Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nine Years

I've always been a little reluctant to talk about 'The Day Job' because I never wanted this blog and my writing to be about that. I like using the blog and what I write as an outlet and as something to feed my soul and my passion for writing a little bit. I've let 'The Day Job' really eat large chunks of my life at various points over the past nine years and it's taken me a long time to figure out how to fully leave work at work and focus on the rest of my amazing life when I'm not at work.

But it has been weighing on me a little bit: this is year nine. I think after nine years, it's probably time to lean into 'The Day Job' a little bit and own it more than I have. Over the years, I think I've put a lot of pressure on myself to 'do more' and 'figure out the next thing' and 'the next big career move' but the more I think about it lately, the less I feel that impetus to figure out what's next and move along. I have an awesome job. There are peaks and there are valleys, like with everything in life, but of late, I have few complaints. Every day- and I do mean every day- is different. I don't know what's going to happen when the phone rings. (Though, at this point, sometimes I can make a fairly educated guess.) 

Over the years I've helped develop a multi-channel social media presence for our department. I've been afforded opportunities to attend training on multiple topics ranging from radiological alarms to Spanish for 911. I help coordinate and run the Departmental Awards Program. I data drag every month and keep various crime maps updated. When I feel like I've run out of opportunities to grow in this job, new ones always seem to spring up where I least expect them and it's really hard to complain about that.

I could be riding a cubicle somewhere. Or teaching. Or grinding out a Ph.D. Or doing anything else, but honestly, I can't think of any other job that would keep me as engaged and interested on a daily basis as this one. And, as a bonus, I get to help people every single day. Some times their problems are fairly mundane. Sometimes they really are having the worst day of their lives. But every day when I sit down behind the console and log into my CAD, I'm always thinking at the back of my mind about how I can do my job better today. 

The world of 911 Dispatching is bigger than people probably realize. There are individual agencies of all sizes you can find. There are Joint Centers that range from the medium-sized counties to big cities. My little corner of that world may not have the Domestics or the vehicle pursuits or the shootings or the exciting stuff you see on Live PD or COPS, but it's never boring and it'll surprise you from time to time- sometimes in good ways, sometimes in weird ways and sometimes in bad ways.

Nine years. It's National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week this week. I've seen nine of them come and go. But it's time to stop pretending that this is a stepping stone to something else. Without realizing it, I've found a career. I found my little corner and my perfect tribe. I don't know if I'd call it the greatest job in the world, but it's pretty damn good and I am fortunate indeed to have stumbled into it, seemingly the same way I always stumble into these things.

Not every 911 Dispatcher out there is fortunate enough to be appreciated the way we have been this week. It's simple enough to buy some food and say 'Thank You' once a year, but not everyone has great managers. Not everyone has a work environment that has good morale. To those fellow 911 Dispatchers, I see you. If no one else has said it, let me say it: Thank You. You're awesome at what you do, even if no one else wants to tell you that.

Nine years. I've never not been proud to be part of The Thin Gold Line, but it's time I start saying so out loud a little more.  I am a 911 Dispatcher and if you call me, I'm here to help.

Monday, April 15, 2019

On Faith and Politics

Look, it's ridiculously early yet. I'm not really expecting the race to really get down to brass tacks until fall at the earliest. There are more Democrats jumping into this race every day- so who knows how the race is going to go. Who knows who's actually going to win the Democratic nomination or much less with the election in November of next year.

It's ridiculously early yet.

That said, we gotta pause and talk about something that I never honestly expected to be talking about in this race- the odd, but important intersection of faith and politics that seems to have emerged in the race- mainly centered around the intriguing candidacy of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. To be clear: I have no idea whether or not Buttigieg is going to win this thing. He's raising money at a pretty brisk clip. He's got a lot of people interested. What that translates out to over the marathon length of the primary campaign and then the Presidential campaign I haven't the faintest idea. (Perhaps a sign that his opponents are taking him seriously, he's gotten the now expected attack piece already circulating out there.)

What sets him apart, at least so far in the campaign is his willingness to speak openly and honestly about his faith as a Christian.

My faith is something that I don't really talk about a lot. It's intensely personal and private to me. I do my best to be a good person and not to be an asshole to my fellow people, but I don't always succeed. I was baptized, raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church. I left when I realized that my attendance at church was driven more by habit than any meaningful desire to practice my beliefs. I was about to come back when the Church put it's temporal power over it's moral authority and shielded the Princes of the Church from any kind of accountability in the ongoing sex abuse scandal. I was married in a Methodist Church and we've wandered around for a bit before landing on a local community church that between our work schedules we're trying our best to attend. I'll be honest in saying that once the Catholic Church gets its claws into you, you're sort of stuck. I believe, but the ritual of it, the familiar patterns of going up and down and kneeling and praying are embedded into it, so I think I'll always feel slightly out of place in any other church. I'm fine with that though. That's my choice and, given the behavior of the Church over the past two decades, it's the correct choice to me.

I'm not an Evangelical Christian. I never will be. I have a massive amount of distrust for politicians of any stripe who claim to 'act on their faith' because inevitably, too many of them ignore the complete message of Jesus and focus on the parts that are the most political convenient to them. All politicians that talk about their faith do this to a certain degree- it's to be expected, honestly- which is what makes the attacks of Buttigieg all the more galling to me. To try and claim that 'he's not a real Christian' or he's 'just playing one on television' ignores the abject hypocrisy so many 'values voters' and so-called 'faith politicians' espouse. For too many 'values voters' and 'faith politicians', Christianity has been reduced to two issues: abortion and gay marriage. Which, if you're trying you're level best not to be a hypocrite, you can't ignore, but you also can't ignore the rest of the pie either, which is what a too many 'Christians' these days do. You can't rail against abortion and then want to build a wall and throw all the refugees out. You can't denounce gay marriage and then vote to shred whatever social safety net we have left that takes care of the poor. You can't denounce a once married, never divorced man for his sexuality when you wrap your arms around a thrice divorced President who's paid hush money to his mistresses on multiple occasions.

You want me to take you seriously as moral authorities? You have to practice what you preach-- all of it, not part of it. Not the parts that are politically convenient or get you the most votes. Be pro-life. Be for traditional marriage. But also be for compassionate immigration reform. Be for refugees. Be for programs that help the poor. Be for health care that doesn't bankrupt families. I might not agree with you on all the issues (I'm pro-choice and pro-gay marriage for instance) but I'd respect you for at least trying to be consistent with the message of Jesus. I'd respect you for trying to live out all of your faith and not just the parts of it you agree with.

A few years back, The Quiet Man and I took a trip down south to see the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Shiloh. Going down various highways, I remember seeing multiple churches along the side of the road-- some of them larger than others. All of which had neatly trimmed lawns and next door, in a significantly nicer house with a nicer driveway and a nicer car parked out front, you'd see where the Pastor presumably lived. That kind of Christianity rubs me the wrong way. If your church is a former arena of the Houston Rockets, you're missing out on some key points of the message of Jesus. And I'm tired of those kind of Christians having a lock on talking about faith in the public sphere. Do I necessarily agree with Buttigieg on all the issues? No, I don't.* Does a strict and Conservative interpretation of Christian theology have a problem with his sexuality? It does. But as he points out, your quarrel shouldn't be with him, but with his creator.

If your response is that it's in the Bible, well then, I'd just say to you that the Bible says a lot of things that we don't actually do today. We don't stone adulterers to death for instance. We also aren't down with slavery or prostitution. If you focus on the micro aspects of Christianity, you miss the macro aspects of it way more than you should. I'm less concerned with your adherence to the footnotes and random sentences in the Bible and more concerned that you're trying to live out the message of Jesus as best you can in your daily life. So, good for Pete Buttigieg for talking about his faith. His faith strikes me as more genuinely and deeply felt than a lot of other politicians out there. And good for him for not counting out more Conservative religious voters as well. 

At the end of the day, sit back and think about this: A gay, married, Christian man just announced he was running for President. I'm glad I live in a country where that's a real thing. We were founded on the freedom to worship as we saw fit, so these debates about the authenticity of his faith are not only more than a little hypocritical, they run fundamentally counter to the founding bedrock of this nation.

*I'm not sold on abolishing the Electoral College- I think we should allocate EV's proportionally first and see what that does. I'm also not crazy about court-packing the Supreme Court. I'd prefer some democratic accountability and retention votes instead. Both of these things are also entirely dependent on getting a Constitutional Amendment out of Congress to the states for their consideration and the odds of that happening any time soon in the current climate are rather slim. But I think these are good issues to talk about and for sure, they're issues worth fixing- and that's the other thing we need to remember. You don't have to agree with a candidate on every single issue to support them.

**Also, Dear God. If y'all think this is true then there's a problem here.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

This Week In Vexillology #286

Our tour of the counties of England is moving right along, because This Week In Vexillology, we've got the flags of Cheshire and Bedfordshire!

First up, Cheshire! We start with our usual question: where the heck is it? Well, find Liverpool, head south across the River Mersey and eventually you'll hit the city of Chester and find yourself smack dab in the middle of Cheshire. (For some reason, Google Maps doesn't want to give me a nice set of boundaries when I search for Cheshire, so unfortunately, no helpful link to the Googles.)

What's the deal with Cheshire? Well, it's a very agricultural county- hence, Cheshire cheese. But Harry Styles, Ian Curtis, John Mayall, Paula Radcliffe and George Mallory all hail from the county. So, let's take a peek at their flag:

Registered with the Flag Institute in 2013, it's based off a banner of arms of the former Cheshire County Council which was granted in May of 1938. (There was a big governmental reorganization of all the counties in 1974, which explains why there was such a burst of new flags in the early 2000s-- there were plenty of historic banners of arms out there, but none actually representing the new counties themselves- not that there were many new counties per say, just the boundaries shifted from old historic counties slightly.)

Anyway, the three sheaves of wheat and a golden blade on a blue background is considerably older than 1938. It's been associated with the Earldom of Chester since at least the 12th Century and has been officially used in the coat of arms since 1560. This is one of those flags that you almost wish had more of an explanation to it, but alas, it doesn't.

Next up, Bedfordshire! Anyone who has flown out of London for a cheap flight to obscure destinations in Europe might well know at least part of Bedfordshire thanks to Luton Airport which, along with the city of Luton is tucked away at the southern end of the county. What else do we know about Bedfordshire? Well, a lot of notable British companies, including Vauxhall Motors and Easy Jet- but I think it's probably the Bedfordshire clanger that we should celebrate the most, because it honestly sounds kind of good.

Here's their flag:
Okay, I really like this flag. It's unique, colorful and I like the shells! It's another one based on the banner of arms of the former county council that was granted by the College of Arms in 1951. The current design was adopted in September 2014 as the flag of the historic county with the support of the High Sheriff of the county. When you fly the flag, the top corner nearest the flagpole should be gold.

There's actually a lot to break down with this flag.. The yellow and red quadrants are taken from the arms of the Beauchamp Family, who were powerful in the county after the Norman conquest and build Bedford Castle. The blue and wavy white lines are for the Great Ouse River, which flows through the county- including the main county town of Bedford. The three shells on the field of black are taken from the coat of arms of the Dukes of Bedford.

And that's the flags of Bedfordshire and Cheshire! Until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Psephology Rocks: All Right, It's The Greatest Show On Earth

I haven't really been all that inspired to nerd out over an election for a few months now. I was toying with the idea of doing a deep dive on Israeli elections and how they work, but I figured the results would be too depressing to really get excited about (turns out, that assessment was right) but then a flurry of news hit: Algeria got rid of it's old President (a bigger deal than people think) and is getting a new President. Sudan is getting new military leaders and perhaps a new President. Israel had it's elections and The Greatest Show on Earth is getting underway as we speak as India starts it's amazing exercise in month long electioneering.

So, there's a lot of things to talk about all of a sudden, so I figured, why not hop back on the Psephology Train and here we are. Let's start with Israel and the nuts and bolts of how it all works.

Israel has always been kind of a fascinating country from a political science viewpoint: it's got a unicameral legislature- so the Knesset is a one stop shop for passing legislation- there's no upper chamber to worry about. It's only got 120 members, which seems like a low number for a national legislature until you look up Israel's population and realize that it's only got 8 million people in it, which puts it as about the same as Virginia- which has two chambers and 140 totals seats in their legislature- so it's not that crazy. It just seems low.

However, 120 wasn't just a random number they landed on. They took it from the 'Great Assembly' of Jewish tradition, which was an assembly of scribes, sages and prophets in Biblical times- and there were, of course, 120 of them. The Great Assembly wasn't elected and was a completely religious body, but it's a nice bit of- I don't want to say continuity because that's not quite right either- but it's a nice nod to tradition anyway.

Another thing I didn't know: Israel doesn't have a formal constitution. They've got the Basic Laws of Israel- but the Knesset can pass any law by a simple majority, including ones that might conflict with the Basic Laws of Israel. They've also got not statute which grants a power of judicial review to the judiciary which seems... unusual to me. (The Supreme Court of Israel has been asserting itself a little bit of late and doing that, but there's no formal law about it.)

What I do know about the Knesset is that there are a crazy number of parties in there: Likud, Blue and White, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Hadash-Ta'al, Labor, Yisrael Beitenu, United Right, Meretz, Kulanu, Ra-am-Balad, New Right- and those are just the ones listed on the Wikipedia page. With only 120 seats to go around, it's been Coalition building since the very beginning for Israeli- and no party or single faction has ever won 61 seats for a majority. (Closest was the 56 seats won by the Alignment- an admittedly cool sounding party name- in the 1969 Elections.)

Members are elected from a single nationwide district (so no Single Member District issues to deal with here) and they use the D'Hondt method of proportional representation with a 3.25% election threshold for parties to clear before they can get a seat in the Knesset.

So, what went down with this year's elections over there? Well, Israel is pretty much All Right now- as in, 'all the parties are on the right'. The Left has been pretty moribund in Israel for over a decade now and they didn't show any signs of life this time around either. The Labor Party which was a dominant force in Israeli politics for the first few decades of it's existence ended up with a grand total of six seats- which isn't great. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a record fifth term as Prime Minister- despite the possibility of corruption charges hanging above his head. Despite promises to start annexing parts of the West Bank. His Likud Party tied with the Blue and White Alliance of Benny Gantz- who admittedly gave Netanyahu a strong challenge- but Israeli politics is all about coalitions, so with an alliance of right-wing parties, Netanyahu ended up with 65 seats to the center left bloc's total of 55 seats. What does it mean for the peace process- or what's left of it? Probably nothing good. But we'll see.

Israel is all said and done, but India is just getting started.* With 900 million eligible voters, it takes a month to get done and one my all time political science nerd dreams is just to go over there and spend a month jetting around all over India just to watch it. Americans get really full of themselves about Star Spangled Awesome were allegedly are, but India's elections are damn near inspirational. 900 million people are gonna spend the next month voting. It really is the Greatest Show on Earth.

So how does it all work in India? Well, for the Lok Sabha, which is the lower house of India's Parliament has 545 members that are all elected using single member district, first past the post elections. So no proportional representation either... the upper house, the Rajya Sabha is indirectly elected by the members of the state and territorial legislatures. The President of India can appoint 12 members for contributions to art, literature, science and social services. The two houses are on equal footing legislatively despite the Lok Sabha having twice as many members- and the Lok Sabha can override the Rajya Sabha in areas of supply- which is admittedly an obscure parliamentary thing I haven't heard of, but TL;DR the upper house can't refuse to pass legislation to force the lower house to do something. (I think that's how it works?)

The elections are a whole other thing entirely: voter rolls have increased by 84.3 million since the last election, which  means that the largest ever election in the world. 15 million voters who are 18-19 years old get to cast their votes for the very first time. Counting the votes won't even start until 23rd of May- which is over a month away. (Glancing over the news- it seems like things went fairly well, despite some reported problems and sporadic violence. A lot of states in the northeast and the southeast/south central coast were up today. Parts of Bihar, Uttah Pradesh and West Bengal will be voting in all seven phases and it looks like Jammu and Kashmir is going to be split up as well.) 

I'll have to do some more reading and research to get a sense of how things are going to go. Regional parties are increasingly powerful players in India's elections, so the Congress Party might be able to stitch together enough of anti-Modi coalition to force the BJP out- that simultaneously gives them more options to build a coalition to oust Modi and makes it more of a challenge to hold a coalition together. I feel like (again: I need to read more) there are some issues that the voters aren't very happy with the BJP about, but Modi's government is coming off of a dust-up with Pakistan and looked pretty muscular and powerful doing it and Hindu nationalism is kind of the BJP's thing.

The biggest election in the world is happening right now. That's kind of awesome.

*Do I wish that America had a news network that gave a shit about any of this? I desperately do. CNN is continuing flog their increasingly dead Trump Trump Trump Russia Russia Russia Mueller Mueller Mueller bullshit and not actually paying attention to the goddamn news. Shit's going on out in the world, kids. If only people had news networks dedicated to bringing us that... oh, what's the word? Oh, that's right- the news.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sportsyball: Post-Bracketology

Adopt-A-Team: Trabzonspor is in the top 4! This might legit be the best result that my Adopt-A-Team has posted to date. When last we checked in with them, it was mid-February- specifically, February 18th, 2019. Since then, the results have looked like this:

W vs Goztepe
L to Umraniye (QF of Turkish Cup- lost 3-1 on aggregate)
D to Kasimpasa
W vs Akhisar
W vs Buyuksehir
W vs Antalyaspor

That's a pretty good run of football! Down the stretch they've got matches against Fenerbahce and Besiktas, so there's potential to move up further in the table, provided they don't drop any games down the stretch. All in all, it's pretty awesome. (Prior years: Defensa y Justicia is sitting in second place in the Superliga- and I actually think their regular season is done already. NEC Nijmegen is sitting in 14th place in the Eerste Divisie, so the news is not so good there.)

The Arsenal: Oh the peaks and valleys of the Arsenal season continue! They were looking pretty damn good and solid for the Top 4 a week ago and then a dismal 1-0 loss to Everton sort of brought out the sackcloth and ashes again and woe is Arsenal and doom is upon us! But really and truly: there are some serious questions to be addressed in the summer transfer window and it could go sideways in a bad way if they don't either win the Europa League or finish Top 4, but Emery has done a fantastic job making Arsenal fun to watch again and not so damn frustrating. (That's not to say that their lack of consistency hasn't been incredibly frustrating, but they seem to have shaken off their tendency to shrug and say 'well, shit, we're 1-0 down, so we're done here' which is a big step in the right direction.)

The results since last we met!

W vs BATE
W vs Southampton
W vs Bournemouth
D vs Tottenham
L to Rennes
W vs Manchester United
W vs Rennes (W, 4-3 on aggregate)
W vs Newcastle
L to Everton

It's pretty damn hard to complain about a run of football that good- but Arsenal has Watford, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Burnley away down the stretch. They're going to have to bring their home form with them on the road- because woof, their away form has been not so good.

Iowa Athletics: Iowa Basketball had a decent March-- the Iowa men surpassed expectations by beating Cincinnati and then giving 2-seed Tennessee as much as they could handle and then some by forcing overtime before coming up just short. Aside from a weird bubble of rumors that Fran might be leaving for Arkansas, on balance, I think it was a good year. I remember working some games during the Lickliter era and am honestly convinced that Iowa's basketball commentariat has the memory span of syphilitic hamsters, because kids, shit was bad back then. The hole the program was in was deep, dark and looked a lot like this. We are so much better than where we were and with time, I think we might able to climb back out of the hole and get back to where we were back in the day- or at the very least, a close approximation of it.

My baseline for the men's team is pretty simple: make the Tournament more often than not, win more than one game in the B1G Tournament and generally be in the upper half of the conference whenever possible. Intersperse some deep runs in either the NCAA or the B1G Tournament and I'm fine.

The women's team had a great March. They stormed to the Elite 8 before falling against eventual national title winner's Baylor. Megan Gustafson continued to do Megan Gustafson things and finished the season with just over 1,000 points- for the season. She also won the Naismith Player of the Year Award and a bunch of others and Coach Bluder won the well-deserved Naismith Coach of the Year award. Gustafson is also going to be attending the WNBA Draft tonight, which marks the first time ever that I've said, 'man, I need to check out the WNBA Draft tonight' ever.

Gustafson's season sparked an interesting Twitter discussion on the Iowa Commentariat with most people agreeing that she belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Iowa Athletes right next to Nile Kinnick. Where things got interesting was who else belongs up there as well...

(Oh and Spencer Lee won another National Title for Wrestling... Penn State, however, continued their dominance of the Team Title. Dethroning them will have to wait there until next year.)

Post-Bracketology Thoughts: I was late filling out a bracket this year because we were on vacation doing vacation things, so I didn't do my usual deep dive on the field and really think about it. I went with Duke v Gonzaga and Virginia v Houston in the Final Four and actually had Virginia making the title game and losing to Gonzaga.

Obviously, that didn't happen. Looking at my bracket-- I'd say my biggest miss was Saint Mary's- I took them to the Sweet 16. Houston, I took to the Final Four- which didn't happen either. I didn't even see Texas Tech coming at all. But, I did actually sit down and watch the title game with The Quiet Man and it was a legit good game. It was also refreshing to see so many of the traditional powers fall by the wayside. Neither Virginia nor Texas Tech had won the National Title before- and Virginia's last Final Four was in the 80s, so it had been awhile since they had been to the Final Four and Texas Tech hadn't been at all. (Interestingly enough, had they won, they would have the first Texas team to win it since Texas Western of 'Glory Road' back in the day.)

Wish I would have been able to catch more of this year's Dance, but it sure seemed like an entertaining one. One day, my Zags are gonna win at all! But that'll have to wait until next year.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Netflix & Chill #60: Saving Mr. Banks

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2013
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Pick: Mine

Netflix seems to have upped it's movie game lately, because Saving Mr. Banks sort of popped up last week when I was down with some kind of a stomach bug and I figured, what else was I going to do in between rounds of various stomach related ailments? Saving Mr. Banks seemed like the perfect sick day movie and that turned out to be absolutely correct, because with a cast this charming, it's hard to find complaints about this movie.

The film opens in 1961, with the financially strapped author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) confronting the ugly truth: her book royalties have dried up and it looks like finally, she might have to surrender to the inevitable and let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) adapt Mary Poppins for the big screen. Disney has apparently been after her for the rights for nearly twenty years, having made a promise to his daughters to get Mary Poppins on the big screen. Her agent, Diarmuid Russell (Ronan Vibert) points out that Disney has made two unprecedented concessions: no animations and script approval. So reluctant still, Travers gets on a plane and heads to Los Angeles.

As Travers arrives in Los Angeles and disapproves of the artificiality of the city and how friendly people insist on being, her childhood back in Australia is revealed. Her father, Travers Goff was her idol, but suffered from chronic alcoholism which lead to his repeated firings which caused strain in her parents marriage and nearly drove her mother to suicide. His death at an early age from tuberculosis leads her Aunt to arrive- she's firm, but practical and serves as the main inspiration for the character of Mary Poppins.

Her working relationship with the Disney team is strained from the outset. Travers views Mary Poppins as the element of sentiment and whimsy, which puzzles the Disney team given the imaginative nature of the book. She hates the portrayal of George Banks, arguing that he is not cold or cruel and gradually, the team realizes how personal a lot of the characters are to her.

Disney, trying to understand what troubles her takes her to Disneyland, which, along with her developing friendship with her driver, Ralph (Paul Giamatti) breaks down her opposition- especially when they come up with a new song for the ending. However, just as everything seems to be proceeding well, an animation sequence is revealed and furious, she confronts Disney over his broken promise and returns home.

Disney then learns that P.L. Travers is actually her pen name and having realized that Mr. Banks is actually based off of her own father, flies to London to tell her that he too had a less than ideal childhood and that he doesn't let the pain of the past dictate the present and neither should she. He promises her that he will take excellent care of Mary Poppins- and will make sure that George Banks is saved and redeemed- which finally gets her to relent and grant Disney the film rights.

Three years later, Mary Poppins is set to have it's world premiere in Hollywood and Disney has not invited Travers, fearing how she might react with the press watching. But she shows up unannounced and asks for an invitation anyway, which Disney grants. She still disapproves of the animated sequences, but warms up to the rest of the film and is in tears by the end as she watches George Banks be saved and ultimately redeemed.

Overall: A nice piece of of behind-the-scenes history of the House of Mouse, Saving Mr. Banks actually tells a sweet and sentimental story that is perfectly on brand for Disney today. It's not a particularly complicated film, but it does what it sets out to do: tell the true story behind Mary Poppins and it's long road to the silver screen and demonstrate the power of art and film to heal and make a difference in people's lives. In short, it's the perfect movie to spend a lazy afternoon with. My Grade: *** out of ****

Saturday, April 6, 2019

This Week In Vexillology #285

We're back in the saddle again and heading back across the pond to continue our (now rather long-running) tour of the counties of England .I sat down with a printed map of the counties of England, a sharpie and a list of all the counties we've looked at so far and narrowed down the list of what's left. I figured we've got maybe a month, month and a half left of our grand tour- but today, we're going to keep on moving with Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

Let's start with Buckinghamshire. Where is it, exactly? Well more or less northwest of London. If you find Oxford and Milton Keynes on the map, you'll find the town of Aylesbury and that's more or less the center of Buckinghamshire. The boundaries of the county  narrow the closer it gets to London, running along the M-25 and the Colne Valley Regional Park before arching around the town of Slough and heading back up into the Chiltern Hills again. Seems like a lot of famous folks live in Buckinghamshire- so I imagine both it's natural beauty and proximity to London are probably quite a draw.

So, let's talk about their flag:

Adopted on May 20th, 2011, it's listed as a 'traditional' flag and sadly, there's not much more to it that Buckinghamshire is where they bred swans for the King dating back all the way to Anglo-Saxon times. But, let's step back and consider a few things, shall we?

That is one pissed off fucking swan. I mean, look at the damn thing. It's chained, there's a crown around it's neck, it's either going to straight up kill a human being or breed the hell out of some poor unsuspecting female swan. (BTW: I've been to a swannery and have long since determined that swans are the raging, festering assholes of the bird world.)

Either way: props to Buckinghamshire for having the most metal flag of any county in England.

Next up, Hertfordshire. Where is it? Well, it's still northwest of London, but it's more north-northwest than true northwest- if that makes sense. St. Albans, Watford, Stevnage, Hemel Hempsted all form the major towns of the county. If it's known for anything, it's for movies- Harry Potter, Star Wars IV, V and VI and GoldenEye were all filmed in the county.

So, let's talk about their flag:

Designed by the College of Arts and adopted in November of 2008 the flag of Hertfordshire is a traditional heraldic design. The blue and white wavy lines represent the many rivers of the county, while the yellow shield and reclining hart are taken from the arms of Hertford. It's also a pun! A hart, lying on a ford, so Hertford! The yellow field that the hart reclines on stands for Saint Alban, who is the patron saint of the county.

So we've got a raging, metal as hell swan and a nice, reclining very chill deer- both of these flags are striking and unique- so, there you have it- Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire!

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