Archive for the ‘Flags’ Category

Better flags through design

July 22, 2023

In the Economist 7/1/23 issue (on-line 6//29): in print: “Raising the standard: How to avoid having an embarrassing emblem”; on-line: “How to design better flags: Some tips to avoid having an embarrassing emblem” (the jokey titles come in the print edition; on-line is just the information). Below the line, the full on-line text, with illustrative flags from my files interspersed throughout the text, plus the illustration from the on-line article.

Have you ever met a vexed vexillologist? This is someone who frets when flags are badly designed. Sadly, too many flags flutter to deceive: they are cluttered with imagery, a mess of colours and all too easily forgettable. Yet flags matter. Witness Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow banner, which now serves as a potent symbol around the world (not to mention on this newspaper’s covers).

(#1) The Ukraine flag

A fine flag can be something that citizens feel proud to pledge allegiance to, as well as an excellent marketing tool. Canada’s red maple leaf, for example, has advertised the country on countless backpacks across the world.

(#2) The Canadian flag

A bad banner has an obvious solution: change it. That is what several American states and cities have been doing, or at least contemplating. In March, Utah approved a new standard with a bold beehive to replace its fussier old flag. Maine may ask voters to decide in November whether it should switch from its current, over-intricate design to a different one with a plain pine tree and a blue star, a reinterpretation of an older banner, which is already proving popular. The design is not yet settled, so perhaps a flag with a lobster could pinch the honours at the last minute.

Many people in Minnesota may not even realise they have a state flag — which is lucky. The state representative who has led a campaign to replace the current one has described it as “a cluttered genocidal mess”. Its imagery includes three dates from the 1800s, a French motto and a Native American riding away in the background while, in the foreground, a farmer tills the land. A new design is due to replace it next May.

(#3) The Minnesota flag

Fortunately, the world has centuries of experience that can help guide better flag design. This has led to a few well-established rules. First, keep it simple. A good test is whether a child can draw it from memory. Japan’s red circle in a white rectangle passes the test with, er, flying colours. So does New Mexico’s design (pictured), another red-sun symbol, against a yellow background; it is a thing of simple beauty.

(#4) The Economist illustration

Second, use meaningful symbolism: think Israel’s Star of David, the Soviet hammer-and-sickle

(#5) The Soviet Union flag

or America’s 50 stars, representing all its states, and 13 stripes, evoking the original colonies. (Mozambique, displaying an ak-47 assault rifle, perhaps went too far.) Third, limit the palette to just a few basic colours. True, as South Africa’s black-gold-green-white-red-blue emblem shows, it is possible to break this rule successfully, but even the rainbow Pride flag, in its most familiar version, cut two colours from its original eight, because hot pink and cool turquoise made it hard to manufacture.

(#6) The standard Gay Pride flag

The fact that banners are often viewed from the back helps explain a fourth sensible rule: avoid lettering.

Last but certainly not least: be distinctive. You will then avoid the situation of Indonesia and Monaco, whose flags look the same, as do Romania’s and Chad’s. Nepal’s jagged double-pennon, by contrast, is delightfully unique — the only national flag with an irregular shape. Similarly, Jamaica’s is the only one without red, white or blue. Switzerland and the Vatican stand out as the only countries with flags that are square.

(#7) The Swiss flag

Sometimes proposals for new flags fail. Badges of identity arouse strong feelings. New Zealanders rejected a switch in a referendum in 2016. Traditionalists can feel attached to old emblems. But from Maine to Milwaukee, plenty of places — call them flaggards — have dreadful, old-fashioned banners that are ripe for change. In 2004 Pocatello, Idaho, was reckoned in a survey of vexillologists to have the worst city flag in America. It was changed in 2017, and in a survey last year the new flag ranked 11th in the country. Come on, flaggards, do the Pocatello.


August 10, 2022

(Warning: the posting quickly descends into various kinds of vulgar, unsavory slang.)

From Kyle Wohlmut (from Twitter) on Facebook this morning, with the comment “good morning fuckers’:

(#1) A set of three plastic kitchen scoops, in a package designed to hang on a supermarket display hook; note the notch at the top of the package, for slipping over the hook; the back of the package has the name of the item in four languages, from four countries, the countries identified by flags (in tiny, muddy, b&w images), and as you go down the list, the referents of the names — names evidently supplied by some translation software — drift rapidly away from a kitchen scoop and get raunchier and raunchier: ‘scraping, scratching’, figurative ‘son of a bitch’ (literally ‘son of a whore’), figurative ‘fucker’ (referring to a contemptible or stupid person; to any man, to a guy; or to some unspecified object)


Sisgender Night’s Dream

June 20, 2022

Start with the sexual-identity terms cis(gender) and trans(gender), which I looked at on this blog yesterday, and they’ll lead you to various forms of language play. If there’s a Transylvania — actually, there are several —  where is its counterpart Cisylvania? Is there a (punning) gender-identity term sisgender for sissies and fems?  And a Sis(s)ylvania for them to live in — perhaps the fairies’ wooded land (as in Midsummer Night’s Dream)?

It’s the curse of the associative mind. We all have them, but some of us have really big ones.


Flagging day

June 15, 2022

(Well yes, holiday time, but it quicky turns to man-on-man sex in street language, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Yesterday, June 14th, was Flag Day in my country: “It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.” (from Wikipedia). I am not in the habit of flying the American flag, not out of a lack of love for the country, but out of a desire not to be seen as a yahoo flying the flag as an aggressive symbol of exclusion for those who aren’t “real Americans” — people of color, lgbt folk, liberals in coastal big cities, artists and scholars, and all the rest of us scum. If I flew an American flag yesterday, it would have had to be in conjunction with at least a Rainbow Pride Flag. But I don’t have the flagpoles, or any place to put them. I do have a rainbow flag draped over the fencing in my entryway, and that’s already up against the tolerance of the condo Homeowners Association. And I display the rainbow flag — and also the Swiss flag — on gym shorts and t-shirts.

I think of these displays on my body as flagging gay and flagging Swiss, with a use of the verb flag — to convey (in my rough definition) something like ‘(U.S. gay) display, on one’s body or in one’s attire, a symbol of identity or taste, with the intention of communicating those to potentially interested others’ — that appears not to be covered in standard general or slang dictionaries (up to and including OED2, though that’s in sore need of updating).

I think Flag Day should be left as it is, but today, June 15th, midway through Gay Pride Month, would be a good moment for (Gay) Flagging Day, using conventions that grew up in the mid-20th century.


Big queer cool noodles

June 11, 2022

In the bon appétit e-mail yesterday (6/10), Taiwanese noodles for Gay Pride Month. From the e-mail:

Big Queer Cold Noodles: These noodles have a special place in the heart and stomach of BA contributor Jessie YuChen, who styled the recipe after a beloved late-night dish from a hole-in-the-wall neighbor to Taipei’s only lesbian bar. It’s perfect for Pride parties all summer long.

A cold salad of (mostly) vegetables in rainbow flag colors, plus of course the cold noodles. Missing the color blue, which is not available in any common vegetable. Instead of yellow bell peppers or squash for yellow: beaten eggs cooked in sheets and then cut into strips. And with the six colors not quite in their canonical order red – orange – yellow – green – (blue) – purple; going clockwise from the red bell peppers, the orange carrots are out of order. But then why should a celebration of the gay and queer have to adhere to a normative ordering?


Flying the flag of my people

August 4, 2021

The foreshadowing, from my 7/31 posting “If you squint, you can see Switzerland”:

I have not celebrated Swiss National Day [August 1st] with any sort of Carnivalesque disorder, though I did decide to acquire a mid-sized Gay Pride flag to display at my condo, now that one of my neighbors in the complex has somehow surmounted the HOA ban on such displays with a big rainbow flag on a balcony and a Black Lives Matter sign on the street.

My intention was realized yesterday, with the arrival of this excellent 2×3 ft product of the U.S. Flag Factory:

(#1) (photos, at dawn today, by Kim Darnell)

Just the size I wanted, to fit this particular space. Hanging from a nail once used for Christmas wreaths, when those were one of the few allowable public displays in the complex. The flag’s on the gate to my front patio (you can see the light from my workspace, through the window), along the short entryway to my condo from the street. So it is indeed a public display, visibly celebrating gayness to anyone who walks by on the street.

(I wonder if it’s too generically celebratory, like the rainbow flag that the local Pizzeria Delfina flies above its door — and unlike the rainbow flags flown by some local churches, which are signs of sanctuary and care. Maybe I should get a plaque made for the door: GAY INSIDE. I wonder if I could get a welcome mat made with that on it.)


Is that an American flag in your crotch?

February 6, 2021

(Fit young men wearing nothing but scraps of the American flag pattern, so not for those who are modest about displays of the male body or offended by casual disregard for the flag, but there’s nothing actually raunchy here.)

In the great avalanche of underwear ads that’s been rolling over my Facebook — wretched excess, even for someone with my tastes — there came, this morning, this arresting ad offering a JOR US flag bikini jockstrap (which looks like a (mini-)brief from the front) — plus one of the model’s armpits):


It started with a kiss

January 24, 2021

(Six male-male kisses, of different sorts and with different sociocultural meanings, plus a general suffusion of homoerotic content and undercurrents throughout, so this posting is not to everyone’s taste — but there’s nothing raunchy enough to make it plainly unsuitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

It started with a kiss in a poster (from Hana Filip on Facebook, long ago — 2/23/19) apparently signifying the union of the Soviet Army and Navy, but it turns out to be sheer invention, the work of the artist Igor Baskakov, whose specialties include a very uneasy blend of official Communism and high-commercial capitalism:

(#1) The caption: ‘Support/Strengthen the union of the Army and Navy’

Three things about this poster. First, it alludes to (as Hana put it) the fraternal socialist kiss trope, the most (in)famous of which is the kiss between Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker (1979):


Gay couple in Pouchland

July 20, 2020

… with vivid pops of genital color in their underwear, plus waistbands that celebrate peace and freedom, also exhibiting sharply differentiated roles in their relationship. Lots of stuff packed into just one Daily Jocks ad (for the Modus Vivendi Peace line of underwear) from 7/15. There will be plain talk about men’s bodies and mansex, so this posting is not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.


Boy oh Boyu!

January 9, 2020

David Bowie seems to have a considerable following in Russia, to judge from the Pinterest materials about him, for instance this album:

(#1) Дэвид Боуи: David Bowie in Cyrillic transiteration

Боуи gets the [wi] of Bowie just right, but to Latin-alphabet-oriented eyes that уи looks like YU [ju], so Боуи looks like Boyu: Boy oh Boyu!