Browsing articles in "Style & Artifacts"
Mar 10, 2017
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There’s no place like home (2017)

Finally, a feel-good story from the East! Moncton is “the place to be,” [1] says Canadian travel blogger Andrew Gunadie – Hurray! Down here, we all know that we live in a special place and I recently heard it said that ‘There’s the good times, the bad times and the Maritimes!”

But let’s start with a bit of background information. The first and the most famous travel writer was Herodotus, the Greek historian who lived in the fifth century BC. The role of any travel writer, he said, “is to be the tourist’s perfect companion: to be articulate, well informed, a skilled raconteur; to include in what he tells [sic] a fair share of the unusual with a dash of the exotic; to tell it all with infinite zest.” [2] Gunadie has many of those qualities, he is articulate, engaging, charming, and I want to believe him. But there is something in his travel truth that made me pause. To say that the City of Moncton is the ‘place to be’ or not, is not the aim of my commentary. I am curious about the tone, the coverage of his story and ultimately what it says about us.

When I first saw Gunadie’s video, I was delighted. Imagine, my hometown was the best place to be! Joy! My second impression was more nuanced. There is something steering the clip that reads like an advertisement. Maybe the ‘place to be’ reminded me of the infamous New Brunswick licence plate tagline, the “Be … in this place”.[3] I understand the necessity of naming things (cafés, pubs and restaurants), of speaking in clichés or memes (beach for oneself, beautiful sunset), but I believe that it is possible to write about a place without sounding like an ad.

A lot of travel writing is about selling something to someone, but it does not have to be like that. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Ernesto Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries are examples of two great works based on actual travel adventures. The genre continues to reinvent itself. In December 2016, Canadian Art Magazine awarded its Art Writing Prize to Calgary Art Critic, Ginger Carlson for her travel essay describing “a journey with artist Nicole Kelly Westman to former mining town Wayne, Alberta, to produce a new work.”[4]

The script of Our Country: Gunnarolla on why Moncton is his favourite place could have been lifted from a Tourism New Brunswick brochure. It is all niceties, product-oriented and we heard it before:

The East Coast is where the friendliest people live
Does anyone do seafood like the East Coast of Canada?
Moncton is perfect for road trips
Having a beach for oneself
Amazing sunsets
Walking ‘on the ocean floor’

This ‘walk on the ocean floor’ has been repeated like a mantra by the operators of the Hopewell Rocks as well as by the New Brunswick Department of Tourism.[5] It is probably something that everybody in New Brunswick does in his or her sleep, but to talk about Hopewell Rocks without mentioning the recent collapse of the Elephant Rock, one of the more popular of the Flowerpot formations, is puzzling. Gunardie surely wants to focus solely on the positive.[6]

The suspension of my belief came in a two-pronged realization. The first prong happened last month when the New Brunswick Department of Tourism announced that it was investing $1.1M for travel writers to promote tourism over the next 4 years[7]. Could this Canadian Geographic feature be part of that program? The second prong came a few days ago, when CBC New Brunswick published an article about Gunardie’s video. When I saw the video on Facebook, I thought that it walked like an advertorial and it talked like an advertorial, so I thought that it was an advertorial, but it did not trouble me, as after all, it was on Facebook. But to see it on CBC News was like seeing a little red flag on the horizon. The question is, why would CBC News would cover an ad? It is important to distinguish between the genuine article and the advertorial. Otherwise, we should have news stories about Leon’s couches.

How we see ourselves is important to consider, how other people see us might be more crucial. Our enthusiastic reaction to the Gunardie’s story is natural, but our social identity and the positive emotions we experience from belonging to any social group, or place, must not be shaped by marketers alone. The book has already been written, it’s called: Tourism Marketing for Cities and Towns and chapter 3: Analyzing the City or Town as a Tourism Product offers food for thought.[8]

Daniel H. Dugas
Moncton, NB

 


 

[1] “Travel blogger says Moncton is ‘the place to be’,” last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/blog-travel-gunnarolla-moncton-nb-favourite-1.4008283

For an interactive map of « Our Country » see Canadian Geographic, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://maps.canadiangeographic.ca/our-country/map.asp

[2] Lionel Casson, Travel in the Ancient World, (Hakkert, Totonto, 1974), 111

[3] “N.B. dumps licence plate slogan”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/n-b-dumps-licence-plate-slogan-1.1089931

[4] “Calgary Critic Wins Canadian Art Writing Prize”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://canadianart.ca/news/canadian-art-writing-prize-winner-announced/

[5] Tourism New Brunswick, Walk on the ocean floor, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/Products/ECs/WalktheOceanFloor-The-Hopewell-Rocks-EC.aspx

[6] “New Brunswick’ s famed Elephant Rock collapses in a pile of rubble”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/03/15/new-brunswick-s-famed-elephant-rock-collapses-in-a-pile-of-rubble.html

[7] “Province pays $1.1M for travel writers to promote tourism over 4 years”, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/cash-coverage-tourism-vacation-1.3991776

[8] Bonita Kolb, Tourism Marketing for Cities and Towns: Using Branding and Events to Attract Tourists, (Routledge, 2017). https://www.routledge.com/Tourism-Marketing-for-Cities-and-Towns-Using-Social-Media-and-Branding/Kolb/p/book/9781138685192

For Analyzing the City or Town as a Tourism Product, see Chapter 3 in Google Books, last modified Feb 24, 2017, http://bit.ly/2n6NjDm

 

Aug 13, 2012
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LONDON 2012: quicker to paradise (2012)

[Thoughts about the fabulous closing ceremonies]

Daniel Dugas with contributions from Valerie LeBlanc
August 13, 2012

LYRICS AND REALITIES
Imagine there’s no countries,
(John Lennon)

With all the flags waving and a massive,
dominating Union Jack outlining the track,
it is kind of hard to do.

There is Nothing to kill or die for
(John Lennon)

Nevertheless during the final minutes of the closing ceremonies,
the Olympic Flag was carried by members of the British Armed Forces.
It’s like they say, if you want peace, prepare for war.

Imagine no possessions
(John Lennon)

VS

I’m wearing all my favourite brands
(Taio Cruz)

+

It’s not about the money, money, money
We don’t need your money, money, money
(Jessie J)

Why are the medals, medals, medals, made of precious metal anyway?
Flash images of winning athletes biting their own.

FASHION
And no religion too
(John Lennon)

Annie Lennox’s Goth Pirate ship with charred sails:
a royally well-matched colonialist image to compliment the fashion extravaganza.

Did anybody see Fellini’s Roma – Catholic Church Fashion Show lately? Fellini’s ironic images must have informed the London’s closing ceremonies. Whether it is the lighted hats of the bishops (glow-in-the-dark hats of the Brazilian dancers), the deacon outfits equipped with roller skates (roller-skating nuns) or the skeleton float (Lennox’s ship). This is especially interesting when you realized that the Queen of England heads up the Church of England.

PSYCHEDELIA
Psychedelic magical mystery tour bus

How can we reconcile the psychedelic in us with the rectitude of the Olympic movement regarding drugs?  Is the magic drink good for the mind but bad for the body?  Go ask Lucy.

BURNING
Was the so-called re-enactment of the Pink Floyd cover Wish You Were Here, death by burning, auto combustion or political reference to last year’s burning effigy of the London 2012 Olympics organiser Lord Coe in protest at the sponsorship role of Dow Chemical? [1]

ENLIGHTENMENT
After reading a comment by the creative director and choreographer of the show, Kim Gavin it now makes sense: “My approach was to say, ‘Let’s not over-think it. . . . Let’s have a party. I don’t want anyone to say, ‘I don’t understand this.’” [2]

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Sex Pistols, The Cure, Amy Winehouse.

 

[1] London 2012: India 2012 Olympics protest in Bhopal burns Coe effigy, BBC website, 2 Dec 2011 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16001266
For more information, please see Tell Lord Coe to stop defending Dow Chemical: http://action.amnesty.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1194&ea.campaign.id=15017

[2] London 2012: Closing ceremony the after-party to end all after-parties, thestar.com, August 12, 2012  http://www.thestar.com/sports/london2012/article/1241117–london-2012-closing-ceremony-the-after-party-to-end-all-after-parties

Nov 5, 2010
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Sackville vs Pleasantville vs Ibiza (2010)

Style & Artifacts is a series of articles about the cultural symbolism of artifacts and monuments in landscapes and cityscapes. Black and white welcome signs, an outdoor sculpture that gets wrapped in winter, as well as bizarre swastikas patterns integrated into architecture are some of the topics that will be examined. The articles will be posted in episodes.

Editing assistance: Valerie LeBlanc

PART 2:

Sackville vs Pleasantville vs Ibiza

Sackville wanted to set itself apart from other towns by using black and white in their advertisements.[13] Well-done Sackville!  I have to agree that the new signs contrast with others.  One example being the colorful sign on Highway 15 near Moncton, that depicts two amazingly happy kids at a water park.

To present Sackville as a black and white destination may unintentionally have alluded to the movie Pleasantville. [14] You have to agree that Sackville and Pleasantville have a similar ring to them.  This allegorical movie presents two universes; one in black and white, where old fashion values reign, and a modern one in full color.  The protagonists go back and forth between the worlds and eventually the quaint little town changes its ways to become colorful.  Are the utopias of Sackville and Pleasantville related?  Should we, the tourists and the lonely truck drivers on the highway, be called in by the billboards?  Should we emulate Bud and Mary Sue Parker in the Pleasantville movie by going into the black and white town, “to educate (the town) about issues such as personal freedoms, styles of art, and literature? ”[15]

Katie Tower of the Sackville Tribune wrote a critical article about the billboards: Does Town’s new highway sign say Sackville? [16] In it, she pointed out that the billboards were not ‘really saying much about the vibrant cultural scene that makes up this quaint university town known as Sackville”.[17] Tower is right about the vibrancy of the cultural scene but I don’t think the billboards are off target either.  This town has not been misrepresented because this town is a quaint little place.  Let face it Sackville is not Ibiza, the number one party town in the world.[18] It is true that Sackville has an impressive scope of activity for its size.  In 2008, it was even named a Cultural Capital of Canada, [19] succeeding the town of Wendake, Quebec.  But Sackville is above all quaint, meaning that it has an old-fashioned charm, that it is unusual in an interesting and pleasing way.   The fact that it was selected by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons as one of the best places to live in Canada, [20] speaks volume about its pace.  It is traditional and quiet, it is pastoral and the sign says it well.

But then if you look at the photograph a bit longer you can see all those little antennas, hidden by the speed of travel.  Could this be a metaphor for the hidden wildness that can be found there?   People say that every little town has its secrets.  If it is true then maybe this is the real subtlety of the new identity campaign.  It managed to evoke the most secret trait of its population without them realizing it.  Perhaps beneath the tranquil exterior of idyllic, almost arcadian life, there is a wild heart beating.  Maybe like a mullet, Sackville is all ‘business in the front and party in the back.’  That thought would be subject matter for further research.

Daniel Dugas,

Moncton, August – October 2010


[13] “Everything is in colour these days.  Everybody wants to use colour and use the same thing to attract people to their community…but we don’t want to look like the other towns.”  Graham Watt, member of Sackville Tourism Advisory Committee.Visitors will be welcomed to Sackville with unique image. Tower, K.  (2009, May 6).  Sackville Tribune Post.

[14] IMBd The Internet Movie Database

[15] Pleasantville (film). (2010, July 21). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleasantville_(film)

[16] Does towns new highway sign say Sackville?. Tower, K.  (2009, June 17). Sackville Tribune Post.

[17] idem

[18] Best Party Cities in the World, Retrieved October 15, 2010, from: http://www.virgin-vacations.com/11-top-party-cities.aspx

[19] 2008 Cultural Capitals of Canada, Retrieved September 1st, 2010, from http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ccc/ccc08-eng.cfm

[20] Sackville Arts Walk brochure – Feb. 2010

GO TO PART 1

 

Nov 4, 2010
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Nice town, y’know what I mean? (2010)

Style & Artifacts is a series of articles about the cultural symbolism of artifacts and monuments in landscapes and cityscapes. Black and white welcome signs, an outdoor sculpture that gets wrapped in winter, as well as bizarre swastikas patterns integrated into architecture are some of the topics that will be examined. The articles will be posted in episodes.

Editing assistance: Valerie LeBlanc

PART 1

Nice town, y’know what I mean?

Last year the town of Sackville, in an attempt to bring more people to town[1], installed two black and white billboards on the Trans-Canada highway.  The team of marketing specialists believed that the use of a black and white image would create enough of a shock to achieve this goal.  This æsthetic action created waves within the community.  There were a few newspaper articles and letters to the editor written; some praising the audacity of the signs, and some others were more critical.  After a year, I was curious to see how the marketing dust was settling in the ever-windy Tantramar Marsh.

Traveling in a northwesterly direction toward Sackville, I stopped on the side of the road in front of one of the billboards.  I had seen the image[2] before, on a previous voyage, but this time I wanted to confront the bucolic scene at a different speed.  I got out of the car to stand directly in front of the landscape image.  It was huge.  The four hay bales lying in a field was even bigger than I thought.  The composition of the photograph was centered and balanced.  The muted tones and the realism depicted spoke of time-honored tradition and conservatism.  The blowup of the image had something of The Gleaners, an oil painting by Millet (1857), but without the peasants.

Looking at the photograph, I was reminded of the famous line by the Stage Manager, the narrator of the play Our Town[3] written by Thornton Wilder in 1937: Nice town, y’know what I mean? There was something warm and safe about it, even if was wrapped in the coldness of the black and white.  Under the picture is a slogan stating that Sackville is the Cultural Crossroads of the Maritimes.

Marsh and Mirror

Trucks were traveling down the highway at ferocious speeds raising trails of dust behind them.  I was taking pictures of the picture when I realized something both interesting and puzzling at the same time.  The billboard image is a mirror of its surroundings.  This, by itself, is interesting, after all mirrors are important tools of discovery.  Montaigne spoke of the world “as a mirror where we must see ourselves in order to know ourselves,” [4] and Rabelais in a more sarcastic manner reminded us that  “If you wish to avoid seeing a fool you must first break the mirror.” [5]

Like a Droste Effect,[6] the image of a marsh within a marsh, could make us question the reasons behind – or beyond the panels.  Is the smaller black and white version of the marsh saying something important about the real thing?  Is it augmenting or diminishing the existing reality?  It is puzzling because there are unfortunately, no answers to inform or transform an understanding of the choice of the image.  On that particular day, it looked like a visual hiccup planted on the landscape.

The signage was part of a new strategy to set Sackville apart from other communities. The Tourism Committee hoped that the distinctiveness of the image, ‘its art like qualities’ [7] would be so attractive that it would incite visitors to drive into town.  But were there more tourists coming in?  In answer to my inquiries, Rebekah Cant – Sackville’s Director of Tourism, offered to set up a meeting with two members from the Tourism Advisory Committee; Councilor Virgil Hammock[8] as well as idea manGraham Watt, who once worked as an advertising man on Madison Avenue.  According to them, the billboards have been successful.  People have been talking, some positively and yes, others negatively about the signs.  If we believe that ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity…’ [9] like Brendan Behan said, then this daring black and white coup might just work out!

 

Crossroads and Tollbooths

Marketing strategies are plans of actions and the slogan Sackville, the Cultural Crossroads of the Maritimes is part of the new identity promoted by the highway signs.  But what is this Cultural Crossroad business?  What does it mean?  Like some people in Sackville that I spoke to, I thought it was a printing error.  Was it supposed to read Agricultural Crossroads?  After all, hay bales strongly point to cultivation.

A crossroad is a point of intersection.  It is also the point where an important choice has to be made.  Am I going straight or am I turning off?  If the Trans-Canada Highway and the streets of Sackville are the cultural roads, then what important choice has to be made here?  To stop?  Maybe, although it might not be extremely important if you don’t need the usual services required by travelers.  Does this great intersection of roads warrant our attention?  Is there a traffic light where we will have to stop, or a tollbooth where we will have to toss a coin?

How can Sackville set itself apart from others when a crossroad is exactly about the importance and the dependency of others?  Because, let’s not forget that without these ‘others’ there will be no crossroad at all.

Yore and “Ohm sweet Ohm”[10]

But let’s go back to the image: the sky is heavy with clouds, it rained earlier or it will at some point.  It feels cold.  It is nostalgia wrapped into melancholy.  But why hay bales?   Why this picture?  I know that hay is feed for animals, that there are different qualities of feed and that one hay bale of this variety weights about 1,000 pounds.  I know that making hay involves many steps; cutting; drying; processing and storing.  But really what does it have to say about the town?  Do Sackvillians live in straw houses?  Is there a museum of Hay Fever?  Can I buy a hay-bale-key-chain or a hay-bale-pen at the gas station?

But wait a minute, just above the bales, the sky is lighting up, or as Thornton Wilder wrote at the very beginning of his play ‘… Sky is beginnin’ to show some streaks of lights over the East there…’ [11] Yes!  Now I see, parsed in the glimmer, a series of little sticks planted in the ground.  These sticks are the antennas of the famous Radio Canada International transmitter station.[12] RCI has been located in the Tantramar Marshes since the early 40’s and it broadcasts a multilingual schedule of shortwave programs throughout the world.  Could these high frequencies emitted from this colony of towers represent the cultural roads of Sackville?  I don’t know but I could almost hear something…

The antennas in the background could actually be the clue that unlocks this marketing campaign mystery, but they are so small and so delicately drawn onto the landscape that they might not be seen at all.  I doubt that the restless kid, in the backseat of the average minivan traveling at highway speeds, will notice them and start yelling to his parents: “MOM! DAD! ANTENNAS! ANTENNAS!  CAN WE STOP AT THE RADIO CANADA INTERNATIONAL STATION PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! CAN WE?”

End of part 1.

Tomorrow – the conclusion: Sackville vs Pleasantville vs Ibiza

 


[1] Tower, K.  (2010, May 6).  Visitors will be welcomed to Sackville with unique image. “In an effort to set itself apart from other communities, Sackville is taking a unique approach to drawing in visitors off the highway” Sackville Tribune Post.

[2] The photograph is part of the Radio Canada International portfolio created by renowned photographer Thaddeus Holownia during a 28-year period (1977-2006).

[3] Our Town. (2010, July 26). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Town

[4] Michel De Montaigne quotes. Think exist – Finding Quotations was never this Easy!. Retrieved September 4, 2010 from http://thinkexist.com/quotation/traveling-through-the-world-produces-a-marvelous/347128.html

[5] François Rabelais quotes.  Brainy Quote Retrieved September 4, 2010 from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/f/francoisra176266.html

[6] Droste effect. (2010, August 2). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droste_effect

[7] Tower, K.  (2010, May 6).  Visitors will be welcomed to Sackville with unique image. Sackville Tribune Post.

[9] Strangely enough, we really acknowledge the latter part of the phrase: There’s no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituaryThe Phrase Finder. Retrieved September, 1st, 2010, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/there-is-no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity.html

[10] “Ohm sweet Ohm” is a song on Radio-Activity a 1975 concept album around simulated radiowave and shortwave sounds by KraftwerkRadio-Activity. (2010, July 24). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactivity_(album)

[11]“The first act shows a day in our town.  The date is May 7, 1901, just before dawn.  (COCK CROW off stage.)  Aya, just about.  Sky is beginnin’ to show some streaks of lights over the East there…..” Our town: a play in three acts By Thornton Wilder, from Google Books.  Act 1, page 2.

[12] Radio Canada International. (2010, May 10)). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Canada_International

GO TO PART 2 : Sackville vs Pleasantville vs Ibiza

 

Daniel H. Dugas

Artiste numérique, poète et musicien, Daniel Dugas a participé à des expositions individuelles et de groupe ainsi qu’à plusieurs festivals et événements de poésie en Amérique du Nord, en Europe, au Mexique et en Australie. Son neuvième recueil de poésie L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time vient de paraître aux Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel Dugas is a poet, musician and videographer. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions as well as festivals and literary events in North America, Europe, Mexico and Australia. His ninth book of poetry: L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time has just been published by Les Éditions Prise de parole.

Daniel Dugas es poeta, músico y videocreador. Ha participado en exposiciones individuales y colectivas, festivals y eventos literarios en Norteamérica, Europa, México y Australia. Acaba de publicar su noveno poemario, L’esprit du temps / The spirit of time (Les Editions Prise de parole).

L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time est un projet de transmutation du paysage publicitaire en paysage poétique. Ce livre est à la fois un livre de photographie, un recueil de poésie et un essai lucide mais ludique sur notre société matérialiste. Il a été produit en numérique et imprimé en quantité limitée.

Date : Décembre 2015
Genre : Poésie
Collection : Poésie
ISBN : 9782894239629

Éditions Prise de parole

http://www.prisedeparole.ca/auteurs/?id=148

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