Food for thought– literally

This article from Yahoo! Food may give you some guidance the next time you need to eat while studying.  Insert “famished college student” for “kid” and you should be fine.

8 Study Snacks That Make Kids Smarter

Posted Mon, Aug 20, 2007, 9:36 pm PDT


Ask any kid, second-grader, or swaggering senior: Studying makes you hungry! Memorizing math formulas? Chips and soda are part of the equation. Digging into Moby Dick? Harpoon a bag of M&Ms.

Actually, the idea’s right on — eating can help the brain focus, if you know which foods to choose. But gee, surprise, candy and chips aren’t among them.

What will help kids who are cracking the books? It depends on what kind of help they need, but it comes down to one of two Cs:

Carbs, healthy ones, for kids who tend to get so freaked about surprise tests or tough teachers that they lose all focus.
Comfort foods for studiers who start out okay but gradually get tense, can’t sleep, wake up exhausted, and then don’t do well.

Of the two, only one needs a little explaining: carbs. The brain needs glucose, or blood sugar, to stay sharp and alert. In fact, the brain is the only organ in the body that uses only glucose for energy. Glucose comes from carbohydrates. But the brain (like the body) does much better with a steady flow of energy, not the quick rush it gets from eating rapidly absorbed carbs like candy and chips. So slowly absorbed carbs — which, gee, more surprises, include whole grains, fruits, and veggies — produce longer lasting mental energy.
What’s more, in addition to supplying the brain with energy, healthy carbs also have a steadying effect, explains Mindy Hermann, RD: They help boost serotonin, a calming brain chemical. And that combo — calm energy — is an ideal mix for many study-stressed kids, especially an hour or two before an exam or chem lab. So what to feed the homework harassed?

A cup of something warm and soothing.
Whether it’s a light soup, warm milk, chamomile tea, or diet hot cocoa (to avoid the sugar hit) is personal preference — all can help kids who’ve gotten tightly wound up to settle down again, says Hermann. Offer these about an hour before bedtime.
Apple slices spread with peanut butter.
The carb-rich fruit will give serotonin a boost, which helps calm raggedy nerves so it’s easier to focus. The peanut butter is filled with healthy fats.
Cheerios or other oat “Os” cereal. A big bowl of these to munch and crunch on can be a great study snack. This whole-grain kid favorite delivers a lot of nutrients as well as slowly absorbed, subtly calming carbs.
Grapes. Like apples, these sweet carbs get serotonin going while their high fiber content slows down sugar absorption — plus fiber itself seems to have stress-soothing abilities. Some kids prefer their grapes frozen for melt-in-the-mouth fun.
Whole-wheat pretzels. They have the same crunch as regular pretzels but loads more fiber and often lots less thirsty-making salt, so studiers aren’t constantly breaking their train of thought by wanting yet another drink.

More than good grades are on the table here, by the way. Kids who get into the habit of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables –aka healthy carbs — are likely to keep it up into adulthood. If they do, their RealAge could be 36 when they’re actually turning 40. Smart.


Language and Culture

I recently found a quotation that I had written down several years ago because I found it so interesting in its construction, but ultimately it’s commentary on language and culture.  I hope you might also appreciate it.

“The language is gonna have the characteristics of the people that speak it. If the people is inconsistent the language is gonna be inconsistent. If the people is fucking greedy, take shit no matter where they go– the language is gonna take shit no matter where it go. The language is a reflection of the people.”   Marlon Hill, Word Wars


Welcome back

Today, all new students at Columbia College will participate in the pinning ceremony– a beautiful ceremony that simply welcomes each student into the fold that is 156 years of tradition and education. It’s definitely my favorite moment– inextricably tied with the Ivy Chain ceremony in the spring. Welcome, for the first time, to new students and welcome back to returning students. Monday will be here before we know it.

The following link has given me renewed energy for the new semester. It reminds why I teach what I do– the power of the communication is far-reaching, all consuming, and critical to every thing we hold dear in our lives. I had a student once say, “Why do I have to take a speech class? I mean, everyone knows how to speak, it’s like walking.” Do we really? Do we all really know how to speak? And it’s like walking? Maybe he was right… What happens if you lose the ability to walk? Just like the inability to speak, it is debilitating and life-changing.


Michelangelo Antonioni 1912-2007

Wow. Learning the news this morning that Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the founding directors of Italian Neorealism, died was just a bit of a shock. To find out that he died on the same day as Ingmar Bergman… well, wow.

In the history of cinema the new wave of international cinema in the 50’s and 60’s was significant for several reasons. First, it took filmmaking back after ‘creating’ the genre at the turn of the century. Classical Hollywood transformed the genre– no questions asked. Filmmaking wouldn’t be what it is without Hollywood. But it wouldn’t be what it is without the avant garde filmmakers like Bergman and Antonioni {and Kurosawa and Buñuel and Fellini and Bresson and Ray and Rossellini and Godard and DeSica and…}. Hollywood hit a lull after the World War II. Combine that with the human spirit in artists who lived, literally, through that war and you had a filmmaking movement that change cinema forever. Second, the art house movement created by these films changed the style and the business of filmmaking. The independent film movement that Americans like to talk about so much, well, it began with the avant garde movement. Watching a film like Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding), you see the influence of those filmmakers is still as fresh 50+ years later.

I, would like, in this instance for the old wives tale that “deaths come in threes” to be wrong. These two are more than enough.


Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007

It is odd– when I started this website, I wondered if I would ever have anything really interesting to write about. After all, wouldn’t all posts be course specific and for points of information vs. musings and contemplations? It seemly oddly poetic that my first contemplation would come after learning that Ingmar Bergman, the landmark Swedish film director, has died.

I love Sweden. I don’t know when my fascination started but I’ve loved that country for a very long time. I even took Swedish in college. What an experience– it was so different from French and Latin! I finally understood why English is purported to be so hard to learn. Germanic languages just didn’t work in my brain, but I still try to keep what little bit I learned active and present. Hej. Mon heter Amy och jag bor i Columbia. The greatest thing is counting in Swedish: ett, två, tre, fyra, fem, sex, sju, och, nio, tio. The word seven in Swedish is, by far, the most fun a person can have saying a word. I just love it. Ask me some time. Seven nurses is even more fun.

It’s no surprise that I became acquainted with Ingmar Bergman. Not just because he is one of the most highly regarded film directors in all of film history, but because he helped to remind the world of that small country in Scandinavia. The Seventh Seal still frightens me. I cannot sit through it. If you’ve never seen it, you’ve certainly seen a reference to it. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey makes reference to it with their own ‘twist’. The Seventh Seal is incredibly important to film history– from content, to style, to it’s place as an art house constant. To understand the art of cinema, you must experience a Bergman film. You can’t say that about a lot of directors. Do you have to see a Woody Allen film to understand film? A Michael Bay film? A Sally Potter film? I don’t think so. You can certainly learn something…but I believe you have to see a Bergman film. I know that many students in my film history class didn’t like Wild Strawberries, but on a day like today, I am so glad they saw it. And that’s the point about film, film history: it’s about opening yourself up to the elements and seeing the much larger world, the much darker, lighter, softer, harder, funnier, sadder world that a particular film makes available to you.

On this day, I think it only appropriate that I think of wild strawberries, vow to spend my chances well, enjoy the long day’s sunlight, and thank Ingmar Bergman.