Since creating my skating blog, I thought I would take this opportunity to also share another passion of mine which is writing. Here are some of my latest works...
I’ve been so stressed and feeling pretty glum the past days and thought I would express my low spirits in a poem. This poem is with song lyric (in italics) and the song is “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes.
All the feelings built up inside
Hard to express, yet hard to hide.
Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
Overwhelmed and insecure, the tears start gushing.
As waves of sadness come crashing down
You get lost in a sea of emotions and drown.
No medicine, no cure
Nothing to relieve the pain you endure.
No one can see the angst consuming your heart
Alone is where you fall apart.
I will be competing in a new debate forum at my first speech and debate tournament of the new year. ‘Big Questions Debate’ is a new format which presents students with a complex worldwide question and each student is required to debate both sides of the resolution. Big Questions Debate will not only help advance my knowledge and promote interest in learning more about a subject matter but it will also enhance my debate experience by encouraging and challenging me to engage in life discussions that may not align with my previously held beliefs and values.
The Big Question Debate for this weekend’s tournament is Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest, and here are my arguments for both sides…which side do you agree with?
I. AFFIRMATIVE SPEECH
Psychological egoism, the idea that humans are motivated by self-interest and selfishness, is highly prevalent in society. Despite having good morals or values, at the end of the day, the most important person to you is yourself.
Helping others is a two way street. The “I help you, you help me” mentality is ingrained in people’s minds, creating reciprocity of mutual benefit. People will help others only if it means gaining something in return. Of course, this is completely unintentional, but in the back of people’s minds, they know that if they do someone else a favor, that person will feel obligated to eventually do something in return. The classic, “thank you, I owe you one” clearly expresses this as people naturally feel indebted to those who help them. Therefore, kind gestures are not acts of altruism. They are ulterior motives for people to gain personal benefit.
Even kind acts towards strangers are not completely genuine. As people were raised to be morally right, they instinctively act on these values to satisfy their conscious. However, they will help others because they were taught to do so, not because they inherently need to. Society tell us the proper way to act and how to treat people but no one truly wants to go out of their way to help a person they don’t even know. People do kind things because they believe they have to.
People will immediately make sacrifices to help their loved ones, however this is still done out of self interest. You obviously make decisions based on your established connections, such as your friends and family. But this is because their lives have a direct influence on YOU, so anything that happens to them affects your happiness and your relationship with them. Therefore, helping and making sacrifices for loved ones is not necessarily to improve their lives; it is to improve their perception of YOU as YOU are the one providing the help. People say they will “take a bullet” for someone they love. However, they are actually thinking of themself in this statement because they know how much pain and sorrow THEY would endure if such person were to leave their life and they would rather die than experience such emotion.
Children are the prime example of human behavior because they are less influenced and corrupted by society. For bullying to be so prevalent among kids shows that kindness and altruism do not naturally prevail. Many kids, even the victim’s friends, remain bystanders out of fear of what the bully would do to them. They do not want another person to be hurt, however they naturally just care more about themself and their own well-being.
Lord of the Flies is a perfect depiction of children succumbing to the human instinct of selfishness for means of survival. They initially try to create a civilization with order and rules, however, without an actual society to enforce such rules, they quickly give in to the innate human tendency of savagery. Every character fends only for himself, without a second thought on how others are affected. This proves that society and civilization only suppress selfish instincts but when left alone and free, humans will naturally only care for themselves.
In addition, science concludes that altruism is not an innate human characteristic and children are born selfish. According to a joint study by Yale University and University of Chicago where a group of 5-year-olds were observed, the kids were “strikingly ungenerous” as they chose “better” stickers for themselves when others were not looking.
One’s reputation also plays a huge role in human behavior and interaction. In order to acquire a positive reputation and be perceived as a “good” and “moral” human being, one must exhibit such behaviors. Being kind, making sacrifices for others, and helping others without being asked are just a few actions a person with a good reputation would make. As people desperately strive for society to view them in a positive light, they therefore make efforts to become this perfect person for others to like and approve of. However, this is only a mask, and does not demonstrate that person’s true qualities or behaviors. They are simply forcing themself to act a certain way in order to obtain this desired reputation.
Humans are clearly driven by selfishness as every action they make is intended to somehow benefit themself. While such actions may often be perceived as kind or altruistic, the underlying motivations behind this behavior is always driven by some form of self interest.
II. NEGATIVE SPEECH
Having emotions and feelings is what separates us from animals and what makes us human. Without these qualities, we would be nothing but another barbaric species fighting to survive. Every decision humans make is driven from their emotional attachment to people, places, ideas, or objects.
Helping others is not a two way street. Everyday, people go out of their way to help those in need, even strangers. They do this out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they want or expect anything in return. For instance, if you help an old woman cross the street you will not receive any benefit besides a “thank you,” yet you still do it anyway. Because humans possess emotion, they have an innate desire to help others and make a positive impact on their lives.
According to research by David Rand at Harvard University, children and adults both have the initial impulse to help others. A recent study from the Max Planck Institute in Germany corroborates this claim and further analyzes infants, as they are the purest form of humanity because they are less influenced and corrupted by society. They measured infants’ pupil diameters and found that they decrease when they help others or when they see someone else helping. This indicates that infants are “not simply helping because it feels rewarding.” They are helping because of an “intrinsic motivation” and a genuine desire to provide benefit.
In addition, people will immediately help a sick or dying animal simply because they inherently want to, not for their own selfish gain. People know that animals cannot physically “pay them back” for any help provided, yet this does not stop someone from bringing a stray dog to the clinic or feeding a duck some bread. For humans to exhibit emotion and care for helpless animals proves that they do not act out of their own self interest; rather they go out of their way to make sacrifices for those in need.
Think about your relationship with your loved ones, especially your parents. Parents dedicate their lives to their children - raising them, nurturing them, protecting them, and guiding them. They go above and beyond to provide everything for their kids, consequently sacrificing their own health, well-being, and happiness. I can 100% attest to the fact that my parents have done everything in their power to ensure a good life for my brother and I. My father continues to puts himself through brutal hours of work everyday without ever once complaining about his mental and physical suffering just for the sake of his children. If this isn’t the epitome of selflessness, I don’t know what is.
Not only do parents do this, but anyone with an established emotional connection to another person will tend to act selflessly to help those they care about. Everyday, friends and family go out of their way to help each other not for their own good, but because they genuinely care about the other person. This action is prevalent in every single human and is driven by one strong emotion: love.
People will jeopardize their own safety and well-being for the greater good. They clearly do not expect anything in return for such noble actions, if anything, they are choosing to put themselves in the fire in order to make meaningful change. Recent history perfectly depicts human desire to help others despite the negative impact it may have on themself. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to inform the American public of the indiscretions of Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee at the time. Supreme Court Judge, the highest position of power in the country, is a prestigious honor and should be held by someone of great moral conduct. As Dr. Ford knew of Kavanaugh’s true character, she believed it was her civic duty to come forward with her story so Americans would know exactly who was to be elected. She had absolutely no political motive and no personal vendetta against him and actually risked her life, her job, and her reputation by stepping forward. She completely exposed herself to the judgement and criticism of the country, receiving accusatory calls and even death threats. However, she knew from the start what she was getting herself into. But instead of thinking of herself and protecting herself, Dr. Ford did what she did for the benefit of her country.
Clearly, humans are innately compassionate, and they possess a tendency to act altruistically towards others. They WANT to make a difference in people’s lives and society and they therefore often sacrifice themselves in the process. Rather than acting out of their own selfish interests, people are influenced by their emotions and relationships which leads them to make kind decisions for the benefit of others.
The Holmdel Journal Publication, January Issue
The editor of my local paper asked me if I was interested in writing another article for its first issue of the new year which would be on health and fitness. I immediately embraced the opportunity as it is THE perfect time to introduce skating as a new and fun exercise for everyone to learn. Also, January is National Skating Month and it’s a great time to promote interest in skating and support US Figure Skating’s annual celebration of the sport.
The Holmdel Journal Publication, December Issue
I am so honored to be selected by the CEO of Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore to write an article for the community paper about Girl Scouting and its mission and values. Given the country’s current challenging and hostile environment, it is essential to discuss programs that encourage love, compassion, and giving to promote peace and unity among our fellow citizens.
My tenth grade English teacher, Dr. Holden, recently published an article, “Reader in a Lost World”, (http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/reader-in-a-lost-world/) for The Marginalia Review of Books which is an online international review of academic literature on history, religion, and culture. As I was only exposed to his writing in the classroom, I was curious to read what he had to say and discover his purpose and technique as an author.
While reading about the misconception students and teachers have about writing an essay, I found myself nodding along in agreement. As I was trained to do so, I naturally formulate arguments in the standard five paragraph format. Although I often struggle to adhere to its boundaries, I continue to submit essays in this format without a second thought. However, reading this essay made me open my eyes to the truth - literature has no formula. Therefore, I should not be following one. I found this incredibly enlightening to learn about as I can apply this newfound knowledge to my own writing.
Today’s modern generation currently suffers from a lack of literary comprehension. Beginning at a young age, the classic five paragraph essay structure is ingrained in students’ minds, creating an illusion that any deviation from this norm is not acceptable. However, strict adherence to this standard format does little to enhance students’ writing abilities; rather, it creates a model they feel they must conform to which prevents them from elaborating on creative thought. As students focus on writing within this specific format, they lose sight of the true purpose of an essay. Far from merely serving as a tedious school assignment, the essay embodies a thought-provoking use of the mind “engaging with something real.”
The art of producing a well-written essay comes from one’s ability to read. As reading is the foundation in which all forms of literature is built upon, “the essayist is [therefore] … an image of the reader.” Reading also serves to convey new experiences, connecting human minds and providing insight into one’s inner thoughts through his/her subjectivity. “By reading we encounter life as another,” in which our opinions and perspectives are affected by the words we read.
Because an essay intends to address a specific topic or object, “it is the generic form of subjectivity.” The writer strives to imprint his perspective of the subject on the reader, therefore influencing the reader’s subjectivity with his own. To do so successfully, the writer must have full freedom to explore and express his thoughts - and this is why the five paragraph essay fails. One cannot create a compelling piece of writing by conforming to restraining boundaries. In the grand scheme of things, the essay serves a much more significant purpose than what is taught in the classroom.
Written with colloquial yet sophisticated diction, Dr. Holden draws on his experience as a teacher to express his perspective on the purpose and significance of an essay. He uses direct literary references to connect his argument with characters/storylines that readers are familiar with. In the sentence, “It is the crack in the wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe—or any two people—can speak,” Dr. Holden includes Greek mythology to further enhance his argument. To provide more substantial support for his reasoning, he also cites well-known writers such as Kant, Montaigne, and Emerson to logically appeal to readers.
I can’t remember the last time I went out to see a movie with my whole family…was it when I was 10 yrs old?…12 yrs ? My brother and I got dragged out on a Saturday night, the one night I usually block off to hang out with my friends, to see “Crazy Rich Asians.” My father had been talking about this new movie for weeks, explaining the importance of supporting the first all-Asian film in 25 years. So on one of the rare nights he was off from work, my family took a trip to the movie theater. I admit I did not know what to expect at first, but I was immediately captivated by the Chinese music once the movie began. As I laughed and cried, I was pleasantly surprised at how touched I was by this film. I was especially impacted by the strong feminism portrayed in the movie with powerful female characters dominating the storyline. As each woman acted as a direct inspiration to me, I was compelled to further analyze the characters and their characteristics.
Carey, Benedict, and Hoffman, Jan. “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory.” The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2018
After hearing about the charges against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I decided to do further research to gain a better understanding. I came across an article that analyzed scientific elements of memory to explain the case which I found incredibly enlightening and changed my perspective on the situation.
In light of the serious sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh, experts have taken a closer look into the science and accuracy of one’s memory. Although multiple women have come forward claiming Kavanaugh attempted rape, Kavanaugh continues to deny allegations that he was responsible for such actions. This makes people wonder what the real story is and who to truly believe. Studies have proven that memory is selective, and its details lose accuracy over time. The brain “encodes” emotions and sensations that the person endures in the moment, affecting individuals in the same situation in different ways. Timing of memory retrieval is also a crucial factor because this can affect the accuracy of memory. Random senses, situations, and words may trigger a certain memory and allow a person to suddenly recall things they did not think about before. In this situation, alcohol plays a role as both sides were intoxicated. Alcohol affects one’s memory and often leaves a person unstable and delusional. This brings into question the credibility of both Kavanaugh and one of the accusers, Dr. Ford, since they both consumed alcohol and therefore their stories are not necessarily accurate. Both Kavanaugh and Ford strongly stand by their case and believe they are telling the truth, however their side of the truth may be distorted by their memory/interpretation of the situation.
Memory and the accuracy of one’s memory plays a pivotal part in both Kavanaugh's and Ford’s credibility. There is no true evidence to prove either side, so recollection of events is all that the court has to go by. I think it is really important for Americans to understand the science behind memory before jumping to conclusions. In any situation, people should be fully informed on both scenarios before forming an opinion and choosing a side. After reading this, I personally support Ford in her case. She was able to remember this event after 36 years because it was so traumatic to her, whereas Kavanaugh may not remember it because he was drunk and unhurt. “Experts suggest, there are scenarios in which someone could have committed an assault and yet also have almost no memory of it.” Kavanaugh may be telling the truth, but his version of the truth may lack certain memories.
Despite writing about such a controversial topic, I was struck by how the authors, Carey and Hoffman, maintained an unbiased tone throughout their article. They focused on the facts that were provided without ever once letting their opinions or emotions get in the way. They used credible research and statistics from scientists and experts to provide readers with as much information as possible. By providing the facts, readers had the opportunity to formulate their own opinions on the situation.
As I begin my junior year in high school, I am already experiencing the mounting stress and anxiety of this critical year and sleep is definitely something I don’t get enough of. Although I already knew how important sleep is, I was surprised to discover how extremely crucial it is for teenagers specifically. We often sacrifice our sleep for more pressing things, such as homework, extracurriculars, and social life. However, we fail to consider the repercussions. As a teenager myself, Henry Nicholls’ Sept 20 NYT article, “Let Teenagers Sleep In”, definitely spoke to me and I felt myself nodding along in agreement to Nicholls’s statements. Although surprising, his claims definitely made sense. For instance, his scientific evidence proves why I have a habit of sleeping in so late. I am glad to finally have credible evidence stressing the importance of sleep and explaining my sleep habits.
Due to the education system, increases in technology, and biological changes, teenagers suffer from sleep deprivation, preventing them from receiving the necessary 8 hours of sleep. As teenagers’ brains are still developing, lack of sleep negatively affects their mental and physical health, potentially leading to serious issues such as mental illness, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more. Studies have proven that schools start much too early and this causes students to lack focus and attention in class. Technology is also an issue because of the difficulty for teenagers to resist the lure of their electronic devices. Blue light emitted from such devices suppress melatonin levels, the body’s critical sleep hormone. Teenagers’ biological makeup also comes into play because as bodies experience puberty, they develop a natural, uncontrollable tendency to stay awake later and sleep in later. These factors contribute to the sleep deprivation that teenagers suffer from, leaving drastic damages on their overall health and well-being.
Nicholls begins his article with an enticing lede, posing a question to get readers immediately interested. After this descriptive hook, he dives right into his argument, presenting solid statistics to begin on a strong note. He takes a clear stance from the start, fully supporting the fact that teenagers need more sleep. Nicholls successfully uses pathos, causing feelings of sympathy to arise among readers, especially in parents. He also presents cold, hard facts as evidence to support his argument, demonstrating the use of logos. As a high school science teacher, Nicholls is able to use not only his academic knowledge, but also is personal experience that he draws from his teenage students.
I'm currently away attending a two-week journalism program at the New York Times Summer Academy in NYC and I just completed my first writing assignment.This program is a once in a lifetime experience for me as I have the unique opportunity to study at a top national newspaper company and meet and learn from award-winning professional reporters and expert practitioners from all different fields. I get to learn outside the classroom by attending enrichment trips to museums, historical sites, local neighborhoods and cultural events. The opportunity to learn journalism in a big city like New York is an ideal environment and training ground to immerse myself in a culture that is so rich and diverse and be up close to the action where news and compelling stories originate.
Here are a couple of my written assignments- the first one was on skateboarding. I took a trip to a local Brooklyn neighborhood skate park and learned and reported about skateboarding. Many of my peers wrote about the gentrification and race/gender stereotypes of skateboarding but I took a different angle as I was fascinated of how art and fashion plays a role in skateboarding. My second writing was on street art and this was my favorite assignment because I learned so much about this creative and unique visual artwork which is what is now coined 'urban art'.
Please note fictional names were used to protect the privacy of individuals. Happy Reading!
Art & Fashion in Skateboarding
A rainy Tuesday morning in Brooklyn does little to stop people of all ages as they make their way to Golconda Park, the hottest new spot in town. Colors flash by as participants skillfully fly into the air performing tricks and perfecting their technique. Dressed in baggy attire, gliding on embellished boards, these people are easily identifiable: skateboarders.
For as long as skateboarding has been around, art and fashion have followed. This huge aspect of skateboarding culture is often under appreciated and even looked down upon by conventional society, but these skaters’ artistic talents are often not given nearly enough attention.
“Why be boring?” said John Garcia. The 20-year-old from Fort Greene, Brooklyn explained how much he loves seeing people use their artistic eye to create sensational effects in both art and fashion. He, along with other skaters, believes skateboarding doubles as both a sport and a form of individual expression.
The beautiful designs that adorn boards are unique to each skater, giving individuals their own personal, creative outlet to explore various designs and patterns. Using their boards as their canvases, skaters can express themselves through colors, designs, and sticker selections.
Stickers are one of the most recognizable characteristics when referring to art in skating. As described by Garcia, they are a “sign of creativity.” They are a key element in the decorative process, appearing in every shape, size, and color.
Skaters select stickers based on personal preference - many stickers have undercover meanings and symbolic references, while others are chosen simply for the overall aesthetic. Popular sticker trends include rebellious slogans, favorite animals, and memorable locations.
Steve Rodriguez, the 47-year-old creator of Golconda Park as well as an avid skater himself, referred to each board as a “personal DIY gallery” of stickers.
“Stickers have always been a part of skateboarding,” Rodriguez explained, due to the fact that almost every participant uses them to customize his or her board.
Stickers also function for advertisement purposes, allowing skaters to show off their favorite brands. Neff, Zumiez, and RipnDip are just a few of the many companies that can be found displayed on customers’ boards.
Rodriguez also mentioned that “a lot of people actually make stickers themselves using sticker sheets,” and garnishing their board with their designs allow them to promote their brand and gain recognition. Not only is this good publicity, but the intricate detailing of brand stickers also makes them aesthetically pleasing and shows off the creator’s artistic abilities.
Besides art, fashion plays another major role in skater culture. Typically dressed in loose-fitting pants, printed t-shirts, and sneakers, skaters aim for a look that represents a cool but comfortable vibe. Not only does the relaxed, casual clothing allow skaters to move around freely, but it also reflects their free spirits.
More recently, urban skater fashion has become immersed in high fashion. Skaters’ clothing choices make a statement, influencing pop culture icons and inspiring new trends as a result. Hunter explained that many celebrities such as A$AP Mob “get a lot of their fashion from skating, you know like baggy pants.” As trends continue to evolve each day, more and more skater qualities are becoming enmeshed in popular culture.
Although skaters’ fashion ideas have become more prevalent in today’s society, this actually negatively impacts them. Companies such as Vans and Supreme which initially existed solely for skaters, have now become huge brands that have expanded far beyond the skating community.
“If skateboarding companies get more popular, they’re going to hike up the prices and then we can’t wear our own clothes. It’s kind of messed up,” said 17-year-old Lisa Tsang from Brooklyn.
For instance, Supreme has existed for 24 years, initially considered nothing but skate-wear. However, more recently, this company has become a reputable brand, especially for celebrities and rappers. Their prices have skyrocketed with shirts, sweatshirts, and hats costing in excess of $1,000.
Like Supreme, many other skate companies’ customers are not skaters anymore. This has negatively impacted the skating community because their culture is no longer uniquely theirs. These brands have become more of a world fashion statement rather than something only skaters share. Lewis Clark, a 14-year-old from Brooklyn, is against this, saying it is “taking away the culture of skating.”
Skaters are also very emotionally attached to the brands which they identify as skaters’ clothes. When Justin Bieber and Rihanna were spotted wearing Thrasher shirts, skaters lashed out in protest.
“ Back then, skateboarding was rejected by the public. People got mad at skaters and told them they are a nuisance to society,” skateboarder Henry Smith commented on Youtube. “It pisses off skaters that (were) ridiculed by society, and now society just seems to take away one of our major companies.”
Even Thrasher magazine’s editor, James Phelps, believes celebrities have encroached on the skating industry. He released a statement that cursed out “clowns” like Bieber and Rihanna for wearing skater clothes.
Despite the fact that popular culture has begun to take over skating culture, this has not stopped skaters from continuing to express their true selves through art and fashion. Aesthetics are a pivotal part of their culture which should be celebrated in order to preserve the “skater look.”
“The most fashionable people,” Smith said, “are skaters.”
The Evolution of Street Art
Walking through the streets of Brooklyn, murals, sculptures, and stickers on every corner never fail to fascinate tourists and residents alike. Adorning walls and embellishing buildings, street art brings a variety of color and vibrance to the neighborhood. Whether seen as art or vandalism, it is a pivotal part of New York culture.
However, it has not always been this way. Originating underground through the grimy subway tunnels, it took a while for street art to work its way up to street level, eventually escalating as high as buildings and rooftops.
“None of this will ever last,” said Ken Lee, a 40-year-old street art photographer from Brooklyn. Due to the constantly changing world we live in, street art continues to rapidly evolve in synch with the environment and modern society. Different factors both positively and negatively affect the development of street art, making it what it is today.
In the public eye, street art has always received negative connotations, perceived as merely a rebellious act for lower-class misfits. Because it is illegal and offensive to many property owners, it is easy for people to make this generalization. Although these stereotypes may have been true in the past, they no longer apply to every aspect of modern street art.
According to Lee, the negative stereotypes associated with street artists are currently no longer “as strong as you would think.” He claims that all of the street artists he’s met are “wonderful people,” despite the fact that they break the law on a daily basis.
The illegality of street art is actually what brings its allure. Lee describes legal art “like seeing animals in the zoo vs seeing them in the wild.” Illegal art really makes people think about its undercover meaning and what the artist went through to successfully display it. The amount of effort dedicated to a piece shows how important it is to the artist - important enough to risk his or her life.
“The idea of it being illegal is an incentive,” said Raymond Conlon, a street artist from Brooklyn. He claimed that if it was legal, he would not be doing it.
People also commonly associate street art with mostly male figures. Although women have been involved in street art since the beginning, the community has always been dominated by men. Recently, however, street art is “being increasingly taken over by women,” according to David Mason, an art historian.
Lee claims that the recent women’s movement is “like a reckoning,” inspiring women to use their voice to make meaningful contributions to the street art community. “I think it’s cool, I think it’s great,” said Conlon, showing his full support of female participation.
Social media is another factor that has played a major role in popularizing street art, especially among younger generations. With platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, artists have the ability to post pictures of their art for the whole world to see. In a society where everyone’s eyes are regularly glued to their phones, online posts are a great advertisement method to grab people’s attention.
Although Conlon agreed that social media has significantly benefited his career, he admitted there are negative aspects as well. He said that social media “dilutes the quality” of the art, as people will choose to view it online out of convenience rather than experiencing it fully in person. This consequently eliminates the authenticity of the art and sometimes even blurs the message the artist is trying to convey.
Street art also significantly contributes to gentrification, spreading the culture and allowing it to thrive in new places. “Artists tend to be the first to come to a new area,” said Conlon. “(They are) responsible for bringing gentrification in.” Filling streets with vivid images not only brings culture in, but it also helps brighten and “uplift a community.” The artwork plays a role in attracting tourists as well as permanent residents, and the neighborhood quickly fills with life.
Gentrification, however, pushes artists out, ridding the neighborhood of their work and culture. Ion explained that as time progresses and apartment prices rise, artists’ incomes do not increase at the same level. Artists are therefore unable to financially support themselves in a community that has priced them out.
Because of gentrification, artists are constantly moving and bringing their work with them. As they discover new locations, their art conforms to the different environment, affecting their styles as a result.
Conlon claims that he is unhappy with some of his old work because his “style has evolved.” Artists’ designs and techniques change in synch with the surrounding world, allowing fresh new pieces that reflect modern issues to circulate through the streets.
However, artists maintain their identity by preserving a strong voice through their work that is uniquely theirs. Despite changes in style, artwork is often easily recognizable due to the creator’s distinct voice.
Despite the myriad societal changes that have affected street art over the course of time, one aspect has remained the same: the artists’ overall goal.
“Being known for your art,” Conlon said, ““and then being able to use that to do good things.”
The Crucibles is playwright by Arthur Miller that represents the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692. After reading this play for school, I realized a similar theme that was also depicted in The Scarlet Letter. This inspired me to analyze the similar theme in both books about the possibility for flawed characters to be good.
The Crucibles - Characters that are Flawed but Good
People often find it difficult to look past one misdeed a person is guilty of. However, despite one flaw, people still have the potential to be good. In the Crucibles, John Proctor committed the crime of adultery when he had an affair with his 17-year-old housekeeper. However in the end of the story, Proctor tells the truth and consequently abandons his good reputation. He also sacrifices his life for others and remains loyal to his friends by refusing to give up names. Therefore, despite committing a crime and being the cause of the entire witchcraft hysteria, Proctor was a good person and did the right thing in the end. His situation is similar to Hester Prynne's story in The Scarlet Letter. Although Hester was also guilty of sexual indiscretion, she made amends by creating beautiful needlework for the community and devoting time and money to charity. It was hard for people to realize her actions were genuinely good but , she made efforts to make up for her sin. It is clear that it is possible to still be good despite one mistake or misdeed.
The Great Gatsby is known as the great American novel and it has easily become one of my favorite books. Gatsby was on a quest for love and he went to extreme measures to achieve his goal and reach success. This inspired me to think about the American Dream and how F. Scott Fitzgerald represented this theme through Gatsby's story.
The Great Gatsby and the American Dream
Fitzgerald portrayed the American Dream by depicting Gatsby's difficult journey from rags to riches in attempt to win the girl he desires. The American dream is about reaching one's full potential and prosperity which is exactly what Gatsby does. He is stuck in the past and shapes his entire life to reach the goal of being with Daisy. In order to achieve this goal, Gatsby knows he must obtain wealth to impress and satisfy Daisy. The green light on Daisy's dock represents the color of money and Gatsby reaches out to it because it is something he wishes to possess. In addition to becoming wealthy, Gatsby pursues the American dream by attempting to achieve moral perfection. He models his life after Ben Franklin's schedule events as shown in the flyleaf of a book. However, Gatsby's journey to wealth did not follow the moral road as he was involved in the illegal liquor business with Meyer Wolfsheim. His actions therefore portray a negative perspective of the American dream because he achieved his goals unethically.
Ever since I was young, I have always loved animals. My aunt is a veterinarian and has extreme compassion and empathy for all animals. She would constantly bring over stray pets left at her clinic for my family to foster which further stimulated my love for animals. A couple of years ago, my family and I had fostered our fifth homeless cat and eventually we adopted him after I was no longer allergic to the cat. Since then, my cat has brought me much companionship and happiness to my life. After spending time learning about abandoned and homeless pets and shelter animals, I became aware of a growing national animal welfare problem. Local shelters get increasing number of animals that must be cared for and these shelters don’t receive enough donations which they can rely on to care for these abandoned and homeless animals. Given my love for animals, I wanted to help shelter animals and make a difference in their lives and was motivated to raise awareness of this growing animal welfare issue in my community. In 2016, I organized and led a successful animal needs drive at my local animal shelter and collected donated pet foods and supplies. In only a couple of months, I collected over 160 lbs of dry dog food, 20 cans of dog food, 50 lbs of dry cat food, 40 cans of cat food, a dozen bags of dog and cat treats, blankets, pet carriers and many pet toys and clothes.
Another growing concern over animals is the public opposition to the use of animals in medical research. I have become a strong advocate against animal testing and have made great strides in spreading awareness and educating my community about the dangers and negative aspects of this research. I used my platform as a staff writer on my school newspaper to speak out against this issues as it is a topic I am very passionate about.
The Horrors of Animal Testing
Locked up, abused, tortured, and killed, animals every day are forced to endure the pain and suffering that results from animal testing. According to PETA, over 100 million animals are killed every year due to this cruel and inhumane process, including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds. The purpose of animal testing is to benefit the future of science by further improving medical, drug, biology, and cosmetic advances, however, it comes at the expense of innocent animals’ lives. There is no justification that makes it morally acceptable for animals to die on human behalf.
Animal testing is meant to benefit humans and the scientific world, so it may seem like the death of these animals is only a small price to pay in exchange for the “greater good.” However innocent lives should not be lost just to benefit humans. The amount of torture and inhumane treatment than animals must endure is overwhelming and unnecessary. The Humane Society states that they are subjected to forced chemical exposure, genetic manipulation, physical restraint, food and water deprivation, pain infliction, ear notching and tail clipping, and more. They are deliberately harmed and usually killed at the end of the experiment. The Draize eye test, where rabbit eyelids are held open for multiple days, is only one example of the numerous inhumane treatments that animals suffer through. This test evaluates the irritation produced by cosmetics, so the product remains in the rabbits’ eyes for long time periods and is unable to be blinked away. Another test, known as the lethal dose 50 test intentionally causes the death of 50% of the animal subjects. These cruel experiments must end because animals do not deserve to be put through such terrible conditions.
Animals differ from humans in many ways, therefore they are not even accurate test subjects and experimenting on them is counterproductive. Due to the anatomic, metabolic, and cellular differences between animals and people, animals are poor models for human beings. The results on an animal can produce drastically different results on humans, which is why drugs that pass on animals are not necessarily safe for humans. For instance the sleeping pill thalidomide was safe for pregnant animals, however it caused 10,000 birth deformities in humans. These inaccurate test results can also mislead researchers into ignoring potential cures or treatments. Aspirin relieves pain in humans, however it is dangerous to some animal species. Vitamin C contributes to treating sepsis in humans, meanwhile it has no effect on mice. It is clear that animals should not be experimented on when they are not even accurate test subjects to begin with.
Today, science has advanced so greatly that it is unnecessary to still use animals as test subjects. Alternative testing methods already exist that can replace the need for animals. For example, studying cells in a petri dish uses human cells, so it is much more effective than using animal testing. Testing on artificial human skin also produces more useful results than testing on animal skin. As you can see, animal testing is not the way to go when humans are perfectly capable of using alternative testing methods that are actually more efficient.
It is clear that animal testing is not only inhumane, but it is also unnecessary. From a moral standpoint, killing and torturing animals is wrong and unfair, and innocent lives do not deserve to be lost. However it is also proven unnecessary because animals are not even good test subjects and they cause inaccurate results that can lead to negative consequences. There are also efficient alternatives to animal testing that can contribute to creating better and more accurate results. Therefore, eliminating animal testing will actually benefit science and make the world a better place.
I love cats! One of my best friends at school read the short story, "The Black Cat," by Edgar Allen Poe, over holiday break and recommended it to me because she knows I love to read anything about cats. Although its an incredibly morbid story, I immediately fell in love with the fascinating writing style of Poe, inspiring me to purchase the "Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe" book. After reading multiple stories, I noticed similarities between "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" and decided to further analyze their recurring themes. The work of Poe has provided me with a deeper appreciation for literature and allowed me to further enhance my writing skills. He is now one of my favorite authors.
"The Black Cat" vs "The Tell-Tale Heart"
"The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" are two of Edgar Allen Poe's most morbid, yet most captivating short stories. Each first person narrative tells the story of the main characters and the events that caused them to succumb to murder. Although fictional, Poe succeeds in crafting two narratives so realistic that it inflicts fear and horror to the reader. The stories are similar yet different in many ways and these qualities allow the reader to develop a new perspective and deeper understanding of the true meaning of insanity.
In both "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart," the main characters open the narratives by convincing the reader he is not mad. The narrator then proceeds to explain why this is the case, and the story provides justification for his actions. The narrators believe their mental health is critical information for the reader to grasp, causing the reader to wonder if they are really crazy after all. The murder victims of both stories share similar characteristics, for instance, the victims' eye is an important aspect of both. In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the entire purpose of killing the old man was to rid the narrator of his cloudy blue vulture eye. The narrator of "The Black Cat" was also disturbed by eyes as he gouged out his own cat's eye and his new cat possessed an eye deformity. The eye is very significant as it is a key factor that leads the narrator into murder. The murderers also shared very personal, intimate relationships with their victims. The narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" repeatedly expressed his love for the old man, and the narrator of "The Black Cat" killed his beloved wife and two favorite pets. It was interesting to discover that the thing the two narrators loved most was their object of affection, yet it became the thing they decided to kill.
Both stories share many differences as well. For instance, the narrator of "The Black Cat" repeatedly mentioned his initial remorse for his actions. However in "The Tell-Tale Heart" the narrator felt little to no remorse - the death of the old man left him unaffected. The personality differences between the two characters was important as well as interesting to note because it shows the contrasting natures of the two. Also, the despicable actions of "The Black Cat" were brought on by the corruption of alcohol, explaining the reasoning behind his madness. The narrator did not intentionally hurt his pets, however it was the result of his alcoholism. Meanwhile, the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" possessed no sickness or disease; his motive to kill was merely his own desire. It is clear that although the narrators of both stories had similar minds and actions, there were differences that separated them as well.
Poe establishes an atmosphere of fear and horror by using descriptive words to depict images of death and suffering. The excessive amount of dark and morbid language is necessary for a story that revolves around character death. A large portion of the story focuses on the plotting, planning, and escalating events that led to the murder, and this provides the reader with suspense and excitement. The stories are written as first person narrators which provides the reader insight to the characters' exact thought and ideas. However, first person narrators are not always reliable because it creates a biased story. The stories are only told from one perspective and this affects the reader's reception because it is one-sided.
It is clear that "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart were two exceptional yet horrific stories. These stories shared many similarities and differences and these examples shape the reader's understanding of insanity. Although initially I was inclined to assume the narrators were mad and crazy, analyzing the stories provided me with new insight to their state of mental health. Despite the insane actions that took place, I realized that the narrators themselves were not insane. The reasons behind the characters' actions, although extreme, were understandable and justifiable. Therefore it is important to understand the motives and reasoning that explains why people do the things they do before immediately assuming the worst.
After reading over 'The Scarlet Letter', I discovered a common theme in this novel with two other stories I had read earlier in the year for school, 'Easy A' and 'Catcher in the Rye'. The common theme is the significance of sexuality.
Significance of Sexuality-
The Scarlet Letter, Easy A, Catcher in the Rye
Sexuality is viewed in a negative manner, often perceived as a form of sin. However nearly every human eventually has sex at some point of their lives so if this is the case, then the world is full of sinners. It is impossible to be sexually pure, and those who believe they can be are only deceiving themselves. The characters of The Scarlet Letter, Easy A, and The Catcher in the Rye have come to this realization through their own personal experiences throughout each story. Although they struggled with the concept of sexuality, they overcame their challenges and learned to cope with it in various ways.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne committed the crime of adultery and was forced to be publicly shamed for the rest of her life. Her sexual misconduct was exposed to the entire society, causing people to look down on her and criticize her. Hester made one mistake and was forced to live with the consequences forever. Despite other actions she made to amend for her sin, she was still shunned and there was nothing she could do to be accepted back into society. However, it is ironic because other people of the community were just as sinful as Hester; they revealed in secrecy to Dimmesdale that they committed adultery as well. The people shamed Hester for a crime they also committed, displaying sexual hypocrisy in the story.
Easy A was a story that also had a negative perspective on sexuality. After lying about losing her virginity, a series of more lies began to spiral out of control and Olive Penderghast soon became identified as the school slut. Even though Olive’s initial intention was to help others by lying for them, the other students paid no attention to her good deeds and only focused on her sexual sin. Sexual hypocrisy also played a role in Easy A as the students who shamed Olive were the ones who wanted to see her naked. In another instance, an extremely pious boy cheated on his girlfriend, slept with a teacher, and contracted chlamydia. These two scenarios of sexual hypocrisy show that those who criticized Olive were actually committing sexual sin themselves.
The Catcher in the Rye had a different outlook on sexuality because it was not viewed in such a deplorable way as it was in the other two novels. Although Holden Caulfield did not like the idea of kids losing their innocence to sexuality, he accepted it because he knew it was inevitable. Sex was an unavoidable part of growing up, and even though this disappointed Holden, he did not see any shame in it. However despite this acceptance of sexuality, the story still contained sexual hypocrisy in the sense that an adult was not capable of recognizing his own sexuality. Holden’s teacher, Mr. Antolini, was a closeted gay man who was married to a woman. Even after attempting to make a move on a male student, he was still unable to accept the fact that he was gay and could not embrace his own sexuality.
Sexuality heavily influenced the characters and their development as people, drastically affecting their lives. These three stories have proven that no matter how hard you try to prevent it, all people will eventually reach sexuality and give in to this “sin.” Clearly it is impossible for humans to be purely good because sin and misdeeds are inevitable and all part of human nature. The desire to have sex is innate and extremely powerful, and trying to control this is quite difficult and for some, impossible. Sex is a natural instinct inherit in all humans and animals, and seeking sex with another individual is part of our genetic makeup. Therefore humans will never be fully capable of escaping this natural sin they are born with, so it is better to accept sexuality rather than shame people for it.
The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorite books and after re-reading the novel, I was able to further explore the question of whether humans are naturally good or not.
The Scarlet Letter- Character Analysis
People often receive satisfaction by inflicting pain or misery on those inferior to them. They are driven by a desire for power because it is human nature to crave dominance over others. This need for supremacy explains why bullying is such a major issue in society today. All people, especially kids, are fueled by a natural, innate competitiveness and jealousy which leads them to commit unethical actions in order to achieve the ultimate goal of rising above others.
The Scarlet Letter explains how even the most admired and respected member of a community has the capability of possessing undesirable thoughts and committing crime. Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan minister and a model citizen for the people, committed the act of adultery and fathered an illegitimate child. Hypocritical as this may seem, the best member of a society is actually hiding the worst secret, proving that humans are incapable of goodness if even the best member is drawn to darkness.
I recently had to read several novels for school - Lord of the Flies, Night, and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. These works of literature made me wonder about the true nature of human beings and inspired me to further analyze what brings about evil and bad behavior in humans.
Are People Good?
Human nature consists of the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind that all humans share. By nature, people posses bad or sinful thoughts and characteristics and it is impossible to ever be completely good. Human nature causes people to be naturally bad and everyone eventually succumbs to their impurities and sinfulness.
One test of human nature is explained in Lord of The Flies. In this novel, a group of young boys between the ages of 5-12 were stranded on an island without adult supervision or care. They were forced to create their own society, find food, and take care of one another until rescued. However this civilized group did not last long and in a short time the boys succumbed to their true evil nature which led them to killing and violence. Savagery overcame the boys and they all turned on one another until their goal was no longer to be rescued, it was to kill and become the strongest. This novel portrayed how humans are naturally bad because even with boys at such a young age who have been taught morals, in the end their first instinct was to kill.
The biography, Night, by Elie Wiesel, also supports the idea that all people are bad. The Holocaust was a terrible genocide of 6 million Jews and it was clearly in the Nazi’s human nature to hate and want to kill these innocent people. They had no sympathy towards the Jews because their hatred overpowered any sense of empathy. Although the Jews were the victims, eventually even they gave into their sinful nature because they became selfish and fought others for their own survival. They initially wanted to stick together to stay strong, but it wasn’t long before the hardships became so unbearable that they turned on one other. They fought for food, killed each other, and sacrificed others in order to live another day. The Nazis showed that people have a natural inclination of hate and violence towards others, and the Jews showed how easy it was to surrender to violence and how humans would do just about anything to keep themselves alive.
In Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, the nature of humans is explained in great depth. Everyone is considered a sinner and we are all born with an inclination to do bad things. From the moment of birth, all humans possess “original sin” which is the tendency to sin that is innate in all human beings. No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape this sin because it is in your nature and God will choose your path anyway. Edwards believes that everyone is a sinner and we will all eventually go to Hell anyway, but we are still alive now because God wills us to live and he is in control of our lives.
Therefore, humans have a natural inclination to do nefarious, immoral things. People cannot escape their sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions because as a human, it will always be in your nature to do wrong. Humans are sinners from birth and different situations can affect their moral values and contribute to their sins. It is clear from these three examples that it is an uncontrollable, innate quality that humans possess and no one can escape it. In Lord of the Flies, the children turned savage at such a young age, and in Night, people of all ages succumbed to their evil nature. As you can see, sin is the true nature of people however it is masked by the effort and goal to be good.
The Cat and the Mouse
A dark shadow lurks behind the bushes
Illuminated by a hint of moonlight.
He hides with such skill and stealth
So quiet you could hear a pin drop.
With alert ears and watchful eyes
He waits forever his dinner to arrive.
The silence is soon broken with a snap of a twig
A mouth-watering aroma indicates that prey is near.
With a flick of his ear and a twitch of his nose
His target is located and action begins.
One paw in front of the other
He readies himself for the pounce.
He propels himself into the air
Strong muscles rippling as he leaps forward.
Landing so softly and startling his prey
He sinks his teeth into the delicious body.
"At last," he purrs
"It is time to eat."
I just finished reading two incredible books over the summer, Night by Eli Wiesel and Maus by Art Spiegelman. Both books were extraordinary literary works that educated readers about the Holocaust and provided them with real experiences from survivors. I learned a lot from reading these books as it taught me important life lessons. I was able to understand this historic event in more depth by understanding the two different perspectives of both books.
Night & Maus: Book Review
Night was a regular novel while Maus was a graphic novel. It was interesting to compare and contrast these two writing styles because they are very different from each other. One was written as a story and only used words while the other used images and drawings. Readers were able to learn how these styles were used and discover the different techniques involved in it. For instance, reading a graphic novel is different from a traditional novel because the pictures tell the story, not the words. The main role of the words in Maus are to capture dialogue and caption images. Meanwhile the words of Night tell the entire story.
These two books gave me a really vivid image of the Holocaust. They also provided me with the history of this life-changing event. Night was written by someone who personally lived through this devastating experience. The author explained the difficulties and hardships he faced while in the ghettos and concentration camps and how he managed to survive. On the other hand, Maus was written by the son of a Holocaust survivor. This book is not a primary source and therefore is not as detailed and reliable. However, it provided me with great insight about how the Holocaust affected future generations to come. Both books are exceptional sources in understanding the events that took place at this time. I also got a clear understanding of the authors’ emotions based on the descriptive words or facial expressions of the artwork.
Although both books are incredible literary works, I personally preferred reading Maus. This is because this was my first time reading a graphic novel and I found it really interesting. The characters were also established as anthropomorphic animals such as mice, pigs, and cats. This appealed to my interests because it was something I had never encountered in a book before and the symbolism was done very well. I would definitely recommend this book, along with Night, to my peers or any other readers interested in the topic.