To begin the task of finding a topic to write a 10 page paper on, you’d better think of something you can talk on and on about. My brainstorming process began by choosing 3 possible research topics that hit home for me in one way or another. For class, which has a central theme of the American Dream, my topics include 3 different ways to talk about diversity in today’s comics. My first choice is how feminism and the vulnerabilities of womanhood are represented in the relatively new series Saga which has a breastfeeding woman on the front of one of its covers. My second choice has to do with gender classification/ transgender actualization in Americans’ minds through comic books, specifically transgender representation of HIM, the villain in the Powerpuff Girls. My third choice is having to do with modern body image and fitness representations, namely Mr. Incredible of The Incredibles whose body is purposefully less “perfect” than the traditional male superhero.
For me, I spend my summers working and manage to fit in one or two splurg-y getaways thanks to flying Southwest. I may go to Niagara Falls Canada or the Southern states. There’s never too much wiggle room financially to leave the continent. Doing so, may I add, is kinda scary. When I went on a cruise to the Bahamas last year I felt adrift-literally. I guess I learned that I prefer to vaca to a city, or at least somewhere where I can escape conventionalized organization. Even in the Bahamas ( an island of relaxation?) a visitor is supposed to relax, but all you can do as a foreigner is shop, “do the beach thing” amidst other foreigners and return to the ship. To attempt cultural immersion is like an imaginary abstract idea in this situation.
No matter how far you go, I feel like a short amount of time there is just about counterproductive. At the end of it, you’ve spent money, time and energy solely on logistics and managed to conjure up some photographic memories. To truly experience a “getaway” I feel like one has to habitually go there. Actually, what would be ideal is to travel for one’s work. That way, you actually are part of the goings on and thus immersed in them. Take Leslie Keiser. According to CNN.com she traveled to Senegal in order to train people on a new system her company designed. While there she simultaneously picked up some experiential knowledge of the culture there.
Why is New Orleans such a hotspot for tourism? The above image may lend itself to the answer. No other city has a tourist pull in the same way that NOLA does. This is because no other American city has the same distinctive cultural quality–one that engenders the feeling of the “exotic,” but on non-exotic American soil. Unlike the rest of America, Louisiana and New Orleans by virtue of history are citizens of the Caribbean. The region’s colonization by the French and Spanish as well as their racial mixing with Native Americans and black slaves is defined within the Caribbean experience. In short: New Orleans is Caribbean and part of the Caribbean world, it’s just annexed away on the North American continent. So what, then, about the Caribbean makes it exotic? The warm weather in which multitude of vegetation and species flourish is nice, but why is it exotic? Exotic has many definitions: something foreign, something tropical or something sexual. Each definition, I think, defines another–and the Caribbean’s exotic has all of the above. The common demoninator is the sexual or lustful. As NOLA resident and anthropologist G.O. Binder puts it, “To this day, Louisiana and New Orleans are ghettoized, pathologized, and exoticized in the American imgagination.” And as can be seen in the album cover, the sexuality of the exotic is what is being advertised.
This week I’m commenting on the power of appearances. Above is a print screen shot of Anisa’s blog page which I just visited. I was particularly impressed with the catchiness and overall attractiveness of the page. The background photo to the left gives a really visually appealing depth to her blog. I like that the photo takes up almost half the screen, because it makes the blog more of a visual presentation. At the same time, however, I can’t seem to take my eyes off of it enough to focus on the text. The text is hard to get into with my eyes constantly wandering to the left side of the page.
The headings she uses work well, though and grab your attention. The word choice for each section headings helps with the flow of information.
In many ways today’s webpage needs to contain quality art form elements in order to come across as novel or interesting. The colors, shapes, depth, fonts and themes all can determine how effective the webpage is in reaching the attention of its intended audience. In Anisa’s blog, I loved her choice of font because its big and simple enough for easy reading yet it has a unique personality in order to be visually interesting.
Keeping in theme with Jamaica Kincaid and the act of tourism, it’s important to look into her perspective as a writer in order to better understand the arguments in her article “The Ugly Tourist.” Antigua is a Caribbean island about 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico and about 600 miles north off the coast of South America. Like many of the Caribbean islands, its economy is based on tourism–that’s to say its often a stop for cruise ships, especially those advertising the popular trip to “Saint John’s”. According to the CIA World Factbook, tourism to Antigua depends largely on tourists from the United States, Canada and Europe. Since the island like much of the Caribbean is vulnerable to natural disasters, that affects its economy as well since tourism necessitates mother nature’s cooperation. With this in mind, the reader can understand the audience that Kincaid is writing to, and why her article isn’t directed towards everyone in the world, or even every tourist in the world. As illustrated in her article: “as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live” is indirectly outlining the American, Canadian or European tourist from some booming American, Canadian or European economy. Understanding this, the reader can now make the connection between this specific audience and the juxtaposition that she is implicitly drawing–the prosperous economy versus the on-edge economy of Antigua. The CIA World Factbook points out that :
“In 2009, Antigua’s economy was severely hit by the global economic crisis and suffered from the collapse of its largest private sector employer, a steep decline in tourism, a rise in debt, and a sharp economic contraction between 2009-11. Antigua has not yet returned to its pre-crisis growth levels.”
This fact helps reveal the very real gravity tourism has in the equation of Antigua’s economy. Unlike prosperous cities, Antigua lacks enough development of economic sectors outside of tourism to make it a stable economy–one that doesn’t drastically change completely if only one factor is out of wack. It’s this reality that adds another dimension to “The Ugly Tourist”– the perspective of the native who either works in agriculture or hospitality, and whose prayers go to hoping that people will keep coming to see the spectacle that is at their whims.
A big portion of Kincaid’s “The Ugly Tourist” is building this perspective of ‘the other,’ aka a comparison of self versus an unknown. Why is this article so compelling? What is it about her writing style that keeps us in suspense until the very last word, all because of a subject as seemingly innocent as tourism? The answer, in my opinion, is the way in which she constructs this notion of ‘the other.’ First, she spends about half the article making us reflect on who we are. She takes us on a journey of self-awareness and insecurity to finally discover what images we associate with our identity as it relates to other people:
“From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live, dismayed, puzzled (a cliche, but only a cliche can explain you) at how alone you feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed…”
In this passage, which rants on for many more lines, (all the same sentence) she shows us a sense of ourselves as individuals detached from our peers. Specifically, I believe she’s dealing with Americans here, (or at least first world citizens) since she points out this loneliness that derives from being immersed in a population too busy to really care about all these strangers that live around us. In this case, the other, or stranger, is our next door neighbor who doesn’t notice us.
Later in the article, though, she introduces our tourist identity next to a native of somewhere else–where each is definitely noticed by the other. In this case, the stranger is someone who DOES notice us, but doesn’t even like us because “they envy [our] ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for [ourselves].”
In short, the compelling factor of Kincaid’s article is her subliminal way of answering our longing desire to relate to and find our rightful and purposeful place amongst other humans.
I especially enjoyed his entry entitled “Away From Home,” a description of his early college life and lifestyle transition. It was refreshing to read a perspective of someone who is so newly acquainted with a life independent of his parents, along with an attitude of anticipation to match. He talks about different aspects of the adventure he is just at the cusp of embarking on, including what chores he’s now doing and what new responsibilities he has taken on. He created an intimate tone with the details he added, such as the fact he went to a small-town high-school. I think my favorite part of his writing is this attention to detail, which is his ability to convey clean and concise honesty in written form and is thus a strength for him.
Also, the pictures he’s added to accompany the text are effective and match the themes well. I love the one below (taken from his blog) which he added in an entry about his evolution as a writer. The face of the cartoon actually represents his character pretty accurately.
above:street sign in New Orleans courtesy of videotechservices.com
I recently booked a flight down to NOLA for my family and I to visit my best friend who’s a student of Tulane University. Tons of people visit Nawlins solely to celebrate Mardi Gras. Others visit for Bourbon St. and the Quartier Francais. Others are drawn just from rumors about the amazing culinary and musical experiences. I fall into the small subcategory of Drawn to NOLA by Galia Binder. Now that she lives there, the fact that New Orleans is also a new and exciting cultural endeavor is simply the cherry on top. After visiting initially and learning a bit more about the spirit and feel of the city, I’m now also majorly enticed by my visits because of the countless adventures to be had and learning about how a different people goes about day to day life. I would say in this case I’m as much a “local” there as I am a tourist–that’s to say many now locals in Nola are originally from someplace else, and I’m a tourist simply because I’m making other people’s banality my own entertainment, as Jamaica Kincaid defines tourism in her article “The Ugly Tourist.” The thing that will never be banal about New Orleans compared to many other American cities, is the spirit of celebration that happens daily in the streets, stores, or on the radio. This sort of celebration is a slower pace that promotes relaxation much more effectively than a weekend at a beach.
Most years I simply stay home and work for Spring Break. That’s to say, I’ve never had that reality tv/Hollywood “Spring Break experience.” The drinking, the nudity, the beaches, the parties etc etc never were in the picture for me, nor was a vacation of even some low-key partying for Spring Break. Spring Break for colleges as advertised seems very over rated. I’d rather take a vacation some other time of year and save on airfare. Then again, I am secretly envious of all these people supposedly drowning in bliss and glamour on their Spring Break vacation.
Along with the “brand” of Spring Break comes a certain level of risk, which adds to the idea of indulgence that is “Spring Break.” According to CNN’s video clip on Spring Break Safety, some of the risks for Spring Breakers include sunburn, alcohol and its associated risks, hotel room break ins, and getting mugged. I associate what the media portrays as “Spring Break” as having its origin in the 80s with the surge of students in colleges, as bright neon swimwear on the beaches, as well as a certain culture of horror films in that era having to do with the blissfully unaware and sexually charged young adult who is being punished with terror for being so blissful and ignorant.
Recently I took a look at classmate Keanu’s Blog. I was interested in seeing his blog because his writing in the class workshops thus far has been great. He writes with an engaging tone and clear diction. What was particularly attention-grabbing in his blog was his entry about his trip to Germany. In the entry he shares information about what he ate, what sites he visited, where he stayed, and what surprised him about his trip. It was interesting to learn that he “had the privilege of visiting a local restaurant and ice cream shop which is a lot similar to its [American] counterparts…” which made his post very relatable since he was able to include a comment clearly denoting an American perspective.
The tone of the whole blog was very catchy. His opening words, for example, create a familiar and easy-to-read style:
“Unlike most freshmen in high school I was given the opportunity to travel to Germany all expenses paid.”
I like his idea to write about his own travels and include a photo from the trip. There is no better piece of writing than something that simply flows out onto the page because the writer has a personal investment in the task. I think I will draw from his idea and write an entry about my own travels soon.