Sunday, July 31, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #175

A late-breaking Sunday edition of This Week In Vexillology- and we're sticking around central Asia, this time to take a look at the flag of another former Soviet Republic- Azerbaijan!
Balanced on the frontier between Iran and Russia, it's not that surprising that Azerbaijan has changed hands a few times down the centuries as various dynasties and kingdoms rose and fell, but it wasn't until The Qajar Dynasty lost the Russo-Persian War in the early 19th Century (you know the one, right?) that the area came under the control of the Russian Empire. That last about a century or so until the Russian Empire collapsed at the tail end of World War I and the ever so brief union of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan took place- the- wait for it- Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic.

Needless to say, that didn't last long and Azerbaijan declared the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in May of 1918. Lots of impressive milestones were set by the ADR right off the bat: it was the first parliamentary republic in the Muslim world. The first grant suffrage to women and the first to found a modern university- Baku State (Go Big Circle Thing With A Flag in the Middle! Beat the other team!*) Alas, the ADR proved to be short-lived- lasting on twenty three months before the Soviets invaded, because oil is more important that your right to democratic self-determination or independence, damn it! The Revolution waits for no one!

But! The ADR did more or less adopt the flag of modern, independent Azerbaijan- so technically, this flag was adopted on November 9th, 1918 and then re-adopted on February 5th, 1991.

As tri-colors go, it's pretty striking, really. The color combination- especially with that particular shade of blue, it unique and overall, it's a pretty cool flag. And- helpfully, it's got some solid symbolism behind it as well. The blue symbolizes Turkic multinationalism, the red is for the progress toward the establishment of a modern state and the development of democracy and the green is for Azerbaijan's relation to the Muslim World. (There's also an interesting twist on this interpretation mentioned on the flag's wiki page that the colors are for Turkic freedom, modernity and Islamic culture- or, blue for multinationalism, red for progress and culture and green for Islam- so there's some wiggle room here, but- you get the basic notion, right?)

The crescent and the star are common symbols associated with Islam- but there's some controversy over why just an eight pointed star was used. Some people say Azerbaijan written in Arabic only has eight letters- but there's also an interpretation that says that the eight points are for the eight Turkic peoples in the area, but other people say that there are only seven unless you're counting the Kipchaks are two separate people- the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz- but...  look, the star is controversial, all right?

So there it is, the flag of Azerbaijan! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

*I can't tell you how much it would have made my week to find out that Baku State had an American style mascot to go along with it's bsu.edu.az web address.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Just Take My Money Already

Look, I'm not going to bother to link to all the cool trailers that dropped at Comic-Con. If you're reading this, I'm going to assume that you know how to work the internet and can look shit up for yourselves. (Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, Doctor Strange all looked amazing- in addition to, Season 2 of The Expanse- gotta finish Season 1 at some point, and Season 3 of The Flash.)

But let's talk the highlights of the week:

Wonder Woman

Just take my damn money already. There's absolutely nothing that I don't like about this trailer. I love, love, love that it's a period piece- and a World War I period piece no less. I don't really have a lot of knowledge about the source material for Wonder Woman (I know she's an Amazon, I know she comes from Thermiscyra?? I know her name is Diana- that's about it.) but it seems to draw heavily on Greek Mythology, and as a long time lover of Greek mythology, I'm a huge fan of that.

As for Wonder Woman herself, well hell... "What I do is not up to you." If that doesn't make a believer out of you, I don't know what will. Everything about this looks awesome. So, just take my damn money already.

Justice League

This was a nice surprise and might accomplish the feat that detractors of Aquaman might have long considered impossible- make him into a bad ass motherfucker. The opening shots of this trailer, with Batfleck assembling the Justice League and then Aquaman flinging a liquor bottle to one side before vanishing in a wave- it's beautiful.

They seem to have an interesting take on The Flash (Ezra Miller) and I was somewhat dubious about him being cast when I first saw him, but I'm in now.

True confession: I know next to nothing about Cyborg, but okay.

I'm pleasantly surprised by all of this...  it's a clean break with the bwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa and grim dark of the Dark Knight-Batman Begins-Man of Steel arc of films. Yeah, I'd like to see more of this.

I'll say this for this double shot of DC Goodness- it makes me want to delve into that universe a little more. I've been all on the Marvel side of the aisle thus far in my exploration of the genre...  with all these DC movies in the pipeline I might have to do some digging and some reading in the other comics universe to get my knowledge on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils Is Still Evil

I see both sides are already gearing up to tear into people that don't want to fall in line with either of their less than awesome candidates. On the right, Ace of Spades weighed in by telling the #NeverTrump crowd firmly:
Yes, #NeverTrumpers, You Are In Fact Morally Responsible for the Hillary Clinton Presidency You're Agitating For
In other words, shut your ass up and get in line. Ace at least acknowledges that Trump has shortcomings but views Hillary Clinton the way most people on the right do, as evil personified. Now, personally, I don't think Hillary Clinton as president will be THE END OF ALL THINGS as many on the right are predicting. Is she corrupt? Probably. Is she an Establishment politician through and through? Absolutely. If she getting my vote? Not at all. And you have to consider that with the Republican advantage built-in at the state level plus a likely Republican Congress, how much is a Democratic President going to get done?

Not enough to cause Armageddon in my book. If Trump wants my vote, he needs to damn well earn it and he hasn't. If the consequence of that is Hillary Clinton winning the election, then so be it. Run a better candidate next time.

On the left, Dan Savage is already starting in on the Green Party. While Ace had a clearer case, Mr. Savage represents all the intellectual laziness you'd come to expect from a Progressive Democrat. Yes, I can understand how people of color and LGBT individuals might view a Trump presidency as a threat to their rights and even their safety, Mr. Savage's critique ignores the fact that their rights are already being shish-kabobbed on the state level already and will continue to do so unless the Democratic Party gets its act together and builds another 50-State Strategy again*. The risk and the doom Savage references? It's already here. We pretty much face a choice in November of electing Trump and burning it all down or Hillary and watching it as it all burns down, shrugging her shoulders and saying, 'Damn those pesky Republicans'

And I'll admit, he might have a point about the low visibility of the Green Party, but he's dead wrong about the Libertarians. They might not have the most office holders out there, but they've got some and they're certainly present (at least in Iowa) pushing for Statewide Offices where ever they can. I will admit though, the Green Party (at least in Iowa) I find to be somewhat frustrating, because I'm honestly not sure what they're doing**. The problem isn't that they pop up every four years, it's that folks like Savage*** and Ace insist on people shutting up and getting their ass in line whenever they do.

I sort of threw in on a lively Facebook discussion a few months back and pointed out the inherent difficulties of starting a new political party or even building an existing one. It's sort of like trying to start your own brewery when you can only get one batch of hops at a time. Make it hard to get a good flow of beer going, you know? (It should be noted I got mildly scolded for my griping and maybe rightfully so- maybe the answer is to roll up my sleeves and get to work, but the way the two corporate parties stack the system against any and all competition makes it literally like pushing on a damn mountain. Which I'm not opposed to doing, but I'd like to have a democracy that gives me a fair shot to do so and right now, the system is rigged against it.)

Look, if you want to vote for Trump or Clinton, that's fine. I respect that, but please don't tell me to shut up and get in line. My vote needs to be earned and if one of them manages to do that between now and November, lucky them. But I'm done voting for the lesser of two evils. It's still evil and as a strategy it hasn't done a damn thing for this country since I've been alive.

Earn my vote. And if you don't, don't whine at me about it. Run better candidates next time.

*Maybe this exists already, I don't know. Not being a Democrat, I don't get invited to their meetings all that much, so if' it's already there, great. But Howard Dean- and you can say a lot about him- made some incredibly smart moves when he ran the DNC, reasoning, not without some logic that the Democrats couldn't control Congress unless they became a 50-State Party and it worked. (God, did it work. Best thing the Democrats have done in years was putting Dean in charge of the DNC. They should do it again- I'm no Democrat, but I love people who play smart politics. And Dean did.) What the hell happened to that strategy? It got results and it should make a rousing comeback instead of embracing the lamentable Republican obsession with ideological purity. Principles are nice things to have, but they don't matter all that much if you don't win. And who cares if the Democrats win the White House when their party has been devastated on the state level and the Republicans are moving a radical right wing agenda through and attacking the at-risk/minority groups as it is. 

**Look, the power of incumbency rules in American politics- it's something like a 90% advantage in Congressional races, which is why you really and truly need to be caught molesting puppies or something to lose your seat in a 'non-wave' type of an election year. In 2000, with Al Gore being a sitting Vice-President coming off of eight years of unprecedented economic growth, Nader should not have been a factor. In any way, shape or form. The fact that he was, suggests more about Gore's shortcomings that Bush's appeal- either way, the implicit lesson for the Democrats there should have been: 'run a better candidate' or 'let Bill Clinton campaign in Arkansas or Tennessee', the lesson for the Greens should have been to raise their middle fingers and tell the Democrats that. I have a feeling they suffered because of the left's overall revulsion about Bush, but Savage does have a point. If you can't run candidates for every major national/statewide office, how viable are you?

***Oh, the irony of a successful media personality talking about privilege from a position of inherent power and privilege.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Veepstakes

The Republicans:  Well, the dumpster fire continues, as Donald Trump has selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, resurrecting some kind of hellish pre-decimalization coin from the UK- the horror of Trumppence descending upon us all now looms.

On the face of it, who cares? I mean, I'm not voting for him, so why cares who he picks? But Mike Pence was a particularly uninspiring choice that makes it seem like he's bending to political consultants instead of thinking outside the box. I thought hell would have frozen over before I typed these words, but I agree with Ann Coulter. Pence was his first mistake. Leaving aside his odious record on reproductive rights (because pretty much any Republican Governor will probably hew close to pro-life- or rather, pro-birth orthodoxy) he pushed this religious liberty crap* that makes me not want to vote Republican ever (which, hint hint Republicans should be considered a major problem if you want to you know, matter, or win elections at all in the coming decades.)

I can sort of understand the rationale. I mean, normally the Veep is something of an attack dog- so the top of the ticket can be, well, Presidential. But Trump is all attack dog. So something of an 'Alabama Quarterback' type (white bread, non-flashy and game managerial) for a Veep choice makes sense. But anyone was better than Pence. And the rumors of buyer's remorse- despite the fact they were quickly denied don't exactly seem like a ringing endorsement either. (I doubt we'll have another Thomas Eagleton situation develop, but still... it's Trump. You never know.)

The Democrats: Well, consider me underwhelmed. And if Bernie fans were hoping that Mrs. Clinton would be bold and pick a Progressive from the left wing of the Democratic Party, well think again. Instead, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine got the nod. He seems like a safe, solid pick. Virginia is a swing state, he's been Governor and now Senator of the Virginia. Surely, we can agree that Kaine helps in Virginia. He's the very image of a vanilla white guy, has a good resume and doesn't bring too much voltage at the bottom of the ticket- and thus, won't overshadow the top of the ticket.

But will it make everyone happy? Doubtful...  this delightful story isn't going to make the left wing of the Democratic Party all that happy and Senator Kaine was a fan of the TPP until joining Mrs. Clinton in the shifting, acrobatic dance to now oppose it. (If you're a deeply jaded and cynical Republican, you're also undoubtedly waiting for Clinton Ally, term-limited Governor Terry McAuliffe to appoint himself to the potentially open senate seat. Interestingly, Virginia limits their governors to four years with no immediate re-election- however, Governors can become eligible to run again after four years. So, pretty much, no consecutive terms.)

Yes, Kaine was a solid pick. It sends the message that Mrs. Clinton isn't worried about bringing the party together- she's relying on 'fear of Trump' to get disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters in line. And no doubt, Kaine probably keeps Virginia on side- but here's where another pick might have been more helpful- the nagging, itching fact that Trump really doesn't have to do all that much to win the Presidency.

Oh, I know- everyone is convinced that there's no way in hell that Trump is going to win, but look at the map from 2012. Serious- go to 270towin and look at the 2012 actual results- assuming that Trump can win everything Romney did (a bet I'm willing to take) then all he needs to do is flip Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania to win. His message on trade is going to resonate throughout the Rust Belt and there's enough crazy people in Florida that who knows which way they're going to go. It's not a tall order and entirely plausible. (Though of the three, Pennsylvania is probably the longest shot.)

Which I why I think a safer pick would have been Tom Vilsack. With roots in both Iowa and Pennsylvania, I think he would have shored up two states instead of one. But, hey, that's just me.

So yeah...  Kaine is a safe, solid and thoroughly vanilla pick. That could be all that it takes, so why reinvent the wheel?

*Neither the Left nor the Right please me overly much with the whole 'gay wedding cake controversies.' If you're on the Right, then for God's sake take the damn money. Once you cash the check, it's not their money, it's your money and you can do with it what you will. Including endorsing what you consider to be 'traditional values.' If you're on the Left, well then stop it. You're looking for a lawsuit, not a wedding cake, otherwise why would you be giving your money to people who think the life you lead is immoral or wrong or some other bullshit? Don't give them the money. 

The whole pizzeria thing? Stupid as hell and pisses me off still. I was supposed to get on the rage train because a pizzeria in BFE, Indiana has declared it wouldn't cater a gay wedding. It hadn't actually refused to do so by the way- just said that, if asked, they wouldn't because you know, God. But I was supposed to man the barricades over this? Accepting the premise that a. there were a plethora of gay couples in BFE, Indiana, b. they wanted to get married and c. they wanted a pizzeria to cater their wedding. I don't know straight couples that would want a pizzeria to do that. And oh hey, look what happened? They made a shit load of money because the folks on the Right rallied to the cause and the folks in the center just thought it seemed vindictive as hell. Well done, Left. Well done indeed.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #174

Well, I was hoping I could embed this, but for some reason I can't, but who cares? (Great movie and this clip makes me laugh every single time.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXj8qt9S60U

While we're not taking the road to Dushanbe This Week In Vexillology, we are taking the Road to Tashkent with one of the Asian Stans that we haven't (for some reason) gotten around to yet. If you were wondering just which Stan, well, it's the Uzbeki one:
The flag of Uzbekistan was adopted on November 18th, 1991 for civil and state usage following the collapse of the Soviet Union- they were the first of the Asian Stans to lock-in a new flag, declaring independence on September 1, 1991 and getting a new flag by mid-November. Happily, there's lots of symbolism for us to break down here:

The white stands for peace and unity, while the blue represents the water and the sky- and is also alluding to the flag of Timur, who ruled over the area in the 14th Century. Green officially stands for 'nature and fertility' but might also represent Islam and the thin red stripes are for the 'life force' within everyone. The crescent at the canton stands for 'the rebirth of Uzbekistan as an independent country' and for the Islamic faith of 88% of the country's population. The twelve stars are for the months of the Islamic calendar as well as (and this is sort of a weird combo, to me) the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Uzbekistan is actually doing pretty well, actually. They had some issues with inflation post independence, but they've been growing like crazy and are in the Top 26 of the worlds fastest growing economies in the next few decades. Seems like an interesting place to visit... granted, the government probably isn't the best. Censorship is pretty common and Reporters Without Borders has named the place 'Enemy of the Internet.'

So, that's the flag of Uzbekistan! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise.

Friday, July 22, 2016

MLS Quest: The Summer of Soccer

With the end of the Euros, we're officially two-thirds of the way through the grandiosely titled 'SUMMER OF SOCCER' and it's been interesting so far. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't get to watch as much of either the Copa or the Euros as I would have liked, but there's been a lot of interesting things going down out there in the sport, so here's what I've learned so far:

1. Chile might be my new favorite South American team. While the first half of the Copa America Final might have resembled a UFC Match, the second half, Chile (and Argentina) calmed things down and Chile pulled out a gritty performance that eventually forced penalty kicks- and like in 2015, they managed to pull out the win in the shootout. Consider me a fan of La Roja.

2. Portugal was dreadful to watch throughout the tournament, but losing Cristiano Ronaldo early in the final seemed to liberate them somewhat. The French never pressed their advantage and I think the more time went on, the more the Portuguese realized that they could, in fact, do this without His Majesty on the field. Eder's strike in extra time was absolutely beautiful and despite the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo immediately took his shirt off (of course), I can't help but be happy for Portugal. While France was good, if I have a choice between the host country of a tournament or a country that hasn't won any tournament before, I'll go with the latter. They've produced some excellent football over the years and it's pretty cool to see them hoist a trophy- especially when Cristiano Ronaldo was out for the bulk of the game.

3. England, oh England...  lost to Iceland and went home. That's not really all that surprising...  I actually had some hope for a decent run from England. They had a lot of young, up and coming talent on the squad- and my goodness me, did they have speed. They were pressing forward, actually attacking- they were not incredibly frustrating to watch. This felt like a different England.

Silly me.

So, England needed a new manager and turned to Big Sam to fill the void. At this point, I really don't know what to say- there's a lot to be said for what Germany did at their nadir- and you can't argue with the results. The FA seems to be flailing for answers while sticking to a familiar script: the Manager must be an Englishman. I mean, who cares? Isn't the right manager more important than the nationality of the manager? I almost wish that the rumors of Klinsman to England- or even Wenger to England were true. 

I guess the biannual descent into despair will continue- that is until the English Women hoist a World Cup and really make the men look like fools. (It'd be great to see some reforms from the FA- a revitalization of the FA Cup or, a suggestion I heard on Men In Blazers- to bring back the old British Home Championships. There seems to be this weird, 'go along to get along' attitude that really is starting to get old. Some indication that the FA actually wants silverware would be nice to see. Maybe Big Sam will prove us all wrong, but I doubt it.)

4. Arsenal...  needs a striker. Giroud had a good tournament, but will probably need some recharging before getting back into the swing of things. Ditto with Alexis. I'll admit, Giroud has his moments, but then again, he doesn't have his moments, you know? They need more offense up front and so far, they've made a play for Jamie Vardy- which was a pleasant surprise, but he turned them down. They signed a striker from Japan by the name of Takuma Asano, but despite rumors of Mahrez, there hasn't been a lot of movement in the transfer market thus far from the Gunners. (I mean, yes, they did go get Granit Xhaka which is something, but the universal, overwhelming opinion out there is that they need a damn striker. Where they get one, short of plonking down a bunch of cash for someone like Higuain, I don't yet know- but then again, they snagged Ozil at the end of the window, so maybe they'll get something done yet.)

Just as a tangent: I've been listening to Arsecast for awhile now and it's a solid podcast, but what's almost entertaining is the difference in commentary about the transfer windows. NBA or NFL free agency isn't nearly as free wheeling as this and there's a free market aspect to this I find refreshing. It's really and truly, all about the players in many ways. The better they are, the more money they can make. The lack of public subsidies for stadiums or any other American sporting shenanigans makes for a very different commentary/punditry experience. I dig it.

5. MLS Quest continues...though I need to actually make some time and watch more than I have. When we last we left things, this is where we stood:

Western Conference:
FC Dallas
Sporting Kansas City
Colorado Rapids
Real Salt Lake

Eastern Conference:
Columbus Crew SC
Chicago Fire
Toronto FC
Montreal Impact

(Minnesota United remains in the mix, but then, there's this. Ouch.)

I really think that The Quiet Man might well have hit the nail on the head giving the prize to Sporting KC. They continue to intrigue me- and when I read things like this and hear about how vibrant the fan culture is down there, it makes me even more intrigued. But, fair is fair and I have to try and meet my goal of watching as much as possible before deciding on a team. (But I also heard a fascinating interview with Earnie Stewart of the Philadelphia Union (and found an article) which makes me wonder if they deserve a slot in the MLS Quest.)

Speaking of articles, this one is a nice deconstruction of the The New York Times beclowning itself with an attempt to dig into 'American Soccer Culture'.  It's worth a read. (The burgeoning Hudson River Rivalry is getting interesting too. Slowly.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Boozehound Unfiltered: The Ginquest, Part 1

I'm a whiskey guy, but there's only so much whiskey in the world and I'm trying desperately to work my way through an excess of whiskey crowding my own liquor cabinet- so with no new whiskies around to dig into, that left me with a dearth of Boozehound choices. Happily, the Madre supplied a topic- and it's perfect for the height of summer. Behold, the inside of the Parentals Liquor Cabinet:
If you're counting the gins, then you're not alone. I'm pretty sure the Madre is up to about nine gins now- since the gin and tonic has long been a family go-to cocktail- I decided to take a sharp left turn and plunge headlong into the world of gin. Yes, I'm starting The Ginquest- Part 1 with Magellan's Gin:
But, before we get to that, we've got to answer the basic question. Just what the hell is gin? As always, I began the Ginquest with a stop at the Font of All Knowledge, Wikipedia and the extensive wiki-page for gin, which includes an extensive history on where it all began- namely, Holland in the mid-17th Century. It was around and kicking after the Restoration, but didn't really breakout in England until William of Orange and Queen Mary took the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But what is it? An infused spirit involving juniper berries and a variety of other botanicals. There's a variety of what can be added or used in gin, but juniper is the common denominator.

Juniper, looking at the picture, seems to be from a conifer of some kind- which probably explains why gin puts so many people in mind of a Christmas tree, at least with it's aroma. But there's actually a surprising broad range of flavors that gin can produce, which makes Magellan Gin such a unique gin to begin our quest with.

First of all- the bottle in the picture isn't blue, the gin is. It's a nice, subtle shade of blue, which makes for a nice looking gin and tonic (more on the other half of that equation in a second) and it uses a blend of eleven botanicals: cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, licorice, nutmeg, grains of paradise, cassia, iris root and flower and of course, juniper berries.

Second of all, it makes for a great gin and tonic. (Just as a random tangent: Fever Tree Tonic is the tonic of choice, Chez Parentals and if you want to know all about the imperial origins of the cocktail, this is a pretty primer on the importance of quinine in tropical climates.)

I don't know how to properly taste gin straight up yet- or if people even do, so I sort of approached it the same way I did whiskey. Poured myself half a shot and took a good long sniff before giving it a taste. Here's where I wonder about gin-tasting though: the overall aroma didn't seem all that botanical and put me more in mind of nail polish remover or even turpentine. The taste was surprising gentle- you'd expect it to be harsher, but the viscosity was light and smooth and the overall finish was not at all harsh, with just a mild burn.

(Seriously though: do people do straight gin tastings? Will have to do some research on the topic before we head into Part 2.)

So, we're off and running on... The Ginquest!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Let's Play Our Game

Yes! Best. News. Ever.  No, I'm not talking about the shenanigans of the Republican National Convention- the Big 12 has finally gotten it's act together and given me the best early Christmas present ever: a decision to move forward with expansion! Which means I can indulge in mindless and exciting speculation until they make a decision and prove me wrong.

I have a feeling (yes, a feeling) that a combination of Oklahoma, the announcement of an ACC Network being developed/launched by ESPN and the silly, stupid amounts of money the Big Ten is making off of their television deal forced the hand of the Big 12. I think, given a choice, Texas probably would have kept the status quo and been the big fish in the pond, but the plate tectonics of college football and cable television continue to shift and that means you expand or inevitably die. (While the other conferences say they're done, that's horseshit and everyone knows it. The Big Ten is doing looking at expansion when Jim Delaney says they are and if the right school knocks on the door they'll happily drop a grenade on any of their other conferences. Probably with a certain amount of glee.)

So, the Big 12 is expanding. The question now becomes are they going back to 12 or shooting the moon and heading to 14 or maybe dropping some serious acid and saying 16? Let's Play Our Game!

1. West Virginia is going to get some friends. They're just sort of hanging out there in the eastern time zone doing their thing and they're on a geographically isolated island.

2. Westward expansion remains a possibility.

3. I'd be surprised if Houston gets an invite.

Given those three principles, this is what I'm going to go with:

If it's two (sensible, but not likely): Cincy and UCONN. I know everyone seems really big on BYU, but I don't buy them as a 'Mormon Notre Dame' and think someplace like the Air Force Academy would bring more of a true national brand to the table if that's what they're looking for.

If it's four (probably more likely): Cincy, UCONN, Colorado State and Boise State: Cincy and UCONN give West Virginia some friends- Colorado State is a 'just below the radar' option that not enough people are looking at, in my opinion that gets the Big 12 back into the Boulder/Denver area markets probably more effectively than BYU does. You can argue that BYU could easily replace Boise State on this list, but again...  I'm not that convinced. I don't see what it brings to the table in terms of branding or media markets- though the same could easily be said of Boise State. I just like the symmetry of this option- two east, two west.

If it's six (less likely, but would be oh, what's the word- ambitious): Cincy, UCONN, Colorado State, BYU, Boise State, Memphis would probably the most likely scenario. But, there's also the UCF/USF combo to think of as well. I think the Big 12 would really be upsetting the apple cart if they added six- which is why I think it's unlikely, but if you figure two east: Cincy, UCONN- two west, Colorado State and either BYU/Boise, then it's conceivable that 'two south' could bring them to 16 either with UCF and USF (a straight Florida option) or Memphis and one of the Florida schools.

I know people are super big on Houston, but I just don't see it. Too much Texas in the Big 12 already and you better believe with Baylor imploding the Longhorns aren't going to want to replace them with an up and coming, exciting program like Houston. Sorry.

Undoubtedly, I'm going to be wrong on pretty much all of this, but it sounds like they want to make a move and get people added by next season, so there's months of mindless speculation to look forward too.

God, I love realignment.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Squawk Box: Summer of Frasier

The Missus makes fun of my love of Frasier, but it dates back to college. Along with Friends, Frasier was one of those shows that you could always find on television, somewhere, some channel pretty much any time of time- kind of like Seinfeld. When it dropped on Netflix, I burned through about eight seasons of it before I got bored and gave up. (There are eleven seasons total, so it was somewhat understandable.) But now, I'm back and I'm going to blame a podcast for starting me on this journey once again.

I've been listening to the Nerdist Podcast for awhile now and Matt Mira shows up now and again and occasional drops references to his other podcasts- James Bonding (all about what you'd expect- James Bond) and his Frasier Podcast, Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs. Finally, I bit and listened to an episode.

First of all, apropos of nothing- he's a double act for his Frasier Podcast- none other than Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) is along for the ride. Well, maybe it's not exactly apropos of nothing- I mean, who knew Kevin Smith was such a big fan of Frasier?* But he is and he and Mira jump right in and start dissecting two episodes at a time- and to be honest, there's a lot of fascinating information about the show, the writing behind the show and sitcom writing/pacing in general I find fascinating. For instance- I had no idea that Frasier was so popular in the UK, but it is- and once you dig into it a little bit, you sort of see why.

They've tried to make an American version of Fawlty Towers, but the more you watch Frasier, the more you can see why it would be picked up by British audiences so easily. It's a small cast, taut writing and delightful amounts of straight up British farce show up from time to time. (The 2nd season episode 'The Innkeepers' could have straight up been an episode of Fawlty Towers. And is funnier than shit, even after multiple viewings.)

What has probably surprised me the most watching Frasier is the longevity of the character itself. Thanks to the magic of the internet and Netflix, I actually dug back into the mountain that is Cheers and found the episode where Kelsey Grammar makes his debut on the show and it's done in an amazingly subtle way. You spot Frasier well before he actually speaks,** but once he does, it's pretty much the same character- though perhaps without the intensity and the cutting wit he displays so frequently once he gets to Seattle. (Also, interestingly, without a family at that point. Something they had to do a little dance around once the parade of Cheers alums began showing up on Frasier.)

The geographical choice of Seattle is also something I found intriguing- reading the show's Wikipedia page, it made a certain amount of sense. They wanted to be as far away from the shadow of Cheers and Boston as they possibly could, but it also makes Frasier somewhat unique- like Minneapolis and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Seattle and Frasier will always have that link. (Granted there's now Grey's Anatomy, which is set in Seattle, but it's weird in that sitcoms seem to have more connections with their geographic locations in many ways. For Grey's, the focus is on the sex and hijinks in the hospital, not the day-to-day routine of living in the city, you know?) At the time, it was just one of those cities that you didn't normally see on television and apparently drove a wave of cosmopolitanism in Seattle, as people wanted to 'live like Frasier.' So go figure. (It also makes me want to get up to the Pacific Northwest and get some coffee and check it out.)

I'm heading for the end of Season 5 right now and I'm not stopping yet... Frasier still holds up well after all this time- and more importantly, and this is my personal benchmark for sitcoms- it still makes me laugh out loud on a pretty consistent basis. If I can make it through all eleven seasons well, then hell, I might have to try me some sherry.

*I noticed that Kevin Smith seemed to be coughing an awful lot throughout these podcasts and began to wonder if he had either contracted some virulent form of TB or was smoking copious amounts of marijuana while watching episodes of Frasier. Turns out it was the latter and not the former, which just adds to the charm of it all.

**They gave Frasier a brother due to David Hyde Pierce's uncanny resemblance to a young Kelsey Grammar. Having back tracked to find Kelsey Grammar's debut on Cheers, I can confirm this is actually pretty true.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #173

This Week In Vexillology, we're wrapping up our Caribbean tour with the flag of Dominica... (for the geographically non-inclined: there's the Dominican Republic and Dominica. Two separate countries. This is the flag of the latter.)


Adopted on November 3, 1978 as a civil and state flag, the green field represents the lush vegetation of the island. The cross stands for the Trinity and Christianity- the three colors in the cross stand for the indigenous population, the fertile soil and the pure water. The ten green stars are for the ten parishes of the country and the red disc at the center stands for social justice.

The parrot at the center is the national emblem- specifically, the sisserou parrot, which is an endangered species without only 250-350 left. The parrot is sometimes blue and sometimes purple- which the actual color of the parrot, but here's the crazy thing. Of all the flags in the world, Dominica's is the only one that uses the color purple. Nicaragua's does have a rainbow in it- but that's technically classified as violet, not purple.

So, there you go: the only flag in the world that uses the color purple.

So, glancing through the old wiki-page for Dominica, you can find a bit of instability between 1979-1981, with hurricanes causing some economic instability and an attempted takeover by mercenaries trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Eugenia Charles. (If there's a post-war leader that dominated and defined the politics of the Caribbean, I'd probably nominate Eugenia Charles. The second female Prime Minister in the region after Lucinda Da Costa of the Netherlands Antilles, she was the first woman elected as a head of government in the Americas- and currently sits behind Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the third longest continuously serving female Prime Minister ever- as a bonus, she was also Dominica's first female lawyer.)

So, there you have it- the flag of Dominica! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Let's Talk Turkey

Coups and interventions by the military into Turkish politics aren't exactly new. It has been awhile since the military dipped its toe in the political pool- 1997, to be exact- but before that, 1993, 1980, 1971 and 1960 all saw interventions of one kind or another, so this wasn't exactly shocking- even though it seemed to catch everyone by surprise.

It's more or less over by now- CNN is still saying that it's 'unclear who has control' but President Erdogan is back in the country and it seems to be unraveling pretty quickly. But in terms of coup d'etats, this one seemed to have some momentum going for it- but rumors were rife from the word go that this was a 'faction of the military' and not universally supported by the military and there was word that there was fighting between Security Forces and soldiers almost right away.

I don't think we'll know for sure for awhile, but it seems like they didn't move fast enough. They needed to shutdown the internet quickly and control the media faster than they did (the internet/social media came back on after awhile.) Not sure how Facebook Live and Twitter did, but Periscope had a fantastic night. It actually made a comeback on my phone and man, did I wish I could speak Turkish! So much footage from right there in Turkey on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. 

President Erdogan urging people to get out into the street was probably the smartest move of the night and flipped the script back to the government, because people responded. Even opposition parties condemned the coup and it placed the military squarely between a rock and a hard place. Even though Erdogan has spent his time in power whittling away at strong generals and centers of potential opposition in the military, they still have this institutional view of themselves as guardians of Turkey's secular democracy- which tends to become somewhat untenable if you have to start shooting civilians.

What happens next? Nothing good, I expect. There were worries about President Erdogan's creeping authoritarianism already and I imagine those worries will be realized as he cleans house. To be honest, he's not my favorite world leader*... I wouldn't have been crazy about the manner of his removal, has this coup succeeded- because in a democracy, the process is the most important thing, but I wouldn't have cried all that much to see him go. 

We continue to live in interesting times. I just wish they weren't quite so chaotic and awful. 

*Yes, I have favorite world leaders. Doesn't everyone?

Does Not Compute

I feel like an alien sometimes and I'm starting to wonder if it's just the good manners hammered into me by my parents as a child. That's not to say that I didn't have my moments as a callow youth. Tact escapes me sometimes. I'm not perfect, nobody is, but sometimes I run into things out there in the world that simply don't compute in my brain.

Case in point: street harassment in Iowa City. When I first heard that a group of local activists were raising awareness about the problem, I'll admit: I rolled my eyes. But then, I stopped myself- because, I'm a dude and just because I've never seen street harassment doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I mean, how am I going to know? Right?

So, this Facebook post has been making the rounds locally. It's 5,000 words long, it deals with the realities of being Black In The Midwest and it's a good read- in fact, it's probably an important read given what's going out there in the world, but it left me somewhat agog at several points at the staggering amount of ignorance, tactlessness and general impoliteness (ranging from racial insensitivity to outright racism) this gentlemen has experienced over the course of his life. I mean, do people really do this? My mouth was hanging open at several points, because holy shit- people say some of these things out loud? To other people?

Then, once again, I stopped myself: of course these things happen. They probably happen all the damn time, it's just that as a white dude, how am I going to know?

Then another memory came floating back up to me- I can't honestly say whether or not it was in high school or elementary/Jr. High, but at some point for a class, the local Rabbi came in to speak to us about Judaism (or something. Man, I wish I could remember what class this was in) and one of the first things he asked us was whether or not anybody wanted to check behind his ears to see if he had horns.

Yes, apparently, this was a serious question that people had asked him from time to time.

Again: does not compute!

The implicit lesson: just because you don't see something in your daily life or experience it yourself doesn't mean it doesn't exist. That may seem like the most obvious statement in the world to write down to a lot of people, but it's the reason why I listen more than I speak and read more than I write on these issues. In general, I try and treat people the way I would want to be treated- The Golden Rule is an oldie, but a goodie and not a bad way to approach your life at all. I trust people until I have a reason not too, which might be a stupid way to approach this world, but it's worked relatively well so far.

Its appalling that people have to deal with this shit, just because of who they are. I hope (though I don't know) I haven't been as ignorant as some of the stuff I've read about of late. But it seems that all of us can do better at listening. All of us can do better at learning.  And all of us can do better at understanding- or at least fumbling toward understanding. (And I know I keep coming back to this same basic sentiment, but so far, it's what I've got.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Knife Fights Across The Pond

So, if you thought American Politics was a bit of a dumpster fire at the moment, well, it's getting positively vicious on the other side of the pond. In the wake of the Brexit Vote and Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation, the Tories began the process of selecting a new leader which makes UFC 200 look like a kindergarten slap fight. Let's examine the series of events, shall we?

In the immediate wake of the vote, Boris Johnson (hereafter, Boris With The Crazy Hair) was assumed to be the dude. It was a prospect that horrified many, but people were really betting heavily on Boris With The Crazy Hair to be the next Prime Minister. Unfortunately, many people also viewed him as well, a scheming opportunist who wanted to Prime Minister so badly he dragged the UK out of the EU by a nose hair so he could get a shot at the job.

As with most things, Boris With The Crazy Hair was not to be. After all, 'he who wields the knife, never wears the crown.' Enter Michael Gove, whom- at least judging by the Facebook feeds of assorted relatives across the Pond, many people loathe and detest in roughly the same way that people find the word 'moist' to be similar to nails on a chalkboard. He jumps in, effectively knifes Boris With The Crazy Hair and looks to be on his way up.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Cursing the sudden and inevitable betrayal by his former partner in crime, Boris With The Crazy Hair threw his considerable weight behind Theresa May, Home Secretary who had been in favor of Remaining in the EU, but didn't want to shout about it during the referendum campaign. With Gove bleeding at this, the anti-EU forces in the Tory Party have apparently lined up behind Andrea Leadsom.

Now, I haven't heard much about Leadsom- there's some controversy over her CV. But honestly, she should just move here and run for Governor of a state like, say, Oklahoma. She'd probably win. (Yeah, she'd for sure win.) And that's where things stand on the right over there... Theresa May, Establishment Conservative, 'bloody difficult woman' and potential heiress to the Iron Lady herself versus well, a Republican.  Go figure. (It's all over now...  Leadsom withdrew and by the time this posts, Britain should have it's second female Prime Minister- but hey, Boris With The Crazy Hair gets to be Foreign Secretary. So there's that.)

The Labour Party is even more ridiculous right now. Having basically chosen Bernie Sanders (but without Sanders' charisma, principles and lacking his folksy charm and well, there's the whole pesky support for terrorist groups and inflammatory anti-Semitic statements as well to consider) to run the party, the rest of the Labour Party realized that Jeremy Corbyn probably wasn't going to win a damn thing for them and all (well, not all, but pretty much most of it) his shadow cabinet resigned. The rest of the MP's for Labour? They tabled a vote of no-confidence in their leader who of course did the right thing and stepped down.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Yeah, he didn't actually step down, which has made things... awkward. From what I understand- the MPs for Labour can launch a leadership challenge, but then that has to go to the members of the Labour Party and that is who Corbyn is counting on to back him up. An official leadership challenge is apparently coming from Angela Eagle, but it's all very tricky- the MPs want change, but what if the membership backs Corbyn? What then? A split? More awkwardness?

Corbyn got elected thanks to new rules which give party members more influence over leadership elections and a wave of new members signed up to get him over the top. (At least if memory serves.) The real question though, is where are all these members coming from? If they're from the pro-European college student millennial/hipsters or the celebrity martini drinking metropolitan set, it's hard to see how that wins Labour everything, given how well Leave did in their traditional working class strongholds. (Maybe their 'former' working class strongholds would be a better description.) If they're more geographically distributed, maybe it doesn't matter. But I also think that MPs seem to be frustrated that the fight back Labour is going to need isn't gathering steam.

While the Tories are engaging in a compelling backroom knife fight- but we know the result. The next Prime Minister of Britain will either be Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom, Labour's trainwreck is far more intriguing and potentially messier.

Whatever happens, I'll be over here, on my couch with an excessive supply of popcorn.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bookshot #89: This Kind of War

I snagged this off of Kindle ages ago, when, having burned through the first half of M*A*S*H, it suddenly occurred to me that I knew very little about the actual Korean War itself. While it may seem like a good time on the television screen, outside of the Pusan Perimeter, the landings at Inchon and the perils of getting too close to the Yalu River I didn't know much else. This Kind Of War was an attempt to remedy that.

What I found out was that Korea was a bloodier and more controversial conflict than I think I had ever imagined. There's lots of echoes from the past that prove remarkable timely and T.R. Fehrenbach pulls no punches in recounting the missteps and mistakes that lead America into an ill-defined war that it was ill-prepared for, despite flaring up a bare five years after the end of the Second World War.

Some digging on the interwebs reveals that Fehrenbach was actually a Korean War vet- which I don't think I knew, but also explains some of the editorializing that appears now and again throughout the book. Fehrenbach was not a fan of the idea of sending American troops to defend the far frontier with a clear goal and giving the military the latitude it needed to fulfill that goal. He was even less of a fan of the Doolittle Commission, which blurred some lines between NCOs and Officers and changed Army culture radically in the interwar years and landed American troops in a situation where the lessons of war and the hard realities of being a soldier had to be relearned all over again. (They were learned- but at a cost.)

There was a ton of detail on the geography of Korea that I didn't know about- the mountains of North Korea made an almost impregnable spine that added to Allied/UN difficulties in effectively moving up the peninsula and then, after the Chinese were unleashed, retreating back down it. (The story of the British at Gloucester Hill, the Marines at Chosin Reservoir- these were covered in great detail.)

Fehrenbach also provides a complete picture of different aspects of the conflict- looking at the way prisoners of war were treated (by the Americans at Koje-Do and the North Koreans) and who fared the best amongst the captured UN forces (the British and the Turks held up well, the Americans, not so much.) He looks at the political forces driving the conflict and how frustrating it can be for soldiers when the political will doesn't match up with the reality on the ground at the front.

Does any of this sound familiar? That's what kept running through my head as I was reading this- going to a far away country, committing American blood and treasure to defend 'the far frontier' as Fehrenbach calls it, but to what end? What's the end game? If it's uniting Korea, then unite it- but the military wasn't allowed to do that- probably because they got very nervous when McArthur started talking about rolling right on into Manchuria and saying things like 'let's use the A-Bomb again' but acting through the lens of the United Nations meant that there had to be consensus on the next moves. And that meant the politicians were running a war they weren't necessarily prepared for.

The military- even though Fehrenbach isn't exactly impressed with the state of it at the start of the conflict- figured things out pretty damn quickly. Having large amounts of Chinese and North Korean troops trying to kill you tends to focus the mind somewhat, I'd imagine. The politicians however had other ideas- and that's what turned out to be the worst part of the book for me, anyway. The two years of brutal stalemate along the 38th Parallel as US/UN Forces fought for control of various strategic hills at great cost in human lives.

Overall: A brilliant military history of a conflict that was more complex than many people realize, this is required reading for history buffs or, if you're like me, folks that want to scratch an itch to find out just what the hell were they doing in between martinis in all those episodes of M*A*S*H. While the Korean Conflict was over a half-century ago now, there are lessons here for the policymakers of today that should make this book required reading for anyone in charge contemplating putting military forces in harms way. **** out of ****.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #172

We're back on our regular scheduled programming this week and back in the Caribbean, because let's face it- where else would you want to be? And this week, we've got the flag of Barbados!

Adopted on November 30th, 1966- the island's first independence day, it's described as a 'vertical triband' which confused me for a second, but now makes a certain amount of sense- after all- it's not a tricolor, but it does have three distinct bands, which would, after all, make it a triband and not something else. The two blue bands- ultramarine according to the Wikipedia description, stand for the ocean surrounding the country and the the sky- the gold band in the middle represents the sand.

The black trident head gives the flag its name- 'The Broken Trident' and the missing staff of the trident is significant because it turns out the old colonial badge of Barbados had Brittania holding the trident- so breaking the trident represents a break from its status as a colony and the three prongs represent the principle of democracy: government of the people, for the people, by the people.

Other than being the birthplace of Rihanna, Barbados seems to follow the historical pattern we've seen in most of the Caribbean Islands we've looked at: trading hands between European powers for a bit before settling into British hands. Slavery was a big driver of the economy in the early days until emancipation in 1833. It's had some hurricanes, but doesn't have an active volcano- and in fact, misses a lot of hurricanes due to it's position outside of the main hurricane strike zone. But, it does have an interesting problem: population density and the fact that it's a coral-limestone island.  The former means that the government has had to work to integrate growing areas of the country into the sewer system to avoid contamination of aquifers and coral reefs offshore, but the composition of the island means that Barbados is highly permeable and can lose surface water easily.

It's highly permeable. Now that's a fascinating- and probably difficult problem for a country to wrap its head around.

Anyway, this is Barbados. Until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Unfinished

What I don't know generally outweighs what I do know for a lot of shit that goes down in this world and when that's the case I tend to ask more questions, listen as hard as I can, read as much as I can and try my best to understand. I don't- generally- express my opinions on social media because I have never in my life seen an well-reasoned, thoughtful, intelligent debate ever happen on Facebook or Twitter.

Trying to understand is sort of the best I can do. I'm a straight, white male, solidly middle-class and I have no idea whatsoever what it's like to be a minority in this country. I don't want to say things like 'I understand the rage and the pain' because I don't. And saying that makes it about me instead of about the people who live with this stuff on a day to day basis and I don't want to do that either.

But I also work in Law Enforcement. I'm not a cop, but I know cops. I see them go out and do their job every day and I'm fortunate to know and privileged to work with some excellent law enforcement professionals that live up to the ideals of what I think everyone in this country would want their police officers to be. There are thousands of cops out there that do the job right every day and work their hardest to connect with their community and give back in amazing ways that few, if any ever hear about. Their failures are very public. Their successes are, by and large unnoticed- and what knocks me down about police officers- they keep doing the job. It's far and away the most thankless job I can think of in this day and age and any sane person would run screaming from the hours, the schedule and all the bullshit that comes along with it- but they don't. They go home, the put on the uniform and they do it all again. Every day.

I've struggled to wrap my head around the events of the past week- like pretty much everyone else has and initially, I had nothing, but the more I watched and read, the more it bugged me. No one seems to care about facts any more and it has this annoying tendency to obscure meaningful debate and conversation on these issues. The media doesn't help matters any. I get it- they're in a business and the sole purpose of being in a business to is to make money and that means you go where the ratings are. So looking at CNN, it seems like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. You find yourself wondering if agoraphobics might be onto something- and maybe not leaving your house would be a rational choice- but in order to find truth, you need to break through the sensationalist, muck-racking bullshit and read between the lines.*  Finding facts and something resembling the truth means learning to be a critical consumer of media.** Which is why I retweeted the shit out of this link.

But what you did find- which was comforting after the horrors of this week, was that people are, by and large, not awful to each other. There's hope. Hours before the shooting, Dallas PD was posting pictures of their officers posing with protesters for photos***- smiling and in uniform- not full combat gear. Reports of protesters helping police and police covering protesters when the shots rang out were all over Twitter. Maybe there's hope for us yet.

The other thing that kept going through my head last night...  what's going to change? Marching, expressing outrage- all of those things I can understand in the wake of what has happened. But until someone sits down and comes up with like ten, solid policy proposals and shoves them at the politicians and says 'do this. Fix this. Or we'll vote your ass out' what's going to move the needle on these conversations? While I think there are some politicians who live up to the label of 'public servant' among our leaders, anyone will act if people organize enough. Any one of them will do what they have to do if their job is dangled in front of them.

I always see the same clips from The West Wing floating around after mass shootings, but there's another one that I wish I could find- where Josh is meeting with Jeff Breckenridge, a lawyer they want to hire for the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department. There's a wee bit of a problem, though- Mr. Breckenridge supports the idea of reparations for slavery. Long story short though, there's the point at the end where he pulls out a dollar bill and shows Josh the unfinished pyramid on the back- a symbol from the foundation of this country that the work of building that more perfect union is never complete.

That sentiment rings very true to me. While the ideal of the country- a more perfect union for all its citizens- has yet to be achieved, the legacy of this country's foundation is that it's incumbent upon all of us to continue to work toward building that more perfect union.

Whether it's in large ways or small, we can all work harder at that.

*William Randolph Hearst would have been right at home in today's media, I think.

**I'm becoming increasingly convinced that critical analysis of the media should be taught from Junior High on. Don't know if that would help or not, but if you can teach people not to swallow whatever bullshit the media (whether left or right) is trying to shove down their throats, it might help.

***Wrap your head around that. Protesting police brutality and they're posing for pictures with police officers.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

This Week In Vexillology: 4th of July Special

This Week In Vexillology, just in time for the holiday weekend, we're once again taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to look all the way back at a couple of historical flags of the American Revolution- and another flag (sort of random, I know- but fitting given the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.) So, lots of history-- here we go:


These days more often associated with the Tea Party and the libertarian end of the right-wing, this flag is often seen being waved by folks like The American Outlaws as well- but the idea of the rattlesnake being one of our national symbols (which is news to me, as well, so hey- you learn something new everyday) dates all the way back to the 1750s where Ben Franklin had the satirical notion of sending rattlesnakes to England, since the policy of Great Britain had been to send the convicted criminals to the Americas.

The first political cartoon in an American newspaper hit shortly thereafter- a snake cut into eight sections with the caption JOIN OR DIE appeared. The fact that the timber rattlesnake was unique to the area of the original thirteen colonies made the embrace of the rattlesnake as a uniquely American symbol, while somewhat surprising, not all that unexpected- the Army still uses the symbol today- so, hey- it's stuck around.

The origins of the Gadsden Flag center around the foundation of the US Navy, which was founded in 1775 and spent it's early years intercepting British ships to supply the Continental Army- one ship captured had about 30k worth of shoes on it and the Marines and the navy had to go and get it- the first Marines enlisted in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow depicting a coiled rattlesnake with 13 rattles and the motto- you guessed it- 'Don't Tread On Me.' By December of 1775, that symbolism had been turned into the flag you see above and presented to the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the navy as a personal standard for his flagship. So that's the Gadseden flag. Pretty cool, huh?


Coolest thing about this flag? A remnant of it still exists and is owned by the Bennington Museum in Vermont. (If I ever find myself in Vermont, anytime soon- totally going to look this up.) If you think the Gadsden Flag has a history, well, let's talk about this flag, shall we? Regimental flag of the Green Mountain Boys and headed by Ethan Allen and his extended family, the Green Mountain Boys were instrumental in resisting New York's attempt to control the territory between New York and New Hampshire.

They saw action during the Revolution- capturing Fort Ticonderoga and invading Canada. This is wild, though, because despite seeing action during the Revolution, they weren't admitted to the Union until 1791 and operated as an independent Republic between 1777 and 1791. The flag is a green field with a blue canton- but this is the coolest thing: the 13 stars are arranged in a natural pattern. It's actually kind of neat.

The flag survives as the regimental flag of the Vermont National Guard- and it's accompanies them on assignments and into battle.


Switching gears a little bit, we're digging back into history to take a look at the old flag of Newfoundland. July 1st, 2016 marked the 100th Year Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which in terms of terrible, awful, no good, very bad days, was the absolute worst for the British military. After one day- ONE DAY of the battle, the British took 57,470 casualties and 19,240 men were killed. IN ONE DAY.

How does this involve Newfoundland? Well- funny story- before it became part of Canada, Newfoundland was actually a separate Dominion. And the 1st Newfoundland Regiment fought in the first day of the Somme and 90% of the entire regiment was wiped out. It went on to serve with distinction in more battles, but the Dominion's war debt due to the regiment and the cost of maintaining a trans-island railway eventually lead to unsustainable government after the war- and by 1949, Newfoundland voted to join Canada.

The old flag is typical for many former British Dominions and colonies- Union Jack in the upper left canton- either blue or red as a background color and some symbol representing the country. The badge consists of Mercury (God of Commerce and Merchandise) presenting to Britannia, a fisherman, who is offering the harvest of the sea. Above the badge are the Latin words, 'Terra Nova' meaning 'new land.' And below- the motto 'Haec Tibi Dona Fero' or, 'These gifts I bring thee.'

So, there's your dose of history for the weekend...  remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!