A Modest Proposal Regarding the Flag of New Zealand (They’ll Thank Me)

This has been New Zealand’s flag since 1902. It’s got the Union Jack in the upper left corner and the Southern Cross constellation to the right. It’s almost the same as Australia’s flag (Australia’s has six white stars instead of four red ones).

Flag_of_New_Zealand.svg (3)

Although most Kiwis (their national bird is the kiwi) think their flag is fine as it is, there’s been talk about changing it for years. Some would prefer that it not look so much like Australia’s. Some object to the Union Jack, arguing that it’s an anachronistic symbol of New Zealand’s colonial past.

Among the Kiwis who want to change the flag is John Key, the Prime Minister. In addition to getting rid of the Union Jack, he wants the new flag to include New Zealand’s quasi-official national symbol, a silver (or white) fern. 

So, after two long years of discussion and analysis, including the creation of a flag replacement commission, the country is now holding the second stage of a national referendum on whether to replace the flag. The choice is between the old flag above and one with a big white fern and some black in the upper left corner (black being one of New Zealand’s national colors): 


Opinion polls suggest that the old flag is going to easily win the referendum. That makes sense, since its proposed replacement has been compared to a beach towel.

Whichever flag wins, of course, a significant number of Kiwis are going to be unhappy. The majority will celebrate and the minority will lick their wounds. That’s where my modest proposal comes in.

When changing something that lots of people care about, it’s always a good idea to consider a relatively small change first. Maybe a small change will address whatever problem exists without upsetting the people who prefer the status quo. Thus, if the people where you work think the communal coffee is too bitter, you try to find coffee that’s less bitter. You don’t immediately replace the coffee with cranberry juice.

Now, since the principal objections to the current flag are that it looks too much like Australia’s, it includes a Union Jack and it doesn’t have a fern, why not simply replace the Union Jack with a similarly-colored fern? To wit:

New flag of NZ

This flag is clearly different from Australia’s, it replaces the Union Jack with a fern (but not an overwhelmingly large one) and it doesn’t mess with the existing colors. As William Mulholland famously said about the water he’d successfully delivered to Los Angeles, making a desert of the Owens Valley:

There it is. Take it!

Americans might not be able to compromise on anything, but there’s still hope for the Kiwis.

(Note: The compromise flag presented above was created in our WOCS Design Lab. Anyone who wants to use it for any purpose is completely free to do so, especially in New Zealand.) 

Whatever You Do, Please Don’t Watch This Movie

It was Friday night and I was open to some mindless cinematic entertainment. That’s my excuse. But having wasted almost two hours of my life watching Olympus Has Fallen, the only thing I can do to partly redeem myself is to warn anyone who might be open to some mindless entertainment not to make the same mistake I did.

If only my curiosity about how they would end this thing hadn’t gotten the best of me.

The premise is that a bunch of well-armed, oddly-motivated Koreans take over the White House with the help of an ex-Secret Service agent who has “lost his way” (that’s an understatement). Their goal is to somehow reunite North and South Korea while destroying the United States. Lots of people are killed in the attack. Furthermore, the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the three people who know the passwords that will blow up all of America’s nuclear missiles – happen to be at the White House and end up as hostages in the presidential bunker. There’s only one intrepid Secret Service agent left standing. Not only does he kill every bad guy he meets, he rescues the President and the President’s son, after which he stops the countdown to nuclear catastrophe with only seconds to spare.

It’s stupid, exceedingly violent, poorly-written and cliche-ridden, but it’s only a big-budget action movie. What bothered me was the idea that some people’s lives and suffering are much more important than everyone else’s. The President gives up secret codes, jeopardizing the whole country, in order to protect two people. The Speaker of the House (the Vice President is a hostage too) orders the Army and Navy to withdraw from South Korea, accepting the idea that he’s probably starting a war, in order to save the President’s life. Bodies are strewn all around the White House and the District of Columbia, but the President and his Secret Service pal crack jokes as they walk outside. The brain trust in the Pentagon’s command center is so happy when the President is rescued that they all stand and applaud, despite the fact that they’ve presided over the worst breach of security in the nation’s history, during which scores of innocent people were maimed and killed and the lives of millions of others were unnecessarily put at risk.

Really, if you’re a senior official who’s taken hostage, consider yourself expendable. You can be replaced.

By the way, Netflix claims that 900,000 people have given this epic an average rating of 4.2 out of 5, meaning the average viewer really liked it. Some people loved it. From the comments, some people even took it seriously. I’d tell you to judge for yourself, but that would be wrong.