23 July 2014

French Tourists Take the Road Less Traveled When Visiting Alaska

Working in the visitor industry in Ketchikan, Alaska, you meet a lot of people. The majority of visitors arrive by way of one of a few major cruise lines—Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, or more recently, Disney. (Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity, and Carnival owns both Holland America and Princess, so there are even fewer major cruise corporations involved.)

A clear majority of visitors to Ketchikan are also North Americans—vast numbers of Americans, many Canadians, and even a fair number of Mexicans. Add to that the large number of British, Australian, and other Anglophone visitors, and there aren't many visitors left who don't either come from the same continent, speak English, or—in most cases—both.

Out of those I haven't listed yet, I would venture to say that most are European. There are plenty of people who visit speaking South Asian or East Asian languages, but I know many of them are Americans, Canadians, or Australians and simply don't speak English within their family. Out of the Europeans, (excluding the British), Germans predominate, although hearing Eastern European languages is fairly common as well.

For me, as a French speaker living in Alaska who'd like to practice his language skills more often, there's just one big question that comes out of all this:

Where are all the French tourists?

08 July 2014

Bill Cosby vs. Ta-Nehisi Coates: Can't We Just Blame Black People?

Many people in the United States are really attracted to views like these ones, from Bill Cosby. If you don't care to follow the link, it's a rather popular excerpt from a speech Cosby gave, arguing that black people won't speak correctly, won't raise their kids correctly, and don't make education a priority.

The excerpt ends, "We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer." Just look at the comments on the Imgur page in the link: Most are expressing full agreement, and say that Cosby is speaking the "truth."

I disagree. You can't just blame black people or black culture for the inequalities that continue to exist between African Americans and the rest of the United States. To do so is just ignorant.

18 June 2014

Game of Thrones Season Four is the Worst

——Safe from major spoilers——

If you haven't seen Game of Thrones season four yet, the following references a few different scenes and plot lines, but should not ruin the story for you.


Season four of HBO's Game of Thrones was a huge disappointment for me. It addressed some of my favorite material from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire—awesome plot twists and scenes that were very fun to read. Nevertheless, the TV series let me down, and I place the blame on David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

13 June 2014

Greek Gods: "Kefi" Isn't Related to "Kefir"

the offending kefir bottle
Greek Gods, one of my favorite brands for kefir, has a little story on the back of their bottles:
The Greek word "kefi" refers to enthusiasm and the positive joyful spirit of life. Believed to have been consumed for thousands of years, kefir remains a great addition to any diet. It is delicious and may be beneficial to the body. The Greek Gods kefir is exceptionally creamy, smooth and rich in taste.
The only problem—which you might suspect right away—is this:

The word "kefi" has nothing to do with the word "kefir."

The word "kefir" is of unsure origins, but it is known to have come from the north Caucasus region from a complex family of languages entirely unrelated to Greek. The word might have something to do with "foam" (which makes sense)—but nothing to do with joy.

The funniest part, I think, is that Greek Gods is doing exactly the same thing the father did in My Big Fat Greek Wedding—taking any word and creating a false etymology going back to Greek.

Nice try, kefir company, but I caught you!

03 May 2014

Critique of A Song of Ice and Fire: Magic

wildfire poster (source)
I've now written about two themes I really enjoy from George R. R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Firehistory and religion. Now I'd like to highlight one aspect of the series that I don't enjoy as much—the magic.

Why don't I enjoy the magic of Westeros and its universe? After all, most all "fantasy" books contain some type of magical creatures or magical powers. Well, I think my disappointment with the magic in the books is that it threatens the gritty realism present in the other aspects of the stories, such as the history and religion. In the politics of the game of thrones, everything is ambiguous: There are no clear good guys and bad guys, no clear dichotomy between good and evil. The same holds true for the religions: Which of the religions is right? Are they all fake? Are any of the gods real? Unfortunately, George R. R. Martin's use of magic in the books undermines this enjoyment.

05 April 2014

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion

poster for an earlier season
The fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones premieres tomorrow, and I decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times before about Game of Thrones, leveling criticism, mapping a fanciful comparison, and discussing narrative and history. In this series though, I'm being more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books—two enjoyable ones, and one worthy of critique.

There are two thematic highlights that I really enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire: The first I wrote about was history. Now I'll continue with religion.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

21 March 2014

Non-Profitization of Major Corporations

Walmart is arguably the world's
largest company.
Here's a brief, rough, unpolished, and unevidenced thought: (You get the idea.)

One small change to how the world economy is structured could make a big difference in bettering democracy and achieving greater economic justice. All I propose is as follows:

All of the huge, multinational corporations around the globe should be beheaded. These major corporations should be forced to become non-profits.

The idea is simple: Create an international mandate to remove owners, investors, and shareholders from a select number of the world's largest companies. Leave everything else intact. All of the profits that these huge companies generate from then on—profits that otherwise would have gone to owners and shareholders—will instead be passed on to employees, consumers, or charities in the form of higher wages, lower prices, or donations.

The companies can continue to invest in themselves to further their interests, but their beheading, so to speak—or their "non-profitization"—would redirect their massive profits toward common people, rather than financial elites.

Yes, I know this idea is outrageous, impossible, or both, but I just wanted to write it down as a thought. Let me know what you think.

28 February 2014

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: History

HBO key art for Season 4
In preparation for the fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, premiering April 6, I've decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times now on this blog about Game of Thrones, launching a popular critique, mapping a fanciful comparison to Alaska, and musing about narrative and historical theory. This time, however, I'll keep things more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books. Two I heartily enjoy, and one I think is worthy of critique.

Besides the obvious joys of plot twists, dynamic characters, and vivid details, there are two huge highlights that I enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire—the history and the religion. Let's start with the history.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.