Saturday, September 30, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #231

Well, it's almost October and that means a month of German state flags to celebrate the Oktoberfest season, but kicking it all off, in a special preview of the next four weeks, I noticed that one of my 'missing' entries from the lost archives was Germany, so I figured why not kick off the fun with the flag of Germany itself:
Re-adopted on May 23rd 1949, this tricolor was used first adopted as the flag of Germany during the Weimar period from 1919-1933, but the color combination emerged from the process of German unification during the middle of the 19th Century- but- the tricolor itself dates back to the Principality of Reuss-Greiz which is currently in the Free State of Thuringia in Germany today. So the tricolor flag itself goes back to 1778.

However, it came to prominence during the Revolutionary year of 1848*, where the Frankfurt Parliament proposed it as a flag of a unified Germany. But the democratic dreams of a unified Germany went nowhere- at least in that year- and after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia (and the North German Confederation that it dominated) started using a black-white-red tricolor as it's flag which eventually became the imperial colors of the German Empire- and were re-introduced (as we all should know) during the Nazi period between 1933 and the end of World War II.

So, from a historical point of view, this color combination of tricolor hearkens back to that initial burst of democratic aspiration in 1848 and represent German unity and freedom. During the Weimar period the colors also represented the democratic, centrist and republican parties and their unity against enemies of the far right and the far left.

While the colors seem to be rooted in history more than any specific meaning, but the colors themselves are important, because despite the fact that the flag looks to be black, red and yellow under the Article 22 of the German Constitution the colors are in fact, black, red and gold. A lot of this seems to go back to the Weimar period as well when the new flag of the Republic was subject to mockery and hatred from anti-Republican forces so after World War II, in 1959, the Federal Court of Justice stated: "the usage of 'black-red-yellow' and the like had "through years of Nazi agitation, attained the significance of malicious slander against the democratic symbols of the state" and was now an offence. So officially: black-red-gold. (Though this Wiki-page classifies the colors as jet black, traffic red and the unfortunately named rapeseed yellow.)

We've got four weeks of German lander fun ahead of us! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

*If you're interested in 1848, get yourself on over to Revolutions Podcast and jump into their latest series which is all about the tumultuous year of 1848.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Upload Project #9

CD #11, Untitled with 9 repeats
Monty Python- Spanish Inquisition
Bobby McFerrin- Don't Worry, Be Happy
Green Day- Welcome To Paradise
Aerosmith- Walk This Way
U2- Vertigo
Mott The Hoople- All The Young Dudes
Big and Rich- Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy
REM- What's The Frequency, Kenneth
Ozzy Osbourne- Crazy Train
Linkin Park- Breaking The Habit
Duran Duran- (Reach Up For The) Sunrise
Gavin DeGraw- I Don't Want To Be
Billy Squier- Everybody Wants You
Gary Jules- Mad World
Speech From Animal House

CD #12 was blank...  not sure why, but okay.

CD #13 (weirdly, an Unofficial Alias Soundtrack) with 3 repeats
Kate Bush- This Woman's Work
Smashmouth- Diggin' Your Scene
Depeche Mode- Dream On
The Hives- Hate To Say I Told You So
Paul Oakenfold- Ready Steady Go
Sinead O'Connor- No Man's Woman
Boomkat- The Wreckoning
Peter Gabriel- I Grieve
Kinky- Mas Y Mas
The Cars- Moving In Stereo
Jet- Last Chance Honey
The Donnas- Take It Off
Peggy Lee- Fever
Blur- Song 2
Donna Summer- I Feel Love
Deftones- Change (In The House of Flies)

CD #14 '80s Mix'
Buggles-Video Killed The Radio Star
Eurthymics-Sweet Dreams
Wang Chung- Everybody Have Fun Tonight
The Fixx- One Thing Leads To Another
Duran Duran- Hungry Like The Wolf
Boy George- Karma Chameleon
Level 42- Something About You
Tears For Fears- Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Softcell- Tainted Love
Animotion- Obsession
Steve Winwood- Higher Love
Robert Palmer- Addicted To Love
Frankie Goes To Hollywood- Relax
Dexy's Midnight Runners- Come On Eileen
J. Geils Band- Centerfold
Rick Springfield- Jessie's Girl
Madness- Our House
Thompson Twins- Hold Me Now
Squeeze-Tempted

CD #15 '80s Mix' with four repeats
Van Halen- Jump
Romeo Void- Never Say Never
Pat Benatar- Love Is A Battlefield
A-Ha- Take On Me
Bananarama- Cruel Summer
Berlin- Metro
Crowded House- Don't Dream Its Over
The Gap Band- You Dropped A Bomb On Me
Billy Idol- White Wedding
Def Leppard- Pour Some Sugar On Me
Huey Lewis and The News- The Power of Love
The Romantics- What I Like About You
Simple Minds- Don't You Forget About Me
Paula Abdul- Opposites Attract
Kajagoogoo- Too Shy
Billy Squier- Everybody Wants You
Tears for Fears- Shout
Whitesnake- Here I Go Again

CD #16, 'Strummer's Men' with four repeats
Richard Thompson- Vincent Black Lightning 1952
Whitesnake- Here I Go Again
Skeelo- I Wish
Grateful Dead- Casey Jones
Def Leppard- Pour Some Sugar On Me
Beastie Boys- Sabotage
Gordon Lightfoot- Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Great White- Once Bitten Twice Shy
Kanye West- All Falls Down
Joao Gilberto- Rosinha (but that's just a guess)
Van Halen- Jump
2pac Ft. Dr. Dre- California Love
Joni Mitchell- Big Yellow Taxi
Billy Idol- Rebel Yell
Salt-N-Pepa- Push It

CD #17, 'Party Mix One'
The Beatles- She Loves You
The Clash- Rock The Casbah
No Doubt- It's My Life
AC/DC- You Shook Me All Night Long
Outkast- Hey Ya
Rolling Stones- Jumpin Jack Flash
The Cure- The Lovecats
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers- American Girl
White Stripes- Fell In Love With A Girl
Electric Six- Danger High Voltage
Van Morrison- Domino
Shakira- Te Dejo Madrid
Weezer- Keep Fishin
Santana- Oye Como Va
Fleetwood Mac- Tell Me Lies

CD #18, 'Punkish Mix' with a whole bunch of repeats, so I just snagged these:
Smashing Pumpkins- Tonight, Tonight
Jane's Addiction- Been Caught Stealing
Lenny Kravitz- Where Are We Running?
The Offspring- Hit That
Presidents of the USA- Lump
Ram Jam- Black Betty
Wheatus- Teenage Dirtbag

CD #19, Untitled: mostly repeats, but I snagged these:
Bowling For Soup- 1985
Carl Douglas- Kung-Fu Fighting
Ronnie Jordan- The Jackal
Modest Mouse- Float On
Counting Crows- Accidentally In Love
New Radicals- You Get What You Give
Georgia Satellites- Keep Your Hands To Yourself
OMC- How Bizzare
The Bar-Kays- Soul Finger

CD #20 '0104 Mix' and I snagged the following:
Bubbles- Bidibodi Bidibu
Sheryl Crow- The First Cut Is The Deepest
Britney Spears- Toxic (um...  what?)
Alien Ant Farm- Smooth Criminal
Daft Punk- One More Time

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bookshot #100: Before The Fall

I was a huge fan of the television adaptation of Fargo, which Noah Hawley helped to write and produce (the Missus and I caught the first season on Hulu, but have yet to track down and watch the subsequent seasons) so when I heard that he was writing a book, I figured I would run it down and check it out. If he could produce things like Fargo and Legion (what little I've seen of it has been really, really good) then he had to be able to write an entertaining novel, right?

Before The Fall is a thriller in the best sense of the word- it keeps you turning the pages and trying to figure out what happened right up until the very end- and that's a pretty momentous feat, considering the fact that ten of the characters die in the opening chapters when their plane, flying from Martha's Vineyard to New York City plunges into the ocean sixteen minutes into the flight.

The only survivors of the doomed flight are Scott Burroughs, a down on his luck painter, and a young boy by the name of J.J. who is the son of television billionaire David Bateman. Scott somehow manages to swim both himself and the young boy safely to shore, but that's where the real mystery at the core of the book begins: why did the plane go down? Was anyone on board hiding a secret that could explain it all?

In the tumultuous aftermath of the crash, Scott attempts to stay out of the spotlight by accepting some help from an heiress interested in his paintings- but when Bill Cunningham (a sort of cross between Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity) launches into a quest to find out 'the truth' behind what happened to his friend and boss, David Bateman and his family, Scott's paintings get dragged into the light as well- as they are photo realistic depictions of disaster scenes- ranging from tornadoes to, of course, the aftermath of a plane crash. Suddenly, he's a suspect.

But there's also the matter of financier Ben Kipling- another passenger on the plane, who, it is revealed was about to be indicted for doing some business with some very shady people indeed (the implications are never fully explained, but seem to point to terrorist/unfriendly nations or possibly the Russian mob.) Are his dealings responsible for the crash? Did someone want to silence him?

The Bateman Family isn't entirely out of the picture either. David was a powerful man who had made plenty of enemies- his daughter had been kidnapped for nine days when she was an infant and now the family travels with heavy security. Could one of his enemies have been after him- could someone have wanted revenge?

The answer is one you don't see coming, but Hawley structures the book beautifully- not just focusing on the story of Scott, the survivor, but telling the stories of all the passengers and why and how they came to be on that doomed plane. Scott's paintings are also weaved into the narrative, with brief interludes describing each one as the story moves between characters and goes from the present and the aftermath to the past as the passengers each get on the doomed flight. It's the kind of structure that could easily make for a confusing mess of a story in the wrong hands, but works beautifully here, as piece by piece, character by character, the truth is gradually revealed.

There's a certain richness to this book that makes it stand out from your average thriller as well. Family, fate, survival, truth- all are themes that are played with and explored in ways both delicate and powerful- especially given the society we live in today. The final climactic interview between Bill Cunningham and Scott is an especially powerful defense of the truth in a world that badly needs people to stand by the truth- and not just some version of it.

Overall: I didn't finish it in a day, but this was a beautifully written page turner that I couldn't put down. If you're into thrillers then you've got to track this one down and read it, but if you're also just looking for an amazing, well-written book that will keep you interested, engaged and surprised- then this is a must-read for you as well. **** out of ****

Monday, September 25, 2017

Boozehound Unfiltered: You Say Tomatin, I Say Tom-AH-tin...

Part 1 of my birthday goodies this year, Tomatin 12 Year Old is the non-Islay Single Malt I've been looking to get stashed in my liquor cabinet and I was eager to give it a taste. Turns out it's hook, 'the softer side of the Highlands' is well earned, because this single malt wasn't the ride I was expecting and was an entirely pleasant experience to boot.
Doing some digging on the old interwebs, it looks like the distillery opened for business in 1897- though apparently cattle drivers would buy from a local still as far back as the 16th Century. It's had a few ups and downs over the years- it went bankrupt in 1906, reopened in 1909 and lasted all the way until 1986, when it was brought by a Japanese conglomerate that's been running the place ever since. The distillery is about 25 minutes from Inverness which places it firmly in the Highlands region of Scotch Whisky.

(Speaking of regions: I've knocked off the Highlands, Islay, Isle of Skye and Speyside. Pretty sure I've had some Glenkinchie, which is a Lowlands whiskey and would like to get ahold of some Auchentoshan at some point to get a little further into the Lowlands. Haven't seen any from Isle of Mull, Isle of Jura, Isle of Arran, the Orkneys or Campbelltown regions- so hashtag whisky goals, I guess!)

But how was the Tomatin 12 Year Old? Let's find out:

Color: Straw gold is probably the best description. It's not dark enough to be amber/honey, but it's not light enough to be yellow/pale yellow.

Nose: The aroma is unusual, almost astringent- apples or pears seemed to be prominent- some kind of tree-grown orchard fruit for sure. There's some kind of spice underneath- I want to say nutmeg, but I'm not sure that's right either. In a sentence: this smells like fall.

Body: It's sweet and spicy- the viscosity is nicely balanced- it's not heavy and syrupy and it's not weak and watery either. You get a rush of fruit followed by the spice hitting your tongue.

Finish: If there's one thing to criticize here, it's the finish. The after taste lingers longer than it should and the warming is... nothing that special. It's gentle and general.

Overall: I loved the nose on this- it was unusual enough to grab my attention immediately and I spent a lot of time figuring out what exactly it was I smelling. It's nicely balanced, but in general, I prefer the warmth of a finish to linger longer than the aftertaste does and Tomatin didn't make that happen for me. That's not to say this isn't good- it might even be very good- and the nose is different enough to make this worth trying. I'd give it a solid: *** out of ****

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #230

(Before we plunge into This Week in Vexillology (yes, I'm taking requests now) I thought I'd take a brief tangent to highlight this vexillological branding miscue on the part of the NFL. In an attempt to try and support Earthquake-hit Mexico, NFL teams tried to rally on social media imposing various team logos over what I guess was supposed to be a flag of Mexico, but without the sort of kind of important Coat of Arms, ended up being the flag of Italy instead. Oops.)

We are dipping back into the archives (by request! h/t to Mr. Brock Allore of Mankato for the request- always happy to oblige, dear readers.) to look at the only sovereign state in Africa where Spanish is the official language. That's right, This Week In Vexillology, it's Equatorial Guinea:
Before we get into the flag, let's take a quick peek at the 4-1-1 on Equatorial Guinea itself. It's got two parts- the insular/island parts (the islands of what used to be Fernando Po but is now Bioko and Annobon) and the mainland enclave of Rio Muni. The islands were first discovered by the Portuguese Explorer, Fernando Po- hence the name- in 1472 and were initially colonized by Portugal in 1474. In 1778, however after the Treaty of El Pardo- Bioko and it's neighbors, the commercial rights to the Bight of Biafra between the Niguer and Ogoue Rivers were all ceded to Spanish control and up until 1810, the territory was governed by the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata based out of Buenos Aires.

The British occupied Bioko between 1827-1843, before moving on to Sierra Leone. Despite the original treaty awarding them control of large chunks of land along the Bight of Biafra, Spain hadn't bothered doing anything with it, so France sort of moved in and in the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1900, penned them into the relatively tiny enclave of Rio Muni. And that's pretty much how Equatorial Guinea got to be the shape it is.

Post-independence, things did not get especially cheerful for Equatorial Guinea. They've had two, count them two Presidents- neither of them very pleasant people- and despite having discovered a ton of oil there in 1995, economic development has yet to advance as current Dictator/President for Life Teodoro Obiang is keeping all the oil money for himself and currently (As of February 2016) holds the title of Africa's longest serving dictator.

So: it's an interesting outlier because it speaks Spanish, but you probably wouldn't want to live there.

But onto the flag! It was adopted on August 21st, 1979. Under the rule of Equatorial Guinea's first dictator, Francisco Nguema, a different national emblem was used in the center of the flag- this emblem was replaced following his ouster. It's a horizontal tricolor with green, white and red stripes and a blue triangle to the hoist. Green stands for the natural resources, agriculture and jungles of the country. Blue stands for the sea which connects the main country with the islands. White is for peace and red for the blood shed by the fighters for independence.

The national emblem features a silver shield with a silk-cotton tree was where a treaty was signed between Spain and a local ruler that marked the start of colonial rule. Above it, you have an arc of six, six pointed yellow stairs which stand for Rio Muni and the offshore islands. Beneath it you have the national motto: 'Unidad, Paz, Justicia' (Unity, Peace, Justice.)

And that, folks, is Equatorial Guinea.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Future Hasn't Been Invented Yet

This disgruntled article from Slate's Future Tense sort of struck a cord with me last week because it made a pretty good point while simultaneously undermining the point it was trying to make to begin with. Not to mention that it's premise it's kind of shaky to begin with. The topic of creating the future is one near and dear to my heart primarily because, thus far, the books I've written have been either some vague, unspecified 'not too distant future' or in the case of the one I'm working on now, the very distant future. I've read and have read plenty of science fiction that deals with the future, so topics and articles like this matter to me.

So, let's take it from the top, shall we?

From what I can tell, the original bone the article is attempting to pick is with the overall 'futurism' industry out there. Bankrolled by corporations, think-tanks and business-types, the article points the finger at the fact that rarely, if ever, do the future visions promulgated by the 'futurism' industry imagine a world with capitalism- and that's a problem.

Okay- first of all, how cool is it that there's a 'futurism' industry? Apparently I'm in the wrong line of work, because people get paid to look at the world today and then think about where it's going to be ten, twenty, thirty or three hundred years down the line. 'Futurist' is officially going on my list of dream jobs, right under 'Working in the SyFy Channel Writer's Room when they come up with their next ridiculous B-movie of the week.'

Second of all, they're not wrong. It's just that their complaint is somewhat flawed. First, it assumes that what we have going now is capitalism. I would argue the opposite- what we call 'capitalism' today has about as much relationship to actual capitalism than the 'communism' practiced by the Soviet Union had to actual communism. Markets aren't free. There's a big, ugly, massive corrupt nexus between business, government and media- especially in America. When residents in Florida can't use solar panels during outages because Florida Power and Light lobbied to make that illegal, that's not capitalism. When city code enforcers hit the streets right after Hurricane Irma to start slapping fines on people up to their elbows in hurricane detritus, that's not capitalism. At least not to me...

I would argue that what we have is closer to corporatism than capitalism. So there's that...

The article does point out that there are visions of a post-capitalist future out there, most notably among them being the United Federation of Planets from Star Trek. But here's the thing: the economics of Star Trek have been annoyingly inconsistent over the years. There's references to indicate that they're in a post-capitalist society, but at the same time, there are also passing references to buying things with credits and having credits and owning property so I don't know what the deal is there.

Kim Stanley Robinson and his visions of the future are also cited- and those do tend to be a more explicitly post-capitalist society- especially with the Mars Trilogy. I think I'm honestly about due to re-read those, but the Constitutional Convention that takes place in the early going of Blue Mars is an incredibly detailed vision of the future that KSR is building. If I have a quibble with it, it's that the collectivist nature of it seems a little too good to be true sometimes. How do you overcome the natural tendency of humans to fall into hierarchies? Maybe I can get behind no private property, but people to simultaneously want to be around other people and want their own space all at the same time. (Like I said: I'm going to have to re-read the Mars Trilogy and really dig into this aspect of it.)

The post-capitalist future that I think I like the best is Cory Doctorow's Walkaway. It assumes that technology and the internet, like so many other things, will eventually disrupt the capitalist/corporatist system of the world. If you can make everything you want for free you can walkaway from the system itself. It's not about ideology and new constitutions- it's just taking advantage of the flaw in the capitalist/corporatist system itself: if you don't participate, the system breaks down.

Which brings us back around to the original point: not enough visions of the future after 'capitalism' (or whatever you want to call the current hot mess we're all dealing with.) The article is right in pointing out that it reflects a lack of imagination among futurists because they all work for business that are capitalistic in nature and don't want to think about a future where they don't matter. The solution that the article proposes though is just as flawed as their original premise: anti-capitalist, leftist, post-capitalist visions of the future from the Left suffer from the same problem that the current ones do. They lack imagination. Political theory sort of exploded in the 19th Century- before that, there were really things like anarchism or communism until folks like Marx and Bakunin came along and invented them. While it's true the Futurism Industry  needs more creativity in thinking about the future, responding to that lack of imagination with an lack of imagination that's equally blinkered by ideological thinking is also a problem.

So many things today are either/or choices. You're either for capitalism or against it. Republican or Democrat. Trump or not Trump. But there's more than two ways to think about the future- and try visions of the future would step outside the current, limited box of ideologies that drives our thinking today and try their best to think outside the box and realize that the future hasn't been invented yet.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Learning Contentment

The Missus brought me a beautiful leather bound journal/planner type of thing a few years ago and I sort of used and then just stopped, because I have a weird thing about writing long hand on wide ruled paper. (I'm a college ruled notebook kind of guy.) But at the beginning of the month, I decided to start using it as a journal on a daily basis. I've been listening to the Tim Ferris Show for awhile now and I seem to have landed on a Benjamin Hardy email list as well and the one thing that keeps popping up again and again is that successful people always seem to do some writing in the morning to start their day.

So, I figured, why not me? (I should note, just at the outset, that this isn't a 'Dear Diary' situation- though the Missus was quick to give some shit about that.) Every day, I write down some writing goals for the day, three things that I'm thankful for, and other, non-writing things I need to do that day. And...  you know what, I'll have to check with the Missus, but I certainly feel like it's helped me to focus more. I feel more organized, which is certainly a relatively new phenomenon for me. But it's also done something else that I wasn't expecting: it's helping me to practice contentment.

I don't think I really believed I was young any more, but at 34 you sort of run out of room to pretend. 33? 32? 31? Ah, that's not that old- but 34 felt really and truly like you're stuck. You're a grown-up. Adulthood has taken hold and you've got to be responsible and boring and shit. I find myself caring more about the state of my lawn. (There's going to be some turf building going on, because my lawn sucks.) The DLs at work creep closer and closer to the dreaded 2000s with every passing year. (I'm starting to see 1998s and 1999s now... ugh.) Time is moving on, whether you like it or not.

But it's also teaching me to look around and really appreciate what I have. I've been prone to outbreaks of itchiness a couple of times a year for the past few years. I convince myself that there has to be something better out there- that I should be further along in some kind of weird, pre-set career path that it's my head somewhere. Our generation is fucked up for a lot of reasons, but the sort of pernicious idea that you have to make an impact and change the world is an idea that takes some shaking to get rid of- but finally, I think it's coming loose. (This column is kind of amazing, actually.)

Do I want do this forever? The best answer right now that I can come up with is 'probably not.' (An increasing number of ex-employees that I've known over the years always seem to be able to stop taking a variety of medications once they leave here- which I think is a good barometer. If I need medication to come to work, it's time for a new job.) I'm open to the possibilities right now- let's just say that. And I don't want to be so obsessed in my quest for 'the next thing' or 'the next chapter' that I lose sight of the amazing life I seemed to have tripped and fallen into that's right in front of me. These kids! The Missus! Our House! It's all an incredible blessing and I want to learn how to appreciate that more and be content with it. I'm sure at some point, there will be an offer or a job out there that I'll have to take. Someone will make me offer I can't refuse. Maybe it's be next month, maybe it'll be next year- who knows. But for today, right now...  this is fine. (I somehow landed a phone interview with the State Patrol last month and after ten minutes, I came to the conclusion that there are worse jobs than mine out there.)

I find myself increasingly liking this new 12 hour schedule. I feel more focused and plugged in at work and more present and available when I'm not here. I think that's helping as well- assuming that I can keep at this and really make it become part of my daily routine, I have no idea where it will take me. Could be that I just have more focused, productive days and therefore a more focused productive life. Or it could help me take those idle dreams and plans of mine, put them to paper and turn them into goals that are achievable and realistic.

Either way, as I turn 34 I feel like shifting my focus away from the constant search for something better and learning to be more present in the life that I have is something that I'm finding to be an incredibly enjoyable process. I think it's about learning to be content with what we have while really thinking and planning and putting my life down to paper. Whether this is a phase or something more, I don't yet know. For now though, I'm going with it- we'll see where, if anywhere it takes me.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #229

We're dipping back into the 'Lost Archives' to take a trip over to West Africa this week. In general, I'm sort of 'meh' about a lot of African flags- I get the whole symbolism and importance the Pan-African colors to the region, I do- but it makes for a sort of repetitive vexillological experience, you know what I mean? ('Oh boy, green, red and yellow, again? Would never have guessed that.') However, of all the flags of Africa that use the familiar trifecta, I have to admit that Togo stands out above the crowd a bit- check out this flag:
Adopted on April 28th, 1960 the flag of Togo is the national flag and ensign. And I know I've done this one before at some time in the distant past (my lost blog, The Daily Quixotry) but apparently I've missed a few things because there's fun for everyone to be had with this flag. MATH NERDS: the sides of the flag of Togo are in the golden ratio and in fact, it's pretty close to a golden rectangle. The only other flags to have these irrational proportions: Nepal and Iran (if you're using the geometric construction. Whatever that means.) ART LOVERS: this flag was designed by Paul Ahyi, who's generally thought to have been one of the greatest artists of his generation. He's done a bunch of stuff, but this Independence Monument in Lome is actually pretty legit. The overall design also echoes the design of the flag of Liberia- which in turn, was modeled on that of the United States.

How do the colors break down? Well, red stands for the martyrs blood that was shed to gain independence. White (and the star) both represent hope. Green stands for forest, agriculture, nature and overall hope for the future and yellow stands for the natural resources of the country.

Colonially, the region once bore the somewhat distasteful name of 'The Slave Coast' for what should be pretty obvious reasons. (That's where the slave traders liked to find slaves.) And originally, it was Germany who moved into the area in 1884 establishing a protectorate. After World War I, rule was transferred to France who remained the primary colonial power right up until independence.

President Gnassingbe Eyadema took power in 1967 after a military coup and held it for 38 years, making his tenure the longest of any African leader in modern history. Having established the Presidency as a family business by the time of his death, his son Faure Gnassingbe was elected President in 2005 after his death to succeed him. The upshot of this all is that Togo has been relatively stable since independence, but perhaps not necessarily the most open, friendly, democratic regime while it did so.

Either way: it's got a pretty boss flag.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Albums2010 #93: american dream

What exactly does a 'mature sound' mean? Everything I've seen floating around about this album pronounces it to be a 'mature sound' and I'm not quite sure what that means... maybe it's... an evolution of LCD Soundsystem's sound? I feel like that fits this album better than 'mature.' I did some math, just for kicks and it turns out that LCD's frontman James Murphy is 47 this year, which means he was about 32 when LCD Soundsystem started and 42 when it finished and 45 when they got back together for this album. (And hopefully more.) I feel like given the average age of musicians these days, by your mid-30s, your sound should be pretty damn mature.*

So, it's an 'evolution' damn it, and a delightfully refreshing one. I think what I like most about this album is that it's got gear changes here and there, where as a lot of their previous albums have been more straight dance records. The gear changes are obvious from the first track: 'oh baby' is a sweet, almost romantic lullaby in many ways- it wasn't what I was expecting as well. But 'other voices' brings a 'Talking Heads' vibe to the proceedings that while different from what LCD Soundsystem has done in the past (at least what I've listened to, anyway) is another change of pace that I enjoyed. Similarly, 'i used to' has shades of The Cure.

By the back half of the album, everything starts to feel like LCD Soundsystem is back in the saddle and ready to rock. 'emotional haircut' is probably one of my new favorite tracks of theirs. 'tonite' puts Murphy's intelligent lyrics on fine display and the album ends with a tribute to the late great David Bowie with 'black screen.'  (Interestingly enough, I read on the wikipage for the album that Murphy wanted to include some spoken word poetry from Leonard Cohen on the last track, but Cohen died days after he had the idea so it didn't really happen.)

Overall: LCD Soundsystem is back! What's not to love about that? I'm not usually a big techno/electronica kind of guy, but LCD Soundsystem has been convincing me that I might be wrong about my overall 'meh' feeling for the genre. In terms of this album as compared to other albums that I've listened to, I think shows a refreshing willingness to play around, experiment and grow- but just when you think that the band has changed it sound entirely, they sort of emerge from in between the tracks and make you realize that you've been listening to them all along.** My Grade: **** out of ****
*The paragraph illustrates why I'm not a music critic and why I can't wait to get this Albums project over and done with. I'm just so bad at this.

**Ugh, this sentence too.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Psephology Rocks: Kenya Do It Again?

Kenya had a Presidential election last month and it went rather better than it did ten years ago, when the results were met with a convulsion of violence that shook the country and left 1,500 dead in its wake. There was a sense of nervous anticipation in the run up to these elections and people were hoping there would a peaceful process this time around and by and large. It appeared that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election, except plot twist! Kenya's high court annulled the election results and called for a do-over.

Kenyatta, to his credit has stated that he disagreed with the ruling, but said he would respect the decision and called upon everyone else to do the same and remain calm. Of course, he's also making noises about 'fixing' the court, so assuming there's not a twist or two left in this story, Kenya's high court might be in for a bumpy ride, assuming Kenyatta wins his do over.

But step back a second! How does it all work in Kenya?

Kenya actually has a Presidential system I sort of like- the Tribal divisions and ethnic conflict that flares up with sometimes brutal results aside, on paper, it seems sensible. It's your basic two round system- but with a twist. In order to win in the first round, a candidate must win over 50% of the vote and 25% in at least 24 out of the 47 counties in Kenya.

The National Assembly also has some twists that balance out nicely. The 337 seats are elected by two methods- 290 use the traditional, first past the post, single member constituency model. (Essentially what we have here, one representative per district, most votes wins.) And they reserve the remain 47 for women- who are elected on single member constituencies based on the 47 counties in Kenya itself. The Senate uses the same model for 47 of it's seats and then the remain 16 get assigned for women, two for youth and two for disabled folks depending on the share of the vote.

Peeps, on paper: I really like this.

Think about it- what's the biggest obstacle to getting rid of the Electoral college in America today- other than the fact it would take a Constitutional amendment? It would concentrate power on the coasts at the expense of a large number of states in the middle. Add a twist like Kenya has and mandate 50% + and suddenly you make the number of states won just as important as the percentage of the popular vote. It's not about rural/urban or coast/no coast, it's about do you have enough support across the country as a whole. I dig that.

Doing a cursory glance through the history of post-independence Kenya and I think the most charitable verdict you could give them is that they've done okay with this whole 'democracy' business. First President Jomo Kenyatta gave way to President Daniel Arap Moi, who ran Kenya for about a quarter century give or take and did so for a large portion of the time as a pretty authoritarian, repressive type. Forced by the end of the Cold War to give way on Constitutional reforms, he won elections in 1992 and 1997 which were marred by violence on both sides. Since then, there have been transitions of power between Moi and his successor Mwai Kibaki and now again to the 4th President of Kenya (and current incumbent) Uhuru Kenyatta. I'm not an expert, but I think transitions are a good habit to get into and respecting the judiciary is also a good habit to get into, from a big picture, 'healthy democracy' point of view. If they can lessen the political violence that seems to go along with these elections far too often, I'd say Kenya might have a good thing going for itself.

(It also has a relatively small history of military intervention. Arap Moi might have been a prototypical 'Big Man' but I could only find mention of one coup attempt and that was all the way back in 1982 and didn't go anywhere. There's also a tribal aspect to all of this that I know some stuff about, (there's Luo, Kikuyu and Kalenjin) but not enough to really comment here without making myself look like an idiot. But keep that in mind if you're reading news articles about Kenya's do-over next month- there's more fault lines than just parties at work there.)

The nuts and bolts of their Presidential system aside (there really is a lot to like about it on paper, at least) it's worth underlining what a big deal this court ruling is. No court anywhere in Africa has taken a step like this- and had their decision, at least so far, respected by all sides. It's not over yet, of course- but one thing I didn't pick up on, but The American Interest apparently did was that Former Secretary of State John Kerry- who was leading the Carter Center's observer mission of these elections congratulated Kenya on a "great job" on a "free, fair and credible poll."

Oops.

There's a few twists and turned left before the October 17th elections in this story and I know the American media does a horrible job of covering African news and elections, because whatever President Trump just tweeted is far more interesting to CNN, but this is worth keeping an eye on. Especially if the 'do-over' results in a different outcome. Will President Kenyatta respect the results if they don't go his way a second time? Will Raila Odinga? What if the second poll is just as messed up as the first one- does the Supreme Court say, 'we'll keep doing this, fellas, until you get it right, damn it?'

I don't know- but you should be paying attention.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Netflix & Chill #25: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Watched On: Redbox
Released: 2017
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Pick: Mine

Sequels are hard. There is always the inevitable sense of not living up to what came before, so rare is the sequel that manages to be a true equal of it's predecessor. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 manages to be just as fun, just as thrilling as the first movie, while being more emotional and dare I say it, sweet? in ways that you don't expect.

The movie opens with the Guardians working a job for the Sovereign race protecting a bunch of interstellar batteries that a monster is attempting to eat. After the usual chaos and shenanigans, the Guardians get the job done, their reason for taking the job is revealed: they're doing so to get their hands on Nebula, Gamora's assassin sister, who was in the custody of the Sovereign for attempting to steal the batteries that the Guardians were protecting. Turns out that Rocket Raccoon can't help himself and steals some as well, which sets the Sovereign and their drone fleet on the Guardians.

After evading the Sovereign fleet in a nebula, the Guardians get some help from a mysterious ship that wipes out the Sovereign drone fleet and then comes down to land near where the Guardians had crash landed. Turns out, the mysterious ship belongs to none other than Ego and his companion, Mantis and Ego has been searching for Peter Quill for a very long time and introduces himself as Quill's father. Quill, Gamora and Drax all agree to accompany ego back to his home planet, while Rocket and Groot remain behind to repair the Guardians' ship and guard Nebula.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Sovereign, Ayesha tracks down and hires Yondu and his Ravager crew to recapture the Guardians. Turns out they've been exiled from the larger Ravager community for trafficking in children (the Ravagers, as it turns out, have some standards, which is good, I guess?). Yondu takes the job, tracks down the Guardians and successfully captures their ship, Rocket, Groot and Nebula, but when Yondu expresses reluctance to turn over Quill to the Sovereign, his crew mutinies, lead by Taserface and encouraged by Nebula.

On Ego's planet, Gamora and the others can't shake the feeling that there's more to Ego than he's letting on- but Quill is eager to learn about his father. Turns out Ego is a celestial and after millions of years alone, he realized that in order to evolve, he needs to expand. So he spent years spreading his seed and impregnating women on hundreds of planets, trying to transfer his 'celestial' DNA to one of them so they could combine powers and activate all the seedlings. Turns out Quill is the only one of the children that's managed to carry his DNA and his expansion plans can only work if their powers combine.

Everything starts to come together after that- Yondu, Rocket, Groot and Kraglin take back the Ravager ship and go and track down Quill on Ego's planet. Nebula shows up as well, ostensibly to take her revenge on Gamora, blaming her for the torture that their father inflicted on her and that's when the big plot twist goes down: turns out all those other children that didn't have the celestial DNA? Ego killed them. And his 'expansion' plans? They'll destroy all the planets he seeded and oh by the way, Quill as well. That kicks off one final showdown with Ego (who is actually his entire living planet) and in the end, it's Yondu who sacrifices himself to save Quill, helping to realize that there is a difference between being someone's father and being their Dad.

Overall: This a worthy sequel to the first Guardians of the Galaxy, but it's also different than the first movie. The sense of fun and adventure sort of takes a bit of a back seat to learning more about these characters and what makes them tick and I think that makes for a richer, more emotional experience overall. My Grade: **** out of *****

Saturday, September 9, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #228

So I really had to brainstorm to come up with an idea this week- how do you top the Most Serene Republic of Venice? Well, you go to the one continent you haven't been to yet, the continent they'd least expect you to do- that's right. Antarctica.
There are more interesting flags ahead of us, but we've got to start with the flag of the Antarctic Treaty, which was officially adopted in 2002. In terms of an environmental achievement, the Antarctic Treaty is tough to beat- since 1961, the nations of the world have agreed that Antarctic will belong to no one nation and that the continent will be free of weapons testing, drilling and in general, the notion of it was: "People, it's really freakin' cold down here, so let's just all get along and do some science and exploration, all right?" Various countries have various slices of the Antarctic pie down there and they have their own flags- first up, The British Antarctic Territory:
Pretty basic thing we've got going on here- obviously, the flag is white, because well, duh. It's Antarctica. The Coat of Arms was first granted in 1952, The shield features a flaming torch on a wavy background, which represents the sea. One side has a golden lion, representing the United Kingdom, while the other side has an Emperor Penguin, representing the local inhabitants of the territory. The lion is standing on grass, while the penguin stands on ice. The motto of the Territory, 'Research and Discovery; sits at the bottom, while a representation of the RSS Discovery is at the top.

The French have another slice of the pie and their flag looks like this:
Officially, 'The Flag of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories" this is really the flag of France's little corner of the Antarctic Pie, Adelie Land and a posse of islands which includes Kerguelen Islands, Crozet Islands, Juan de Nova Island and a bunch more I've never even heard of. The French Tricolor is in the upper left canton, while in the fly, you have the French acronym for the territories, TAAF and the five stars which represent the five districts the territory is divided into. Interestingly enough, there's no permanent civilian population here, just a rotating cast of military personnel, officials, scientists and support staff.

Argentina probably has the coolest flag of the bunch- while their Antarctic Territory isn't a separate entity, it's part of their Tierra del Fuego province, whose flag looks like this:
There's not much in the way of details on this flag except that it was adopted in 1999 as a result of competition and is a diagonal bicolor of blue (the color of the sky, I'm guessing, since it features The Southern Cross.) and orange (the color of the land? The Land of Fire?) which an albatross in between. Simple, minimal number of colors and striking. I love it. (Would totally add this one to my personal collection as well...)

Rounding out our little Antarctic adventure, we've got the flag of the Chilean Antarctic Territory, which is part of the Magallanes Region:
Adopted on February 5th, 1997, as the civil and state flag of the region, the blue color represents- you guessed it! The sky- in this case, the night sky featuring the Southern Cross. The golden peaks symbolize the steppes of the region while the white stands for the snow that often falls in winter. Again, I love this flag. Would totally add this one to my personal collection as well. (And side note: I need to figure out a better way of displaying and or adding to my collection as well. It's been awhile and I feel like I'm due.)

New Zealand, Australia and Norway have claims in the Ross Dependency, Australian Antarctic Territory and Queen Maud Land/Peter I Island, but all use the national flags of their respective countries at this time. (Though there are unofficial proposal to give the Ross Dependency it's own flag floating about out there.)

And that's the end of our Antarctic Adventure! Remember, until next time keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, September 8, 2017

40 For 40: Year 4

So, it's Year 4. One more year and I can take this list into the garage and revise it a little bit. I haven't made a lot of progress, to be totally honest about it, but there are a few things that I'm getting closer on. #3, for instance is gonna happen. Probably before Christmas. (I'm on Volume 11!)

I could run a 5k sometime this year, I suppose- but that would involve...  effort? And running, which I hate, but who knows- I might get a wild hair up my ass and do it. My state count remains at 36 and probably will for awhile longer. The rest of the list? It's achievable. I just can't wait for next year so I can revise this sucker a bit.

1. Publish my novel.
2. Get another tattoo
3. Finish all 4,532 pages and 12 volumes of Winston Churchill's 'The Second World War.'
4. Run a 5k
5. Visit All 50 States
6. Get ripped and get myself in shape.
7. Pay off every single dime of my student loans.
8. Write more novels, publish them.
9. I would like to ride a mechanical bull.
10. Go on a Caribbean Cruise with the Missus.
11. Drive to Alaska.
12. Find out if St. Louis and Kansas City are pretty cool, since people keep insisting that they are.
13. Have at least one culinary adventure a year.
14. Vikings/Packers at Lambeau. 'Nuff said.
15. Read one fiction book a year that's well outside my usual genre preferences.
16. Work on my backlog of non-fiction and history books, my Fraser biographies of Charles II and Cromwell, The Steel Bonnets and my Jenkins bios of Churchill and Gladstone are at the top of the list.
17. Read Wuthering Heights and understand/appreciate it.
18. Re-read and finish The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire
19. Read Pride and Prejudice and understand it/appreciate it.
20. Master my ukulele!
21. I would like to shoot a gun. Because I've never done that before.
22. Be the best Father I can be.
23. Be able to buy a really rare bottle of whiskey for my 40th Birthday.
24. I'd like to visit Kentucky and check out the Bourbon Trail.
25. I'd like to visit NYC.
26. Ride a day of RAGBRAI.
27. Ride the whole week of RAGBRAI.
28.  Learn how to make bread from scratch.
29. World Travel Wishlist: Brazil, India, China, Europe.
30. Brush up my foreign language skills and achieve moderate fluency in Chinese and Hindi.
31. Get something pierced again.
32. Go skydiving.
33. Go to Trekfest.
34. Take the family back to the United Kingdom for a vacation.
35. Make our house perfect (or move to a bigger and better house.)
36. Be able to afford subscription to The Economist.
37. Road trip it up to Winnipeg for Jets game.
38. I'd like to see an Iowa away game somewhere. (Football and Basketball.)
39. Go to a Major League Soccer Game
40. Go to a Cubs game at Wrigley

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Squawk Box: The Defenders

Though I'm closing in on the end of my grand, epic and sprawling Star Trek Cycle, I still had to take a mild detour last month to check out The Defenders, Marvel's culmination to the first rounds of their Netflix universe and after some deliberation, I'm going to officially say that The Defenders was more than worth the wait.

First off, I think eight episodes was the perfect length for this- show? Miniseries? Whatever you want to call it. I think longer than eight episodes and it would have dragged on and shorter than eight episodes it would have felt rushed, so kudos right off the bat for finding the perfect balance between the two. It didn't drag on and on and on (like the middle of the First Season of Iron Fist) and nor did it feel especially rushed or have strange pivots midstream (like the second season of Daredevil).

So what goes down, plot-wise? Well, Danny Rand and Colleen Wing are chasing down agents of The Hand in Cambodia and get told that the war they are fighting is actually going down in New York City, so they head home. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) has hung up the red suit and is grinding out a living as a pro bono lawyer. (Foggy is still working with Jeri Hogarth and Karen is still a reporter.) Luke Cage is returning home to Harlem after serving his time in prison, where Claire Temple is waiting to welcome him home and Jessica Jones gets pulled into a case involving a missing husband after an anonymous caller attempts to warn her off the case.

Meantime, the mysterious Alexandra (the amazing Sigourney Weaver) is told that she's dying, so tells her fellow Hand members (turns out they are 'Fingers' and there are five of them) that they need to advance their plans, together with the resurrected Elektria Natchios, who they think is the 'Black Sky' (though what that means isn't... exactly clear?). When an earthquake ripples through New York, all our heroes know that something big is going down and gradually come together to figure it out and then have one final showdown with the hand that ends the first chapter of the saga of all of these heroes and sends them off to presumably new and interesting places for the next seasons of their respective shows.

Going into this, I was half-convinced that Sigourney Weaver was going to turn out to be Danny Rand's Mom, back from the dead and all Hand-like, but it was almost a pleasant surprise to find out that she wasn't- she was just the Big Middle Finger of The Hand who was looking to cheat death once again, so they could keep on keepin' on with their goal of eventually making it back to Kun'lun.

Speaking of Kun'Lun and the Immortal Iron Fist: Danny Rand is far less annoying in The Defenders than he was in his own damn show. Having other heroes with abilities to puncture his ego now and again makes him a far, far more likable character, despite the occasional reversion to his annoying, whiny entitled Iron Fist persona. I'm assuming they're going to eventually get to a 'Power Man and Iron Fist' combination show and I cannot wait for that- Luke and Danny go well together and I think Danny will certainly learn some humility from Luke Cage, that's for sure.

I'm not an expert on martial arts, but I've seen some criticism that Danny Rand just isn't up to snuff as Iron Fist- he's supposed to be the martial arts master of the Marvel Universe and he just doesn't feel like it yet... Daredevil looks better than he does- but I also feel like he could get there- if that makes sense? There's a lot about both Iron Fist and now The Defenders that makes me wonder if Danny Rand has some more personal growth /destiny to fulfill in subsequent chapters of this show. Plus: for people that are trying to get back to Kun'lun, the Hand seems awfully hellbent on getting back there, despite the gigantic crater we saw at the end of Iron Fist Season 1. So...  that's mysterious.

By the end of this, they're all in very different places. Jessica Jones is ready to be a private detective again and opens herself back up for business. Luke Cage is back in Harlem and Misty Knight is down an arm and read for (what I'm guessing) will be something bionic and entirely kick-ass, as she fully deserves. Daredevil seems to have left the broadest hint to what's next for him, as all signs point to something based on this and Danny Rand is back being Danny Rand- I guess? (Colleen Wing remains awesome and needs more to do.)

Overall: This was a very satisfying culmination to the grand plan that Marvel and Netflix have been building up for a couple of years now. These heroes have chemistry together and I dig it. (Plus, Madame Gao remains probably my favorite Marvel villain of their television/movie universes and Scott Glenn is a certified bad ass and Sigourney Weaver remains awesome and amazing in just about anything she does.) **** out of *****

Monday, September 4, 2017

Nothing Worth Predicting- Yet

Between now and oh, 2019 or so, there are going to be think pieces aplenty on just who can be the savior of the Democratic Party in 2020. Who will be the savior of the party? Who will take down Donald Trump? Can anyone take down Donald Trump? At this point, you can pretty much pick a Democratic Politician at any level of government and someone can probably come up with a decent case for how/why they'd be a good candidate for the Presidency.

A couple of such think pieces jumped out at me this weekend: an extraordinarily detailed case for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and another proposing a joint ticket between Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. Both of these pieces are making things way more complicated than they need to be and missing the point just a little bit.

First, let's look at what happened last year. The Democrats won the popular vote and lost their vaunted 'Blue Wall' that they had been counting on to deliver them The White House again. So, what's it's going to take in 2020? Not that much in the grand scheme of things: flip Wisconsin, Michigan and either Ohio or Pennsylvania and win everything else you won in 2016 and that's the ball game. If you want to really cover your ass, pick up Pennsylvania as well- that way if the Republicans flip Virginia back, you're not out of the White House yet again.

So, don't over think it! Zuckerberg is an interesting outside of the box option- and for sure, he's making what appear to be some early moves- visiting all 50 states, some prominent stops in Iowa that kind of thing. But he's also a Silicon Valley, nouveau riche type through and through and while voters (for reasons passing understanding) seem to be ignore Donald Trump and his money, I'm not sure a more modern tech titan with the plain colored t-shirts and skinny jeans is going to be all that palatable to voters. I could be wrong- God knows I was about Trump. But my real nausea with Zuckerberg revolves around Facebook itself. It's become an incredibly powerful platform for delivering news and information to millions and while I'm sure any Presidential ambitions would involve Zuckerberg giving up control of the company, President Trump has already proven than there might be distance both legally and physically, but is he really gone?

Hotels are one thing, information is another. If the Zuck runs, then how do we know that Facebook won't conveniently block content and news articles to benefit the Zuck? They are a private entity, after all- they're under no obligation to let anything and everything be posted on what is, after all, their platform. I'm sure there's a lot more to it than this that will have to be unpacked in the event of a Zuck 2020 run- but the confluence of media and politics and the potential for the control and abuse of information? It should be enough to give every voter pause when considering the potential of a Zuckerberg Presidential run.

Kamala Harris doesn't seem to be overly loved by the Bernie-wing of the Democratic Party, but the real questions about the strength of her candidacy are probably going to come from her record as Attorney General in California.  Kirsten Gillibrand? I don't know enough about her, to be honest- but she's been Senator from New York for awhile now and New York is a big state. If she runs, she'll be a viable candidate. Someone palatable to the Bernie Wing of the party is going to be important- though I do think Cory Booker is getting a bad rap in article like this.  (I also think Senator Klobuchar, if she runs would be an interesting candidate with Midwestern roots.)

The only prediction worth making at this point in the cycle is that there's nothing worth predicting- yet.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Netflix & Chill #24: For The Love of Spock

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2016
Directed By: Adam Nimoy
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Pick: Mine

I've been meaning to watch this documentary for awhile now and throw it in with the last round of my grand Star Trek Cycle (tentatively set to conclude in October, for those keeping score at home) but instead, Amazon Prime released pretty much all the movies, so I made my way through those instead and decided to do this one on its own and I'm glad I did, because it deserves it's very own post.

Directed by Adam Nimoy, son of the late great Leonard Nimoy, the documentary was originally conceived as a documentary about Spock, the character with an eye on release in time for the the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek in 2016. After the passing of his father in 2015, however, Nimoy widened the scope of the film to include not just Spock, but the life and career of his father beyond that character.

If you're a fan of Trek, then you slide this one right next to the excellent Chaos On The Bridge as a 'must-see' for any fan of the franchise, however, there's a lot more to this than meets the eye. Leonard Nimoy had a career outside of Star Trek- including stints on the original Mission: Impossible and as well as roles in movies and television shows ranging from Gunsmoke to The Outer Limits and anything and everything in between. He directed Star Treks 3, 4 and Three Men And A Baby and had a stage career which included a stint as Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof (damn that must have been incredible to see) and The Man In The Glass Booth. (Again, would have been amazing to see that.)

But the true richness in this documentary lies in the glimpses of the personal life of the man behind the ears as well as his somewhat rocky relationship with his children, but especially his son. You see a man who arrived in California, determined to be an actor, got married, had kids and was doing every job under the sun to support his family until his breakthrough finally arrived. The character of Mr. Spock and how iconic he became had a huge impact on the lives of everyone in Nimoy's family- Adam at one point describes truckloads of fan mail arriving at the house and how back in the day, they were still in the phone book, so fans would call the house and sometimes even drop by to say hello. (Which is straight-up crazy to me... )

Overall: There's a ton of stuff that gets left out of this- with a life of 83 years, there's bound to be, but I do think it's a beautiful tribute not just to Leonard Nimoy's career and the character of Mr. Spock but to the life of the man as well. My Grade: ***** out of *****

Saturday, September 2, 2017

This Week In Vexillology #227

I'm deep into an extensive one volume history of the Ottoman Empire, because- well, at this point I'm not sure why. The first decades of the 1600s were rough- lots of revolts and palace intrigues- I'm hoping the next chapter will be a little more interesting. But one foe of the Ottomans keeps popping up a lot and that's the Republic of Venice. So, I did some digging and this week I decided we're going to take a look at it's modern day descendant, the Regional flag of Veneto:
Adopted on May 20th, 1975 as the civil and state flag, the flag of the Veneto Region takes a lot of inspiration from the old flag of the Republic of Venice, which looks like this:
So, right away you can see where the inspiration is coming from- there's a little more to work with in the regional flag though. The coat of arms of the region is set in the central square- there, you find the winged lion of Saint Mark with the opened gospel. (The Latin motto means, "Peace to you Mark, my Evangelist.") The paws of the Lion rests on the landscape of Venice- the sea (Adriatic), the land (Venetian Plain), the mountains, (Alps.)

Here's where things get a little crazy though- because while this flag looks busy as all get out (maybe even too busy) from a design standpoint, the seven stripes at the fly edge are actually tails. So the flag, when flying, looks something like this:
(Granted this is technically the historical flag of the Republic of Venice, but you get the idea.) The modern 'tails' have the middle of the coat of arms of each of the capitals of the Veneto region. The seven provinces are, from top to bottom: Vicenza, Verona, Venice, Treviso, Rovigo, Padua and Belluno. The wiki-page for the flag indicated that a ribbon should be knotted just belong the finial of the flagpole as well.

(Tangent Time: The Parentals had a really awesome book called 'The Times Atlas of European History' when I was growing up and I would lose myself in its pages on a regular basis, watching the rise and fall of empires and countries that I had never even heard of come and go over the centuries. One of my favorites was always La Serenissima, The Republic of Venice. I'm glad it's got such a bad-ass flag and that it's modern equivalent honors the historical roots of the region.)

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