Posted in Graphic Design

Snowflake Document Border

Here are two designs of a snowflake border you can use for the holidays. At the moment the PDF’s are available down below but I would gladly let Word Doc versions become available if requested.

PDF:

snowflake-doc-border

snowflake-doc-border-2

Word Doc:

snowflake-border

snowflake-border-2

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Posted in Literature

The Madness of Cassandra

Cassandra, a character found in Homer’s epic The Iliad and Virgil’s The Aeneid, has become the poster child for characters in literature who can see into the future and whose miraculous gift has become a curse. She was given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo, who had fallen in love with her, but when she refused his advances, he cursed her: yes, she could see into the future, but no one would ever believe her visions. Because of this, Cassandra is seen as a mad, insane woman who predicts death and destruction everywhere she goes. Other characters shrug off her words, not knowing that she can see into the future, and that her warnings hold true. Of all the female characters found in myths about the Trojan War, Cassandra appears most often, after Helen, the woman that the war started over. Writers have been fascinated by Cassandra, painting her as a tragic victim of circumstance, someone whose genius is overshadowed by their apparent insanity.

The princess of Troy, Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, can be found in many works of ancient literature. Cassandra appears only briefly in The Iliad, but her character is important to the contemporary literature and mythology of the time. She is a footnote in this text, but a reference to her appearance in a larger number of works. In Homer’s epic about the Trojan War she makes her first appearance in the last book, being the first to see King Priam return home with the body of Hector, her dead brother. It is stated that “No one saw them at first, neither man nor woman, none before Cassandra” (Homer 24.819-820.) Homer’s way of phrasing this sentence is done to show that Cassandra can see what others cannot, hinting at her gifts of prophecy. Upon seeing the body of Hector she screams with “her scream [ringing] out through all Troy” (24.826). Cassandra is typically seen screaming and wailing in ancient literature. She can be seen screaming again at the end of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon and her screams are mentioned in The Odyssey when Odysseus visits the Underworld and sees his dead Agamemnon, who tells him that “the death-cry of Cassandra, Priam’s daughter—the most pitiful thing I heard!” (Homer 11.476-477). Cassandra’s screams echo throughout Greek mythology and literature.

Cassandra is mentioned early on in Virgil’s The Aeneid, via flashback, warning the Trojans not to accept the gift of the wooden Horse offered by the Greeks, but she is ignored. Virgil writes, “Cassandra’s lips unsealed the doom to come: lips by a god’s command never believed or heeded by the Trojans” (2.330-332). Little do they know that the wooden horse is filled with Greek soldiers who sack the city once night falls, just as Cassandra predicted. Aeneas speaks of a man, Coroebus, who had earlier come to Troy seeking Cassandra’s hand in marriage, but was unsuccessful. The narrator laments that he was “deaf to what his bride foretold!” (Virgil 2.462). Cassandra’s unheeded warning of the destruction of Troy is her most important action in the mythology surrounding the Trojan War, but her story does not end here.

Virgil depicts Cassandra, like her mother Hecuba and her sisters, clinging to the idols of Gods and Goddesses at an altar during the sack of Troy, “enfolding holy images in their arms,” hoping the Greeks will not hurt them in this sacred place (Virgil 2.669-672). Their hope is vain for the Greeks capture them anyway. Aeneas watches in horror as Cassandra is “dragged by her long hair out of Minerva’s shrine, lifting her brilliant eyes in vain to heaven—her eyes alone, as her white hands were bound” (Virgil 2.533-537). Like most of the surviving women of Troy, she is taken to a camp outside the burning city where plans are made to divide the women up amongst the Greeks as war prizes, as concubines, as slaves.

The enslavement of the remaining women of Troy, especially its royal family, is at the center of Euripides’ play The Trojan Women. Cassandra becomes the war prize and mistress to Agamemnon. As she leaves the camp, she comforts her mother, Hecuba, saying that her “marriage will destroy those whom thou and I most hate”—the Greeks, especially Agamemnon, who would die because of his involvement with the Trojan princess (Euripides 4). A Greek soldier, Talthybius, remarks that people might have heeded her warnings if the god Apollo had not “turned thy wits astray” (Euripides 4). The tragic conclusion to Cassandra’s part in Greek literature is found in another play.

The prophetess eventually predicts her own death, just as she had the destruction of Troy. In her most famous moment in all of Greek literature, she partakes in a “mad scene” in Aeschylus’s play Agamemnon. Here her “insanity” or “prophetic” ways are seen in full force as she screams, rants, and raves of visions of death that will soon befall Agamemnon, the Greek general who has taken her as a war prize, and Cassandra herself at the hands of Agamemnon’s wife. She even hints at events that would occur in the rest of the trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus, known as the Oresteia, which covers the events after Agamemnon’s death. Up until this point in the play, Cassandra has remained silent, kept in the background, like she is in most pieces of ancient literature covering this time period. Now she is, possessed by the god Apollo, and in a trance she rambles about the fate that will befall the house of Atreus, to which Agamemnon belongs, featuring betrayal, murder, cannibalism, and matricide. As much as her death pains her, Cassandra knows it will also cause pain to her enemies, the Greeks, chanting that her “death is edged the double-biting sword!” (Aeschylus 25). She walks offstage to her death, knowing full well what is in store for her at the jealous Clytemnestra’s hands.

Cassandra is always associated with madness and prophecy. In fact a disorder known as the “Cassandra Complex” is named after her, describing valid concerns, medical or otherwise, that are dismissed. In literature, Cassandra is sometimes portrayed as being just as beautiful as Helen of Troy, and Homer even compares her to the goddess of love, describing the princess to be as “golden as goddess Aphrodite” (Homer 24.820). But no matter how beautiful she may be, Cassandra is always seen wringing her hands anxiously, telling the audience and other characters of their future deaths, visions which are never believed by anyone until it is too late.

The Trojan princess Cassandra is defined by her skills as a prophetess in literature, while the other characters in these works of literature believe her to be insane. She is a victim of war, a victim of the curse brought on from what should have been a wonderful gift. The character never fully gets her due in The Iliad or The Aeneid, but she has become a popular figure for modern writers to feature in novels about the Trojan War. Her story is haunting and tragic, being just as moving as the story of Achilles, Hector, or any other tragic hero of Greek Mythology. She does not have the physical strength of the heroes of The Iliad, but her downfall as charted over the course of several plays and poems has stayed with readers for centuries, with her screams of pain and fear echoing throughout literature as the years pass, unheard by all, except for the reader.


Works Cited

Aeschylus. “Agamemnon.” Greek Texts, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

<http://www.greektexts.com/library/Aeschylus/Agamemnon/eng/24.html&gt;

Euripides. “Trojan Women.” Greek Texts, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

<http://www.greektexts.com/library/Euripides/The_Trojan_Women/eng/336.html&gt;

Greek Myths. “Myth of Cassandra.” Greek Myths-Greek Mythology, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

<http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/the-myth-of-cassandra/&gt;

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics, 1981. Print.

 

Posted in Graphic Design

Snowmen Graphic

Here is a little something I whipped up after reading this article on minimalist Christmas cards just in time for the holidays. I made a little challenge with myself to make a design that could possibly go on a Christmas card using only keystrokes and a few shapes available on Microsoft Word.

Holiday Snowmen

The snowman’s body is made out of an “8” with “*” buttons and “/ \” for a carrot nose. The little hat was made using the shape creator in Word, which kind of felt like cheating, but the two little snowmen looked bald without their hats in the end.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this little project. It’s a great idea parents and teachers can use to get their kids and students interested in graphic design, while also being creative and learning how to use Microsoft Word tools.

Anyways, I wish you all a happy holiday season. 

Posted in Literature

Ophelia in the Water

Or, The Danger of Female Passivity in Shakespeare’s Hamlet


Of all of William Shakespeare’s female characters, Ophelia is remembered as being one of his more passive, yet endearing heroines, from arguably his most famous play, Hamlet. She is frequently associated with water since her cause of death was drowning, and artists typically depict her last moments as being tranquil, yet Ophelia herself is seen as an object of tragic, fragile beauty. Most readers see her this way: as a passive, tragic victim who is unable to fight back against the many people—especially men—who keep pulling her apart. Ophelia is surrounded by men who use her as a pawn in their quest for vengeance or power. First there is her father, Polonius, and then there is her brother, Laertes, both of whom are seen constantly putting her in her place, telling her to be virtuous, and telling her how to behave. Hamlet, Ophelia’s possible lover, emotionally abuses her in cruel, public ways. Even Gertrude, the other main female character in the play, never shows any true hints of kindness towards Ophelia, and she too, like everyone else, uses the girl for her own benefit. Shakespeare also victimizes the character of Ophelia.

The main oppressive male-figure in Ophelia’s life is her father, Polonius. Fathers dominated young women at the time for the first few years of many girls’ lives until they were married off, only to be dominated by their future husbands. Polonius, though he is typically played as an almost fool-like character, is not without his menacing moments, most of which occur when he is with Ophelia. He puts her down emotionally when he scoffs that she speaks “like a green girl,” someone naïve in the ways of the world, as if he is almost saying so sarcastically (Hamlet 1.3.110-111). Polonius disapproves of the time Ophelia is spending with Hamlet and is frequently seen criticizing her because of it. He tells her to respect herself more, in the name of her virtue, or she will turn him into a laughing stock, a “fool,” not seeming to care about the damage it would do to her reputation more than his (Hamlet 1.3.118). He crushes Ophelia’s dreams of Hamlet, telling her that Hamlet’s words, which he equates with a flame, give “more light than heat” and that she must not mistake them “for fire” (Hamlet 1.3.125-126, 129). He adds more salt to this wound by summarizing his point with “Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers” (Hamlet 1.3.134-135).

Polonius continually says similar lines to Ophelia, not simply beating a dead horse, but near to the point of emotional abuse. Polonius damages her even more by forcing Ophelia to give him all of the letters Hamlet has written to her, which Polonius then takes to the King and Queen for them to read. This would have been severely humiliating for both Ophelia and Hamlet, if he knew about it. Then to add even more insult to injury, Polonius and Claudius, the king, use Ophelia as bait to see how insane Hamlet has become. As part of the rouse, Polonius has Ophelia read from a prayer book to make it look like she is alone, which is also a subtle way of telling her to be virtuous around Hamlet, especially since her father and the king are watching their every move.

Her brother, Laertes, does little to comfort his sister. Laertes in the third scene of the play, the first time he is seen speaking to Ophelia, repeats several times how she should fear Hamlet’s advances. He says that the “best safety lies in fear” (1.3.47). He tells her how Hamlet’s affections towards her are “not permanent, sweet, not lasting” (1.3.9). Polonius and Laertes both remind Ophelia that Hamlet is a prince and that she would never be considered as a potential bride for the future king of Denmark. No young woman wants to hear the word “never” in relation to her potential lover, but here her family does not hesitate to tell her this.

Though perhaps the cruelest torment Ophelia receives is at the hands of the play’s protagonist, Hamlet. He denies that he ever gave her the trinkets she wishes to return to him in act three, then he proceeds to tell her that he loved her once (Hamlet 3.1.125), but retracts this by declaring that he never loved her (3.1.129). Hamlet cruelly tells her that she should not have believed any loving word he ever spoke to her (3.1.127), proving to Ophelia, in her mind, that her father and brother were right: that Hamlet was using her all along, that he never loved her. Hamlet’s rejection of Ophelia breaks her heart even more, taking away any hope that someone would be on her side. These words are a knife in Ophelia’s heart, but Hamlet has only begun to insult her. He calls her two faced in the famous line “God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another” (Hamlet 3.1.155-156). Hamlet torments her even more by telling her that she should marry a fool, because a wiser man would realize that she would turn him into a monster and inevitably cheat on him (Hamlet 3.1.150-151). He then says that even if she is chaste and virginal, she will still be the subject of gossip, a woman with a ruined reputation, even if she is, in fact, innocent (3.1.147-148).

To top it all off, Hamlet, famously, tells her to “get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.131). At first glance, he seems to be telling her that she would be better off as a nun. This line would have been quite offensive in Shakespeare’s time since the term “nunnery” was sometimes used in place of the word “brothel.” Nunneries were also places where girls who had become pregnant out of wedlock went to deliver their babies, repenting their “sin” at the command of society. By telling Ophelia to go to a nunnery, Hamlet is comparing her to someone who has had a child out of wedlock, a sexually loose woman, and a prostitute. Hearing these words would be absolutely heart wrenching for someone like Ophelia, someone who may have never done anything wrong, accused of crimes she has not yet committed.

Hamlet treats her so unfairly, so cruelly, that his insults have just added a lot of fuel to what was already a big fire, Ophelia is ripped apart by the one man who has treated her fairly, the man who had once said that he loved her. The fact that Hamlet, the possible love of her life, kills her father is the last straw and Ophelia’s sanity slips away. The next time she appears in the play she has already become completely insane, happily throwing away her mind as easily as she gives away flowers. She is symbolically deflowered and literally insane.

After being treated so harshly by the men she called family and the man she loved, Ophelia’s treatment at the hands of society is equally terrible. Gertrude, the queen, refuses to speak to Ophelia once she has become insane. Some film adaptations of the play have Ophelia imprisoned at the beginning of this scene, none more so than Kenneth Branagh’s film, where Ophelia is kept underneath the palace, where she is treated like an inmate in a mental hospital, and she even wears a costume that resembles a strait-jacket. This harsh treatment of Ophelia on screen is the visual equivalent of Ophelia’s treatment verbally and emotionally by the other characters who seem to care little for her.

When Ophelia eventually drowns, Gertrude witnesses the girl’s death, yet the queen does nothing to save her. Gertrude, like everyone else, turns her back on this poor girl, letting her drown, and metaphorically letting her sink deeper into her insanity. Even after her death, Ophelia is still treated like an object, not a real person. A priest nearly refuses to give Ophelia a Christian burial, preferring to throw her outside the graveyard since she has possibly committed suicide (Hamlet 5.1.203-206). Laertes compares Ophelia to an angel and Hamlet only now that Ophelia is dead, declares his love for her, but this is done to Hamlet’s benefit alone because Ophelia died believing no one really loved her (Hamlet 5.1.216). After her funeral, she is not mentioned again. No one in the entire play truly cares for Ophelia, and if they did they never showed it to her when she was alive or even after her death, saying only polite words to her casket the way society dictates. The tears of Laertes and Hamlet might be less for Ophelia, but more for themselves.

Like many of Shakespeare’s tragic heroines, Ophelia’s struggles take a back seat to Hamlet’s, the protagonist’s trials. In today’s post-new-wave-feminism society, female readers especially might find this to be a rather interesting idea. Shakespeare’s female characters typically stay in the background, coming up to center stage only for brief moments to advance the hero’s pain. Take for instance Lavinia from Titus Andronicus, another passive victim in a similar vein to Ophelia, a young woman who is savagely raped and horrifically mutilated mere hours after her wedding, a tragic character that rarely speaks (she is unable to speak for most of the play). Yet, her pain and suffering is not the focus of the play. What she has endured occurs to give Titus, the main character, more motivation, and there is no scene of Lavinia being comforted after her ordeal. Another example of this is Cressida from Troilus and Cressida, who, despite her name being a part of the title, and most of the plot revolving around her, she actually is only in a few scenes—and she is the heroine. Yes, Ophelia is a supporting character, she is not the heroine, but the image of this melancholic young woman drowning has become nearly as famous as the popular image of Hamlet holding up Yorick’s skull in the graveyard. The fact that Ophelia and her death especially are mainly used by Shakespeare to give the character of Hamlet, not Laertes, Ophelia’s own brother, more emotional turmoil, says a lot about the treatment of the character—she is a plot device. It is ironic that a character whose actions are so passive in the story, is still being twisted around by the author as a plot device, never given the credit she deserves even by the author that created her.

Ophelia is a victim in many senses of the term. She is passive, she is seen as someone’s property. Ophelia is used as a spy, as bait, but never once is she given the respect she deeply deserves. After being used by her father, brother, lover, and nearly every other major character in the play, Ophelia seems to have finally broken down. So it is fitting, almost, that this woman who was so passive in her life, lets herself drown, never taking the effort to save herself. After all, if she were to survive she would still have to go back to being insane in a cruel, heartless world, being a pawn in someone else’s plans once again.

Posted in Other, Uncategorized

Art from “A” to “Xenotransplantation”

William Osler once said: “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” He was clearly inspired by a quote from Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus: “Medicine is not merely a science but an art. The character of the physician may act more powerfully upon the patient than the drugs employed.” An anonymous reporter took this one step further and said: “Medicine is an art, not a science.”

Transplanting organs is an art unto itself, even if it does heavily rely on science. The doctor must be as skilled as a artist, with each cut the surgeon makes as carefully planned as the brushes and strokes of a master painter. Xenotransplantation takes this art form to a new level.

Xenotransplantation involves transplanting one animal’s organ into another animal’s body. This is even possible for humans, a prospect that has stirred up much controversy over the years ever since 1984 when an infant received a heart transplant from a baboon, prompting a speculative article from The New York Times debating the use of xenotransplantaion. (Altman). While the baby in that case died a few days after the surgery, the idea of xenotransplantation has held a large amount of appeal to scientists and doctors alike.

According to a recent article by Amy Dockser Marcus in The Wall Street Journal, “there are more than 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant,” with not nearly enough donors and useable organs to save each person (Marcus). While new developments have opened up in terms of 3-D printing and how it could possibly create useable organs for transplants, there is another option: xenotransplantation. Scientists have found that pigs are a likely source for these transplants. Marcus relates: “Pigs are a particularly promising source of organs. They produce big litters. Organs such as the kidney and liver are similar in size to those of humans” (Marcus).

In fact, the xenotransplantation is not a new process. The Guardian’s Vanessa Heggie wrote about how it first began in the 19th century and that an Irish surgeon, known simply as Doctor Bigger, while being held captive by the Bedouin, discovered how to successfully transplant the cornea of a wild deer into a blind gazelle. This idea was later applied to human transplants. She also revealed that in 1838, “Dr. Richard Kissam of New York transplanted the cornea of a 6-month old pig into a young man, who temporarily regained his sight” (Heggie). Then, “by 1885 five attempts had been made to transplant a whole eye from an animal into a human face. Four of those attempts used dog eyes, but the only initially successful one, by Dr HW Bradford of Boston, used a rabbit’s eye” (Heggie). In fact, Scientists and doctors have been transplanting animal blood into humans since the 17th century (Heggie).

While using a pig’s organs for xenotransplantation should work in theory, xenotransplantations are not always successful, especially not for long periods of time. The human immune system will attack any alien substances it finds, including that of the transplanted organ via a pig donor. There is also the issue of the transplant causing infections and undetected viruses moved from the pig to a human during the transplant.

To rectify this, scientists have since had to re-write some of the pig’s genetic code before the transplantation so that the human body will accept the organ. However, in the past it has taken incredibly long periods of time just to change one aspect of the pig’s genetic code. Recently though a group of scientists from Harvard University have created a new gene-editing system, Crispr-Cas9, which can change multiple aspects at once, working faster and more efficiently than ever before. This makes xenotransplantation all the more likely in the foreseeable future.

This takes us back to the aforementioned quotes comparing medicine to art and science, with one anonymous reporter going as far as to say that medicine is an art form, not a scientific one. The reasoning for this can be surmised from the fact that every patient and surgeon, physician, and doctor are different. Since no two are fully alike, you cannot completely replicate each transplant and surgery beat for beat, the way a scientific method should let you. Since the circumstances are different each time, the doctors involved must adapt to each new case with the same light-on-their feet attitude an artist has when using a new canvas or painting a new subject. Since we have determined that each case is different and cannot completely rely on science, but also the skill of the doctor, let’s think about how transplants, like medicine, is another art form. When we hear the word “art” we tend to think of paintings and sculptures. Are not physicians and surgeons similar to sculptures in some ways? They are not sculptures of marble or clay, but of real human flesh and blood. Perhaps that makes their “art” all the more masterful.

Still, we cannot ignore the importance of science when it comes to transplants, medicines, and anything else a doctor, physician, or surgeon would come across. Science is the whole reason transplants exist and can work. In conclusion, I believe that transplants, especially xenotransplants, are started by science, but completed through art. It all depends on the hands and strokes of the artist.


Works Cited

Altman, Lawrence. “Baby Fae, Who Received a Heart From Baboon, Dies After 20 Days.” The New York Times. 16, Nov 1984.

Heggie, Vanessa. “Human-pig chimeras and the history of transplanting from animals.” The Guardian. 7 June 2016.

Marcus, Amy Dockser. “Genetically Modified Pigs Could Ease Organ Shortage.” The Wall Street Journal. 1, Dec 2016.