Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Doctor Who Fans: Please Do Not Hang the British Flag Upside Up.

Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Union Flag. I approve of Billie Piper and Rose cosplayers displaying the Union Flag in this fashion.

The Doctor Who convention season begins in February with Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, and all over North America, Doctor Who fans will be hanging up the British flag, also called the Union Flag. As a devoted monarchist and Anglophile, I enthusiastically support the display of the Union Flag. 

But, please, my fellow Doctor Who fans, stop hanging the Union Flag upside down. 

You may be wondering how can anyone hang the Union Flag upside down. Take a close look at the two saltires, the X-shaped crosses, especially in the corners of the flag. The Union Flag is not symmetrical.

The Union Flag (1801 - now)

I've seen the Union Flag hung upside-down at almost every Doctor Who convention or fan party that I've attended. Below is how the flag was displayed at Reversed Polarity, a Doctor Who convention in Richmond Hill (north of Toronto) in 2013.

Reversed Polarity, 2013
Reversed Polarity had so many Union Flags hanging throughout the hotel that it looked like a V-E Day celebration in 1945. I was overjoyed by such an open display of patriotism. Alas, half the flags were hung upside down, often beside flags that were right side up (upside up).

More Union flags at Reversed Polarity, 2013

This is the Union Flag, again displayed upside down, at a Doctor Who tea party at Ad Astra, another science fiction convention in the Toronto area in 2014.

Ad Astra, 2014.

Also, never use the Union Flag as a tablecloth, as was done at this reception with an actor guest at Gallifrey One in 2014.

Gallifrey One, 2014

How did the British develop an asymmetrical flag composed of symmetrical shapes, the crosses? The answer lies in the union of three kingdoms into one United Kingdom.

England, Scotland, and Ireland have individual flags, each showing a cross symbolizing their respective patron saints: St. George for England, St. Andrew for Scotland, and St. Patrick for Ireland.

The first Union Flag was created in 1606, three years after King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. He hoped to unite his two kingdoms into one, but their parliaments resisted a union. Nonetheless, he created a new flag that combined the flags of England and Scotland by superimposing the Cross of St. George over the saltire flag of Scotland, along with a change of the shade of blue in the Scottish part of the flag. Since heraldic rules prohibit a colour to be placed atop another colour (i.e., red upon blue), a fimbriation (thin outline) of the metal (i.e., white) was added to the arms of the Cross of St. George. Some Scots objected to this design, considering it a defacement of their saltire flag, but the design stayed and became the national flag in 1707, when England and Scotland finally united to create the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Union Flag, 1606-1800
In 1801, Ireland formally joined the Union to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Now the British added the red Cross of St. Patrick to the flag, but instead of superimposing it unaltered over the existing two crosses, counterchanged its colours. Counterchanging is a heraldic practice of dividing an object and its background into segments and colouring them in two contrasting colours.

To see better how the new Union Flag counterchanged the Cross of St. Patrick, remove the Cross of St. George and look at how the Crosses of St. Andrew and St. Patrick are combined:

The current Union Flag with the Cross of St. George removed. The Cross of St. Patrick is counterchanged and fimbriated in white.

Since heraldic rules prevent putting one colour atop another colour, a fimbriation (thin outline) of white was put along the arms of the red Cross of St. Patrick where they met the blue field. This made the white arms of the Cross of St. Andrew appear wider.

Why did the British counterchange the Cross of St. Patrick? The reasons seem lost in history, but it was probably a way to make an arm of the Cross of St. Andrew uppermost in two quarters of the flag and an arm of the Cross of St. Patrick uppermost in the other two quarters of the flag. Thus both Scotland and Ireland could claim to be equal.

However, the Scots and Irish argued that their crosses had been disfigured and noted that England's Cross of St. George was the only cross that survived unbroken in the Union Flag. These rivalries threatened the United Kingdom from time to time. Scottish rebellion against the Union did not effectively end until the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and the Irish successfully rebelled and pulled five-sixths of their island out of the United Kingdom in 1922. There was another attempt at Scottish independence, this time by peaceful means, in 2014, but it failed.

Despite such trials and tribulations, the United Kingdom has been remarkably strong. Great Britain became head of an Empire, which later evolved into a Commonwealth of Nations. Britain became a leader of art and culture in the world, and it was Britain that created Doctor Who. The Doctor might be from Gallifrey, but he's actually British.

Doctor Who fans, please continue displaying the Union Flag to show your pride and admiration of the Doctor and all things British. But please hang it up the right side up.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Presentation "China vs. North Korea: Who Owns the Monster of Mount Paektu?": Saturday, January 10, 2015, at the North York Public Library

I will be giving a presentation on "
China vs. North Korea: Who Owns the Monster of Mount Paektu?" at the U.S.S. Hudson Bay (science fiction club) meeting at the North York Public Library, North York Centre, Toronto, on Saturday, January 10, 2015. The meeting will be held in the library's Auditorium on the 2nd floor and will begin circa 1:30 p.m. The presentation will be approximately 45 minutes. The closest subway station is North York Centre. You do not need to be a member of the U.S.S. Hudson Bay to attend this open meeting.

A monster allegedly lives in the lake of Mount Paektu, the sacred birthplace of the Korean people. Mount Paektu is also the centre of a border dispute between China, North Korea, and South Korea. Chinese Communists and capitalists, North Korea’s Kim Dynasty, and South Korean nationalists all have interests on the mountain. Centuries of history and legend continue to influence how these countries view Mount Paektu. Will North and South Korea unite against China to regain Mt. Paektu? Who owns the monster?