Monthly Archives: April 2018

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) -The Hidden Epidemic- Facts You Need to Know

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious  and debilitating mental health problem in which people fixate on imagined body flaws to the point where the individuals sometime commit suicide rather than face another day.  Body Dysmorphic Disorder  impacts over 5 million people in The United States, yet is is not as well known as other mental health problems.   Here are the facts you need to know:

BDD is different for men and women – Women with BDD usually fixate on the appearance of their face.  Men will often, although not always, fixate on the size and muscle tone of their bodies.

BDD is a serious life-threatening mental illness.  People do not understand the severity of BDD.  After all, none of us are completely happy with the way we look.  However, people with BDD have taken this to such an extreme that their lives become impossible to live normally.  They may become afraid to leave the house for fear that people are staring and taking about how ugly they are.  They are afraid to pass a mirror, or else sit for hours staring into a mirror crying. When they come to the conclusion that their “flaw” will never disappear, they may actually kill themselves.

Marilyn Monroe suffered from BDD and eventually committed suicide

Marilyn Monroe suffered from BDD and eventually committed suicide

Many celebrities have suffered from BDD. This includes, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe and Sarah Michelle Geller.  Marilyn was unhappy most of her life and eventually committed suicide.  Andy Warhol was convinced that his nose was bright red, although it was not.  He went so far as to have a plastic surgeon sand his nose. Many people with BDD will undergo unnecessary and often dangerous plastic surgery. These surgeries  do not fix BDD, since the problem is psychological. No matter how successful the surgery, people with BDD will still consider themselves ugly.

Andy Warhol had severe BDD.

Andy Warhol had severe BDD.

People with BDD do not look sick. In fact they may look great. Because there is nothing actually physically wrong with people with BDD and because they are so concerned with their appearance, they often look very attractive. If someone has  anorexia,  the extreme weight loss is obvious to friends and family who then try to get help for that that person. However, people with Body Dysmorphia look and are physically healthy.

People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder hide the condition. In our society, we make fun of people we consider vain.  People with BDD don’t want to be considered “vain” or “weird”, so they tell people that everything is fine.

Sarah Michelle Geller had suffered from BDD for many years.

Sarah Michelle Geller has suffered from BDD for many years.

People with BDD will never believe you when you tell them they look good . Once someone with Body Dysmorphic Disorder focuses on a “flaw” nothing you say will be able to dissuade the person that the flaw does not exist.  Telling them to forget about it won’t work. This would be like telling someone with a broken leg to just get up and start walking.

People with BDD will take extreme, dangerous steps to try to correct an imagined flaw.  Women who see imagines blemishes on their face may begin to scratch at them trying to remove them. This can eventually cause rips in the skin and real scars. Men may take huge, life-threatening amounts of steroids or other drugs trying to achieve an impossibly large physique.

BDD and OCD are not the same. Although BDD and OCD have many similar characteristics they are not the same. BDD is a very specific obsession and is often misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists as OCD.   This is a problem, since the treatments are different.

The girl in the mirror will never look good enough for someone with BDD

The girl in the mirror will never look good enough for someone with BDD

Successful treatment is possible but the feeling never goes away completely. People with Body Dysmorphic disorder can lead healthy, happy lives, but there will be periodic relapses.  In some ways it is like an addiction. There is no such thing as an ex-addict or an ex-alcoholic. People with those issues will say that the problem is always lurking in the background. BDD is the same. It can be handled with mental health professional treatment, but it must always be actively guarded against. One of the best books ever written about what it is like to have mental illness is I Don’t Want To Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz. In this book of poetry, Samantha Schutz writes:

                                        I am in a house.

                                       I am in one room, and my anxiety is in another.

                                      It’s close. I can feel it. I can go to it.

                                     But I won’t.

Those courageous words demonstrate clearly the years long lonely struggle people with mental illness face.

Most psychiatrists or psychologists do not specialize in Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Therefore, it is important that if you or someone you love needs help you find the right treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask doctors how much they know about BDD, and if they have treated anyone with this condition before.

Hopefully this article has been helpful. Please look up more about this condition. If we have gotten even one person with Body Dyrmorphic Disorder to seek help, then  we will consider this blog a success.

Meeks Cutoff – People either love or hate this Independent film

Meeks Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt, is a realistic, gripping drama about the struggle for survival on the 1849 Oregon Trail. It is not fair to call this film a Western, since it has none of the Hollywood clichés usually associated with that genre. It follows a group of settlers trying to cross the high plains by wagon, as they slowly realize that they might not survive the trip.

The settlers are guided by Steven Meek (perfectly played by Bruce Greenwood), who looks like an expert  guide. He is completely self-confident, has the long hair, beard and buckskin jacket associated with pioneer scouts. Meek loves entertaining everyone with tails of his past adventures.

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

Settlers in Meeks Cutoff in search of water

However, the settlers have endured weeks of wandering and are running low on food and water. They are quickly coming to the conclusion that despite his bravado, Meek has no idea what he is doing or where they are.

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in "Meeks Cutoff"

Bruce Greenwood as Mr. Meek in “Meeks Cutoff”

Kelly Reichardt’s direction and filming are wonderful. You can feel the thirst and exhaustion of these travelers. There is no background music and at times there is no sound other than the repetitive scraping of an ungreased wagon wheel.

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

Rod Rondeaux as the mysterious Indian in Meeks Cutoff

There is a panic when the group discovers they are being followed by a Cayuse Indian (brilliantly played by Rod Rondeaux). Meek and the other men capture the Indian. Meek wants to kill him immediately before he can alert other “savages”. However Meek is faced down by Emily Tetherow (wonderfully portrayed by Michelle Williams). Her argument is not that it would be immoral to kill the Indian. Instead, she points out that since the Indian is alive, he must know where water is.

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

Michelle Williams in Meeks Cutoff

No one, including Meek can speak the Indian’s language. In fact, it is only Meek’s guess that the Indian is a Cayuse. However, they give the Indian a good blanket and try their best to demonstrate that they will give him another blanket in payment if he leads them to water.

The Indian gets the idea, and begins leading the little wagon train, while Meek closely watches him. It is unclear if they are being lead to water, or an ambush.

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Meeks Cutoff director Kelly Reichardt

Moviegoers tend to either love of hate films by Kelly Reichardt, with no in between. People who hate Kelly Reichardt films find them too slow moving and are frustrated that they many times have no conclusion. Often her movies seem to just stop at a certain point. It can seem like the movies simply end whenever Kelly Reichardt happens to run out of film.

However, we are in the group of people who love Kelly Reichardt movies. The subject material is always fascinating. In stressful situations the characters behave like real people rather than Hollywood action heroes. As for the way Kelly Reichardt ends movies, as frustrating as that is, this is one of the things that make her films so realistic. In real life you don’t get all the answers, see poetic justice, or find out what happened to everyone. The endings of Kelly Reichardt films are what makes people continue to discuss and debate the films years after having seen them.

The Sympathizer – A Viet Cong Spy in America

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a fascinating novel about a Viet Cong spy who was an aide to a general in the South Vietnamese army. The spy is writing this memoir from his prison cell as a confession, although it is not clear whose prison he is in. Did the Americans discover the aide and convict him as a spy, or did the communists arrest him as an anti-revolutionary for being too close to the Americans?

The final American evacuation of Saigon.

The final American evacuation of Saigon.

It begins just as the Americans are evacuating Saigon. The communists order the spy to accompany the general when  general flees to The United States. It may seem there is no point in this. After all, the communists had won the Viet Nam war, so who cares about a fleeing losing general? However, the communists were very worried that the South Vietnamese who fled to America would join together and try to re-invade Vietnam. Therefore,  the spy was sent to discover what plots were being hatched in America.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

However, the spy soon discovers that America for Vietnamese refugees is far stranger than anything he could have imagined. For one thing, there was really no place where they fit in. He finds that that,

” The majority of Americans regarded us with ambivalence, if not outright distaste, we being living reminders of their stinging defeat. We threatened the sanctity and symmetry of a white and black America whose yin and yang racial politics left no room for any other color…”

Thus begins a communist’s spy’s strange travels through the maze of American society and politics. The Sympathizer is wonderfully written and won both a Pulitzer Prize and an Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence In Fiction.

Viet Thanh Nguyen himself was born in Vietnam but grew up in America. His writing captures the odd absurdities related to the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese refugee experience. In some ways The Sympathizer treats the Vietnam war the way Joseph Heller treated World War II  in Catch-22. He points the weird and humorous experiences without minimizing the overall tragedy and violence.

Tourists in 2018 in Vietnam having a fun time exploring Viet Cong tunnels from the war

Tourists in 2018 in Vietnam having a fun time exploring Viet Cong tunnels from the war

The Sympathizer points out that the final American retreat from Vietnam was such a farce it is almost impossible to believe. On April 28, 1975 President Gerald Ford gave the order for the final American evacuation of Vietnam. Previously  all field commanders had been given secret orders that the signal for this would be when American Armed Forces Radio played Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. As soon as that was played all American forces were to get out of the country as fast as possible.

However, when the final order came from President Ford, no one at the radio station could find a copy of the record.  Finally, someone was able to locate a Tennessee Ernie Ford version of White Christmas and that was played. American commanders in the field were totally confused since almost no one had ever heard this version, and no one was sure if this was the evacuation signal or not.  This event actually happened. As hard as Americans would like to forget the Vietnam War, the entire war seemed to be nothing but one mistake like this after another.

The Sympathizer switches back and forth between flashbacks of the war and Vietnamese  life in post-war America. Both venues are fascinating.

There have been a huge number of books and movies about the Vietnam War. However, The Sympathizer is one of the few from the point of view of the Vietnamese who fled to America at the end of the war.

Unlike other immigrant groups who came to America, the Vietnamese never ended up having a large political impact. Well-meaning American charitable organizations helped Vietnamese find housing and jobs all over the United States. While this seems nice, it also meant that the Vietnamese were spread too thin to be politically important anywhere. Compare this to the Irish immigrants of an earlier century, who stayed in large numbers in New York City. This allowed the Irish to eventually dominate the New York City police force, create a political machine and get many Irish-American mayors elected. Later Italian immigrants became a political force in New York and New Jersey. To this day, Italian-Americans are the largest ethnic group in New Jersey and have major political influence.

As The Sympathizer progresses, the Communist Spy (who does not mention his own name). Begins to realize that the Communist takeover of South Vietnam may not be the paradise he had dreamed of. As more and more Vietnamese refugees arrive in America, he hears stories of the atrocities that the new Communist rulers are imposing back in Vietnam. The spy also begins to see the psychological toll the relocation to a new land is having on the refugees. A man who was a General in the South Vietnamese Army is now just a liquor store manager. Another brave man who was a decorated Special Forces Captain now pumps gas all day and gets drunk each night. The Spy knows that these men fought against Communism, but he still feels sorry for their loss of dignity.

The Spy admits that his great strength as a human is also his greatest weakness as a spy. He has the ability to see all sides of every issue. This a wonderful attitude for a philosopher, but dangerous  one for a man who is supposed to be a Communist zealot.

We highly recommend The Sympathizer, and hope you enjoy it.

Why The Dutch Tell Germans, “Go Dig A Hole In The Sand”

“Go Dig A Hole In The Sand!”, is an insult Dutch people sometimes say to Germans. This basically means, “go kill yourself”, and dates all the way back to the end of World War II.  That’s when German prisoners of war were used to dig up the hundreds of thousands of land mines buried on the beaches of Europe. The German POWs were not given any equipment other than long sticks and small shovels. The sticks were used to locate the mines  and the shovels to dig the mines  up.

German Prisoners of War digging for land mines after World War II

German Prisoners of War digging for land mines after World War II

The Allied soldiers guarding the Germans stayed far away, since every so  often  one of the mines would explode killing the German trying to disarm it.

Land mine hidden on a beach

Land mine hidden on a beach. Could you spot it in time?

The big mystery about the  “Go dig a hole in the sand phrase is why do only the Dutch say it? The French, the Poles and the Belgians never yell “Go Dig A Hole In the Sand” at a German, even through the Germans also invaded those countries in World War II. What is it that has caused the Dutch dislike of Germans to be so much more intense than that of other countries also invaded by the Nazis? There are many theories for this. Perhaps it is because The Netherlands was one of the first countries the Nazis invaded and one of the last to be liberated. There is also the fact that after  the Dutch resistance sabotaged a Nazi train shipment of weapons, the Germans stopped all food shipments into The Netherlands. Dutch civilians were at near starvation levels by the end of World War II.

German World War II prisoners of War

German World War II prisoners of War

Of course, some say that part of the Dutch continued hatred of the Germans is a secret self loathing and self-doubt about the actions of the Dutch during World War II. There was a small but active Dutch Nazi Party, whose members actually joined the German Army and fought alongside the Nazis. There were also Dutch woman who during the Nazi occupation were “horizontal collaborators”. That is, there were Dutch women who had sex with German soldiers.

Who betrayed the Dutch girl Anne Frank?

Who betrayed  Anne Frank in The Netherlands?

The Dutch famously hid Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam, but even today the question remains as to “who betrayed  Anne Frank?” Did the Gestapo just happen to discover Anne Frank, or did a Dutch person turn her in? These are things the Dutch do not want to think about, and instead in their anger yell Go dig a hole in the sand!” at young Germans who were born decades after World War II ended.

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

Haven van Zandvoort beach The Netherlands.

Old Dutch people who were actually alive in World War II think it is a disgrace that the “Go Dig A Hole In The Sand” expression still exists. They will reprimand anyone who dares use it. Having actually lived through the horrors of a war, the old people understand that hatred breeds hatred in a never-ending cycle. They say it is time for the Dutch themselves to dig a hole in the sand and bury their hatred of Germans forever.

The Death of Channel Awesome

Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions  that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside,  Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.

Doug Walker - The "Nostalgia Critic" and "That Guy With Glasses"

Doug Walker – The “Nostalgia Critic” and “That Guy With Glasses”

In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned  by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms.  YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright  infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous.  As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise  it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money.  It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise.  Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.

Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm.  The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than  others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.

There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the  videos.  So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome.  However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission.  Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.

Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?

However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.

Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.

Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole.  On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.

Barry – the assassin we love

HBO’s dark comedy Barry stars Bill Hader as a cold blooded assassin who suddenly decides he wants to be an actor. Somehow, we cheer for Barry, the same way we all cheered for the serial killer Dexter.

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

Barry’s life is a series of routine murders until he gets an assignment to kill a would-be actor in Los Angeles. Barry follows his target into an acting class, and suddenly falls in love with the craft of acting. Barry has an epiphany. He will give up assassinations and become an actor himself.

Bill Hader as the contract killer "Barry"

Bill Hader as the contract killer “Barry”

Of course, career changes are always difficult. The crazy and violent Chechens who hired Barry are angry at his lack of loyalty and decide to kill him instead. They soon find out that trying to murder a professional killer with the reflexes of a cat is probably a mistake.

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

The casting in Barry is Perfect.  Henry Winkler is the acting coach, whose love of money far surpasses his love of the theater. He spouts endless cliche’s about the acting craft, while always making sure that every student pays in cash in advance.

Stephen Root who arranges murders in "Barry"

Stephen Root who arranges murders in “Barry”

Sarah Goldberg is fellow acting student Sally, who immediately senses that there is something special about Barry.  Sally is the type of person Barry has never met before. She actually cares about other people and has real emotions, and that fascinates Barry.

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in "Barry"

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in “Barry”

Stephen Root is Monroe Fuches, who negotiates assassinations and handles all the money. Despite being in the business of murder himself, Monroe is a coward. However, with all his flaws, he is the closest thing Barry has to an actual friend.

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in "Barry"

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in “Barry”

Anthony Carrigan & Glen Fleshler play two of the crazy Chechens. Despite their violent occupations, they are still burdened with spoiled children and demanding wives. This role is a real switch for Glen Flechler, who plays a sophisticated Wall Street lawyer in the series Billions.

Barry is a fun series with an ensemble of terrific actors. We give it our highest rating.

Need To Know – the spy in the family

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland is spy novel about a CIA analyst caught between loyalty to family or country, when she discovers that her own husband is a long-time Russian sleeper agent. Vivian Miller , the CIA analyst, has created a sophisticated software program, theoretically allowing her to hack into the computers of suspected Russian control agents.  If the program works, the CIA will be able to see what spies Russia has working in America.

Need To Know

Need To Know

No one at the CIA really expects the computer program to work. Vivian has been tinkering with it for months with no success. Then one day during testing, Vivian is able to hack into the computer of a top level Russian spymaster. This will be the crowning  moment of her career and assure her a promotion.

Inside CIA headquarters

Inside CIA headquarters

Vivian finds a file on the spy master’s computer, with photographs of all the agents he is controlling in America. She is ecstatic until she sees that one of the photos is of her own husband Matt.  They have been married for years and have 3 children. He can’t possibly be a spy for the Russians. But the more she tries to convince herself that Matt is not a spy the more she realizes he is.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

The correct course of action would be for Vivian to immediately notify her superiors. However, she knows that the second she does that, her life as she knows it will be over. Matt will go to jail, possible for life. Vivian will be suspected of being a traitor herself. Even if she is not arrested her career as a trusted CIA agent will be ruined. What will happen to her kids?

In a moment of panic, Vivian deletes Matt’s picture fro the Russian spymaster’s computer. In that one second she realizes that she moved from a woman with a dilemma, to an actual traitor to the United States.

The plot of Need To Know then follows the complex story of what to do next. Vivian realizes that she has dug herself a hole that may lead her to prison for life.   Can she save herself, her family and still be loyal to America? As a computer analyst herself, she understands that it is only a matter of time until both the Russians and the Americans will zero in on her tampering.

"Need To Know" author Karen Cleveland

“Need To Know” author Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland is an excellent writer and Need To Know is her first novel. Karen Cleveland herself is a former CIA analyst (whose husband is not a Russian spy). She has a Masters  degrees from Trinity College in Dublin in international peace studies, and a degree in public policy from Harvard University.

Like John  Le Carrie, Karen Cleveland zeros in on the emotional and personal aspects of spying, rather than political implications. Need To Know is a fast moving novel with an unexpected ending. We look forward to reading Karen Cleveland’s next book.