Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Breaking The Fishbowl

There has already been whole gallons of printer ink and bandwidth dedicated to trying to understand the massive, intense failure of the Democratic Party to win the election last November. I'm not really interested in rehashing all of that. My opinions are pretty damn clear: if you don't have a message for all 50 states and candidates in all 50 states, you can expect to win in all 50 states. It's that simple. Precious ideological principles don't impress me much. Don't get me wrong: principles are nice things to have, but they don't matter all that much if you can't win.

There's two main problems that I think need to be confronted if the creaking, rusted edifice of the Left is to remodel and revitalize itself for the 21st Century. The first is it's basic and deepest flaw: it's fidelity to the idea of equality in a society- whether it's the Democratic-Progressive flavor or the deeper, communist flavor that shook the 20th Century- has to be exposed as the lie it is. With the centenary of the Russian Revolution looming later in 2017, it only takes a cursory glance of the history books to realize that this notion of communist equality is just that, a notion. There were always people that had more- as Orwell put it in Animal Farm:
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
The Communist ideal so cherished by many can't survive that basic truism. And it's been proven true again and again and again throughout the history of the past 100 years. The problem the Left has to confront a simple one: voters increasingly know that for all the talk of a bedrock principle of equality, it's not actually going to happen. It's talk. There's always going to be people who have more and think they know better than the vast majority of voters.

This brings us to problem number two: the elitism of the Left. Whether it's the Democratic party or (to some degree) the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, these parties have drifted from their traditional, bedrock constituencies of the working class of their respective societies. The drift is far more pronounced in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom- where the Scottish National Party's rise to dominance in Scotland has more or less marginalized Labour in one of it's key historical strongholds. 

But the United States has a problem. Democratic voters are more educated and more prosperous- they tend to live in greater concentrations along the Coasts and in states with higher standards of living. That sentence isn't perfect, but it is more or less true. How do you win back the states in between? Do you even bother? I came across this interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education and it's about what you'd expect. Academic dares to question accepted Liberal/Progressive orthodoxy and gets his head jumped up and down upon. But, buried deep in the interview was an interesting line that got me thinking a bit:
"A fact of our political lives as liberals is that everything we do and say is filtered through conservative media."
That rocked me back on my heels a bit. Is that true? I know that Conservatives will insist that the opposite is true-so where is the truth? Either this Professor is so far left that he views all mainstream news as being fundamentally Conservative (which I would disagree with) or he views the mainstream media as being part and parcel of the status quo in this country, which could be seen as being 'conservative' if you like. The bigger insight from that statement goes right back to that drift I was talking about though- the fishbowling of both political parties.

Terabytes of bandwidth have probably gone toward explaining this particular phenomenon. Leaving aside the whole debate over fake news, the reality is that social media has forced us all into our own little foxholes and we view our politics through the prism of our foxholes. There's no middle ground. There's no accepting that the other side is not irredeemable in some way. 

If the Democrats can break out of their fishbowl, then they'll break the 20th Century paradigm that drives so much of their thinking. If not, then the drift will continue and the Left will continue to find itself on the outside looking in. A reinvention is called for. A new paradigm is demanded. The Left- which is a term I hate, but works in this case nonetheless, needs to find it's way again. The possibilities of the 21st Century are there for the taking.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The North Carolina Thing

As irritated as I am right now with the Left and their apparent desire to board The Crazy Train to Tinfoilhatsville and the uncomfortable realization that the Democratic Party really is going to stick it's head up it's ass and wait for the pendulum to swing back their way, because that's a really good idea, I can't ignore Shenanigans and Bullshit from the Right, either.

Exhibit A: North Carolina.

One of the few bright spots for the Democrats on Election Day, Roy Cooper finally got over the finish line in the North Carolina Governor's race topping Republican Governor Pat McCrory by 10,000 votes or so. In response to this, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature- having been called into special session to pass disaster relief for those affected by Hurricane Matthew, decided to go ahead and pass a series of bills designed to limit the incoming (Democratic) Governor's power.

These include weakening the Governor's control over the state Board of Election, stripping the Governor of the power to appoint UNC Trustees, requiring Senate approval for all cabinet picks, slashing the number of state employees appointed by the governor with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on a sesame seed bun.

The Left is calling this is 'legislative coup' and it's not hard to see why. Democratic Activists came out in force and were so vocal about this that they had to clear out public viewing galleries in both the North Carolina House and Senate. A couple of reporters got arrested as well- in short, it stinks and it seems shady as hell. They lost the Governorship, so let's stick it to the next guy by neutering his powers any way we can.

Wanting to get some knowledge on, I put on my hazmat suit and latex gloves and let my fingers take me on a ride to the other side of the fence to see if there was some reason why the Republicans would do this, other than 'just because they can.' Fox News was pretty even handed, but pointed out that Democrats had done the same thing to the first and only GOP Lt. Governor back in the late 80s- so apparently that makes it all okay. What they're doing, it shitty, but it's not unconstitutional- the North Carolina House Speaker was quick to point that out.

Okay...  so far we've got: 'Well, the Democrats did that to our guy like twenty years ago.' and 'Just because you disagree with it doesn't mean it's unconstitutional.'

First reason is [blows raspberry]. So? Just because the Democrats did it back in the day is no reason for you to do it now. I mean, do you want to play politics that way? Granted, there is something to the notion that if the parties were flipped, the Left would be telling the Right to take a hike- so really, if the Left can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen, right?

Second reason, as much as I hate it, is, unfortunately, correct. It's not illegal. It's just...  shitty.

Not satisfied and not really finding much of a reason as to why the Republicans, I went deeper. To... Red State and a new reason emerged: 'to mute the damage of a Roy Cooper governorship.' Though what damage they're worried about it unclear. (Though I guess people weren't fans of Governor-Elect Cooper when he was Attorney General. So there's that.)

Look, maybe I'm an idealist and a bit naive about the way things should work here, but this is just stupid. It's beyond stupid, it's poisoning the well. I doubt Democrats in North Carolina are going to take their legislature anytime soon, since the Gerrymandering is strong with the Republicans down there, but let's say they do. You think they're going to let this go? You think they won't remember? They will.

Shit like this might be the Alpha Dog, knives out type of bare knuckled politics that look good to a party's base, but as per usual, our elected leaders have the collective memory of syphilitics hamsters. It's like the Democrats weakening the filibuster. They thought it was GREAT. They thought it was AMAZING. They thought it was a victory for democracy and all that jazz. When Republicans start sending bills through using the filibuster rules that the Democrats passed, do you think they're going to be cool with it? No, they're going to scream bloody murder about it.

The problem with two party systems (among many) is that sooner or later, the circle always comes back around to the other guy. Sure, you can pull a move like this now and it might do you the world of good for the short to medium term. But one day, the shoe will be on the other foot. And when it is, do well to remember what you done did here today.

In the meantime, this remains: Shenanigans and Bullshit.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #194: Central Province, Sri Lanka

Well, we're back to Sri Lanka again this week for the Brown Flag Challenge and we've got our first verifiable swing and a miss with the challenge- this time courtesy of the flag of the Central Province. Behold:
You know, there are plenty of design folks out there that can't stand State Flags of the United States because they're essentially 'Seals On A Bedsheet'- or a lot of them are, anyway. While it's not a 'Seal On A Bedsheet' this flags is about as disappointing as your average 'Seal On A Bedsheet.'

The lion is seen on the national flag of Sri Lanka- it's the lion of Vijaya, who was the first King in Sri Lanka- he arrived in 486 BC, so this has been a national symbol of the island for a long time- and it's been paired with the Sun and the Moon before as well, most notably by King Dutugemunu who fought off invaders from South India in 162 BC.

So, the majority of the symbolism isn't entirely out of character for the country. They're national symbols. The brown in the flag is to be found in the border, which contains a yellow dots and then red and brown strips. The name of the province appears on the flag three times- in Sinhala, on the top. Tamil and English on the bottom. (Given that the flag was adopted on November 14th, 1987 and given the thorny history of language/linguistic nationalism in Sri Lanka, it's hard not to believe that the placement of Sinhala on the top of the flag wasn't a political statement of some kind.)

The Central Province is, as you'd expect, in the middle of the country. It's mountainous and known for it's tea production- it's capital is Kandy, which was the center of the ancient kingdom of Kandy that was referenced on a couple of the other provincial flags that we've looked at during the BFC. Since, looking at our schedule, this is the last visit to Sri Lanka we'll be doing for awhile, I suppose it's only fair to drop a wee bit of trivia into the mix: Arthur C. Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956 and ended up living out the rest of his life there- he's arguable one of Sri Lanka's most famous residents.

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise. We'll be off for a couple of weeks for Christmas and New Year's, but we'll be back at it in 2017.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Russia Thing

Look, I get it. The system sucks. The Democratic Party blew an easy lay-up of an election against a reality show host who has a Tweeting problem and comes across as a buffoon most of the time, but things are starting to get a little scary here. Let's start with the Electoral College:

If I'm reading the map on this Wikipedia Page correctly, about 26 states or so have laws against faithless electors. A quick trip over to 270toWin.com and some mouse clicks later reveals that those states, all told account for 282 electoral votes. In other words, despite all these petitions for the Electoral College to put Hillary in over Trump, it just isn't going to happen. People like not going to jail or paying fines or whatever. It's also worth noting that the whole 'faithless elector' phenomenon isn't the least bit new. There have been 157 cases over the history of our Republic and not once has it impacted or changed the results of an election. I see no reason to believe that this year will be any different.

Next, let's tackle the Russia thing:

Do I think Russia hacked our elections somehow? It's possible, but unlikely, in my humble opinion. They may have had a preference for one candidate over another, but if you're going to steal an election, steal a damn election already. Why bother splitting the electoral and the popular vote? Why not be more audacious with your theft? I think if Russia is playing games, they're subtle ones. Why go to all the trouble of hacking an election when you can just draft a memo, leak it to any of the cable news channels and they'll just repeat 'Russia hacked our election' over and over again until every one believes that it's true.

In this, the elites and the Democratic Party are doing Russia's work for them- and, seemingly without- as of right now- too much evidence to back it up. The elites of this country don't like Donald Trump. He may be as rich as they are, but he doesn't get invited to their country club brunches and there's a real chance he could wreck their precious playground. Of course they'll seize on anything to take him down. The Democratic Party, instead of a real self-examination as to how they managed to blow an easy lay-up of an election, is frantically trying to rationalize anything at all to explain how Donald Trump managed to win the electoral vote.

This is starting to look uncomfortably like a minefield we shouldn't be playing in here. I doubt the Electoral College flips. But what if it does? Is that a mandate? Is that any way to become President? It would essentially be a giant middle finger to every single flyover state and one that would produce a backlash that would be a body blow to the Democratic Party as a national institution- if not a Constitutional Crisis the likes of which we haven't seen since the Civil War.

Can we rule out Russian Shenanigans? No, we can't. But of all the media outlets out there, The Intercept has hit the nail on the head twice now about this issue. Anonymous sources are no substitute for evidence- and if there is proof, it needs to be aired in public.

Even if we take the allegations at face value, it's a blow aimed at undermining the legitimacy of our entire democracy. If it's that serious, why aren't these sources standing up and speaking out? If our democracy and the Republic is at stake, why haven't we seen evidence? That's not to say that there's not evidence, it's just that this echo chamber of allegations carries a very real risk of accomplishing what Russia might have hoped to do ourselves. Why do they need to hack our voting machines, when cable news can cast doubt on the legitimacy of our Presidential elections for them?

I'm in favor of more secure elections. I think audits and recounts increase transparency and give people the peace of mind that the system is fair and shenanigan free. We have work to do on that front, obviously. But these allegations are serious and haven't been backed up with any solid evidence that I've seen yet. I tend to roll my eyes whenever Conservatives start whining about 'liberal media bias.' I mean, they've got Fox News, the internet, Talk Radio- it's not like they're down in their foxhole alone, under bombardment from the evil liberal propaganda, but in this case, they're making a not unreasonable point. This could be Russian shenanigans, but what's its starting to look like is a Democratic Party trying to rationalize their defeat and their media mouthpieces undermining the results of an election that didn't go their way. (Wisconsin's recount actually increased Trump's lead, I guess. So there's that.)

As a voter who held my nose and voted for Secretary Clinton despite many misgivings- largely on the basis of Donald Trump's refusal to commit to respecting the results of the election, this pisses me off. The Democrats do themselves no favors with this monkey business and oh, by the way, if the parties were reversed, the Left would be screaming about sexism, racism, conspiracy theories, fascism and every other thing they could think of. They would not, despite their protestations, be the least bit concerned about these allegations.

I get it. The system sucks. The answer is to figure out how to make it better and you can't do that by being a bi-coastal party. But that seems to be what the Democrats are doubling down on right now.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Let's Talk About 'Gilmore Girls'

I think I first stumbled across Gilmore Girls during a ridiculously long marathon that was running on ABC Family over one of my breaks as an undergraduate (I think that was also the Spring Break I watched a metric ton of M*A*S*H reruns.) I had never seen it before. I had never heard of it before. But the writing caught my attention immediately. The dialogue practically crackled at light speed across the screen. Was is it a wee bit soapy, as befit it's presence on The WB? Sure, but it was also brimming with intelligence. This was smart television and all too quickly, I was hooked.

So it was with no small amount of delight that I greeted the news of a special four episode revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life. I figured at the very least, it would be a pleasure to visit this show, these characters and the writing again- and it was. But more importantly, they managed to more than live up to the hype. A lot of these revivals (I'm trying not to look at you, X-Files and I'm for sure not looking at you, Heroes Reborn) talk a good talk but fail to walk a good walk. Gilmore Girls stepped up to the plate and while I won't go so far as to call it a grand slam, I'd for sure say this was an inside-the-park home run.

A Year In The Life picks up a decade or so after the television show ended. Luke and Lorelai are still together, Rory is still running around trying to get her journalism career off the ground and running and Emily is recovering from the death her husband, the Gilmore Grandfather, Richard. The loss of Richard seems to have affected the three Gilmore Girls in very different ways- but it seems to have impacted Lorelai and Emily the most.

Emily has to figure out how to live independently for the first time in her life- and her arc over the four episodes is fascinating to watch.  You honestly get worried about her about midway through, but she gets it together and winds up in a great place by the end of this. (Seriously: Nantucket looks beautiful. I just need a small fortune to afford to live there.)

Lorelai, whose relationship with her parents is a rocky, emotional minefield at the best of times has to fix a rift with her mother, which she does thanks to some therapy, but she seems to be grasping at the straws a little bit as this opens. She and Luke are together, but they're not married. They can't decide if they want children or not. The Inn is doing well, but Sookie has taken a sabbatical to find her inspiration again. Michel, now married and staring parenthood in the face wants more than the Inn can offer. It builds and builds and builds, and eventually Lorelai has to take a trip to get her shit together. (Which she thankfully does.)

Rory seems to be getting most grief out of all of this. Articles like the colorfully titled, 'Rory Gilmore is a monster' are out there for your perusal, but I find that verdict to be a bit harsh. She wanted to be a journalist at the worst possible time to go into journalism and being a freelancer is hard enough. She's trying to hustle and she's making a mess of it, but really, a monster? That seems a bit harsh... a fair criticism would be how she manages to flit back and forth to London as much as she does. She also doesn't seem to have qualms about sleeping with engaged ex-boyfriend Logan and has a totally useless plot thread of a boyfriend named Paul. I think a lot of that has to do with Logan. He tended to bring out the more obnoxious, superficial qualities in her during the television series and once she realizes that she's got to give him the old heave-ho and says goodbye to that chapter of her life, she seems to get her shit together somewhat.

Look, it wasn't perfect. But I think a lot of that had to do with the difference in scope of the series- instead of a whole season of episodes, you had four- and they were about 90-120 minutes long a piece. That means that you wouldn't hit all the moments you might be able to hit if you had a full season- or even a half season to work with, but they hit all the moments that I wanted to see. It got a little abstract in parts, but they tied it all together and those last four words...  man oh man oh man...  they would have blown so many minds had they gotten to use them for the end of the television show. But, they provide a suitable perfect ending here that left fans wanting more- no, screaming for more.

Of course, having watch the revival, I plunged back into a binge of the show itself. I make no apologies. It's like comfort food and I'm already deep into the second season.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #193: Michigan

The Brown Flag Challenge keeps rolling right along this week and we're coming back to North America to take a look at the flag of The Great Lakes State- yes, that's right- we're looking at Michigan:
You know, people tend to get down on state flags because too many of them go the direction of 'Seals On A Bedsheet' and Michigan almost does that- but this is more a 'Coat of Arms On A Bedsheet' which is enough of a change of pace from so many State Flags out there, I'd rank this one in the upper echelon of the state flags. It's striking- and you can see plenty of brown on the flag, with the elk, the moose and the eagle.

(NAVA disagrees with me. They ranked it 59 out of 72 flags and averaged 3.46 out of a possible 10 points. Way harsh, NAVA. Way, way harsh.)

So let's break it down- this flag is actually the 3rd state flag of Michigan and it was adopted June 26, 1911- so it's only been around and kicking for 105 years or so. (Per the Wikipedia page, they're also thinking of replacing it? Possibly by 2019?)

The Coat of Arms depicts the sun rising over a lake and a peninsula, a man raising his hand which stands for peace and holding a long gun representing the fight for state and nation as a frontier state. The elk and the moose are taken from the Hudson Bay Company's Coat of Arms and depict animals found in Michigan. The eagle stands for the United States, which carved out the state from the Northwest Territory.

We've got some Latin to get jiggy with as well. From the top:

'E Pluribius Unum': Out of Many, One
'Tuebor': I will defend
'Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice': If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you. (It's the state motto.)

And that's the flag of Michigan in a nutshell, but before we go, I want to blow your minds with this little piece of knowledge. Michigan has it's own Pledge of Allegiance and it goes a little something like this:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, two beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice for all is our ideal."
I really need some Michiganders to weigh in here. Is this on the level or just some Wikipedia-fever dream?

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'Moana' --A Review

Well, we were going to take the Elder Spawn to see Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them for his 5th birthday, but after asking around and seeing what people thought about it, we decided against that, since reports were that it was quite scary. So, we skipped Trolls (because, well, ugh) and went with Moana instead, thinking, 'hey, he's got to dig a Disney movie, right? How scary can it be?'

Whoops.

Well, it turns out that Moana got so hard core he asked to go home at least three times, but we got through it just fine. That's not to say that it wasn't a bad movie- quite the contrary in fact. Moana was probably the best Disney movie I've seen since The Emperor's New Groove. (Yes, I'd put it ahead of Frozen by a decent margin.)

The movie opens with an ancient legend of Te Fiti, an island goddess, who created all life and then became an island. Her heart was stolen by the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who wanted to bring her power of creation to all humanity, but the lava demon, Te Ka, confronts him, striking Maui out of the sky- the fishhook that gives him his powers and Te Fiti's heart are lost in the ocean.

Thousands of years later, Moana (Auli'l Cravalho), the daughter and heir of Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison/Christopher Jackson) of the island of Motunui is fascinated by the ocean, despite her father's urging to find peace and meaning in the life on the island, as she is going to become Chief someday. Despite his urging, Moana is still fascinated by the ocean. When a blight begins to spread across the island- ruining crops and driving the fish away, Moana suggests that they venture beyond the reef to search for more fish and her father angrily rejects the requests. Moana's mother, Sina (Nicole Scherzinger) reveals that her father lost his best friend in an attempt to sail beyond the reef.

Moana gives it a try anyway, wrecks her boat and washes back up on shore, where her grandmother, Tala (Rachel House) takes her to a secret cave and reveals the outrigger sailing canoes that were hidden inside- their ancestors, as it turns out, had been voyagers. Tala gives Moana the heart of Te Fiti, which she has kept safe for Moana ever since she was chosen by the ocean as a child and shows Moana that the blight that has struck the island is a result of the darkness unleashed by Maui's theft of the heart. Shortly after that, Tala falls ill and with her dying breath tells Moana to set sail, find Maui and restore the heart.

Moana does just that- eventually finding Maui and persuading him to restore the heart after a run in with some pygmy pirates called the Kakamora. Maui agrees, but insists on finding his fish hook, which is deep in the realm of monsters in the possession of giant crab named Tamatoa. (Jemaine Clement)

Retrieving the fish hook, they head to Te Fiti for their final showdown with Te Ka- all seems lost, until Moana realizes how to restore the heart and does so.

Moana was a glorious throwback to the mid-90s hey day of Disney animation. The music was excellent (I listened to the soundtrack as soon as we got home), the villains were classic, classic Disney villains- great, memorable and genuinely scary in places. The animation was gorgeous (as per usual, but hey, this is a Disney film, right? You should expect nothing less.) In short, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie- and if you're a parent, stuck taking your kids to movies that either they want to see or are just the most appropriate option for a five year old, a movie you enjoy the hell out of is a movie to be treasured indeed.

Plus I love the sea. I love the idea of sailing on one of those outrigger sailing canoes- catamarans or whatever the hell the technical term is for them. I want to fly across the water with the wind and get lost in the wide ocean blue. Which is weird, because I'm not that good of a swimmer and nearly drowned as a child. The romantic in me thinks it's probably the ancestral blood in my veins- hailing from an island nation like I do, but in reality, it just looks like fun. And I like that.

Overall: This one goes in the Disney hall of fame- Don't know if the Elder Spawn liked it enough to want to buy it, but I would buy this one in a heartbeat. **** out of ****

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sportsyball

Chapecoense

Awful news out of Colombia last week, as Brazilian team Chapecoense crashed on their final approach to Medellin, where they were set to play in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana Finals, which I guess is like the South American equivalent of the Europa League.

I'll be brutally honest: I had never heard of the team before last week, had no idea what the Copa Sudamericana was and couldn't actually find Chapeco on a map. (I looked it up, it's in the state of Santa Catarina in Southern Brazil.) But what struck me was the incredible outpouring of support for the victims of the crash and this team that echoed around the world in the aftermath. Brazilian teams are offering to loan players to the team for free and asking that they be spared relegation for a period. Colombian fans poured into the streets to sing and chant the team's chant and paid tribute to the victims. Wembley Stadium's iconic arches turned green in tribute.

The solidarity shown by fans across the world is amazing. People really love this game.

(I can't really offer much in the way of a tribute of my own, but I omitted the exclamation point this month. For what it's worth.)

Adopt-A-Team

So, NEC Nijmegen is holding steady in mid-table at 12th currently, which isn't great, but it's not all that bad either. Let's see...  last time we checked in was November 11th and they had a rough-looking November ahead. They had Ajax, Twente and Heracles coming down the pipe and I was hoping that they could get at least a full three point from one and force a draw at the other. (I didn't think they'd be Ajax.) And, lo and behold, what happened?

L to Ajax (a 5-0 beatdown. Yikes!)
W vs Twente (mildly big deal, since Twente is at 6th right now in the table.)
vs Heracles, which moves them up

They've got Den Haag and Excelsior on deck to round out December, which are currently below them in the standings- though not that far in the case of Excelsior. The big question as we head into 2017 is this: can NEC finish in the top half of the table?

American Handegg News

Well, color me surprised. After a disastrous outing at Penn State I was bracing myself for the worst, but instead, the opposite happened. We beat Michigan on a last second field goal- in a weird, strange echo back to the 1985 Michigan Game where Jim Harbaugh was in Kinnick as well, this time playing Quarterback. I think the 2016 Edition will find it's way onto the Mount Rushmore of All-Time Great Hawkeye Games, if it's not there already.

It was also the first field rush I've seen in quite a long time actually- maybe even since 2008 and the last second victory over Penn State.

So now what? Well, now we've got to figure out where we're going bowling and if Navy wins out, then #TeamChaos gets to ride in the Bowl System for awhile, which in general I'm in favor of. We seem to be heading for one of two bowls- either the Holiday Bowl or the Outback Bowl (yet again, ugh.) There's also an outside chance of the Music City Bowl, but everyone seems to be of the opinion that's fading fast as an option for us. I've seen projections for us playing either Wazzu or a rematch of Stanford in the Holiday Bowl. ESPN's latest projections have us in either the Holiday Bowl vs Wazzu or the Pinstripe Bowl vs UNC.

In general, I'm a little torn. Part of me wouldn't mind a Stanford rematch, especially if we could actually, you know, win. But a repeat of last year's Rose Bowl wouldn't be all that fun to watch either. (Unless I had five beers in me, which I did by halftime, if memory serves.) We also tend not to do well on the West Coast, which is a curse I'd love to break. Wazzu would be a fun challenge. But a Pinstripe Bowl match-up against an equally feisty UNC team wouldn't be bad either. Any Bowl is a good bowl in my book, but if I had my druthers I'd take either the Holiday vs Wazzu or the Pinstripe vs UNC.  (Update: turns out I was wrong on all counts. It's the Outback Bowl vs. Florida.)

Now that we've done that, let's revisit 2017:

vs Wyoming: W, but not a gimme. They're legit good in the MWC.
at Iowa State: W, we're in Ames, so it's anyone's guess, but ISU looked woeful this year.
vs North Texas: W
vs Penn State: W, I think anyone returning for next year is gonna have a big red circle round this game. And it's at Kinnick.
at Sparty: L, because we're at East Lansing
vs Illinois: W, because we're at home.
at Northwestern: W. had best be a W. Will probably be an L because Northwestern
vs Minnesota: W
vs Ohio State: L
at Wisconsin: L
vs Purdue: W, because Purdue.
at Nebraska: W, because Nebraska isn't quite there yet. This column gives a pretty good diagnosis as to why.

(So I have us at 9-3. Buuuuuut, if I'm being honest with myself: Wyoming could be an L. Penn State could be an L and Nebraska could be an L. All depends on what Iowa brings to the table next fall.)

MLS Quest

So, it's Toronto vs Seattle in the MLS Cup finals? Already got that penciled in to sit down and watch. I think for sure, Toronto remains in the running for the final season (or should I say, THE FINAL SEASON) of MLS Quest next year) but I just want to watch. Toronto v Montreal sounded like one hell of a game. I'm sorry i missed it.

In other vaguely MLS related news, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as head coach of the US Men's National Team. Finally. US Soccer turned to Bruce Arena once more to right the ship and it looks like, at minimum Arena is charged with getting the US to the 2018 World Cup in Russia- which after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica is going to be a task with little room for error.

I saw a Tweet go by me not long after Klinsmann was fired which said that while the Head Coach is an important job, the job of technical director might be even more important in the long term to the further development of the support. (I think I have to h/t Men In Blazers for that Tweet. It sounds like something they would Tweet, anyway, but I can't remember for sure.) I've heard great interviews tackling this issue- with FC Dallas Coach Oscar Pareja and Earnie Stewart from the Philadelphia Union- so there are an increasing number of excellent minds thinking creatively about this. I think if the past 15 years have proven anything about US Soccer, it's that the potential to reach the heights of the support is there. It's just tapping into that potential that's the problem.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #192: Eastern Province, Sri Lanka

The Brown Flag Challenge is back after Thanksgiving with another provincial flag from Sri Lanka- this time, it's the Eastern Province:
Happily, there's a lot more information to be had with this province, unless the North West Province. A lot of that has to be do with the political situation in Sri Lanka during the Civil War. For most of the Civil War, much of the Eastern Province was under the control of the LTTE. After the Indo-Lankan Accord of 1987, where powers were devolved to the provinces, the Eastern Province was temporarily merged with the Northern Province to form the (wait for it...) North-East Province, but no one really liked that since that merged province took up about 25% of Sri Lanka's total territory and during the Civil War, people weren't too tickled by the idea of the LTTE potentially having that much territory to potentially grab.

Eventually the province was de-merged officially in January of 2007 and recaptured by the Sri Lankan military later that year. The province suffered in the aftermath of recapture by government forces as pro-government Tamil militias kept their arms until the final defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

This flag was adopted on May 22, 2007 along with the flag of the newly formed Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It features an eagle, a fish and a lion in each of the circles within the flag and has suns in each corner.  The three symbols represent the three districts of the province. The Eagle symbolizes Trincomalee, the fish stands for the district of Batticaloa and the lion is for the district of Ampara. The capital of the province is Trincomalee and it's largest city is Kalmunai.

You know, this is actually a really cool flag. It's design is clean and I like the symbolism with the circles- Trincomalee being the most prominent city in the province, historically speaking, taking the central position. I can honestly say that I would probably jump at a chance to own this flag...  it's neat. I dig it. While the North West Province was more vague with it's symbolism, this flag has clear meaning and nice, understandable design. It might be my favorite flag of the challenge so far.

So, that's the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Squawk Box: The Crown

Netflix's most expensive project to date, The Crown is the latest from British film writer and playwright Peter Morgan who, at least when it comes to British history/politics/monarchy seems incapable of hitting anything other than home runs clear out of the park. (Morgan wrote The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United, Rush and an excellent British television drama entitled The Deal which is about the power-sharing deal between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that was struck in 1994. All of which- with the exception of Rush, that I haven't actually seen, are excellent.)

The Crown covers the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and tells the story of Elizabeth's marriage to Phillip (Matt Smith), the death of her father, King George VI (Jared Harris) and her ascension to to the throne. With King George ailing at the start of the series due to lung cancer- and in fact, having had a lung removed, he realizes that his time is short and starts to council Phillip on how to best assist Elizabeth once she becomes Queen. His health failing, the two are sent out on a tour of the Commonwealth countries and it is on this tour that King George dies- the news spreads around the world before she can be reached and Phillip has to break the news to her.

The next challenge facing Elizabeth is proving that she is up to the job. The abdication of her Uncle, the former King Edward VIII (Alex Jennings) seems to haunt the family and the word 'duty' gets thrown around a ton here- in fact, if there's one overarching theme of this first season, it's probably duty. It doesn't matter what Elizabeth wants, she has a duty to protect the monarchy. So when she wants the children to take Phillip's name, Mountbatten, that is overruled. When she wants them to stay at Clarence House The role of the sovereign gets explored in depth and you can see the subtleties the monarch has to employ when dealing with her government- and deploy them Elizabeth does, especially since she's dealing with Churchill. (John Lithgow).

With pressure growing on Churchill to resign due to his advancing age, various crises all have Elizabeth pressured to suggest to Churchill that perhaps it might be time to resign. The Great Smog, which Churchill initially dismisses as an 'Act of God' before the death of one of his secretaries forces him to see the extent of the crisis and he acts on it- Elizabeth comes close to asking him to go, but changes tack at the last second- it's an eloquent dance the two of them weave and while one of the knocks on this show is that Elizabeth seems to be putting off decisions only to agree to them fifteen minutes later, there's a lot more depth to that then comes across in reviews.

The back half of the season (well really the whole season, but it comes to the forefront in the back half) deals with Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and her desire to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend (Ben Miles). Elizabeth seems to initially support the idea, even as other members of the family (namely the Queen Mother) are dead set against it. Initially, she find out that if Margaret waits until she turns 25, she won't need permission to marry any more, but matters are further complicated when the Church of England refuses to countenance her marriage to a divorce man. Elizabeth, reluctantly, withdraws her support for the idea which causes a major rift between the two sisters.

I've seen whispers on the internet that Mr. Morgan wants 10 seasons for this show-roughly one for each decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign, which is spectacularly ambitious- he's got one already done and another season is in production now- whether he gets any more after that remains to be seen- I wouldn't bet against it though. The cast is excellent, the writing is taut and while the pacing seems a little slow, I think the acting more than makes up for it. Claire Foy is excellent at conveying a whole range of emotions without saying much of anything at all. If John Lithgow doesn't get an award for the best portrayal of Churchill I think I've ever seen on screen, it'll be some kind of crime against something and Matt Smith remains Matt Smith and therefore, awesome.

We'll have to see if the whole '10 seasons' thing actually happens, but if anyone can pull off a ridiculously sprawling, insanely ambitious epic exploration of the British monarchy, it's Peter Morgan.

Overall: a perfect period piece, ambitious, well-written and intelligent, The Crown is just about perfect. Bring on Season 2! **** out of ****