“Welcome Home: The Story of Scott Ostrom” Awarded 2012 Pulitzer Prize

Welcome Home, Soldier: The Story of Scott Ostrom

On April 16, 2012, Denver Post photographer Craig Walker was awarded his second Pulitzer, The 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, for his photo-essay Welcome Home: The Story of Scott Ostrom. Previously, Walker had been named Newspaper Photographer of the Year in the Missouri School of Journalism’s Pictures of the Year International Competition for the collection of photographs he took over 27 months about soldiers engaged in the Iraq war, which included the stunning images documenting the struggles of PTSD sufferer Brian Ostrom.

After serving four years as a reconnaissance man and having deployed twice to Iraq, Ostrom, who is now 27, returned home to the U.S. with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Since his discharge, Ostrom has struggled with the demands of daily life, from finding and keeping employment to maintaining healthy relationships. But most of all, he’s struggled to overcome his brutal and haunting memories of Iraq and his guilt for things he did and didn’t do, while fighting a war in which he no longer believes.

Read more about award-winning war photographers in the New York Times article and slideshow, Pulitzer Prizes: The Effects of War at Home (April 16, 2012) here.

Welcome Home, Soldier: The Story of Scott Ostrom

Slide Show: Welcome Home, Soldier: The Story of Scott Ostrom

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

On The Subject Of Depression is a one-minute animated short film by artist/animator Scott Benson.  Depending on which statistics you’re observing, depression effects between 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population, and it’s a major factor leading to countless suicides.  It’s not a pleasant topic, but it’s obviously a social issue of large importance.  Benson has opened up about his own experiences with the disorder in this new short film, stating that he made the film “hoping it would be cathartic for me and maybe a bit comforting for others who might have similar issues.”

On The Subject Of Depression: A Short Visual Experience

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Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D. (NYC)

Can you now recall all that you have known?
Will you never fall
When the light has flown?
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Won’t you come and say
If you know the way to blue?

-Nick Drake, 1969

Nick Drake: Way to Blue (1969)

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Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

Possessed is a documentary made by the young British filmmaker Martin Hampton. The short film is a shocking depiction of people whose lives have been scarred by obsessive hoarding. Possessed enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders, people with everyday experiences that have become dominated by their relationships to possessions; mobile phones, books, food containers and pieces of paper have taken over the lives of these “collectors.”

The film shows the four hoarders talking about their behavior and how it has affected their lives. It raises the question of to what extent hoarding is a revolt against the material recklessness of consumerism, and to what degree it’s an obsessive symptom of mental illness. When does collecting turn into hoarding, and why do possessions exert such an influence on our lives? Even if you can’t relate to hoarding, you’ll still be fascinated and moved by the plight of Mr. Hampton’s subjects. They are in different stages of both awareness and desperation, but all four of them are so straightforward and sincere that you can’t help but feel for them.

Possessed: Just Mad About Hoarding

(Best Viewed Full-Screen)

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Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Over the years, Gus Van Sant has become one of the premiere modern-day story tellers about the burdens of social and emotional dysfunction, assembling for his films a parade of hustlers, junkies, psychopathic weather girls and troubled geniuses to wander and stumble across the stage as fascinating displays for his film’s audiences. I have always found it to be a curiosity that in his increasingly popular films seemingly about sex, sexuality and wishes for emotional attachment in the lives of those living on society’s outer fringes (for example, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Milk), there is in fact a puzzling lack of real sexuality, sensuality or emotional intimacy between the main characters.

It appears that Van Sant presents his audiences with charades of sensuality and intimacy, directing his actors to perform as though they were emotionally engaged, when in fact they are not. Van Sant has adopted the very same vacant voyeuristic stance that was so characteristic for two of his main filmmaking heroes, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol.

Gus Van Sant’s 1978 short-film adaptation of William Burrough’s essay/short story Do Easy (DE) provides a clear example of the projection of Van Sant’s own psychology spilling over into the area of relational impairment. Most short reviews of Van Sant’s adaptation, The Discipline of Do Easy, blithely describe the film as an offbeat “instructional” little film about living in the easiest, most relaxed way we can. Some even say that the short film is filled with great advice that’s very zen-like in nature. A quirky and fun film to watch.

But let’s have another take on what goes on in Do Easy. Van Sant’s advice centers upon themes of collecting, measuring, counting, cleaning, repetition and “magical” undoing. He describes Doing Easy as a WAY of doing, but the doing is in fact constantly being alert to things, a never-ending vigilant observance of potentially dangerous objects, even within the small world of one’s very own apartment. Doing Easy yields neither an easy nor relaxed life, but rather an obsessive-compulsive pathology, most clearly manifested in a socially deadly form of isolation of affect.

Thinking and observing are separated from and take the place of real emotional relationships with others. And that is what is so characteristic of his major films about society’s outsiders. In this particular short film, Doing Easy doesn’t lead one to a relaxed sense of attachment to or closeness with others, but rather in the end it provokes the fearful destruction of others.

Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

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An Imaginary Life: Where Do Dead Imaginary Friends Go?

An Imaginary Life: Where Do Dead Imaginary Friends Go?

My Imaginary Friends

I usually very frequently post articles about Barack Obama. In fact, my articles here about him go way back to when he first published The Audacity of Hope. I ran across Barack when he was doing a book signing at one of our neighborhood bookstores, 59th Street Books in Hyde Park. Immediately afterwards, I went home and began writing my first and second articles about Obama. One of my last articles about him was posted here upon the emotionally stunning occasion of Obama’s election to be President of the United States. Subsequently, almost all of the media attention has been focused on the quotidian details of speculations about who Obama might select for senior staff positions in his administrations, and about how and how well various potential candidates might perform. And media pundits’ quarrelsome bickering about all of that. I have decided to refrain from joining in on the daily dramas of the media “guessing games.” For now, Barack is gone; he’s been very busy in a bunch of secret meetings, hidden away behind closed doors. And for the time being, that leaves me feeling a bit sad, like my imaginary friend has faded away.

So then I began to think more about imaginary friends. It’s hard for me to remember having any imaginary friends. Never did. Ever. That I can remember, anyway. Well, now that I’ve thought about it some, I did meet up with some imaginary friends when I was a youngster. I liked them a lot, too. I met them through books. You see, nobody taught me how to read, but I was already reading books when I was just five-years old. Robinson Caruso was my first imaginary friend, though he was always a bit fuzzy and cluttered up by all the pictures of the flora and fauna on that lush tropical island, as well as by the various colorful characters he encountered. Anyway, I didn’t stick with any one imaginary companion very long, over the years running through uncountable adventures of the the Bobbsey Twins (mostly Bert), Dorothy from Oz (but mostly The Tin Man and The Scarecrow), Black Beauty, The Lone Ranger, Rocketman and Lassie. Oh, I certainly can’t forget this one, and I had a dog that was really my bestest-ever-ever imaginary friend. I rescued him from a situation of terrible physical and emotional abuse, and we immediately became inseparable. But then he died (actually, got run over). All of them ended up just fading away from me. But part of me still wonders: where did all of my dead imaginary friends actually go?

About Imaginary Friends

For much of the first-half of the 20th century, experts about children either relegated or attributed imaginary friends to an immature stage of “magical thinking” that children needed to outgrow, or else the very notion of the existence of imaginary friends was just plain darkly dismissed.

But nowadays, an almost exactly opposite perspective prevails about imaginary friends. Studies in the area of child development have found that far from being done with imaginary companions at the age of four, older children (as well as some teenagers) report having imaginary companions. Research now suggests that imaginary friends can provide emotional stability, feelings of competence and a sense of enhanced social perception. Once again, “wholesome fantasy” is alive and well!

But what happens to one’s imaginary friends when childhood imaginary companions fade away, are rejected or dismissed when real-world opportunities for social interaction become more available and appealing to the child? Where do the poor little imaginary friends go when they die? Are they really gone or dead, or are they still sadly hanging around down here, watching as the real world goes around and passes them by? The following animated short film addresses that very question. At first, the film seems to be a light-hearted and humorous one, but the issues with which it deals are universally serious topics, matters of rejection, life and death.

Where Do Dead Imaginary Friends Go?

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Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Billy Collins

Today: If Ever There Were a Day So Perfect

Animation by Little Fluffy Clouds

Andrew Sullivan on tonight’s second presidential debate: “This has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out. It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate.”

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