The Wing-Friends and Other Books

In Blogger's slideshows images are greatly reduced, so lose much of their impact. And captions added to them in Picasa Albums vanish, so the images shown above are: the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, Earth, Earth with New Zealand circled, New Zealand, Auckland & the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island, some native NZ forest, a Fantail and chicks, various doves, etc.

(If you want to see the first ten images in their original size, they are in a posting made on the 24th of November 2011.)

My book The Wing-Friends is an imaginative tale of a small brave boy, a magical adventure, a magnificent Pegasus and the wonderful Kingdom of the Pegasi. It has been given very good reviews, and virtually every reader on Goodreads has so far awarded it five stars. It is available here. Some of my other writings are available as e-books, such as The Lower Deck, which is an over-the-top take on Waiheke happenings--sort of.

Monday, 31 August 2015


Prime Minister John Key wants a fern for the new flag. The Prime Minister John Key got three ferns in the final shortlist of four. Shall we act surprised? He got the panel he wanted; he got the designs he wanted (with something else chucked in to make the thing look like a choice--but even that is the tip of a fern).

We got the bad best of the long list of forty, and it is of course dominated by what John Key wants.

Not one of this shortlist does what a flag should do; not one says to the rest of the world, 'This is New Zealand, and nowhere else.'

And all of them are virtually impossible to define accurately for reproduction. It can only be done photographically, which makes a perpetual problem. The Canadian flag is very precisely defined, with precise measurements and angles. Ditto the British and American flags. These cannot be.

And no one seems to have thought of the variations needed. There need to be variations for the Navy and marine use, and there need to be variations for the army, the RNZAF, Civil Aviation, the police, the Fire Service, the RSA... These designs do not lend themselves to those needs.

The first design has the merit of having only two colours. But although it works for waving at a footy match it is not a good national flag. Far from it. It is boring, stark, and devoid of international meaning.

The second one is superficially attractive, and will probably win the referendum. But it is not a good design. Red is the colour that attracts the human eye more powerfully than any other colour, and therefore must be used carefully and intelligently. In that design it has not been. That red area at the top lefthand corner is the first place the eye goes. But it is meaningless; it is not an element that cries out 'This is New Zealand.' It says nothing. It is just a blob at the mast. It fights for attention with the white fern (the ponga is white on the back, not silver) and the stars. The white fern, with red and blue seen through it, flashes at us, it has a dazzling effect. So the eye finds itself hopping about between three elements fighting for attention. And not one them is unique to New Zealand. It is arrogant for little New Zealand to claim the Southern Cross, which can be seen all over the Southern Hemisphere and parts of the Northern. And ferns grow all over the world; there are even ones with a white back elsewhere. The only reason the fern has achieved some dominance is because early settlers, struck by the prolific ferns, which were a contrast to their native land, called New Zealand Fernland. But the name did not stick. And again the two-tone backing of the fern motif makes it flash at us.

The third one is a bad variation on the second one. Bad because it has four colours, and a maximum of three is ideal. And black does not go with blue, even when there is a comb of white between them. As the saying goes, they hold hands very hard.

The fourth one is the worst of this rubbish. Are we really and truly to consider THAT THING as our national flag!!! Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Social media has mockingly dubbed it HypnoFlag, The only reason it can have been put there is to ensure that we have only ferns to choose from. Manipulative John Key strikes again.

There are only three things that are unique to New Zealand in the mind and eyes of the world: the shape of the country, the kiwi, and the country's coat of arms. The first and last do not work well on a flag. For the Flag Consideration Panel to ignore what Kiwis are called all over the world is wilful blindness and stupidity. But John Key was pulling their strings...

To paraphrase Henry Ford's famous remark about the colour you could have a Ford T ('You can have any colour you like, as long as it's black): John Key and his puppets have said to the nation, 'You can have any flag you like, as long as it's a fern.' What a ferny man he is!

Sunday, 9 August 2015


The Flag Consideration Panel has now released its long list: the forty designs that it thinks are the best of the 10,292 that were submitted. What a disappointment! Many are rubbish; few are worthy of serious consideration; many fail the Panel's own design criteria.

And although the Panel says it wanted something that...

'should speak to all Kiwis. Our hope is that New Zealanders will see themselves reflected in these flags' symbols, colour and stories. ..... In reviewing flag designs, first and foremost, we were guided by what thousands of Kiwis across a range of communities told us when they shared what is special to them about New Zealand' [emphasis added] did not include even one design that has a kiwi. Not even one! All it chose were ferns and stars and koru curlies, despite the fact that ferns, even white-backed ones, are not unique to New Zealand; and that the Southern Cross is common to all countries in the Southern Hemisphere; and that the koru is a stylised fern shoot, and therefore only the Maori word for it is unique to this country.

Not a single kiwi for Kiwis to choose. Not one!

It is obvious that the final choice will be one of the five Kyle Lockwood variations. They are nice, but they do not shout 'New Zealand, and nowhere else' to the rest of the world. To many of us, yes, but not to the world. They have to be explained to the world.

Any explanation attached to a flag should be very simple, and fixed to the flag, as with the flag of the United Kingdom, which is simply explained as the combined crosses of the patron saints of the four countries that make up the UK; and as with the flag of the United States, which is simply explained as thirteen stripes for the original thirteen states and fifty stars for the present number; and as with the Canadian flag, which is simply explained as the maple leaf, the national symbol of Canada. For New Zealand, only the kiwi achieves that simplicity: 'We are called Kiwis, after our national bird, the kiwi.'

Removing the obvious rubbish from the list of forty, as well as the also-rans to the obvious rubbish (the small x's), leaves very few that could be considered, and most of them are marginal because they do not make a flag that is all New Zealand, only New Zealand, and nothing else:

Of those, the simplest one, the one that holds the eye best is the middle one at the top. It has only three colours and a central focus. But it is not balanced. It would be better if the white fern was smaller and the stars larger. To many in the world that white 'fern' is likely to be taken for a white feather, which is the universal symbol of cowardice--hardly something for our soldiers to fight for.

Because it is a physiological fact that red attracts the eye more strongly than any other colour, if there is a red patch in the top-left corner it attracts the eye, which then finds itself hopping between that patch and the stars, although they are what should dominate. The green curly is very marginal, and only gets into the above group because it is nice to look at, not because it is a good design for any nation's flag. For New Zealand it would be a thorough break with the past, and the crooked stars, which are forced to be crooked by the fancy curly, puts it at the bottom of this group of five. It also fails to have a strong central point with which to hold the eye, because the stars are small and are in a crooked arrangement. It is nice to look at but a very bad idea for our flag.

None of those five are brilliant. The best is only the best of a bad-to-middling lot.

But the Panel was picked/vetted by John Key and he has said loudly and often that he wants a fern, so a fern is what got, with a lot of rubbish round it as make-weights, like the dirt in a bag of spuds.

The very least the Panel should have done was to have picked the best of the designs featuring stars, the best of the ferns, the best of the korus, and the best of the kiwis--i.e., the best of four different bases. Then there would have been real choice. This is just ferns, ferns, ferns, ferns rammed down our throats with a bit of pretence at democracy.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


The huge number of designs submitted to the Flag Consideration Panel are a mix of facetious and excellent, with a proponderance of ones that ignore the well-established principles of good design, or do not do what a national flag should do, or both.

Good design limits the number of colours, ideally to no more than three (which is why the red, white and blue of the present design works so well), and not to have colours on top of each other that cause them to appear to be flashing (such as red on blue, which is why the present design has white between the red and the blue). There should also be good contrast between the colours, and the combination should be upbeat, positive, not negative in any way. The design should have a strong central focus so that the eye is not forced to hop about between two or more competing elements, and, above all, the design should be unmistakably New Zealand; it must should 'New Zealand' and nothing else, and therefore the central symbol should say that.

In the ones submitted to the panel there is also the big no-no of the accidental (or deliberate?) use of phallic symbols, such as 3, 4 and 14 on this selection made for the New Zealand Herald. 14 is particularly obvious. Why could the people who selected those three not see that? Do they want New Zealand to be mocked round the world?

Number 4 is also bad from the point of view of colours; it has only two, and they are ones that do not have nearly enough contrast.

1 is too bland, and does not shout 'New Zealand', as a New Zealand flag should.

In 2 the eye hops from point to point; it is not held by a central focus. If the stars were bigger it would be much better, because they would not be fighting for attention with the vertical white bands.

5 is good use of colour and shape, although the eye is forced to go from side to side.

6 is fine to mark a fighter-jet or helicopter but not to be a flag, even though it has long been used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It is designed for a plane not a flag; but it is right to use the strongest symbol of New Zealand, the kiwi, something found nowhere else in the world--unlike a fern with a silver back, which is found elsewhere.

The black fern of 7 is too sombre, and the fern is too detailed to work on a flag.

8 makes the same mistakes as 2 and 7: the eye is forced to hop about, and those tiny stars are too detailed.

9 has two focal-points not one. It would be better to dump the stars.

10 features something no unique to New Zealand, and is too sombre.

11 is not a good variation on 5; the red is better than the black, and the black means that the design has four colours, which is not the best.

12 uses the English cross for some obscure reason (England is only part of the Great Britain from which the New Zealand nation sprang), plus four stars for no apparent reason, because they are not as they in the sky, and again it does not shout 'New Zealand' to the world

13 has been discussed in another blog posting. Obviously I think it is good, and it certainly keeps to the fundamentals of good design: only three colours, bold, a central focus, a symbol that more than any other shouts 'New Zealand.'

14 should not be considered, for apart from its obvious phallic reference, it is too detailed--those stars are two small for a flag.

15 does not shout 'New Zealand' and that dividing line near the bottom says nothing. If it is meant to a long white cloud it says it in an obscure whisper. It does not shout, and has not geographical reference. New Zealand is essential a north-south country between two oceans left and right, not an east-west one.

All elements of a flag's design should say something about the country. The American flag says 'America', it shouts it, every element is about America and nowhere else: the fifty stars represent the fifty states of the United States of America, and the thirteen stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the union. It uses only three colours, colours that have good contrast and that go well together, and that recognise the country's British heritage. There should be something of that. We should at least keep the blue, partly because of that, and partly because we are surrounded by the deep blue ocean.

'New Zealand' means 'New Sea-Land' and the flag should say that.

Any flag that does not instantly say 'This is New Zealand' should not even be considered. 

Most of the thousands of designs that have been submitted do not do that, and are design-disasters. Obviously their creators ignored the very good advice given on the Flag Consideration Panel's website.