Can a single pill change your life?

Can a Single Pill Change Your Life?

MDMA, the active ingredient in the drug Ecstasy, has been reviled as a menace and even a killer. Now some therapists claim it can help light the way out of a traumatic past.

Sarah lived in a basement for a few weeks when she was a child. But in a way, she lived there much of her life.

Her father terrorized their family. He hit her, threw hot coffee at her, locked her in closets. Once, he held a gun to her sister's head. The winter Sarah was 11, she brought in the wrong wood for the fireplace, so her father locked her in the family's unfinished concrete basement. Her meals were brought to the top of the stairs. It was a freezing Christmas in Pennsylvania, more than 30 years ago.

Sarah eventually left home for college, earned a master's degree in education, had a son. Surprisingly, she stayed in close contact with her parents. But the sound of a door clicking shut made her heart pound; if her dog barked, electric sparks shot through her limbs. At a party, she'd struggle to follow the conversation; the room would spin and the lights would smear; her ears rang with blurring voices. She slept badly, and always with the windows open and the doors unlocked. "I couldn't stand to feel trapped," she explains. She was often irritable or paranoid, short-fused, consumed with self-loathing.

Sarah's nervous system was stuck in the amber of childhood, when her psyche had been conditioned for chronic danger. Decades after leaving her father's house, her mind and body remained on 24-7 high alert, poised to duck a flying fist or slip through a closing door. She was in her early 30s before she received the formal diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

More at O Magazine

July, 2016

You Won’t Believe What a Laser Can Do for a Face

Her friends saw enviably rosy cheeks. She saw 18th-century painted ladies. Her dermatologist saw a skin condition with an unpronounceable name. After a few false starts, Jessica Winter finally stops turning red.

My facial features have never necessarily matched my inner state. My pupils are somewhat dilated most of the time, as if I've just bumped my head or dropped acid. In college I was constantly misplacing my glasses, and I was hopeless when it came to the minimal upkeep required for contact lenses; as a result, I tended to wander around campus squinting at people like the Wicked Witch sizing up Dorothy, even when I was in a Glinda kind of mood. I have a deviated septum—breathing through my nose was a skill I acquired only as a teenager—and a short upper lip, which means that in unguarded moments my mouth hangs open in bovine wonderment, even on days when I feel relatively confident of my three-digit IQ.

Then there are my cheeks. (The ones on my face.) Until recently, they blazed bright red day and night, in every season and emotional climate. I could spend an afternoon curled up on the sofa with a bag of Pirate's Booty and a month's worth of Us Weekly magazines and still look as if I'd just run a marathon in 100-degree heat, given birth at the finish line, and felt really embarrassed about it. For most people, a deep blush can signal exertion, coyness, shame, anger. For me, it could additionally indicate boredom, happiness, fatigue, or "What's for lunch?"

More at O Magazine

July, 2016

Daniel Day-Lewis: How the Greatest Living Actor Became Lincoln

The shy, soft-spoken actor on the challenge of portraying a man whom everyone and no one knows at once

In the summer of 2011, the actress Sally Field began receiving text messages from Abraham Lincoln.

“I’d hear that twinkle-twinkle on my phone, and he would have sent me some ridiculous limerick,” says Field, who plays the 16th President’s wife Mary Todd in the new film Lincoln. “He’d sign it, ‘Yours, A.’ I would text back as Mary, criticizing him for the waste of his time when he might have been pursuing something more productive.”

In May of the same year, the director of Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, received a Pearlcorder tape machine in the mail. “I turned it on, and it was Shakespeare and the Second Inaugural in this voice,” Spielberg says. The voice was Lincoln’s. Not the stentorian tone that generations of schoolchildren have inferred from Lincoln’s gloomy portraits, but the one described by contemporary observers: a gentle tenor, reedy and slightly cracked, the accent a frontier blend of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. “A beautiful voice. I wanted that voice to read me a book. It came with a letter that said, ‘After you listen to this, would you ring me up and we’ll have a natter?’ I immediately got on the telephone and said, ‘Who is this?’”

This is Daniel Day-Lewis, star of Lincoln (opening Nov. 9), who faced the paradoxical challenge of portraying a man whom everyone and no one knows at once. Lincoln is near enough that we can look at the light that fell upon him—he was the first U.S. President to be photographed extensively—but not so near that we can hear his voice or see his odd, flat-footed walk. He is ubiquitous but unknowable, frozen in marble or granite, flattened into currency. Try making him talk or move and you risk creating “an animatronic character at Epcot Center,” as Spielberg puts it. “That’s exactly what we didn’t want.”

More at Time

July, 2016

Kathryn Bigelow: The Art of Darkness (Time Cover Feature)

To understand the controversy around Kathryn Bigelow's hit film Zero Dark Thirty, it helps to understand Kathryn Bigelow's kind of movie.

In the late 1970s, the young artist Kathryn Bigelow had a thought-provoking conversation with a friend of a friend by the name of Andy Warhol. "Andy was saying that film is way more populist than art — that art's very elitist, so you exclude a large audience," she recalls. Around the same time, she visited the Museum of Modern Art, paying special attention to Kazimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition: White on White and Piet Mondrian's color-block grids. "I remember thinking, The audience for this is very specific," Bigelow says over lunch in her hotel suite at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park, not far from the museum. "A Malevich or a Mondrian requires that you come to it with a certain amount of information, a context. And you don't necessarily need that with film. A movie is accessible, available. That was exciting to me from a political standpoint."

She emphasizes the word political, lingering over it for a moment. Bigelow's film The Hurt Locker (2009), which logs 38 days with a bomb-disposal unit in Baghdad, was widely perceived as taking a neutral or apolitical stance on its subject matter — if such a stance is possible when the subject matter is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It won nearly universal praise as well as the Academy Award for Best Picture. Bigelow's follow-up, her second collaboration with screenwriter and journalist Mark Boal, was originally planned as a feature about special forces hunting Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora in 2001. Boal was deep into his screenplay when news broke of the SEAL Team 6 operation that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Almost immediately, he and Bigelow switched gears, instead mounting a chronicle of the 10-year hunt for the al-Qaeda leader.

More at Time

July, 2016

Chimp Change

When Marc Jurnove first visited the Long Island Game Farm Park and Zoo in the spring of 1995, he found Barney, a chimpanzee, living in bleak isolation, with only a swing to distract him and no other chimps in sight. Concerned, Jurnove sought legal action. However, the case that followed, Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Glickman (1998), did not focus on Barney's psychological well-being, oddly enough, but that of his human observer. As one of the deciding judges wrote, "Mr. Jurnove's affidavit is an uncontested statement of the injuries that he has suffered to his aesthetic interest in observing animals living under humane conditions."

Of course, none of the interested parties in this case were actually convinced that animal welfare is merely a matter of taste. But the notion of "aesthetic injury" is just one means of circumventing a hard legal fact: Property can't sue, thus neither can animals, nor can a guardian ad litem bring criminal or civil action on their behalf. Some animal rights advocates are hoping that will soon change. In Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000) and the recently published Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights (both Perseus), attorney Steven M. Wise proposes "legal personhood" for certain highly intelligent nonhuman species, beginning with our evolutionary next-door neighbors: chimpanzees and bonobos, who are endangered in the wild. Wise's idea is a major point of contention in the far-flung animal rights debate, tangled in ageless questions of justice, philosophy, biology, even the very definition of being human.

Protections, if not rights, for animals have been on the books for decades. But though the Animal Welfare Act requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set minimum standards of nutrition and shelter for captive animals, they're difficult to enforce (especially against elusive traveling zoos, who are among the worst offenders), the fines are token, and the rules are skimpy—the Game Farm hadn't even broken any of them. Though Jurnove had standing to sue for once-removed distress, Barney himself had no judicial recourse.

More at The Village Voice

August, 2002