Awesome Flags You’ve Probably Never Seen Before

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about flags, hasn’t it? Well, today we’re fixing that!

In previous posts, I’ve told you about why some countries change their flags, and I’ve also discussed some of my favorite and least favorite flags. However, when you take up vexillology (the study of flags) as a hobby, you frequently encounter any number of flags that are not widely known by the general public. It’s a shame, too, since many of these flags are quite fascinating. So, today I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

National flags

Flag of Grenada image from Wikipedia

This is the flag of the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada. With a total area of merely 132.8 square miles and a population of 109,590, this small country found a way to symbolize itself with a flag far cooler and more interesting than those of some far larger and more populous countries.

Plain red banner and five stars? That's the best you could do, China?

Plain red banner and five stars? That’s the best you could do, China?

Designed by artist Anthony C. George, the Grenadian flag’s colors were chosen to represent courage (red), wisdom (yellow), and agriculture (green). The six stars along the edge represent the island’s six parishes, with the star in the middle representing Saint George’s, the capital city. The funny looking thing on the left-hand side is actually a nutmeg, representing the island’s nickname as “the island of spice”. Considering how little the artist had to work with as far as symbolism goes, it’s truly impressive that he was able to create such a beautiful design.

Grenada’s not the only island nation with a cool flag, though.

Flag of Kiribati image from Wikipedia

Kiribati is a nation in the Pacific Ocean made up of a collection of small islands near the equator. If nothing else, it’s flag is appropriate. I can imagine seeing a seabird in the sky as the sun rises over the ocean is probably a pretty common sight there. This banner proudly proclaims “we are a tropical paradise” to the world, and I say the proclamation is absolutely beautiful.

Flag of the Vatican City image from Wikipedia

While we’re on the subject of small countries, here is the flag of the world’s smallest country: Vatican City. The pope’s home has a banner that, not surprisingly, represents the Roman Catholic Church. The gold and white bars represent gold and silver, respectively, and the two keys on the flag are also gold and silver. The keys represent the “keys to heaven”, i.e. faith in Jesus Christ. The gold represents the spiritual while the silver represents the worldly. Of course, since this is the Vatican’s flag, the whole thing is topped off with the pope’s famously funny-shaped hat.

Still, the Vatican City’s flag is a fairly normal banner, all things considered. Not so the flag of Nepal:

Flag of Nepal image from Wikipedia

No, your eyes do not deceive you. This flag is in the shape of two triangles. Every other country in the world has a square or rectangular flag, but Nepal decided it just had to be different. Then again, when you consider that this banner is based on designs that date back 2,000 years, the decision not to “be square” makes a bit more sense.

Red is Nepal’s national color, the blue border represents peace, and the sun and moon are used to express the hope that Nepal will survive as long as those two celestial bodies remain in the sky. According to this video, the flag is also “the most mathematical flag in the world”, since its shape is based on principles of geometry.

Native American flags

I am willing to bet many of you didn’t know that Native American tribes often have their own flags, did you? As mentioned in a previous Cat Flag, these groups are legally considered “nations” of a sort by the U.S. government, and so, yes, many of them want to have a national flag of their own.

Navajo Flag image from Wikipedia

This flag represents the Navajo Nation. Designed by Jay R. DeGroat, the flag shows a map of the Navajo reservation with several symbols of modern Navajo life in the center. The mountain peaks surrounding the map represent both the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) and the Navajo people’s four Sacred Mountains. Lastly, the rainbow represents the tribe’s sovereignty.

Pine Ridge Sioux Flag image from Wikipedia

This flag is far less complicated. Used by the Sioux of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I like the basic idea of a circle of tepees in the shape of a sun. It is simple, elegant, and striking. It just looks cool, is what I’m saying.

Ojibwe Flag image from Wikipedia

Another entry in the “simple but striking” category. This flag is used by the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes area, who are also called “Ojibwe” or “Chippewa” in older texts. The flag depicts the Thunderbird, a sacred figure in their traditional mythology.

Wrong Thunderbird!

Wrong Thunderbird!

Historic flags

Of course, some of the coolest flags are found in history. There are plenty of countries that no longer exist but left behind some awesome banners for future generations of vexillologists to share. For example…

Flag of Ryuku image from Wikipedia

This flag was used by the Ryuku Kingdom that existed in what is now southern Japan from 1429 to 1879. The kingdom consisted of three tribal federations united under one ruler, which is probably why the flag has three stripes and a mon with three tails. Either way, it looks great, and it’s kind of a shame that the kingdom that used this flag had to go.

Flag of Sulu image from Wikipedia

Another country that left behind an awesome flag was the Sultanate of Sulu, which existed in parts of what is now Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I admit it, I am a sucker for ornate decorative motifs on flags. This actually just one of many, many flags the sultanate used over the centuries, but I personally think it is the prettiest of them all. It depicts the sun rising behind the Gates of Mecca, a motif that makes sense for a Muslim country.

Flag of the Republic of Venice image from Wikipedia

When it comes to ornate, though, it is hard to beat this flag used by the Republic of Venice. The flag depicts the Lion of St. Mark, a Christian symbol associated with the city for centuries. Local legend has it that St. Mark was travelling through the Roman Empire spreading the word of Jesus when he happened to get stuck in the lagoons that would eventually become Venice. It was here he had a vision of a winged lion telling him that he would be buried there. Eight centuries later, two Italian smugglers managed to steal St. Marks remains and bring them to Venice, where his remains are allegedly still buried today (though a church in Alexandria, Egypt disputes this). Meanwhile, the flag’s six tails represent the traditional six districts of the city of Venice.

So there you have it, Cat Flaggers, a sampling of some of my favorite flags from around the world. That should hopefully satisfy the “flag” part of “Cat Flag” for a while.

Cat Flag would like to take a moment on this Memorial Day to honor those who have died fighting under the flag of the United States, and remember the living veterans who have fought for our nation. We salute you.

“Godzilla” Gets It Right… Almost TOO Right

Godzilla Image from ScreenRant

Everybody knows Godzilla. He is one of those iconic characters that we just don’t want to get rid of, passing him down from generation to generation in movie after movie. There are currently 32 Godzilla films and counting. The latest entry, simply titled Godzilla, was made as a joint project between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. under an agreement with the Japanese film company Toho, who created the character and own all the rights.

Toho must have been very nervous about letting American filmmakers try their hands at making a new entry to the series. The last time they trusted Hollywood with Godzilla, the result was trounced at the box office and detested by critics.

Pictured: A complete and utter disaster. And also a giant lizard rampaging Manhattan.

Pictured: A complete and utter disaster. And also a giant lizard rampaging Manhattan.

The film was so bad, the next Toho-made Godzilla movie had the “real” Godzilla fight and kill the American “impostor” Godzilla. Yes, that happened.

There are many reasons why the 1998 Godzilla movie failed (not the least of which being the decision to put Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day fame, in charge), but it appears that the main lesson Toho and Hollywood learned was that the film failed because it strayed so far from the source material that it was completely unrecognizable. I say that because the new Godzilla takes the exact opposite tactic: it slavishly clings to the classic Godzilla formula.

This new American Godzilla looks and feels exactly like a classic Japanese kaiju (giant monster) movie made with the big budget, CGI, and special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster. The only major changes are that most of the main characters are Americans (except for the obligatory Ken Watanabe, Hollywood’s go-to “we need a Japanese actor” actor), the U.S. military stands in for the Japanese one in the army-vs.-monster scenes, and most of the big action scenes take place in America. Other than these minor tweaks, the film follows the source material very closely.

They even made the new Godzilla look like the classic monster. Mostly.

They even made the new Godzilla look like the classic monster. Mostly.

It feels like the filmmakers had a checklist of all the things classic Godzilla movies are known for and were making sure they ticked all the boxes. Godzilla? Check. Other giant monsters for Godzilla to fight? Check. Mass destruction? Check. Buildings getting knocked over? Check. The military trying to fight the monsters but ending up completely useless? Check.

Credit where credit is due, those action beats are really, really good. Up-and-coming director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) was a good choice for this movie; he really knows how to use pacing to ramp up tension. The slow, methodical, gradual reveal of Godzilla himself is absolutely amazing. The climactic fight at the end was a real treat to watch. The movie’s monster fight scenes certainly do not disappoint.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t just copy all the good parts of a classic Godzilla movie. It also copies some of the things that give the franchise its campy reputation. Goofy pseudoscience gobbledygook that makes no sense? Check. The scientist pleads for the military to not kill the monster? Check. A paper-thin plot that just serves to get us from one action scene to the next? Check.

The action may be great, but the characters and plot most certainly are not. The filmmakers got some real acting talent for this movie – Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, David Strathairn – and they are clearly giving it their all. Unfortunately, they just can’t cover up the fact that the script is a half-baked mess. The characters frequently say or do things that make no sense given their established motivations and histories. They repeatedly wind up wherever they have to be to advance the plot through sheer coincidence or no explanation at all.

In fact, over-reliance on coincidence is the real downfall of this film. The main characters keep narrowly escaping certain death through sheer luck, again and again and again. It’s like they have some magic “main character shield” protecting them. I’m sorry, but there is only so far you can stretch your suspension of disbelief before it snaps. After the main hero survived something he shouldn’t have three times, I just couldn’t stay invested in the story anymore. Continuing to put these characters in danger stopped creating any tension, because I knew the writers would find some poorly-thought-out way for them to escape. By the end, I was actually frustrated when they cut away from the Godzilla fight to show what the humans were doing. I actually thought to myself, “I don’t care! Just show me Godzilla smashing something!”

If you just want to spend a couple of hours mindlessly watching things blowing up and giant monsters being as awesome as they should be, Godzilla will satisfy that craving quite nicely. If you want a movie that has an actual plot that makes sense, characters you actually care about, and some deeper thought or meaning behind it, you will have to look elsewhere. I’m sorry, Godzilla, but I can’t in good conscience give your movie higher than a 3 out of 5.

Why You Should Care About the FCC’s New “Net Neutrality” Rules

An Editorial

Could this be the future of Cat Flag?

Could this be the future of Cat Flag?

You may or may not have heard of the phrase “net neutrality”, but if you use the Internet, you should care about it. From the moment the Internet was created until just this year, net neutrality has been the thing that has made it the essential daily tool, open world of information, playground, and force for technological and business innovation we all know and love. But here in the United States, net neutrality may soon disappear.

Net neutrality essentially is a non-discrimination policy for the Internet. It says that what you want to use the World Wide Web for is completely up to you. Whether you want to read Cat Flag, upload your latest selfie to Instagram, watch movies on Netflix, spend your entire day playing World of Warcraft,  or just check your e-mail, the company that is connecting you to the Internet can only give you the wires or wi-fi to do what you do. Companies like Comcast or Verizon can’t treat the different websites you visit or services you use differently. They have to give you access and get out of the way.

In some countries, particularly in Europe, the principle of net neutrality is actually mandated by law. Here in the United States, however, there is no specific law requiring net neutrality. Instead, the U.S. government entrusts the FCC with the power to monitor and regulate the Internet. Since 2005, the FCC has told companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable to abide by the net neutrality principle.

Then in January of this year, a federal court ruled that these FCC net neutrality rules were invalid. Specifically, the court found that the FCC, who can only legally act where Congress gives them the authority to act, had overreached their authority in making their net neutrality rules. The court told the FCC to go back and rewrite the rules so that they were consistent with federal laws. The FCC could have appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, but chose not to.

Instead, the FCC decided to go back to the drawing board. As of right now, the draft they are considering is a secret, but some of the basic ideas they are discussing were leaked to the press. What these leaks show is not encouraging.

Under the proposal, your Internet connection could look more like your cable or satellite company. Internet service providers would be able to charge Web-based companies a premium fee for a faster connection to your computer or smartphone. Big businesses like Google, Facebook, Netflix, or Blizzard would essentially pay for better service.

This is very bad news for you. Yes, you, reading this editorial right now. The money these big companies would be paying has to come from somewhere. If you subscribe to Netflix or play online games, your subscription will probably go up. Facebook and Twitter might have to start charging their users, or at the very least, the number of ads you see when you log in will go up. What if Amazon decides it wants to pay for a faster connection, too? Will they have to raise their prices?

Even worse, the fact that these big, successful businesses could buy better connections would cause innovation online to stagnate. The next entrepreneur with the next big idea for a web-based business wouldn’t have the money to pay for this preferential treatment. If you tried to go visit his or her website, the connection could be so slow that you give up and just stick with the established big-business websites. The Internet would go from a place where anyone willing to put in the hard work can make it to a place where it isn’t even worth it to try.

Where does this leave Cat Flag? I use WordPress to make this blog, so my fortunes in this un-neutral Internet will be tied to WordPress’s fortunes. Sure, WordPress makes money and is far from poor, but it doesn’t earn the billions of dollars that Google or Netflix or Blizzard can draw from. Would WordPress be able to compete in a world where you have to pay for speed? Will you be able to keep enjoying my blog?

So far, the FCC insists that it is committed to a fair and open Internet. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler declared, “Let me be clear. If someone acts to divide the Internet between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ we will use every power at our disposal to stop it.” Previous FCC statements have also insisted that they will not allow Internet service providers to unfairly favor their own services; for example, Comcast, who owns NBC, would not be able to direct traffic to NBC’s websites by blocking or slowing down connections to competing websites. While these statements are reassuring, the fact is that for now we have to take the FCC’s word for it, since the proposed new rules won’t be made public until May 15.

The good news is that when the rules are made public, the FCC will give the public a chance to have its voice heard. When that happens, the FCC will be providing a link on this page to submit your comments to the agency electronically. You could also send them a letter, writing to them at this address:

Marlene H. Dortch, Secretary
Federal Communications Commission
Office of the Secretary
445 12th Street, SW
Room TW-B204
Washington, DC 20554

There are further instructions on this web page on how to submit comments to the FCC through either method.

I’m not telling you that you must send them a comment or letter, nor am I saying you necessarily have to agree with me here. I know someone who actually opposes net neutrality and thinks the proposed new rules are fair, on the logic that those who gobble up more bandwidth (such as the big businesses we’ve been talking about) should have to pay for better service, since it takes so much time and money to provide access to their web content. There are plenty of other anti-net neutrality arguments one can make, with just a few of them listed here.

What I am saying is that I will be sending the FCC my opinion on May 15, and if you feel the same way I do on this issue, or even if you strongly disagree, please consider making your voice heard.