Phillip Wade Wilson

Shipping Out – Encomium

In my 20 years alive I have been on, at least, 4 different cruise lines and 12 different cruise ships. I have never found something that explains the way a cruise ship feels better than the way David Wallace recounts his time aboard the Nadir. I found the way he compares a cruise, a vacation mode that much fewer people experience than the beach traveling to a different country, to feelings that nearly every person can associate with was a genius way to enable his readers to connect with his own feelings even though they might not have experienced themselves.

“A vacation is a respite from unpleasantness, and since consciousness of death and decay are unpleasant, it may seem weird that the ultimate American fantasy vacation involves being plunked down in an enormous primordial stew of death and decay.” (36)

In this quote, Wallace is comparing how he felt aboard to the feeling of vacations in general and the feeling of the ocean in general. Almost everyone knows how much they want their vacation to go perfectly and to have the most relaxing time because it is one’s time to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but as he states thinking about death and decay would not be the most relaxing time. While not everyone would associate the ocean with death and decay as he does, it is quite common for people to be afraid of ships in open waters (due to the sheer number of boating incidents and the dramatization of the Titanic in 1997 and now when people reference their disdain for boats in open waters they typically reference the Titanic film and not the actual sinking). This skillful comparison makes it much easier for the readers who have been on vacation and who have an opinion on the ocean to make the association he does; it is as if he is giving the foundational framework for his own perceptions so that the readers can rationalize the same way he rationalizes.

Another aspect I find that Wallace effortlessly employs is his, at times crass, humor that provides a very open feeling for readers. This open feeling, to me, drew me in closer and made me more excited to continue reading because his writing style, from metaphors to tone, created a diluted fear of missing out within me that made me want to read and not feel like it was a chore. I say this because many academic writings are filled with jargon and complexities that make reading them difficult and unenjoyable. I believe Wallace understood this as he was an English professor, and even noted something similar early on in this article, so he crafted this in a way that would instill the want to learn (or in this case the want to read). There are numerous jokes and anecdotal stories present throughout this piece, but these are even extended to the footnotes which only emphasize his topics within the main article.

“My sense was that Cheeriness was up there with Celerity and Servility on the clipboard evaluation sheets the Greek bosses were constantly filling out on the crew.”

This comical quote can be found within the 8th footnote on page 37 and exemplifies part of his writing style. While this refers to the satirical tone he has about the ways in which Celebrity Cruises posits the feelings the crew has, it pushes it further to make it clear to see the irony between what is in reality and what is constructed by the cruise line for their “fantasy-enablement”. I think Wallace uses this satirical connotation because of how insane it seems to him that passengers aboard truly do believe the advertisements and the feelings the cruise sells. His shock and awe are seemingly translated to his readers through this method and, in my opinion, brilliantly executed.

There are too many quotes for me to talk about that I enjoyed. There are too many areas for me to praise him within his writing, though personally I feel like labeling this as a “writing” does not do it justice. The way he unpacked his time onboard the Nadir changes this article into a story because the way he constructed it was through storytelling. His use of rhetoric is a way that I hope to achieve one day and I will be reading more of his work on my own; in all honesty, from this one article I think he may have surpassed Albert Camus as my favorite writer… but only time shall tell.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia – John Frow

Frow claims there are three main ways in which tourism is explained and can be understood as, the first pits the tourist against the traveler, the second establishes a positive narrative for the traveler in a postindustrial world, and the third compares authentic forms of tourism to those that are not and seeks to establish what is and is not authentic. In a previous reading by Culler, we noted that the way in which things are gives rise to consequences that shape how others view a specific thing. For instance, a fur coat is not simply a garment to keep one warm but rather a status symbol of fashion, wealth, and power that happens to additionally be a garment to keep one warm. In this reading by Frow, that same argument is extended and includes three main pieces being:

“inseparability of the object from its semiotic status”
“sheer impossibility of constructing otherness”
To construct a “good tourist object” one must “construct it as a plausible simulation of itself”

This can be seen everywhere in the travel industry as it is commonplace for travel advertisements to use an exclusivity ploy of “the real…” in order to draw in more people. Since tourists are looked down upon in the travel industry and travelers are pedestaled, many tourist information hubs now shift their focus from showing what “touristy” locations are available in a certain city, country, or area they emphasize living like a local. Nearly all travel sites encourage their users to get to know the place they are going “like a native” (or something of the like) because tourists are seen as a societal annoyance, but world travelers are seen with this aristocratic gloss. Frow writes about this paradoxical idea between traveler and tourist, and the outcomes this has on other areas of travel.

The portrayed authentic or real…. can be dreadful because it extends a false sense of what a place actually is without the person making up their own mind on what something is or is not. With so many external forces giving people preexisting notions on practically everything, from religion to government, when it comes time to make one’s mind up on something as simple as how a place one is visiting is conceived in one head thoughts blend together and a convoluted, and oftentimes incorrect, ideas. For example, when I was abroad in Spain, we had a native Spaniard give us a tour she said she would take us to all the local spots, but where we ended up was with a bunch of other tourists in the same spaces they were occupying. A similar occurrence happened in Belize; we were offered a local’s guide to one of the coastal cities, but it turned out to be just another tourist hotspot as all the other tours were on the same path. These ‘local guides’ promoted the already established ideas of the places they lived to newcomers with, most likely, no intention of upholding commonly held beliefs nonetheless they continued to exacerbate them. It seemed in these cases, where tourism was a heavy component of the economy, the mark of authenticity was a key component to continuing their touristic cycle and vastly beneficial to the local populations while being slightly misleading to the tourists themselves.

Phillip Wade Wilson

The Semiotics of Tourism: Everything Has Consequences – Description

There were a few points within this reading that resonated deeply within me and made me take a second and just think. I found myself saying “wow” or laughing a bit as I read this because I never organized my thoughts about tourists and travelers in this way before, but I know for a fact I too dichotomize the two and stereotype the tourist as inherently negative while the traveler is its noble counterpart. I found it even more interesting when Culler displayed the thoughts of Fussell in juxtaposition to Boorstin, and I happened to agree with both explanations of how those authors describe tourists and travelers. I think, while possibly on the extreme side, Fussell brings up good points in relation to societal pressures and expectations while Boorstin centers his claims around the way times have changed to make travel itself easier. To me, it seemed that Fussell cast the motives of tourists as equitable to that of a person at a massage parlor in order to pretend to be something they are not to escape the natural bounds of one’s life and attempt to rationalize the haunting conditions of a normal, working, average person was quite relatable, at least in my life.

Like we talked about with beachgoing in America, once at the beach we kind of succumb to this carnival-like state of not caring about societal norms or expectations or even about what may be the best for us in general… it almost seems like taking a trip anywhere, not just the beach, taps us into our own hedonistic nature. When I go on vacations, I always end up spending more money than I should; if I go to the beach, I typically get more sun than I should; I usually eat more unhealthily and focus on what I want to eat at that moment rather than taking a step back from my cravings; I tend to focus more on what I want in that time than what anyone else wants. Fussell describes this in a sense and it resonated with me in more ways than just one. I found his argument, while more emotional based, to be stronger than Boorstin’s even though Culler seemed to lean more toward Boorstin’s and cast Fussell in a negative light after he quoted him.

Another major takeaway from this piece was the way authenticity was portrayed. I have always attempted to look at things from an outside perspective in order to better contextualize what I am experiencing, but Culler’s work takes it so much further. A self-reflection, of sorts, into our own biases and understanding of the world will help us see the “signs” without letting our “alibis” cloud our perceptions. I tended to view tourist traps, like the city of Pisa in Italy or the Empire State Building in NYC (if you have been to either of those you know what I am referring to), as a detriment to the experience I, or anyone, could have but after reading about the way “markers” ultimately heighten our experiences I have a newfound love for my memories within those places. After finishing Culler’s work it became even clearer to me that everything, no matter how small, has consequences.

Phillip Wade Wilson

The Tourist Gaze “Revisited” – John Urry: Narrative

“The most mundane of activities, such as shopping, strolling, sitting having a drink, or swimming, appear special when conducted against a striking visual backcloth”

It always seems that when I travel somewhere different the most boring of activities I almost dread to do at home become somewhat of an excitement. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of doing this activity somewhere new or the fact that I’m happy or even excited about being in that different place altogether so everything seems fun. As Urry has stated, we tourists love to look for the perceptions we want to see in a different place and the visual impact this has on us is based on the presence we are in and what that means to us. I think about every place I have been, especially recently, and I remember how seeing a style of architecture or a landmark changed my perspective of the city or area I was in. On my last trip abroad when I was in Milan, I remember the sights I saw most of all… least of all I remember the smells of the city, the taste of the food, and the sounds I heard. I remember bits and pieces of the latter, but the sights are ingrained much deeper in my memories than everything else.

The idea of sightseeing and using our vision that Urry portrays, in a way, reminds of me of ‘veni, vidi, vici’ (I came, I saw, I conquered). As a tourist, I go to a certain country or city or town or even historical site. As a tourist, I see all the site has to offer while documenting my time there via camera and memories I get to savor for a lifetime. As a tourist, I conquer the place I visit by experiencing all it has to offer and taking it all in so that I can take them back home with me.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Breaking Down an Image, but what about presence? – Comparison

Above is a photo I found of an extremely emaciated polar bear, one that the photographer claimed only had a few days left to live. How did it make you feel? What were your initial thoughts when you saw it? Did you think of climate change and the impact humans have on the natural world? Did you think of the barren environment in which the bears live?

I wanted to continue on with another post similar to my last one on the usefulness, and power, that can come with images. We read Cohn’s piece on what images do for us and how they shape our lives, but this week’s readings delve a bit deeper into the “why” and “how” surrounding this topic.

Most of what is found in Breaking Down an Image, by Sheffield, is a continuation of Cohn’s work. She gives us a few basic ways to understand how a photographer or advertisement company might set a photo up as, but in my opinion, she fails to give us something new to push the bounds of what we already know about rhetoric. In the Psychology of Rhetorical Images, by Hill, he establishes something I never even thought of when it came to understand the “why” and “how” of an image and that is presence.

“the desired element receives the greatest amount of presence from being directly perceived”

Hill is explaining that words can only do but so much for us as humans. We want to experience things to fully understand them, and many of us (myself included) have difficulty understanding complex situations until we, ourselves, are faced with them. A photo, video, or some sort of visual representation is going to be the next best thing for us to be able to experience what we have not, and in this case, we are experiencing the sight of what happens when a habitat is reaching full destruction. The presence images have, especially in cases where a change needs to be made, can be vital. This photograph from 2015 garnered a huge following as it is quite undeniable that there is clearly something wrong and that something is the way humans have treated our environment.

More on the polar bear photo here:

Phillip Wade Wilson

Understanding Visual Rhetoric by Jenae Cohn – Description

I really enjoyed this piece because it opened my eyes to a lot of mundane ways we organize our blog posts for this class, and just how things in our world are made to look in general. She focused a lot on the separation of ideas, and things in general really, to make it easier for others to understand as well as the different approaches in order to make those distinctions between one thing and the other. 

“visuals play a tremendous role in a) how we make decisions, b) how we receive instructions, and c) how we understand information”

While the above is seemingly obvious information, how often do we look at the menus in restaurants we visit or websites we’re using, or even our own textbooks and ‘analyze’ how stylistic that work is completed? For me, it is not often at all… though I am more prone to complain about how something is not user-friendly especially in regard to websites and other forms of technology. This detailed essay really opened my eyes as to why I might be thinking “this website is really not laid out well” or “could they have made this any more difficult to understand”. Personally, I think a huge point Cohn makes is all about context.

“the context in which we see visuals matters an awful lot in terms of how we analyze and understand their impacts on us as viewers”

She details how one culture might view a color one way, or one type of profession might have preexisting notions about the way something should be done, or quite possibly where we have seen certain things before in our own lives. Before reading this, I had the ideas to analyze visual representation in ways similar to what she explained but never to the level or extent. She explains the ‘what?’ then gives us the ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ to give her audience the most context before explaining the topics at hand. The opening segment about food and menus puts things into perspective for all of her readers to associate something with. I find it so interesting the way she established this common ground, looking at restaurant’s food pictures online before going and looking at menus while sitting in the restaurant so that we can better understand what she is referring to by applying it to the times we have done or seen something similar

Phillip Wade Wilson

Where Was the Birthplace of the American Vacation? – Thesis

Perrottet explains where the American vacation originates from: the word, as he claims, is from the verb “to vacate” as that is what many did during the sweltering summer months in the cities when they traveled to the countryside… in this case the Adirondack mountains. As detailed by his illustrious retelling of America’s ‘gilded age’, Perrottet notes how one book started a chain reaction that led to a resurgence of the natural world within American culture. The juxtaposition between the untouched natural world and the harsh city environment incepted the want to travel within Americans. Though, this organic outdoor beauty was more of a work of fiction found within Murray’s Adirondack guidebook Adventures in the Wilderness than something travelers could experience themselves.

[before Murray’s guidebook] “most Americans considered the country’s primeval landscapes only as obstacles to be conquered”

“their work reached only a relatively small, elite group of readers. But Murray’s book, with its direct, straightforward “how-to” tips, mixed with a series of humorous short stories about wilderness camping, truly seized the public’s imagination.”

While there was backlash following the release of his novel because many believed his work to be nonrepresentational of the actual outdoors, the decades after still experienced an exponential increase in those wanting to escape to the wilderness. This led to the increased occupation of pristine lands and development of, mostly, a region left untouched since the first colonizers stumbled onto this continent’s shores. The contrast Perrottet makes between the American romantic poets and the layman Murray insinuates an all the more interesting concept about American travel writing itself. It seems as though, for Americans in this era, that a more down-to-earth approach garners greater public interest and in this case was enough to start an entirely new way of life for the American people. I find this almost the same as how people travel today in America. It seems as though people just want an escape from their everyday lives and to experience something new rather than the Roman way of travel Perrottet depicted in our previous reading from him.

Phillip Wade Wilson

The Foreign Spell – Commonplace

Iyer has been providing us with what he believes travelers and tourists should be in the world by supplying the concepts of openness and appreciation for another’s culture. In my opinion, much of the world views differing cultures and places with exoticism or a negative connotation simply for being different; Iyer takes this typical way of explaining another culture and provides an exemplary way to appreciate another’s way of life without appropriating or downplaying the significance of certain aspects. Iyer envelops his audience in this narration of his life and travels but does not come off as culturally insensitive when referencing a happening in another place not native to his own beliefs and customs. I believe his point of view as a non-western, non-white person offers such an incredible insight into how those of us who are western and white should attempt to view the world.

In my experience, I have very few friends who look at other cultures and see the same value in another as they do on their own. Iyer sees the importance of every part of the world’s global culture and raises the unknown to be on par with the known. As he did in previous readings for class and within his TED talk, Iyer provides backing for his subtle, yet ever-reverent, notion that each one of us regardless of where we are from is so similar to the next person in infinitely many ways we only like to focus on the overtly glaring differences we can point out in each other. He notes how each one of us, as travelers/tourists, provides insight into what the populace of a certain country is like to those outside our normal interaction field and ultimately help acclimate social globalization in ways that are as simple as traveling to another city or country and being a living exhibit for people to see.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Why We Travel – Chreia

Why We Travel by Pico Iyer is an anecdote that personifies his beliefs on why humans travel and, in my opinion, essentially establishes a need for people around the world to travel. He notes that we, as travelers and tourists, can be a “carrier pigeon” in ways that extend beyond transporting messages between people and places… we transport ideas of what citizens around the globe are like, we incite discussion and discourse, we provide an understanding of concepts and ideologies not available in other parts of the world and the same can be said of the citizens of those places to us…

“Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology”

Iyer walks us through his travels and what he learned along the way to provide us with the backing for his claims through personal experience and gives us insight into how he believes we ought to travel. Combined with his TED Talk, Iyer makes a compelling argument for the traversers of the world to shed their biases and what they think they know about our global community and fully immerse ourselves into what it is. I found his essay and video to push us along a path of acceptance and understanding while simultaneously being open to the unknown. He references the Dalai Lama’s use of “I don’t know” as a way to give his audience clarity into what being open to the unknown is and can be. The way he transitions from topic to topic with an introductory structure between his essay’s paragraphs and his talking points enables his message to be comprehended with little effort on the part of the audience.

Iyer’s diction, in comparison to Stevenson, Wordsworth, and Perrottet, sets him apart from the previous travel writers in the simple fact that he states what he means and does not give cause for confusion. The other writers use a sort of flowery language that can be misinterpreted and, at times, difficult to fully realize what is being explained at that moment. Stevenson’s convoluted and deeply imaginative style creates a beautiful expression of his love for autumn. Wordsworth’s allegories, metaphors, and similes compare this-to-that which, for some, can mean completely different things given a separate culture or ideological standpoint. Perrottet, in my opinion, does not fully contextualize his claims and arguments which lead what he means to be misinterpreted as what he is critiquing. Iyer noted “rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology” is best done through travel; I believe this is what he does within his essay and video. By allowing us to accompany him through his life’s journey we travel where he has been in order to learn what he learned without needing to make the mistakes he made. He saves us from the abstraction and ideology other writers provide and rescues the humanity of the cities, towns, villages, and countries he has visited.