PFA Meeting Update

Our March meeting takes place tonight in Lake Oswego, Oregon — anyone is welcome!  See the Next Meeting page for details.

We publish “minutes” as the Flutterings column in our newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid.  Here are the Flutterings from our last meeting as reported in VexTab 56 (with many photos at the end).

In our January meeting, hosted by Jessie Spillers, 14 PFA members enjoyed a lively evening of flags.  As the host, Jessie led the introductions and moderated the discussion.  We began by wishing Michael Orelove a speedy recovery from his heart attack and surgery.

Jessie outsourced his presentation by sharing a 5-min. YouTube video: “Why are Some Flags Similar?”

On behalf of Michael Orelove,  Ted Kaye read Michael’s recent correspondence with the city of Atlanta, along with the protocol for half-staffing a flag (and showed a black ribbon).

Dear Mr. Orelove:  …the City does not give away flags, as it would be a violation of the Georgia constitution’s gratuities clause which prohibits a government from giving away something of value.  We also do not have any flags at this time that have lived out their useful life and would not be of value, due to wear and tear, which could possibly be given away…

David Koski debuted his flag for the year 2016, and described his new enthusiasm for counterchanging as a way to “complicate a design in a simple way”.

While designing a flag for the year 2016, I was reminded how counterchanging can take something very mundane and add a bit more interest, and how it seems to be used less often that it deserves. Here I present a few more arbitrary flag designs (representing nothing) to show what a striking effect counterchanging can have. Exploration of counterchanged flags merits further study by vexillologists.

Alexander Baretich reported on his efforts to launch a cooperative to make Cascadia flags; we provided suggestions on fabrics and tailors.

After seeing a “not available in Minnesota” flag ad, Carl Larson learned how, by Minnesota law, American flags sold there had to be U.S.A.-made.

Fred Paltridge shared several recent flag-related Oregonian articles.

Scott Mainwaring posed a quiz based on a Dallas, Texas, photo op, to identify the background flags.  The assembled correctly identified 18 of 19 flags (Eritrea was the holdout).

He also reported on a Howard Zinn flag quote and how its use on flags has recently spread widely in popular culture (see There Is No Flag Large Enough…).

Robert Izatt, a Chinook tribal member, showed its flag (bought from TME Co. in Connecticut).

New member Random Pendragon, a 10th-grader at McNary High, travelled from Salem and showed his United Celtic League flag, which he chose for its beauty.  [Random is also the designer of the beautiful Cascadia by Moonlight flag.]


Max Liberman had celebrated his 25th birthday by drafting a personal coat of arms and a resulting flag using five bezants and two books; members provided feedback.

Using materials sent from New Zealand by its leading vexo (John Moody), Ted Kaye showed the process through which Kiwis voted in the recent flag referendum.

He also described ongoing efforts to change U.S. city and state flags—the most recent being New Jersey—and the rekindling of the Fiji flag redesign effort.

David Ferriday showed more flag-related tiles and led a discussion on primary colors, the color green, and their use in flags and design.

Patrick Genna, with his usual  generosity, gave away flags he’d recently bought at Goodwill.

Nathaniel Mainwaring, who studies flags in 4th grade and enjoys drawing them, shared his notebook and asked for “funwork” suggestions.

John Niggley gave Fred Paltridge  a Childe Hassam flag print, and showed a new purchase:  the 1992 facsimile reprint of the 1939 Flaggenbuch—the Ottfried Neubecker masterwork.  He described his project for employer Pacific Power to erect a 70-foot flag pole (with a 12’ x 18’ flag) at its service center in Roseburg, Oregon.

Our next meeting will be at the home of John Schilke on March 10th.  The PFA flag will find its way there somehow!


The Mere-Exposure Effect

by Ted Kaye, Vexilloid Tabloid #56

The mereexposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.  In social psychology, this effect is sometimes called the “familiarity principle”.

I recently learned of this term, and the concept which it describes.  It puts a name to a challenge faced by anyone trying to update or change an established flag design.

As the “year of the flag” turns  into a new year, with flag redesign efforts multiplying at the city and state level across the U.S., it’s heartening to have a well-researched descriptive theory to explain why people can be so resistant to flag change.

The effect has been demonstrated with many kinds of things, including words, Chinese characters, paintings, pictures of faces, geometric figures, and sounds—so it is not surprising that it would apply to flags as well.

In my explanation of the Oregon flag redesign project of 2008–09,  I described people’s preference for a flag, no matter how poorly designed, as the “ugly baby phenomenon”—using the analogy that every mother loves her baby, no matter how ugly, because she is accustomed to it and it is her very own.

Such a comfortable and proprietary relationship can cloud aesthetic judgment.  Citizens of a city or state (or even a country) can feel the same way about their flags.  But unlike mothers, cities, states, and countries can change their flags.

As Fiji restarts its flag redesign effort (the second round of public submissions is due by 29 February), and New Zealand approaches the culmination of its own process (the public referendum on the  proposed new flag versus the current flag ends 24 March), the mere-exposure effect may well help explain the reaction of the public to these initiatives.

[thanks to Wikipedia for the description of this concept.]

Robert Zajonc. Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

For those interested in Robert Zajonc’s foundational 1968 paper “Attitudinal effects of mere exposure” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it can be found here.  What’s more, there’s a local angle — Zajonc opens with this news story from Oregon:

On February 27, 1967, the Associated Press carried the following story from Corvallis, Oregon:

A mysterious student has been attending a class at Oregon State University for the past two months enveloped in a big black bag. Only his bare feet show. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:00 A.M. the Black Bag sits on a small table near the back of the classroom. The class is Speech 113— basic persuasion. . . . Charles Goetzinger, professor of the class, knows the identity of the person inside. None of the 20 students in the class do. Goetzinger said the students’ attitude changed from hostility toward the Black Bag to curiosity and finally to friendship [emphasis added].

To see where the story leads from there, read the article.

Vexilloid Tabloid #56

Our latest newsletter, The Vexilloid Tabloid #56,  is our longest ever!  It features:

  • The Mere-Exposure Effect (Ted Kaye)
  • Flags for the Year 2016 (David Koski and Scott Mainwaring)
  • Counterchanged Flags (David Koski)
  • Flag for Cascadia by Night (Random Pendragon)
  • Swastikas in Japan (Alexander Baretich)
  • There Is No Flag Large Enough… (Scott Mainwaring)
  • Taíno Heritage in Puerto Rican Flags (Carlos Alberto Morales Ramírez)
  • Field Report — New Zealand (Ted Kaye)
  • Flag for The River of the Mind (Casey Sims)

And, as always: notes from our last meeting, the Portland flag miscellany, the What’s that Flag? quiz, and more!