Monday, October 31, 2016

The Upload Project #2

CD #11, Untitled (One scratched, two repeats)
Butthole Surfers-Pepper
Violent Femmes- Blister In The Sun
The Smashing Pumpkins-Tonight, Tonight
Prodigy- Voodoo People
Sublime- What I've Got
Harvey Danger- Flagpole Sitta
Lupe Fiasco- Super Star
Prince- Crazy
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Californication
The Tings Tings- That's Not My Name
Snoop Dog- Ain't Nothing But A G Thing
The Virgins- Rich Girls
Kings of Leon- Holy Roller Novocaine
Pixies- Bone Machine
Smokie-Alice
Jack Johnson- Good People

CD #12, Untitled
Not actually a musical CD. Turns out there were about 400 random pictures on this one.

CD #13, Untitled
Again, not actually a musical CD. More pictures!

CD #14, has a track listing on it, but still technically Untitled (two repeats)
The Fifth Dimension- Age of Aquarius
Rooney- When Did Your Heart Go Missing?
Aesop Rock- The Harbor Is Yours
Talking Heads- Slippery People
Sean Kingston- Me Love
Grandmaster Flash- White Lines
Duran Duran- Notorious
Talking Heads- Burning Down The House
Rihanna- Shut Up and Drive
Curtis Mayfield- Superfly
Talking Heads- Life During Wartime
Van Halen- Panama
Parliament Funkadelic- Give Up The Funk
CCR- Run Through The Jungle
Talking Heads- Girlfriend Is Better
Asia- Heat of The Moment
War- Low Rider
Outkast-Rosa Parks
Talking Heads- Once In A Lifetime

CD #15, Omaha Road Trip 4/21/12 (the underlined tracks I know are by Daft Punk, but damned if I can figure out what album they're from/what they're called.)
Daft Punk- Mystery Track #1
Alabama Shakes- Hold On
fun.- Walking The Dog
Miranda Lambert- Baggage Claim
Bruce Springsteen- 10th Avenue Freeze Out
Foster The People- Call It What You Want
Daft Punk- Mystery Track #2
Rolling Stones- Shine A Light
Sleeper Agent- Proper Taste
Little Big Town- Boondocks
Black Keys- When The Lights Go Out
Bonnie Raitt- Right Down The Line
John Lee Hooker- Boom Boom Boom
Robert Randolph & The Family Band- Ain't Nothing Wrong
Hank Williams Jr.- Family Tradition
Wanda Jackson- Thunder On The Mountain
Adele- One and Only
Led Zeppelin- How Many More Times

CD #16, Turkey Day '12 (one repeat)
Arlo Guthrie- Alice's Restaurant
Deee-Lit- Groove Is In The Heart
The Pogues-Whiskey In The Jar
Cults-Go Outside
Foster The People- Call It What You Want
Florence + The Machine- Cosmic Love
The Coup- Magic Clap
Chris Wallace- Remember When (Push Rewind)
Kesha- Die Young
Plug In Stereo- Oh Darling
Bruno Mars- Locked Out of Heaven
Fun. -At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)
Rolling Stones- She's So Cold
Florence + The Machine- Spectrum
Pink- Walk of Shame
Devendra Banhart- Lover
The Lumineers- Ho Hey
Michael Buble- It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

CD #17, Road Trip Iowa Falls 3-23-12 (one repeat)
Fun.- We Are Young
Nicki Minaj- Starships
Cage The Elephant- Ain't No Rest For The Wicked
The Envy Corps-Story Problem
New Order- Bizarre Love Triangle
Alex Clare- Too Close
Lady Gaga- Bad Kids
Rolling Stones- Turd On The Run
Los Lonely Boys- How Far Is Heaven?
Santana ft. Mana- Corazon Espinado
Mike Doughty- Looking At The World From The Bottom of A Well
LMFAO- Sexy And I Know It
Kings of Leon- Slow Night, So Long
The Shins- September
The Crash Kings- Mountain Man
Gang of Four- Natural's Not In It
Bob Dylan- Thunder On The Mountain
Kavinsky- Night Call

CD #18, Medium Age Mix (The Fratellis, Cage The Elephant)
Too scratched and damaged. Did not load.

CD #19, *Flossy, Flossy*
Too scratched and damaged. Loaded, but crapped out on me halfway through checking out the track listing.

CD #20, This One's A Keeper... (Black Keys, Jessie J, etc...) two repeats
Fun.-At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)
Black Keys- Gold On The Ceiling
Jessie J- Domino
Owl City & Carly Rae Jepson- Good Time
Montell Jordan- This Is How We Do It
Phil Collins- Sussudio
Pixies- Here Comes Your Man
Rancid- Red Hot Moon
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Roller Coaster of Love
Rolling Stones- She's So Cold
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros- Home
The Shins- Phantom Limb
Fat Boy Slim- Weapon of Choice
Foster The People- Helena Beat
Lady Gaga- Born This Way
Phillip Phillips- Home
Buffalo Springfield- For What It's Worth
Garth Brooks- Friends In Low Places

Saturday, October 29, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #188: The Pine Tree Flag

This Week In Vexillology, there's no school like the old school. For Week #2 of the Brown Flag Challenge, we're going all the way back to the American Revolution with...  the Pine Tree Flag:


Fans of the excellent HBO Series John Adams will probably recognize this flag from the opening credits- while I think the more popular Revolutionary flag these days is probably the Gadsden Flag (the snake that says 'Don't Tread On Me') this one ranks right up there in the Revolutionary Pantheon.

(Just as a design tangent: A lot of design critics, especially of State Flags hate writing on flags and the whole 'seal on a bed sheet' thing that a lot of states seem to dig, but, you could argue that in the case of the whole 'writing on flags' thing there's some deep historical roots here that date back to the founding of the Republic. So from a historical point of view, America's preoccupation with writing on their flags might make a certain amount of sense.)

But, back to the Pine Tree Flag! Adopted on October 20,1775 the flag was used by a squadron of six cruisers commissioned by the man himself, George Washington as well as the state navy of Massachusetts and privateers that originated in the Bay State. The tree in question, is specifically a New England White Pine, that could grow up to 150 feet high and was highly desired by shipbuilders when they were looking for masts. (Which might also explain why this was used in Naval and Maritime Settings.)

In the run up to the Revolution, England being England and all about the whole taxation without representation thing cracked down on the lumber trade, marked all the mast-worthy trees with a 'broad arrow' symbol that made them property of the Crown. They sort of kind of enforced that for awhile since England had closer sources of lumber for a few years, but when those dried up, suddenly they got serious about it- and the Colonists got pissed off. New Hampshire had it's (amazingly named) Pine Tree Riot in 1772 which was two years prior to the Boston Tea Party even going down. Tea in the harbor may have really started the ball rolling, but the real resistance began over Pine Trees...

The phrase on the flag, 'Appeal To Heaven' is a reference to the right of revolution used by John Locke in his Two Treatise of Government which refuted the whole divine right of kings thing. (And, man, can I say how refreshing it is to read about the underlying philosophy of any given issue. We need more philosophy in our political discourse today. BRING BACK CICERO, damn it.)

And that's the Pine Tree Flag! Our brown flag challenge continues next week, but until then, remember to keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, October 28, 2016

October On Medium

It's been a few months since the last update and I've got a few more piece of short fiction to add to the list! (Not sure if I'm going to hit my goal of 12 pieces of short fiction this year, but after my usual flirtation with NaNoWriMo, I decided I was going to make a big push next month to a. get my next book over the finish line and out into the world and b. churn out a ton of short fiction. We'll see what happens.)  In the meantime:

Silence

The Year Alex Adamley Refused To Leave His House

Coulrophobia

6 down, 6 to go! We'll see if I can make it to the finish line!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Lit City Blues Endorsements

For President:

No Endorsement


I have two degrees in Political Science. I'm not an idiot. I know that with the type of voting system we have, a high number of parties just isn't going to happen. However, there is absolutely no data to back up the notion that we're stuck with only two parties either. If there's a bedrock principle of my political belief system, it's this. We need a credible, viable alternative. It doesn't have to be large party, it just has to be medium sized and real enough that voters have a place to go when the other two parties are pissing them off.

So, yes, I look at all the candidates. If you're on the ballot in all 50 states or at least on the ballot in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes, you pass my viability test. After the dust settled and I perused all the websites I was left with three candidates: Johnson, Stein and Clinton. Johnson, despite his need for an atlas and a subscription to The Economist presents a skeptical approach to foreign policy that is desperately needed. He's also got the right idea on civil liberties and the War on Drugs. Stein and the Green Party have the most comprehensive platform for democratic and political reform out there- they're the only people talking about it (and it's a large part of the reason why I voted for Stein in 2012.) Both Stein and Johnson are talking about ideas that should be part of our political debate and discourse and both have important things to say and stand for issues that I support.

However, I can't exactly dismiss Secretary Clinton out of hand either. Of all the candidates I looked at, her website was the most comprehensive in terms of issues. It took forever to get through everything. You may not like her, but you can't tell me she doesn't have an idea of where she wants to take the county. You can't say that she doesn't have plans and details of those plans right out where people can see them. She's the only candidate talking about relief for folks struggling with student debt (like myself) and paid family leave (another issue that I support.)

But I'm less than impressed with her foreign policy credentials. She voted for the War in Iraq and was one of the prime movers behind our intervention into Libya, which is looking increasingly ill-judged given the chaos that's erupted in the wake of the overthrow of Gaddafi. Her foreign policy would represent a continuation of the interventionism of the past decade and a half, not an end. That fact alone is enough to give me pause.

The Email Mess rankles. But it's a fact of life that the rich and powerful get to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us and it's not like me not voting is going to send a message that the rich and powerful are going to give a shit about it. If the Republican Party had, say, nominated literally anyone else with a pulse, there might be room to take a principled stand on the issue. But Mr. Trump's recent comments and history prove that he too suffers from the same problem and you'll have to forgive me: I doubt he'll level the playing field between the rich and powerful and the rest of us either.

Look, there's about a 80-95% chance I'm going to hold my nose and vote for Secretary Clinton. Donald Trump's refusal to commit to accepting the results of the elections has probably pushed me over the top and if his well-deserved and karmic collapse in support is as wide and as deep as I hope it is, then (hopefully) I won't have to vote for Secretary Clinton unless I want too.

For US Senate:

Patty Judge

The whole Supreme Court mess doesn't really bother me all that much. Flip the political affiliations of all the people/branches of government involved and you'd probably have the same exact talking points being flung back and forth at each other- so it's kind of a moot point. No matter who's in charge of what branch, the confirmation system is kind of a mess and something of a political football, especially in election years. The old saw about not wanting to see how the sausage is made applies to this perfectly.

What does bother me, however, is Iowa and their lamentable tendency to appoint Senators, Governors and assorted Congresspeople for decades at a time. While in the case of Senator Grassley, it has landed him chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which means more access to more bacon to bring home for the state, it also means that he's been in Washington for decades and this year, I just think it's time for him to hang up the kleets and sail off into the sunset.

Senator Grassley is also on the record as being against reclassification of 911 Dispatchers from Administrative to Protective Services- which is disappointing as it's not like APCO is asking for the moon on a string or something that will cost a lot of money. They're asking for a change in how a job is classified that's not only more accurate but reflective of the changing nature of Emergency Dispatching.

While I didn't hear back from the Judge Campaign on this issue (Jim Hennager of the New Independent Party Iowa and Michael Luick-Thrams were also in favor of reclassification), I decided I was going to vote Democrat for this race- not just because I like the idea of having one Republican and one Democratic Senator (who would both be women) but because I'm becoming increasingly convinced the Republican Party needs some time in the wilderness to get it's collective shit together. Throw that together with my desire to see more turnover in Iowa's politicians (i.e. more than once a quarter-century) and an endorsement and a vote for Patty Judge seem like a good idea.

For US Congress:

Dr. Christopher Peters

I don't really have anything against Congressman Loebsack, but Dr. Peters impressed me on several fronts. First, I emailed him a couple of questions and he got back to me in about three hours flat. (Loebsack, Judge and Grassley didn't reply at all- the other party candidates came in well after the three hour mark.) He was remarkably open to the idea of reclassification of 911 Dispatchers from Administrative to Protective Services and gave me a good pitch on why I should vote for him.

So, I checked his website. For a Republican, he seems sane, sensible (there was a lack of social issues on his website that was extremely refreshing) and even thinks we should explore alternative voting mechanisms along with reforms to our Criminal Justice system. I haven't seen any polling on the 2nd District, so I don't know how tight of a race this is going to be- to be honest, I'm expecting Congressman Loebsack to win, but I was impressed with Dr. Peters. He gets my vote.


For State Legislature:

No Endorsements

Running unopposed? You don't get my endorsement. We're in a new District for this election, District 86 and while I have no problem with Mary Mascher and will probably vote for her, the fact that the local Republican Party can't even scare up a sacrificial lamb to at least give voters an option annoys me.

For County Offices:

No Endorsements

See above. Three Candidates for three seats on the County Board of Supervisors- gee, where is the suspense in this race? Ditto for Auditor and Sheriff. Will probably end up voting for all of them, but still. We can't find a single alternative here? There's not some lonely soul in a tinfoil hat that's going to step up and swat at the might Democratic Party machine?

Non-Partisan Offices:

No Endorsements

But hey! I did my research and I now know what the heck the Agricultural Extension Council and the Soil and Water Conversation Commission actual do. So, if I endorse anyone, it's me for informing myself on what all these obscure commissions on the back of the ballot actually do. (Side Note: This is why you should always flip your ballot! There's important stuff back here as well.)

Judicial Retention:

Yes To Retain On All

I changed my tune on this after the whole same sex marriage fiasco. The flood of outside money that came into the state to oust justices for doing their job was obscene. I don't agree with every decision that gets handed down by various courts on all levels in this country, but I don't pitch a nutty about it and try and burn the whole system down either. You have to trust the people who get appointed to these positions to do their jobs, even if you don't like what they come up with and I do. So, new rule: unless I see a specific reason (say, corruption, etc) to oust a judge, I'm voting to retain on all.

Iowa City Ballot Issue: Public Measure C:

Yes

I'm voting Yes, because it brings the charter in line with Iowa Code, which seems like something we should be doing anyway, but also, the arguments against this are unconvincing at best and irritating at worse. This doesn't apply to Charter Amendments (several of which, like say, a Directly Elected Mayor and Council Election Districts I think we need and would happily support) as the process for amending the Charter already follows Iowa Code. This would cover citizen led initiatives- like the drive to ban traffic cameras, prevent the 1st Avenue extension and, of course, the Bar Age Referendums. Our Charter does not allow initiatives to extend into already specified areas. (Taxes, city budget, zoning and the like) and the Charter Amendment Process already follows Iowa Code and charter revisions aren't covered by this Measure. If it helps increase participation in local democracy, I'm in favor.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Squawk Box: Luke Cage

Marvel and Netflix continue their astonishing run of critical success, this time with Luke Cage. First seen in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage follows the story of it's titular hero (Mike Colter) who finds himself in Harlem, trying to lay low and avoid confronting the many ghosts of his past. When Harlem's local crime boss, Cottonmouth Stokes (Mahershala Ali) seeking revenge for an arms deal gone wrong mows down Luke's employer, local barber and legend Henry 'Pop' Hunter (Frankie Faison), Luke realizes that he can use his strength and invulnerability to do some good and starts retaliating against Cottonmouth.

But Luke quickly realizes that he might have more than he bargained for on his hands, as Cottonmouth's cousin Mariah, (Alfre Woodard), a local politician with ambitions of her own proves to be a more formidable opponent than Luke realized, turning the community against him and leaving his isolated, on the run and with only Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson, reprising her role from Daredevil and Jessica Jones) as his allies and a ghost from his past looming in the form of the powerful arms dealer Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) who Luke must face in the biggest battle of them all.

There. I think that's a pretty decent synopsis that doesn't spoil too much- I can never seem to do credible summaries of the shows/movies I review and Luke Cage was no exception- because there are a few twists and turns I really don't want to give away if you haven't seen the show- but man oh man, is there a lot to talk about with this show. First of all: you can't escape how timely this is. A superhero who is African-American, bulletproof, super strong and wears a hoodie? Luke Cage is a hero for the modern age, that's for sure. But here's the deal: the show isn't afraid to talk about the complexities of race, but it doesn't get bogged down in it either.

Second, it portrays Harlem, like Hell's Kitchen as a very real place and that real brings the focus down from the lofty heights and Hollywood-ized New York City that people are used to seeing to something that feels a lot more visceral, gritty and well, real world than you might expect.

Third: I don't think it's all that big of a secret that women and minorities aren't that well written on television or in the movies for that matter- there are exceptions to this rule, but Luke Cage was like a breath of fresh air. Every single character in this show feels well-written, full developed and completely three dimensional. It's sad that the writing feels like such a revelation to me, but I can't discount the possibility that it's just me and not everyone else.

There's a lot to like about this show. The overall tone of the show acknowledges the blaxploitation roots of it's character, but does so in a contemporary way. There's a nod to the comics, as Luke just happens to find a yellow blouse and a tiara looking thing that made up his costume in one of his first appearances as Power Man. (You saw a similar nod in Jessica Jones and her costume.) Mike Colter continues perfectly inhabit this role. Simone Missick absolutely owns every scene she's in as Detective Misty Knight. (In the comics, her character has popped up everywhere- including X-Men.) Rosario Dawson continues to be compelling as Claire Temple- I don't know where they're planning on taking her character, but she continues to be intriguing to watch as she makes her way through the Marvel Netflix Universe.

We're almost to The Defenders. Iron Fist is up next... every single one of these shows has left me waiting and wanting more. Marvel and Netflix have managed to take these characters and turn them into compelling appointment television. That's an achievement in and of itself.

Overall: The Marvel Netflix excellence continues, this time with Luke Cage. I can't wait for Iron Fist and The Defenders! **** out of ****

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #187: The Brown Flag Challenge Begins

So I realized that last week that I was running out of flags to talk about and thus realized that I was going to have to get creative to get this train rolling and happily, the Missus and her interior design skills provided me with an answer. You see, we had company come up last weekend for Little Dude's Birthday, so that meant we needed to get our spare bed from the Parentals House to set it all up in the basement. Which was easy enough, but it still looked a little sparse and well, open- like an unfinished basement. Obviously, the first thing I thought about was flags. I have a tote full of the things and while it wasn't a perfect solution, it'd work for a weekend. I asked the Missus what color scheme was she envisioning, she replied red, green and brown.

This is what resulted:
I have plenty of flags with red and green, but I came up short when it came to the color brown and after one hundred and eighty six flags, I realized that I couldn't really recall any where brown featured prominently. So, I did some digging on the interwebs, found a list and The Brown Flag Challenge was born...

I was surprised, because I had actually encountered some of these flags before. Iowa, technically has brown in it's flag. So does Dominica. But there are plenty of other flags that I hadn't touched yet- so that's the list we're going to work our way through- starting with the flag of the great, Golden State of California:
The origins of this flag can be traced to the very short-lived, totally unrecognized breakaway state of the California Republic, which lasted for about twenty-five days in 1846 and controlled the area north of San Francisco, mainly centered around Sonoma. It's flag looked like this:
                     
(You can sort of see where they got the basic idea from, right?) Anyway, for obvious reason, this came to be called the Bear Flag and the revolt, short as it was, became known as the Bear Flag Revolt and we'll never really know what might have happened to the California Republic, because the Mexican-American War sort of took over events pretty fast and the Republic's Military was subsumed into the California Battalion commanded by Captain John C. Fremont (who is actually a really interesting guy. I read this book about him- which I think I still have somewhere. Maybe. It was really good and you should read it though) and by July 9th it was all over and California became part of the Untied States. 

Here's the crazy thing though. California became a state in 1850 and the current, official version of the Bear Flag was first adopted in 1911. I did some digging on the interwebs, because Wikipedia didn't have the answer and you know what? I'm not sure that California had an official state flag between 1850 and 1911. There was a little bit of a brouhaha during the course of the Civil War where pro-secessionist people down south flew the Bear Flag instead of the Stars and Stripes and it's all... a bit mysterious.

The bear itself is supposed to be modeled on one of the last California Grizzly Bears in captivity named Monarch who was captured in 1889 by a newspaper reporter at the behest of guess who? William Randolph Hearst. After it died in 1911, it was stuffed and preserved at the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park and as far as I know, it's still there which is a very cool piece of trivia. The Bear Flag has some detractors, but the North American Vexillological Association ranked it as #13 in their survey of flags of North America, which seems about right to me. It's design is simple and evocative and to be honest, if you look at all the state flags- California would be one that I would want to add to my collection. (Hey, speaking of which: why don't I have any state flags? I should remedy that.)

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

Constitutional Amendments, Ranked

So, this Deadspin listicle floated by me and caught my eye last weekend and the more I thought about it, the more I took issue with some of their choices here. Then, it occurred to me. Why not put together my own list? Every good student of political science should have one, right? So, here, for your reading please.

Constitutional Amendments, Ranked (The Lit City Blues Edition)
1. First  (This is the whole ball of wax to me. Without out, America doesn't have a foundation)
2. Thirteenth (But, the First Amendment ain't worth shit if you can keep slaves. So that's a no.)
3. Fifteenth (tie) (These three get a tie because they opened up our democracy to those who had been excluded at the start of it all- women, people of color and the young.)
3. Nineteenth (tie)
3. Twenty-Sixth (tie)
6. Fourteenth (Once you've figured out the bedrock freedom and who can have it and that slaves are bad, you should probably define citizenship.)
7. Fourth (tie) (Unreasonable search and seizure = bad. Def a top 10 pick.)
7. Fifth.(tie) (Protection against self-incrimination. Also important.)
9. Ninth  (Probably my favorite amendment. Was tempted to rank it 2nd, but it's a solid mid-major that can make a Cinderella run deep if you're not careful.)
10. Seventh
11. Sixth
12. Eighth (Seven, Six and Eight could have been a nice group together, but I separated them out.)
13. Tenth
14. Second (Reflective of my ambiguity on the issue of guns, it sort of fell right in the middle.)
15. Twelfth (Picking the President is important.)
16. Twenty-Fifth (Ditto figuring out what happens if he dies.)
17. Twenty-Fourth (Poll Tax, bad.)
18. Twenty-Seventh
19. Sixteenth
20. Twenty-Third
21. Eleventh
22. Seventeenth (I'm surprised this one didn't end up higher, since I think there's a case to be made that you can be of too minds about it. In general, I think more democracy is good, but this also could be seen as one of the root causes in throwing the relationship between the states and the Federal Government so out of whack since it represents a big rollback in power for the states.)
23. Twenty-Second
24. Twentieth
25. Twenty-First
26. Eighteenth
27. Third (Seems somewhat antiquated, but you have to wonder if police like forcibly using your house for a stakeout would be covered here.)

This was actually a super-hard and really interesting thought exercise to have...  I diverge a little from the folks at Deadspin, which is fine. I can sort of understand why they made some of the choices they made, but as you can see above, I provide some brief annotations as to my rationale. Though I do think the 9th remains one of my favorite amendments.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Big 12 Stays At 10

Alas, one of my favorite sports- truly, the sport of kings- came to ended with a whimper instead of a bang this past Monday when the Big 12, in it's apparent wisdom ended months of mindless speculation by deciding not to add any new members- at least for now. There's been sort of a mixed reaction out there on the interwebs, but the overall feeling seems to be that a. this isn't going away- it's a decision deferred, not denied and b. we're probably in looking at the latter days of the House of 12, so to speak.

The biggest motivating factor seems to have been money. ESPN and Fox have the television rights for the conference currently and they were looking at the list of candidates and just not feeling. I'm not sure if they've closed a deal to chip in some more dinero for the conference not to expand, but the word on the street seems to be that they've dangled that possibility in front of the Big 12 and it seems to have worked- at least for now.

The second (and more interesting factor) to consider is the issue of politics. Here's the official rationale from The Commish himself this past July, saying that the conference would be looking:
"for members that will grow over time as we grow-- [schools] that bring stability, that have a high top end."
Then, pretty much as soon as the process started, Texas politics muddied the waters by pretty much insisting that whomever the Big 12 added one candidate just had to be Houston. Now, Houston is a pretty solid candidate all by themselves, so you can't strike them from consideration, but with their inclusion in a potential expansion pretty much a fait accompli right out of the damn gate, suddenly you go from looking for schools to improve your brand, have a high top end and stabilize your conference to Houston + 1 (or 3, depending on how crazy you wanna get.)

In other words, the non-Texas schools are suddenly looking at this thinking, 'well, fuck. We gotta play nice with The Longhorn State and dilute our main recruiting ground or jump off this pony altogether' and they seemed to have decided to jump off the pony instead. The fact that their television partners weren't crazy about the idea either- and in fact, were so not crazy they were willing to pay them not to add members was probably all the excuse everybody else needed to kick the can down the road a bit.

But here's the thing. If a week is a long time in politics, five years is an eternity in the world of conference re-alignment. Could be that the Big 12 finds a formula that works for them and expands or doesn't expand and it's all good. But the general consensus is that by the time the current Big 12 grant of rights is up in 2023, people will be heading for the door and the era of the four 16-team super conferences that has long been predicted will come to pass. So, where does everyone go? Let's break it down:

Currently, the Big 10 and SEC sit at 14 members. The ACC has 15 and the Pac-12 is sitting at a good old solid 12 and let's throw in the Mountain West for the sake of argument-- that's got 11 members right now. So, if I'm doing my math right that's ten slots for ten schools- though if the music stops and someone gets stuck with the Mountain West and their chair they may not be all that happy about it. I'm leaving politics out of these scenarios, though you can best believe they'll be in play all over the place if the Big 12 really does start to fly apart.

Scenario 1 (The Hawkeye Nation Plan):
Oklahoma/Oklahoma State go to the SEC
Texas and Kansas to the Big 10

I'm assuming under these conditions the Pac-12 which was ready to blow up the Big 12 in a huge-ass way, goes buckwild and makes a play for Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech and maybe snags Kansas State along the way. This leaves the ACC to grab West Virginia (a logical choice for them) and Iowa State as the odd man out, probably headed to the Mountain West (where they might actually do really well.)

Scenario II (My Plan)
If demographics is destiny, then despite a good academic record, Kansas has nothing that the Big 10 really wants. Texas does, but the other school that doesn't get mentioned all that much, but had some buzz during the last round of expansion was Georgia Tech. Both of these options would end the Big 10's contiguous geographic footprint but plant the flag of the conference directly into two of the biggest football recruiting grounds in the nation: Texas and the Deep South. If the Big 10 can do this, I think they will. Which means:

Texas to the Big 10.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the SEC (we're assuming they're a package deal, which is probably the case.)
Kansas and West Virginia to the ACC (If the Big 10 snags Georgia Tech, they'd be fools not to take West Virginia and Kansas, the former a solid basketball and football program, the latter a home run in basketball and solid academics. But if Oklahoma is a package deal, are the Kansas schools?)

The problem for the remaining five schools in this scenario becomes the Pac-12: Tech, Baylor, TCU, K-State and Iowa State aren't exactly barn-burners when you have BYU, Air Force and potentially Colorado State to consider. While the service academies always get mentioned in scenarios like this, they never seem to get taken on by the Big Players and they've already got Colorado- so why do they need Colorado State? Honor code issues aside, BYU would be a solid add for them. So then, it's (probably) BYU + 3. Problem is, which 3? I'd say TCU and Tech are strong candidates- Baylor has a public relations problem which you'd hope would be behind them by 2020. Maybe you go buckwild for Texas and take all 3. Which leaves ISU and Kansas State out in the cold, probably headed to the Mountain West.

As per usual, all these predictions are totally and utterly dependent on the Big 12 flying apart in the first place and will probably wind up being totally wrong. But now, I've got to put aside my excitement and wait for the Beast to rear it's ugly head again... but no one is talking about the darkest horse of them all.

#RiceToTheBig12
#ItsGonnaHappen

(Addendum: This and this are pretty decent takes on this. h/t to The Quiet Man for the first link which is absolutely 100% correct.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Albums2010 #83: Remain In Light

Talking Heads has always been one of my favorite bands. Maybe not my all time favorite band ever, because I'm honestly not sure I have one, but they've always been somewhere in my person top ten. When I was kid, Dad's copy of Stop Making Sense would pop up in the CD player now and again at various family parties and once I got old enough to purchase CDs all by my lonesome, I snagged Sand In The Vaseline and loved every track on it.

[Pop culture tangent: If you have no idea who Talking Heads are, well- there's that one scene in Revenge of the Nerds, that other scene in Clerks II and of course, if you're a fan of rock n'roll/concert movies, there's Stop Making Sense.]

But the one thing I haven't actually done is dig into their discography all that much. Sand In The Vaseline and Stop Making Sense provided me with a plethora of Talking Heads and it kept me satisfied, up until now. I'm not sure what got my started on my latest 'Heads binge, but a quick google search for the best Talking Heads albums pointed me in the direction of Remain In Light, so I hopped onto my Spotify, tracked it down and gave it a whirl.

And you guys...  seriously. You guys. This is a really good album. Like a really fucking good album. To me, this ranks right up there with U2's Joshua Tree, Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge of Town and Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street, Fleetwood Mac's Rumors....  I loved every minute of this beast and if you like great music, it's worth a listen- if you like Talking Heads and you're not a lazy fan like I am, you've probably already listened it many times over, but if you haven't gotten around to this one, get to it!

So, Remain In Light:

I did some digging on Wikipedia and the big idea behind this album was that the band wanted to dispel the idea that Talking Heads was all about David Byrne who was just sort of leading a back up band. If that was what they were aiming for, I think they hit their target, because the staggering amount of fusion and blending of a whole variety of musical genres makes for a truly syncretic experience. There's elements of African music, other world music, post-punk, new wave, funk, experimental rock- it's amazing.

The album opens with 'Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)' which has a hook that worms it's way into your brain and is impossible not to dance too. 'Crosseyed and Painless' has long been a favorite 'Heads track of mine- and the break down/rap at the end of the track seems especially appropriate, given the long train wreck of an electoral disaster we're all facing. ("Facts are simple and facts are straight/facts are lazy and facts are late/facts all come with points of view/facts don't do what I want them to/facts just twist the truth around") 'The Great Curve' brings an Afro-beat sensibility to the album with a great lyric, "the world moves on a woman's hips" that sticks in the brain. 'Once In A Lifetime' is a Talking Heads classic but that gets followed up with 'Houses In Motion' (another one of my favorites from this album) and then 'Seen and Not Seen' and 'Listening Wind' all of which play around with Middle Eastern sounds.

My digging on Wikipedia revealed something wild about the final track on the album, 'The Overload.' The verbatim quote:
The final track on the album, 'The Overload' was Talking Heads' attempt to emulate the sound of British post-punk band Joy Division. The song was made despite no band member having heard the music of Joy Division; rather, it was based on an idea of what the British quartet might sound like based on descriptions in the music press.
How wild is that? And more importantly- how crazy is it that they got relatively close to the overall sound of Joy Division? Mind. Blown.

Overall: Makes my list of Top 10 Albums ever without breaking a sweat. Can't wait to jam out to it again. **** out of ****.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #186

Well now I've got to sit down and figure something out, because I thought this was the last stop on the list of flags I've already covered, but the internet says that there are 196 countries in the world and I seem to have come up ten short or so. So what comes next, I don't know, but This Week In Vexillology we're wrapping up Southeast Asia with the flag of the Philippines:
First adopted on June 12th, 1898, the current version of the flag was reaffirmed on February 12th, 1998- so this flag has been around for awhile. Coolest design feature of this flag: if the Philippines are in a state of war, it's displayed with the red side on top. 

The white equilateral triangle stands for liberty, equality and fraternity. The blue stripe for peace, truth and justice. The red stripe stands for patriotism and valor (which might explain why the red side up is used for when the country is in a state of war, because, obviously- defending the homeland and all that jazz.) 

It's when we get to the stars and the sun that we get into some really hefty detail on the symbolism. The eight-rayed golden sun in the center of the white portion of the flag stands for unity, freedom, people's democracy and sovereignty. Each ray represents a province that had significant involvement in the 1896 Philippine Revolution against Spain- these provinces are: Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Tarlac, Laguna, Batangas and Nueva Ecija. The five pointed stars in each corner of the triangle stand for the three major islands where the Revolution started- Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

There's some difference between the current official explanation and the symbolism found in the 1898 Proclamation of Philippine Independence. The white triangle (in this explanation) stands for the Katipunan, a secret society that opposed the Spanish. The red, white and blue are supposedly an homage/thank you to the United States for their help against the Spanish. One of the three stars represents just the island of Panay instead of the entire chain of the Visayan Islands. Just to add to the tally, the sun is supposed to represent the paths the country has made along the path of Progress and Civilization and Bataan takes the place of Tarlac as one of the sun's rays.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Rose Oaks vs The Kinnick House

So, now that the Board of Adjustment has split on the status of the Kinnick House- which allows construction to go forward, the Manville Heights Neighborhood Association is suing to block the construction which throws the whole thing up in the air once more. The lawsuit doesn't bother me all that much- if rich people want to go to court over this, let 'em. I don't think any of the arguments advanced by the neighborhood association hold that much water anyway- especially the ones about public safety. But what does bother me is the contrast between how this has been handled versus the way the city dealt with the whole Rose Oaks fiasco.

I don't know enough about the City's Housing Authority and what it can and can't do to say for sure, but it seems to be that Rose Oaks should never have been allowed to get into the state it got into. There were (reportedly) problems with cockroaches. The whole place just went downhill- and may be it had been for years, I don't know. And it's not a secret in Iowa City that landlords (or slumlords, depending on how cynical and jaded you might be) can get away with an awful lot of shady shit- that can lead to lawsuits and some relief for tenants.

But I've been of two minds about it ever since redevelopment began. On the one hand, yeah, it was bad and yeah, it was bad enough that gutting the whole place was probably a viable and maybe even necessary step to rescue the complex. But when I see things like this, then I have a problem- because it's clear the idea is to price out the old residents of Rose Oaks (lower class and disproportionately minorities) and upscale the place as fast as they can.

The contrast reeks of class privilege and I'm going to go from annoyed to extremely angry if the Manville Heights temper tantrum actually gets somewhere in court. Rich people have the money to NIMBY anything they want. People who live at places like Rose Oaks never have that problem- they just get shuffled along to the next place down the line and for a town that prides itself on being progressive, tolerant and inclusive it's a jarring contrast.

It'd be easy to say that it's just the cost of doing business and the forward march of progress, but if you dig into the data a little bit more, it gets even harder to ignore. Zillow pegs the average house price in Iowa as a whole around $125K, but Realtor.com has Iowa City alone with a median listing price at $230K, which is over $100K more than the state average. (I'm taking this data at face value, which might be a mistake- but we'll go with it.)  There's a significant disparity here that affects the working class more than it should and it's a blind spot the city needs to do a better job of acknowledging and, more to the point, dealing with. Every one wants to live here- which makes sense. There's a University and a Hospital here. Jobs at both can be lucrative if you can get them. The schools are good. It is a great place to live and to be fair, there are folks dedicated to closing this gap.

But I drive past Rose Oaks every day. It's in my neighborhood and every day when I do, I think that if we're really dedicated to closing the housing gap in Iowa City then they better end up building that damn house- because they idea of the rich neighborhood getting to NIMBY anything they want, while the not-so-rich neighborhood is helpless in the face of the bulldozers doesn't sit right with me. I live here and I hate the contrast. So should everyone else.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Can We Talk About That Debate?

Holy Hannah, Batman...  what a train wreck of an election this is turning out to be. I saw the vast majority of the first debate, because I was at work and there was, for once, relatively little going on- and I lasted for a good hour before a co-worker begged and pleaded with me to mute it and by that time I had reached my limit of sniffing and condescension. The second debate I only caught the back half of and it managed to be somehow worst than the first. So, some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. I don't like voting against people. I'd much rather vote for a candidate than against them. That might well end up being Secretary Clinton, but it might not be- I don't know. But damned if Donald J. Trump isn't making it really hard to stick to that notion. Nothing I've seen in either of the first two debates has convinced me that he's the least bit qualified to be President and, in fact, it's sent me in the opposite direction. I don't want him anywhere anything important, like say, the nuclear codes. The answers on foreign policy that I heard were downright scary. I honestly think that he's convinced the world works like it does in the movies and his answers were incoherent enough to make Gary Johnson look like Henry Kissinger. Johnson needs an atlas and a subscription to The Economist. Trump needs god only knows what, but I don't want him anywhere near our foreign policy.

2. That damn tape... That's not locker room talk. That's not how I talk. That's not how men talk. That's how scum-sucking assholes talk. And yes, Senator Sessions it is damn well is sexual assault. And I can't even with this Ben Carson crap. Seriously?

3. No, I don't want to hear any goddamn whining from any of the carnival of candidates the GOP ran in the primaries. You can't hire decent opposition researchers? You can't dig this stuff up in December and say something like, 'HEY LOOK WHAT HE DID, DO YOU THINK MAYBE THERE WILL BE MORE OF THIS CRAP OUT HERE? DO YOU THINK MAYBE THE DEMOCRATS WILL RELEASE THIS AT THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME, LIKE SAY IN OCTOBER? MAYBE WE SHOULD THINK TWICE ABOUT THIS YOU GUYS' I mean Christ on a crutch, people take some ownership for your massive incompetence and that holier-than-though sermonizing about Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment about 'thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican' needs to go. Reagan is dead and you people keep bringing a butter knife to a gun fight and expect to somehow come out ahead? Massive, massive incompetence all up and down the GOP. But hey, you reap what you sow, right? This represents the chickens coming home to roost in a big way. Newt Gingrich and his brand of hyper-partisanism sent everything off the rails into crazy town. Bush the Younger abandoned all pretense of fiscal responsibility at home and abroad. And you end up with Trump... I saw a great Tweet float by during this debate:

Trump is that colonic.

4. And now, apparently, we've reached the DGAF stage of the Trump Candidacy. Who knows how many turns are left of the dial on this, our long national highway to hell, but I check the forecast over at Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight pretty regularly. I think the latter is probably more conservative than the former, but even with some conservatism thrown in, they've got Clinton at a solid 260 electoral votes already. A month out. The GOP has to be sweating bullets right now, because is Trump is serious about pouring gasoline all over the joint and setting the place on fire on his way to a titanic defeat, then who knows how bad this could get. Five Thirty Eight has Arizona about even right now and Alaska and Georgia are starting to look increasingly pale pink every time I check this place. At what point do you start worrying about the House? Or the Senate?

5. Last time I checked, Bill Clinton isn't running for President. If Hillary has been creepy/allegedly rapey with people, that's something I want to know. But so far, she hasn't. And for what it's worth, Bill was impeached, tried and acquitted. If there are rape allegations that are credible out there, that's troubling, but the Republican Party essentially denied those women their day in court when they pursued a partisan impeachment. Do I think Bill could have gotten away with his behavior toward women in today's climate? I absolutely do not- witness the level of squirming on the left about Joe Biden's handsiness. But either way, the whole 'THEY DO IT TOO' card isn't working for me and I'm pretty sure it isn't working for the country either.

6. If you've lost Glenn Beck, you might as well just pack it all in. Though if Senator Ernst fails to jump off the Trump Train, she won't be getting my vote in the next election. (I'm already not voting for Our Glorious Leader and Eternal Governor The Moustache and Senator Grassley ain't getting my vote either.)

7. Is the election over yet? Please, let it be over and soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bookshot #93: White Noise

Don Delillo has been floating around the outside of my literature radar for awhile now. He was sort of one of those authors that I'd always see English and Lit Majors reading from time to time (along with folks like Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh) but I had never actually sat down to read any of his books. Happily, Independent Bookstore Day comes but once a year and this year, I perused the bookshelves of Prairie Lights and ended up picking up a copy of White Noise.

For such a slim volume, White Noise leaves a lot for you to ponder and unpack but I think if there's one big idea that I'm left with, it's the sort of fascinating power that the fear of death holds over not only individuals, but society as a whole and how much of that fear-whether unconscious or not, drives our modern culture and every day life.

Set in a Midwestern college town that I'm not actually sure gets a name (the college is called 'The College On The Hill), White Noise tells the story of Jack Gladney, a Professor in the cutting edge field of Hitler Studies who doesn't speak a lick of German as the story opens- and is just now getting around to taking lessons. He's been married five times to four different women and lives with his current wife, Babette and their mix of children and stepchildren and, as their both advancing through middle age, they frequently wonder which of them will be the first to die.

Their fears are largely kept to themselves, though occasionally they tell each other their preference for who gets to die first, but then they are confronted with The Airborne Toxic Event*, where a chemical spill releases a huge black cloud over the town and the family is forced to flee. Jack gets exposed to the toxin and is forced to confront his own reality, even as the family returns home to an organization called SIMUVAC that starts simulating disasters around town.

Then, Jack discovers that Babette has been cheating on him in order to get access to a drug called Dylar, which supposedly relieves the fear of death. Still obsessing over his own mortality, a friend of Jack's, Murray suggests that killing someone could alleviate the fear- so Jack hunts down the drug-pusher who gave Dylar to Babette and rehearses the many ways he wants to kill and almost does, but when he's putting the gun in his hand, he uses it to shoot Jack, who then changes his mind and helps save him by carrying him a hospital run by German nuns who don't believe in God or an afterlife.

The final chapter talks about Jack's youngest child, Wilder, riding a tricycle (good parenting here) across the highway and somehow surviving.

I'm not sure if you could call this entirely satire, but it is a nicely postmodern commentary on modern life and how fear and death stalk us and terrify us and motivate us in ways good and bad. It's an easy read and unlike, say Gravity's Rainbow (which defeated me- for now. I shall return!) it's structure is pretty conventional and easy to follow. Given the fact that this was written in 1985, it's prescience is eerie, given the state of the nation in the events following September 11th. Fear is everywhere these days. Whether it's fear of death of a just a generic "fear of [insert something here]" I don't know, but White Noise felt timely and important to me. The last line ("The cults of the famous and the dead.") just hangs there beautifully as well.

Overall: A compulsively readable commentary on modern life, fear and death, White Noise grabbed my attention and kept me turning the pages until the very end. Note to self: read more books by Don DeLillo. **** out of ****

*I love this song and I was hoping that this book is where the band got it's name from and it turns out I was right.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #185

Quick, what's the world's only island city-state? If you said, Singapore- you'd be right and that's who we've got This Week In Vexillology:
So, Singapore is somewhat of an unusual country- and that's not just because of their somewhat harsh justice system that lead them to cane tourists who vandalize and wreck up the place. The place was founded in 1819 as a trading post for the British East India Company by the excellently named Sir Stamford Raffles. Gaining independence in 1963, they initially joined up with Malaysia- but here's the kicker- they were expelled from Malaysia two years later. Per Wikipedia, there was 'distrust and ideological differences' between the People's Action Party and United Malays National Organization. Whatever the reason, Malaysia told Singapore to GTFO and they did, declaring independence on August 9, 1965.

I'm not sure if Malaysia regrets that or not, but hey, given the fact that the Singapore under the leadership of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew went from "Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation" it's entirely possible they might. Maybe. Just a little bit. (But hey, either way- Singapore is doing pretty damn well by itself, however you break it down.)

It's flag was adopted on December 3rd, 1959 when Singapore was granted self-rule by the British government. There's a fairly comprehensive list of rules on it's use that I'll just go ahead and skip, but happily it's got a pretty detailed explanation of it's symbolism as well:

The red (upper) half, stands for universal brotherhood and the equality of man. The white (lower) half for pervading and everlasting purity and virtue. The crescent moon and the five white stars form a circle- the five stars are for the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

(In terms of milestone's for the country, they scored their first gold medal at the Rio Olympics when Joseph Schooling pulled the stunning upset of Michael Phelps of all people. So it's been a good year for Singapore. Plus, this is the country that gave the world the Singapore Sling, which is delicious and legendary.)

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sportsyball!

MLS Quest

Okay, I am super bad at this, but there's hope. I did some digging and MLS Direct Kick is one payment of $60 or so on Direct TV, which is both cheaper than NFL Sunday Ticket and less than upgrading my package to get NBC Sports so I can watch all the Premier League that I can handle. (I was doing some streaming, but for some reason, it's no longer down with my log-in, the bastards. Come to think of it, I might have to do some digging as to why it suddenly stopped working for me. I mean, Arsenal seems to have located themselves- for now anyway- so it'd be nice to catch a game or two, you dig?) Anyway: next year, I might have to pinch some pennies, plop down some cash for MLS Direct Kick so we can, in the words of Mortal Kombat 'FINISH THIS'.

But, to MLS! After some deliberation, I think I've got things narrowed down to a solid foursome of possibilities with two teams vying for the final 'wild card' slot. Here's what I've got:

FC Dallas (fielded a starting 11 of homegrown players last year in the playoffs and knocked out Seattle in one hell of a game. Was impressed. Plus side: the wife has an aunt, uncle and cousins down there, so it's conceivable I could get to the Metroplex and take in a game. Down side: Dallas is not exactly high on my list of places to visit in Texas, you know?)

Sporting KC (God damn it, I keep going back to articles about how awesome the fan culture is down there, but have yet to actual get to a game. We were in KC and didn't even go look at the stadium- though, to be fair, I'm not sure how amazing it is. It probably just looks like a stadium, you know? Plus side: it's close, I'm back FC Kansas City for NWSL, Down side: we randomly went to Kansas City because it was close this year. We'd probably go back for BBQ, but I think we'll be going back to Nashville before we get back to KC.)

Columbus Crew (Saw them get to the MLS Finals versus Montreal in one hell of a game. Very impressive. Once they got to the Finals and immediately conceded a goal to Portland and then promptly conceded a corner, the Portland player than went to take the corner was greeted with a hail of friendly beer cans. Strangely, this amused me.  Plus side: one of the first soccer specific stadiums in MLS- they've been around for awhile. Down side: it's Columbus. Which is where Ohio State is located. Do I have a reason to actually go there?)

Minnesota United (Guardian Sport likes their badge- which is buried at the bottom of this round-up, and so do I. Plus side: they're the LOONS. How cool is that? Down side: do I really want to be that much of a Minnesota homer considering the fact I don't live there any more?)

Philadelphia (Men In Blazers did an excellent interview with Earnie Stewart a few months back and it's still kind of rolling around in my head. People seemed to be excited about what he might put together in terms of player development out there and right now they're sitting in 6th in the Eastern Conference, which puts them in contention for the playoffs. I want to see more.)

Toronto FC (People seem to seriously dig Toronto. I want to see more here, too.)


Adopt-A-Team

Well, shit. I jump on board the NEC Nijmegen bandwagon and they seem to be heading in the wrong direction entirely, but might be settling in to solid mid-table obscurity- we'll have to see what the next month or so brings. But I feel bad and I hope my support isn't a curse of some kind, because I hopped on the bandwagon on September 5th. The month before that (which seems to be the regular Eredivise season and not the preseason) they opened their campaign with two draws (against Zwolle and the interestingly named Go Ahead Eagles) and two wins (against currently 4th Place Heerenveen and 5th Place AZ Alkmaar) but after September 5th? Ru-roh! Thrashed 4-0 by PSV Eindhoven (currently 3rd) and another loss to Sparta Rotterdam, before scraping up a scoreless draw with (current) relegation fodder Willem II Tilburg and finally a win just five days ago against dead last (currently) Roda JC Kerkrade.

I'm assuming the KNVB Cup is similar to the FA Cup for England, but they didn't do so hot in the First Round of that either- going down 5-3 to Den Haag on penalties. (To be fair, I don't know if that counts as a bad loss- I mean right now, NEC Nijmegen is sitting in 11th and ADO Den Haag is two spots about the in 9th, so theoretically, they seem pretty evenly matched.)

What else can I report about NEC? Well, they've got some pretty devoted fans at least according to this YouTube video of what appears to be a funeral procession. (They don't seem to be super hardcore, but they have their moments, I guess. About four years ago, a preseason friendly with Blackburn got called off due to rioting fans. Nothing else showed up on the old Google Machine, so I guess that's good?) I also dug up this pretty comprehensive guide about their home, the Goffertstadion.  I also went ahead and followed them on Twitter @NEC_nijmegen, which should be fun, because I don't speak Dutch.

Let's hope Month #2 on the bandwagon goes better than the first one did! Go NEC!


American Handegg News

Okay, okay. It's not all bad news for the Iowa Hawkeyes- but there's a spicy bouquet of 'ru-roh' in the air and I honestly don't know which way the rest of the season could go. For some perspective: we're a field goal and a touchdown away from being undefeated, but let's be real here: that game versus Rutgers we were bloody lucky to win. I'm honestly not sure what the hell is going on, though we're paying Kirk Ferentz a hefty amount of money to figure that out. We'll see what they can come up with Saturday versus Minnesota. Some scenarios/predictions for the rest of the season:

Scenario 1: "Oh, the humanity!"
Like the Hidenberg, Iowa goes down in flames and do so quickly. We lose to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska and barely scrape by Illinois and Purdue. Angry mobs storm the Pentacrest and burn Gary Barta in effigy for that damn contract extension. Final Record: 5-7

Scenario 2: "North Dakota Who?"
With the help of the world's largest crowbar and a metric ton of vaseline, the Hawkeye pry their heads out of their asses and right the ship. Beat Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Penn State, Illinois and Nebraska and drop a close one to Michigan. Win the Big 10 West and return to Indianapolis for an evisceration at the hands of Ohio State or a chance at Sweet, sweet revenge against the Wolverines. Final Record: 9-3

Scenario 3: "W-T-F"
The Hawkeyes confuse the hell out of everyone by beating Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska and losing to Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Kirk Ferentz does the most Ferentz-y thing possible against Penn State and beats them 2-0 thanks to a last minute safety. Final Record: 7-5

To me, the truth will probably lie somewhere between these three scenarios. And I'm fine with that. I came of age in the Latter Days of Hayden Fry, where 7 wins and a bowl game was considered just fine by the majority of reasonable people. That is not an unreasonable ask. Now, in these days of Kirk Ferentz and ridiculous contract extensions, a slightly loftier goal might not be an unreasonable ask either, but what, if anything, have expectations taught us about Iowa football? They always do better when there are absolutely no expectations whatsoever. So, consider me officially disinterested. That won't stop me from either hiding behind my couch with my hands over my eyes to peek at the score on Saturday (I'm scurrrrred, you guys. So scurrrrred.) or grimacing at the commentary on my Twitter feed, but in general: nil desperandum, y'all. It's Iowa football and there's plenty left to be played.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

'Zootopia' --A Review

I had heard good things about Zootopia and was kind of bummed I didn't get around to seeing it in the theaters, but when it popped up on Netflix, thanks to a nice double I picked up at work, it seemed like the right time to spin it up and give it a watch- and holy shit was this a good movie. Let me say that again in case you missed it the first time: this was a really, really good movie.

In a world of walking, talking animals, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of leaving her small town of Bunnyburrow to be a cop in the big city of Zootopia- rabbits usually don't go into law enforcement, so everyone tells her that she'll have to be the first one ever and despite a rocky start at the police academy, she achieves her goal of becoming a cop at the ZPD- and the valedictorian of her police academy graduating class to boot and joins the force. She's relegated to parking duty by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) who doesn't take her seriously. On her first day, she's hustled by Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and Finnick, a couple of con artists.

The next day, Judy ends up in a foot chase with a Weasel who stole some plant bulbs and gets reprimanded for it by Chief Bogo and compounds her troubles by volunteering to help find a missing otter- that almost gets her fired until the Assistant Mayor intervenes and says what a great idea it is. Judy is given forty-eight hours to find the missing otter or she has to resign. Judy teams up with Nick to work the case and soon trace the missing animals to a Cliffside Asylum where the Mayor has hidden them from the public until they can figure out why predators are reverting to their natural, savage state. Judy thinks she ties up the case and with Assistant Mayor Bellweather taking over from the disgraced Mayor Lionheart, Judy is front and center as the public face of the ZPD- but trips up, when she suggests that there might be a biological cause for the recent predator behavior. This makes Nick angry and he leaves, while Judy is wracked with guilt as her comments unleash a wave of protests against predators and she quits the job.

Back in Bunnyburrow, a crushed and disappointed Judy is trying to settle back into life as a carrot farmer with her parents when she meets her reformed childhood bully, another fox by the name of Gideon Grey that reveals something that makes Judy realize a huge mistake and sends her running back to Zootopia to figure out what exactly is causing the predators to go savage- and it turns out the person behind the attacks is the last person you would have expected.

And for the rest of the story, you'll just need to go and watch the movie!

Can I say it again? Let me say it again: this was a really, really good movie. Cartoons can be tricky things if you're an adult. Some of them work on multiple levels (Big Hero Six, The Incredibles) and are intelligent and funny enough to appeal to both adults and satisfy the kiddos you might be wanting to entertain, others... (like say, Penguins of Madagascar) not so much. Zootopia falls into the former category instead of the latter- and in fact, I might go so far as to say it sets the gold standard for intelligent, entertaining animation. You wouldn't expect a cartoon to have something important to say about an issues like policing and racial profiling (conversations about both of those topics always go so well these days) but Zootopia manages to be fun, entertaining and intelligent all at the same time while making some valid points about discrimination and social stereotypes.

Overall: Well-written, brimming with intelligence and entertaining as hell, Zootopia takes a talented voice cast and explores themes that are relevant, timely and important. I'd give it the full five stars, but I did have one bone to pick with this movie and that is the character of Benjamin Clawhauser, the Front Desk officer for the ZPD, who is also apparently the only Dispatcher they have and he's fucking terrible at it! Argh. Some day, there will be an accurate and great portrayal of dispatching on the silver screen that doesn't involve a cheesy Halle Berry movie. But until then, I'll just have to #keepwaiting. **** out of *****

Monday, October 3, 2016

What's Your Sign?

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I feel like this comes up every few years now, but when NASA gets involved people take notice and actually listen up, so here's the 4-1-1: your sign isn't what you think it is. In fact, it's totally different from what you think it is- so imagine my general displeasure when I found out that I'm not in fact a Virgo, I am, in fact a Leo.

This shouldn't bother me. I don't believe in astrology- if I see my horoscope pass by on the interwebs or in a newspaper I'll stop and read it, but do I know when Mercury is in retrograde? No and I don't care. And yet... this whole thing sort of freaks me right out. I mean, I've been a Virgo my whole life and now you're telling me that because we've figured out how the Babylonians screwed this up about 3,000 years ago (they had 13 constellations and a 12 month calendar, so Ophiuchus got left out). Take that little bureaucratic snafu and combine it with the fact that the Earth's axis has changed over 3,000 years or so means that nothing is what you think it is. So, I'm apparently a Leo.

So naturally, I wanted to check into my new sign to see if it actually fits. And to my everlasting relief, I'm going to have to say 'screw science' and dance with the sign that brung me, because at least according to this website, it's all wrong. Except, fuck- is it all wrong? The strength keywords for Leo are throwing me. Confident. Ambitious. Generous. Loyal. Encouraging. That first one doesn't jibe with me at all- I've never felt confident. I think I can put on a good front and 'fake it til you make it' type of a deal, but ambitious? Hmmmmmm...

Now, we look at Virgo and we see strength keywords are analytical, observant, helpful, reliable and precise. And now it gets even harder to wrap my head around because none of those words really fit either. Though I'd like to think I'm helpful and reliable. Observant? Meh- I try? Does that count?

You know what? The more I think about this, the more of a headache I get. Think perhaps the best policy is just to follow the dates in the newspaper and see where I land- because, really when you get right down to it, what the hell do the stars know anyway? Flaming balls of super hot gases that stare down at this from the past any way. (Hey, I wonder if NASA considered that- every constellation would have stars at variable distances from Earth, so the light from those stars would be reaching us from different points in time- which means that the Earth's axis/position could be different depending on how far out some of these stars are. Would that mess this up even more?) Who knows- all I know is that I've been a Virgo (as far as I know) this whole time and I just can't be bothered to change it up now. Whatever the newspaper says I'll go with and leave it at that.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #184

This Week in Vexillology, we're still in Southeast Asia- slipping across the eastern border of Cambodia to it's next-door neighbor. Yes, this week it's the flag of Vietnam:
Well, golly gee, I wonder what kind of government Vietnam currently has? If you guessed 'communist' you'd be right! The background of the flag was inspired by the original red flag used by the Paris Commune in 1871. The color in this case, represents the goals of the revolution behind the national uprising in Vietnam. The star represents five main classes of people in Vietnamese society: intellectuals, farmers, workers, businessmen and military personnel.

The flag was officially adopted on September 5, 1945 as the flag of North Vietnam. But the flag has been in use before that- as the Viet Minh had been using the flag since 1941, during their struggle against the Japanese occupation. The flag was used as the flag of North Vietnam until 1976, when it became the flag of a Unified Vietnam.

There's also a interesting poem regarding the origins of the flag- it's designer was a leader of a failed uprising against the French in 1941, when he was caught and executed. He wrote the following poem:
...All those of red blood and yellow skinTogether we fight under the nation's sacred flagThe flag is soaked with our crimson blood, shed for the nationThe yellow star is the color of our race's skinStand up quickly! The nation's soul is calling for usIntellectuals, peasants, workers, traders and armymenUnited as a five-pointed star
However, in 2001, the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture said their was no evidence indicating that the leader of the failed uprising was the original designer of the flag. So that's pretty interesting.

For the sake of historical curiosity, I also ran down the flag of South Vietnam:

While it wasn't adopted officially until June 14, 1949, the original design was inspired by Emperor Thanh Thai in 1890 before being revived by Le Van De and re-adopted by Emperor Bao Dai in 1948. It was the flag of the French controlled areas of both Northern and Southern Vietnam from 1948 to 1955 and then the flag of the Republic of Vietnam from 1955-1975. It consists of a yellow field and three horizontal stripes of red.

There are two accepted interpretations of this flag- the first is that the three stripes are for the unifying blood running through northern, central and southern Vietnam- the three 'regions' of the country. Or, the three lines could represent the symbol for 'south' using Daoist trigrams. 

Interestingly, it's still used widely in the Vietnamese diaspora and has been recognized at multiple levels of government in the United States as the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag.

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