Personal website of Brian Cham: Software developer and occasional designer, vexillologist and code breaker.
The current situation / La situation présente
New Caledonia’s flag situation is bizarre by world standards. Instead of a single flag, it currently has two co-official flags, neither of which represents the whole of New Caledonia. One is the flag of France itself. The other is the flag of FLNKS, the political coalition that represents the Kanak indigenous people. This compromise was condemned as clumsy, divisive, controversial and unrepresentative. The situation was even spurned by important leaders at the time like the President of the Government of New Caledonia, the representative of New Caledonia to the National Assembly and the mayor of Nouméa. Critics pointed to the principles of the Nouméa Accord (the 1998 agreement between the French government and FLNKS) which expresses the wish for a “common destiny” for all communities. Many New Caledonians have demanded a single new flag that would express a common identity for all of New Caledonia. There have been existing proposals, but these designs are quite complex. Therefore, here is my proposal.
La situation du drapeau de la Nouvelle-Calédonie est bizarre par rapport aux normes mondiales. Au lieu d’un seul drapeau, il possède actuellement deux drapeaux co-officiels, qui ne représentent ni l’un ni l’autre toute la Nouvelle-Calédonie. L’un est le drapeau de la France elle-même. L’autre est le drapeau du FLNKS, la coalition politique qui représente le peuple autochtone kanak. Ce compromis a été condamné comme maladroit, source de discorde, controversé et non représentatif. La situation a même été rejetée par des dirigeants importants tels que le président du gouvernement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, le représentant de la Nouvelle-Calédonie à l’Assemblée nationale et le maire de Nouméa. Les critiques ont évoqué les principes de l’accord de Nouméa (l’accord de 1998 entre le gouvernement français et le FLNKS), qui exprime le souhait d’un «destin commun» pour toutes les communautés. De nombreux Néo-Calédoniens ont réclamé un nouveau drapeau unique exprimant une identité commune pour toute la Nouvelle-Calédonie. Il y a eu des propositions existantes, mais ces modèles sont assez complexes. Par conséquent, voici ma proposition.
My proposal / Ma proposition
Here are all the New Zealand flag designs made by myself and James Fitzmaurice over the years. We spent a long time learning, researching, refining and designing our proposals but we were dismayed that none were even considered for the official 2016 flag referendum. Recall that this referendum had judges with no design qualifications or experience, produced design options that were very unpopular with the public, and completely bombed with no meaningful consequences — What a waste of an exceptional opportunity!
We think our designs are far superior to the referendum’s official selection in aesthetics, symbolism and justification – a product of raging narcissism or qualified judgement? For the first time, we have collected all of our designs in one place so you can decide!
As with all design, the how and the why is more important than the what. This article begins by describing our extensive design process. Firstly, it describes our overall methodology and guiding principle. Secondly, it lists all of the common flag design traps that we tried to avoid. Thirdly, it explores New Zealand’s national symbolism and how to effectively express it in a flag design. Afterwards, this article covers each flag design with commentary, larger graphics and construction sheets.
The current design
The current flag of Michigan is a typical American-style seal-on-blue-bedsheet design; as a result it is convoluted, unmemorable and uninspiring. It scored 3.46/10 in NAVA’s survey, making it the 14th worst rated flag in North America. In 2018, a state senator introduced a bill to replace it with a new design. Although nothing came of that, below is what I would have proposed:
The current design
The current flag of Fiji is almost unchanged from its colonial predecessor, a defaced British Blue Ensign. Since becoming a republic, the prime minister Frank Bainimarama called for a new flag design to reflect a new, genuine, confident Fijian identity without inheriting old colonial symbols. The Fijian government called for submissions throughout 2015 and 2016 but this plan fell through. This was the proposal designed by myself, James Fitzmaurice and Rachael Radhika-Hart.
Part of my 2009 flag proposal series. SVG files of the flag and its construction sheet are available on request.
At first, I did not re-upload this design from the old site, since I only wanted to present the most popular designs and this one did not have much support. Many years later, I received a sudden personal request to upload this one again. I was hesitant until I realised that this person remembered this exact design and its author even though it had not been online or accessible for over five years! That had to mean something.
This review of Interstellar (2014) comes “only” one and a half years after my previous review. You can tell that I don’t have a set schedule for these.
Considering all the intense feelings around Christopher Nolan that often rear their enraged heads through online amateur reviews, I must profess where I stand from the outset. I am neither a “fanboy” nor a “hater” of the Nolan brand. I prefer his work up to and including The Prestige, but not much of his work afterwards, so any overall attachment balances out. I don’t feel as if I have something to prove when watching or discussing his films.
That said, I am a science fiction fan (“fan” with a lowercase “f” if you know what I mean; don’t expect me at the next Comic-Con) so I thought this might make for interesting viewing. Lately I did some layman reading on cosmology for an unrelated project, so either I knew enough to grasp the scientific concepts in the film or I was delusional enough to believe so.
We start off with a dry, dusty, dismal, dying future where the protagonist (played by a perpetually bored Matthew McConaughey) struggles to keep up harvests on his family farm. We are shown (i.e. beaten on the head by) suggestions that a “ghost” is pushing books off his daughter’s bookshelf. At that point I hoped that the climax would not involve the typical sci-fi transcendence of space and time, with the protagonist becoming this “ghost” and using his new-found cosmic powers to push some books around. But more on this later.
From that point the film reveals two of its biggest flaws – bad pacing and bad characters. The family spends a long time going through exposition, bonding, baseball, education issues and hacking an Indian drone but never build much of a substantial relationship in the viewer’s mind. It just serves to repeatedly hammer in the superficial point that the protagonist is an all-American family man who loves his daughter, but not much else.
After a very long time we finally get to something related to space and the premise when the protagonist stumbles upon a top secret NASA base. The scientists all unquestioningly conclude that his finding of the base must constitute advice from magical gravity beings (what a scientific deduction) and hire him as a space pilot for a world-saving mission almost on-the-spot. Yet even after launch, the film still drags on to a degree I haven’t seen since The Lord of the Rings trilogy. What follows is more plodding filler scenes in orbit, near Saturn, in a lab and so on. Due to the effects of relativity, each hour passing on a watery planet they encounter is the same as seven years passing on Earth; due to the effects of slow pacing, each hour watching this movie certainly felt like seven years too. And this is coming from someone who could tolerate the pacing of Solaris!
At some point on the water planet a crew member dies, but I don’t remember his name, appearance or role since they were all interchangeable humans. At no point did I care about these bland, personality-deprived non-characters. This extended to the maudlin moments where the protagonist would mope over his daughter or vice versa, which just felt like shoehorned emotion without any real heart or connection. Instead of experiencing the stakes of aging, absence or the fate of the human species, I just wished for the plot to get somewhere.
The gravity of the mission never really weighs in on the audience (excuse the puns) as the characters always find ways to subsume it with their personal concerns. The protagonist never shuts up about his family and never fails to base his mission decisions on their fate only. Okay, we get it, you care about your family. Can we move on now? The primary plan of Anne Hathaway’s character turns out to be chasing THE POWER OF LOVE™. A stranded scientist played by Matt Damon jeopardises the mission and attempts to murder the protagonist to find a way off the planet. This may be intentional but it’s hard to hold any hope for humanity when these expeditions seem to be staffed by the least professional personnel available.
Near the end, the protagonist decides that he must hurl himself and a robot into the nearest black hole and send the recorded data back to Earth. He is convinced that this will work even though they establish that nothing can escape a black hole and their craft has had no success in communicating back. If the plan succeeds, the protagonist’s daughter can save humanity by using the data to reconcile General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Apparently Loop Quantum Gravity doesn’t already do that (did the science advisor believe LQG to be less plausible than five-dimensional bulk gravity ghosts?). Besides, if one end of a wormhole is a black hole, shouldn’t they have this data already?
So he executes this plan and we get the non-twist that he becomes the “ghost” from the beginning of the film, which should surprise nobody. Well, who else would it be? The daughter herself? (which was my backup prediction). Using THE POWER OF LOVE™ which transcends space and time (groan), he sends the data back to his daughter and she saves humanity. There’s an epilogue with a cheap reunion but it just fills up time.
Lest anyone think that I hate this film through and through, it does have its good moments. Even if the opening scenes dragged on for too long, they worked well to establish a dreary world where human civilisation is stagnating painfully rather than the usual sci-fi apocalypse which happens in an instant. The CGI sequences of the wormhole travel and tesseract were gorgeous and unique with interesting visual concepts like light distortion and higher dimensions. Unlike many others I found the soundtrack to be rousing and powerful rather than needlessly bombastic. It’s a shame that none of it accompanied scenes with emotion of equal intensity.
What would I do?
Hypothetically, if I could change anything about Interstellar, what would it be?
As I’m sure anyone can infer by now, my biggest problem with the movie is the pacing. There is not enough content to last for 169 minutes; cutting down to a typical runtime of 90-120 minutes would suffice. The beginning spent too long lingering on Earth introducing the setting and characters without setting up the premise. I would have majorly restructured the film so it immediately starts out in space (like Sunshine) and builds up the characters and backstory through regular, well-timed flashbacks (like Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours or LOST). These would cover all of the crew members, not just the protagonist, who would have their own distinct personalities, motivations, roles and backgrounds (more than just “I miss my father” and “I am a family man”). This would give context to their behaviour and interactions in the “present”. We should care more about these characters, who they are and whether they succeed.
At the start of the third act, the cutaways would stop going to the past and start showing the time period when the children have grown up. Until this point the messages from Earth don’t get through, so we don’t get pointless teary moments until the relationships have been properly built up for the audience.
The missions should be more coherent and less improvised. There is a proper briefing. Nobody is hired on-the-spot. The previous exploration through the wormhole used orbital and aerial robots like in Alien Planet. Who is trying to find what, where, and report it back to whom, before what deadline? Stick to one thing. Cut out the time-wasting scenario with Matt Damon’s scientist.
The general concept behind the tesseract climax is fine, though it is executed as a predictable deus ex machina. Don’t bring in ghosts, gravity messages and trans-dimensional wormhole benefactors at the beginning. That sort of mystery is on-the-nose and the audience expects it to be explained eventually, negating any potential surprise. A good plot twist should be completely unexpected. I would make any climactic time travel explain events that the audience never realised needed an explanation, but make sense in hindsight.
The time travelling actions should be more interesting than pushing books and sending data. Maybe the protagonist interacts directly with the future, or interacts with the past of a hitherto unrelated character, or something of the sort. Maybe the actions of the protagonist directly lead to human civilisation transcending space-time, so the tesseract construction concept doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It also needs to feel justified thematically. The rest of the film had a strong emphasis on physics concepts and mentioned relativity a lot, which jars with the sudden revelation of infinite cosmic bookshelves inside a survivable black hole. Starting with the same fantasy tone would make the film consistent and make the climax more palatable.
The epilogue is unnecessary. The protagonist already reunited with his daughter through all the time travel ghost stuff, which was cathartic enough. His actions have more meaning if they culminate in an ultimate sacrifice, so he should die in the black hole’s singularity.
Some other minor changes I would have made:
- Show alien landscapes that actually look alien, not just the ocean and Iceland.
- Cut out the Disney-esque, New Age, hippie nonsense about THE POWER OF LOVE™.
- Stop repeating that poem so many damn times.
- Make the robot less annoying.
Pretty sights and a booming soundtrack can’t make up for dull pacing, flat characters, a predictable plot and contrived cheese.
Note: This post lists the flag designs that are most popular with the general public. For my own judgement on the best proposals, see this post.
When I was thinking of designs for the New Zealand flag competition, I was curious about the preferences of the wider public. No doubt others are too. Unfortunately, polls had a limited selection of designs to begin with, and while the government gallery had social media sharing and suggestions for every submitted flag, there was no way to sort the gallery to show the most popular.
So I made a quick Java script to scrape all entries in the website and identify the most popular flags. This is measured in number of times each design was independently suggested. Ten was the minimum number to get on this list.
Keep in mind that popularity does not equal quality, nor is it a final indicator of public preferences. It is affected by many factors like age, status and prior exposure of the design. This list is simply for interest of the data itself.
Flags are listed in ascending order of popularity. Each one lists the three main points of the respondents.
- Similar to current flag
- Black and white are national colours. Silver fern is national symbol. These are already recognised worldwide and have historical significance.
- Māori represented by black
Redirect: This flag design is now hosted on this page.
Note: This post features my own judgement on the best flag designs. For the proposals that are most popular with the general public, see this post.
Now that the New Zealand government has closed submissions for a new flag, I decided to go through and pick out the best. That’s right, I looked through all 10,293 of them. Don’t worry, it only took me 48 minutes to evaluate (about 0.28 seconds per flag; thank god for learning scanning techniques).
It probably helped that the whole gallery was a beautiful testament to Sturgeon’s Law (in this case more like 99% though), Poe’s Law and the futility of crowdsourcing design, making it easy to mentally filter out the crud and parodies. You wouldn’t believe the Nazi, apartheid, North Korea, Israel, PRC, Imperial Germany, Quebec (of all places), meme and My Little Pony based parodies that got through their filters. Seriously, the name “Moswald Osley” didn’t ring any alarms? Well done to the Lautaro joke for subtlety and this thing for sheer insanity though. All in all, an experience I would not recommend.
Anyway, here are the best I picked out, emulating the judges’ process of picking an initial list of 50-75 best designs. There were a lot of duplicates and near-duplicates so it’s hard to know exactly how to count and credit them (I’m sure I’ve missed a few credits, sorry!), but it should be around 50 some way or another.
The only restriction was that I didn’t include my own designs. Naturally enough I do like them, but including them would be a little biased! Oh, and I also automatically discarded anything too similar to another national flag, no matter how well designed or New Zealand-y it was. I hope the judging panel can do that, but since it has no vexillologists (flag experts) I don’t have a lot of faith.
This list is in no particular order.
Redirect: This flag design is now hosted on this page.