Monthly Archives: March 2014

Scottish Independence & The Union Jack

I tried posting this before, but couldn’t quite manage it.
That was back in the days when I didn’t know how to use this blog.
So I’m reposting it, but properly this time.


When Three Become One: The Union Jack is formed from the flags of the patron saints of three of the home nations.
When Three Become One: The Union Jack is formed from the flags of the patron saints of three of the home nations.

As you no doubt know, Scotland has an independence referendum in September 2014. If the vote backs independence, the UK will go on without Scotland, of course (the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, that would be). But if Scotland does go, what’ll happen to the treasured Union Jack? Surely it will have to lose its blue background which represents the Scottish patron saint, Andrew. Not the most serious implication of Scottish independence, you may say, but it’s not totally insignificant either: after all, the Union Jack isthe main branding of UK plc. Furthermore, the psychological blow of having our flag bleached will surely be great.

The Anaemic Jack: The UK flag minus the field of azure.
The Anaemic Jack: The UK flag minus the field of azure.

But there’s no need for us to have an anaemic flag.

The current Union Jack, of course, is a blend of the flags of the Patron Saints of England, Scotland, and Ireland: that is, the crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick. Many have proposed properly representing Wales, especially if Scotland leaves the union, by defacing the Union Flag with a welsh dragon (“defacing” is the technical heraldic term, by the way). However, the superimposition of the Welsh Dragon on the remains of the Union Jack doesn’t quite hit the spot from an aesthetic point of view. It also runs against analogy: the Union Jack is made up of the flags of the patron saints of the home nations. So why not incorporate the flag of the patron saint of Wales, St. David, into the Union Jack?

The flag of St. David.
The flag of St. David.

So without further ado, I submit the following as what I think the Union Jack should look like in a Scotland-less UK.

The United Kingdom's New Flag?
The United Kingdom’s New Flag?


I personally think Scotland and England are both stronger together (surely recent sporting successes highlight this). So I hope Scotland and England remained wedded, in sickness and health, rich and poor, and so on. But if Scotland does become a sovereign natoion, there’s no need for the remainder of the UK to have a radically altered or feeble-looking flag.

Other Thoughts…

We might wish to incorporate St. David’s flag, but leave the yellow out. This would give us a powerful red-black-white colour scheme.

And what if Scotland stays in the UK? We still might want to properly recognise Wales’ contribution to the union by giving us a new flag. In which case, add the yellow cross of St. David’s flag alongside the blue of St. Andrew’s.

Red, White, and Black: if the White Stripes designed a new UK flag.
Red, White, and Black: if the White Stripes designed a new UK flag.
The current UK flag with Wales' patron saint, St. David, recognised.
The current UK flag with Wales’ patron saint, St. David, recognised.


© 2013-2014 Bryan Ashley James Parry


Project Polyglot Parry

I speak British, American, Australian, and Fajita Restaurant


I’m an English teacher, linguist, and language nerd. However, I can’t speak any foreign languages; well, not properly anyway. I really do get turned on by reading about grammar and how different languages have differing strategies in how to approach any given area of communication. It thrills and delights me. People see my interest in languages and assume I’ve reached a pretty decent level in several. So they’re always disappointed to find out I only know English. “So, you’re not really a linguist then, are you?” they aggressively assert, apparently angered by being swindled out of what they thought was a genuine encounter with that most impressive and rare of beasts, a polyglot, an English polyglot to boot! I always retort that the greatest living linguist, Chomsky, only speaks English. Well, that’s nothing more than a grown-up version of the child’s comeback that,”I am rubber, you are glue…” Doesn’t convince me, doesn’t convince them, barely saves face. And Chomsky’s getting on, so I won’t even have that lame retort for much longer.

My problem is that I’m such a procrastinator and I always find an excuse to get distracted before I achieve my goals. I genuinely think I’ve got some kind of climax fear; I’m a bit of a perfectionist and this often holds me back. It manifests itself in all areas of my life; for example, chess: I always set up my pieces into a solid defensive formation, a real fortress, and then what? I just sit back and wait for my opponent to make a mistake. I get a kind of performance presure paralysis when it comes to me taking the first move. I think, when you get down to it, I’m generally scared to take the initiative because then it opens me up to possibly failing. It’s like I’d almost rather do nothing, and blame my crummy circumstances on everything else, than take the jump and put myself out there to get knocked down. My Dad was highly competitive, too, and would always say, “If you come second, you’re still a loser”. Nothing was good enough but perfection. Combine that with shyness and my Mum’s procrastinatory skills, and bam! Thanks, Mum and Dad! Reminds me of the Larkin poem This Be The verse.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad./
They may not mean to, but they do./
They fill you with the faults they had/
And add some extra, just for you.

But I’m tired of dreams filling my head, dreams I never come close to accomplishing or even acting on at all.

And so, in the year in which I’ll hit the big three-oh, I’ve decided to get a grip, at long last, and achieve my goals. And this time I’m for real; I’ve even bought a plastic ringbinder. I have moved beyond, ‘failure is not an option’, to, ‘even failing is a sign I am moving’. And moving is the first step towards moving forwards. So let’s start failing forwards instead of failing through inaction.

There’s several languages that I’ve had a desire to learn for a long time now. But let’s just limit myself to languages I’ve already got some real knowledge of. Currently I know:

  • Spanish to GCSE Foundation level / A2 (Common European Framework)
  • Swedish to A2
  • Ancient Koine Greek (well enough to read the New Testament mostly unhelped)

In order to keep me on track, I’m going to spell out my goals and have a yearly update on my progress. My five year plan (language-wise, at least), so to speak, is to:

  • Carry on with Spanish, course after back-to-back course, until I have achieved DELE (Diploma en Espanol como una lengua extranjera) C1.
  • Do one Swedex Swedish qualification a year starting with A2 this year. I will then achieve a TISUS (C1 level) in four/five years.
  • Successfully complete, again, (1) Duff’s Elements of New Testament Greek, and go on to do, (2) Taylor’s Greek to GCSE part 1, (3) Greek to GCSE part 2, (4) Taylor’s Greek Beyond GCSE, (5) a Classical Greek GCSE, (6) a Classical Greek A-Level.
  • Start to learn Modern Greek: do GCSEs and A-Levels in it.
  • Start to formally learn Basque (I already know some basic stuff). But I won’t start this for maybe three years until I have boosted up my Spanish, Swedish, and Greek.

So, I’ve written it down, now: the Internet Gods will not be best pleased if I give up. Check back in a year to see how well I am failing forwards.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry


International LADS’ Day


Women. First they got the vote. Then they got the pill. Now they got CONTROL.

Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day. Anniversaries. And now International Women’s Day(!) All of these are a SCAM perpetrated on men by an unholy alliance of FEMALES and GREETING CARD COMPANY EXECUTIVES. To what end? Simply put: to subjugate men to the worst tyranny possible: financial, emotional, societal.

Listen. What bloke gives a monkey’s about Valentine’s? None. What woman? Just all of ’em. Always makes me shake my head sadly when the subject of Valentine’s comes up; they’ll be some young lad going, “Ohh, we won’t be doing anything. She says she doesn’t believe in it”.
SHE’S TESTING YOU, FOOL! Of course she cares; they ALL do!! Women keep shit-chatting me, “Ohh, but Valentine’s/Anniversaries/etc are for men, too”. Yeah, right: who you trying to convince, love!?

Well, I’ve had enough. Women get too many made-up holidays these days. The virulent spread of International Women’s Day is the straw that broke this camel’s back. What about MEN, eh? What do we get??

There should be an International LADS’ Day. A day just for LADS. A Day when LADS can be LADS, do LAD stuff with other LADS, watch the football, drink beer in our undies, look at titties on page three without shame or pretending to read the political article on page two. A day FOR LADS, BY LADS, where women have to serve us beer naked, their headaches magically dissapear, they are seen and not heard, shoe shops are closed all day, and we can visit brown town if we so please!

So, I’m calling on all males to GROW A PAIR, STAND UP, and PROCLAIM INTERNATIONAL LADS’ DAY.

Of course, you know what day it’s gonna be on: 26th July, every year from now on. Why the 26th of July? It’s only the birthday of the LAD TO END ALL LADS, the GREATEST LAD OF ALL: JASON “THE STATH, THE LEDGE, THE LAD” STATHAM.*

Jason Statham: Ultimate LAD.
Jason Statham: Ultimate LAD.


*rumours that THE STATH used to be a soppy diver, like Tom Daley, is a LIE put out by the enemy of LADS to grind us down. Keep the faith, brother.

© 2014 Bryan Ashley James Parry

FILM REVIEW: 12 Years A Slave


FILM REVIEW: 12 Years A Slave

3/5 Bryan A. J. Parry

12 Years a Slave is the third film from young British director Steve McQueen. Adapted from the diaries of Solomon Northup, the film is set before the American Civil War and tells the true story of a free black man from the northern United States who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south, subsequently spending 12 years trying to get back to his family.

There’s a big buzz around 12 Years a Slave. It seems to be this year’s in vogue film, dealing as it does with controversial subject material (blacks, slaves, impregnated black slaves). But let me tell you a secret, dear reader, something nobody dares speak, that nobody even dares think: the film, err, isn’t that great.

So it’s bad, then? Not at all. It’s actually fairly solid. But the glowing praise and universal acclaim that it’s garnered, along with the multiple Oscars that it will land, have simply not been earned. Sadly, this film is exactly the kind that the lovies and wannabe intellectual journalist-types adore. Nobody wants to say the Emperor has no clothes because they’re scared it might make them look insensitive or, worse, uncultured(!) Gulp. But the film just doesn’t work. And how I desperately wanted it to work, how I crave to say this blew my mind.

So what is wrong with it?

It all comes down to one thing: you just don’t care what happens to Solomon. He’s clearly a good man, but his struggles and the eventual conclusion of the film leave you feeling rather cold. Crescendo, big moment, obstacle overcome at last, tears on screen – and yet I was left unmoved. Time after time. I thought: Am I bad? Have I become desensitised? Do I not care enough because he’s not white? Am I secretly heartless and/or a racist? Some of my best friends are… I looked around the cinema to see if someone, anyone was crying. But thankfully, my white middle-class liberal angst was for nothing, because nobody in the cinema cared either. All I could see in the half-light were puzzled faces looking around as if to say, “Oh, okay…?”. It’s not that the film’s bad – it’s not. It’s more that we simply don’t give a monkeys what happens to Solomon. He’s a good, upstanding man, sure, no real evil in him. He doesn’t deserve his plight. And he doesn’t do a single bad thing in the whole film. But then again, he doesn’t do a single good thing either. Indeed, he doesn’t do a single thing at all.

The film can be summarised thus: Solomon gets kidnapped, sold into slavery, keeps his head down and does a whole lot of nothing for two hours, Fin. Sad fact though it may be, a heart-rending true story does not a heart-rending drama make. Drama isn’t life, and we the audience need more reasons to emotionally invest in the guy and his journey other than, “he’s a normal bloke who gets kidnapped”. What kindness does he show his fellow slaves? What friendships does he make along the way? And, if you can forgive me a wanky film critic moment, how is the drama of the piece advanced in any way whatsoever by his actions be they instigating or reactive? Answer: it isn’t.

True story or not, the screenwriter and director needed to give us a reason to cheer for Solomon even if that means not being “true” to what really happened. The film presents Solomon with many opportunities to show his kindness, to forge relationships with others that we can really emotionally invest in, and yet he doesn’t. And no amount of understated performances, subtle plays on the material, or beautiful cinematography can disguise the fact that the central narrative of this film violates one of the fundamental rules of drama uncovered as long ago as by Aristotle: things shouldn’t just happen to the characters, but it should be through the characters’ actions that drama unfolds. Unfortunately, in 12 Years a Slave, stuff just happens to Solomon, and he just doesn’t do anything about any of it except occasionally to serve his own ends (and even then, in the most undramatic and inept fashion). The effect is we sit through two hours and thirteen minutes, and we just don’t care. A commanding performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor is nowhere near good enough to rescue the material.

But it’s not all bad. Indeed, and here’s the real tragedy: it’s most fairly good.

The film features relative unknowns in the lead roles, but also some heavy hitting A-listers in support: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Benedict Omnibatch (I mean Cumberbatch: sorry, didn’t you know? New Hollywood rules state that a film is not allowed to go ahead unless Benedict Cumberbatch is cast… in any role… somewhere).

Fassbender in particular is mesmerising as slaver Edwin Epps. He’s a borderline alcoholic with conflicted emotions about his slaves. Yeah, they’re his property, but he doesn’t delight in brutalising them. He seems more a victim of his alcoholism and his henpecking wife (played well by Sarah Paulson, despite a lack of material to work with). And slave girl Patsey is richly portrayed by newcomer Lupita Nyong’O. The film is worth watching for her performance alone. Yet Brad Pitt’s cameo was slightly jarring: I couldn’t stop thinking, “Look! It’s Brad Pitt doing a Brad Pitt!”

Much to the film’s credit, it also does not slide into the predictable tropes of the slave genre. No, the slavers are not all evil; no, the blacks do not all form loving bonds with each other and sing Kumbaya round a campfire; no, the pretty black slave girl does not get knocked up by the white slave master. And for this, the film is to be commended; it gives us a fresh take on a familiar story. It shows the shades of grey that the situation engendered whilst still leaving us in no doubt as to the brutality and unspeakable wrongness of slavery. And yet it also doesn’t show caricature slavers joyfully lashing slaves for the yeehaw of it, nor does it go for sensationalism.

The direction was gripping. A reveal of one character’s whip wounds early on produced a collective gasp from the screening room. And there’s one particular shot in the field where the camera is locked on the scene for what seems an age without moving: the effect is disturbing and brings home the evil of slavery better than a thousand lashes ever could.

In short: I desperately wanted to say “best film since Schindler’s List”. But this “one of the best films ever” [Telegraph] isn’t fit to tie the emotional and dramatic boots of Toy Story 3, and was, sadly, much, much less than the sum of its mostly majestic parts.


© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry