In this article, Wallace uses the rustic and corpse-like imagery of the ship to compare and contrast it to the lively and fun-stuffed activities aboard the ship. He uses this in a way that compares the decay of the vessel itself to the oncoming decay of its passengers, but which is intentionally trying to be overlooked by the busyness and fun-stuffed activities on the ship. On board the ship, the crowd is concerned about “not titivation but titillation; not hard work but hard play…The hard-play option promises not a transcendence of death dread so much as just drowning it out.” He compares the participants’ decay to that of the ship but, while they are both in decay, the participants try to drown it out by occupying their time with activities that will take their mind off of it and will make them think that maybe, just maybe, their prime has not passed them. That are somehow not in the same position as the rusting and decaying ship they are standing on.
Frow’s dissection of Cullers ideas on semiotics links into the illusion of free will. Culler argues that reality is always subjective and the judgment of that reality is already predetermined, because there is no way to break preconceived assumptions. Culler shows that this idea is emphasized through the lens of tourism. He argues that for example blue jeans will never just be blue jeans. They will always represent an assumption made by society. Weather that be casualness in western culture or an example of western culture in nonwestern societies. Culler explains how this subjectivity creates authenticity. It puts an aesthetic or certain “vibe” to a place or culture. Frow builds on this to argue that trying to label and determine what the semiotics of a certain place then diminishes its authenticity. Looking through the lens of tourism it shows people cannot travel and find authenticity in a certain place because of the semiotics or original assumptions of that destination. Because of semiotics any destination is already full of judgements, meaning it will never truly be authentic. This leads into the idea of free will. A tourist may think they are immersing themselves into a certain culture when really they are immersing themselves in a predetermined view of that place based on that tourists assumptions.
Frow’s writing, Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia, is a very intricate piece that goes into great deal about the different between a tourist and a traveler, as well as the minutiae of semiotics. This pleases me as in our previous reading by Culler, he also went into the differences between the two rather than lumping them together as one, which I had previously complained about.
Culler makes the distinction between the two based on how they perceive the culture of the country in which they are travelling to. The traveler will try his best to adapt to that culture and be there to experience what they have to offer. However, a tourist will want to experience what they believe to be the culture, aka a French guy speaking English with a French accent as opposed to just speaking French. Frow goes into more why the tourist is demonized. He provides a list of three moves:
- Criticism of tourism as inauthentic activity
- This is where the tourist is contrasted against the more heroic traveler and targeted as a cultural appropriator.
- The narrative of tourism is a much more complicated and ambivalent one
- A paradox is presented here as the tourist is valued positively as attempting to have an authentic experience, however in the post-industrial world this is not possible and ends up losing its authenticity.
- Follows from the internal condition of paradox progressively revealed in the playing out of the second
- A similar case to the second move, here authentic forms of travel are compared to inauthentic ones and an attempt to make a distinction is made.
This is a very complicated analysis yet makes a distinct point about the issue of authenticity. As with many things in modern times, travel has been done on just about every corner of the planet. Countries have established tourism divisions and the internet has made it possible to go just about everywhere. This makes me question, is authentic travel possible anymore? Everyone has been just about everywhere and done just about everything. In my opinion there may never be another authentic travel experience with the current connection the world has.
In “The Tourist Gaze ‘Revisited,'” John Urry explores the different side of the “seeing” sense in regards to tourism and connects it to environmental issues. Specifically, Urry focuses on the comparison between environmental pollution and social pollution caused by herds of tourism. The pollution largely focused in urban areas where factories and transportation exhaust are part of the scenery, has inundated the scenic beauty of nature-based travel spots with social pollution, which, in turn, brings environmental pollution as well. The social pollution that Urry talks about is centered around the photography aspect, with everyone wanting to capture certain places and moments on camera so as to memorialize those moments. This is even more glorified in the age of social media, where slogans like “pics or it didn’t happen” reign throughout younger social groups and social media circles. With social pollution, however, comes environmental pollution as well. While it might not be to the extend of city-wide factories, transportation to reach some of these places contributes to environmental pollution, as well as the necessary set-ups to make these places more easily reachable, i.e. roads, campsites, electrical capabilities, etc. Urry himself put it best when describing the effects of social pollution, even when deemed to be lesser compared to those of environmental pollution:
“So photography has heightened the contradictions involved in the relationship between tourism and the environment. It has increased the attractions of particular kinds of unpolluted landscapes and hence of demands to protect or conserve such environments, and it has in turn done much to worsen such environments through increasing the numbers and concentration of visitors all seeking to capture particularly memorable views, views that have forever lost their aura.”
In “The Psychology of Rhetorical Images,” Charles Hill uses comparison to describe the differences between several types of rhetorical devices related to imagery. On page 37, for example, Hill describes the difference between persuading and transforming people. As Hill describes, advertisers aim to transform people, not persuade them. While these seems counterintuitive, Hill’s explanation makes sense, saying that persuading people implies the need to stop and think about the situation and then make an educated decision. In advertising, however, the goal is to transform people in that they automatically associate the product in the ad they are watching with a positive reaction that automatically makes them want to buy the product. It doesn’t give them time to think about the product or why they want it, it just makes them automatically want to buy it. Hill makes a great comparison between these two points, explaining to the reader why one is preferable to “professional persuaders” over the other, even though they may seem similar or counterintuitive at first glance.
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: https://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/thin-bear-photo-kerstin-1.3232725
It’s often a silly question that is thrown around in icebreakers and introductions: the mountains or the beach? Well, why not both? Both can be appreciated in numerous ways and for countless reasons, and both have storied histories in Western tradition. They serve similar, yet distinct functions in how they allow us to escape, learn, expand ourselves, and reconnect with our surroundings. Indeed, trekking up a hilly trail or meandering down the coast both have their virtues.
In many people’s imagination, including mine, the “great outdoors” begins with some kind of tree-bound mountain vista. This can be seen in the cultural significance of this idea in history, beginning with Petrarch and continuing through modern National Parks posters and calendars. In fact, writes Perrottet,
“the American vacation was born” as “the scions of New York City took to declaring that they would ‘vacate’ their city homes for their lakeside summer retreats”
in the Adirondack mountains (Perrottet 1). Thus, the escape to the wild, forested wilderness is of central importance to the history of the very idea of American travel.
However, it is also imprinted on many people’s minds that a trip to the beach is the ultimate, quintessential, and most relaxing vacation available. In some ways, as Comstock writes, this is a relatively new idea to Western minds, as the beach was previously considered “intemperate, ignoble, and dangerous” (Comstock 3). This was not always the case, as affluent Romans, for example, were known to flock by the thousands to the Bay of Naples and elsewhere around the Mediterranean for luxurious seaside galas. So, our beach vacations, whether exorbitant like the Romans or more modest, are somewhat of a recent rebirth of a much older idea.
Given that both are firmly rooted in our cultural consciousnesses, the question still remains: beach or mountain? Well, I encourage you to consider their virtues. Both locations allow us to return to nature, to see the sights set before us, and breathe in the open and untainted air. But beyond that, they differ somewhat in what they have to offer. The beach, as Comstock writes, is a
“place where youth has free reign, and where also … one can recapture or discover the spirit of youth” (Comstock 9).
The beach allows us to frolic childlike in the waves or “go wild” at a sunset party. The beach is simultaneously joyously relaxing and bubbling with warm, youthful energy.
The wilderness, mountains, and forests, however, are more quiet, solitary, nostalgic, rugged. Similar to the beach you are freed of your usual obligations, and you can choose between energy and relaxation: a vigorous backpacking trip or a quiet afternoon of fishing by the lake. Perrottet quotes Robert Pruyn saying,
“‘there is independence, delight, and peace in the isolation,’”
though he also acknowledges that you can choose to be one of the thousands who flock together to camps for merriment (Perrottet 3). The mountains have different opportunities for you to enjoy, but they provide a similar escape to freedom as does the beach. You can make of your vacation there what you like.
So instead of arguing, either to a friend or within your own head, about whether the beach or the mountains is better, just go and find out. You can create what you will of either; you can relax to the sounds of the waves or woodpeckers or party at the boardwalk or the boat launch. Escape to both, see what solitude in the wilderness can bring, or a slow, sunbaked day in the sand.
To Travel or Not to Travel
The reason an individual travels can vary, yet the pull to adventure is felt similarly between all explorers. I, among many others, have felt this pull to the unknown, the exotic or culturally different. To experience what I could not experience in the valley I grew up in. To smell, taste and breath a different kind of life.
I originally assumed I was like many others, but I discovered that beyond my community there was a longing of comfort instead of experiencing the unknown. Robert Louis Stevenson touches on this difference in his short story An Autumn Effect. As he recalls wandering through the english countryside with fun stops along the way. This passage is beautifully written, almost poetic. Instead of highlighting the obvious and lavish aspects of visiting a new place he touches on the subtle curiosities. These little curiosities, personally, are more gratifying than the picture worthy stops when traveling. I find this aspect of this story to be fundamentally very important, but there are aims in the story that I disagree with.
At one point Stevenson describes a family eating dinner, and explains how mundane going through the motions of everyday life can be. More importantly he writes about these people in an arrogant and demeaning way. He states, “It is a salutary exercise, besides; it is salutary to get out of ourselves and see people living together in perfect unconsciousness of our existence, as they will live when we are gone.” (Stevenson, 1875). Stevenson says it is salutary to see people acting unconsciously which implies that what he is seeing is unpleasant, but it makes him feel better for his curiosities. This is not morally right to impose that one curiosity, the need to travel, is ultimately better than another curiosity, raising a family or cooking. Even though I agree with this statement, I disagree with looking down on it. It is a preference to feel the call of adventure, and the lack of that preference does not mean those people are any less.
It is frustrating to relate to the need and urge to travel, but to see people like Stevenson look down on others who do not feel that urge. I could not understand why people would not have that curiosity, but when I marinated in thought about it I realized people find solace in the mundane. And more importantly there is nothing wrong with that comfort. If the whole world wanted to discover the unknown and feel that importance of solitude. To follow in the footsteps of Stevenson, Edward Abbey or Chris Mccandles, then there would be much less specialization. Less unknowns to experience. Yes, nature would be intact, ready for discovering, but that urge to isolate and push away from the unconscious norm would lead to loneliness. Really it is a balance. Following the urge to discover the little curiosities out of your neighborhood, valley or home, but to also appreciate the intricate little aspects of a mundane life. I would like to see Stevenson appreciate the comfort of the known, and push the importance of discovery.
A Side Note on Rhetoric
This is one hundred percent one of the most beautifully written passages I have read in a while. After reading it then reading The Rhetorical Situation I could appreciate Stevenson rhetoric even more. Bitzer, the author of The Rhetorical Situation, compares rhetoric to a tree, but includes that unlike a tree, rhetoric is fully dependent on its soil. The soil being the text that rhetoric is playing through. I love this metaphor because I can understand that rhetoric is not just situational but also magically sewn through a piece instead of being a stark and obvious factor. It is not something separate from the text but it is really an aspect of the text that can prove its power or lack of power. One aspect of An Autumn Effect is its poetic sentence structure. While the sentence structure is not the rhetoric the beauty of the words put in that order adds to the rhetorical power of that passage.
Another aspect of An Autumn Effect are the tangents about trees and their beauty. These tangents do not add any fact to the story but the way they are described adds to the substance of the passage. The tangent highlights the importance of what these trees mean. Describing their beauty adds to the aim Stevenson is trying to prove. And in doing so adds to the rhetorical power of the passage.
My Attempt at Ekiphrase
The visual analysis of a rock in the desert southwest
From a memory of an experience I had a month ago:
The smell of dust filters through the window or air conditioning as my tuck barrels down a pin straight desert road. I keep my eyes peeled for the unmarked left turn I have only seen once before and my friend scrolls through song choices. We are just south of Moab, a town I have grown to know well. As a child my family would pass through on our way to raft the Green or San Juan Rivers. Both rivers give me a visceral connection to the desert Southwest. Accept, this is only the second time I have passed through without parental or teacher supervision.
I finally spot it. Our camping destination. A large bolder about 100 yards away. A colorless mole on the desert visage. To me it is quite boring after being desensitized by canyon walls, arches and buttes. On the other hand my friend exclaims, “look at how cool that rock is! It’s so big”. I chuckle and respond, “that’s the backside you haven’t seen the cool part”. I turn the truck left onto a less maintained road. Our bodies sway and correspond with the bumps as the massive rubber wheels trample the sand and spit dust out behind them. The road becomes particularly sandy and the gas pedal loses all weight as the wheels lose traction. I switch it to four wheel and the truck jolts out of the sand. I see it as a little warning from the desert not to mess around. We have arrived.
A juniper tree grows at the base of the rock, speckled in jean colored berries that look too dry to be even close to nourishing. A good thing too being that they are poisonous in large quantities unless distilled into gin, which funnily enough is also poisonous in large quantities. A ring of rocks that make a fire pit sits at the base of the tree. People have added to the structure since the last time I visited. A large log has disappeared, but besides that it looks the same. We step out of the air conditioning we have been enjoying for the four hour drive. The heat kisses our pale skin like the inside of an oven when the door is open. Smells drop in the dry air but I can just make out dust and sage. The rust color rocks radiate the heat back up to us, emphasizing this oven effect. But it is dry heat, and I am not bothered. It makes me nostalgic, I feel very much at home. A weird feeling since the harshness desert does not make it easy to love. Just read Desert Solitaire and you’ll understand.
I turn back to the rock and tell my friend to “flow me”. We still haven’t seen the good stuff. We round a corner of the bolder. I take my shoes off so my feet can meld with the warm sandstone. It has always shocked me how perfectly my soles and sandstone fit together. It makes me think of how even rock and a human can have a connection. It reminds me that even though I am living and the rock is not, we both have energy and are made from the same star billions of years ago.
There it is. What would normally be a sloping face of a bolder resembling the other side is instead concave. A massive amphitheater reaching 100 feet high. Right now we are alone but I explain how this is a popular climbing site. People will hike up the side, shimmy through a small crack I can barely make out and repel the 100 feet. Then the climber can hike to the back of the inside wall, sinch the rope tight and swing. It is most spectacular at night. I remember holding the rope behind my back, taking a breath and pushing off. Once I passed the ceiling of the rock I felt like I jumped into an ocean of stars. The Milky Way barreling across the sky. The concentration and sheer number of stars was otherworldly. I have trouble finding the words to describe their cosmic power. So shocking I almost cried.
My friend bursts into laughter, “Holy shit this is so much cooler than I thought it was!” “Right!” I respond, “and No one is here!”. I let out a howl that echoes off the wall and radiates into the vacant air. The most spectacular part of this massive rock is far to the left. The fin of the bolder over time couldn’t bare the wind, so it gave way and let it pass through. Creating an arch. the sun peeks through it’s hole making it difficult to look at and gives it its name Looking Glass Rock. We hike into the belly of the bolder. Slipping on sand, weaving through sage, and saying Hi to the shuttling lizards. I find one doing push ups, one of my favorite childhood memories, and I feel proud that a lizard wants to show his muscles to me. “You wanna sit in the arch or set up camp?” I ask. “You can sit in it!!” She responds. “Yes, and you don’t even need a rope” we continue on and get to the sandstone where it is slightly too steep for sand to pile comfortably. I smear my foot and start to walk straight up. I feel like a desert creature scaling this rock with ease. When I realize that my friend, from Manhattan, does not have this nostalgic connection with the desert. Even though she will soon discover it’s magic. I tell her to hair pin up the side. Instead of walking straight up she walks along the side at a slight incline then switches making an s shape as she climbs further. We reach the hardest part and take a break. We watch swallows dart in and out of their homes. Flapping their wings in a bat like fashion. This five foot area between us and the arch is the most daunting part. Still not very hard as my friend brought his guitar and a six pack up on our last visit. It’s slightly steep and my anxiety spikes but I smear my foot into the side and trust my traction. I take a few careful steps. Placing my foot in the shallow bowls, the wind and carved out and then I am there. Inside the arch. I look up and see the thin ceiling. It’s deep rusted red band with sharp edges cuts through the bright blue sky. I see people have etched their name into the rock. How could they deface something so much older, bigger, and profoundly more important than them. I investigate the carvings one says ROCK and another says Kyle and Sarah. I wonder if Kyle and Sarah are still together, they didn’t even bother to add a heart. I turn to help my friend across the tricky steep bit by going below her and having her use my hand as a foot hold. Then we are both in the arch. The bottom is flat and comfortable to sit. With two ledges that resemble stairs. “Wow” is all my friend can say.
The view is also spectacular. I can see for miles. I can see highway 101 to my left and to the right is a sea of sage and some scarce juniper. The olive colored bushes fit well with the orange sand. Some other large boulders sit further to the left with the backdrop of the dark blue La Sal mountains. The sun shoots rays into my eyes when I look to the west. It is two hours from setting. We retreat and set up camp, but as our pasta is cooking I notice it’s almost golden hour. We return to the arch to watch the sunset and the colors which were dry get flooded in a caramel film. Enhancing their contrast in a shocking way. The rust red turns to skin peel orange. Not the yellow on the peach but the darkest orange a peach can be. The bright blue sky is charged with pinks and oranges and the sage even glows with renewed contrast. I burst into tears, in a time where I have felt trapped like many others in quarantine. I am overwhelmed with the daunting but exciting feeling of solitude and freedom.