Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Edition, Dorky

With DorkFest '08 fast approaching, what could make for a dorkier warm-up post topic than our old standby, state flags?

But First

Speaking of DorkFest: Rebel complained last Thursday "why is there no link for Dorkfest 2007???" I thought this was rather well played, especially with the triple question marks.

DorkFest '07 can be relived here and here.


A few weeks ago, Cartophiliac forwarded me a link to this quiz, in which you are given ten minutes to identify the flags of the fifty states. Ten minutes sounds like a long time, and I assure you it feels like it too, as you sit there guessing wildly at the indistinguishable bottom half of the state flag designs.

Now if you want to take that quiz, run off and do it now, as there will be spoilers in the discussion below. Bon chance!

Dorky Literary Filler

I learned recently that the minimalist composer Michael Nyman is writing an opera based on the classic Laurence Sterne novel Tristram Shandy!

He's been working on it since 1981.

True story.

. . .

OK, you literary types should be either chuckling knowingly or rolling on the floor at this point, depending on how that hit you. If you did not find the above information amusing, go read Tristram Shandy -- which may, I should mention, take a while -- and then try again.

Back to State Flags

OK, the thing about that quiz that interested me is that, at the end, it breaks down how people who have taken the test have done on each individual flag. Here's the whole list:

This U.S. State Flags Quiz has been taken 6,741 times.
State % Guessed Right

California 90.8% *
Montana 87.6% *
Kansas 87.3% *
Arkansas 86.5% *
Oregon 86.4% *
Texas 85.2%
Oklahoma 84.7% *
Wisconsin 84.2% *
Iowa 82.5% *
North Carolina 80.6%
Washington 72.2%
Alaska 68.3%
Colorado 66.6%
Mississippi 65.6%
Arizona 63.2%
Illinois 62.5% *
Wyoming 62.5%
New Mexico 62.1%
Maryland 61.3%
South Dakota 57.7% *
South Carolina 57.4%
Alabama 49.1%
Hawaii 46.3%
Ohio 45.2%
Rhode Island 43.8%
Florida 41.5%
Louisiana 37.9%
Tennessee 37.9%
New York 37.9%
Georgia 33.3%
Indiana 33.3%
Delaware 29.8%
Maine 29.2%
North Dakota 28.9%
New Jersey 28.7%
Vermont 28.5%
Michigan 28.1%
Massachusetts 27.8%
Virginia 27.7%
Connecticut 26.6%
Pennsylvania 26.4%
Nevada 25.5%
Missouri 25.5%
Utah 25.5%
Kentucky 24.9%
New Hampshire 24.9%
Idaho 24.4%
I of course wondered WHY there was such great variability here. It's not too hard to figure out, though. Most of the most recognizable state flags -- the ones I marked with an asterisk above -- have their names written in big honkin' letters on their design. I actually think this is pretty poor form vexillogically, but it sure makes a flag easily identifiable on a quiz. [also: North Carolina has the letters "N C" on the design, which is kind of a giveaway. On Illinois and South Dakota, the words are too small to read easily on the little images used in the quiz.]

In the next tier of recognizability, we have the distinctive and meaningful designs that I like to see on a flag. Washington's homage to its namesake (and distinctive use of green); the bold graphics of New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, South Carolina, and Maryland; the local color of Wyoming, Hawaii, and Rhode Island -- people remember these because they are interesting and reflective of the state's history or identity. The corporate logos of Ohio and Tennessee, although less evocative, still manage to stand out from the state-seal-on-blue crowd.

The state-seal-on-blue crowd? Well, the data speaks pretty loudly on this point. Here are nine of the eleven least-recognized flags of the American states:

THAT's what I'm talking about! So I just think that in this election year, instead of nattering on about tax policy or health care or foreign policy or the so-called "national debt," we should be focusing our energy on something really important: bringing our state flags to the standards of a 21st Century nation.

See ya next week at DorkFest '08!


Rex Parker said...

Dorkfest '08 is what's approaching, right? Or are we going to redo last year's competition. It was, after all, totally rigged. Damned Supreme Court.


Chance said...

I got 21 but gave up after 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Too many blue fields and little white seals.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to hop on the Shandy.

I enjoyed the map quiz very much and I did very poorly on it. I enjoy failure I suppose.

I do look forward to dorkfest. I saw a line today that might work with as well: "The geek shall inherit the earth." Ah, maybe not.

The flag issue is important and I never knew how much until now.

Rebel said...

Yeah yeah yeah, as soon as I started to take the quiz I was on board with your critique of the state seal on blue flags. And cracked up at the flags with the names right there across the top. Was a little sad to see Kulongoski never got around to switching OR's flag to reflect our suggestion.

Michael5000 said...

@Rex: Touche.

@Chance: See? See?

@boo: I always think it's a good sign when you can enjoy something you're doing poorly at.

@rebel: Our movement is growing! NEW STATE FLAGS!!!

Anonymous said...

"1 days" left!

G said...

@rex: WRONG. Also, if you're going on last year's "rigged" ceremony, what makes you think that this year will be different? EH?

@M5K: I am. So. Excited. I've even been prepping by staying in the library until 2:15am on a Saturday in preparation.

margaret said...

I got 19 of 50 flags, and I was hurt that yes, I can identify Montana's flag but all those people who have to read the word on it to know? Sheesh.

My fave's the buffalo.

Shouldn't there be, like, a drinking party for Dorkfest where we can, I dunno, sip beer through straws and giggle? I'll bring my wizard hat.

Voron X said...

Yes, indeed, the movement is growing: