it turns into a satisfying, complex page turner that eventually leads Tintin to a mysterious island off the coast of Scotland where he nabs a gang of international forgers.

King Ottokar's Scepter: I always tended to like the character of Captain Haddock and the subsequent adventures involving him, but this one is a solid solo Tintin adventure that plays around with Cold War style intrigue between the Balkan nations of Syldavia and Borduria (the rivalry between the two surfaces again in The Calculus Affair.) I believe this is also the first appearance of Bianca Castafiore.

The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure: Along with some elements from The Crab With Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure make up the bulk of the first Tintin movie (apparently, more are coming!) But as treasure hunt stories go, this pair are really good. I'm almost tempted to rank them higher, but The Blue Lotus is just so damn good. Also, this is the first appearance of Professor Calculus, so that adds to the fun.

The Calculus Affair: Another Syldavia/Borduria caper, this time it's Professor Calculus and one of his inventions that are caught up in the action as both nations seek to possess his sonic technology for themselves (as it's capable of leveling cities.)

Land of Black Gold: some thing is wrong with the world's oil and Cold War tensions and some very familiar geopolitics send Tintin to the Emirate of Khemed to find some answers. Turns out it's a conspiracy involving Dr. Mueller and the enemy of the Emir, Bab El-Ur.

Tintin In Tibet: probably one of the ones I've read the most and it still holds up. Tintin and Captain Haddock head to Tibet in search of Chang (from The Blue Lotus). Tintin is convinced that Chang is alive because he saw him in a dream, which makes the motivation for his trip somewhat... odd, but it works out in the end. Also: there's a Yeti.

The Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of The Sun: A twist on the usual 'curse of the mummy' tale, these two focus on an Incan mummy that is brought back to Europe by the archaeologists that discovered it and they're cursed in the process. Tintin and Captain Haddock head to Peru to find Professor Calculus when he's caught up in the affair thanks to inadvertently putting on an Inca bracelet. Solid stuff all around.

Flight 714: Herge dabbles in science fiction a bit with this one and it's got rather mixed results. I don't particularly like it and I don't particularly hate it and I'm pretty sure it implies that Rastapopulous gets kidnapped by aliens and that's the end of that, but it's a solid middle of the pack offering.

The Crab With Golden Claws: the introduction of Captain Haddock is a rather middle range affair, to me. It's decent enough-Tintin busts another drug smuggling ring and meets Captain Haddock along the way- though Haddock's character evolves somewhat from the 'pathetic drunk' seen in this book and is the better for it.

The Shooting Star: a meteor lands near the North Pole and the race is on between scientific expeditions to get to it first. Pretty 'meh' overall and somewhat undermined by a controversy over the villain of the book, the financier Mr. Bohlwinkel, who used to be called Mr. Blumberg for all the reasons you might think.

The Red Sea Sharks: It's back to the Middle East for Tintin and company, this time they're uncovering a conspiracy of human trafficking/slave trading on the Red Sea, exploiting Africans who are on the Hajj to Mecca. Depictions of Africans remain Herge's weak point and somewhat problematic by today's standards- but there are worse portrayals.

Tintin and The Lake of Sharks: An adaptation of an animated movie I've never actually seen, I'm honestly not sure where to put this one in the rankings. As adaptations go, it feels like a faithful one- when placed against the wider canon of the Tintin universe, however, it falls short with a general shrug and a 'meh' reaction upon completing it.

The Broken Ear: Decent enough. A South American 'fetish' is stolen from a local museum and Tintin heads out on an adventure in South America to track it down and eventually does so. However, I have to rank this one down near the bottom for a couple of reasons. Herge's portrayals of indigenous folks are...  somewhat problematic, though as far as I know the Arumbayas are completely fictional, so it's not like he's messing up the culture of an existing tribe. What earns this one a few demerits to me, however, is Tintin's unfortunate use of blackface as a disguise. It's the only time you ever see him do it and it's...  not necessary.

Tintin In America: the worst of the bunch.. The plot isn't all that great (Tintin takes down Al Capone in a not particularly engaging way) and it's hurt by the fact that it's a collection of stereotypes of America ranging from 30s gangsters to the Old West to some truly cringeworthy portrayals of Native Americans that would be seen as massively racist in today's world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Epic Bookshot #2: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

For my second Epic Bookshot, I spent a few months winding my way back through the zany and humorous science fiction antics of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I've always enjoyed these books, but it had been awhile since I had plunged into them- so it was a treat to work my way through them again, especially the last two books: So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless. These are the two books I've read the least, especially Fish.

First of all, I suppose we have to touch on what makes this particular 'franchise' so fascinating: it's existed in just about every medium you can think of. It started as a radio show and has continued as a radio show over the years (I still have the cassette tapes we used to listen to on family vacation.) It's been a stage show, comic book, a TV series on the Beeb in 1981, a video game in 1984 and a feature film in 2005. Here's the hook with all of these mediums: every time it's moved into another iteration it's never been exactly the same. It's why the movie is different from the TV show, there are subtle differences (though not many) between the radio show and the TV series as well.

Which brings us to the 'second of all', the books themselves:

The series opens with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, where Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace by pass and the two survivors Arthur Dent and his friend, Ford Prefect (who is, in fact, from Betelgeuse and not from Croydon) manage to sneak aboard the Vogon ship that did the destruction. They meet up with Zaphod and Trillian (another survivor from Earth) and together they make their way to the ancient plant Magrathea, where they learn the truth about Earth thanks to Slartibartfast, a Magrathean who won an award designing the fjords of Norway. Basically: Earth is a giant super computer which was attempting to find the question to the ultimate answer of life, the universe and everything. (They already know the answer: '42') It turns out that the answer might be in Arthur's brain, but instead of getting his brain dissected, the protagonists escape and head to...

The Restaurant At The End of The Universe, (the second book.) Before they get there though, Zaphod is diverted into another conspiracy to find the location of the man who really runs the Universe. The editor of the Guide, Zarniwoop helps him to locate him- but only after the crew eats their dinner and gets stuck on a stunt ship about to plunge into a sun. They all blind teleport away, Zaphod and Trillian back to the Heart of Gold and Zarniwoop and Ford and Arthur to the Golgafrinchin spaceship which crash lands on what they realize is prehistoric Earth. (Trillian and Zaphod meet the man running the Universe, who lives in a shack with his cat and decide he's got things running smooth enough and leave.)

Life, The Universe and Everything sees Arthur and Ford return to the present through a space-time eddy into Lord's Cricket Ground where they meet Slartibartfast who enlists their help to fight an ancient evil. The inhabitants of Krikkit long ago set out to destroy all life in the Universe and now they're back. Our heroes prevent this and then go about their separate ways.

So, Long and Thanks For All The Fish is the next book and probably the one I've read the least, so it was probably the book I enjoyed the most overall. Arthur finds himself back on Earth and everything is more or less like it was when he left. He meets and falls in love with a girl named Fenchurch (who is a passing reference from the very first book) and discovers that the dolphins have provided a replacement Earth in their Save The Humans Campaign. Eventually the two meet up with Ford and go hitch hiking one last time to find God's Last Message to His Creation, which Marvin The Robot gets to read before dying.

Mostly Harmless is the final novel in the series... (yes, I know there's And Another Thing... and The Salmon of Doubt and I'm being a true Adams compleist I should include them, but I don't own them, so therefore, ain't gonna read them.) Weirdly, this is also the one that feels most like a novel novel, if that makes sense. Life was adapted from a Doctor Who story that Adams wrote. Fish was also not adapted from radio script, but this one feels longer and more... I don't want to say fleshed out, but it's more substantial, maybe? (That's not the right word either. Let's just say it's got a different tone from the west of the series? That's probably closer to the mark.) Well, this one features Arthur who loses Fenchurch, has a daughter he never met and settles down on the planet Lamuella to become 'sandwich maker' to the natives there. Ford evades a takeover of the Guide by the Vogons and steals the Guide Mark II. Random (Arthur's daughter) steals the Guide and goes to a parallel Earth to try and meet her mother and ultimately causes the removal of all Earth's from all probabilities.

Overall (and I guess thirdly): this is one of the great works of science fiction of the last century. There's a reason you find these on all those 'check off the books you've read' listicles that float around the internet- it's one of those rare series that transcends it's genre using humor. That, I think is a far more difficult way of writing that people can understand. Science fiction doesn't have to be ponderous and deep and meaningful and full of wonder and awe and escapism and transport you to other worlds. It can be smart and intelligent as well. I don't know if that's what Adams had in mind when he started writing these books, but that's what he delivered.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Sportsyball: Post World Cup Edition

World Cup: This was a fantastic World Cup. Probably the best I can recall since 1998, which is kind of appropriate since 1998 was the last time France won the whole damn thing. In general, I'm a fan of 'not the usual suspects' winning the whole thing. Italy being out helped that cause. Germany being decidedly non German and losing to both Mexico and South Korea and crashing out in the group stages. Brazil being good but not their usual level of good. Argentina continuing the waste the dwindling prime of Lionel Messi. By the time you got to the semifinals, you had two teams that people expected (France and Belgium) and two more teams that you probably didn't (Croatia and England.)

England was enjoyable to watch. Normally that shouldn't be a sentence that out of the ordinary to type, but England was enjoyable to watch. They had an identity. They had young guys and a refreshing paucity of egos. They were all about pushing forward and trying to score goals. Multiple goals! If there was a bus, England left it in the parking lot where it belonged and didn't just sit on a single goal lead! THEY WON A PENALTY SHOOTOUT! Normally, watching England is an incredibly frustrating experience- this year it was the polar opposite. The results were hard to argue with: England posted its best result since 1990.

As much as I was quietly rooting for Belgium to live up to their 'on paper' talent levels, France looked slightly sleepy at times in the group stages, but got rolling in the knockout stages. This Pavard goal should be preserved in amber for all time. Kylian Mbappe announced himself as the next great superstar of the sport and made this insanely beautiful pass (which Olivier Giroud promptly fucked up and didn't turn into a goal.) And sure enough, France got into the final and despite a valiant effort by Croatia to make it interesting and Pussy Riot to make it even more entertaining than it was, they won!

Qatar is going to be weird. It's going to be in the winter and there's the whole issue of slave labor being used to build stadiums. If I'm honest, I'm kind of looking more at 2026 when it comes to North America...  but before we even get to either 2022 or 2026, we've got to head back to France next year, for the Women's World Cup in 2019!

I hope England continues playing football exactly like this- only ever-so-slightly better! I hope the USMNT makes it to 2022! (I also hope the Dutch get there as well... I missed the Dutch this time around.) At the end of the day, this one was an amazing World Cup! Can't wait until the next one!

The B1G Numbers: A couple of interesting podcasts episodes- one of Hawkeye Nation and the other of their sister podcast Bigger Ten got the old wheels turning on a couple of interesting debates/discussions that Miller & Deace got into in these episodes. First question is probably the most thought-provoking one: Should Iowa be expecting more success given our revenue ranking?

We're 18th in the nation in revenue, but 54th in the standings of the Director's Cup which measures the success of schools across all sports overall. Now I can't say that as a fan I pay attention to or give a shit about the standings of the Director's Cup. It seems very 'inside baseball' to me, but as a measure of the overall success on the field, it seems to be a pretty good barometer. And there is a pretty hefty gap between where our revenue is and where the overall success on the 'field' is. In the podcast, the usual thesis was applied: outside of football and men's basketball the amount of give a damn that fans usually have drops off pretty severely. Sure, wrestling has their hardcore fans and women's basketball has a following and now that they're tasting some success so does Iowa baseball, but really it's the big two that drive fan interest and fan perception of what 'success is.'

Miller & Deace seemed to land on the opinion that football is pretty consistent and decent, but men's basketball is still off the pace set back in the Dr. Tom and Lute Olson eras (consistently upper tier of the B1G, making the tournament three out of every four years.) But where I think their thesis of the big two driving fan interest falls down some is with Iowa baseball.

Pre-Hellerball, if anyone gave a shit about Iowa baseball I never met them. Ever. I mean, I knew we had a baseball team and it played games and stuff, but was it relevant? Did people care? Not really-certainly not in the numbers that they do now. Which proves to me that the right AD (which I don't think Barta is) making the right investments and the right hires can generate interest and success. Iowa baseball proves that with our fanbase, 'if you build it, they will come.'

So, do I think Iowa should be expecting more success overall, given our revenue ranking? Yes, I do. There's no reason to me why we can't be more competitive across the board in all sports. I think women's basketball is probably the best kept secret on campus. I don't know why they can't get more butts in seats, but I think the Athletics Department should put it's shoulder onto the problem and see if they can get some more buzz around that program. Field Hockey, given it's record over the years should be the same way. You can argue that maybe we shouldn't care so much about 'non-revenue' sports, but a sport is a sport. If we're going to spend money on facilities and scholarships, as fans we should expect silverware in the trophy case. I know I sure do.

The second question (from the Bigger Ten podcast) is an early preview of the Realignment Bingo that's a couple of years away from starting up again. If (or when- probably when) the B1G goes to sixteen, who do we take? Right now, M&D seemed to be of the opinion that it's the ACC who's on the backfoot. The Big 12 is within striking distance of the SEC in terms of dividends and the SEC is right up there with the B1G, but the ACC is lagging and they were late to the network game.

I think it's too early to get into the prognostication game just yet- but I do think if it all starts up again, Georgia Tech is getting an invite. I know we've been all about geography and maintaining a footprint so far, but I think demography is destiny and planting our flag in Atlanta is going give the B1G far more than any other school I can think of.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

This Week In Vexillology #262

It's Bastille Day, so where else are going to turn to but the country of France? Now, we've already looked at The Tricolor itself (and there's really not much more you can say about one of the most iconic flags in the human history- and yes, I'm comfortable putting it right up there with the most important of them) but France has plenty of regional flags that are worth taking a peek at as well and that's where we're going This Week In Vexillology... a delightful trio of French regional flags.

First up, is the flag of Brittany:
Brittany is the administrative region of France that juts out the most to the west...  if you can find Normandy on the map and move southwest, the peninsula you're going to hit is Brittany. The name of the region is derived from the settlers from Great Britain who fled the Anglo-Saxon invasions between the fifth and seventh centuries. As a result, it's maintained a lot of it's Celtic heritage, including a language (Breton) that has more in common with Welsh and Cornish than with French.

Plus: how cool is that flag? First created in 1923 by Morvan Marchal who drew inspiration from the flags of the United States and Greece, who were seen as symbols of liberty and democracy at the time. The nine horizontal stripes stand for the traditional dioceses of the duchy. The black stripes are for the French speaking dioceses of Dol, Nantes, Rennes, Saint-Malo and Saint-Brieuc and the white stripes are for the Breton speaking dioceses of Tregor, Leon, Cornouaille and Vannes. The symbols in the canton (which I guess are ermine?) recall the arms of the Duchy of Brittany.

Next up, Auvergne:
A former administrative region of France, it was merged with the neighboring region of Rhone-Alpes to become Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes in January of 2016. Where is it on the map? Well, find the southern city of Montpellier on the map (it's just west of Marseille) and head north until you hit Clermont-Ferrand. Then, you're in the heart of Auvergne.

Historically, this region is worth nothing because it was the home of Vercingetorix and his tribe, the Arverni, a powerful Gallic tribe that defeated Julius Cesar in 52 BC before eventually being defeated by the Romans. The flag itself is an armorial banner- the official designation is, "or a gonfanon gules ringed and edged vert." There doesn't appear to be an explanation of the arms, it's said to stand for the a banner used by Eustace III, the count of Auvergne when he seized Jerusalem in 1099.

Finally, the flag of Franche-Comte:
Let's start with the obvious: where the heck is it? Well, it's nestled right along the border with Switzerland- if you find Bern and head northeast until you get to Besancon, you've found the Franche-Comte. It got merged with Borgogne in January of 2016 to become Bourgogne-Franche-Comte. Literally the name means 'Free Country' and it's been around for centuries- either as part of the neighboring Kingdom or Duchy of Burgandy or as it's own entity.

Another banner taken from heraldry, it depicts: "on a field of azure seme with bars of gold, a crowned lion rampant with tongue and claws gules." (Whatever that means...  ugh, again, heraldry is something I'm going to have to sit down and learn I guess.) It's derived from a blazon that was created in the Middle Ages by Otto IV, the Count of Burgandy to replace the eagle, which was formerly the symbol of Burgandy. Otto wanted to change the symbol to reflect a closer relationship with the Kingdom of France.

And there you have it! Three flags of France for Bastille Day! Until next time, keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business

Dad shaming is now a thing. I'm not sure why it's a thing, but I suppose if Mom-shaming is a thing, it would be inevitable that at some point, Dad-shaming would have to follow. Who is the unlucky Dad who is getting raked over the online coals of outrage? Justin Timberlake, of all people, who had the temerity, the nerve to post a perfectly lovely picture of his kiddo online. 

What was wrong with this picture? Well, his son has long hair.

Yeah, that's right. People got all butt hurt and bent out of shape because the kid has long hair.  It's the usual reasons ("boys shouldn't have long hair!" "he looks like a girl!") you are probably thinking and it's incredibly disheartening really, because he seems like a happy enough kid and both Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel seem like doting parents who really love the little dude, but the more I read about it and the more I heard about it, the angrier I got. Why do people care? Why do people feel this constant need to offer their opinion and shit all over random pictures of joy on the internet? Why can't people mind their own fucking business for once?

Look, I've got a kiddo with long hair. Not as long as Timberlake's kiddo, but pretty long. We could cut it. People kind of intimate that we should cut it now and again, but both Grandmas love his long hair and he's got kind of a large noggin (so do I, it's a family thing) so we don't want to make his head look any larger than it already is unless we absolutely have too. As it is, having some long hair on his head makes it look pretty damn proportional, so it works for me.

And- and here's the most important point to me, he's pretty happy about it. 

That should be the end of the discussion to me. Does the kid look happy? If he does, then shut your mouth. Justin Timberlake doesn't comment on photos of your kid and judge your kid, does he? (I mean, he might, I don't know... but it doesn't seem like the kind of thing he would do.) Then why oh why oh why, would you think it would be okay for you to do the same thing?

("Well, he's a celebrity and he's putting himself out there for the world to see, he should expect that!") Yeah, I don't need to see your ill-thought out internet meme all over my Facebook wall or the umpteenth ad for whatever multi-level marketing scheme your pushing on all your friends either, but do you see me shitting all over your hopes and dreams? No. I have better things to do with my life and more to the point...  it's none of my fucking business.

Parent shaming makes me absolutely insane. It's a hard enough job as it is without internet randos who know nothing about you offering their unasked for opinions on a variety of topics- but when you want to share a moment of joy, because given how messed up the world is, the more moments of joy we share with each other, the better of we all might be- when you decide to squat and take a dump all over that? Not cool. If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all- and mind your own damn business.

Basically, if you abuse or molest your child and if you don't vaccinate your child because of some dumb shit you read on the internet, or do some other thing to actively harm your child, I will judge the ever loving shit out of you, because you deserve it. But that's about it. I don't care how long your kid's hair is. I don't care what they wear. I don't care what they eat. None of that is my business, so I'm not gonna say a damn thing about it.

People always seem to be wringing their hands and bemoaning the state of discourse and culture these days, but to me, if we as a nation, collectively came together and decided to mind our own damn business, so much would improve almost instantly. #PermitPattys? Gone. Shitty snide comments on the internet? Gone. Kindness? Would rise. Moments of joy and amazement that make the internet so worthwhile might actually be able to break through the noxious clouds of negative for once and shine through more brightly.

There's a virtue to minding your own business that we should seek to rediscover. At the very least, parents should do each other a solid and just be nice. Especially where kiddos are concerned.