Thursday, September 29, 2016

Existential Dread

Do you live your life DREADING certain activities?  It feels like I always have something I am fretting about or dreading.  It is annoying.  Yesterday I had to attend a meeting that had me so nervous.  I considered calling in sick, but couldn't since I head out on vacation in a bit and it just wouldn't have gone over well.  So instead I dreaded this damn meeting all week.  Said meeting finally took place and it really wasn't THAT bad.  

I'm heading out-of-state on vacation soon, and I'll be staying with two people that I HAVE NEVER EVEN MET.  I am trying not to freak out about it, but what if they take an instant dislike to me?!?!?!?   EEEEE.  That could be awkward, and to be honest this happens more than I would like.  I can USUALLY overcome it and turn someone around, but not always.  But hopefully things are fine and we hit it off.  But the DREAD is definitely in the background and I am TRYING to get a grip and tamp it down.

While obsessing about dread yesterday, I found this article on-line.  I've read it repeatedly.   WEIRD. Bizarre.  And rather fascinating, if you care to read it:

Experiencing Existential Dread?  Tylenol May Do the Trick

Thinking about death can cause us to feel a sort of existential angst that isn’t attributable to a specific source. Now, new research suggests that acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain medication, may help to reduce this existential pain.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

According to lead researcher Daniel Randles and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, the new findings suggest that Tylenol may have more profound psychological effects than previously thought:

“Pain extends beyond tissue damage and hurt feelings, and includes the distress and existential angst we feel when we’re uncertain or have just experienced something surreal. Regardless of the kind of pain, taking Tylenol seems to inhibit the brain signal that says something is wrong.”

Randles and colleagues knew from previous research that when the richness, order, and meaning in life is threatened — with thoughts of death, for instance — people tend to reassert their basic values as a coping mechanism.

The researchers also knew that both physical and social pain — like bumping your head or being ostracized from friends — can be alleviated with acetaminophen. Randles and colleagues speculated that the existentialist suffering we face with thoughts of death might involve similar brain processes. If so, they asked, would it be possible to reduce that suffering with a simple pain medicine?

The researchers had participants take either Tylenol brand acetaminophen or a sugar pill placebo in a double-blind study. One group of participants was asked to write about what would happen to their body after they die, and the control group was asked to write about having dental pain, an unpleasant but not existentially distressing thought.
All the participants were then asked to read an arrest report about a prostitute, and to set the amount for bail.

Just as expected, the control group that wrote about dental pain — who weren’t made to feel an existentialist threat — gave relatively low bail amounts, only about $300. They didn’t feel the need to assert their values.

On the other hand, the participants who wrote about their own death and were given a sugar pill gave over $400 for bail, in line with previous studies. They responded to the threat on life’s meaning and order by affirming their basic values, perhaps as a coping mechanism.
But, the participants in this group who took Tylenol were not nearly as harsh in setting bail. These results suggest that their existential suffering was ‘treated’ by the headache drug.
A second study confirmed these results using video clips. People who watched a surreal video by director David Lynch and took the sugar pill judged a group of rioters following a hockey game most harshly, while those who watched the video and took Tylenol were more lenient.
The study demonstrates that existentialist dread is not limited to thinking about death, but might generalize to any scenario that is confusing or surprising — such as an unsettling movie.
“We’re still taken aback that we’ve found that a drug used primarily to alleviate headaches can also make people numb to the worry of thinking about their deaths, or to the uneasiness of watching a surrealist film,” says Randles.
The researchers believe that these studies may have implications for clinical interventions down the road.
“For people who suffer from chronic anxiety, or are overly sensitive to uncertainty, this work may shed some light on what is happening and how their symptoms could be reduced,” Randles concludes.

In addition to Randles, co-authors on this research include Steven Heine and Nathan Santos of the University of British Columbia.
This research was supported by a grant and doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
For more information about this study, please contact: Daniel Randles at and Steven Heine at

Needless to say, I'll be bringing a lot of TYLENOL on my trip!  :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Zun Lee

I recently saw a photo by Zun Lee (the first one pictured below), and just loved it. I then zipped over to his website to see more.  I thought it would be a quick visit, but I was there a l-o-n-g time admiring his beautiful shots.  His work features none of the slick, coiffed, carefully composed portraits, selfies and ads of "beautiful" people that we are inundated with every day.  He manages to capture the character, personality and individuality of his subjects -- urban Americana at it's best. Here are some of my favorites:

Zun Lee

About the artist:

Zun Lee is an award-winning Canadian photographer, physician and educator. He was born and raised in Germany and has also lived in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago. He currently resides in Toronto.

Lee has been globally recognized as one of the top emerging visual storytellers to watch. His focus on the importance of quotidian Black life has led to publications in the New York Times, Slate, Wall Street Journal, TIME, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, MSNBC, Washington Post, Forbes, and Hyperallergic.

For his project Father Figure, Lee places the topic of black father absence stereotypes into a broader context of pathologized black masculinity. The resulting monograph, produced by acclaimed publisher Ceiba Foto, has won several major international awards. Lee worked on repeated assignments in Ferguson, Missouri in the fall of 2014, where he engaged the local community to produce a more nuanced narrative of resistance. His latest project FadeResistance interrogates a gap in the contemporary history of black visual representation through an archive of found Polaroids of African American families. He was awarded a Magnum Foundation Fellowship in 2015.

Lee has shown his work in solo and group exhibits in New York City, Washington DC, Toronto, Paris, Perpignan, Orlando and Los Angeles. He has spoken publicly at New York University, Nathan Cummings Foundation, University of Chicago, Photoville Brooklyn, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, Annenberg Space for Photography, International Center of Photography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Recyclart Brussels.

Selected honors and awards include: Magnum Foundation Fellow (2015), Photo District NewsPhoto Annual Winner (2015), LOOK3 Educator (2015), Paris Photo/Aperture Photobook AwardsShortlist (2014), Photo District News’ 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch (2014).

text above found here

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Leyly Matine-Daftary

I recently saw an image of a Leyley Matine-Daftary painting, and I was intrigued. It was such a beautiful, simple, crisp and clean work that I started hunting around to research a bit more about this artist that I had never heard of before.  I found the images below, and I just love them. They remind me a bit of some of Picasso's work, plus a touch of Alex Katz, with maybe a dash of Jonas Wood. Her works are so beautiful, simple, clean and clear, but with a bit of whimsy. It's like she reduced all of the complications of the subject matter, and presented their essence in a thoughtfully condensed manner.  I think they are perfect.


A significant figure in the artistic history of the Middle East, Leyly Matine-Daftary was amongst the few artists who changed the historically stolid dictates of traditionalism prevalent in the region. In addition to establishing a personal style of modernism, she helped promulgate the movement, now so firmly evident in Iran and in the Arab world, which produced a great number of exceptional and internationally renowned female artists.

Leyly Matine-Daftary was born in Tehran, Iran, on January 18, 1937. After completing her elementary education in Tehran, she attended Cheltenham Ladies College and continued her education at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, from which she received a degree in Fine Arts. She returned to Tehran in the late 1950s and began a career as a professional artist and also as an educator, becoming a lecturer on sculpture and sculpting at the Fine Arts Faculty of Tehran University. In 1961 she married Kaveh Farman-Farmaian with whom she had two children, Kamran and Mansureh.

Matine-Daftary was at the forefront of the arts in the Middle East, with great involvement in the Tehran Biennials - the genesis of the current direction of contemporary arts in the region – and in the Shiraz Arts Festival, for which Matine-Daftary created the public aesthetic through her iconic design of posters, costumes and various attendant identifying material.

Her quiet brand of warm grace made her one of the most liked and admired personalities in the regions’ art world, highlighting her belief that nobility was a product of integrity and dignity and not simply an exigency of birth. That even though Matine-Daftary was always at the heart of Iran’s social, political and cultural elite. The daughter of a Prime Minister and of a formidable aristocrat, and a granddaughter of a legendary Prime Minister who graced the cover of Time Magazine on three separate occasions including its Man of the Year issue, Matine–Daftary possessed the genuine humility of the truly noble.

After a two year battle with brain cancer, she passed away in Paris on April 17, 2007.
Leyly Matine-Daftary’s legacy of modernism and minimalism will continue to be one of the most significant influences in the development of the contemporary arts in the Middle East.