8 Things I’m Totally Obsessed with This Month (May 2017 Edition)

 These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.     

1. The Book: Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

I've been lucky lately. At least once or twice a year, I happen across a book that completely blows me away. A book that hits me at the right time, moves me like the best literature can, and has me trying to finish my work early so I can get back to the story.

Dreamland is the first piece of non-fiction to ever do that to me. It reads like a great crime novel – multiple narrators, no good guys/no bad guys, moves through 20 years of history, and provides just enough detail to keep you engaged. And, it affected me personally – the book is based in several geographic locations I know intimately: the area around Portsmouth, Ohio and the Ohio River valley, three hours from where I grew up. I used to drive-by these very neighborhoods and stores they mention when visiting my college girlfriend's family. Columbus, Ohio, where I went to graduate school, becomes the launching pad for selling Mexican black tar heroin to prescription painkiller addicts. I've traveled to Nayarit, Mexico, and now live in Portland, Oregon, two other major epicenters of the narrative. I know people devastated by opiate use; we all do. 

I will also admit: I feel an enormous amount of sympathy for folks who get caught up in opiate use. I'm not a drug guy; I've never had an experience I'd want to repeat with THC, and I don't think I'm really wired that way. But I have had some surgeries and injuries in my life where I've been given prescription painkillers, and I find the experience extremely pleasant. So, I can imagine what it's like to want to feel that way all the time, especially if you're struggling to find work, or are in severe pain. The opiate epidemic strikes me as a true tragedy, with real victims and heartbreak.

This book is *&#%ing amazing. Go read it. 

2. The Social Network: Instagram

At this point, it's basically the only one of these I use anymore. But for the last few weeks, I've been super into it. I spent some time finding new feeds to follow and letting go of some stale ones, and it's become a great source of inspiration for me again. It's the thing I do while waiting in line at the bank or for my water to boil, and I've been doing my best to post more myself. Are you on Instagram?  If so, come find me and we'll hang out there. 

3. The Vintage Photography: Soviet Photo

I'm completely inspired by this collection of images from the Moscow-based magazine Советское фото: Soviet Photo.  From the page description, “Although its publication schedule was at times irregular, Sovetskoe foto was an illustrated monthly featuring editorials, letters, articles, and photographic essays alongside advertisements for photography, photographic processes, and photographic chemicals and equipment. It primarily addressed a domestic audience of Soviet amateur photographers and photo clubs, yet it also featured the works of international and professional photographers, such as Semyon Fridlyand.” 

4. The Mind-Blowing New Way of Looking at Things: This Map.

Tokyo-based desinger Hajime Narukawa created the AuthaGraph, a completely new way of dissecting the globe into a flat 2D representation. It's disorienting, sure, but, as an example, look at a traditional map and check out, say, Iceland's connection to the rest of the Nordic countries. Even though the top of the map splits here, you can see how close these things actually are.

5. The TV Show: None.

In fact, I've had a couple duds lately. Started stuff and haven't wanted to finish them, or did so begrudgingly. What do you recommend? 

6. The Song: “A Fool Such as I” 

This one is a country standard, and has been recorded by dozens, including Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Willie Nelson. It's less that I've been listening to this Hank Snow version and more that this is the song I find myself picking (almost) every time I pick up a guitar to fiddle around. It's really a quite nice melody, and it's worked its way into my bones. 

7. The Concentration App: Noisli 

I'm a big fan of using consistent noise to aid productivity (and sleep!). I'd been using a variety of YouTube videos on loop and some rain apps on my phone for a few years, but I discovered the Noisli app a few months ago, and I'm totally hooked. This helps even out office chatter or traffic or coffee shop music like a boss, and being able to change the sliders and add a little more in as they day progresses helps keep things interesting. 

8. The Snack: Popcorn. 

It is literally the perfect food. I'll never get sick of it. 

What are you totally obsessed with this month? Tell us all about it in the comments below.