Category Archives: School/Work

News from my professional life

Good, fast and cheap sites for photographers and others –

OneDayLabsI am happy to announce that I joined OneDayLabs as one of its Design Engineers. It is a new company by Melissa Geissinger, who literally wrote the book on how to build a website in one day (see “1 Day Web Designer: How To Be A More Productive Freelancer“). The company (and its website) launched recently and can be summarized this way:

We build websites in one day.

Our collaborative build process allows for the best quality work, fastest turnaround and most affordable service. We build on several CMSs and hosted platforms and specialize in a variety of different industries.

Melissa is going to the annual expo of the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, so check out the OneDayLabs’s booth there, March 7-9.

Introducing Worrify! A place to share worries

I started a new project/website yesterday: Worrify! 

The vision behind this site is simple: we believe that the burden of our worries can be relieved by verbalizing and sharing them with the world. We combine the words of your worries with beautiful imagery. You can bookmark and share them as a reminder of the world’s beauty even at the brink of despair. Someone else may read your worries and let you know you’re not alone in your anxiety. You may read another’s worry and find humor in the commonality of our fears.

Check it out, send your worry so we could beautify and share it for you at

Don't Panic! Worrify! Lose Your Worries Through Sharing

Statement of Accomplishment for Scandinavian Film and Television course

Statement of Accomplishment for  Scandinavian Film and Television courseThe course I finished couple of weeks ago and I still hope to blog through it. Meanwhile today I got my “Statement of Accomplishment“, which I earned with distinction. In theory on need to reach more than 90% on the course to get the distinction. Guess what % I did? 139?! *(click picture on side for larger size as proof) I knew I can be a bit of an overachiever, but this was a bit too much, I suspect something was wrong with the calculation method. Nevertheless they cannot take my certificate away. Here is the PDF version and a screenshot of it below:

Statement of Accomplishment for  Scandinavian Film and Television course

Scandinavian Film course #4: Main trends lecture notes

Here are the notes/summary from the lectures of the first segment of the course titled “Contemporary Scandinavian Film and Television Culture: Main Trends”. This was Professor Ib Bondebjerg’s lecture

Scandinavian cinema and the welfare state

  • All Scandinavian countries have a quite strong and diverse production of film and television genres.
  • And national audiences tend to like the film and television they get.
  • Sweden has 9.5 million inhabitants, Denmark 5.6 million, Finland 5.4 million and Norway 4.9 million.
  • Europe is fragmented, USA is a unified and very firmly organized market with a strong tradition for international distribution. Smaller nations, such as the Scandinavian, cannot produce films on the budget American films can.
  • All Scandinavian countries also produce proper main stream genres. But only the national audiences watch them.
  • We are known for our auteurs, for our contribution to the social and physchological realism, for putting existential and social problems on the agenda.
  • Perhaps some form of Scandinavian design is also visible in the film and television products we export successfully.
  • Scandinavian countries are characterized by being highly developed welfare states. A core value is to secure equal opportunities for all; social solidarity and security.
  • People in the Scandinavian countries pay a relatively high tax, but as a result of that, many things are free. Health service, education and also many cultural offers.
  • The welfare state doesn’t eliminate market forces and free enterprise. But the collaboration between the public and the private sector aims at securing the individual in the best possible way.
  • Public support for cultural production in general and for film and television has a prominent place.
  • As early as 1917, Norway established a municipal public cinema system. And in the 1930’s, some countries established public funded film support.
  • National Film Institutes, in Sweden, in 1963, in Denmark in 1972, and in Norway in 1988.
  • In a small country with between 5 to 10 million people film production companies cannot survive without some public support.
  • We need to make sure that the films made, cover different genres, drama, comedy, historical films, documentary film, children’s films, et cetera.
  • American films clearly dominate in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
  • If we look just at the film history of Scandinavia, it is in fact rather unique, that such small nations have contributed to so much, to the world film history.
  • Before movies began to speak and language barriers became a problem, especially Denmark and Sweden had a strong voice in world film culture.

Scandinavian cinema: trends and international impact

  • American films have become a kind of global, mass culture for all audiences all over the world. Even in America, we find an independent film culture. The global American dominance has been a fact since the 1930s.
  • But in the silent era, Scandinavian film, and especially Danish films were much stronger in the world film culture.
  • Between 1907 and 10, Nordic Film produces no less than 560 films. Films of around five to fifteen minutes each.
  • Asta Nielsen one of the biggest stars.
  • But what really started the Danish international film adventure was the development of the long film, thirty to forty-five minutes. A major breakthrough with especially social and erotic melodramas, like The White Slave Trade, The Abyss, or the Flying Devils.
  • For a short period between 1910 and 1920, Danish and also Swedish silent cinema had a strong world position. Not just with artistic auteur films but with films covering all genres.
  • The First World War and the following years paved the way for the global American era.
  • Around 1970, all Scandinavian countries had developed the system where public support for films supplemented the still very important role of pirate production companies.
  • In Scandinavia very few films since the 1980s have been made without some sort of public support.
  • A number of films can be very popular with a national audience but never shown outside its own country of production. Whereas other films can have a much broader international profile, even without necessarily having a big national audience.
  • Of the 40 Danish films from those 2009-10, two films stand out as having an international strong profile: Susanne Bier’s In a Better World from 2010 and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, from 2009
  • The number four on this list, My Sister’s Kids In Jutland, is only nationally financed and only has a national audience.
  • The auteur is definitely an important international brand for Scandinavian cinema. World audiences hardly expect to find blockbuster movies from any of these countries. The Millennium Trilogy in 2009 is an exception.
  • The very concept of auteur was coined by the French and the European New Wave film generation of the 1960s: opposition to the American form of filmmaking.
  • This young generation of film makers, for instance, Jean Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Francois Truffaut wanted films that were original, based on life, not literature, and where the director was in artistic control.
  • Some of their icons were Scandinavian, like Carl Th .Dreyer and Ingmar Bergman. Directors that redefined the language of cinema.
  • A group of Danish directors launched Dogme 95 in Paris where also the first attack on mainstream cinema took place.
  • Inspired by the new wave generation, Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg called for a new kind of international cinema. To bring cinema back to its artistic roots and engagement with reality.
  • Creating alternatives to the global mainstream cinema: Lukas Moodysson, the harsh global, Swedish, realist; Norwegian European art cinema director Bent Hamer who makes humorous images of life in Norway in Kitchen Stories; Finnish Aki Kaurismäki, with his portrait of Finnish life in, for instance, Drifting Clouds.

Scandinavian television culture

  • Scandinavian television is dominated by pubic service stations, or PSB stations
  • The Danish PSB main station DR started to broadcast in October 1951 and was followed in 1956 by the Swedish SVT, in 1958 by Finnish YLE and in 1960 by Norwegian NRK.
  • Paid by the tax or license fee and not by commercials: independent of commercial interests and of the state and the political system.
  • Obligation to serve all parts of the population and develop programs that cater to all sorts of taste, including minorities.
  • Danish law:
    • 1. to secure a broad variety of programs and services, including news, information, education, art and entertainment.
    • 2. to secure quality, versatility, and diversity.
    • 3. to secure freedom of information and speech and impartiality and objectivity.
    • 4. to secure special obligations towards Danish language and culture.
    • 5. to secure a broad representation of art and culture, reflecting the diversity of cultural interests in the Danish society.
  • In Finland: first commercial channel in Europe: MTV3 in 1957.
  • Dividing its PSB channels into several
  • In the 1980s: a dual system of commercial and PSB television
  • Since 1990 the number of television channels in Scandinavia has exploded.
  • Long tradition for both Scandinavian and European collaboration and co-production of television.
  • NordvisionNordvision was established in 1959, to further co-production and collaboration between the Nordic countries. And in 1990, the Nordic Film and Television Fund grew out of this cooperation between the Nordic countries.
  • A similar development can be seen on a European level, where the European Broadcasting Union, EBU, was formed already in 1954,
  • This year the European Union gathered all its cultural and media programs under the name Creative Europe.
  • Much more than cinema and film, television drama has been important in gathering the nation in front of the screen. E.g. the Danish series in 24 parts, Matador, broadcast for the first time from 1978 to 1981 on DR. An instant success with a huge Danish audience. One episode was seen by 3.6 million in Denmark, out of a population of 5.5 million
  • Historical drama series on television often get very high viewing figures. E.g. In Sweden, for instance, Jan Troell’s series The Emigrants and New Land from 1971 to 2
  • Television can gather the nation, and create a feeling of being together of a national community
  • Strong television; e.g. Ingmar Bergman challenging series Scenes from a Marriage, one to six, from 1973. By showing us the tearing apart of a marriage this series challenged its audience. In 1982 Bergman did it again with Fanny and Alexander.
  • Lars von Trier in 1994 released all his talents onto television, the result was a gorgeous genre mix called The Kingdom, where thriller, ghost story, satire and comedy met the supernatural.
  • Danish television drama, is experiencing an unprecedented international success. But also, Swedish crime series are popular abroad, e.g. Wallander
  • But Danish television drama, since 2000, has received five Emmys: crime series Unit 1, romantic comedy series Nikolaj and Julie, crime series The Eagle, political thriller series The Protectors, historical biopic on Hans Christian Andersen. The Killing furthermore won the BAFTA prize for the best foreign television drama.


* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Scandinavian Film and Television” course I am taking.

Scandinavian Film course #3: main trends film links

Each part of the course* I am taking comes with a number of film links. In this post I review the very first set, accompanying the “Contemporary Scandinavian Film and Television Culture: Main Trends” section.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – trailer

Creative Europe, presentation of new EU program

  • This is a 2 and half minute summary from 2011 of a new EU program that was set to support EU culture between 2010 and 2020.Cinema and audiovisual sector was given 900 million euros to support 2500 cinemas and the distribution of 1000 films

Urban Gad: The Abyss (1910) – sequence

  • The full, 37 min, movie is here, but the course probably couldn’t link to it legally
  • The film’s wikipedia and IMDB  page
  • The description is from the, from where you can download the movie too: This is the tale of a young woman who abandons her fiancé, and runs off with a circus performer. Things do not end well. The movie was heavily censored when originally shown in the US due to its erotic content. It is notable for the natural acting style of Asta Nielsen, a method unseen at the time in American cinema.

Poster for In a Better World (2010)Susanne Bier: In a Better World (2010) – official UK-trailer

  • Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards
  • IMDb page and description: The lives of two Danish families cross each other, and an extraordinary but risky friendship comes into bud. But loneliness, frailty and sorrow lie in wait.
  • DVD/BluRay or instant watch at Amazon
  • Wikipedia page and official site

Bent Hamer: Kitchen Stories (2003), official trailer

  • I saw and loved this movie
  • IMDB page and description: A scientific observer’s job of observing an old cantakerous single man’s kitchen habits is complicated by his growing friendship with him.
  • DVD/BluRay or instant watch at Amazon

Lukas Moodyson: Mammoth (2009) – official trailer

  • IMDB page and description: While on a trip to Thailand, a successful American businessman tries to radically change his life. Back in New York, his wife and daughter find their relationship with their live-in Filipino maid changing around them. At the same time, in the Philippines, the maid’s family struggles to deal with her absence.
  • DVD or instant watch at Amazon

Ingmar Bergman: Scenes from a Marriage (1973), opening sequence

  • IMDB page and description: Ten years of Marianne and Johan’s relationship are presented. We first meet them ten years into their marriage. He is a college professor, she a divorce lawyer. They say that they are happily married – unlike their friends Katarina and Peter who openly fight, especially when under the influence of alcohol – but there is a certain detached aloofness in the way they treat each other. In the next ten years, as they contemplate or embark upon divorce and/or known extramarital affairs, they come to differing understandings at each phase of their relationship of what they truly mean to each other. Regardless of if it’s love or hate – between which there is a fine line – they also come to certain understandings of how they can best relate to each other, whether that be as husband and wife, friends, lovers or none of the above.
  • DVD  at Amazon

Lars von Trier: The Kingdom (1994) – intro

  • IMDB page and description: The Kingdom is the most technologically advanced hospital in Denmark, a gleaming bastion of medical science. A rash of uncanny occurrences, however, begins to weaken the staff’s faith in science–a phantom ambulance pulls in every night, but disappears; voices echo in the elevator shaft; and a pregnant doctor’s fetus seems to be developing much faster than is natural. At the goading of a spiritualist patient, some employees work to let supernatural forces rest.
  • DVD  at Amazon

Interview with Jan Troell (2012)

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Scandinavian Film and Television” course I am taking.

Scandinavian Film course #2: Readings about contemporary/main trends

The first half of the first week of lectures in the course I am taking was about “Contemporary Scandinavian Film and Television Culture: Main Trends”. The readings for it included five wikipedia pages and three articles (and a number of journal articles and book chapters o which I didn’t have access to.)  Here are some of the more memorable points from them.

Ib Bondebjerg & Eva Novrup Redvall (2011), A Small Region in a Global World.Patterns in Scandinavian Film and Media Culture

  • This is a 129 page book, that I didn’t fully read
  • The authors analyzed “the Scandinavian film and television culture focusing on films released between 2002-2006”
  • The following excerpts from the report’s introduction/conclusion shows that the focus oif the report was to encourage greater integration between Scandinavian nations and intention to support their film industries:
  • All three countries have a national share of films on their own market that is above the average of other European countries of a similar size.
    We are looking at the transnational patterns of film distribution inside Scandinavia and to a large degree also in the rest of Europe.
    The non-national Scandinavian market is of least importance, the EU market is almost five times bigger, whereas the national market is the most important.
    We cannot conclude from these data that Scandinavians do not want to watch films from neighbouring countries.
    There is no natural cultural Scandinavian feeling of togetherness
    Why do the co-productions in TV drama function so well
    Nordvision cooperation dates more than fifty years back and the network between people From the Nordic public service stations seems much more firmly established
    The public service stations seem to have established a set of creative formulas that combine international and national genre concepts.
    The number of co-productions inside Scandinavia is moderately impressive, with a total of 124 films between 2002-2006
    The number of co-produced films achieving a significant audience on the non-national Scandinavian market is negligible. Scandinavian film culture that remains too focused on production but with not enough focus on reaching a transnational audience outside the national territory.
    60% of the Nordic citizens feel a special connection to the Nordic region and even supported a federal Nordic union. This fact cannot be seen in patterns of film consumption in Scandinavia.
    The Nordic Film Institutes and the Scandinavian distributors do not seem to have developed any efficient coordinated strategies.
    The film sector appears to be much more fragmented.
    Co-production therefore happens between small or very small companies
    The distribution sector in Scandinavia is much more centralised
    The festival system has grown in importance in all three Scandinavian countries
    The films that manage the transition from the national market to a broader Scandinavian market are almost all dramas, with the occasional comedy exception. This means that other types of films are not exported and do not achieve nearly the same kind of success.
    The data highlights how some of the family comedies that are often extremely popular nationally are not travelling to the rest of Scandinavia to any significant degree.
    Scandinavia seems to be currently losing the fight for the young cinema audience and in the new digital media culture.
    Cinema plays an important role in a film’s life, but the audience for films are now also to be found on many other platforms: television, VOD, DVD on TV and computer, downloads, mobile media etc.
    Between 2002-2006 in Denmark alone, the total figures for cinema admissions were only 16 million whereas television represented 39.9 million.
    Television is by far the largest window for Scandinavian films.
    Cinema is no longer the key element in a film’s life.
    We can no longer lock ourselves in the national cinema box. A global, digital revolution has already taken place.

Peter Schepelern (2011), Danish Film History 1896-2009

  • Here are the headings from the long article for an overviews
  • 1896-1910 The first film screening in Denmark takes place in 1896; the following year, in 1897, Peter Elfelt makes the first Danish produced films. The first movie theatres begin to appear in 1904, and in 1906 Ole Olsen founds the Nordisk Film Company. Beginning in 1910 the Nordisk Film Company gambles on producing full-length feature films. This was the beginning of Danish cinema’s golden age.
  • 1910-1920 The Danish cinemas golden age lasted from 1910 to 1920. The period’s leading director is Benjamin Christensen, and the two Danish actors Asta Nielsen and Valdemar Psilander achieve both national and international fame.
  • 1920-1929 Throughout the 1920’s Nordisk Film’s decline continues. The company receives strong competition from another company, Palladium, which achieves success with the comedy duo Fyrtaarnet og Bivognen. It is in this period of decline that Carl Th. Dreyer debuts as director.
  • 1930-1939 In the 1930s talkies make their way into Denmark and jovial comedies with songs, so- called folk-comedies, became the decade’s dominant genre. Poul Henningsen directs the documentary Danmark, which spurs a new filmic conscience that inspires the new generation of documentary filmmakers.
  • 1940-1949 During the German occupation Danish films switch character and become darker, while also putting more focus on the national. Documentary filmmaking is flowering, and it becomes the norm to show documentaries as short films in the theatres. After the war Danish films zero in on a more realistic manner with focus on everyday drama and social problems.
  • 1950-1959 In the 1950s the melodrama returns with the popular Morten Korch film adaptations and the Father of Four (Far til fire) family films. Another direction pursued in the 50s is problem-oriented films, especially dealing with youth. Outside the trends of the time comes Dreyer’s Ordet (1955).
  • 1960-1969 The fast spread of televisions in Danish homes threatens movie theatre ticket sales. In accepting the necessity of economic support to the needy Danish film branch, the Film Law of 1964 formalizes government support to the art of film. Breakthroughs in the European film scene hits Danish cinema and starts the Danish new wave. In extension of the 1960s general tendencies towards freedom of expression, pornography is released and adult censorship of films is removed.
  • 1970-1979 Along with the Film Law of 1972, the Danish Film Institute is established. Organization of governmental movie support finds its fast footing primarily through the new consultant scheme, whose political independence and integrity come under fire from the very beginning due to the Thorsen scandal. Youth films have their heyday in the 70s and the popular folk comedies return again in the form of heist films about the Olsen Gang. Pornography’s newfound freedom leads to the production of ‘erotic folk comedies’ — the so-called bedside movies and zodiac movies.
  • 1980-1989 In the 1980s two Danish films win the Oscar for best international film. A humanistic realism characterizes the period’s films, which depict every day people anchored in a recognizable Danish reality. Nils Malmros makes a name for himself with his realistic youth films, while Lars von Trier creates an avant-garde breakthrough in Danish cinema. The Film Law is revised again in 1989, and the 50/50-scheme is established to stimulate popular movies.
  • 1990-1999 The effect of the 50/50 ordinance becomes visible with the populist comedies of the 1990s. In the mid-90s Danish cinema experiences a generational shift with a new wave of debuting directors and actors. Lars Von Trier achieves his international breakthrough and Dogme movies garner international attention towards Danish films. Zentropa, the company behind Dogme films, establishes itself together with other smaller companies in Film City. The Film Law of 1997 reorganizes The Danish Film Institute and film censorship is abolished.
  • 2000-2009 After the millennium popular film is composed of sequels, romantic comedies and “male action” movies. Mainstream film achieves success with attempts of classical genres and depictions of the class scheme in Denmark. DFI’s talent development system New Danish Screen is created to enhance the development of film’s formal language and narrative. Particularly noticeable in the documentary genre is a new documentary style that breaks through in the new millennium.

Wikipedia, Facts about Norwegian Film History

  • As of 2011, there had been nearly 900 films produced in Norway, with a third of these being made in the last 15 years.[6]
  • The Norwegian equivalent of the Academy Awards is the Amanda award, which is presented during the annual Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund. The prize was created in 1985.
  • Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature at the 24th Academy Awards in 1951.
  • In 2006 the Norwegian/Canadian animated short film The Danish Poet, directed by Norwegian Torill Kove and narrated by Norwegian screen legend Liv Ullman, won an Academy Award for Animated Short Film
  • As of 2013, five films from Norway have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: Nine Lives (1957), The Pathfinder (1987), The Other Side of Sunday (1996), Elling (2001) and Kon-Tiki (2012).

Tom McSorley (1999), A short history of Swedish story

  • “Swedish cinema” evokes words like silence, solitude, angst, despair and dread.
  • Swedish cinema has actually been vibrant and wide-ranging
  • A healthy indigenous filmmaking industry backed by an enviable combination of private investment and state support
  • Swedish filmmakers have been actively examining the social function of cinema,
  • Sweden has evolved from a largely agrarian, late-19th century society into an industrial and technological powerhouse.
  • Sweden has moved from a culturally and racially homogenous nation to a multi-cultural, multi-racial society.
  • The first public projection was in the southern city of Malmö, on June 28, 1896.
  • In February, 1907, the AB Svensk Biografteatern was founded and launched the golden age of Swedish cinema.
  • Two characteristics that have come to dominate Swedish film: the constant appearance of the Swedish landscape and the mastering of cinematic techniques.
  • Stiller developed a distinctive brand of ironic comedy, which was later to inspire Ernst Lubitsch.
  • Swedish actors and directors such as Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman, Max von Sydow, Bo Widerberg and most recently, Stellan Skarsgård, move to Hollywood.
  • Swedes began producing their own images of and for themselves, without relying on Americans or Europeans.
  • The Swedes produced, distributed and exhibited their own films, developing an audience at the same time [during WWI].
  • The golden age lasted into the twenties when the arrival of sound movies proved problematic.
  • While the domestic Swedish market was satisfied in this first decade of talking films, Sweden’s international reputation dropped precipitously
  • The 1940s: the flow of foreign films was cut off. Swedish films were watched more often and filmmakers such as Alf Sjöberg returned
  • Literary movement “Writers of the Forties.” rejected outright the romanticized, idealized images of the Swedish landscape and character
  • Victor Sjöström as artistic director of Svensk Filmindustri believed that creative talent should be treated with patience and be allowed to make mistakes in order to improve
  • Ingmar Bergman is a cinema unto himself
  • Exploring themes of isolation and alienation, and emphasizing individual psychology and its tangles of social and sexual expressions, Bergman mapped the region between desire, memory and action, often merging dream and reality
  • Achievements by filmmakers Arne Mattsson (One Summer of Happiness, 1951) and Hasse Ekman (Girl with Hyacinths, 1950)
  • Swedish film industry workers organized a demonstration on May 1, 1962, much as their predecessors had done in 1936.
  • Mandated to support the production of Swedish films of “high merit” and to promote Swedish film internationally, the Institute was funded by a 10 percent box office levy. The levy is still in place
  • During the sixties Bo Widerberg (Elvira Madigan, 1967, All Things Fair, 1996)
  • This new group called for dramas or documentaries that examined the social and political realities of contemporary Sweden
  • After making Fanny and Alexander, Bergman retired from filmmaking in 1982, causing Swedish cinema to redefine itself yet again.
  • Following the directorial footsteps of acclaimed actresses Mai Zetterling (Night Games, 1968) and Gunnel Lindblom (Paradise Place, 1976), have come talented, challenging directors such as Suzanne Osten, Agneta Fagerström-Olsson, Susanne Bier, Marie-Louise Ekman and Christina Olofson.
  • Sweden produces films that are seen by 20 percent of its population. Swedes still want to see themselves on screens.
  • Consequently, their cinema appears to be vigorous and healthy, if not a little beleaguered.
  • The new generation of directors has even come to terms with the Bergman legacy. Instead of resenting him the new filmmakers recognize and appreciate his contribution.

Wikipedia, Facts about Swedish Film History

  • Swedish filmmaking rose to international prominence when Svenska Biografteatern moved from Kristianstad to Lidingö in 1911.
  • In the mid-twenties both of these directors and Garbo moved to the United States to work for MGM, bringing Swedish influence to Hollywood.
  • During World War II Swedish cinema gained artistically, mainly due to the directors Gustaf Molander and Alf Sjöberg.
  • Cinematographer Sven Nykvist can be said to have had a major impact on the visual aspect of Swedish cinema. Twice the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, for Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander, Nykvist is considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematographers of all time. He also directed The Ox (Oxen) (1991), nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992.
  • Vilgot Sjöman debuted in 1962 with The Swedish Mistress (Älskarinnan), but attracted far wider attention in Sweden when his film 491 was originally banned by the Swedish censors due to its explicit sexual content.
  • Bo Widerberg. His 1963 film Raven’s End (Kvarteret Korpen) and The Man on the Roof (Mannen på taket) are widely regarded as Swedish film classics.
  • Jan Troell debut with his own film Here’s Your Life (Här har du ditt liv). He went on to direct The Emigrants (Utvandrarna) in 1971 and its sequel The New Land (Nybyggarna) the following year.
  • Hans Alfredsson and Tage Danielsson, in common speech now as Hasseåtage who made a movie called Svenska Bilder. [Their] movies are considered cult in Sweden today.
  • In 1968, Stefan Jarl’s and Jan Lindqvist’s documentary They Call Us Misfits (Dom kallar oss mods) was released.
  • Roy Andersson had a breakthrough with his first feature-length film, A Swedish Love Story in 1969,
  • Lasse Hallström made his feature-length film debut in 1975 with the comedy A Guy and a Gal (En Kille och en tjej)
  • In the comedy genre Lasse Åberg has directed and also starred in some successful films that, although not praised by film critics, were box-office successes
  • Lukas Moodysson‘s first feature-length film, Show Me Love (aka Fucking Åmål) was a huge success in Sweden.
  • Lebanon-born director Josef Fares, with the comedies Jalla! Jalla! (2000) and Kopps (2003), and the refugee drama Zozo (2005), Iranian-born Reza Parsa with the drama Before the Storm (Före stormen) (2000), and Maria Blom, with the comedy Dalecarlians (Masjävlar) (2004).
  • Tomas Alfredson’s (son of Hasse Alfredson) romantic vampire film/drama film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (2008) received widespread acclaim
  • The Swedish Film Institute was founded in 1963 to support and develop the Swedish film industry.
  • At a rate of, currently, 20 films a year the Swedish film industry is on par with other comparable North European countries.

I also read these three Wikipedia pages and recommend you to do so too.

Extra Readings:

  • Swedish Film. 'An Introduction and Reader.Bondebjerg, Ib (2005). The Danish Way: Danish Film Culture in a European and Global Perspective. In Andrew Nestingen and Trevor G. Elkington. Transnational Cinema in a Global North.
  • Hjort, Mette (2005). ‘From Epiphanic Culture to Circulation: The Dynamics of Globalization in Nordic Cinema.’ In Andrew Nestingen and Trevor G. Elkington. Transnational Cinema in a Global North. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 191-221.
  • Francoise Buquet (1992). ‘Chronology of Scandinavian Cinema (1896-1991). ‘ in Peter Cowie (ed). Scandinavian Cinema. London: Tantivy press, pp. 11-20.
  • Paolo Cherci Usai. ‘The Scandinavian Style’. In The Oxford History of World Cinema, pp. 151-162.
  • Monika Djerf-Pierre & Mats Ekström (eds. 2014). ‘A history of Swedish Broadcasting. Communicative, ethos, genres and institutional change.’ Gothenburg: Nordicom.
  • Mariah Larsson & Anders Marklund (eds. 2010). Swedish Film. ‘An Introduction and Reader.‘ Lund: Nordic Academic Press.
  • John Tucker (eds. 2012). ‘Evaluating the Achievement of One Hundred Years of Scandinavian Cinema.’ New York & Ontario: The Edward Mellen Press.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Scandinavian Film and Television” course I am taking.

Learning Course #9: Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential (week 4 lectures) #LH2L1

Here are the points I want to remember or be able to find again from the videos of the fourth week of the Learning course*

How to Become a Better Learner

  • The best gift that you can give your brain is Physical Exercise. 
  • Exercise helps new neurons survive.
  • Practice making perfect, but only when your brain is prepared. 
  • There are certain critical periods in the development of your brain.
  • The critical period for first language acquisition extends up to puberty. .
  • Learning, Planning, Language, these are the skills that make us human.
  • The prefrontal cortex is also involved in complex analysis in social behaviors, as well as decision making and planning.
  • It is the last part of the cortex to mature, so until this happens, there may be a little bit of zombie in you.

Introduction to week 4: Renaissance learning and unlocking your potential

  • Learning doesn’t progress logically, so that each day just adds an additional neat package to your knowledge shell. 
  • Sometimes you hit a wall in constructing your understanding.
  • Things that made sense before can suddenly seem confusing.
  • This type of knowledge collapse seems to occur when your mind is restructuring its understanding, building a more solid foundation.
  • Remember it takes time to assimilate your knowledge.

Create a lively visual metaphor or analogy

  • A metaphor is just a way of realizing that one thing is somehow similar to another. 
  • Simple ideas like one geography teacher’s description of Syria is shaped like a bowl of cereal, and Jordan as a Nike Air Jordan sneaker, can stick with a student for decades.
  • Metaphors and visualization, being able to see something in your mind’s eye, have been especially helpful not only in art and literature, but also in allowing the scientific and engineering world to make progress. 
  • In the 1800s for example, when chemists began to imagine and visualize the miniature world of molecules, dramatic progress began to be made.
  • Metaphors and models are often vitally important in giving a physical understanding of the central idea behind the process or concept you are trying to understand. 
  • Interestingly, metaphors and analogies are useful for getting people out of Einstellung that is, being blocked by thinking about a problem in the wrong way.

No need for genius envy

  • Connection between learning math and science and learning a sport.
  • In baseball, for example, you don’t learn how to hit in one day. Instead, your body perfects your swing from lots and lots of repetition over a period of years. One chunk instead of having to recall all the complex steps involved in hitting a ball.
  • In the same way, once you understand why you do something in math and science.
  • Remember, people learn by trying to make sense out of they perceive. They rarely learn anything complex simply by having someone else tell it to them. 
  • Chess masters, emergency room physicians, fighter pilots, and many other experts often have to make complex decisions rapidly.
  • They shut down their conscious system and instead rely on their well trained intuition, drawing on their deeply ingrained repertoire of chunks.
  • Being smarter often equates to having a larger working memory. 
  • If you’re one of those people who can’t hold a lot in mind at once, You may have to work harder sometimes or even much of the time to understand what’s going on. But once you get something chunked you can take that chunk and turn it outside in and inside round, putting it through creative paces even you didn’t think you were capable of. 
  • It is practice, particularly deliberate practice on the toughest aspects of the material that can help lift average brains into the realm of those with more natural gifts. Just as you can practice lifting weights and get bigger muscles over time, you can also practice certain mental patterns that deepen and enlarge in your mind.
  • The Imposter Syndrome : it’s a fluke when you happen to do well on a test, and then on the next test, for sure they, and your family and friends, are going to figure out how incompetent you really are. 
  • This feeling is so extraordinarily common that it even has a name.
  • If you suffer from these kinds of feelings of inadequacy just be aware that many others secretly share them.

Change your thoughts, change your life

  • Santiago Ramon y Cajal Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a born troublemaker, then won the Nobel Prize, but eventually became known as the Father of Modern Neuroscience Cajal was already in his early 20s when he began climbing from bad boy delinquency into the traditional study of medicine. This may explain why teenagers often have trouble controlling their impulsive behavior. The wiring between intention and the control areas of the brain isn’t completely formed.
  • It seems people can enhance the development of their neuronal circuits by practicing thoughts that use those neurons. 
  • Brilliant people can do exceptional work, just like anyone else they can also be careless and biased.
  • The key to success: perseverance: the virtue of the less brilliant, coupled with his flexible ability to change his mind and admit errors. 
  • Out on his own (out of school), Darwin was able to look with fresh eyes at the data he was collecting.
  • Approaching material with a goal of learning it on your own, can give you a unique path to mastery. 
  • There will always be those who criticize or attempt to undermine any effort or achievement you make. If you do well in your studies, the people around you can feel threatened.
  • On the other hand, if you flunk a test, you also may encounter critics who throw more barbs, saying you don’t have what it takes.
  • We’re often told that empathy is universally beneficial. But it’s not. It’s important to learn to switch on an occasional cool dispassion

The value of teamwork

  • Broad-perspective perceptual disorder of the right hemisphere. People can retain their intelligence. If they make a mistake in their calculations, concluding something nonsensical. It doesn’t bother them. There’s no big picture.
  • The right hemisphere helps us step back and put our work into big picture perspective.
  • Even subtle avoidance of some of our capabilities can have a surprisingly negative impact on our work.
  • If you go off track early on, it doesn’t matter if the rest of your work is correct. 
  • When you step back and recheck, you’re allowing for more interaction between the hemispheres, taking advantage of the special perspectives and abilities of each.
  • You must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool. 
  • One of the best ways to catch your blind spots and errors is to brainstorm and work with others who are also smartly focused on the topic.
  • Explaining to friends helps build your own understanding.
  • The importance of working with others doesn’t just relate to learning. It’s also important in career building.

A test checklist

  • Testing is itself an extraordinary powerful, learning experience.
  • If you compare how much you learn by spending one hour studying, versus one hour taking a test on that same material, you’ll retain and learn far more as a result of the hour you spent taking a test. 
  • A checklist, you can use to see whether your preparation for test taking is on target, developed by legendary educator Richard Felder.
  • The answer to the question, how should I prepare for the test, is do whatever it takes to be able to answer, yes.
  • Did you make a serious effort to understand the text?
  • Did you work with classmates on homework problems or at least check your solutions with others?
  • Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution before working with classmates?
  • Did you participate actively in homework group discussions contributing ideas and asking questions?
  • Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
  • Did you understand all your homework problem solutions when they were handed in?
  • Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
  • If you had a study guide, did you carefully go through it before the test and convince yourself you could do everything on it?
  • Did you attempt to outline lots of problems solutions quickly without spending time on the Algebra in calculations?
  • Did you go over the study guide and problems with class mates and quiz one another?
  • If there was a review session before the test, did you attended and asked questions about anything you weren’t sure about?
  • Did you get a reasonable night sleep before the test?

Hard start – jump to easy

  • The classic way students are taught to approach tests is to tackle the easiest problems first. For many people it’s counterproductive.
  • Tough problems often need lots of time, meaning you’d want to start on them first thing on the test.
  • Difficult problems can also scream for the creative powers of the diffuse mode.
  • Start first with what appears to be the hardest problem. But steal yourself to pull away within the first minute or two, if you get stuck or you get a sense that you might not be on the right track. 
  • Starting hard loads the first most difficult problem in mind and then switches attention away from it.
  • The hard start jump to easy technique may make more efficient use of your brain by allowing different parts of the brain to work simultaneously on different thoughts.
  • The only trick with this approach is that you must have the self discipline to pull yourself off a problem once you find yourself stuck for a minute or two.

Final helpful hints for tests

  • If you’re a stressed out test taker: sweaty palms, a racing heart, a knot on the pit of your stomach. The story you tell yourself about why you’re stressed makes all the difference. 
  • If you shift your thinking from, this test has made me afraid, to this test has got me excited to do my best it can really improve your performance.
  • Momentarily turn your attention to your breathing. 
  • Movie to a deep breathing pattern in those final anxious moments before a test is handed out.
  • Cover up the answers to multiple choice questions and to try to recall the information.
  • Face your fears. Often, your worst fear is not to get the grade you need for your chosen career. Have a Plan B for the alternative career.
  • Study hard up until the day of the test and then let it go.
  • Good worry helps provide motivation and focus, while bad worry simply wastes energy. 
  • Don’t feel guilty if you can’t seem to get yourself to work too hard the day before a big examination.
  • Remember how your mind can trick you into thinking that what you’ve done is correct, even if it isn’t. Blink, shift your attention, and then double check your answers
  • In science classes, having your units of measurement match on each side of the equation can provide an important clue about whether what you’ve done is correct.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

New course: Scandinavian Film and Television

Evaluating the Achievement of One Hundred Years of Scandinavian CinemaI am starting a new course today on Coursera on Scandinavian Film and Television. Here is the course’s public summary:

In many ways Scandinavian film and television is a global cultural brand, connected with and exporting some of the cultural and social values connected to a liberal and progressive welfare society. This course deals with the social, institutional and cultural background of film and television in Scandinavia and in a broader European and global context.

I was asked to make a video introduction and answer why I am interested in this topic. Here it goes. I shot the video, but didn’t like the footage, so I am only sharing the transcript (with links).

I watch a lot of movies and if I know more about their background and history and be able to put them in historical and geographical context I will get more out enjoy putting them into context. As I enjoyed several Scandinavian movies in the past it is time to learn more about where they came from and how they relate to each other.

I grew up in Hungary with great access to classic European movies, so I watched a lot of old movies, including Ingmar Bergman’s, such as The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander. The only other Scandinavian movies I can recall right now from the 1980’s that I’ve seen are Babette’s Feast and Pelle the Conqueror.

Right around when the dogma films and movement started I moved to the US, where my access to European movies was much more limited then. Nevertheless, my mother, who is a serious film lover too, kept me informed from Hungary and sometimes sent me DVDs too. So I saw The Idiots, a bit later Italian for Beginners and more that elude me this second.

In recent years I saw a number of Scandinavian movies that I deeply appreciated and admired, for example Lars von Trier’s Breaking the WavesDancer in the Dark (I haven’t seen yet his latest Melancholia and Nymphomaniac), but also possibly less famous ones, like Dear Wendy, Kitchen Stories, A Royal Affair, Brothers, Adam’s Apple and Hawaii Oslo and the Swedish version of the Millenium trilogy. I also enjoyed comedies like Buddy or even the older Olsen Gang films.

Besides learning more about the culture these movies came from I hope to discover many more movies worthy to watch. I also own and run two film related websites and hope to include more, relevant Scandinavian movies on them. One of them is and I am sure I will be exposed to more Scandinavian films with interesting religious themes. The other site is,, which primarily deals with movies that has something to do with Jews and/or Judaism. the latest movie that overlaps these two worlds I have seen was the excellent Simon and the Oaks.

I left an even more personal note to the end. I am enjoying a current Swedish/American sitcom titled Welcome to Sweden. It contrasts pretty well the differences in the culture of the USA and Sweden. Watching this reminded me that I visited Sweden several times, but last time was 25 years ago. Also, my wife has some Norwegian blood and she visited Norway 5 years ago. So there is some personal connection too.

Learning Course #8: Procrastination and Memory (week 3 lectures) #LH2L1

Here are the points I want to remember or be able to find again from the videos of the third week of the Learning course*

Tackling procrastination – It’s easier, and more valuable, than you think

  • Understanding a little about the cognitive psychology of procrastination, just like understanding the chemistry of poison, can help us develop healthy preventatives.
  • By putting the same amount of time into your learning but spacing that learning out by starting earlier you’ll learn better.
  • You shouldn’t waste willpower on fending off procrastination except when absolutely necessary.
  • Procrastination can be a single monumentally important keystone bad habit
  • Procrastination shares features with addiction. It offers temporary excitement and relief from sometimes boring reality.
  • It’s easy to fool yourself for example into thinking that the best use of any given moment is.
  • Strategies for dealing with procrastination are simple. It’s just that sometimes they aren’t intuitively obvious.

Zombies everywhere

  • Habit is an energy saver for us. It allows us to free our mind for other types of activities. It saves energy.
  • Habits have four parts. 

1. The cue. This is the trigger that launches you into zombie mode. A cue by itself is neither helpful or harmful, it’s the routine. What we do in reaction to that cue, that’s what matters.
2. The routine. The habitual response your brain is used to falling into when it receives the cue.
3. The reward. Every habit develops and continues because it rewards us. It gives us an immediate little feeling of pleasure. Finding ways to reward good study habits is important for escaping procrastination.
4. The belief. Habits have power because of your belief in them. To change a habit, you’ll need to change your underlying belief.

Surf’s up: Process versus product

  • Use mental tools and tricks to inspire and motivate yourself.
  • It’s normal to start with a few negative feelings about beginning a learning session. It’s how you handle those feelings that matters. Quit wasting time and just get on with it, once you get going, you’ll feel better about it.
  • Focus on process not product. Process means, the flow of time and the habits and actions associate with that flow of time. 
  • Product is an outcome, for example a homework assignment that you need to finish.
  • To prevent procrastination you want to avoid concentrating on product.
  • Instead, your attention should be on building processes.
  • The product is what triggers the pain that causes you to procrastinate.
  • Who cares, whether you finish the homework or grasp the key concepts in any one session.
  • By focusing on process rather than product, you allow yourself to back away from judging yourself, am I getting closer to finishing? And instead you allow yourself to relax into the flow of the work.

Harnessing your zombies to help you

  • You don’t want to do a full scale change of old habits. You just want to override parts of them and develop a few new ones.
  • Change your reaction to a cue. The only place you need to apply willpower is to change your reaction to the cue. 
  • To understand that, it helps to go back through the four components of habit and re-analyze them from the perspective of procrastination.
  • You can prevent the most cues by shutting off your cell phone or keeping yourself away from the internet and other distractions for brief periods of time.
  • The key to rewiring your old habit is to have a plan. Developing a new ritual can be helpful.
  • Your plan may not work perfectly at first, but just keep at it. Adjust the plan if necessary, and savor those victories when your plan works.
  • Don’t try to change everything at once
  • Why are you procrastinating? Can you substitute in emotional payoff, maybe a feeling of pride for accomplishing something, even if it’s small, a sense of satisfaction.
  • Can you win a small internal bet?
  • Habits are powerful because they create neurological cravings. It helps to add a new reward if you want to overcome your previous cravings.
  • Don’t feel bad if you find you have trouble getting into a flow state at first.
  • Also remember that the better you get at something, the more enjoyable it can become.
  • The most important part of changing your procrastination habit is the belief that you can do it. 
  • Belief that your new system works is what can get you through.

Juggling life and learning

  • Once a week write a brief weekly list of key tasks in a planner journal.
  • Write a daily list of the tasks that you can reasonably work on or accomplish the evening before. 
  • Why the evening before? Research has shown that this helps your subconscious to grapple with the tasks on the list so you can figure out how to accomplish them.
  • But once you make a task list, it frees working memory for problem solving.
  • Mixing other tasks up with your learning seems to make everything more enjoyable and keeps you from prolonged and unhealthy bouts of sitting.
  • Make notes in your planner journal about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Those who are committed to maintaining healthy leisure time along with their hard work, outperform those who doggedly pursue an endless treadmill. 
  • Try to squeeze a little break time in. 
  • Eat your frogs first in the morning. Try to work on a most important and most disliked task first.

Summing up procrastination

  • Keep a planner journal so you can easily track when you reach your goals and observe what does and doesn’t work.
  • Commit yourself to certain routines and tasks each day.
  • Write your planned tasks out the night before so your brain has time to dwell on your goals and help ensure success.
  • Arrange your work into a series of small challenges.
  • Always make sure you, and your zombies, get lots of rewards.
  • Take a few minutes to savor the feelings of happiness and triumph, which also gives your brain a chance to temporarily change modes.
  • Deliberately delay rewards until you’ve finished a task.
  • Watch for procrastination cues.
  • Try putting yourself in new surroundings with few procrastination cues, such as the quiet section of a library.
  • Gain trust in your new system.
  • You want to work hard during times of focused concentration and also to trust your system enough so that when it comes time to relax, you actually relax without feelings of guilt or worry.
  • Have back up plans for when you still procrastinate.
  • Eat your frogs first every day.

Diving deeper into memory

  • We have outstanding visual and spacial memory systems that can help form part of our long-term memory. If you were asked to look around a house you never visited before your mind would acquire and retain thousands of new pieces of information.
  • To begin tapping into your visual memory system try making a very memorable visual image representing one key item you want to remember. Part of the reason an image is so important to memory is that images connect directly to your right brain’s visual spacial centers.
  • The more neural hooks you can build by evoking the senses, the easier it will be for you to recall the concept and what it means.
  • The funnier and more evocative the images, the better. The idea should be memorable. 
  • Repetition’s important. Even when you make something memorable, repetition helps get that memorable item firmly lodged into long-term memory. Repeat sporadically over several days.
  • Index cards can often be helpful.
  • Handwriting helps you to more deeply encode, that is convert into neuro-memory structures what you are trying to learn.
  • Once you’ve given your flash cards a good try, put them away. Wait and take them out again, maybe before you go to sleep. 
  • Sleep is when your mind repeats patterns and pieces together solutions.
  • Great flash card systems like Anki have build in algorithms that repeat in scale ranging from days to months.
  • One of the best ways to remember people’s names, is to simply try to retrieve the people’s names from memory at increasing time intervals.

What is long term memory?

  • What would it be like if you couldn’t learn new things.
  • At the age of 27, HM had an operation for epilepsy that took out his hippocampus on both sides of his brain. HM could no longer remember new things. HM could learn other things, like a new motor skill, but he could not remember having learned it.
  • There are multiple memory systems for different types of learning.
  • HM could remember things from his childhood but he had trouble remembering things that had occurred in the years just before his operation, things that had not yet become fully consolidated. .
  • Memories are not fixed but living, breathing parts of your brain that are changing all of the time. 
  • reconsolidationWhenever you recall a memory, it changes, a process called, reconsolidation.
  • The green process of consolidation takes the brain state in active memory and stores it in long term memory by modifying synapses on the dendrites of neurons.
  • These long term memories can remain dormant for a long time until the memory is retrieved and reinstated, by the red process, in short term working memory.
  • The reinstated memory is in a new context, which can itself be transferred to long term memory, thereby, altering the old memory though reconsolidation.
  • Our memories are intertwined with each other. 
  • As we learn new things, our old memories also change. 
  • Like consolidation, reconsolidation also occurs during sleep.
  • This is why it is more effective to space learning over time, rather than mass learning all at once.

Creating meaningful groups and the memory palace technique

  • Another key to memorization it to create meaningful groups that simplify the material.
  • E.g.: Garlic, rose, hawthorn and mustard. The first letters abbreviate to GRHM, so all you need to do to remember is use the image of a graham cracker.
  • Many disciplines use memorable sentences to help students memorize concepts.
  • The first letter of each word in the sentence is also the first letter of each word in a list that needs to be memorized. 
  • The memory palace technique is a particularly powerful way of grouping things you want to remember. It involves calling to mind a familiar place. Like the layout of your house, and using it as a sort of a visual notepad where you can deposit the concept images that you want to remember. All you have to do is call to mind the place you’re familiar with.
  • The memory palace technique is useful for remembering unrelated items, such as a grocery list.
  • It takes a bit of time to conjure up a solid mental image.
  • But the more you do it, the quicker it becomes.
  • In using the mind this way, memorization can become an outstanding exercising creativity that simultaneously build neural hooks for even more creativity.
  • Memory tricks allow people to expand their working memory with easy access to long term memory.
  • You’ll also realize that as you begin to internalize key aspects of the material taking a little time to commit the most important points to memory you come to understand it much more deeply.

Summing up memory

  • Long term memory, which is like a storage warehouse. You need to practice and repeat in order to store items in long term memory so you can retrieve them more easily.
  • Practicing and repeating, all in one day, is a bad idea.
  • Working memory, which is like a poor blackboard that quickly fades. You can only hold about four items in your working memory.
  • When you master a technique or concept in some sense, it compacts the ideas so they can occupy less space in your working memory when you do bring them to mind.
  • This frees your mental thinking space so that it can more easily grapple with other ideas.
  • We have outstanding visual and spatial memory systems.
  • If you tap into those systems, it will help improve your memory.
  • To begin tapping into your visual memory system, try making a very memorable visual image representing one key item you want to remember.
  • Beyond merely seeing, try to feel, to hear and even to smell something you’re trying to remember.
  • The funnier and more evocative the image is, the better.
  • As always, repetition over several days is really helpful.
  • Another key to memorization is to create meaningful groups that simplify the material.
  • Try associating numbers with years or with systems you’re familiar with like running times.
  • Many disciplines use memorable sentences.
  • The memory palace technique, placing memorable images in a scene that’s familiar to you, allows you to dip into the strength of your visual memory system, providing a particularly powerful way of grouping things you want to remember.
  • By making meaningful groups and abbreviations, you can simplify and chunk what you’re trying to learn so you can more easily store it in memory.
  • And by memorizing material you understand, you can internalize the material in a profound way.

Interview with Dr. Robert Gamache, an award-winning bilingual scientist

  • I use a bilingual as an example of why students should study every subject every day.
  • If you study it every day, it’s just there in your brain and you don’t have to do a lot to recall information.
  • I think of it as like strumming a guitar. After you strum it, it resonates and it continues to, to resonate and send out the sound
  • I hardwired my brain to solve problems. Like learning an instrument. By practicing continuously, you can bring those, those parts of a melody to mind instantly, and, and play them and fit them together in new ways more easily, and that can be a very effective technique for learning.
  • My discovery was serendipitous. While eating dinner and conversation, suddenly the answer would just pop up in my mind.
  • Downtime can be very beneficial. The gears are always turning.

Interview with Dr. Norman Fortenberry – Learning at MIT

  • The key lesson in, in collegiate study, at least in engineering school, is you are part of a team. And if you don’t have a team, you find a team.
  • I didn’t suddenly become less smart once I got to MIT. There were some extremely bright people, but I was one of those bright people. And that I needed to build a community of support around me. I gave support. I received support.
  • The objective is to finish the class. Even in grad school, the objective is to get the degree. And you keep your eye focused on the prize, and you fight it out, and you get through.
  • Write it out by hand so that you’ve got the muscle memory, repeating it back to yourself. See it, say it, spell it, whatever.
  • As many input modes, you’ve got your auditory learners, your visual learners.
  • Multi-mode input is critical for learning.

Interview with Scott Young, a “Marco Polo” of learning

  • How do you avoid illusions of competence in learning?
  • Dive into a position where you might be wrong as soon as possible.
  • Do your best to do the problem sets without having the solutions at hand.
  • Test yourself as frequently as possible.
  • He want through meticulously, not only trying to understand everything that was in that paper, but of the papers it sourced.
  • The first rule is not to fool yourself, but you are the easiest person to fool.
  • Find simple analogies that are, are metaphors … looking through your mind for examples or stories or things that you are familiar with, and like, fitting a jigsaw piece into a puzzle
  • The most creative professors are always the ones who use these kinds of analogies. And the ones who are more pedantic, a little more by the book, often aren’t as creative about how they approach things.
  • If you’re not used to math, don’t take that as a sign that maybe you’re bad at math, but just that you need to put more time in.
  • If you are willing to be bit more adventurous, there’s literally almost no topic you can’t learn through this kind of structured, university-like format through the resources available online.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.

Learning Course #7: Readings from week 3-4 #LH2L1

The optional readings for week 3 & 4 of the Learning course* I am taking were interesting. Here is a set of quotes/highlights from them:

Benedict Carey, (May 19, 2014), Remembering, as an Extreme Sport,The New York Times

  • “We found that one of the biggest differences between memory athletes and the rest of us,…is in a cognitive ability that’s not a direct measure of memory at all but of attention.”
  • images accumulate during memorization, they tell an increasingly bizarre but memorable story.
  • Anyone can learn to construct a memory palace, researchers say, and with practice remember far more detail of a particular subject than before.
  • Once any given competition is over, the numbers or words or facts are gone.
  • The old one must be suppressed, so it doesn’t interfere with the new one. One term for that skill is “attentional control,”
  • memory champions are not only exceptional at remembering. They’re also experts at forgetting.

University of California Los Angeles, (June 4, 2014), “Poor health, lifestyle factors linked to memory complaints, even among younger adults,” Medical Press.

  • risk factors [depression, lower education levels, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking] increased the likelihood of self-perceived memory complaints across all adult age groups.
  • Depression, low levels of education, physical inactivity and high blood pressure increased the likelihood of memory complaints in younger adults (ages 18–39), middle-aged adults (40–59) and older adults (60–99), the researchers found. Depression was the strongest single risk factor for memory complaints in all age groups.
  • For younger adults, stress may play more of a role, and the ubiquity of technology

Graham, Paul. “Good and Bad Procrastination.” (Link broken, see in Google cache)

  • you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination.
  • [“absent-minded professors”] put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff. What’s “small stuff?” Roughly, work that has zero chance of being mentioned in your obituary.
  • Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.
  • Real work needs two things errands don’t: big chunks of time, and the right mood.
  • forcing someone to perform errands synchronously is bound to limit their productivity
  • Errands are so effective at killing great projects that a lot of people use them for that purpose.
  • The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn’t feel like procrastination. You’re “getting things done.”
  • What’s the best thing you could be working on, and why aren’t you?
  • Another reason people don’t work on big projects is, ironically, fear of wasting time.

Carlin Flora, Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, Anchor, 2013.

  • friendfluence-book-coverJust as the role of friends is expanding in our culture, Friendfluence explores their powerful and often under-appreciated influence on our personalities, habits, physical health, and even our chances of success in life. In this fascinating book, packed with the latest research findings, Carlin Flora traces friendship from its evolutionary roots to its starring role in childhood and adolescence to its subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) impact on adults—both positive and negative, online and offline. Told with warmth as well as rigor, Friendfluence not only illuminates and interprets the science of friendship but will help you reflect thoughtfully on your social history and wisely navigate your present and future friendships.

Pam Belluck, (January 20, 2011). “To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test.” The New York Times.

  • Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.
  • students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.
  • learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge
  • The students who took the recall tests may “recognize some gaps in their knowledge,” … and they might revisit the ideas in the back of their mind or the front of their mind.”
  • “The struggle [of recall] helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,… “You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ” By contrast when rereading texts and possibly even drawing diagrams, “you say: ‘Oh, this is easier. I read this already.’ ”
  • “More testing isn’t necessarily better,” …“Some tests are just not learning opportunities. We need a different kind of testing than we currently have.”

Harvard Health Publications, (May 2009) “Take a Deep Breath,” Harvard Medical School.

  • Proper breathing goes by many names. You may have heard it called diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. The ability to breathe so deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.
  • Our culture often rewards us for stifling strong emotions. ..Unconsciously, you hold your breath or breathe irregularly.
    Body image affects breathing, too. A “washboard” stomach

Justin Reich, (March 30, 2014). “Big Data MOOC Research Breakthrough: Learning Activities Lead to Achievement,” Ed Tech Researcher.

  • students who do stuff also do more stuff, and they do stuff better
  • there is a correlation between the number of minutes a student spends on Khan Academy and test scores. This isn’t casual evidence
  • kids who do more math stuff on Khan Academy, do better on math tests.
  • students who did stuff were more likely to pass the class
  • learners who complete activities are more likely to complete the course than peers who completed no activities
  • those who took many actions in the course were more likely to earn a certificate than those who took few actions
  • Reich’s Law of Doing Stuff: students who do stuff in a MOOC or other online learning environment will, on average, do more stuff than those who don’t do stuff, and students who do stuff will perform better on stuff than those who don’t do stuff.

University of Utah Health Care Office of Public Affairs. “Researchers Debunk Myth of ‘Right-Brain’ and ‘Left-Brain’ Personality Traits.” Science Daily (2013).

  • Neuroscientists now assert that there is no evidence within brain imaging that indicates some people are right-brained or left-brained. For years in popular culture, the terms left-brained and right-brained have come to refer to personality types, with an assumption that some people use the right side of their brain more, while some use the left side more. Researchers have debunked that myth through identifying specific networks in the left and right brain that process lateralized functions.

Felder, Richard M. “Memo to Students Who Have Been Disappointed with Their Test Grades.” Chemical Engineering Education 33, no. 2 (1999): 136-37.

  • The more “Yes” responses you recorded, the better your preparation for the test.
    1. Did you make a serious effort to understand the text? (Just hunting for relevant worked-out examples doesn’t count.)
    2. Did you work with classmates on homework problems, or at least check your solutions with others?
    3. Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution before working with classmates?
    4. Did you participate actively in homework group discussions (contributing ideas, asking questions)?
    5. Did you consult with the instructor or teaching assistants when you were having trouble with something?
    6. Did you understand ALL of your homework problem solutions when they were handed in?
    7. Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren’t clear to you?
    8. If you had a study guide, did you carefully go through it before the test and convince yourself that you could do everything on it?
    9. Did you attempt to outline lots of problem solutions quickly, without spending time on the algebra and calculations?
    10. Did you go over the study guide and problems with classmates and quiz one another?
    11. If there was a review session before the test, did you attend it and ask questions about anything you weren’t sure about?
    12. Did you get a reasonable night’s sleep before the test? (If your answer is no, your answers to 1- 11 may not matter.)

Sue Barry, Fixing My Gaze, Basic Books, 2009.

  • Sue Barry, Fixing My Gaze, Basic Books, 2009.Barry had been cross-eyed and stereoblind since early infancy. After half a century of perceiving her surroundings as flat and compressed, on that day she was seeing Manhattan in stereo depth for the first time in her life. As a neuroscientist, she understood just how extraordinary this transformation was, not only for herself but for the scientific understanding of the human brain. Scientists have long believed that the brain is malleable only during a “critical period” in early childhood. According to this theory, Barry’s brain had organized itself when she was a baby to avoid double vision – and there was no way to rewire it as an adult. But Barry found an optometrist who prescribed a little-known program of vision therapy; after intensive training, Barry was ultimately able to accomplish what other scientists and even she herself had once considered impossible.

Magic Eye, Inc., Magic Eye: A New Bag of Tricks, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1995. See also the website at 

  • an authoritative source of information about the brain and nervous system for the public.
  • The brain is the most complex biological structure in the known universe. It is a topic rich with exciting new discoveries, continuing profound unknowns, and critical implications for individuals, families, and societies.

App: Breathe2Relax, by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology

  • Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool. Breathe2Relax is a hands-on diaphragmatic breathing exercise. Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management.Breathe2Relax can be used as a stand-alone stress reduction tool, or can be used in tandem with clinical care directed by a healthcare worker.
  • Capitalizing on touch-screen technology, a user can record their stress level on a ‘visual analogue scale’ by simply swiping a small bar to the left or to the right. Breathe2Relax uses state-of-the-art graphics, animation, narration, and videos to deliver a sophisticated, immersive experience for the user.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects” course I am taking.