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5-10-10 Bob Staake Tilt.JPG

Pollux writes:

Some New Yorker covers require some explanation, and this is certainly the case with the cover for the May 10, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Sempé Fi is here to help.

Bob Staake’s “Tilt” features a Pilgrim riding a whale tilting a lance at a wind farm in the middle of the ocean. The imagery, and title, refer to Don Quixote. The focus of the cover, however, is on the waters off Massachusetts (hence the Pilgrim) rather than the sun-drenched fields of La Mancha. Specifically, the covers refers to the controversial Cape Wind project, the United States’ first offshore wind farm.

Composed of 130 wind turbines, Cape Wind is to be built on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. Public opinion survey results reveal that most Bay Staters support the project and its goal of providing clean, renewable energy, but opponents include the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which cites economic, environmental, and aesthetic concerns.

Greenpeace, however, supports Cape Wind, and has its own concerns about the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, accusing the organization of disseminating false and misleading information about the Cape Wind project. Greenpeace alleges, for example, that the Alliance of falsely tripled the size of Cape Wind in the Alliance’s description of the controversial project, as well as depicting Cape Wind to be much closer to shore than it would be.

Interestingly, the wording that the Boston Globe used for its coverage on this distortion evokes Staake’s imagery: “Foes tilt at larger-than-life Cape Windmills - Error in flier inflates the size of proposed turbine farm in Nantucket Sound.”

And so the battle rages. Staake’s round little Pilgrim tilts a lance at a towering wind turbine, but it is an ineffective lance.

Both the Pilgrim and the whale are dwarfed by the powerful-looking and triumphant towers of Aeolus. The Pilgrim’s old fashioned weapon and clothing evokes the futile and somewhat backward-looking opposition to the Cape Wind project. “It is easy to see,” Don Quixote says to Sancho just before battling the windmills, “that you are not used to this business of adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, away with you out of here and betake yourself to prayer, while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”

Cape Cod Today interviewed Staake regarding this cover. “Like most of us here on the Cape,” Staake remarked, “I have mixed feelings about the project and I think the cover reflects that, though I have to say I think it’s pretty cool that in a few years my Chatham studio will be powered by wind.”

Would any future disaster involving Cape Wind reach the magnitude and create the damaged wreaked by the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Are wind farms beautiful to look at? Would sea life be adversely affected by the presence of a wind turbine?

In any case, the debate may be moot: Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, gave the project the green light in late April. Staake’s whale-riding, lance-wielding Pilgrim cuts a silly figure against a backdrop of turbines slicing the sky.

As with any major development project, there are pros and cons, mixed feelings, rational opposition, irrational opposition, strong support, and fierce and sometimes unequal combat. Bob Staake’s “Tilt” captures the spirit of this combat and debate.

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