How to Read Moby-Dick

Originally posted on The Stake:

mobydickwoodcut

by Bethany Taylor

While out walking my dog very early one morning I ran into a frantic woman, beseeching directions to Starbucks.

My reflexive internal response was, “I’m sorry to tell you this, ma’am, but he went down aboard the Pequod,” but I kept the joke to myself, stifled my giggles, and directed the woman towards the coffee shop.

For the most part, everything I’ve ever read about Moby-Dick has been either beautiful and solemn like a dull sermon, or dismissive of it as a baggy boring relic of bygone days. The book invites comparisons to the whale itself: the sheer size and density, a brick of over 600 page, as though its treasures must be gleaned from crosshatched ink scars carved in white slabbed pages.

For many, it is A Book To Be Read, almost a Jonahian duty that cannot be shirked lest the gods be angered, an…

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Why you don’t need to be rich to be a cultural tourist, and why it’s probably better not to be (really!)

unwindingthoughts:

Great post from a fellow blogger. Staying in the thick of it: Europe

Originally posted on Picnic at the Cathedral:

I remember the exact moment: after a morning of winding our way uphill through the medieval Albayzín neighborhood of Granada in Southern Spain, we reached the San Nicholas Viewpoint. We picnicked while taking in the enchanting view of the Alhambra and surrounding mountains and I mentioned to HOB that, according to our guide book, this view is Bill Clinton’s favorite sight in Europe. And somehow our idle chit-chat crystallized it for me–I have everything I want. I spent the entire day yesterday exploring the Alhambra. There’s nothing about this experience that would be better if I were rich, famous or a former American president. 

Ever since having this rather obvious, but nonetheless life-changing illumination, I’ve become convinced that not only are we not missing out by traveling on a modest budget, but we are far better off.  A great example is the last day from our trip this spring to…

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Big Oil and the new $35k Tesla–Musk better roll up his sleeves

Photo Courtesy MotorTrend

Last week CNET posted an article mentioning the announcement of new $35,000 Tesla, aptly named the Model 3.

The new ride estimated to debut in 2017 will hang on the ability to make a cheaper battery. CEO of Telsa, Elon Musk, claims the biggest factor in making a more affordable, high-volume-production electric car is battery making capacity. Right now, such capacity does not exist to manufacture Tesla’s on a level equal to that of traditional gas-powered vehicles. But when the ability does exist, Tesla is promising us it will be game on.

That’s when Big Oil just might start feeling their mortality.

Big Oil

As the Oil Industry continues to rake in trillions, many of us know, that the real future exists in alternative energy.

Though sales projections on oil consumption gathered and presented by Big Oil claim sales will continue to rise, other research shows that such estimates are inaccurate. Big Oil argues that countries beginning to develop into industrial nations will makeup the majority of the increase as they burn more gas to fuel their economic needs. However, with climate change at the forefront of the world’s problems and environmental standards becoming more stringent, these countries are not likely to consume as recklessly as the world once did despite their growing need for fuel.

This combined with the mounting problem of extracting oil in hostile territories (both politically and geographically) at a high cost is sure to create profit woes for Big Oil. According to The Economist, “Half the supermajors’ long-term capital spending now goes on costly unconventional or deep-water oilfields, largely because production-sharing arrangements and licenses to drill in the NOCs’ backyards are increasingly hard to find. The big NOCs now make up six of the ten largest oil producers in the world.

As a result, oil companies have turned to shale for supplemental revenue, though such an investment can be seen as counterproductive to their central business model–oil. The Economist reports that both Shell and Exxon are achieving more than 40% of their energy production from gas. However, with a potential gas surplus on the horizon being predicted by economists, natural gas prices could fall below that of oil, thus providing far less benefit and more headache to Big Oil’s plans, especially with gas’ high extraction costs.

The Model 3 Tesla could very well be a sign of Big Oil’s impending doom. If Tesla can manage to create an affordable, yet high-powered lithium-ion battery through its relationship with Panasonic and it’s gigafactory idea (yet to be actualized) it could bring volume production of electric automobiles onto the playing field with traditional automakers.

Tesla could change the game.

Tesla Charger

 

Mr. Musk better get his bodyguards ready though, because Big Oil isn’t going to let him go without a fight.

 

James Cameron says three more Avatar sequels then he’s returning to the ocean

Avatar 1

In an interview with The Daily Beast this week, James Cameron vowed he’s signed on with 20th Century Fox for three more Avatar sequels.

Cameron claims the Avatar franchise will allow him to continue his filming passions and speak to the things which mean most to him, specifically, human interaction with nature.

CG (computer graphics) are already in full gear for the next movie with teams in Manhattan Beach, California and New Zealand creating the signature Avatar world–blades of grass, flowers, and all. Cameron has also begun laying out the story with four other writers working alongside him.

Asked whether or not he’s sequel happy like many studios capitalizing on big hit movies, Cameron believes his Avatar sequel dreams are not of him selling out, but more of a George Lucas, Star Wars kind of thing.

He’s not ready to leave the blue lush world of Avatar just yet.

But why Cameron has been busy working on the next Avatar sequel, he didn’t start without first exploring a new world much more real and also very blue. Following the first movie, Cameron built a cylindrical submersible, not much wider than his body, and plunged into the ocean.

Cameron witnessed what is known as the Mariana Trench, 35,798ft below the ocean’s surface, and is only the third person in history to do so, the others being Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in 1960.

Don-Walsh-and-Jacques-Piccard

And that is why Cameron says, when he is done filming Avatar in five to six years, he is returning to the ocean, back to science.

While Cameron loves Hollywood, he’s very much aware it’s a bubble. Self describing himself as an explorer, Cameron’s love for Hollywood and all things movies is surpassed by his yearning to discover the unknown.

We might all be in for a heck of a journey to come. Whether it’s Cameron’s next Avatar sequel, or a documentary about his descents into the unknown, Cameron is bound to excite us in the theaters.

Let’s just hope the sequels don’t run out of steam like so many franchises do.

Cameron 3

Blue Jasmine Movie Review

Last night I finally got around to watching Blue Jasmine, and I must say, despite my initial reservations about the storyline, I enjoyed it!

The movie, featuring Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett playing wealthy New York socialite, Jasmine, at wit’s end after her husband Hal’s (Alec Baldwin) questionable business endeavors lead them to financial ruin, is emotionally raw and awkward.

Blue-Jasmine

While a storyline of this nature normally does not catch my interest, unless rivaling the gutsiness of the The Wolf on Wall Street (okay maybe not that gutsy), in there lies the beauty of Netflix–a flat monthly rate for unlimited movies.

The messiness and realness with which the story is told by Woody Allen and played by Blanchett is entirely unnerving. There are no moments of bliss or forgiveness in this movie. Even while Jasmine finds herself kissing Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) on the back porch of their soon-to-be new home, possibly returning her to the privileged life that marked her past, she cannot shake the feeling of being wildly out of control, thus continuing her lies and hurtling her closer towards disaster. Constantly popping pills to avoid a meltdown, something about her fall from grace, and never returning to it despite her greatest efforts, is deeply satisfying. The movie is real, and no it’s not a chick-flick.

Throughout the film Blanchett gives a convincing performance as we watch her meander around the streets of San Francisco trying to make sense of her new reality and incorporate herself into lower class society where her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) lives. These scenes often punctuated by the complete inability of Jasmine to relate to her environment.

Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

Though the story of broken socialite sent back to reality is not exactly a plot-line we haven’t heard, Jasmine’s complete loss of control feels refreshing, especially as she slips deeper into her own despair.

My one qualm about the movie was setting. At times, it seems to portray the 70s and 80s, though clearly other elements in the film, specifically cars and technology, remind you the story takes place in present day. Maybe it’s just the vintage filter Woody Allen gives the movie. However, I found this confusing and had to remind myself where I was.

Overall, definitely a movie to check out if you haven’t done so already!

Gaza (Day 9- Full Scale Ground Invasion)

With smiles on their faces, Israel invades Gaza…

Smiling soldiers

 

As the massacre continues with no end in sight, I find it hard to express everything going through my mind.

Senselessness, barbarism, sadness, corruption, innocence….

Last night while Benjamin Netanyahu cleared the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to proceed with a full scale ground invasion into Gaza, even journalists on the front lines found it hard to control their dismay. One example was seen when CNN correspondent Diana Magnay tweeted about a gathering of Israeli civilians, calling them “scum,” as they watched and cheered the commencement of the IDF’s invasion. The commencement characterized by the raining of bombs on Gaza during the night. Pictures of the gathering resembling a Fourth of July celebration, the familiar fireworks replaced by bombs, symbolizing almost certain casualties every time they fell.

Israeli troops 2

However what disturbs me most, is that my own country, the United States, and more specifically the White House, who could stop this war in an instant, considering $350 million dollars of our country’s tax dollars were just donated to Israel’s Iron Dome Defense System, continues to standby and watch as the bodies stack up.

The White House, which so often reiterates its unwavering stance against oppression and humans’ undeniable rights to freedom has fallen eerily silent. Not even a tweet has been heard from the White House Twitter feed since the battle began. Their attention now being turned, the timing near perfect, to the recent downing of yet another Malaysian passenger plane, MH-17, which has yet to be explained.

Despite the White House’s silence, one thing that does give me succor is UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon’s decision today to visit the Middle East in an act to broker a ceasefire.

As reported by the Irish Independent, Ki-Moon stated that a “ceasefire was ‘indispensable’ for urgently needed humanitarian efforts to succeed.”

Due to the length of the ongoing conflict, he added that UN humanitarian aid had been “stretched thin.”

Furthermore, Palestinian UN Ambassador, Riyad Mansour, promised to take his pleas about the ongoing atrocities in Gaza to the UN and international criminal courts if the Security Council did not act to protect Palestinian civilians.

Mansour went on to say that Israel’s “savage aggression” into Gaza “cannot be justified by any means. It is not self-defense. It is a vengeful military aggression intentionally planned and perpetrated by the occupying power on the civilian population under its occupation.”

israeli-troops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In closing, I want to mention a picture I recently saw. The picture accompanied by a one lined caption. It was of a Gaza paramedic that had been answering the ceaseless calls of the gravely injured and deceased. Constantly starting up his truck to help another person, the picture showed the man crying. I imagined his tears were from the horrific things he had seen, but when I read the caption, I found out I was wrong. The man had been crying because after starting up his truck yet another time, he came to realize that this time was different. This time it was his own family that he would be rescuing. But it was too late. They had been killed.

 

Has the world forgotten about Gaza (Day 3)

Gaza Mosque targeted by Israeli airstrikes

Gaza Mosque targeted by Israeli airstrikes , posted by thewire.com

While rockets rain down on Gaza from every which place, a lopsided US news decries attacks against Israel. Even while the death toll continues to rise in Gaza, and healthcare facilities are brought to their knees by the ceaseless stream of injured and dying victims of Israel’s military onslaught, the US and the world mostly standby and watch providing no aid, no medical supplies, and no shelter to those who are being killed. A deja vu response much similar to the Syrian civil war now ongoing for three years.

Time magazine’s online addition, states “Everything about the latest offensive is moving fast, especially relative to the last round of fighting. That November 2012 air campaign — dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel — lasted eight days. Israel’s current offensive, Operation Protective Edge, has bombed more than half as many targets in Gaza in less than half the time — 860 in three days compared with 1,500 in eight days last time.

Clearly a one sided war is being witnessed, Gaza being unequipped militarily to handled the bombardment of a nation backed by US military defense systems and weapons. Reports stating many of Gaza’s rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome system (which the US assisted Israel in developing) or falling in open areas. There have been no reports of Israeli citizen casualties. Meanwhile, Gaza has witnessed approximately 120 deaths in three days, nearly a quarter of which have been women and children. Though Israel continues to claim its missiles and rockets are being specifically targeted at Hamas hot zones, such claims have been hard to agree with considering the destruction seen thus far.

As Palestinians continue to die and live in fear of Israel’s next missile, the world wonders how long yet another war will go on before somebody steps in.

To help the people suffering in Palestine, please donate at:  visit: http://www.irusa.org/emergencies/palestine-humanitarian-crisis-2/