Monday, December 7, 2009

Tourism and the Caribbean

Tourism is the driving force behind many of the smaller Caribbean islands economies. Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, and many other islands are dependent on the on the people that come to their islands for fun in the son to keep their fragile economies intact. However, the tourism industry could be killing these small places instead of saving them as long as the tourists do not know what they are doing to the places they visit. Jamaica Kinkaid outlines the problems with ignorant tourism in her short novel “A Small Place”. There are many problems facing these places like pollution from Caribbean cruise ships that could in turn destroy them entirely.
One major way that cruise ships are adding to the pollution problems in the Caribbean is the unbelievable amount of waste that they rack up. “A single cruise ship produces per person, per day, 1 kg burnable waste, .5 kg food waste and 1 kg glass and tin” (Uebersax, 1996). Now take those numbers, multiply them by about 300, and then multiply them by about 4 (average cruise length). That is an ungodly amount of waste. The simple fact of the matter is that that waste cannot stay on the boat. Most of the time a cruise ship will dump that waste deep into international waters to prevent it from reaching shore, which is not always illegal. However, they often do not take into account the strong currents that will pull much of that crap, no pun intended, into shore. Sometimes the cruise ship will just dump their trash in harbor, which is extremely illegal (Uebersax, 1996). This dumping destroys the pristine beach lines and crystal clear blue waters that draw the tourists in the first place. If this problem continues, tour businesses will literally put themselves out of business by killing what people want to see. It also effects the local populations by killing off fish, making resources like drinking water unusable, and making many people extremely ill.
So what can we do to stop it? Unfortunately, the answer is not so easy. The current measures taken on cruise ships to dispose of waste are very limited. Some simply try to recycle their waste so they do not have so much to dump. Most do not. One answer could be incineration. Burning the waste could provide a safe way of disposing of the waste and also it could provide a way of powering the ships in little areas. The only problem with this approach would be that the ash made by burning this waste would have to be disposed of as well and that could be even more damaging if it is dropped in the ocean (Uebersax, 1996). Another solution proposed would be on shore waste treatment plants on the islands. This would prevent the ships from dumping anything into the water at all. While this seems to be the best solution, it is also problematic. The fact is that the locations that many of the ships go to are very poor countries that cannot even take care of their own waste, let alone that from a cruise ship. They cannot do this alone and without foreign support it may never get done (Uebersax, 1996).
In conclusion, the points of reports like this and Jamaica Kinkaid’s novel “A Small Place” is not to tell people not to go on trips and cruises. Instead, it encourages travel, but makes people aware of the effect the make when they travel. Ignorant tourism could cripple the tourism industry and damage some of the most beautiful places on Earth. We must be aware of the footprint we leave when we leave.
Works Cited
Uebersax, M. B. (1996, August). Cruise Ship Pollution in the Caribbean. Retrieved from

The History Behind Poets In The Kitchen

Paule Marshall in her essay “Poets in the Kitchen” outlines what it was like to grow up in a family that came from the tiny island of Barbados in the West Indies. She discuss not only the things she saw that made her the person she was today, but also what inspired her to write the way she does. The history of Barbados explains a lot of the experiences that Paule Marshall writes about in “Poets in the Kitchen” and gives an interesting look into that life.
The early history of Barbados is a very fascinating one. The island was first inhabited by the Arawak Indians that came from Venezuela by dugout canoes. One of the things that sticks out about these Indians is the extremes they would go to look attractive. They would tie the foreheads of their infants to slope their heads to a point (Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados ). This is strikingly similar to the tradition that Marshall mentions in her essay of “the bellyband that is tied around the stomach of a newborn baby to keep the navel pressed in” (Marshall, 2001). It seems that the tradition of going to extremes to be, what the people around them view as, good looking did not stay in Barbados when Marshall’s relatives left.
After the Arawak Indians, the Carib Indians came to Barbados. They were cannibals and would use a very powerful toxin on their arrows to paralyze their victims to prepare them to be eaten (Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados ). The Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos landed on the island in 1536 while he was on his way to Brazil to trade. He did not clam the island but named it Los Barbados which means the ‘Bearded One’. Many historians believe the name comes from the islands fig trees that have hanging aerial roots that give the trees a bearded look (History of Barbados ). The English were the next to settle Barbados in 1625 and it became a British Colony in 1627. The Island was made into a thriving sugar cane producing colony, however the poor living conditions and horrible treatment of the slaves used to produce the sugar was too much. The slaves revolted in 1816, but slavery as a whole was not abolished in Barbados until 1834 (History of Barbados ). The Island remained basically stable until 1930 when an economic Depression hit which caused riots and many of the people to leave to the country. It is quite possible that this is when Paule Marshall’s relatives came over to America. Barbados remained a British colony until 1966 when they declared full independence and joined the United Nations in 1967. Now, tourism, like many of the smaller Caribbean islands, is the driving force behind Barbados’s economy.
While it is always interesting to see where a writer gets his or her inspiration, sometimes it is even more interesting to examine the culture that he or she came from. In Paule Marshall’s case, by looking at the history of the country that her relatives came from we can see where many of the traditions she talks about in “Poets” came from.
Works Cited
Barbados Culture: the Abbreviated History of Barbados . (n.d.). Retrieved from
History of Barbados . (n.d.). Retrieved from
Marshall, P. (2001). Poets in the Kitchen. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Meaning Behind DeLillo’s White Noise

Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise is hailed as one of the greatest postmodern works of all time and is one of the greatest books of the 20th century. However, why did DeLillo call his novel white noise? What does it even mean? The dictionary defines white noise as, “a constant background noise; especially: one that drowns out other sounds; meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub, or chatter” (White Noise, 2009). With this definition in mind, it is easy to see what DeLillo meant when he called his novel White Noise. Don DeLillo meant that the technology and life in America are a background noise that drowns out what is really going on in our world.
The first example we see of this in the novel is on the very first page. DeLillo describes how a group of college students arrive with an ungodly amount of stuff loaded on their cars. “The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skies, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts” (DeLillo, 1999). This shows the mountains of stuff that the kids bring with them; most of it completely useless. The American underlying white noise of “buy more stuff, buy more stuff” is made evident here. These kids own things that they will most likely never use again, but own none the less out of some unknown need.
A second example of this definition of white noise is on page 51 of the novel. Murray is talking to the narrator, Jack, about television and how, in a way, it is the essence of white noise. “TV offers incredible amounts of psychic data. It opens ancient memories of world birth; it welcomes us into the grid, the network of little buzzing dots that make up the picture pattern. There is light, there is sound. I ask my students, ‘What more do you want?’ Look at the wealth of data concealed in the grid, in the bright packaging, the jingles, the slice of life commercials, the products hurtling out of darkness, the coded messages and endless repetitions, like chants, like mantras, ‘Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it.’ The medium practically overflows with sacred formulas if we can remember how to respond innocently and get past our irritation, weariness, and disgust” (DeLillo, 1999). Murray is basically saying that without us knowing it, things like TV or computers will run our thoughts if we allow them. Just 30 minutes and one commercial could have you buying something you don’t really want or craving some food you don’t really need to be eating.
In conclusion, White Noise can be interpreted as a kind of warning against letting these types of technologies run our lives. When we allow technology to become the background noise of our lives, it can influence us without us even knowing it. I believe that this was Don DeLillo’s purpose.
Works Cited
DeLillo, D. (1999). White Noise. New York, New York: Penguin Books.
White Noise. (2009). Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Louise Erdrich’s Style in Love Medicine

Louise Erdrich is a very talented Native American author. Her novels about Native American life on and off the reservation have won her recognition around the country. Philip Roth said about her novel the Plague of Doves that “Louise Erdrich's imaginative freedom has reached its zenith—The Plague of Doves is her dazzling masterpiece” (Roth). However, besides her incredible story telling abilities, what makes her the most interesting is her style. In her short story cycle Love Medicine, Erdrich changes narrators, settings, plots, times, tenses, and even points of view right in the middle of a story.
The first interesting thing about Louise Erdrich’s style is the way she introduces multiple narrators over the course of the cycle. Many times, she even will introduce multiple narrators in a single story. For example, in the last story of the cycle, “Crossing the Water”, Erdrich switches the narrator from Howard Kashpaw to Lipsha Morrissey in just a couple of pages (Erdrich, 2009). This gives a lot of depth to the story. The reader is able to see the story, and sometimes the same event, from the minds of almost every single character in the book. There is no need to guess what the characters are thinking, because likely as not that character will be telling the story within the next five pages or so.
Another interesting thing about Erdrich’s style is the way she shifts the narrator’s point of view in her stories. She frequently goes from third person to first person before going right back to third person. For example, in the first story in the cycle, “The World’s Greatest Fisherman”, she begins the story from the third person point of view. “The morning before Easter Sunday, June Kashpaw was walking down the clogged main street of oil boomtown Williston, North Dakota, killing time before the noon bus arrived that would take her home” (Erdrich, 2009). However, on page seven, the point of view changes to first person. “It was almost hot by the week after Easter, when I found out, in Mama’s letter, that June was gone – not only gone but suddenly buried, vanished off the land like that sudden snow” (Erdrich, 2009). While this sudden switch in point of view could be confusing for some readers, Erdrich makes it so that it takes very little effort to follow along with the changes. It adds yet another layer of depth to the stories. The reader is able see the entire setting in a 3-D, 360 degree sweep. The reader is able to take in every detail and thought as if they were in the story feeling what the characters are feeling.
In conclusion, Louise Erdrich’s unique style only makes her a more interesting writer. She takes the story and shows it to reader from every possible angle. This not only improves the experience of reading Erdrich, but gives us a grand picture of the Native American life in the 20th century. The review of this book by the New York Times says it all, “There are at least a dozen of the many vividly drawn people in this first novel who will not leave the mind once they are let in. Their power comes from Louise Erdrich’s mastery of words… Every detail in this novel counts. (New York Times)”
Works Cited
(n.d.). New York Times .
Erdrich, L. (2009). Love Medicine. New York, New York: HarperCollins.
Roth, P. (n.d.). Louise Erdrich Biography. Retrieved from