Monday, August 27, 2012

Generating Topics: Heart Disease

The number one cause of death in both men and women is cardiovascular disease or heart disease.  According to the Heart Foundation, about one million people die each year from heart disease.  There are different types of heart disease, such as coronary artery disease (which is the most common), arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders), and congenital heart defects. 

My dad, Addam Scott, was born with a congenital heart defect.  Where the valves are supposed to pump in one direction, my dad's valves pumped in the opposite direction.  This led to the deterioration of some of his valves.  When I was about nine or ten, my dad had to have open heart surgery in order to replace one of his bad valves with a plastic one.  Normally surgeons would implant a pig valve, since pigs' hearts are very similar to human hearts.  Unfortunately my dad's heart was in such bad condition that his doctor decided on the new plastic valve.  The doctors warned the surgeon not to try to fix the bad valve, because it was unfixable.  All he had to do was hurry and insert the plastic one.  However, the surgeon was cocky and didn't listen to the doctors.  He was convinced he could fix my dad's valve.  After nine hours of fooling around in my dad's heart, the surgeon panicked and hastily, and poorly, inserted a pig valve.  The doctors were furious.  The hospital was furious.  Gran, my dad's mother, was blood-thirsty.  My family was in uproar.  A lawsuit was threatening the surface.  But my dad intervened.  Tulane Hospital is one of the best hospitals in Louisiana, and he didn't want to see such a great hospital suffer because of one egotistical idiot surgeon.  So instead they kept it hush, hush, and the surgeon was banned from operating in the whole state of Louisiana.
My dad died about four years later.  The crappily installed pig valve failed right before he was scheduled to have another open heart surgery.  When my dad was young, he was told that he wouldn't make it to eighteen.  He made it to thirty-nine and had two children, my brother and me.

(My drawing of the bear my dad was given.  He was told to squeeze it whenever he was in pain)
 Because of the advancement of technology and medicine, many people with congenital heart defects and other heart diseases now live longer!  Doctors make sure to identify the problem early on, using heart catheterization and other methods, and treat it immediately.  Surgical approaches have improved as well.  Since heart disease is on the rise, it's more important than ever to start taking care of your heart now!  Just because you weren't born with a heart defect, doesn't mean you're immune to heart disease.  Your heart is one of the most, if not THE most, important organs in your body!  If you log onto the American Heart Association website, you'll find a list of ways to prevent heart disease.  Here are some of them:

1. EAT HEALTHY!  That's obvious.  Take it easy on the saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars and sweeteners.

 2. EXERCISE!  Another obvious solution.  Keep your heart active!

3. GO TO THE DOCTOR!  Get examinated to make sure you're healthy.  Doctors are supposed to help you, so don't be afraid of them, but don't be afraid to interrogate them as well.  You and your doctor should be 100% open with each other.

 4. NO CIGARETTES!  Cigarettes are never good for you.  Never!

(This commercial is horrible, but it's effective)

5. MANAGE YOUR STRESS!  This is a hard one, because stress is inevitable.  Find a stress management technique that works for you.  A few techniques that work for me are breathing exercises (breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth), tensing and relaxing muscles (Start with your feet and tense your muscles for ten seconds.  Then release.  Work your way up your body until you feel like you've relaxed all your muscles), repeating a positive mantra (try my mantra, "I am smart, I am strong, I am brave, I am beautiful, I can do anything."  You can change it to better suit you), and thinking of something happy (my thoughts usually involve kittens).

Heart disease kills more people than AIDS and cancer.  So please, try to take care of yourself.  If not for yourself, then do it for the ones you love.  Your life is important to them.  Trust me. 

Generating Topics: Runescape

Oh Runescape.  The evil of all evil.  The destroyer of all social lives!  The accumulation of fat and deterioration of muscle.  That's a little too dramatic.  One of the things I'll never understand are the online games such as Runescape.  My brother played Runescape for two years straight.  He'd go to school, then come home and play the game well into two in the morning, sometimes later.  He had his station all set up:  his headset so he can talk to his Xbox Live buddies on his big T.V., his widescreen monitor, his Monster and Dr. Pepper cans lining his desk, and the house phone on three way. 
(He only wishes this was his room)
 When I came home for Christmas break and saw the vampiric state my brother was in, I tried to intervene.  I rushed into his room announcing that we were going out to get coffee (as if any added caffeine would do him any good).  He started to complain, but I did my usual sister thing.  I kept talking until he shut up and did what I said.  I FINALLY got him out of the house after much poking.  So you can imagine how that went.  He looked like a zombie.  He was wearing holey clothes, he was squinting because of the sun, and his neck had a pinched nerve so he walked the whole way with his head tilted to the far side.  It was quite entertaining from my end.  I'm sure it was then that he realized just how unhealthy his extreme gaming was, because he started playing Runescape less.
(This is what happened to my brother)
So what's the big deal about Runescape?  I've watched my brother play it numerous times, and I've even pretended to understand what he was talking about when he tried to explain it to me.  The graphics are terrible and people constantly steal your stuff and kill you!  And you have to perform repetitive acts for long hours in order to get silly things like a pink party hat (My cousin was excited about that.  He's older than me).  So, about my cousin...apparently he's worse than my brother.  I don't see him often, but he calls the house every day.  One day I decided to talk to him.  You would think that since I haven't seen him in about a year he'd tell me all the exciting things that've happened to him since then.  No.  ALL HE TALKED ABOUT WAS RUNESCAPE! 
  So what's so addictive about Runescape?  I found a list of the top six reasons why the game is so addictive:

1.  There are 24 apparently awesome skills that require 4 months of gaming to level up...each!
2.  Runescape envy.  When Runescapers see other Runescapers with awesome stuff, it motivates  them to get the same stuff.
3.  There are 160 apparently awesome quests that require A LOT of time to complete. 
4.  Competition.  Skill versus skill.  When a Runescaper sees another Runescaper with a higher skill, then they see that as a challenge.
5.  There are several fascinating worlds for Runescapers to visit and explore.
6.  They like to show off.

I'd like to add another.  It creates a confidence that they lack in real life.  In virtual games, you can be anyone you want and master in anything.  You can be the chosen one of your own story!  After playing Skyrim for a short period, I could see the lure games can cause.  Yet some people form a dependency on video games, which is unhealthy.  I see the beauty of video games and I appreciate the art and hardwork that goes into them.  But anything in excess can be bad for you.

Generating Topics: The Homeless

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are about 672,000 homeless people in America.  One of the main causes of homelessness is unaffordable housing.  There is a common misconception that all homeless people are drug addicts or pre-mental patients.  I admit that I once thought that was the case.  I used to believe that the homeless could easily get a job if they didn't do drugs all the time.  That was the mind of a little girl who knew nothing of the world. 
Then I moved to Memphis, where I encountered homeless people on the streets more often than I'd like.  At first they scared me, because I wasn't used to strangers asking me for food or for money.  When I could, I'd give them a few bucks.  Most of the time I'd ignore them and walk away.  It killed me to walk away and feel the accusation in their eyes.  In a dangerous world, it was probably wise for me to walk away since it'd be very easy for a grown man to take advantage of a tiny girl.  Yet I couldn't help but wonder about the person.  Does he have a family?  Did she ever get married or have children?  Then there's always the constant question:  does my mom live like that?  For you see, my mom was borderline homeless at one point.  She disappeared when I was twelve and I haven't seen her since.  So it makes me wonder, "Will the next homeless person I encounter be my mom?" 

A few months ago, when I was stuck in a broken down trolley in Downtown Memphis, I met a very strong woman.  She sat in front of me and introduced herself.  She asked about my friend and me and seemed very interested.  She told us she was from Wisconsin and came to Memphis to find a better job.  Then, in a matter-of-fact tone, she said she was homeless.  She told me that she was going to a march to protest the shelter charges.  That was news to me!  She said that the shelter they were protesting were charging homeless people $10 a night.  The homeless are homeless for a reason!  But the woman didn't ask for money and I could tell she was strong.  I left the trolley wishing I had something to give her.  The best I could do was listen to her and spread her story.  After leaving the trolley, we met another homeless woman.  She looked frantic and reluctant to talk to us, but she asked for money nonetheless.  She started crying and hiding her face out of shame, but insisted that we give her money for a homeless shelter.  We kept walking, but we didn't stop looking at her.  My friend couldn't bear to see her cry so he walked back to her and gave her all the cash he had, which wasn't much.  She started sobbing and my friend held her while she said thank you.  Then I started to cry.  As we left my friend asked me, "Was that a stupid thing to do?"  He meant, "Do you think it was just a ploy to get money?"  I thought of that too, that maybe it was a scheme to get money out of us.  But I told him it wasn't stupid, that no matter what her true intentions were, what he did was selfless and compassionate.  No one can be stupid because of that. 

It infuriates me now when people misjudge the homeless.  Not all of them are drug addicts and mental patients.  Some of them have families they lost.  Some of them were once like us, living comfortably without a worry in the world.  Anyone of us can be homeless at any time.  I'm thousands of dollars in debt as I type, thanks to all the student loans I've taken out.  Most of the homeless probably don't have families to bail them out of tough situations.  I'm fortunate because I have family and friends who'll never allow me to be homeless.  How can our society allow their people to be homeless?  So remember this the next time you meet a homeless person, and don't judge them too harshly.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Generating Topics: Reality T.V.

I'm going to start off by saying I can't stand reality T.V.  Shows like Jersey Shore, Keeping up With the Kardashians, and Toddlers and Tiaras make me cringe.  Not all reality shows are bad however.  There are shows like Face Off, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and So You Think You Can Dance that are interesting and show people at their best.  Then there is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  I already know it's going to be awful and I haven't even watched it!

The little girl is adorable and the family is "all American," but it's a show about a spoiled pagent girl.  Just like Toddlers and Tiaras is a show about mean little girls and monster moms.  Most of the reality shows today shouldn't even be considered reality.  Audiences would be bored out of their minds if they had to sit and watch Honey's mom fold clothes.  So they have to make things up and invent drama that never existed before.  The episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, where they take in a homeless man, is a perfect example of staged reality.  If the cameras weren't rolling, would they really take in a random homeless man?

I have nothing against people who like the shows.  Hell, I watch Ghosthunters!  It's a matter of preference, and I prefer not to watch little girls dressed like teenagers, self disrespecting twenty somethings, and rich people doing rich things.  I'll just stick with Criminal Minds and Adventure Time.  



Generating Topics: Ghosts

Ever since I was little, I've been afraid of ghosts.  I traveled a lot with my mom and each  new place had its own set of ghosts, real and imagined.  When I was in fourth grade I read a book of ghost stories.  For years after, I had trouble sleeping.  I'd lie in bed with my blanket pulled up to my nose and stare at my door waiting for a ghostly figure to emerge.  There've been a few times when I thought I had a ghostly encounter.  A cold chill, a suspicious shadow, a figure in my peripheral, and once I thought someone patted my head.  With my great fear came a great curiosity and fascination with the paranormal.

I became obsessed with Sylvia Browne after my dad died.  She was a psychic who would guest star every Wednesday on the Montel Williams show.  She'd sit and answer questions from the audience about people who passed away, future love, and spirit guide names.  She'd sit there casually, sometimes grumpily if asked a stupid question, and provide relief to grieving families.  She believed in every thing I wanted to believe in.  She said that everyone can go to the Otherside, which is the Christian equivalent of Heaven.  Religious views had nothing to do with it.  She believed in afterlife, resurrection, and astral travel.  A lot of what she spoke of made sense, yet I was still skeptical and chose to mold her views to fit my own.

I was also, and still am, a fan of the show Ghosthunters.  I admit a lot of the footage is too unbelievable.  There has even been an episode where one of the members pretended a ghost was pulling a tablecloth.  Yet I still enjoy watching it, mostly to hear the ghost stories and history of the places they visit. 

The above picture is the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana.  It's supposedly one of the most haunted houses in the United States.  Whenever I have a project related to ghosts, I always find myself looking into the Myrtles.  One of the most famous stories is the story of Chloe.  Chloe was a slave who worked in the kitchen but heard rumors that some of the servants were going to be sent to the fields.  While walking in the hallway she heard voices coming from the men's parlor.  She pressed her ear to the door to hear what they were saying and was caught by her master.  As punishment, he cut her ear off and sent her to work in the fields.  She wore a turban, which later became her trademark.  As news of the master's daughters' birthdays arrived, Chloe devised a plan to get back into the master's good graces.  She convinced the cook to let her bake the birthday cake.  She slipped a poison in the batter, which she thought was enough to only make them sick.  Then she'd nurse them back to health and look like a saint in the master's eyes.  Unfortunately, she added too much and killed the mistress and the two daughters.  When the other slaves heard of what Chloe did, they hung her.  At the funeral of the mistress and her daughters, the mourners covered the mirrors with cloth because they believed that the soul would get trapped in the mirror otherwise.  According to the story, they forgot to cover the mirror next to the stairs.  Witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of Chloe and the fingerprints of the little girls in the mirror.

Eventually I will muster up the courage to spend the night at the Myrtles Plantation.  In the meantime, I'll satisfy my curiosity with ghost stories.



Generating Topics: Gay Rights

I'm sure everyone's familiar with the gay rights movement that's taking place in our country.  Only seven states, and Washington D.C., officially allow gay marriage.  Those states are Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusettes, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, and Washington (according to other maps). Twelve states recognize unions, partnerships, and sometimes previous marriages.  So out of fifty states, only nineteen states either allow or recognize gay marriage.
Then there are the ignorant people who hate homosexuals for reasons they can't fully justify. "Because it's against God " isn't enough justification for me.  The Chick-Fil-A controversy sparked a reaction in the LGBT community and vice versa, which in turn captured everyone's attention.  It captured mine at least. 
In response to the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day (I was watching it unfold at a food court while I ate my Subway sandwich) members of the LGBT community had kiss-ins, where they'd stand outside of Chick-Fil-As and kiss, hug, hold hands, and perform other affectionate gestures.  Personally, both parties have a point.  Just because I believe Cathy's opinion is wrong, doesn't mean he doesn't have a right to say it.  However he has the right to voice his opinions, but homosexuals get the evil eye every time they kiss in public.  That doesn't seem fair.

  So why is this important to me?  I'm not gay or bisexual.  I'm not being hated for something I cannot control.  Why would a heterosexual person care about gay rights?  I care for the same reasons I care about my brother.  The same reasons I care about my family.  The same reasons I care about the smiling strangers on the street.  The same reasons I care about the homeless.  Compassion and love.  I have many amazing friends and have met wonderful people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual.  You get a lot of that in art school, because it's full of the most creative and eccentric people people in the world!  Is it too much to ask for to let gay couples get married?

One Hundred Circles

For my first Illustration 3 assignment we had to paint one hundred circles of different colors and draw images using the circles.  Drawing ONE HUNDRED circles gets a little tedious sometimes, but it's the perfect opportunity to doodle and use your creativity!  So that's exactly what I did.  Here are a few of my favorites!

The dork within is revealed.

Mrreow (translation: Greetings)

Since I'm new at this, I'll begin my first blog by saying that my writing skills are as elaborate as a cat licking itself.  Now that you have that visual...Hi, my name is Terri!  I am in my third year at Memphis College of Art, which is a great home for artists like me.  The purpose of this first blog is to show you some of my old work in order to see how I improved each year.  Art school is not a waste of time!  Tell that to your parents.  Here are a few pieces from my first two illustration classes:

                                                                      Illustration 1

Illustration 2

I'll keep you updated on my latest!