Travel to another world...

Second Life is an internet-based 3-D virtual world; increasingly popular, around 10 million accounts have been opened since its launch in 2003. The possibilities this brings to the travel and tourism industry are huge and already, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) are beginning to jump on the bandwagon and creating virtual destinations. Netherlands Tourism recently opened a national tourism board in Second Life, providing visitors with the chance to become part of an interactive community. Earlier this year, the city of Galveston launched a virtual replica of itself in Second Life. And recently, Tourism Ireland launched the world's first tourism marketing campaign in Second Life. As part of this, Tourism Ireland sponsored a range of events and activities, including concerts, fashion shows, and photographic exhibitions, in Second Life's replica city of Dublin. See full article...

Twelve-step review: Samurai: Heaven and Earth

Samurai: Heaven and Earth
by Ron Marz, Luke Ross, Jason Keith, and Dave Lanphear
Dark Horse: 2006

1. Shiro, a samurai in 1704 Japan, loses his beloved Yoshi during the final battle between his master and Chinese warlord. Finding she has been abducted, he follows her trail first to China, and then westward along the Silk Road, eventually finding her in France, at Versailles, in the Court of Louis XIV. Adventures, of course, ensue as he attempts to reunite with her.

2. Yojimbo Meets the Three Musketeers is such an inherently cool high concept that I can forgive the historical inaccuracy of placing the story eighty years after the heyday of Dumas's heroes, one Louis later, and yet still featuring the famous quartet.

3. While the French swordsmen are not named, in dialog and affect they are clearly Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan. It is actually my third-favorite realization of the characters, after Dumas's own and the 1973 Richard Lester film.

4. Ron Marz's script is engaging, merging classic tropes and fresh ideas seamlessly. His dialog varies between old-movie formality (not a bad thing) and real-sounding naturalism a little less smoothly, however.

5. One small sticking point in the story is Shiro's preternatural ability to learn languages, which is never adequately addressed or given background. We just have to accept it, and since the story won't work unless the protagonist can speak French, we sort of just do.

6. A bigger flaw in the plot is the apparent maintenance of Yoshi's virtue throughout her abduction. We know she is not a virgin even at the beginning of the story, so the "keeping her unsullied to maintain her high value" trope is out; without it, it would be hard to imagine her not being sexually abused, given her circumstances, no matter how "disagreeable" she is to her captors. And since the love between Yoshi and Shiro is what drives him to cross Heaven and Earth for her, it's hard to imagine this aspect would not come up, but the book basically asks us to ignore it. And, once again, in the moment, we sort of just do.

7. Luke Ross's art is just gorgeous: his set pieces, landscapes, and establishing shots are are like museum-quality oil paintings, but he's not afraid to get "comicky" and use technique to advance the story. His attention to detail might be responsible for sucking some of the dynamism out of his action sequences at times. Jason Keith's colors are wonderfully rich and textured and complement the graphics nicely.

8. One technique that Ross used involved a two-page sequence combining one large, borderless image that establishes the action with a couple dozen small panels that shows its progress. Oddly, he uses this format twice: once to depict Shiro and Yoshi making love, and once for a bloody battle. I found the juxtaposition jarring, but I don't know if it was deliberate or if I would even have noticed had I read monthly magazines rather than a collection. (Another unintended consequence in the shift away from serial narrative.)

9. Ross also occasionally uses that photshoppy blurring business I have been seeing in comics lately. Maybe I'm just a geezer, but I don't like it much.

10. The collection features several pin-ups, in styles from cartoony to faux-Japanese print. I liked them, but wanted to see more other characters besides Shiro.

11. The other special feature was a sketchbook, which includes some unused cover designs. I found this section particularly instructive.

12. Volume Two of Samurai: Heaven and Earth follows Shiro to North Africa to confront the slave trader who abducted Yoshi (and some other no-goods, I am sure). I'm certainly going to pick it up.

Latest Issue

Contents include:
  • The evaluation of tourism journals: a quality model
  • Adapting the TSA to measure the economic importance of the meetings industry
  • Trends in outbound group package tours in China & Taiwan
  • Benchmarking destinations via DMO websites
  • State tourism funding
  • The image of central Asia countries book reviews.

(Ingenta Journals via Athens)

Conference : The Economics of Tourism

On 18th December 07, The Christel DeHaan Tourism and Travel Research Institute will host a one-day conference on The Economics of Tourism. The programme will include Modelling the economic impact of tourism, Tourism and economic development and Forecasting tourism demand. To find out more click here or register.

The latest issue includes the following articles:
  • Towards a theory of e-learning - experiential learning
  • Approaches to studying in HE sports students
  • Part-time work and postgraduate students
  • Hospitality and tourism students' part-time employment
  • In search of postgrad learning styles in tourism & hospitality education
  • Facilitating reflective learning journeys in sport co-operative education


Touching the Void

Simon Yates is one of the two mountaineers who undertook the climb in the Peruvian Andes in 1985 which nearly killed them both. They lived to tell the tale, the result being a book 'Touching the Void' (911.852 SIM) and an award-winning documentary film; Yates will now be giving a lecture on his mountaineering experiences spanning 20 years, at the newly opened Town Hall in Birmingham, next week more...

By definition

One of the trickier intellectual challenges surrounding the study of comics is coming up with a definition of what "comics" is. On the one hand, creating a definition may be an empty enterprise; it could be said that poetry and prose get their share of analysis without anyone needing to pin down a universally accepted definition of either. On the other hand, as more scholarly study of comics is conducted and colleges and universities have to decide which programs will focus on the research and offer the classes and degree programs &c., a definition - particularly one that addresses the literary/artistic divide - might be useful.

Several candidates vie for our attention, Scott McCloud's "sequential art" proposition (after Eisner) and Robert Harvey's "juncture of word and image" articulation among the foremost. An argument is leveled against the first as being too broad (is the Bayeaux Tapestry really comics?) and the second as being too narrow (is there really no such thing as a wordless comic?). In the blogosphere, Eddie Campell has jumped in, and Patrick Lewandowski, each offering definitions that
to my mind are less rigorous and useful than idiosyncratic and interesting.

On the academic front, Greg Hayman and Henry John Pratt offered a comprehensive definition
("x is a comic iff x is a sequence of discrete, juxtaposed pictures that comprise a narrative, either in their own right or when combined with text") in their article "What Are Comics?" (which I haven't read); this definition was deconstructed by Aaron Meskin in his forthcoming article "Defining Comics?", in which he decides that the effort of definition is not worth the trouble.

And of course, there's Neil Cohn's Visual Language Theory, which, since it rises from a psycholinguistic frame rather than an aesthetic, will need a great deal more clinical research to establish its usefulness.

There are others I am not naming; my intent is not a full inventory but just a sketch of the terrain. I also offer no Unified Field Theory of my own; I confess that I am here to muddy the waters further. My impetus comes from perhaps an unusual source: children's literature.

I am not going to revisit the problematic "are children's picture books comics?" question; my question is, I think, deeper and applicable to more creators and creations in the comics world. The question has its origin in a mention to me last Friday by one of our campus librarians of this new acquisition:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

Scholastic Press: 2007

The librarian knows my interest in comics, and thought that I would be intrigued by the book. It tells the story of a resourceful orphan boy, living in a Paris train station, who gets involved in a series of adventures while he reconstructs a clockwork man that is somehow related to the pioneering filmmaker Georges Melies. She told me that the story was part prose, part illustration, and that the illustrations actually advance the story and are essential, not extra, to the overall narrative. She mentioned a dilemma inside Library-land: that everyone loves the book, but no one is sure whether it should be nominated for a Newberry Medal (for literature for children) or for a Caldecott Medal (for picture books). Of course, I was intrigued, checked the book out, and read it this weekend.

First of all, it's a great book; the story is compelling and real and the characters are engaging and complex, no matter how old you are.

It's also a hefty book: over 500 pages. I think it's aimed at the same crowd that reads about that Potter fellow.

But here's the rub: about 300 of those 500 pages are (imho) comics. There are no panels or word balloons in sight; these are wordless comics, to be sure, and each two-page spread is one image. There is, however, the definite control of the narrative through sequenced images, and the actualization of McCloud's "choices" - of moment, frame, and image - is very much in evidence.

The other pages? Straight prose.

How do these work together? Let me illustrate by example:

Page 205 ends this way:

Hugo stopped short and stared at her.
"I don't know anything about you," she said. "You know where I live, you know about my parents. If we're going to be friends, then I think I should know about you. Why won't you tell me?"

Suddenly, Hugo started to run.

"Hugo!" she yelled. "Stop! Wait for me!"

The next text appears on page 222, and begins:

Hugo helped Isabelle to her feet, but he couldn't stop staring at the key. Isabelle noticed and tucked it back in her dress.

Doesn't make much sense. does it? It does if you insert these panels in between:

1: Train station lobby, full of people; Hugo is to the left of the panel, running away from Isabelle, who is right center.
2: Closer image of Isabelle crashing into a hatted man; they both lose their balance.
3. Isabelle, looking scared, falls backwards; a small key on a chain around her neck swings out.

4. A close-up of Hugo's face, looking toward the right, shocked.

5. Near repeat of panel 1; this time, Hugo is running toward Isabelle, who is on the floor.

6. Close-up of Hugo's hand as he offers it to Isabelle.
7. Isabelle reaching up to take Hugo's hand; the key hangs around her neck.

8. Close-up of the key on its chain; it has a distinctive heart shape, and a clever reader may have seen the keyhole already!

Wow! What do we do with this? The whole book is like this: some sequences are presented as wordless comics and some as straight prose. If you just took the text bits, you would have an incoherent story; if you just took the illustrations, the result would be the same. It's not a comic book; it's a book-comic! I have to wonder why Selznick took this path, and what his creative processes were like: how did he choose which instances to illustrate and which to write?

The author is not much help in figuring out the work. On the official website, he says that the book is "
not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things." Maybe it really is a new, hybrid form, but the illustrated sections are definitely comics in even a narrow sense of the term, employing the techniques that we commonly associate with the form.

So, the question: do we shelve it in the literature section or the art section or the graphic book section? Or does it matter?

Non-web resources:

McCloud, Scott.
Making Comics (Harper Collins: 2006)
McCloud, Scott.
Understanding Comics (Harper Collins: 1993)
Varnum, Robert and Christina T. Gibbons, eds.
The Language of Comics (University Press of Mississippi: 2001)

Dark Tourism - KZ

The KZ DVD can now be found on the Multimedia shelf at 940.53 SHO. There are extra copies, please ask counter staff. As always, these can be viewed in the Library with earphones which can be collected from the counter.
Watch the trailer...

** Developing Excellent Cultural Destinations **

The IV European Cultural Tourism Network Conference will take place in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) from 22-24th November 2007. The aim of this event is to exchange experiences on the development of European Cultural Tourism, to learn about the management of cultural tourism destinations in Europe and to develop a project to pilot a cultural tourism destination management model, which can be submitted for European Funding more...

Book report

Soon I Will Be Invincible

by Austin Grossman
Pantheon Books: 2007

I have been trying to carve out time to read more "proper books" lately. As a teacher of rhetoric, what I mostly read are student papers, and I have been feeling a need for more finished prose. In between academic articles, I have been reading some popular fiction and literature, and in the middle of that lot was Austin Grossman's superhero novel.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, Grossman is a clearly capable writer: he balances plot and character development nicely, and the book moves along briskly. He has a deft hand with description, even detailing the costumes various heroes and villains wear without sounding silly, and he handles shifting points of view well - the book is narrated in alternate chapters by the villain Dr. Impossible and the hero Fatale - giving the book a strong voice in either case. He even narrates in the present tense without getting tiresome.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what this book is. Is it a serious literary novel using the conventions and tropes of superhero fiction? Well, sometimes it seems so, with Dr. Impossible musing at length on the ebb and flow of power and control and the nature of identity, but then it winks at the reader and gets a bit campy and too self-aware. Is it an attempt to write a realistic superhero story? Maybe, but the plot doesn't require all that much less suspension of disbelief than your typical Haneygram, however much naturalistic dialogue is grafted on. Is it just disguised fanfic, better-written and promoted? I don't think so, but sometimes it is tempting to think oh, that's Batman and Wonder Woman making out and if those are the Avengers, then those guys must be the Justice League and so on.

Overall, I got the impression that if the book were read by someone not already steeped in the superhero tradition, it would be too outre to make much of an impression, and if were read by someone familiar with the spandex set, it wouldn't contain enough new insights or treatments to be exceptional or even unusual.

I guess I enjoyed it, but I'm still not sure why.

Bonus review preview, How the heck did I miss this? Department:

I picked up a copy of Samurai: Heaven and Earth Volume 1 today.

A ronin versus the Three Musketeers? All four of them!?

How did this slip by me for over a year?

I've only given it a quick read so far, but I like what I've seen. More soon.

Focus on...Pro-Poor Tourism

Pro-poor tourism is a term which refers to tourism that is positively working towards poverty reduction by strengthening links between the tourism industry and local poor people such as craft stall holders, fruit pickers or taxi-drivers. There are a number of organisations who aim to promote pro-poor tourism, here are a few:

ODI is Britain's leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. Their aim is to inspire and inform policy and practice in pro-poor issues. The section on their website dedicated to tourism includes events and resources which has briefing papers, guides and toolkits, and working, journal and project papers. Details of their current projects are also available.

The ID21 website has also produced some useful research articles which are published online in their newsletter 'Insights'.

The Pro-Poor Tourism Partnership website also provides up-to-date information in this area with a range of resources including publications and working papers. You may also choose to sign up to their newsletter.

A new book by Hall entitled 'Pro-Poor Tourism' should soon be available in the Library, with an online version via EBLibrary. A special issue of 'Current Issues in Tourism' via Multilingual Matters (on campus only), includes articles that may be useful.

Where can I find...? Host-Guest Relationships

If you are currently researching the host-guest relationship, you will find many relevant resources and to help you along, I've listed some of them here. In the Library, useful titles include:
  • Tourism: economic physical and social impacts (911.22 MAT)
  • World tourism leaders meeting on the social impacts of tourism (911.92599 WTO)
  • The economic impact of tourism (911 TOU)
  • Hosts and Guests (911.301 SMI)
Similarly, there is a plenty of information to be found online; if you're after journal articles, Sciencedirect, Emerald and Sage will give good results. And don't forget ebooks - ' Economics of tourism destinations', 'Tourism area life cycle' and 'Tourism, globalisation and cultural change' which looks at how tourism can change a host community, can be read online at EBLibrary.

A good illustration of Doxey's Irridex model is given here and an article entitled 'A Framework for Monitoring Community Impacts of Tourism' (Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1997, vol. 5, no. 1) which can be accessed in Multilingual Matters (articles accessible on-campus only, no login required). Please remember, I haven't included every possible source, but hopefully this'll be a start.