Saturday, April 30, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #164


This Week In Vexillology, we're sticking around the South Pacific and taking a look at the flag of the Solomon Islands. Adopted on November 18th, 1977, the five main island groups are represented by the stars. The blue stands for the surrounding ocean, and the green in the flag represents the land. You might think (like I did, initially) that the yellow stripe stands for sand along the beaches- but it doesn't- it represents sunshine.

As for the Soloman Islands themselves- well, military history buffs might remember the Battle of Guadacanal back in World War II- the capitol, Honiara is located there. The Spanish discovered them in 1568, the British came around 1893 and sort of took over the place. They achieved self-government in 1975, became independent in 1977 and are currently a Constitutional Monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II serving as the Queen of Soloman Islands (one of the many hats she wears as part of the whole Commonwealth thing.)

There was a bout of ethnic tension between 1998-2003 that got pretty nasty. (A kaleidoscope of Pacific Nations, including Australia and New Zealand) ended up sending about 2,000 troops and police to help calm things down- but other than that- which, I imagine from their point of view would be a pretty big 'that'- post-independence has been fairly uneventful for the Solomons.

Their flag is pretty boss too.

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Is The Two Party System About To Crack Wide Open?

Editor's Note: I'm applying for the occasional freelance gig and if I'm going to have to submit writing samples with my resume, I figured I might as well put them on here for your reading pleasure and, naturally, posterity. So if it seems a little different, that's why.

While the two party system is probably under the greatest amount of strain in decades, despite the pressures placed upon it from both the left and the right in this electoral cycle it is still unlikely to experience major shifts or outright changes. The tones and ideological placement of both parties might shift after this current election, but the system will most likely remain the same.

That might seem slightly incongruous, given the amount of support for political outsiders such as Bernie Sanders (on the left) or Donald Trump (on the right.) If the mood of the electorate can be characterized as anything, it would perhaps be: ‘ready to hand someone a can of gasoline and some matches to burn the whole damn place to the ground.’ Whether this palpable anger can be ameliorated somewhat come November remains to be seen- but despite demands for change and an end to business as usual, widespread anger has failed, thus far, to coalesce into a series of demands for actual reform. Unless it does so, we can assume that the current system will survive- more or less intact.

However, we can’t discount the possibility of the electoral map shifting for a generation or so- the way the New Deal Coalition transformed politics in the 30s or the way the Reagan Coalition did so in the early 80s. While President Obama’s election was a unique moment in our nation’s history- the coalition he put together has not borne fruit for the Democratic Party- especially on the state level. Republicans control more state legislatures than they have in a century- and while the possibility of taking back the Senate for the Democratic Party is a viable one, a long period of Democratic dominance- similar to the one that the Republicans ended in 1994, seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.

So, what can bring real change? Well, that depends on who you talk too: the reality of the situation is that with the Single Member District (one district, one representative) and the First-Past-The-Post voting system (candidate with the most votes wins) the number of parties is likely to remain low. While Canada and the United Kingdom might point to the possibility of multiple parties emerging, most of those have been regionally based (such as the Bloc Quebecois in Canada, Plaid Cymuru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland). However, Canada also proves that the rise of a viable third party cannot be ruled out: the New Democratic Party vaulted over the Liberal Party in the elections of 2011 to become the official opposition in the Canadian Parliament. Now the Liberals managed to recover and win the elections in 2015- but the NDP proves that a viable third party can capture significant amounts of power in the system- though they have yet to win their way into government and 2011 may yet prove to be an outlier rather than the start of a trend.

No matter how you spin it, without structural changes to our system, the number of parties will remain relatively low. If the anti-trust lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates is successful it might open up challenges to restrictive ballot access laws and open up the system to competition, but even if the playing field is level, other parties have to win seats and accumulate experience in governance to be successful.

However, there’s an old saying: “A week is a long time in politics.” And if that is true, then six months is an eternity. If any candidate is denied a nomination at the convention in a way the public finds unpalatable, then the anger that outsider candidates are benefiting from might coalesce into something that could prove dangerous to the establishment: actual, specific demands. And if that happens, then all bets are off. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Where Is The Fanfare For 50 Years of Star Trek?

2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek and while there's a new movie set to drop this year (Star Trek Beyond) and a new television show on the horizon for 2017, other than that, there's been a dearth of fanfare around the half-century mark for one of science fiction's most storied franchises. While Doctor Who had worldwide celebrations and an epic, multi-Doctor special to mark their celebration, Paramount seems to be dropping the ball when it comes to Star Trek.

A recent article at io9.com sums it up perfectly: Why the hell aren't we hearing more about Star Trek Beyond? Cinema-Con was last week and new footage and new trailers dropped in its wake- but nothing for Star Trek Beyond. Paramount's official explanation is that new footage would be premiering at a massive fan event set for May 20th- but still, there seems to be a dearth of official commemorations to mark the anniversary. While a documentary celebrating the life of Leonard Nimoy (directed by his son) is set for release, Paramount seems more preoccupied with squashing Axanar, an excellent looking fan film that was gearing up for a full length-feature release.

There's an argument to be made that with a new television series coming and a movie being released this year, that perhaps that's enough to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. What more do people want? Doctor Who had a multi-Doctor special and a biopic on the making of the show released. Star Trek seems to be getting much the same treatment.

So is their a growing perception of benign neglect out there in the internet? It could be that Star Trek fandom has become notoriously prickly about the state of the franchise- with some people enjoying the new era of Trek movies and others being vocal in their dislike of J.J. Abrams-era Star Trek. But there is also an element of truth to the charge: with franchises like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and the launch of promising series, The Expanse, Star Trek needs to demonstrate relevancy and the ability to think outside the box. Paramount, however, seems to be intent on shutting the box down completely- and it's hard to see how that benefits the franchise overall.

Release a movie. Launch a television show on a streaming network that few, if any people seem all that interested in joining. (At least so far.) But there's no sense out there that this is the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. If a new movie and a television show weren't coming, would we even know?

It might not be too late- we now have the first hints of where the next Trek series might fall into the timeline: namely between the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: The Next Generation. There are whispers of a group of villainous Klingons being bad guys and there was a fresh buzz of excitement around the prospect of a new series once again- the news that it might be an anthology show like American Horror Story only increased the buzz- that would be something that Star Trek had not attempted ever before.

We've got about a month or so before the next trailer for Star Trek Beyond drops- and we'll see if that massive fan event generates some hype for the anniversary and if it does, great. Fifty years of Trek will get the celebration it deserves. But if it doesn't, then people will keep right on asking the question: where is the fanfare for 50 years of Star Trek?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #163

This Week In Vexillology, we're sticking around the South Pacific and taking a look at the striking and kind of awesome looking flag of Vanuatu!

First discovered by Europeans in 1606, it nearly another two centuries and another two visits before the archipelago was finally given a name that stuck, courtesy of Captain James Cook, who named them the New Hebrides. Over the subsequent centuries both Britain and France claimed parts of the island chain, which lead to the establishment of a unique power sharing structure between the two powers which only came together in a joint court. Melanesians on the islands could not get citizenship of either power. (This is actually really unusually and unique- I can't say I've ever come across a joint-agreement between two powers like this before. Interesting.)

After World War II, nationalism grew with the arrival of- who else? The Americans! (And gave rise to a cargo cult named John Frum which is now a political party in the government.) The first political party was established in the 1970s, eventually becoming the Vanua'aku Pati after independence was won after...  the Coconut War.

(That's a pretty much a TL;DR of the interesting stuff I could glean about Vanuatu...)

But now, the FLAG! 

Adopted for national and civil usage on February 18th, 1980, the colors of the Vanua'aku Pati (the political party that lead the fight for independence) were chosen to be the basis of the new national flag and a parliamentary committee chose the final design based on submissions from local artists. The green in the flag represents the richness of the islands, the red is for the blood of wild boars and men, black is for the people. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu at the time, Father Walter Lini wanted the inclusion of yellow to make the black stand out more. The yellow 'Y' represents "the light of the gospel going through islands." (The overwhelming majority of residents are Christian.)

The tusk/laurel leaf emblem on the hoist is interesting. The tusk is for a boar- which is a symbol of prosperity on the islands. The leaves are from a local fern and represent a token of peace- if you look real, reaaaaal close you'd count 39 leaflets- which represent the 39 members of Parliament in Vanuatu.

Remember, until next time- keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince, 1958-2016


I'm just going to go ahead and say it: Worst. Year. Ever.  (Well, not exactly the worst- I mean, we did just move into a beautiful new house and I've got a six month old (how crazy is that?) and a four year old who just started soccer (and is very excited about it) and a beautiful wife that I love and adore.) But seriously: first Bowie and now Prince?

I didn't come of age in the 80s, so I wasn't deep in the MTV generation, but I was old enough in the early to mid-90s to dig me some VH1 and Prince videos tended to pop up (pun intended) a lot on Pop Up Video. I remember the video for Raspberry Beret and Kiss- and then of course, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet was my first introduction to When Doves Cry, but it wasn't until I moved to Minnesota for grad school that I really began to understand just how big of a deal this dude was.

Every bar I ever went to in Minnesota (and believe me, I went to many) you heard Prince. At some point in the night, you always head the dude. It was like a box that needed to be checked off: Surly or Summit Beer on tap, Twins/Wild/Vikings/Gophers game on the television and Prince somewhere on the jukebox. It seemed like a strangely incongruous fact about the Medium White North that it produced Prince. I mean, Bob Dylan makes sense in a weird sort of way: white dude, guitar, harmonica, travelling troubadour type of deal- walking around the cornfields and singing about life and all that jazz- it fits. But Prince? The supernova of purple badassery? From, of all places, Minnesota?  It seems like something you never would have guessed but should have really expected- which sort of fits the man, to me.

(Speaking of Dylan: I'm assuming Minnesota has dispatched someone to check on him- and Garrison Keillor?)

The world lost a staggering genius and a once in a lifetime talent today. But don't read any more of my words: see for yourself.

Let's Watch Prince's Super Bowl Halftime Show, The Best We've Ever Seen

Prince's 1991 MTV Video Awards Performance Is The Maybe The Sexiest Thing Ever Aired On TV

His Performance on SNL

His cover of Radiohead's Creep

Random collection of favorite Prince Moments

Kevin Smith on Prince

Awesome Old Bootleg of Him Covering Honky Tonk Woman

A Piece of Minnesota Has Died

(Hell, this is not an exhaustive list. This is just the stuff I've been pouring through all day- though this Slate article makes a good point- his music is pretty damn scarce online and to be honest, I'm about 90% sure I'll be buying either a straight up album of his or a hefty amount of MP3's very soon- because my first instinct when I heard the news was to listen to his music. And I've been looking on and off all day. Still pretty hard to find the stuff.)

The world is turning purple tonight to remember the life, the music and the genius of a one of a kind artist, who could play the hell out of a guitar and rocked the faces clean off of an entire generation. His face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of contemporary pop culture for than just his music. He changed the game. He changed everything.

And now we have to live in a world without Prince. And if that isn't a heartbreaking loss of a staggering genius- I don't know what is.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

35. Make Our House Perfect (or move to a bigger and better house)

Well, it's official. We've moved! There's still plenty of stuff to unpack and the house is still a mess- but we're here and we couldn't be happier. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Will Suicide Squad Break The Grimdark?

As superheros of all kinds fill up the screen both large and small, stark differences are emerging between the two main comic competitors Marvel and DC and their competing visions for bring their characters to either small or the large screen. While both companies can claim a cinematic history that goes back to the 40s and 50s (Republic Pictures released a Captain America movie in 1944 for what was then called Timely Comics, Superman and the Mole Men dropped in 1951 and served as the pilot for the 1950s Adventures of Superman Television Series) the modern era for both companies did not really take off until the year 2008 when the cinematic visions for both companies went in starkly different directions.

For Marvel, 2008 saw the release of Iron Man, which launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe which seems to an unstoppable juggernaut at this point. It is undeniable that Marvel has hit more than it has missed and if advance reviews for Captain America: Civil War are as promising as we are lead to believe, then Marvel's streak of success looks to continue for some time to come.

DC on the other, is only just now developing an overarching universe- with Man of Steel serving as a starting point and now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice starting the build-up to a two-part Justice League movie (Part One drops in 2017 and Part Two in 2019.) Yet critical success and even fan acclaim seems to be somewhat mixed for DC. Man of Steel drew criticism for Superman actually killed General Zod (while laying waste to a healthy chunk of Metropolis in the process) and while box office numbers for Batman v Superman were into the hundreds of millions fairly quickly, critics were less than kind. Rumors swirled that the entire slate of planned DC's movies was being reconsidered and breathless roundtables on the future of the superhero movie appeared on the internet.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that much of the cinematic tone of the DC universe was established with Christopher Nolan's trilogy of Batman films, which embraced hyper-realism and a grim, gritty tone which worked beautifully for the character and made excellent films. But while brooding, grimdark seems to fit the Dark Knight like a glove, it doesn't translate so well to the idealism of the Man of Steel. While DC is late to the Cinematic Universe game, it should take a page out of Marvel's book to make sure subsequent films can establish unique tones that will help them standout. In the Marvel Universe alone, we've seen Captain America as a period piece (Captain America: The First Avenger), a taut political thriller (Captain America: Winter Soldier) and Ant-Man has even joined the fun as a straight up heist movie.

If DC's Extended Universe is to flourish and surpass the titanic success of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, then it's time to break the grimdark- and DC might have an unlikely candidate to do just that in Suicide Squad.

It seems like an unlikely choice but every trailer has inched away from grim, brooding darkness toward something different entirely. While it might not be light, frothy fun, subsequent trailers have turned away from brooding darkness of the original Comic-Con footage to a neon pastiche that feels more like Blade Runner than Man of Steel. The use of contemporary music in subsequent trailers (Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the 2nd Trailer and now Leslie Gore's 'You Don't Own Me' and Sweet's 'Ballroom Blitz' in the 3rd Trailer) also highlights the turn away from the brooding darkness of Nolan to something different. With Suicide Squad, DC might have something unique, different and ultimately game changing on their hands: their version of The Dirty Dozen.

With the news that Wonder Woman will be more of a period piece than people were expecting it to be, it appears that DC might be turning the corner on their cinematic universe just in time to showcase some of their biggest, most important properties of all. While mixed critical reception to Batman V Superman might have worried some people- the box office receipts are now topping over $800 million- which means that whatever the critics may think, the audience apparently disagrees. If the trailers of Suicide Squad fulfill the expectations that they're rapidly establishing, then DC's reputation as the land of brooding grimdark might be well and truly put behind them and Marvel might find itself with a genuine competition on its hands. Either way, fans of superheroes and comic books everywhere win!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #162

This Week In Vexillology, we're heading across the world, way down to the southern hemisphere for a refreshing change of pace with the flag of Papua New Guinea:


Adopted on July 1st, 1971 for national and civil usage, the flag was designed by a 15 year old school girl who won a nationwide competition held for a new flag design. In the fly you see the Southern Cross, which appears in the flags of Australia and New Zealand (Australia and Britain ran the place- first Papua from 1906-1949 and then New Guinea from 1914-1949 and finally the two together as Papua New Guinea from 1949-1965. It became an Australian Trust Territory from 1965 until independence in 1971.) The constellation in this flag represents the country's location in the Southern Hemisphere and that it can be seen in Papua New Guinea.

The bird silhouetted in yellow is a raggiana bird-of-paradise, which can be found on the islands and the red and black have long been traditional colors of many tribes in the country, but also hearken back to the flag of the German Empire, which colonized New Guinea in 1899 and whose rule lasted until the end of World War I in 1914.

Post-independence, Papua New Guinea settled into it's role as a Commonwealth Realm, which means that Queen Elizabeth II acts as it's head of state. But there's a slightly unusual twist with Papua New Guinea: along with the Solomon Islands they are the only the two Commonwealth Realms whose Governor-Generals are elected by the legislature. The political system seems to have gone through some growing pains before some voting reforms stabilized things somewhat- and a breakaway movement on Bougainville Island resulted in a last minute change to the 1975 Constitution which granted regions quasi-Federal Status- that's quelled round 1 of that uprising, but another revolt broke out in 1988 and claimed 20,000 lives before being resolved in 1997. A referendum on independence for Bougainville is scheduled for 2020- so stay tuned for that.

And that's Papua New Guinea in a nutshell!

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #161

This Week In Vexillology, we're wrapping up Europe with the flag of Austria- which, fun (and probably apocryphal) fact might be one of the world's oldest flags with an origin story that dates all the way back to the year 1191.
Adopted on May 1st, 1945 for national and civil usage, the flag of Austria was held over following the fall of the Hapsburg Empire at the end of World War I- and the two red stripes with a white stripe in the center have been associated with Austria for centuries. Story is that a Duke of Austria once fought so much in battle his white surcoat ended up soaked in blood except for the part that was covered by his belt. Why anyone would think that wearing a white surcoat to a battle- especially all the way back in 1191 where leaders you know, actually still had some skin in the game as a posed to watching proceedings from a tent well back from the fighting- is beyond me, but that's what the dude did and that's how we ended up with the flag of Austria. His ruined surcoat and his belt that saved the tiny part of it that remained white. (What, I wonder would have been have been the dry cleaning bill? And did they even clean clothes back in 1191?)

And that's pretty much Austria in a nutshell from the point of view of it's flag. But while it's days of Imperial Glory are behind it, it still gave the world the Danish pastry, the Wiener Schnitzel (which until very recently, I always assumed was a sausage of some kind. it's not) and the great Hermann Maier- who's career was much better than this crash in Nagano, which seems to inevitably show up in the Winter Olympics highlight reel every four years. Oh and don't forget about The Sound of Music either...

Anyway- that's Austria! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Squawk Box: Daredevil Season 2

I was planning to drop this review in May- I dipped my toes into Occupied and Deutschland 83 and was liking was I was seeing, but once I saw the season premiere of Daredevil, I was immediately sucked back into the show- and, as with most things on Netflix, once you start, you just can't stop. Did the second season live up to the excellence of the first? In many ways, yes- in some ways no- but, I have to admit after a somewhat uneven middle stretch of the season, they pulled things back together for an excellent finale.

As the season opens, Nelson and Murdock are enjoying new found fame following their victory over Wilson Fisk and seem to be heading back to the daily grind of trying to pay their bills and help their clients, many of whom pay via things like pie instead of actual, you know, money. But a new arrival when a new arrival in Hell's Kitchen disrupts the peace, Nelson, Murdock and Karen Page- the sort of core triumverate of the show find themselves split apart by events almost beyond their control thanks to that new arrival: a new vigilante by the name of The Punisher.

The first four episodes build up to one hell of a conclusion to the first 'act' of the season- that debate on the rooftop in the 3rd episode where Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and The Punisher (Jon Berenthal) talk about their stark differences in methodology was a fascinating deconstruction of the whole notion of a superhero that surprised me. For all the different mediums you have the superhero ouevre on these days, rare is it where you actually get two of them hashing out and trying to justify what makes them a superhero versus just another vigilante.

Of course, that makes the fact that Murdock and Nelson end up defending Frank Castle when he is put on trial all the more interesting- because while Castle refuses to show mercy to those he considers criminal, Murdock's insistence upon it and his belief in the idea of justice deepens the central contradiction of the character and makes him feel even more three dimensional than he already did.

The middle-to-back half of the season focuses on the arrival of Elektra Natchios, a former old flame of Matt's who practically jumps off the screen at you, thanks to a thrilling performance from Elodie Yung. Don't get me wrong: I like Jennifer Garner. She was excellent in Alias and a multiplicity of other things, but Elodie Yung's performance pretty much made the character of Elektra her own. While this run of episodes gives us some payoff to the hints dropped last season with the arrival of Stick (Scott Glenn- also back and bad ass as usual) and the return from the dead of Nobu, who isn't just a Yakuza ninja anymore.

Did the payoff, such as it is, work? Yes and no. The season sort of stretched a little too much in the middle run, I thought- there was a lot of ninja action that was a lot of fun to watch, but less of the courtroom drama and interaction between the central core characters of Nelson, Murdock and Page was sort of disappointing. Murdock is off running around with Elektra doing his ninja thing and can't just tell his friends what's going on. It's frustrating. (We saw a similar thing in the first season when Page killed a dude. She's given opportunity after opportunity to confess and just tell someone and doesn't. It feels inexplicable and equally frustrating.)

I was sort of worried about it for a few episodes- but the build-up to the finale brings the focus back onto the story and the ninja antics pay off in a very satisfying way. Where are Nelson, Murdock and Page by the end of the season? Well, Nelson and Murdock is no more- and it's Nelson that seems to be coming out on top in terms of career advancement. Page finds what could be an actual career as an investigative journalist- which is an amazing step forward for her character. The Punisher is left in an interesting place- as is Daredevil. I'm honestly not sure where they're going to take the (presumed) third season of the show, but I can't wait to find out.

Overall: While a little uneven in the middle, Daredevil delivers a solid sophomore outing with some moments of true epic excellence. Netflix and Marvel seem to be a match made in heaven and they haven't let me down yet. *** out of ****

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rain

It's 4:10 AM and I feel like I wrote all of this in a fever dream of some kind. No idea what it's going to look like in the morning, but it felt deep, man. So I'm going to let it ride. Take it or leave it, this is what comes out of my brain at this time of night.

It's finally getting to be my favorite time of year: thunderstorm season. I'm not talking about the big suckers that roll through and actually damage things. I like the long ones- that rumble and flash all night long and just rain and rain and rain. It's the kind of night where you wonder why you picked up overtime at all, because between the rain and the thunder you could sleep forever and so, so easily.

I had an hour to kill between the end of my shift and the start of my overtime, so I retrieved the car from the lot at the bottom of the hill and drove it up to the parking ramp. With time on my hands, I didn't want to park in the lower levels for my quick escape in the morning. I drove up the length of the ramp instead, heading for the roof and noting where the rain poured down in torrents of water through the seams of the concrete on the upper levels. 

I parked on the end of the roof, peeking out over the lip of the concrete- catching a glimpse of the west campus skyline in the distance and the blinking red lights of the power plant flashing slowly and the rain making patterns on my windshield and rivulets on my side windows. The sky would flash white on occasion- or I'd see a spear of lightning flash and curl in the distance, followed by a distant rumble of thunder. I turned the car off and put my phone down to listen for a moment and remembered a half forgotten line from a movie that I wanted to say was V For Vendetta. You know the one- toward the end, where Natalie Portman has her head shaved and finds her courage?

"God is in the rain." There's something to that, if you think about it. The scientific explanation for rain might make perfect, logical sense: droplets of moisture falling from the clouds in the sky, but being in the rain, listening to the rain. How can you not believe in something?

Belief. It's a strange thing, considering what beliefs have done throughout the course of world history. I believe in God- a higher power, whatever you want to call it, but I don't like to shout about it. Maybe it's the Catholic in me, but I find my faith to be an intensely personal thing that I don't talk about all that much. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I don't believe in words. I believe in deeds. You can say everything everything you want, but people don't have to believe you. They believe in what people do.

I've decided that my memory is refractory in many ways. I'm not one of those people that remembers every moment of every friendship dating back to elementary school. I'll remember specific moments instead. I'll remember those snows- the big, fluffy flakes falling down through the Jock Lot, lit up by the brilliant white lights of the parking lot. The air so, perfectly still. I'll remember watching a thunderstorm roll through on night shift from the top floor of one of the dorms. (If you haven't seen a thunderstorm from twelve floors up, you're missing out.)  Smiles, moments, nights, the kaleidoscope of colors on a wet street at around 3-4 in the morning.

Yeah. I keep moments. I treasure those tiny moments- some are longer than others, some are fleeting indeed. But sometimes- if you take a few minutes to listen to the rain, you can capture another moment and keep it for yourself.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The USWNT Deserves Equal Pay

This blew up last week and it's worth talking about- not just because I'm a soccer fan, but because in the tiresome debate about equal pay (the left says, reasonably that women should be paid the same as men for equal work. The right says with that slightly irrational but not entirely unreasonable complaint- that hey, why do women in your White House earn less than men in your White House does? And so on and so forth) no matter what side you come down on, this specific complaint shouldn't even be up for discussion.

To whit, five members of the USWNT filed a federal discrimination complaint alleging that U.S. Soccer has illegally and unfairly paid them less than their male counterparts. Now, before you get on your shitty sexist high horse about 'women's sports' let's consider the fact that the USWNT is more successful and brings in more revenue than their male counterparts- the article from Bloomberg View breaks down the numbers nicely- but gets paid four times less.

The Women's Team has been at loggerheads with U.S. Soccer for much of the year. Between the controversy over being forced to play the World Cup on turf and U.S Soccer's continued insistence on still playing on turf- despite the fact that the quality of the playing surfaces has caused injuries before and most recently to midfielder Megan Rapinoe this past December. U.S Soccer also continued the good cheer by filing a lawsuit against their own Women's National Team over the lack of a collective bargaining agreement in February- needless to say, the USWNT Players Association wasn't all that impressed by the lawsuit.

Former men's star Landon Donovan sort of stepped in it and the internet jumped up and down on his head for saying that he was "not for equal pay, I'm for fair pay." But even that sentiment doesn't excuse paying a vastly more successful team four times less than their male counterparts. Three World Cups, four Olympic Titles and four times less than the men's team? Come on now: if it looks like bullshit, smells like bullshit, well then, shit- it must actually be bullshit.

I'm working on finding an MLS Team- because I do think it's important to support your domestic league- even if you like teams from other leagues- but let me just take a stand here:

The US Women's National Team deserves equal pay and I support their fight to get it.

And you know what? You gotta put the rubber to the road at some point and do more than say something- so if you're a soccer fan reading this, get on over to the NWSL website and find yourself a team. Totally at random and mainly due to their close geographical location to Iowa, I settled on a team: FC Kansas City, you've got a new fan!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

There's A New Plan for the Art Museum

So, they've got a new plan for the Art Museum and it wasn't quite what I was expecting. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. Let's consider:

First, I was a little confused- because part of the deal post-flood was that UIMA couldn't return to their old building because it's proximity to the river and two floods within twenty years pretty much meant that their insurance was done dealing with that. But, then I actually did some active reading of the article I linked to above and noticed that they were planning on building parking underneath the building to elevate it above and out of the flood zone.

Second, if you wanted an art museum that is more directly connected to campus this does it and then some. I don't know what the building plan is going to look like- so I don't know if they're going to directly connect it to the Main Library (black rectangle) or have a skywalk/bridge to a facility (red rectangle)- but either way, you're putting it in an area where a lot of students will be. Whether it's in the CRWC working out or looking for a place to study in the Main Library, it's a high traffic area for students- a big plus. Then you've got to consider the motor vehicle traffic alone. That stretch of Burlington Street- hell, any stretch of Burlington Street is going to see thousands of cars each and every day- all driving past a building that I'm betting will be designed to be noticed.

Third, you have to applaud the genius of the location. With it's proximity (and I'm guessing the emerging partnerships) with the Main Library, it allows you to pare down the design to place the focus on where it should be: the art. They don't need to worry about an auditorium or a bunch of extra trimmings because they're right next door to a pretty nice one and recently renovated to boot. Plus, you're just down the hill from the new Music Building- a couple of blocks away from the Old Capitol Town Center and Lot 11- which just increase ease of access and available parking.

Fourth, let's consider this sentence: "Large site allows for future expansion and additional parking." Hmm...  welll, that could be the difference between my black rectangle and red rectangle up there, or it could be...  something else. Let's consider the Riverfront- such as it is, in downtown Iowa City. What exactly is all that iconic about it- especially right next to Iowa City's busiest street? If we cast our eyes far into the future, you've got to think- what if they relocate the Water Plant? Or the Power Plant? I don't think it's likely anytime soon- but if you're looking to get a new facility in place and keep it there permanently- the obvious move for a future expansion is toward the river. Especially if you're elevated and out of the flood zone.

In short, I was a little disheartened when the University announced that it was pulling out of the Clinton/Burlington site. Now, I'm excited again. When they can get this done, however, is a question that I'd love to find out. Hopefully it's soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #160


This Week In Vexillology, we're still in Europe. (Almost done, I swear) but we're also looking at another one of those countries that sort of surprise me- namely the Principality of Liechtenstein. Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, the country was created in 1719 as part of the Holy Roman Empire. (Weirdly, the newly minted Princes of Liechtenstein didn't actually get around to visiting the place for 100 years. When they finally got around to it in 1818, they left again and didn't come back until 1842. All of which makes me wonder a little bit about Liechtenstein...  or it's Princes for that matter.)

World War One forced the country into a customs and monetary union with Switzerland- but it seems to be the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that really secured their independence as it was felt that since Liechtenstein was a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, it was no longer bound to the emerging, newly independent state of Austria. (I think I'm getting this right. It seems a little confusing. They were sort of part of Austria-Hungary, but not? And then they were sort of part of Switzerland, but not?)

Anyway, their flag: pretty basic- and despite last week's little HTML snafu (weirdly the borders I put around the flags showed up in 'compose' mode, but not in 'published' mode. I'm still puzzling it out.) The flag was adopted for national and civil usage on June 24, 1937. The red and blue have been colors of the country since the 18th Century and the crown was added in 1937 to distinguish their flag from the flag of Haiti, after some confusion at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Fun fact: it can be hung vertically or horizontally but the crown always remains upright.

That's the flag of Liechtenstein! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!