School posts

See the title? The poetry class is already infiltrating my writing.

The Dresden Codex has long been a source of mystery to its various owners and numerous scholars. It is a pre-Colombian Maya book whose exact origin and journey from the past to modern-day is covered in ambiguity. For example, it is unknown how the codex made its way from Colombia to its current location at the Royal Library at Dresden (Germany). It is thought that the codex was sent to King Charles I of Spain from Hernán Cortés as thanks for being imported as the governor of the freshly attainted Mexican territory before being purchased by the Royal Library from a private seller. Besides the final sale, the rest is speculation.

The Codex itself is an 11-12th century book painted by Maya scribes that is central in deciphering Maya glyphs. The hieroglyphs in question are not similar in the least to Sumerian cuneiform, the Linear B script or Egyptian hieroglyphs. Sir Eric Thompson, the leading Mayanist of his time believed the glyphs were a “source of spiritual values in a modern world that placed farm more importance on material prosperity” (Robinson 121). Even though the Mayan culture has contemporary ties – there are still many Mayans today – today’s generation cannot read the glyphs. Much discovery, however, has led to the conclusion that considerable vocabulary used by Mayans today is the same behind the glyphs.

Some pieces of Maya culture can be understood, like the calendar with its three wheels.

The biggest wheel (to the right) keeps track of something resembling months. The bigger wheel around the smaller wheel together indicate the date. The original calendar only had 260 days per year, but this revised edition qualified 365 days.

“It consisted of 18 named months (…), each of 20 days’ duration, and one month of 5 days […], making altogether a ‘vague year’ […] because the extra one quarter of a day in a solar year, which we solved by adding a leap year, the Maya chose to ignore (Robinson 126).”

The Dresden Codex has many dates in it (mostly pertaining to significant divine dates since it is a semi-religious text), an interpretation that could not have been made without the discovery and correct translation of the calendars.

Arguably the most difficult part of breaking the Maya code was the multiple signifiers for a single signified. The creation of the glyphs was practical, but also artistic and allowed the writer many freedoms in his/her chosen interpretation of the signified. A major step in the decipherment of the glyphs is the realization that they are partially phonetic. “It is no ordinary alphabet, since it contains more than one sign for some letters, as well as syllabic signs” (Robinson 130).

The decipherment was met with two major obstacles: Mayan languages are relatively unknown to Maya scholars, and the combination writing system of phonography (representing vocal sounds) and logography (representing a word or phrase). After much time, a semi-universal syllabic chart was developed that enables the majority of glyphs to be read. Most (likely all) disagreements concerning this chart spawn from the ambiguity caused by the mixed writing system. It is likely, considering the use of glyphs did not carry over to future generations, that many Mayans did not know how to interpret these glyphs. Regional differences and, obviously, the Spanish Inquisition no doubt played a role in the end of this writing system. (Note: this is my opinion and is probably not shared by scholars who would laugh at my ignorance.)

Maya art was covered with equally complicated layers of linguistic clues. Murals, for example, show a single narrative with the image taking first importance, while the glyphs supplement. The 1970s in the New York art world proved lucrative for Mayan research. Michael Coe – leading Mayanist – was organizing a Maya ceramics exhibition when he noticed a trend among the glyphs printed on the utensils. He coined the trend the Primary Standard Sequence and made an intellectual, but ultimately uneducated, guess that they “referred to Maya mythical adventures in the Otherworld,” like the Egyptian book of the Dead (Robinson 143).

He may have been wrong, but his unexpected discovery was valuable (and fun) nonetheless. After additional research, a few of the patterns were deciphered as “to drink” and “cacao.” The cup was sent to Hershey Foods Corporation where it was confirmed the residue from the cup was cacao. The glyphs of the cup identified the owner of the cup and the purpose of the cup. Practical, yet artistic; those Mayans fooled us all.


The Rosetta Stone is iconic, to say the least. Discovered in Egypt in 1799, it is easily one of the top three most valuable excavations in the history of the world. It is the single biggest source of earliest writing and contains three separate scripts, including both alphabet and hieroglyph based, within the pieces that survived. Not only is the stone a landmark historically, but has become something of a pop culture icon.  The following will be a brief history of the Rosetta stone and what it means in contemporary society – how it has been revitalized for this generation.

Egypt is credited with the invention of cuneiform and, consequently, the origins of writing. In The Story of Writing David Robinson reports the language founded by the Egyptians seemed to be based on significance rather than syllables, meaning a symbol of a hawk would imply anything of swift movement, including but not limited to a hawk, and rendering the language indecipherable to Greek and Roman scholars of the time (Robinson 21). Most translations of hieroglyphs did not appear until approximately the 15th century. It was not until the 17th century that Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest, began successfully deciphering hieroglyphs.

The heavy interest in linguistically cracking the Rosetta Stone spawned from the Enlightenment, when everything was called into question, even the questions of questions. The conclusion was drawn that hieroglyphs fell into several categories, two of which included signs evolved from pictures and signs representing phonetic sounds (like an alphabet). Shortly after the Rosetta Stone was obtained from the village of Rashid (“Rosetta”) a few miles from the sea (Robinson 24). The simplest discovery upon investigation of the stone was that there were three scripts inscribed on it, each visually distinct from the other.

The top script was Egyptian hieroglyps with cartouches, the middle unknown, and the bottom Greek.

The middle script “clearly did not resemble Greek script, but it seemed to bear some resemblance to the hieroglyphic script above it, without having cartouches” – what is now known as demotic, a cursive form of hieroglyph script (Tobinson 26). A significant discovery in breaking the Rosetta Stone code was that hieroglyphic and demotic names had alphabetical spelling. As time went on, the decipherment achieved several breakthroughs, one of which will (hopefully) be shown below/later.

Clearly, the Rosetta Stone is detrimental to forming any sort of history of writing and the constant research and continual flow of results keep the significance of the project relevant in today’s society. It is no surprise that given the difficulty of interpreting the stone it has become a symbol of breaking the code of any language.

This program, developed in the 1980s and released 1992, is a proprietary computer-assisted language learning (CALL) software that aids users in learning a new language. Most of their publicity comes from television ads (like the one below), but the idea is that the Rosetta Stone is the key to knowledge and it has been unlocked; you [the user] can have the key and can also unlock a world of possibilities with relative fluency in the language of your choice.

While the results of this program will differ from user to user depending on the user’s personal schedule, interest, work ethic and dedication, it is usually a very basic course that allows you to interact with the software as you learn before emptying out that last bit of cash in a last ditch attempt to learn Spanish before traveling to Spain. The Rosetta Stone was and is universally recognized as a key to knowledge and, linguistic efficiency.


Works Cited

Robinson, Andrew.The Story of Writing. 2nd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

As I contemplate what to write for my last blog for English 475, also known as “Writing for New Media,” I am at a loss for words. So far, I have written about re-makes and re-dos, which is the message that I’ve received this semester from the texts we’ve read.

First we read Left to Right by David Crow, a British author (I do love British authors), and he described the cultural shift from text to image (left brain thinking to right brain thinking). It was great to have both offbeat and mainstream examples with explanations accompanying his theories. I am truly convinced this is the case, and I do not see there being a cultural shift from image to text. If Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World, or any other generic science-fiction dystopian novel has taught us anything, it is that knowledge is power.

I am in no way implying we are unconsciously entering a totalitarian regime (I wouldn’t know, would I?), but with these technological advances comes accessibility to knowledge and, therefore, more opportunities to control the influx and output of “knowledge.” This is one of many thoughts that occurred to me while reading this first Crow book, but many of his examples utilized the image to communicate an additional or enhanced message. (For example, see my first post about book covers through the decades.)

The introduction of fonts was a major theme in Left to Right. Fonts were illustrated and more animated than your basic “Courier” and this affects the tone of the product (i.e. whatever that text is representing). The font of my blog, for example, affects the overall tone of this post and the webpage. If it were in a more masculine font, it might appear the author has internal conflicts regarding the balance between fun and business and it overflows into my virtual life in such a way I subconsciously let it seep into my blog. The bottom line is we live in an image-based culture and that is the way it has always been (in my opinion). The only difference is we learned how to embrace it – and by “embrace” I mean manipulate.

The next book we read was Visible Signs, also by my British man Crow. The content of this book was little heavier in that it introduced theories instead of focusing on one general theme (i.e. cultural shifts). One thing I really enjoyed about the Crow books is that he really invests in the visuals. This man has mastered his style. He practices what he preaches. He enables me to use clichés in reference to his writing.

He doesn’t just write about these visuals, but the layout of the book mirrors what he says. According to my senior seminar professor (and he is a VERY smart man), a master of writing can make his/her form subtly reflect the content. Writing is an art, meaning it is an acquired skill, meaning it takes time, effort and dedication to learning the rules and manipulating them to your advantage.

We also read Remediation by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, which was easily the most boring books of the semester. I am not sure if this is because it was read immediately following the intellectually and visually stimulating Crow duo or because it was written academically for use as a textbook or the content was uninspiring in general, but something about this book was not working for me.

After I got over my initial dislike and managed to keep my eyelids peeled open, I found the theories introduced informative. It definitely gave me a different lens when viewing any of the ways media surrounds us in life. The book is centralized around a theme of virtual reality, which can be as fantastical or technological as you want.

(Dull cover to match the style)

I prefer the practical application of the term rather than the versions presented in numerous films. Bolter and Grusin really work to illustrate (with black and white pictures – Crow would be ashamed) how films, television and art work to blur the line between reality and non-reality, life and imaginary portrayal. Producers do this via content, writing, shooting, location and every other detail. Their goal is to sell their product and they do this by making the product as relatable as possible.

Finally, we rounded out the semester with Visual Storytelling by Ronald J. Osgood and M. Joseph Hinshaw, a textbook about how to produce a film (which was our final project). It emphasized the importance of how to capture on film (a term I use loosely) what was needed to communicate the story on screen. The authors stressed the need for the story to be communicated. It is meaningless to have great shots and lighting if they do not move the story along.

All in all, it has been a fun semester. Twelve posts later and I’m still learning. I have had the opportunity to work with Photoshop, MovieMaker and Premiere… And I have come to the realization that technology is not my strong suit. However, I do feel much more experienced in these programs – a quality necessary to work as a journalist, which is more than my other courses have provided me. It’s been fun, but I am ready for this semester to be over and start celebrating Christmas the way it deserves to be celebrated.

(Not trying to be depressing, but definitely worth remembering as we overindulge in the luxuries this season brings.)

I recently had the opportunity to visit my favorite place in the world (kind of) – New York City – on a whim. The reason NYC is “kind of” my favorite place in the world is because my world travels are very limited, but out of my extensive travels of the east coast of the wonderful United States of America, New York is easily my favorite. The city is just so wonderful; it sincerely baffles me when people say they could never live there (common response) or they don’t like the city at all (rare, but not unheard of).

To me the city is this big island of life, and who doesn’t love life? It is the best place ever, especially if you have money to blow. If not, it’s still awesome. There is never a shortage of activities and just walking around is a rewarding experience in and of itself.

So, the reason I was in the city spans back to my Harry Potter obsession. I entered a Facebook contest to win a ticket to see the Broadway musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe.

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying

Needless to say, I won a ticket to the Tuesday night performance (the night before my birthday, I might add), which brings us to my reason for my impromptu trip. Wednesday before my plane left to bring me back to South Carolina (I love SC, but it could never be to me what NY is), my mother and I decided to walk over 40 blocks to THE Metropolitan Museum of Art. On our last trip together (I came up another time, of course) we visited the American Museum of Natural History. It was fun, but I definitely consider myself more of an art person, at least when it comes to museums. 

We explored the museum for around four hours – that place is massive, the exterior of the building does not accurately express the interior’s capacity. There are ten wings not including the gift shop (I use that term very loosely as the shop is bigger than most Targets) or restaurant. Out of those ten wings, my mother and I whizzed through four of them intentionally and the other six out of sheer confusion.

As we were browsing through everything history has to offer, I had a couple of revelations.

  1. These pieces (particularly those of the Greek & Roman Arts wing) are old. Older than I can imagine. Thousands of years old. Old. And looking good for their age, if I may be so bold.
  2. A lot of these old pieces do not look very different from design today.

First, there is a celebrity appearance by the alien dog from The Neverending Story on some Egyptian relics.

Look closely (my zoom is not very good with phone pictures)

Clearly, these people had skill. And one can safely assume Wolfgang Peterson had an interest in ancient Egyptian art on display at the MMA.

Next, I’d like to show some historic jewelry from Africa.

African Jewelry/Art

If someone wanted to sell these, I’m pretty sure the average art collector would have some stiff competition from stylists and fashionistas.

I could go through all my pictures and say, “Look at this old junk! Doesn’t it look like the same stuff we make today?” But I think this is the point. In my classes this semester, several of the texts we’ve studied have inadvertently shown me that originality isn’t something that’s never been done before. That statement is itself a fallacy and its implications an urban legend. I tend to relate to Plato with his theory of archetypes outside of space and time for several reasons, the most obvious one being I’ve never seen otherwise.

This unintentional theme of originality that’s permeated my blogs thus far has confirmed what I already believe. The goal in making something “original” is not to make something new, but make it your own. Fashion designers, filmmakers, architects, painters and all artists alike will likely tell you the same.  To be truly groundbreaking you must first acknowledge the “ground” your “breaking” is not your creation – you’re building off of someone else’s work.

Finally, and this is my favorite, if you do not see the similarities between this ancient Greek bust and a certain film representation of a literature character, you are voluntarily deluded.

Get it? NO? Well then….

Since I created this blog as an online journal for one of my classes this semester, I’m going to use this post to talk a little bit about the final video project. The requirements of the group project are

  1. We must work in groups four
  2. The video must be no longer than 15 minutes, no shorter than 10
  3. The video must use original footage (it can’t be a montage)

The third requirement really limits the scope and makes the project a little more challenging. Let  me frame it this way: I was unable to make a documentary chronicling Lady Gaga’s fashion evolution (revolution, if you prefer) because there is no possible way I could capture original footage of Lady Gaga.

With my first idea dashed, it was time to get serious. I found my group and submitted some ideas to them, one of which was to re-create the opening scene of a book, and the specific book I suggested was the F. Scott Fitzgeral classic, The Great Gatsby. Who doesn’t love the novel short in length, extensive in symbolism and required in tenth grade honors English classes everywhere? Please, keep your answers to yourself because that was one of the few books I enjoyed reading in any of my English classes, college included, and it has very little to do with the Leonardo DiCaprio adaptation coming in 2012.

Some of the other ideas that were tossed around included a documentary of “A Day in the Life of…” with possible people including celebrities, slobs and divas; and a Quality Value & Convenience/Home Shopping Network segment selling a fictional product no one needs or cares about. Needless to say, The Great Gatsby premise was my favorite option. The team reached a comprimise, meaning I changed my idea a little to please one member of the group. We decided to focus on a particular character of the story and make a condensed E! True Hollywood Story.

Here is a concise summary of The Great Gatsby. If you are anything like me, you remember the enjoyment of being submerged in Nick Carraway’s world, the sadness at Gatby’s death, and little else. Nick Carraway is the narrator who moves in to the West Egg of New York, the suburbs of the newly wealthy. His cousin, Daisy, lives in the East Egg (the suburbs of the always wealthy) with her husband and Nick’s former classmate, Tom Buchanan.

Nick spends much time with the unhappy, physically and emotionally abusive Buchanan couple and learns much about the ugly side of “happiness.” He learns Tom has a lover, Myrtle Wilson, a married resident of the Valley of Ashes; Gatsby, his eccentric neighbor, was and is still in love with Daisy; and the American Dream is much more about lies and cover-ups than dignity. Through an abnormal series of events Gatsby is killed and Nick leaves the West Egg disgusted by life.

The E! True Hollywood Story of Tom Buchanan would focus briefly on Tom’s childhood and focus heavily on life after Gatsby’s death. There will be interviews with Tom, Daisy, Myrtle (before her death) and Nicki (in this version of events Nicki Carraway was and is a female). It isn’t the most original idea, but everyone loves good gossip and Tom, though fictional, provides a hefty helping of it.

Just for some visual fun, here is a look at the actors who have portrayed Tom through the ages:

Top to bottom: Bruce Dern in the Robert Redford film version; Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway & Martin Donovan as the alcoholic Tom Buchanan in the A&E TV version; Joel Edgerton as Tom & Tobey Maguire as Nick in the soon-to-be-released Baz Luhrman remake.

Just for some visual fun, here is a look at the actors who have portrayed Tom through the ages:

Due to casting limitations, Nick had to be performed by a woman, but it will not compromise the integrity of the story any more than turning it into an E! news spectacular. Some lines of respect have already been crossed, but all is fair in the land of grades and grade point average.

We have written the scripts and have scheduled a filming time, but we still have to find a location, film, edit and record the narration. It’s a lot, but it’s only the middle of November. Fall hasn’t even hit yet.

P.S. If you would like to work as an unpaid actress, let me know. The less time I have to spend in front of the camera, the better off our project will be.

P.P.S. If you want to see the latest video project I completed with my partner and/or love Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Inception, check out this link: .

We can all agree most people consider originality to be a good thing. And, for the most part, the general public considers unoriginality to be unworthy of comment. It’s the lukewarm of originality, the middle on the originality scale. Copying others, however, is being seen less and less as flattery and more like infringement.

This resembles the concept of remediation, in that both are based off of something that has already been done. The concept of virtual reality is based on reality. I am aware that was both an obvious and simplistic statement, but it needed to be made. I believe is credit is given where due, a re-creation of someone else’s creation can be great and different. To illustrate what I mean, I am going to use a recently released music video.

“Countdown” by Beyonce:

The song itself counts down (get it? Yeah, me either) the things she loves and/or does with her “boo” (her words). The visual that is the music video goes through the decades with Beyonce dressed as Audrey Hepburn from Funny Face (see my older blog post from September “There and Back Again (and Again)”), classic Vogue photo shoots, Brigitte Bardot, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Beal in Flash Dance (arguable), German experimental dance and the always classy West Side Story.

Beyonce received much criticism with how heavily she borrowed from the aforementioned German experimental dance “Rosas danst Rosas,” choreographed by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. This 30-second clip shows the most obvious resemblances to the extensive, much longer dance.

I, however, do not believe this is fair putting my bias toward Beyonce aside. What is an original work if not to inspire originality in others? Some people simply struggle with expressing themselves in imaginative ways, so they copy others. It is still expression, and Beyonce is not trying to steal credit for De Keersmaeker, but rather call positive attention to her work that is probably not known outside of the dance world for several reasons including the inception of the dance (circa 1980).

“Countdown” received no such criticism from its heavy reliance on the epic Funny Face reference. Why? Because it was epic. Nor was she attacked for her throwback to Diana Ross, Twiggy, or her 60s-inspired makeup. It is clear from the video she is not trying to take credit for other people’s work, if only because she referenced so many of them. And when approached about her “stealing,” she admitted to “borrowing” the dances and looks from icons. It was her intention. No one caught her in the act because she was not hiding anything she was embracing it.

It is important to address copyrights and plagiarism is an era where so much is readily available and artists (for lack of a better word) are exploited by people with more power and pull, but it is equally important to remember this is not always the case. I’m pretty sure no one accused the team working on “virtual reality” of not being original enough or stealing ideas from actual reality. These scientists were upfront about digitally recreating reality. [Disclaimer: I am in no way equating Beyonce’s music video to virtual reality in importance, they both serve good examples for my argument.]

The content in this post relates closely to “There and Back Again (And Again)” because it is a pressing issue. When does flattery turn to plagiarism? If this could be clearly defined, then there would be no need for such arguments because people would know when their work would be considered plagiarism and either avoid or embrace it.

This blog is unoriginal. The topics I write on have already been addressed and heavily discussed. And much like a research paper, that is the intention: to think about things even if I am not the first person to do so. It’s quite a twisted logic, the idea of originality, and this is why it causes so much controversy in all areas, not just four-minute music videos. The issue is prevalent in politics, film, music, poetry, literature, etc.

Enough of this ranting. Let me leave you, my lovely reader(s), with some pictures of the people Beyonce chose to honor in “Countdown.”

I have recently started using a new social media site. You may have heard of it. If you haven’t, you should stay away if you ever want to accomplish anything again. It is more addictive than Facebook was back when Mark Zuckerburg owned the company. Take a deep breath. Pinterest. Pin your interests. It is the worst thing to happen to my GPA since I was a science major.

Pinterest is literally an online bulletin board where the users can “pin” things they like from anywhere on the Web. There are 20+ categories and as many boards as any one person could desire. It is predominantly female now, but I could easily see it having a masculine appeal if ¾ of those categories were erased and some subcategories (i.e. football, baseball, golf, etc. rather than “sports”) were established. Pinstripe, if you will.

As I was recapping, users can pin anything, but they also follow other users. Here is where it becomes like Twitter, instead of status updates, the homepage (a neverending bulletin board) shows “pins” (thumbnail image with embedded links to the original source) as they are pinned. This is an especially cloud-like way to store craft, recipe and classroom ideas, as well as virtually scrapbook.

For example, many users have a “board” – please, don’t get me started on these metaphors – for future home decorating, weddings, outfits and vacations. What interests me most about this highly addictive interactive media site is how the theme of every book read thus far in my “Writing for New Media” course is reflected.

As I sift through “pins,” I’m reminded of why this site is successful. An image is more appealing and has a stronger impact than text. This is why Pinterest is like a visual Twitter. How hard can it be to read 140 characters compared to an entire article? Not hard at all, but how much easier is it to glance at an image and move on? With a single look at an image, there is an immediate reaction that can be placed in one of two categories: emotional connection or lack of emotional connection. This is a relationship that is quicker and easier to establish than reading text, even if it is limited to approximately 2 sentences.

The relationship between the user and the image also compartmentalizes the image as something of value or “rubbish,” as our [English 475 peeps] beloved Crow [, David] writes about. For example, a high school classmate of mine “pinned” several images within a short span of time and added “artsy” descriptions to them, such as “ethereal,” “great colors,” “nice colors” and various other single-adjective descriptors. I could care less about any of this “art.” I’m not trying to be snobby, but I feel no connection to it, though she does. It’s still art, regardless of your definition of it, but it might as well be “rubbish” as far as its emotional appeal to me goes.

Finally, remediation. How could Pinterest possibly relate to remediation. Hmmmm… Considering the purpose of the sight is to bring in all types of media from across the Web, it seems safe to say Pinterest exists solely on the idea of remedation.

Here are some things I have recently pinned along with the name of the “board” each “pin” was “pinned” to and the description, as well as a comment on the original source.

Board: Products I Love. Description: Best. Dog. Ever.

I took this photo from my Facebook account, which is a little sketch in Pinterest etiquette. I let it slide for this one because she is precious.

Board: My Style. Description: The Kennedys are to blame for these horrible dresses!

Clearly, I am not a fan of Lilly Pulitzer – at least not the apparel. I love the accessories, but there are just certain patterns that do not belong on anyone’s body, even political royalty (like the irony?)…. And Lilly Pulitzer created them all. This came from (my favorite magazine), and is a society photo from the 60s/70s compiled with other pictures of the Kennedys into an album entitled “From J.F.K. to Ralph Lauren Models, the Hallmarks of Preppy Style.” So, does this mean its been remediated four times now (life to photo (1), print to Web magazine (2), magazine to Pinterest (3), Pinterest to blog (4). Now, one more for the road.

Board: Things Worth Tweeting About. Description: So glamourous.

Why did my parents never dress me as Holly Golightly? I was always a Disney princess. This is from which is to me the Walmart of all online girly shopping. It has everything and then some. But let’s take a step back. This child is dressed as the iconic Holly Golightly (I’m itching to deconstruct the symbolism in her name – darn you, Capote!), though most passerby would say she’s dressed as Audrey Hepburn. They are wrong. End of story.

First, Holly Golightly was the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s a novella by Truman Capote. Then, it was made into a Hollywood classic fifty years ago this month. Then (!) someone made this adorable costume and dressed up this little girl. THEN a picture was taken. This picture was published to the Internet. Someone “pinned” it, I “repinned” it, and now it is on this blog. Seven times remediated.

Will there ever be originality again? We have enough stuff to remediate to keep us occupied for several centuries. Think of remediation as a circle that technology introduces upgrades to every so often. It’s not so bad.


Left to Right and Visible Signs by David Crow

Remediation by Jay David Bolter & Richard Grusin

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, &

P.S. That’s a Lion King quote as the title.