Thursday, February 28, 2013

Best Reads of the Week

Photo by Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Members of a Haitian Ministry of Health body-collection team unload 14 bodies of cholera victims

Death by Treacle: Are we overexposed to emotion?

A housing development experiment in Mumbai: What happens when the rich and the poor live next door to each other?

Who exactly are we fighting? Al Qaeda and the "War on Terror" in 2013

Negligence in Haiti: The United Nations and Cholera

What makes a charity? What sorts of organizations deserve tax exempt status?

The legacy of C. Everett Koop: Examining the impact of our most outspoken surgeon general

Sudden Death: When death comes for the unprepared

Domestic Witness: A photo essay unmasking domestic violence

Inspired: World Press Photo Awards

The results of the World Press Photo Awards were released a few weeks ago, and the winners are stunning. Out of 103,481 photographs from 5,666 photographers, a few winning photos were chosen by an international jury in a number of categories ranging from sports to news to daily life. These were a few of the photos I found most striking, but all of them are so incredible. Head over to the World Press website to check out the rest of the winning images for 2013.

Gaza Burial, Paul Hensen, 20 Nov 2013
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories
World Press Photo of the Year, 1st Prize, Spot News Singles
Joy at the End of the Run, Wei Seng Chen, 12 Feb 2012
Batu Sangkar, West Sumatra, Indonesia
1st Prize, Sports Action Single
Emperor Penguins, Paul Nicklen, 18 Nov 2011
Rose Sea, Antarctica
1st Prize, Nature Stories
Cross Country Steeplechase, Roman Vondrous, 15 Sep 2012
Pardubice, Czech Republic
1st Prize, Sports Action Stories
At the Dandora Dump, Micah Albert, 03 April 2012
Nairobi, Kenya
1st Prize, Contemporary Issues Singles

Want to know how they picked the winners? Check out these interviews with the jury members.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Songs for Sunday: The Roots and Sufjan Stevens

These four tracks, which comprise the Redford suite that concludes The Roots' Undun album, have been playing on repeat for about three days as I work on thesis edits. Love love love. (The rest of the album is pretty nice as well.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Confronting a Mental Disorder

Burn #210 by David Nadel
It is quite difficult to bluntly admit one's weakness, to lay bare one's closely-guarded, mangled pieces without excuse or explanation, without mounting some defense or plea of extenuating circumstances. Easier to lay charge on some environment factor, to impugn some abtruse agent-- school, work, weddings... or perhaps to construct some detailed analysis of the influencing factors. If this, this, and that coincide, then this failing is the inevitable result. Such constructions lead to false hopes: once this is done, all will be well and normal again; if we just make it till Christmas, till graduation, till the 5th of March, this won't bother us anymore. 

But the circumstances change, the deadlines of change come and go, those influencing agents mysteriously fade away, and the gaping wound remains, unhealed, unchanged. More explanations can be sought, perhaps even convincingly found, but the facade begins to slip, paint peeling, frame sagging. Those willing to look will see the straining timbers beneath the plaster and cheerful signs. Much longer and down it falls.

The honesty begins with oneself, for the excuses, though to them told, are not so much made for the others. Acceptance of these flaws is often feigned but rarely carried to full term. It's the schedule or the assignment, the sheer number of demands or the short time in which they must be done- it must be. A change of scenery would cure it, but since there is so much to be done here now we must grit our teeth and suffer through. It's easier to believe this than to grapple with the fundamental shift required to cope with a permanent impediment. 

Mental disorder is a term quite apt for application to anxiety and panic. One's thoughts are constantly asunder-- leaping from thought to thought and task to task propelled with an impending sense of doom. The inability to stop the mind leads to flurries of business, the harnessing of thoughts for productive activity or their preoccupation with stories and news of the day, for at the moment they are left to their own devices comes the overwhelming wave of dread, the paralyzing sense of failure, the seemingly prescient clarity that nothing will end well. These thoughts, if captured, are easily dismissed as irrational, but the feelings are not, nor the physiological response they provoke. The clenched jaw, the racing heart, the perspiring palms and quickening breath, the trembling frame, weighted chest, sudden faintness all spell fear, choking, inescapable fear. At the surface these fears bear names: the deadline-missing-fear, the offending-fear, the being-mistaken-fear. But at their heart something unnameable lies, no matter how often one tries to conjure it into words in the middle of the night. And after the weddings and paper deadlines, the moves and illnesses, the self-imposed deadlines, the thing remains, evidencing its persistence and forcing a new reckoning with the frustration and shame of admission that one cannot control one's own mind and hasn't the slightest idea how to change that. 

The last few weeks have been full of projects, opportunities, exciting news, nasty flu, tasks checked off and more tasks to do, and they have brought with them the difficult realization that I have once again underestimated my anxiety disorder. My deadlines have passed, and the terror remains, whether the week is busy or calm, whether the deadlines are short or long, whether the project is going poorly or splendidly. It feels like a continual drowning: treading water on the good days, flailing and gasping on others, whittling away at the last shreds of patience, stealing any sense of hope or calm, wearing on the ability to function reasonably, trapping me in my own thoughts, unable to claw my way out of a perpetual state of semi-isolation. The feeling of having little to know control over one's thoughts leads to perpetual frustration and exhaustion.  And at this point it is difficult to know how to cope with this unwanted companion. I know the practical steps: the breathing, the centering, the reframing; but such small tools seem vastly inadequate in the shadow of the monolith that towers above me, like spoons in a  sinking ocean-liner. Still something else whispers that this is all in my head while another suggests that I am not trying hard enough. Another points out that hearing voices, metaphorical or not, is evidence enough for a lack of sanity. I wonder sometimes if turning toward pharmaceutical solutions would be a wise choice or a cop-out. The winning feeling seems to be paralysis. 

Yet even with the realization of these last few weeks come comforts, most of all that even in this we have begun a marriage. In all honesty, it probably took a marriage to provoke the final blunt admission that things are wrong and cannot easily be righted. And though my anxieties wear on him-- the volatility, the crises, the moments of despair-- he says that he knew what he was getting into and that this does not change his love. Together we'll struggle through and find something that helps. It's by no means easy, but it is incredibly reassuring to not be alone. 

Part of the practical reality of the moment means that I'm not sure how much I'll be writing at the moment. I'm beginning to learn that I need to give myself grace, and, with a house still half in boxes and a number of key school projects and important interviews coming up, I'm finding it necessary to carefully conserve my time and energy. I'm not sure how long this process of managing this anxiety will take or what it will look like, but I know it needs to happen now. And so I start and hope for the best. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Short Film: 3x3

I love this wonderful little short film about an intrepid night janitor from Portuguese director Nona Rocha:

Grande prémio ZON (portugal) | Cinema Jove Festival Internacional de Cine, Spain | Festival Internacional de Cine de Huesca, Espanha, Spain | Warsaw Film Festival, Polónia | Festival Internacional de Cinema do Algarve, Portugal | Odense International Film Festival, Dinamarca
Curtas Vila do Conde Festival Internacional de Cinema | Festival du Court Métrage de Bruxelles, Bélgica | Circuito Off Venice International Short Film Festival, Italy | Sapporo International Short Film Festival, Japan
Naoussa International Film Festival, Greece: 3rd Best Short Film, People's Choice Award
Festival Internacional de Cinema de Humor, Portugal: Menção Honrosa Curta Metragem de Ficção
Festival Iberico de Badajoz: Young audience award
Faial Filmes Fest Festival de Curtas das Ilhas, Portugal: Prémio RTP2 - Onda Curta
Golden Butterfly Prize for Best Direction at the 24th International Festival of Films for Children & Young Adults

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Late Song: Freelance Whales

This is a bit past Sunday...and Monday too for that matter. My excuse: Deadlines have been looming and I've been buried in an avalanche of Russian essays (in Russian), GIS visualization (map-making in layman's terms), and trying to help put together a lecture that will convince a bunch of eighteen-year-olds that there is much more to studying applied political economy in Europe than study abroad excursions to Spain. 

I'll be back tomorrow to write some and share some wonderful finds I've made in the past few days, but in the meantime I want to share this song from a great little band that my sister introduced me to, the Freelance Whales. Their closest relation in sound is probably Arcade Fire, another love of mine, with their astral sound and choice of instruments. Here's their song "Aeolus," performed live:

Freelance Whales performing Aeolus from their new album Diluvia, available now. 
Get it on iTunes here: 
Find out more here:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy Friday!

Tonari no Totaro by Victor Vercesi

It's finally the weekend! We're still unpacking, so that will probably take up the majority of our weekend. Plus, for the first day in a while, we get to sleep in tomorrow! Sleeping, eating, unpacking, cleaning, perhaps watching the Super Bowl- that will be our weekend. Just what we need after weeks of craziness. But before I go take a nap (or work on homework...), here are some links for you:

Maybe I'll make a Big Pancake for breakfast?

This Totoro print is gorgeous

Make your own Masala tea

Lots and lots of business cards

How awesome is this chromatic typewriter?

Have a wonderful weekend!