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Showing posts from March, 2018

This Week In Vexillology #254

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We're going back into the Lost Archives from the Unfortunate Wordpress Experiment to have a Lost Weekend In Vexillology... this time we're heading across Britain and back into Europe to knock off the last of our European flags with Luxembourg:
Here's the interesting thing about Luxembourg: it had no official flag until 1830, when the round of Revolutions that created Belgium and began the July Monarchy in France got the natives of Luxembourg interested in displaying their national colors. It wasn't officially defined as a horizontal tricolor of red, white and blue until 1848 and wasn't officially adopted until over a century later on when they made it official on June 23rd, 1972.

It's almost entirely identical to the flag of the Netherlands except the blue is lighter shade.

The colors of the flag were derived from the Coat of Arms of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which in turn was derived from the duke of Limbourg and their red lion an the striped banner of th…

Albums2010 #99: Twin Cinema

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I was listening to The New Pornographers album Twin Cinema a couple of a weeks back and thought, 'I reviewed this album at some point, right?' I couldn't honestly remember if I had or not, so I went to the archives and attempted to find my answers and, incredibly, it seemed as if I hadn't actually crossed this one off of the list. There's no way to know for certain, as The Unfortunate Wordpress Experiment consigned many of my entries to internet oblivion, but I remember reviewing at later album of theirs, Brill Bruisers, but it seems incredible that I didn't review this one as well.

Well: there's no time like the present.

If you dig a little on Wikipedia, you'll find that, as a rock band, The New Pornographers are kind of interesting. They're described thusly:
Presented as a musical collective of singer-songwriters and musicians from multiple projects, the band has released seven studio albums to critical acclaim for their use of multiple vocalists a…

Psephology Rocks: 44 Messages from Catalonia

The Intercept posted a fascinating, short little documentary on the independence referendum in Catalonia last year called '44 Messages from Catalonia' that combines documentary footage with WhatsApp messages from the tumultuous few weeks between the vote and the brief declaration of independence before Spain essentially squashed it.

Catalonia's been back in the news this week: exiled Catalan President Carlos Puidgemont was arrested in Germany. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks remains holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, but lost his internet access after this Tweet was apparently deemed a bridge too far by the Ecuadorians:
Last October, Spanish ruling party spokesman @pablocasado_ warned President #Puigdemont that he would "end up like President Companys". Catalonia's President Companys was arrested by Germany, delivered to Spain by the Gestapo & executed by firing squad.https://t.co/n1gQcz8PVx — Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) March 26, 20…

The Real Toxic Masculinity

To me, the passing grade of raising three sons is a three part question: 1. Did they graduate high school? 2. Do they have all their limbs intact? 3. Are they kind and polite to everyone they meet? If the answers to that question are 'Yes, yes and yes' then I feel like I've done enough to earn a passing grade when it comes to the whole 'being a Dad to three sons' thing.

But that's not enough these days and it's really pissing me off. Never mind the latte drinking liberals and all their talk about 'toxic masculinity' and 'rape culture.' Never mind the gun toting conservatives that sneer at 'beta males' and 'soy boys.' No, the real toxic masculinity is the current debate about masculinity in America today. Consider the options being presented to our boys: you're either a ball of barely contained rage ready to explode into white privilege, entitlement, rape and possibly school shooting or a weak kneed, lily-livered, guilt ri…

This Week In Vexillology #253

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We're continuing our tour of Ireland this week, wrapping up the last of Ireland's four provinces with the flag of Ulster:

Before we plunge into the meaning of the flag, I think it's important to clear up any potential confusion about the territorial definition of what actually constitutes Ulster. It is the only one of the four provinces to cross international boundaries, with the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone falling on the UK side of the border, while the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan fall on the Irish side of the border. All of which is demonstrated by it's location on the map, shown below:

The flag is a composite achievement of the heraldic symbols of two of the best known provincial families. The red hand is derived from the O'Neill dynasty, while the gold background and red cross are taken from the coat of arms of the Burkes, a Hiberno-Norman family.

The Red Hand of Ulster dates back all the way to 1317 when the O…

When Is Manipulation, manipulation?

The Guardian's expose on the Cambridge Analytica scandal is both troubling and head-scratching all at the same time. Your initial reaction is, 'well, it wasn't me. I wasn't manipulated. I'm informed. They couldn't possibly have made me do what I didn't want to do, could they?' But then you step back and think about it a little bit and then you find yourself wondering: how vulnerable is the average person to manipulation online? Could it get you to change your vote? And if so...  is that cheating?

I took one class on political behavior as an undergraduate and now I wish that I had taken more, because it's fascinating and given the sheer size of the scandal about this data, it's incredibly relevant in our politics today. I think my political behavior professor lost me when he told us that there was a high correlation between how your parents vote and how you vote, to which I immediately thought: "Well, my Grandmother was a Tory council member…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Four Roses Bourbon

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Four Roses Bourbon was a Christmas present from my mother in law- it's just taken me a couple of months to finally get to giving it the review and tasting it deserves. Based out of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, it's been around since 1888 and in it's Spanish Mission style headquarters since 1910. (I took a peek at them on Google Street View and it does legit look like a beautiful distillery- makes me want go back to Kentucky and pay it a visit.)

The origins of the brand are somewhat disputed. There's some mention made of Rufus M. Rose, who according to some, founded the brand in 1888, like named after him, his brother and their two sons, but the current brand makes no reference to him. Instead, the label tells the story of Paul Jones, Jr. who became smitten with a beautiful Southern belle and sent a proposal to her. She replied that if her answer were yes, she would wear a corsage of roses to an upcoming grand ball. And she showed up, with a corsage of four roses, which gave…

This Week In Vexillology #252

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It seems only appropriate that we somehow find ourselves in the Irish province of Leinster on St. Patrick's Day itself. Why, you ask? Well, its flag is, perhaps, the most obviously Irish of the four provinces of Ireland:
A symbol of Ireland since the 17th Century, the harp on a green field was the flag of Owen Roe O'Neil, who entered the Spanish service in 1601 and rose to prominence, returning to Ireland in 1642 to assist the Irish Confederation. Which brings us to the next obvious question: what the heck is the Irish Confederation? Well, while England was busy having its civil war, the Catholic nobles, clergy and military leaders go together and formed a Confederation and established self-rule while England was busy chopping off the head of Charles the First and being all puritan and Cromwellian about it, they set about setting up a government (which did swear allegiance to Charles the First, but that's neither here nor there) and for eleven years or so, they ran Ireland…

Short Fiction Friday: The Door

The initial seed for this story came courtesy of a one volume history of the Ottoman Empire that I devoured late last year. (Well, not really devoured. More like enjoyed a seven course meal at a relatively sedate pace with plenty of breaks in between.) In the midst of making my way through this, I read an account of a Sultan who came to power and locked his brother away, but the world turned and times changed and then suddenly he was being overthrown and executed and they needed a new Sultan.

Except, when they went to knock on the door where his brother was being kept, he didn't believe them. He absolutely refused to believe them, thinking that he was going to be taken away and executed (which was a perfectly reasonable fear in those days, Sultans weren't exactly crazy about leaving potential rivals to their thrones out there) and they had to actually come in and drag him out and take him away to be crowned.

The idea sort of flowed from there and eventually became, "The D…

Sportsyball: Bracketology Edition

Bracketology: Yes, it's time for the annual exercise in futility that is filling out a bracket in the month of March. It's strange, the amount of happiness that can be derived from filling out a simple bracket and making your picks- knowing, nay expecting that many of them will be wrong and your bracket will lie in ruins before the end of the first weekend. This was my first year actually looking at ESPN's little team vs team comparisons which helped me make a pick here or there. So, without further ado- let's get down to it with the South Region:

UVA over UMBC
Creighton over Kansas State (could go either way, but I have peeps in Omaha, so solidarity!)
Kentucky over Davidson (so tempted to go the other way here, b/c I am no Calipari fan, but just can't do it.)
Arizona over Buffalo (every tournament needs a villain, why not Zona?)
Loyola-Chicago over Miami (my upset special of the South)
Tennessee over Wright State
Nevada over Texas
Cincy over Georgia State

UVA gets…

Netflix & Chill #40: Lincoln

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Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2012
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones*
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Pick: Mine

This movie has been on my 'must-watch' list for quite a few years now, but for whatever reason I have never gotten around to it, so when it popped up on Netflix- I'm assuming as an President's Day gift, I loaded it up and plunged right in.

The movie opens in January of 1865 and President Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is expecting the Civil War to be over soon. Anticipating this and worried that his Emancipation Proclamation could be discarded by the courts after the war, he is adamant and determined to secure passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery before the end of the war when the returning Confederate States would presumably vote it down. He wants to eliminate any possibility that freed slaves could be re-enslaved.

However, the political atmosphere that confronts him i…

This Week In Vexillology #251

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We're continuing our journey through the flags of Ireland this week, heading south from Connacht to take a look at the flag of Munster:
That Kerrygold butter that everyone raves about? Well, it comes from Munster. Weirdly though, the cheese doesn't- which is kind of a bummer, because it would dovetail nicely with the whole 'awesome butter' thing that Kerry has going on. It consists of the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford- it's also the home of the Blarney Stone, Skellig Michael of The Last Jedi fame and of course, Jameson Whiskey and Waterford- so you can get the whiskey and the crystal glasses to drink it in. So Munster is apparently where all the fun stuff is. So that brings us back to our most pressing question of all: just where the heck is Munster? Well, our handy-dandy map of Ireland is back and ready to assist us.

The green part shaded in on the map down there on the southwest chunk of Ireland? That's Munster. (And thinkin…

Squawk Box: Dirty Money/Altered Carbon

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There is a lot to like about one of Netflix's newest shows, Dirty Money. A six episode look at a variety of corporate and business scandals that have dominated the headlines over the past few years, its hard not to be outraged and some of the examples of corporate malfeasance and corruption that they explore.

The quote that's sort of sticking in my craw about this series is found on it's Wiki-Page, which cites Brian Lowry of CNN saying: "for pro-business advocates of deregulation... offers a simple yet powerful rejoinder: Look at the terrible, unethical behavior that corporate entities try getting away with when they think nobody's looking." I kind of agree with this, but I also think it's nowhere near as simple as this quotes pretends.

Yes, Dirty Money does tackle corporate scandals like the VW Emissions scandal and yes, it's shocking. I just assumed that VW had cheated in a regular, shitty big corporate kind of way, but no- it was far more sinister …

Kidlit: Roald Dahl

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This collection was perhaps the best birthday present the Missus and I have come up with thus far for the Elder Spawn. I'm not sure he'd necessarily agree with us- at least not yet- he's a big fan of his Nintendo DS and playing Mario Kart right now, but one thing he always loves and always gets sad if we run out of time to do, is reading books.

Our Roald Dahl adventure began with Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was always my favorite Roald Dahl book growing up, just because Mr. Fox seemed like so much fun and it was a short, adventurous read. We followed that up with The BFG (which I hadn't read before) and then James and The Giant Peach and Danny The Champion of The World, The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Esio Trot and we're getting toward the end of Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator.

Dahl can tell one hell of a story and retains so much of his charm even when you're reading these books as an adult. I never managed to become a Dahl c…

The Worst 48 Hrs. Since 'Another 48 Hrs.'

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Worst. Weekend. Ever.

Friday began with a sad trip to the vet to put our Yorkie, Sophie to sleep. We'd known for awhile know that she had a large mass on her abdomen and was showing signs of heart failure and had been doing our best to keep her comfortable with a couple of medications that seemed to be helping. But in the last week or so, she had taken a turn. She just wasn't comfortable any more and was having trouble getting up sometimes and it was getting harder and harder for her to breathe, so we made the appointment and took her in.

Sophie was a sweet little dog that came into our lives thanks to a friend of my sister in law's who had broken up with her fiancee. The fiancee was being charming about this poor little dog, threatening to take her to the pound and my sister in law swooped in to save the day- but through a series of circumstances that I'm still kind of fuzzy on, the Missus (who was The Girlfriend at the time) and I ended up sort of adopting her as ou…

This Week In Vexillology #250

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It's March and I was struggling to come up with a fresh idea or two for this feature when a handy dandy dive into Wikipedia gave me some inspiration. It's St. Patrick's Day this month and I happened upon a flag of the four provinces of Ireland: Connact, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. I figured- four weeks and four provinces will take care of the bulk of the month of March, so in celebration of St. Paddy's Day and all things Irish, we're starting off This Week in Vexillology with the flag of Connacht:
First of all: how bad ass is this flag? A big strong arm and a sword on one half and a fearsome looking eagle on the other- I don't know what to think except: bad ass. (And be possibly worried about a one winged, one armed mutant black eagle coming to kill me with a sword.) The next (and perhaps more obvious) thing to tackle would be a simple question of geography: just where the heck is Connacht? Well, it's here:

That part in the green there? That's the prov…

Bookshot #106: Silence

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I saw some previews for the movie Silence and read some articles about what a passion project it was for it's director, Martin Scorsese and so I figured, 'man, I should get ahold of this book and read it,' so I did.

In the 17th Century, when news reaches the Church in Portugal that a Jesuit Priest named Ferreira had undergone torture in Nagasaki and renounced his beliefs, the Church decides to send two young Priests, Father Rodrigues and Father Garrpe to research the truth of the matter and minister to the Christians of Japan while they do so. Japan is currently in a period of repression against Christians, so both Priests make the long arduous journey, first to Macao and then to Japan knowing that once in the country, they will be in great danger.

The Priests make landfall and soon find a Christian community in a nearby village. They begin to minister to the faithful, while hiding from occasional sweeps by samurai sent by the local magistrate, Inoue, whose name they have …