Friday, April 28, 2017

Personal Art Gallery

Just in case you haven't already seen my recent art pieces, I formatted this post as an art gallery of sorts so that you may get a chance to peruse my masterpieces. (Just kidding, they're decent, but by no means spectacular.)

(Also, because I had some difficulty organizing and positioning these pictures into the display I wanted them to be, this post won't be as seamlessly put together as I had hoped it to be. My apologies.)

The first piece, a graphite drawing, depicts the hand of my sister as she delicately clutches a twisted rose. Although I wish that I had made the background darker and the petals of the flower lighter, I am content with my drawing. And I must say, this is the best (and only) hand I've drawn.

The carousel horse below is a pen-and-ink drawing, and was thus created by dipping a nib into a bottle of ink and then creating dots. So yeah, this entire, and I mean entire, image is created from meticulously blotted dots.

The final piece I completed this year was a scratchboard. I've always been fascinated by drawing fire and smoke, so I decided to create an image of just that - a burning candle with billowing tendrils of smoke. The most interesting part of this medium was that unlike the pen-and-ink drawing, in which no dark value can be taken away, for scratchboards, no dark value can be added. Consequently, if too much is etched away from the scratchboard, nothing can be done to add value in troublesome areas.

That concludes my display of artwork for the semester. I hope you enjoyed viewing these pieces as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Mistress of Death

After reading Truman Capote's chilling novel In Cold Blood, my teacher assigned an essay in which we were to select a criminal and analyze the cause of their criminal actions. However, this paper was to be a persuasive essay in which we would either attribute the actions of the selected criminal to their "nature", as in an inherent tendency for vice and evil, or their "nurture", as in their upbringing.

Having always been fascinated by the criminal tales of the south, I wrote my essay about Madame Delphine, a wealthy slave owner in New Orleans who allegedly tortured her servants with cruel punishments.

As usual, I procrastinated this assignment and consequently drafted, edited, and submitted the essay in a single day. While on vacation. Oh well. Maybe next time I'll make sure to get started early. (No I won't.)

Although the gruesome actions and decisions of criminals are often perceived as inherently immoral, such vice is often caused not by a genetic affinity for malice, but environmental circumstances and upbringing. In relation to the infamous Madame Delphine Lalaurie, though her torture of slaves is an indication of such seemingly inherent evil, as represented through her upbring as well as previous experiences, her violent actions were not induced by an inherited propensity for evil, but are an effect of her environment.
The second child of Louis Chevalier Barthelemy de Macarty and Marie Jeanne Lerable, Delphine was born on March 19, 1787 to the wealthy and politically influential Macarty clan. Financially supported by her family, Delphine married three different men within a couple of decades, living lavishly with each of her suitors. She first married Don Ramon de Lopez y Angullo, a high ranking Spanish officer, whom she wed at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Four years into their marriage, the couple ventured to Spain so that Don Ramon may “take his place at court as befitting his new position” (Nealon, Timothy), as he had been promoted in the Spanish military  Unfortunately, Don Ramon died in Havana of an undiagnosed illness. Soon thereafter, Delphine gave birth to a daughter, Maria Borgia Delphine Lopez y Angulla de la Candelaria, and disheartened, returned to New Orleans with her newborn. After a period of grievance, Delphine married Jean Blanque, a man of several noble occupations deemed financially suitable by the superior members of the Macarty clan. Subsequent to Delphine’s official union to Jean Blanque in June of 1808, Delphine secured an expensive property for the new family, later bearing four more children. Paralleling the conclusion of her previous marriage, Blanque also died of an undiagnosed disease. Following another brief period of lamentation, Delphine married a third time. Whereas Delphine’s initial interactions with her previous husbands had been romantic meetings, Delphine was first introduced to Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie after she had hired him to administer treatment to one of her daughters that possessed a rare spinal deformity. Although the burdening condition of Delphine’s daughter steadily improved throughout the marriage of Delphine and Louis LaLaurie, the developing conflict between the couple drove Louis to leave their property and abandon the family with minimal financial compensation. Having experienced immeasurable tragedy in all three of her marriages, rumors soon circulated that Delphine tortured her servants as a crude coping mechanism for the succession of severe difficulty she had endured.
Although several violent incidents had been reported regarding LaLaurie and her mansion, suspicion was especially aroused after the death of Leia, a young slave girl. According to local reports, Leia plummeted to her death as she fled from Madame Delphine, who had threatened to whip the young girl. Consequently, the local council conducted a brief investigation of the LaLaurie manor, ultimately granting all of Madame Delphine’s captive slaves immediate freedom. However, because this verdict had been made without intense analysis or deliberation, the slaves were freed not on account of LaLaurie’s alleged violence, but due to the poor conditions in which the slaves had lived and operated. Thus, though this investigation granted the slaves of the LaLaurie manor their freedom, the investigation did not yield any information regarding the administration of torture as previously speculated. Regardless of the underwhelming lack of evidence, many continued to maintain the perception that “beneath the delicate and refined exterior was a cruel, cold-blooded...insane woman” (Troy Taylor). Outraged at the abrupt loss of her slaves, Delphine, forbidden to repurchase her slaves, circumvented this limitation by covertly arranging for her relatives to purchase the freed slaves on her behalf. Once purchased, the slaves were subsequently returned to the LaLaurie mansion, once again subject to the cruel punishments of Madame Delphine LaLaurie.
Several years after the death of Leia, a fire erupted at the manor the morning of April 10, 1834. The fire not only destroyed the house, singeing both the interior and exterior, but publicly revealed the cruel punishments endured by the slaves of Delphine. As a mass of enraged locals congregated and rescuers entered the manor, the first servant discovered, a seventy year old black woman trapped in the kitchen, explained that as the fire erupted she had been chained in the kitchen while LaLaurie left to gather valuables scattered throughout the property. Although the bondage of the enslaved cook to the kitchen may be argued as an act of inherent evil, this form of torture may be attributed to Madame Delphine’s environment and previous experience. After her third husband deserted her, Madame Delphine developed an irrational fear of loss and general paranoia, resorting to bonding her cook to the manor’s kitchen to prevent any further desertion. Accompanied by a small force of authorities to the attic, the slave cook and the rescuers discovered a dozen slaves bound and choking with spiked collars. This same slave woman later revealed that “she had set the fire to escape LaLaurie’s torture” (A Torture Chamber is Uncovered). The Sheriff never arrived to subdue Madame LaLaurie, thus providing LaLaurie the proper circumstances to evade arrest and flee to France. Furthermore, although charges were never formally filed against Delphine LaLaurie, “her reputation in upper-class society was destroyed” (A Torture Chamber is Uncovered), and she never returned to New Orleans. Consequential to the lack of legal action and law enforcement, the amassing crowd rushed into the mansion, ransacking the contents of the manor, but unsuccessfully detaining Madame LaLaurie, as she had already fled.
With the fire extinguished, several local newspapers documented the gruesome details of brutalization that the rescued slaves accounted following their liberation. According to one newspaper, the slaves recounted a variety of obscure forms of torture, all of which “had been administered so as to not bring quick death” (Taylor, Troy), including: their bones being broken and reset in crude and unnatural positions holes being drilled into their heads, the skin of their backs being peeled back so that the muscle and tissue were exposed to the air, being coated with honey and black ants, and their intestines being removed and subsequently wrapped around their waists. As determined through documents salvaged from the charred mansion, Madame Delphine LaLaurie consistently referred to these inhumane acts of cruelty as simply “experiments” rather than “torture.” Therefore, because Madame Delphine LaLaurie used this particular term instead of the alternative “torture,” a critical distinction remains in Delphine’s differentiation  between these two terms and that which they entail. Many speculate that because of this peculiarity in reference to the cruelties of Delphine, she had conducted these “experiments” so that she may discover a cure for her daughter’s spinal disfigurement herself, by means of experimentation, of course. Therefore, if this argument were true, regardless of Delphine’s distinction between “torture” and “experimentation”, because Delphine’s intentions were with reason and for the sake of improving her daughter’s health, her violent actions are not an indication of an inherent nature for evil. Thus, Delphine’s actions are consequential effects to her environment and specific circumstances rather than heritable vice.
Once it had been recognized that all of Delphine’s victims were black, she was henceforth accused of prejudice against blacks, acting upon this prejudice through the administration of torture. However, during this time period, especially in the southern states, prejudice was common practice. Thus, if Delphine were prejudiced against blacks, because such prejudice was a societal norm, the argument that Delphine’s violence stemmed from inherent evil entails that the majority of the southern population was also born with tendencies for evil, when such people, Delphine included, were simply practicing the societal norm of their environment - superiority over blacks. Conversely, Delphine was also accused of racially specific torture due to jealousy over the affairs of her male relatives, including her father, with black mistresses. Therefore, if Delphine were either accepting the prejudicial norm of her environment or torturing black slaves due to the affairs of her relatives with black slaves, her violent actions are still incapable of attribution to an inherent nature. Regarding both arguments, Delphine’s practice of torture was an effect of her upbringing, as in prejudice toward blacks, and her environment, as in the affairs of her male relatives.
      Throughout her life, Madame Delphine LaLaurie endured a torture of sorts herself in preceding years. She married three times, her first two husbands dying of undiagnosed causes, while her third abruptly deserting her and her children. Furthermore, LaLaurie’s daughter, for whom she had temporarily secured spinal treatment, was left uncured. As indicated, it therefore was not solely the inherent lack of morality that spurred Delphine LaLaurie to commit such brutal acts of torture, but the tribulations she experienced throughout her life. Although Madame Delphine LaLaurie’s torture of slaves was by no means morally justified, as indicated through analysis of her environment and upbringing, it is apparent that her violence should not be attributed to an innate affinity for evil, but instead regarded as an effect of her nurture.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Series: Things That Distract Me

Soon, I'll be starting a new series. As you can see, it'll be all about things that distract me. And as a high school student that has a knack for avoiding homework by any means possible, I'm sure you can guess that like many other high school students, there are a whole lot of things that I'm easily distracted by. Whenever I'm feeling particularly distracted, I'd argue that my go-to is either entertaining myself with YouTube videos or napping for an hour (or two).

I won't go into too much detail about how this new series of posts will be formatted, but if you can think of something that distracts you, chances are that it distracts me as well (perhaps to an even greater extent.)

However, these posts won't only cover what distracts me, but why it distracts me as well. And I'd argue that the list of reasons is longer than the list of distracting things. So this post isn't going to be some extravagant explanation or description, but it is important just to kind of set things up. So there you go. And I hope you're as excited for this new series as I am. (Although I admit, I'm not really all that excited.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fined Out the Truth

Today I remembered something and I don't know why. It's quite common of me to forget why I've entered a room, only to remember upon exiting, and other things of that sort, but something important slipped my mind the past few weeks. I suppose I've been preoccupied with projects and whatnot, but as soon as I remembered, I knew exactly what would be awaiting me.

A fine. And a big one too.

A while back I went to the local library to stock up on reading material. And sure, I felt accomplished and motivated, thinking that I'd burn through my collection of books even with other things to do. So I did finish the books I had checked out. And I applaud myself on that. Now what I don't applaud myself on was neatly stacking these books in a corner of my room, at an angle they weren't really visible, and forgetting about them.

I had several opportunities to return these books, but since I couldn't see my neat stack save from a specific vantage point, I didn't bother. Unfortunately, my lack of remembrance caused an unpleasant surprise to build up, that is, a fine of over twenty dollars. And I know that doesn't seem like a lot of money (and it isn't), but that's what my lifetime supply of gathered pennies and loose change just about amounts to, and I'm not ready to throw my life savings away to an overdue library fine. Now the local library is quite clever with their fine policy, because if a library-goer has a fine of over ten dollars, (that's me), they are no longer able to check out books.

Which means I can't. (I'm assuming other libraries have a similar policy?)

Now what can I do to scrap together those twenty dollars? I have a few options:
And with that decision, I'll either be neglecting my brain by not reading, be on the run from the local police, or just loan books from one of my sibling's library accounts instead. I'm probably going to go with the latter, but if for whatever reason you ever catch me in the local prison, you'll know why.

What's the biggest library (or other) fine you've had? Let me in the comments below!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Election Selection

This week we had student elections and let me tell you, some speeches were quite amusing. The student elections at my particular high school vary from those at other high schools in the regard that whereas many student elections are pretty serious, the election we just had was overflowing with self-deprecating jokes and humor. Consequently, the candidates elected at my high school aren't necessarily the most qualified or experienced, but the funniest (and perhaps strangest). As I mentioned, I guess it's a new electoral strategy or something to emphasize any unappealing personality or physical qualities while neglecting to highlight any redeemable traits.

Image result for dumboFor example, the only speech I remember from last year was one in which some kid explained to the audience that because he had the biggest ears around, and I quote, "we're talking bigger than Dumbo's ears, as in, [I] can fly with these ears", he should be elected for some offhand student government position. And I guess in the end it worked because a year later I remember it. And on top of that, although that comment threw me off during my decision-making last year, I ended up voting not for the candidate, (but for the candidate's ears), and apparently so did everyone else, because he won and that was it.

The Voting Process:
So my school is obsessed with being "tech savvy," so rather than just printing off ballots and having us fill them out, we were all sent a Google Form to complete. Now I have the easiest time remembering names, but since the majority of human beings do not, there was some conflict with this voting process when no pictures were included of the candidates last year, just plain black and white names. (They weren't even bold.) Fortunately, this year it had been decided that pictures would be included with the names so that lack of remembrance wouldn't be an issue. Again.

My Experience:
Now to my experience running for student government. I was in sixth grade and I was so excited to be Secretary. (And since I was the only candidate running I won.) But it required a whole lot of work and effort not only to get elected, but to be Secretary. I had to type out weekly minutes (which mind you, no one except me read.) And although I certainly enjoyed my time as tyrant, after my year of being Secretary, my political conquest had been abruptly cut short when I ran for Vice President in seventh grade and lost. And even though practically everyone was certain I'd win, I didn't. (I attribute that loss not to the fact that I was less popular, (okay maybe I was), but I mainly attribute it to the fact that for my speech I read off an acrostic I wrote which spelled out Vice President. Which in the end amounted to too much speaking. So there you go.)

On top of that, my dad had guessed that my speech was far too long, suggesting that I instead spell out just "Vice Prez." But being the adamant child I was, I opted to spell out the entire word and suffer the disappointment of losing. Well I know now that if I ever decide to run for "Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives" not to spell out the word for my speech.

Consequently, with my political career over before I had even gotten to high school, I had to cross "Become President of the United States" off of my bucket list. No worries. I'll settle for being governor. Or mayor. Whichever comes first.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Extreme Memory Challenge

Let's break down the name of this test, shall we?
Extreme - This test certainly did test the capacity of my memory to the highest degree. In fact, I felt quite helpless while taking it.
Memory - This is pretty self-explanatory. You remember things with your memories and your memory that you remember in your memory, if that makes sense. (I know it doesn't.)
Challenge - To call this test a simple "Challenge" would be an understatement. Then again, my results (contrary to my experience with remembering names) stated that "9293 of the 14359 people that have so far completed this task have performed worse than you did." With simple math that means that 5066 people performed better than me and that I scored in the 64.7 percentile. And wow, those statistics sound pretty poor out loud.

I first noticed  this lil' test when I saw an advertisement for the "extreme memory challenge." I've always considered my memory to be impeccable. I seemingly never forget names, even after first greetings. So even when I'm not friends with someone or I don't know them personally, I usually know both their first and last names, which I can tell you makes for some interesting interactions when we finally are introduced. And because I remember names so well, I started to take this test with the expectation that it would be quite easy.

However, after reading the general guidelines, I soon realized that this test was called the "Extreme Memory Challenge" for good reason. The first few minutes of the test consist of the presentation of a face and a name which you are apparently supposed to memorize and somehow associate within ten seconds. And sure, it might be easy to pick up a few names and faces within that limited timeframe, but after I saw around twenty names and faces I just looked at the pictures without any recognition or retention in my short term memory.

And understandably, to make the test a lot more difficult, the pictures were in black and white. That's right, so if the people in the pictures did have any distinguishing features (blue eyes, distinct hair color, etc.), remembering such features wouldn't help you when taking the test since they were never displayed to begin with.

Here's a sampling of profiles from the actual challenge. For the test, the pictures and names that were individually presented in the beginning of the test were reorganized into grids with a name and a face you were (supposed) to pair together. Apparently I wasn't that great at it since I only got sixty percent correct.
So this test certainly was interesting, and in my case, (hopefully) inaccurate since I pride myself on my memory. But if these test results don't lie, don't bet on me remembering your name.