Wednesday, June 29, 2011

So, I have been writing the proposal for my thesis this summer, and I just thought I would post a little section to give some background on what it's all about:

The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 1,596,670 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2011. Five percent of breast cancer patients, 20% of colon cancer patients, 56% of lung cancer patients, and 53% of pancreatic cancer patients will be diagnosed stage IV. Stage IV is defined as any cancer that has spread (metastasized) to remote organs or tissues. Considered incurable, it is usually inoperable but can be controlled for a time with treatment. For most patients diagnosed with stage IV cancers that period of time is rarely greater than five years. Many face a prognosis of just one or two years.

However, the number of people living with stage IV cancer is on the rise. Data collected by Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program from 2004 to 2008 shows a significant improvement in 5-year survival rates for breast cancer (6% in 1999 vs. 23% in 2008), which receives the largest amount of cancer funding. During this time, research and treatment has moved away from traditional chemo and radiation therapies toward targeted treatments, which have helped women live longer with fewer side effects.4 Although the survival rates for colon, lung, and pancreatic cancers have not increased as dramatically, they are steadily improving and should continue to rise as more targeted treatments come on the market for all types of cancers.

These individuals living longer with metastatic cancer face different issues than the newly diagnosed and those patients at the end of life. Most of them will be in treatment for the rest of their lives. They live in fear of the day when their treatments will stop working or the side effects will become intolerable. They anxiously wait for their next scan as their very lives depend on the results. They are living longer with dying as their disease slowly slips into a chronic state. The constant ups and downs of their experience may leaving them feeling gratitude, guilt, alienation, optimism.

When my mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer with metastasis to the brain, doctors gave her a year maybe less. Fortunately, she turned out to be one of the statistical anomalies who has lived years beyond her prognosis. But with this good fortune, there have also been unique challenges. As her treatments drag on, her cancer is now resistant to first-line therapies. There is no cure. There is often not even a prescribed course of treatment, just a set of options, which must all be weighed based on their potential efficacy and side effect.

As a caregiver, I often feel a looming sense of uncertainty about her future as well as my own. As I think about finishing my thesis within the year, I cannot help but wonder how her cancer could affect whatever planning I do. I cannot predict how her next round of treatment will go, what kind of response she will have, and how she will be able to manage the side effects. Still, I am glad for the uncertainty because in it there is hope.

Earlier this year, I was driving home from an appointment with my mother’s radiation oncologist when an interview with Katherine Russel Rich came on the radio. Rich has lived with advanced metastatic breast cancer for over 18 years. Hearing her story and listening to her familiar experiences was encouraging to me. I thought capturing stories like hers and my mother’s could be inspiring to other patients living with incurable cancer and could raise awareness about metastatic cancer as a chronic illness rather than a death sentence.

Friday, June 3, 2011

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed I watch docs. In the past couple of years, I've watched nearly a hundred of them (complete list below). Of course I watch them because I enjoy them, but I have been also learning the techniques, modes, and styles I like (or dislike) because for my MFA thesis I am going to be making my own. Starting this summer.

I will be documenting the process here from time to time, and to kick things off I thought I would just collect some thoughts on a few of the standout docs from the big list. These aren't necessarily the best of the bunch or even my favorites, but they do represent the docs I believe I've learned from the most.

Dear Zachary. This little doc is rough around the edges, but underneath some of the cruder aesthetics is a devastating story expertly told. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the documentarian to pull this movie together, and he does it so effectively. I can't imagine anyone not having an emotional reaction to it.

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. Errol Morris is always pushing the boundaries of the medium. This doc may be quirky and gimmicky, but personally, I found the editing of Fast, Cheap & Out of Control to be eye-opening. When I think about my own project, this doc always comes to mind as a personal challenge to think about the visual and sound editing and how I can use them to make my piece even stronger.

Manda Bala. I have to admit that I wasn't really looking forward to seeing a doc about kidnapping and corruption in Brazil. But from the first few minutes of Manda Bala (Send a Bullet), I was hooked by the teaser. I don't think I'd ever given much thought to those first few minutes before. The teaser (I like to call it the "xa") is the little scene right before the opening credits. It's where you put one of the strongest quotes that will set up the themes for the rest of the movie. Manda Bala was a great lesson in how to show the theme visually and skipping the chitchat.

Stone Reader. To me this one stands out as on of the worst of the docs I've watched. According to Rotten Tomatoes, I am clearly in the minority, but I felt the movie was incredibly self-indulgent. Two hours plus of a guy looking for an author, who isn't really hiding from anyone, left me feeling like the director just wants me to think he's smart and well read. I should say I have a general dislike of documentarians who feel like they need to insert themselves into the story without a really good reason for it. There were a number of docs in the list that I felt really would have been stronger if the directors stuck to the intricacies of the story rather than trying to be a star (Beer Wars, Stripped), but this one takes the prize. I also have a general hate of documentaries that feel fake, and there were just too many examples of shots that had to be staged for me to enjoy watching this movie.

A Certain Kind of Death | A State of Mind | The Atomic Cafe | Beer Wars | Bigger, Stronger, Faster | Born Into Brothels | Brick City | Capitalism: A Love Story | Cocaine Cowboys | Comic Book Confidential | Confessions of a Superhero | Connections Series 1 | Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean | Crips and Bloods: Made in America | Cropsey | Crumb | Danielson: A Family Movie | Dear Zachary | Double Dare | Encounters at the End of the World | Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room | Every Little Step | Exit Through the Gift Shop | F for Fake | Fall from Grace | Fast, Cheap & Out of Control | Food Inc. | Grey Gardens | Guns, Germs, & Steel | Harlan County, U.S.A. | Hearts and Minds | Helvetica (again) | I Have Never Forgotten You | I Like Killing Flies | Imaginary Witness | In the Realms of the Unreal | It Might Get Loud | Jesus Camp | Ken Burns' Civil War (again) | Ken Burns' Jazz | King Corn | Little Dieter Needs to Fly | loudQUIETloud | Lynch | Man on Wire | Manda Bala | Manufacturing Dissent | Michael Jackson's This Is It | Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. | Murderball | My Kid Could Paint That | No Direction Home: Bob Dylan | Objectified | OT: Our Town | Outfoxed: Murdoch's War on Journalism | Overnight | Planet B-Boy | Revolution OS | Roger & Me | Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired | Scratch | Sherman's March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love In the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation | Sister Helen | Stone Reader | Stripped | Tales from the Script | The Business of Being Born | The Face Is Familiar | The King of Kong (again) | The Order of Myths | The September Issue | The Thin Blue Line | The Way We Get By | This American Life: Seasons 1 and 2 | This Film Is Not Yet Rated | Up Series | Very Young Girls | Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price | Witch Hunt | Word Wars | World's Most Dangerous Gang

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A few new designs up at

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Last semester in my Design Business Link class, we were paired with a local nonprofit organization to help them with their design and marketing needs. I was on a team that got to work with People's Community Health Center, which serves the un- and under-insured in Baltimore. We were asked to help brand and advertise their new dental office, and one of our recommendations was to do graphic wall decals in the clinic to tie in the brand and brighten up the place. I am pleased/relieved! to say those decals are now up and ready for the grand opening on Saturday (thanks to the help of my long-suffering spouse).

Campaign posters coming soon to a bus shelter near you (assuming you are someone who lives in our around the Anne Arundel area).

I also hope to have some minty fresh news to announce soon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I actually had some free time this weekend, and instead of updating my blog (hey, it's only been six months since my last post), I designed a few business card for's Stay in Touch Business Card Challenge. Here are the finished products:

You can even vote for them if you feel so inclined but don't feel like you have to. Oh! And they have really cute stuff you can buy like this and this and this and this...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just a few pics of the letterpress invites I designed for my Mum's 60th birthday party. I also designed a custom return address stamp.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just bought this great type print. Love it. What typographic mustache are you?