Saturday, 26 September 2015

Looks a Bit Peaky to Me, Red

We should all know the story by now.

Some dude (John Key) decides that we should change the flag, gets a bunch of people together, comes up with a bloody awful way of ordering things and then sits back and expects to ride the wave of popular support. Except it never happened. In fact, the closest it came to is, well, the post-list of four negativity which evolved into, quite organically, the support for Red Peak. After some eleventh hour politicking, that support got Red Peak into referendum number one.

Some of you may remember Red Peak from this blog. I was a pretty early advocate for it, the first time it came up was in the aftermath of the shortlist (as in the "long list").
We've known for a while, now, what the shortlist is. I'm not a fan, obviously, of them but I'm hoping one of the triangle ones gets in on the basis that all the others would be crap flags in terms of flag crap. I actually made a pretty angular suggestion myself and was intending on doing another more in line with these. The only issue with the current triangles is that black is an awful colour for a flag. I'd prefer, in fact, if the second one was chosen but amended to have the blue in both cases. I'd vote for such a design with a relatively eased conscience (you may recall that I am opposed to the flag change).
I'd like to say that my comments here and those on my third flag change post were influential but that would be to ignore all the evidence.

The simple reality is that Red Peak came up because of people like me, but not me, who were aware of the long list and who are aware of what I call "flag crap" and the distinction that must be drawn between "flag crap" and "logo theory", Flags and logos are different things. I made this clear a bit later on in that post.
Also, to be honest, a silver fern isn't that eye-catching and, well, none of the shortlist are... not really. On the other hand, few flags are. To some extent, we're importing what I'm going to call "logo theory".
In fact, in that post with my treatment of the topic holistically and with my discussion of the triangle flags specifically, I actually dealt with a number of the arguments that we see popping up in the context of Red Peak. A lot of these come from people opposed to flag change, as we might expect, but a lot of them, perhaps most of them, are Lockwood fanboys spitting sour grapes because the general response to, not one but two, Lockwood designs was "But these four are all fugly". Perhaps that's a little unfair. A lot of the anti-Red Peak views are probably better characterised as "But muh silver fern". That, in itself, is a big issue too.

The reality is that the Silver Fern simply isn't associated with NZ by people outside NZ or by people in NZ who aren't rugby fans (and, indeed, there's an argument to be made that to a great many NZers, the whole silver fern/All Blacks issue means that the silver fern says very specific and negative things about this country... I wholeheartedly agree there). Furthermore, even if you want to make arguments like "they're on our war graves" you have to contextualise this in terms of why that happened (which is not done, and nor do I know where to begin that enquiry). Likewise, national colours, flora and birds are often not on flags... look at the Netherlands, Scotland or the USA. Every argument for the Silver Fern, to my mind, simply boils down to All Blackism.

Yet, we can't dismiss the fanboy arguments as completely irrelevant in considering why Red Peak became an option. Sure, there are people like me who knew about Red Peak and who said stuff about Red Peak and got the ball rolling. And, sure, views like or similar to ours developed steam and probably convinced some people as they became aware of things. Yet, I think the fanboys are right in that Red Peak sort of became the protest symbol: Red Peak's not a flag option, it's the flag option that the Man tried to keep down, yo. You're getting the anti-Keys coming out and seeing an opportunity, once Red Peak was already a Thing mind, to stick it to the Man (and a very righteous mission it is indeed) and that's a pretty substantial internet voice right there. You're also getting people, again like me, who recognise that the Panel process was screwed up from the beginning and that we had no opportunity to have a discussion on the short list. The so called Long List, in all honesty, was completely pointless without that. The Long List was merely an overture to create a veneer of democracy in, as I pointed out on a Facebook argument, something which strikes at the very core of the idea of representative democracy. All sorts of ideas came to be embroiled in Red Peak, then. The groundswell that this should've had from the start, that should've prompted flag change's status as an election item (from both National and Labour), that legitimises the whole endeavour, then, only came about at the eleventh hour. If this were a movie we'd call it cliche, unbelievable even. Some might say these other contributing causes deligitimise the support, but other than the anti-Johns, that's not the case. That diverse elements of dissatisfaction with all levels of the process could come together? That's the very core of the organic groundswell this needed.

That's a pretty fat paragraph and it's discussing a fairly narrow thing. That says something. Red Peak now means more than just a flag design. It's a term that encompasses what's actually a fairly complex process. I should mention the NZ First Godwin tactic (note, Godwin's Law is two things, strictly speaking it's a fairly trivial probability concept, in popular terms it's a lazy argument technique... comparing to the Nazis is easy, m8.... or a law that means you lose if you fulfil it) because that's, you know, a thing. I should discuss the Herald's terribly pro-John Key coverage of the issue (and that coverage is probably going to be self-fulfilling: people go looking for what the impact of the affair is politically, get biased analysis that tells them, they believe it) which makes out that when Labour had an opportunity to support Red Peak it tried to get the mandate vote included (note, included, not instead of) in the first referendum. There's all this going on as well. But, really, Red Peak's interesting because despite its actual content being very difficult and different, John Key finally got the kind of discussion that he probably imagined at the start of all this.

Which I guess means it's time to post what I found hilarious:

Discovered Here.
Which reminds me, I said I'd fairly happily vote for a triangle option. In hindsight, that's not really true. Given the five options it'll be: hynoflag, Red Peak, weird fern, Black Lockwood, Blue Lockwood. Why? Well, it's a tactical vote. Unable to vote for my preferred flag (the current one) I will vote in such a way that I do my best to vote for it by proxy. Although, prior to Red Peak, a tactical vote would be no different, for me (to the extent that I abhor both Lockwoods and the only way to really distinguish them is that I think the black one is less popular). Hypnoflag looks better and more flaggish than either of the other three originals. It's also probably the least popular. The weird fern is also too weird for pure fernites. Putting Red Peak in second, though? Well that means that there is some acknowledgement that it's a flag. An actual proper flag.

Prediction time?

Either Red Peak or a Lockwood design to go against the current flag.

Current Flag wins by KO. Maybe points if it's Red Peak.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Comlaw Girl and Annoying Guy

This blog's a little unethical because it's a little gossipy. That is, I'm going to say some things about some people without said people really knowing about it or, indeed, having an opportunity to respond. My apologies to those people.

Firstly, Comlaw Girl and Annoying Guy are people I do not know. In fact, this is my first point. At school you will probably get an opportunity to find out who everyone is. If I ever get the time, it'd be fun to create a parody of my meeting with a chap we'll call John. Basically, everyone (it seemed) knew John and was always talking about John but I was completely lost. Thus, it was arranged that John and I would meet. This, in reality, was a short conversation (iirc) outside my art room but in the parody it'd be some sort of mafia underworld thing. At university, or at least a uni of a scale like Auckland's, this is quite unlikely. You meet people through activities, maybe tutorials (even less likely lectures) or mutual acquaintances/friends (or chance)... if you're not in a hall or flatting or something like that. Thus, if you're continually recognising the same people sitting around you in a lecture, you'll probably never get to know them at all. Yet, you will see them fairly frequently and, perhaps (if you have no-one to chat to) you will notice them enough you need to have some sort of reference for them in your head (recall technical anonymity's point on names?). Which brings me to...

Secondly, Comlaw Girl and Annoying Guy really are just names I developed for my personal sanity. Comlaw Girl actually sat behind me in Accounting with a bunch of guys on a pretty consistent basis. However, the name comes from a time when I was sitting at a computer in OGGB outside the labs and she sat down in the chair to my left to do some work. Being the curious and easily distracted fellow that I am, I looked at her books and noticed one of them was "Comlaw 101". This would've been forgotten if I hadn't noticed her in Accounting later that day, where I presumably sat there thinking, "I'm sure I've seen here before... oh, that's the girl with the Comlaw book from before". Thus, was born Comlaw Girl. (We've never interacted.)

Annoying Guy, as the clearly loaded name suggests, has a different, as it were, origin story. I'm a history student and so is Annoying Guy. In fact, Annoying Guy's notable because in the last few weeks of the course we're both in at the moment he's really begun to embrace the participatory nature of the discussion. This is, theoretically, a good thing. However, in the last two tutorials he's seemed (particularly in the first of this run) to have almost dominated the discussion. It's one thing to get engaged with the material (and the dude's clearly done that and is, from my less informed point of view, well informed of quite a lot around this) and to participate in discussion, but there's just something about how Annoying Guy does this. Yet, perhaps my annoyance is because it's not me knowing these things and saying them (this bit's important) rather than listening to long, rambling tangents, or maybe it's unfair to pick out Annoying Guy because, let's face it, we may well struggle for student opinions (without his contributions). I like to think it's the pseudo-intellectual and non-concise, and sometimes irrelevant but still very long, nature of what he says though that is what made me start calling him Annoying Guy (in my head). All up, I'm glad the tutor is, in some ways, more steadfast in treatment of him. I'm more likely to interact with Annoying Guy than Comlaw Girl but, as yet, it hasn't happened.


So, what was the point of all this? A little commentary on how you end up meeting people? A reason to not be studying for a test I'm not going to do well on? Some strangely self-aware comment on how your mind may not be as nice a person as you are in person? Honestly, I don't know. It is important to be aware that you're going to think of basically strangers in particular ways and that you may not always be reflected well in how you think about others (and talk about them). On the other hand, if you think people will think like me if you speak up in a tutorial then I'm a menace to education (the problem's how Annoying Guy does it: get to the chase, elaborate if it's really important, don't help the session not get where it needs to be). Maybe the title just sounded cool in my head.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Exams : Sports

Remember what I wrote about exams as performance? If you don't, I basically framed my ideas in terms of what I think the idea has to say about The History Boys (although, of course, my having read the play, its foreword and watched the film has informed my view of exam as performance) as well as the parallels between getting up on stage and sitting down to take that end of year/semester exam. Perhaps the biggest thing to note in that last section was stage fright just being code for "I didn't prepare enough". Sounds interesting, no?

Anyway, the point is that in the last week of the first half of semester two I had two tests. With my bad luck both of these tests were worth a fair bit (minimum 20%, as far as I remember at least one was worth more than this) and scheduled for the same time on the same day. Also, I had been sick so was behind on the material... which meant things were very hectic in terms of trying to catch up and get ready for the tests. Eventually, with economics, I decided that the course of action to pursue was to go through the relevant theory and leave my knowledge of the assignment and tutorial problems (and I've missed a few tutorials now: three in fact) to recover the practical gap this would leave. Comlaw was, theoretically, the same (I even went to office hours to get more feedback on AROPA... I'll explain when I do my course review) but I ended up being a bit rushed with the theory in the end.

At this stage, I don't know how well I actually did on Comlaw. However, it was the second one I sat so when I was doing my last minute cramming (by last minute I mean I had at least ten, if not twenty or thirty minutes between my last read-through and the exam's start) and just in general during its lead in the first test was still on my mind in a big way. This was a particular problem because when you have a clash standard procedure is to attend an early session and sign disclosure form/oath which means you can't talk about the test. If you flew through it this would probably not matter so much. However, I did not fly through my economics test.

Firstly, if you ever do Economics 201 at Auckland Uni I hope you're lucky enough to get Basil because the dude's legit. Secondly, this is not why I believed him when he said that the test shouldn't have been too tricky... this is my opinion of the questions that we were given. In general, the first question was easy, the third pretty easy and the middle one was a bit tougher. So, what happened in the test?

Basically, I bombed on the third question. Having collected my script "bombed" means "scored 0 out of 15". That's really bad. Luckily I got full marks for the first two questions (i.e. 2/3 or a B-) and, in fairness, bombed also means that I didn't present any real coherent answer. I basically drew a really bad graph and wrote some wrong mathy stuff. Possibly this is because I particularly skimped on the material that this question covered. At any rate, the point is that this weighed on my mind and made the first test a pretty non-positive (in fact, arguably negative) experience. My response? I was psyched. Basically I was absolutely jumping to get started on Comlaw and be done with the bally lot of them.

Psyched, eh? That sounds like a pretty good headspace to be in. Well, honestly, it's not. I felt wired: I was raring to go and, as a result, was actually really agitated. Now, that doesn't sound good. My mind was trying to think at a hundred miles an hour and was really interested in getting a wriggle on (we actually started late as well which was sooo helpful). This is okay if you're dealing with multiple choice... or, in other words, for the first two questions worth 2/3 of the test's marks I was in a mode of thinking which is actually okay. Sadly, if you're writing a sort of essay kinda thing or a longish logical piece, you want to be thinking quickly. You don't want to be wired because sooner or later that's going to translate into stress or anxiety or, simply, mean that you can't gather and collect your thoughts sufficiently to be cogent (and, perhaps, coherent). Certainly, you're not going to be able to properly figure our the salient points. I should do better in Comlaw even allowing for errors in the MCQs but not where I want to be (i.e. at least 80%).

So, exams as performance? Relevance?

Sports are a kind of performance (hence: performance enhancing drugs) and the psychological dimension is often huge. This was raised when Gatlin lost first the 100m and then the 200m to Bolt at the last Athletics World Champs despite having led the world for the past few seasons and having come into the tournament with way faster times.

The other big story in this respect is thatRoger Federer has recently lost two finals to Novak Djokovic despite having played better tennis up until the finals (particularly in the Wimbledon semi). I haven't seen the US Open final but having followed it textually and having seen much of the Wimbledon final, I think Djokovic has just developed an edge mentally in slams to go along with the physical advantage which comes from being a professional athlete at 34 (although even when I started following tennis seven or eight years ago Federer wasn't a five set marathon master a la Nadal). To build on Federer, Home Crowd advantage is interesting because while having the crowd on your side is generally recognised as an advantage, I think Federer's enormous support's now creating a burden he previously didn't really have to deal with (solution? play finals in Britain vs Murray; probably only time Federer's likely to get a final opponent who'll split the supporters).

But psychological dimension's bigger than simply individual sports. I mean we're talking about things like Eden Park Hoodoos/Fortresses and other various curses associated with particular teams, grounds, managers or trophies/competitions. Choking. "Mind Games." Winning/Losing Streak. Goal Drought. Tail Up. Fight. Spirit. "Got to Want it". Hunger. Desire. For anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of sports, these are all strongly indicative of the psychological dimension. It matters and it matters in a big way.

Something similar, I think, is what happened with me. I think I offer an example of the sort of relevance of psychology to the meta game (or, rather, meta test). It wasn't nerves per se but an extension/embellishment or even something a little different. This is something to be aware of. You can take as many tests as you like. You can be someone like Roger Federer. But you're always going to have that last test/match/time in your head affecting you in a particular way.

Conclusion? Try and stay in control of yourself. Once you lose that, you lose a lot of your ability and are at the mercy of what you face.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Last night at around 3am I made a snap decision in the process of writing an as yet unfinished post for this blog (on nomophobia). As a consequence, I ended up going to a history talk today (actually given by a history lecture I know of) which formed part of the Winter Lecture series titled "Global War, Global Catastrophe". At the end of the talk (this one was "Why WWI Matters") I overheard a fairly old looking lady talking about drone strikes.

Now, drone strikes, in the overheard conception, are an extraordinarily expensive way of killing (I think) three people (possibly relating to this article I have not read). This is, broadly, correct: killing people with expensive technology is, obviously, going to be expensive. Yet I still wanted to say something.

Firstly, let's imagine that you have located two known targets that you're authorised to kill legally and are instructed to do so. Imagine that said targets (and you know this for sure) are in a house in a one horse town. Imagine that you have three options (whatever happens you're ordering these people to be killed, this is not the decision at hand). One: human operatives (standard soldiers/wetworks whatever). Two: manned aerial operation. Three: drone strike. There are various advantages and disadvantages to each of these options... and there are other options but we'll ignore these.

Human operatives have the potential to be very precise. On the other hand, they will probably take a while to arrive (even if you use paratroopers... but this adds more complexity and, therefore, more room for error). Likewise, there is such a thing as human error (not that this doesn't exist with the other options) which could well manifest itself by your team getting caught/being spotted before the mission can happen. Also, there are risks. Ideally (?? I watch too many thrillers) you probably want to be killing as few of your own people as possible. Unless you've already got people in place, then, you're probably not going to utilise this option. We will assume that this is not the case. Human operatives are out.

A manned aerial operation will probably mean a jet with a missile or some sort of bomb being dropped. These options will cause a lot of damage. Think about this. For every person that you kill, you provide an incentive for at least one more person to not agree with your actions and decide to act on that. Hearts and minds, people. It seems natural that you want precision.

Under this conception, and this is hardly the most thought out explanation for using drones, a drone strike looks like a decent compromise. Ultimately, you risk money and technology rather than your own people (in my opinion, people who make decisions in conflicts are somewhat myopic for a reason), and minimise the collateral damage. You can also make the human case: is it not better to put a high price on ending another's life? After all, doesn't this make you less likely to take more? Doesn't the high cost and technological investment mean that more discerning decisions are made? 

This post was not constructed to weigh all the angles. It used an example to make its point that reduced the situation enormously. I do not think the poor souls tasked with these choices get to be so certain about the circumstances as we were just then. I do think, though, that you can generalise the precision argument. And, really, that's the one I wanted to make. Good conduct of war, such as it can exist, takes out legitimate military targets: precision is core to this. Good conduct of war, also, seeks peace as fast as possible... creating an environment which sustains the motivations to fight through imprecision is not this, is it?

Friday, 4 September 2015

It's not a dream: we're stuck with it

Let's review. This is my third post on the subject of New Zealand's flag change. In the first one I made some fairly general comments about the arguments involved, the supposed motivations and, of course, made my opposed to flag change views quite clear. In the second one, I essentially reviewed the short list of 40 (now reduced to 39 due to a copyright issue with the Modern Hundertwasser) in, largely, terms that it has subsequently become clear that the flag panel did not. That is to say, flag design principles and New Zealand's identity. Wait, subsequently?

Yes, we now know, and have known for some days (I've been discussing this elsewhere), what the final four are. Next step? Referendum. Yay! So excited. But, let's just get a picture in here.

NZ Herald: although I now notice the bottom two have their bottoms cut off.
Firstly, these are all ugly. The first two are busy to the point of distraction, the third is an unappealing logo and the fourth is a logo and, for a flag, far too black (which is ironic, because if it weren't meant to be a flag it'd be the best looker of this lot). I don't think anyone is really that happy with these. Except, of course, John Key and people like him who are happy with, well, a flag that sort of really embodies the bland contradictions of Key. To many these would never satisfy because flag change is bad, okay? To others, the first are too compromise-y, that is, they aren't different enough to what we've got. And most other objections probably relate to the aesthetics.

Secondly, let's reconsider the panel's criteria. Remember, they did have a list of guidelines. These were the guidelines that we were to follow. They're not difficult to understand.
The design should be simple, uncluttered and balanced.
It should be designed to be flown, and viewed from either side.
It should look as “timeless” as possible. Avoid using features in the design that will cause the flag to become dated or obsolete. Imagine the flag in a historic setting and in a very modern setting to check whether it would work in both.
In terms of colour, using fewer colours will keep the design simple and bold.
Contrast is important – use light colours on dark, and vice-versa. So a white cross on red is a good contrast, but a blue cross on red would be a poor contrast. This is a very useful guideline, especially for choosing the colour of any symbols and their background.
If the use of non-contrasting colours is unavoidable, make use of outline colours.
Any animals or birds would traditionally face the flagpole, so that the animal faces in the same direction as the flag bearer.
The top left hand corner of the flag is typically the place of honour in a flag. This reflects the fact that the opposite end of the flag wears out first, and is the section that is least visible when the flag is not fully unfurled.
It's pretty obvious that all of these flags do not follow these guidelines completely. That's okay, right? They're guidelines, not rules. Everyone understands that. The stylised koru belongs pretty clearly to some variety of modernism, as does the plain fern (read this about flag options and personality). None of the ferns really follow the top left rule and the koru doesn't really either. In all cases, if there's no wind, any of these flags will look largely like plain colour. I guess not too much of a problem. And as we mentioned, uncluttered and balanced does not describe the two fundamentally designs (did I not comment on the similarity re: the short list? Yes, yes I did). But, hey, not rules. Chill, dude. It's sweet. We good.

Guidelines exist for reasons. They are not arbitrary, in fact, there's a strong argument to make that guidelines are less arbitrary than rules. Why? Well, in general, guidelines arise from things like best practice or theory much more organically. A rule, on the other hand, has to be followed but can, basically, be drawn out of a hat. Rules are more how things are, guidelines more how things should be. This is wumbo. However, this panel was clearly composed of idiots of morons. Of people so stupid, that if you bribed them, they would be convinced to vote the other way... without realising this was happening. This was, in fact, recognised, in writing, when the panel process was decided (we'll get back to this point). But, for now, we'll stick with inference from the behaviour of the panel. Recall my second post?
Flag Design Principles (as interpreted from the panel's open letter, i.e. this gives us an inkling of what "flag design principles" means to the panel, what they actually are, in a real sense, is irrelevant if the panel's understanding, the one it used, is different):
A great flag should be distinctive and so simple it can be drawn by a child from memory. 
I'm chuckling. I would laughing but it just isn't funny. This is, to use common expression, shoot yourself in the head funny. Adults have tested this. They've tried they really have. And guess, what, even the koru's a bit difficult to draw. But that's okay, people tend to mess korus up: the design does follow this principle. The other three? Well, I think even Mike Hosking would have to agree, do not. I mean, even ignoring that they're blah (honestly, the koru's unpopular but by far the best design), even Baldrick would recognise and understand that pretty much no-one is going to get this right. I mean, Jesus, there was a teenager on that panel. Surely the memories of trying and failing to draw a silver fern whenever the All Blacks are shoved down your throat at primary school are still relatively fresh?

*brings hands together, as though praying, such that fingertips touch lips, then moves to hold palms up "don't shoot style" facing the screen, elbows not raised in air, and finally brings hands together again, having been shaking head during the last two movements*

The Panel's job was so damn simple. Take the guidelines. Eliminate all flags that don't follow them. Then eliminate the flags that don't really match up with "what New Zealanders have said they are looking for in a design for our national flag." Then, if there are still too many, get rid of the ones that don't look so good, the ones that just don't work, the ones that are more logos than flags... I mean, for Christ's sake (and I really do speak like this), flags? Well, you know them when you see them. Once your forty for the shortlist, do the copyright checks, and repeat the above process more thoroughly. If the Panel's membership had been well selected, I'd like to think this would've happened. I like to think that people who design for a living or who make buildings or who create specific products to specific briefs, would've been able to do this. I don't think the likes of Rod Drury of "we're losing money hand over fist" Xero are people to do things like this. I just don't.

I mean, jeepers, I'm starting to hope that they were bribed.

Thirdly, well, I'm not sure I have a third thing to say about the flags themselves. They're ugly. They don't follow the guidelines. I'm pretty sure the Panel was on Acid. Imma vote for the koru. Hang on, the koru. Yeah, probably just there to provide some evidence that this wasn't a charade to end up with some sort of fern on the flag. I hope you're reading to this and listening to the sort of music that plays when a sympathetic character's life has been ripped out from under them, because, as a great man once said, "It's not a dream: we're stuck with it!"

Let's be absolutely clear here, I would prefer it so much more if we weren't spending this money at all. I do not think that anyone has come up with a coherent and cogent reason why the current flag doesn't say who we are, who we were and where we are, or why those things aren't what our flag should be doing. In short, I think this is colossal waste. We should have established a mandate, had some foundation from below rather than direction from on high, before we started this conversation. This is what it means to not be a proponent of flag change.

Yet, for all that, this could have been something. It really could have. Instead, we're that hapless character in a drama who's about to have the case of their life, but, instead, the client's been shot and you're back snorting cocaine before you can say, "Mate." We're left holding the charred remains of exhibition vandalised the day before the grand opening. It's boojum.

People got involved, not so much in person, but people did make a lot of submissions. I made one. I never followed up on the other I wanted to make, the one that was a better version of my idea, but I thought about what I wanted, what I thought and came up with something which tried to follow that. And I did this, despite thinking, "Why are we doing this?" And I can look at the various flags and think, "Good flag, bad flag" without needing to acknowledge that they're all unnecessary flags. I can do this. Pretty much anyone can: I'm not unique. This isn't some special quality of me. Which makes the following, well, interesting:
This is what reading these endless flag debate comments is like - except that half of all the comments instead of talking about art and design decide the whole thing is stupid and that it shouldn't really be taking place in the first place. 
It is so painful - especially to those of us who like the idea of a new flag, and have tried to engage in the concept.
No, "Random Stranger," you don't sit there commenting on a Toby Manhire article about my (relatively) beloved triangles, saying the reason why a proper conversation is because, hey, some people disagree. I mean, I'm blinking. I lack the words, because I am an idiot, to express what I mean (but, also, because I'm a very visually expressive person when I talk). The reason why this conversation didn't happen is because of how the conversation a) began, b) proceeded, c) was directed and d) how it was all supposed to end. Imagine, say, the flag debate could be modelled. I would propose that an appropriate model to use would a be a text. Now, when you look at a text, you can't remove it from its context and that includes understanding that form, to a large degree, is connected to content in explanatory manner.

The Flag Debate was not an organic conversation. Sure, if John Key rocked up to Bill English and mentioned the flag and how he wanted to change it, that's pretty much the same start was we got. Yet, in that context, this is a relatively organic beginning and it will proceed organically: like a normal conversation. The Flag Debate, though, was equivalent to a debate with politicians or an interview. It only went anywhere because it required prompting. Some discussion, prompt, more discussion, prompt. This is perfectly natural if, say, we're talking about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean or any other current event. It's the nature of the thing. How it is. But this, well, this is something that should have come from below: an organic beginning and procession would have been if it had arisen from agitation. For example if Mike Hosking, although in a relative position of power is still what we'll term a private citizen, had used his space on the Herald's website to try and start the conversation... that would've been better (but, really, we'd still want someone like Hosking or Paul Henry to be feeding off some existing current).

Furthermore, it was organic because of the way the prompts work. We don't know, for instance, that 71 (iirc) migrants are going to be found dead in a truck. We don't know that a toddler is going to drown attempting to find a better life with his family. We don't know that these stories are going to make it. And we didn't know, in the case of the latter, that the story would enter the consciousness. We can, in some sense, discuss that toddler in the same way that we'd talk about Tank Man in Tiananmen Square... although we would be wise to wait a bit to be sure, but, right now, if I had to guess, it'll be that kind of picture. On the other hand, we do know that Panel's going to create a list, that submissions last however long, that there'll be referenda etc. etc. Knowing these things is actually important: it matters. For instance, in the case of Random Stranger's complaint, that there will be a referenda and that it's going to be on a particular subject creates a sort of pressure... particularly for opponents (although, furthermore, that people think the current flag is sufficient should be telling you things about what a flag should mean and should like).

But, in some sense, I think when history reflects, it's going to look at the Panel. The Panel. Oh, dead Lord (hmm, like that typo), the Panel. It's time to mention that "in writing" thing. Warning: this may be anti-climactic if you're expecting me to be quoting a letter from, say, Bill English saying, "What a bunch of mugs" I do not know if such a letter exists, but I'd like to hope it does. What I do have is this:
Public consultation in relation to long list
The Government appointed the Flag Consideration Panel to select the 4 alternative designs that eligible voters will rank in the first referendum later this year. The Panel viewed every design and has followed a robust process.
The Panel will not be consulting with the public on opinions about designs or its decisions in this part of the process (selecting the alternative flag designs). The Panel needs to remain neutral and unbiased in making their deliberations.
Have you ever met a lawyer? A Judge? An historian? A journalist? A detective? Pretty much anyone who ever has to interpret evidence and reach some sort of conclusion? Probably.

Well, either you now believe that none of these people could ever possibly be any good at their jobs (it's just inherent, they can't be) or you are left with two options. Either people writing this are complete idiots or, alternatively, the panel are complete idiots... if not both. The alternative, of course, is that this another way in which we've been manipulated... that this process's democratic credentials have been infringed.

I'm inclined to say that it's all of the stupid and manipulative options.

You can defend the current flag. You can defend the view that we should change it. If you care, at all, about aesthetics, cost or democracy, you cannot defend how we've tried to go about this. (Well, technically, you can, you'd just wouldn't be representing your own views.) And the thing is? Well, these are related. If we cared more about democracy, we'd have a better looking set of alternatives and we'd have bothered to establish some sort of mandate: first. This entire thing has been manipulated from the beginning. Why? Well, we're not sure. Some conspiracy theorists (presumably convincing only to members of the Panel/those who only just weren't selected) reckon it's got a lot to do with the TPPA. I don't believe that. I do think, though, it's all been manipulated to ensure that what John Key wants gets the best chance it possibly can. From timings, to orders, to the way the Panel was to work, all of it is explained by this idea.

And, the thing is, the evidence suggests this theory more strongly than it does any other one. I guess that should scare me. It doesn't, but it should.

On a slightly more positive note (because it's doomed to fail), there's now a movement to get Red Peak considered.

I still think that my suggestion for it, improves substantially. Of course, it loses some of the symbology but, remember, I have a different concept to our friend here.

A Very Quick Alteration
Aaron Dustin's flag is pretty good, but I don't think the black should be there. With some more work, though, and a shade lighter for that red, I think my altered version of his design is better. On the other hand, Red Peak is growing on me.