Seeing Stars

Published September 23, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

God's eye nebula

While reading and listening to “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky” by Sharif Ezzat, several things came to my mind.  The voice in the introduction had a lyrical quality about it, which was very soothing and reminded me of being in a yoga class (even though I didn’t understand the language without the subtitles), with the yoga instructor’s voice reminding me to take a breath and be calm; this is the kind of effect the voice had in the beginning of the story.  The repetition of saying “I am full of stories” and “shall I tell you” makes the reader want to know what these stories are and is ready to listen.  We are all full of stories—some memorable and some not so memorable.  The stories in “Like Stars…” are the memorable ones (or at least seem to be the memorable ones) of the story teller.

The background music sounded like wind chimes—the really big bass wind chimes—I’ve dreamed of owning one day.  The deep tones of the chimes also have a relaxing effect throughout the readings.  The volume of the chimes does not interfere with the reading, but rather helps with the relaxing theme.  Though I prefer to read in silence, some background, white noise is often agreeable with my reading habits.  The wind chimes’ tone was a nice touch to add to this collection of stories.

There appeared to be no particular order to reading the stories—after I figured out that the blue stars were where the stories were stored.  The randomness reminded me of a visit with my grandmother, when she would reminisce about various members of the family or her random thoughts on life.  Her stories would sometimes just be facts and places, but most often had some kind of lesson to be learned.   “Like Stars…” stories were of similar nature to my grandmother’s telling of stories.  The uncle’s story had the anecdote at end about the man who married an evil woman, and the man wept at his wife’s funeral to the amazement of his neighbors.  This anecdote was used as a moral at the end of the story, since the uncle seems to have had a similar story.

I think my favorite story in “Like Stars…” was the one about the stars responding slowly¸ because it sounded most like a fable, and I love to read fables and fairy tales.  It was almost like reading of a particular culture and its belief of how stars are created.  I believe it mentioned that the stars are like eyes looking upon the world.  In another class (Dr. Chandler’s Creative Non-Fiction Writing) just this past week during the class, we were given the task of closing our eyes and trying to recall a dream we remembered.  Somehow I could not summon a dream, but saw instead the “God’s Eye Nebula” and the stars behind the nebula opened up like eyes looking at me.  Reading this particular story after having had that vision is a little coincidental, don’t you think?  The story telling is the key, like a master telling an apprentice precisely how to tell a tale to make it have great meaning to the listener and also make the stories memorable to the reader.


Twelve blue what?

Published September 15, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

If I had to describe what it was like to read “Twelve Blue,” the first thing I’d say is that it was very difficult.  The words weren’t difficult, but the font size and the coloration of the background—royal blue—combined with the text color—light blue—made it extremely difficult for my eyes to adjust.  I had to start and stop about every 10 to 15 minutes, just so my eyes could recover from the hurt while reading it.  (Remind me to NEVER make that color combination on any e-lit I may write!)  About 6 or 7 screens into it, I highlighted a word so that I could cut and paste it into my browser for a quick definition search, and found that the act of highlighting turned the text to white, and so, I highlighted the remainder of the pages, which made it a lot easier to read.

After I got past the poor color choice of background and text and highlighted the text to reread parts of it,  I found that the stories seemed a bit all over the place, without any cohesion, other than the color “blue” is mentioned quite often, as well as words like “float” or “flow” and some mention of a body of water, be it a river or creek, etc., and words associated with water, like oyster, saline solution, watery, and jellyfish, etc.   I had hoped that the story would have had some relevance to a place I knew of, since various landmarks were given, which sounded familiar—Rt. 9, Poughkeepsie, etc.   I was a bit disappointed that I did not enjoy reading this/these story/stories, as I felt that it had no meaning, other than random stories put together into one website, albeit with multiple pages and lots of blue.

E-lit, it’s more than just a story

Published September 8, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

This blog was created during my 6 weeks in this past summer’s CLMOOC.
It was quite an experience and one which I hoped wouldn’t end.
I’m recycling this blog for Dr. Zamora’s Electronic Literature class.

After reading through almost all of the Electronic Literature Collection I and II, I found that the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones I didn’t necessarily have to read through, but instead were interactive with letters, sounds, and motion.  “Strings” by Dan Waber is probably my favorite, since it is simplistic in nature and fun to watch.  Even though “Inanimate Alice” is images and music, I found the music to be irritating, and the vibrating words were hard to decipher.  For the most part, all of these electronic designs had a story to tell.

It’s fun to think that electronic literature can be more than just words being read off of an electronic device.   Each creative piece has a special something about it, even though I didn’t care for it all, though “Strings” was worth finding in among the collections.  Just to have thought of making a piece of string move back and forth, creating words as it moved across the page, was amazing to watch.

5 images X 1,000 words = I’ve got a lot to say!

Published July 31, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

Six short weeks ago the CLMOOC 2014 edition began, and it is soon to end.  In these short 6 weeks I’ve learned some new technology, collaborated with other CLMOOCers, and had lots of fun in the process.  I really don’t want this kind of fun learning to end, but life (and work) goes on.  The inspiration won’t be leaving me any time soon!

The task in the 6th and final Make Cycle in the CLMOOC was to make a 5-Image Story.  It was fun, not seemingly difficult, and a bit addictive once I got going with it.  The major process of this Make was to choose ONLY five images to tell a story.  Being the shutterbug that I am, I have sooooo many photos to choose from.  This was no small task to sort through the thousands of photos I have and create a story from it.

My first attempt—and to make a quick post—led me to look for photos in Google Images on a topic near and dear to my heart—Union Beach, NJ.  There were so many photos on the Internet that it still wasn’t an easy task to choose ONLY five to make a story from all that I saw, but I chose five and made my first 5-Image Story.  My description of the story was simple:  “If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then here’s my 5,000 word contribution.”  Some of the comments from those who viewed the images were “poignant” or “wow” or “powerful” and Kevin Hodgson even said, “That first house …. gosh …. more than a 1000 words there” when he was looking at the iconic photo of the half house, which made the cover of Newsweek magazine.  There really is much to tell about a story, just by looking at a photo.  Add four more photos, and I could write a book based on what I know about this small beach town in New Jersey.

In my second attempt to make a 5-image story (below), I sorted through some of my artwork and looked for images with the similar shapes and colors to make a collage.  The most obvious photo in the collage is that of a large eye—my eye—manipulated in PhotoShop.  It was looking, watching, observing, and noticing all that surrounded it, which were photos with shapes of circles in the various shades of greens and blues, and with other colors, too.  The iris of an eye is also in the shape of a circle, which goes along with the theme I was striving to point out, which was inspired by the song “Windmills of Your Mind” and all of its circle metaphors.

My artwork represents some of the crafts I have learned while a college student.  It was just 5 years ago when I received my bachelor’s degree, and at that time was taking several studio arts classes.  The photography class, with Joe Sharp as a professor, allowed me to explore what I could do with a camera and use my imagination, as well as learn how to use Adobe PhotoShop.  The stained glass class led me to be part of a team to create a mosaic bathroom sink and mural above it, which was a collaborative effort of mine along with 4 other classmates to turn a sad, dark little bathroom on the campus of Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ, into a stunning work of art.  I think that was accomplished, don’t you?  The three photos along the bottom of the 5-Image Story are probably not what you think and all were manipulated in PhotoShop.  The left photo was a stained glass piece, which was actually red, white, and blue, then manipulated to draw out the other colors of the spectrum.  The center photo is a daisy sent spiraling like it was in a pool of water, and the bottom right photo is a pancake in a frying pan, giving the impression of something almost cosmic.  My children thought I was crazy snapping photos of breakfast, still in the pan!

Crazy or not, the mind works in mysterious ways; ways which seemingly run in circles, lest nothing would be remembered if the circle didn’t return to its origin for some information.  To quote one of the metaphors from “Windmills of Your Mind,” I find that my mind is “like a snowball down a mountain” with my mind going round and round yet constantly adding new “snow” to the circle; snow in the form of information to add to the size of the circle—new knowledge.  Eventually some of the snow will melt in there, but the memory of most of it will remain.  (I’m thinking about a computer’s hard drive at the moment, like my mind is the circle there, and the snow which has melted is the part of the disk that has been cleaned up and defragmented.)

There is so much good information to be shared and learned, and the CLMOOC has certainly done that for me these past weeks.   By using my imagination, I created some unusual works of art, with stories to be told or imagined.  Being creative is what I’m all about, and it’s the way my mind works when I make it my own.

5 image story tweet

This Little Light of Mine

Published July 17, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

For the past several days I’ve been lurking in the light to come up with something for the CLMOOC Make Cycle #5, which is about “Storytelling with Light.”  Once in a while I like to lurk to see what others are posting and to give myself a little bit more time to present something worthwhile.  How was I going to tell a story about light, tell a story using only light, or come up with something unique?  Well, I had decided to learn about light before I could even begin to contemplate a story I wanted to tell.

Since I’m not really the scientific type, I recalled only a few types of light learned in my most recent chemistry class, but what I had learned there was mostly about the wavelengths of light.  Then I asked myself what types of light are there that I might encounter on any given day?  There are the literal kinds of light (like fluorescent light, etc.), and then there are the figurative types of light (love light, etc.).  So after doing quite a bit of research on the topic of light, and learning about the different types of light, I still needed to do some kind of storytelling with light.  I volunteer at a lighthouse, so what better story is there to tell than that of the strongest man made light beam installed in a lighthouse in the United States in 1841—the Fresnel (pronounced “fruh’-nell”) Lens.

Twin Lights looking south

The photo above is that of the Navesink Light Station, called Twin Lights and located in Highlands, NJ, looking south towards Sea Bright, NJ (with only the South Tower in view, as I was standing in the North Tower to take the photo).  As a volunteer for the Twin Lights for the last 3 years, I have learned about some of the history of this lighthouse, and have visited many other lighthouses, mostly in New Jersey, around the Great Lakes region, New York, and Maine. The importance of the Twin Lights rests in its proximity to New York City.  The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest remaining colonial era lighthouse (built in 1764) and still operating.  It was formerly called the New York Lighthouse, since it was closest to New York City at the time it was built—and it is visible when standing in the tower of the Twin Lights Lighthouse and looking north.

As a volunteer at Twin Lights, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “Why are there two lighthouses?”  Though I don’t know the official answer to that question, I surmise that it has to do with the era in which the lighthouses were built.  In 1862, when the current Twin Lights replaced the crumbling 1828 Twin Lights, our nation was still not industrialized and relied heavily on goods and services from Europe.  For example, even though cotton was being grown in the southern states, there were no textile mills where the cotton could be woven into fine fabrics, so it was shipped to England and eventually returned to the states.  Remember that at this time there was no radar, no radio, and no depth finders, etc. for these cargo ships to use to locate New York City, which was THE place to come to in the United States.  Lighthouses were the primary source of sighting land at the time, especially as ships approached at night.

Each lighthouse had its own unique light pattern, for example, the Twin Lights had one light that was fixed—shining its beam straight out and flashed at an interval of 5 seconds on and 5 seconds off—and one light that revolved with a constant beam.  The Sandy Hook Lighthouse had a fixed light that also flashed, but with different intervals.  The way a lighthouse is painted (the “day mark”) is also unique, and the pattern of the lights and day marks were known to the ship captains of the day, probably handed down through the generations, and was the GPS of the day.  The constant revolving beam of the Twin Lights South Tower’s Fresnel Lens was so powerful that the reflection of it could be seen in the sky 70 miles from shore; the source of the light couldn’t be seen (because of the curve of the earth), but the reflection could.  The strength of this light was also known to the sea captains, so if they could see a powerful light reflecting in the sky and couldn’t see the source of the light, they knew that they were approaching New York City and the Twin Lights.

There currently are several places around the world where there are twin and even triplet lighthouses next to each other, but there is no other place in the world where there are two lighthouses up on a hill and one down below at the shore line, like there is with the combination of the Twin Lights and the Sandy Hook Lighthouses.  So, to answer the initial question of “Why are there two lighthouses?” the answer received is that there really are three lighthouses, which are close to each other (less than 5 miles apart), because it makes it really special—one-of-a-kind—and could easily be spotted by sailing ships.

The Fresnel Lens is no longer in the South Tower (if you look closely at the photo, you will see that the lens room is empty), but is on display in the Generator Building portion of the museum, where it revolves as it once did in the South Tower, and is available for the public to view.

A little anecdote/piece of history:  The Fresnel Lens was so powerful that when it was installed in 1841 and made its 360º turn, it would keep the cows awake —all night—at the farms located behind the lighthouse and beyond.  The cows wouldn’t give milk if they didn’t sleep, so the farmers wrote a letter to their congressman to ask that something be done about the light.  This resulted in the back 1/3 of the lens rooms to be blacked out (also blacked out in the 1862 Twin Lights, which is visible it the above photo), so that the light didn’t shine behind the lighthouse, where it wasn’t needed.

For more information on the Twin Lights Lighthouse, visit the website or come for a visit.  If you come on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll usually find me volunteering in the Museum Shop.  The lighthouse is open year round:  Memorial Day through Labor Day, open 7 days and beginning after Labor Day through Memorial Day, open Tuesday through Sunday.


Hacked to Life

Published July 12, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity


This week’s task in the CLMOOC Make Cycle #4 has caused quite a stir within the Google+ Community.  The topic was to “Hack Your Writing,” and the term “hack” has left more than a few within the community to ponder the term and its meaning, when it is paired with their “writing.”  There is at least one member of the community who is outright at odds with it.  The Oxford English Dictionary shows various meanings of the word “hack” (as a verb), and its word origin comes from an Old English word which meant “to cut in pieces”—which is the literal version of hack.  Is there a figurative hack?  Hmm?

My own journey to create something from a hacked work of my own led me to find a fun website, posted by another CLMOOC member; it involves drawing and words.  (There is still a lot more I want to investigate on that site, too.)  I played with the site until I got the hang of it—and remembered that I had to SAVE my work, if I wanted it to be posted to the CLMOOC site!  The first attempt at this Visual Poetry was done with a poem that I had started a while back, added a little bit more to it, and it really has, as Dr. Zamora called it, a Dr. Seuss quality about it.  Most of my poems tend to be silly, usually rhyme, and this one also makes little or no sense at all.  It was just writing and rhyming, and it was made with a lyrical quality of meter to add to the whimsy of the moment.  Since I like to be creative, this Visual Poem is titled Bcre8iv.

My second attempt at Visual Poetry is the one at the top of this page.  I call it the Heartbeat of the CLMOOC, since I lifted lines from five members who had posted their own Visual Poetry—I gave credit where credit was due—and put those lines together with my own line, to form a connection with a new meaning.  I connected the work of six members of the CLMOOC to make one collaborative poem.

Even though there were CLMOOC members who seemed at a loss for “hack’s” meaning, they and others created some very original pieces of work.  There were so many great ones, but I chose several of my favorites to reflect on here:  Larry Hewett physically cut the pages of a book to create a gorgeous work of freestanding art with butterflies at its center; Craig Russell made an interesting paper sculpture called a “hacku’ which sounds like a blended word of “hacked” and “haiku”; Christina Cantrill hacked the pages of her journal to create some beautiful and very colorful waves in an artistic fashion; Tabitha Rhodes made a collage out of a six word memoir, which has a lot of texture and depth to it; and Kevin Hodgson hacked my poem and put the words to music!!!  Thank you, Kevin, I feel so special!  The one thing all of these works have in common is that each person gave new life to something old or recently written—they hacked their writing or the writing of others (and gave credit where credit was due).

The CLMOOC members, in general, post so much good information on a daily basis that it seems near impossible to read through and synthesize it all.  I tend to look for anything that seems more tangible than just the written word, hence my “favorites” listed above, which are all something to touch, with the exception of the music, but the music touched me—I did not touch it.  All of these works are what each CLMOOC member feels is fitting as a hacked work.  Hacked has many meanings, even in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr. Frankenstein may have been the first “hacker” since he took parts and put those parts together to create new life out of old, though in a freakish, gruesome, electrifying manner.  My hacking, I feel, isn’t gruesome, but it did give new life to something old, or recently written.  So, after lurking around the CLMOOC for Make Cycle #4 this past week, I finally decided that to “Hack Your Writing” meant to create new life out of something old—my writing was Hacked to Life.  This may be a new meaning for the dictionary, but it’s my meaning, and I’m sticking to it!  It gave meaning to what I had written and it was tweaked a bit, but I made it my own.



Racko and Yahtzee and Lincoln Logs, Oh, My!

Published July 2, 2014 by accentsmagazinekeanuniversity

Games of My Youth

Reminiscing about games in the CLMOOC Make Cycle 3, and the part those games played in my youth, has me marching down memory lane with a deck of cards in one hand and a box of Lincoln Logs in the other.  Growing up with two older brothers had instantly furnished me with their hand-me-down games, and after a birthday gift or two, I would also get some new ones.  My favorites were card games like Mille Bornes, Racko, and Gin Rummy; though I also liked to make things with Erector Sets, Mouse Trap, and building blocks, among others.

As I grew a bit older, I came to prefer number games and word games.  Number games like Yahtzee—using dice to get the highest score—gave me an awareness of adding and multiplying, even though I probably didn’t realize it at the time.  Playing hangman with my friends was in its simplest form, as no more than a 7 lettered word was allowed and once the head, body, and all four limbs were drawn, no more turns were permitted—today’s youth would probably draw a face on the head, with little x’s where the eyes would be to symbolize death (and to get more turns).

Sometime around the fourth grade, I recall a rainy day in-class activity which the teacher would impose on the class during the recess period.  It must have been the week of George Washington’s birthday in February, because we were tasked with trying to make as many words as possible by using the letters in George Washington’s name, but only using a letter as many times as it appeared in his name—for example, you can only use one S in any word, but two O’s were allowed.  With my fourth grade vocabulary, I usually managed to come up with the most words in the class (occasionally beat out by my best friend).  I would start out by rhyming everything with WASH, or at least make it look like it rhymed—rash, gash, ash—then move on to rhyming with TON—won, son—and keep on going with whatever came to mind.

It seemed that every rainy, snowy, or other foul-weathered recess period would include this type of game from then on.  I really didn’t mind, since I felt that it was one game I could usually win.  Once in a while this name word game would have us use our own name in order to make the words.  Well, I was a shoo-in to win, since I had the longest name in the class and had 14 of the 26 letters of the alphabet to use, with multiple A’s, Bs, Es, I’s, Ls, and Ns.  My fourth grade teacher plied us with a reward of candy, so the winner would get 5 pieces, the second place person would get 3, third would get 2, and the rest of the class would get 1 piece each, just for trying.

Word games became my forte, and from there I moved on to word fill-ins and crossword puzzles (Four years of high school French and two semesters of college Spanish have helped me with my foreign words in crossword puzzles, too).  I still like to play number games, but words easily flowed out of me, which allowed me to create poems and make up words, which aided me with my rhyming—now I understand poetic license and Dr. Seuss’s need to rhyme something with Sneetches.  Writing stories to go along with the pictures I drew was also a favorite activity of mine.  (My stories were much better than my drawings.)  I mastered spelling in a flash, and can honestly say that the only word I ever misspelled on a test was CALENDAR, and it is a memory so indelibly etched in my brain, that I never misspelled it again!

All in all, words are my friends, and I’ve become a bit of a wordsmith/lexophile, thanks to my many years of playing word games and writing.  If it wasn’t for the rote memorization taught during my youth, I may not be where I am today in terms of writing in an academic setting.   Creative writing and poetry, I feel, are my most proficient gifts.  It seems to be what I was destined to do and to go about it making it my own.