Harry Potter and the Last Goodbye

Like thousands of other holidaymakers this year I took the latest edition of Harry Potter on holiday with me, knowing it was going to be the last holiday we would ever spend together. My relationship with Harry goes back to 1997 and whilst Apprentice M…

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To Make Great Films, You Must Read, Read, Read and Write, Write, Write, Say Akira Kurosawa and Werner Herzog

I wouldn’t presume to draw many comparisons between the work of Akira Kurosawa and Werner Herzog. There is, in both directors, a rough, masculinist daring that fully explores the tragic limitations and bloody consequences of rough, masculinist daring. This broad thematic commitment expresses itself in both artists’ films in wildly different ways. Maybe what most connects them, and connects them to their ardent fans, is a shared writerly sensibility. Film may be foremost a visual medium, yet—given the weight of thousands of years of oral and written storytelling that came before it—filmmakers cannot produce great work without steeping themselves in literature.

Or, at least, that’s what both Kurosawa and Herzog have argued—and who would contradict them? Filmmaking is a risky endeavor in the best of circumstances. “It costs a great deal of money to make a film these days,” and becoming a director is “not so easily accomplished,” says Kurosawa in his interview offering advice to aspiring filmmakers above. “If you genuinely want to make films,” he says, “then write screenplays.” Where did the ideas for his screenplays come from? From literature. It’s important, he says, that filmmakers “do a certain amount of reading. Unless you have a rich reserve within, you can’t create anything.”

Kurosawa adapted the 1951 Rashomon, perhaps his most widely acclaimed film, from two short stories by Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” (1915) and “In a Grove” (1921). 1985’s Ran is famously “an Eastern retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear,” an author from whom Kurosawa learned much. He adapted Dostoevsky, his favorite writer, in a Japanese context, and his 1957 film The Lower Depths adapts a play by Maxim Gorky. Even his films that do not directly translate another writer’s work still draw inspiration from literary sources. Reading leads to writing, and to become an accomplished filmmaker, Kurosawa says in no uncertain terms, you must write.

This advice does not always go over well, he admits. Writing is painful and difficult, often a thankless, unforgiving task with no immediate reward. “Still,” he says, paraphrasing Balzac, “for writers, including novelists, the most essential and necessary thing is the forbearance to face the dull task of writing one word at a time.” One only learns how to do this by doing it—and by immersing oneself in the work of others who have done it. To succeed as a storyteller, the basis of the director’s art, you must “write, write, write, and read.”

Herzog, implying the importance of writing more than stating it outright, begins and ends his advice to young aspirants above with the repeated injunction, “read, read, read, read,” and so on. “If you don’t read, you’ll never be a filmmaker.” Technical considerations are secondary. Herzog’s Rogue Film School encourages students to “go absolutely and completely wild”… by reading Hemingway, Virgil, The Poetic Edda, and J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine. (He also suggests The Warren Commission Report and Bernal Diaz del Castillo’s True History of the Conquest of New Spain.) Kurosawa does not offer specific suggestions. He grants that “current novels are fine, but one should read the classics too.” The kinds of stories these filmmakers recommend has much to do with their own temperaments and interests; whatever you might prefer to read in the course of your directorial training, Herzog says you must read as much as possible, and, Kurosawa adds, you must write, write, write, and write some more.

Related Content:

Werner Herzog Creates Required Reading & Movie Viewing Lists for Enrolling in His Film School

Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School: Apply & Learn the Art of Guerilla Filmmaking & Lock-Picking

How Did Akira Kurosawa Make Such Powerful & Enduring Films? A Wealth of Video Essays Break Down His Cinematic Genius

Akira Kurosawa’s List of His 100 Favorite Movies

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Perception of Support Helps People Cope with Worries

Perceiving that a partner is providing support when one is worried and stressed can have a powerful effect. In fact, the perception that someone cares may be more important that receiving actual support. Moreover, the perception of support may have physical and mental benefits as sleep and health may both be improved.

Dr. Kate Sweeny, a professor of psychology at University of California Riverside and her research team study “worry and waiting” to help advance the understanding of worry during periods of anxious waiting, such as for medical test results or the outcome of a job interview.

They discovered that when life bring circumstances that cause worries optimists are as prone as pessimists to brace themselves for the worst, that worry can act as a motivator, and that many coping strategies fail us during periods of acute uncertainty.

Sweeny also identified one thing that works to reduce stress in those moments: mindfulness meditation, a focus on the present moment.

In a recent study, funded by the National Science Foundation, Sweeny’s “worry and waiting” research team finds a connection between the perception that your romantic partner cares, and a reduction in stress during challenging waiting periods.

Perception is a key word; past psychology research has suggested disparity between support received, and support perceived. In fact, research has found actual support has no effect on alleviating stress, and can even cause greater stress. It’s called “the paradox of received social support.”

“Sometimes, when we receive support from another person, if affects us in some negative ways — we might feel needy, or incompetent, or emotionally unstable,” Sweeny said.

“In contrast, simply feeling like you have support without actually asking for it or noticing that it’s being delivered is almost universally beneficial.”

The research, soon to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds that perception of support from a partner peaked at the beginning and end of a lengthy waiting period, in this case the wait for bar exam results, but dipped in the middle.

Worry, after all, is not a static experience: it’s greater at the start, when uncertainty is fresh, and at the end, when the news is imminent.

It could be that people are more attuned to support during these periods of greater stress. Also, when expressions of stress are less — generally in the middle of the wait — partners may perceive that the stressed partner is more at ease.

“It’s possible that partners were truly less supportive during that time, or it could be that exam-takers were more demanding or less readily satisfied with support during that time, or perhaps a combination of both,” Sweeny said.

In addition to coping better, the stressed partner reported better sleep and feeling healthier during periods when they reported that their romantic partner was more responsive to their support needs.

The study also revealed that people who were more positive, embracing hope and optimism about their exam result, perceived that their partner cared more overall. In contrast, people who were more negative and pessimistic perceived that their partner cared less.

As she has before, Sweeny used as subjects recent law school graduates who were suspended in a four-month purgatory awaiting bar exam results. She zoomed in on 168 law students who reported they were in romantic relationships.

These students are dealing with a different universe of waiting-related stress than people who have, for instance, lost their jobs or are grieving. There is, at least, some feeling of control over what’s to come, and what can to be done to reduce stress.

“You have a large number of people taking the exam at the exact same time, and the results are posted as a particular time online,” Sweeny said. “That means we can easily follow a fairly large group of participants throughout what seems to be a very stressful life experience.”

Source: UC-Riverside/EurekAlert

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Web Training for Parents Can Reduce Disruptive Behavior in Pre-K Kids

A new Finnish study finds that Internet- and telephone-assisted training for parents can be an effective approach for reducing disruptive behavior in children at age 4, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

Positive long-term outcomes after a 24-month period include a reduction in child disruptive behavior and increased parental skills.

Untreated disruptive behavior disorders in children are some of the most costly early childhood psychiatric disorders. A number of studies have shown that this type of behavior can lead to long-term harmful outcomes, including mental and physical health problems, crime, substance abuse and increased risk of suicidality later in life.

Although parental training is one of the most effective approaches for the psychosocial treatment of disruptive behavioral problems in young children, no previous randomized controlled trial has been conducted on an intervention offering remote or internet-assisted parental training and population-based screening.

The new study reports on two-year outcomes from preschool children with disruptive behavioral problems who were randomized to receive either an 11-week Internet-assisted parental training or an educational control condition.

Altogether, 730 of the 4,656 four-year-old children who attended annual child health clinic check-ups in southwest Finland met the criteria for high level disruptive behavioral problems. A total of 464 parents took part in the 11-week Strongest Families Smart Website (SFSW) intervention program, or an educational control (EC) group.

When the SFSW and EC groups were compared between baseline and after the 24-month follow-up, the findings showed significantly higher improvements in the SFSW group.

In addition, most of the child psychopathology measures, including aggression, sleep problems, anxiety and other emotional problems decreased significantly more in the SFSW group than in the EC group. Similarly, parental skills increased more in the SFSW group than in the EC group.

The findings also show that the SFSW children made significantly less use of child mental health services than the EC group during the 24-month follow-up period (17.5 percent vs. 28.0 percent).

“Our findings address some key public health challenges in delivering parent training programs,” said lead author Andre Sourander, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Turku, Finland, and leader of the research group.

“When traditional parental training requires referral to clinical services, it often results in substantial delays, and older children are more likely to require adjunctive treatment to parental training.”

“Studies have identified that Internet-assisted treatment programs may offer certain benefits over traditional interventions: these include high levels of support, greater accessibility, convenience and reduced costs.”

Source: Elsevier

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Cognitive Skills in Older Adults May Peak in Summer & Fall

A new Canadian study finds that most older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, appear to have better cognitive skills in the late summer and early fall than they do in the winter and spring. The difference in cognition is equal to nearly five years of age-related decline.

Very few studies have looked at the association between season and cognition in older adults. In the new work, researchers analyzed data on 3,353 people enrolled in three different cohort studies in the United States, Canada and France.

All of the participants had undergone neuropsychological testing and, in a subset of participants, levels of proteins and genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease were also available.

The researchers, led by Andrew Lim of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto, found that average cognitive functioning was higher in the summer and fall than the winter and spring, equivalent in cognitive effect to 4.8 years difference in age-related decline.

The findings also show that the odds of meeting the diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment or dementia were higher in the winter and spring than summer or fall. The link between season and cognitive function remained strong even when the data was controlled for potential confounders, including depression, sleep, physical activity and thyroid status.

Finally, an association with seasonality was also seen in levels of Alzheimer’s-related proteins and genes in cerebrospinal fluid and the brain. However, the research was limited by the fact that each participant was only evaluated once per annual cycle, and only included data on individuals from temperate northern-hemisphere regions, not from southern-hemisphere or equatorial regions.

Overall, the study finds that season has a clinically significant association with cognition and its neurobiological correlates in older adults with and without AD pathology.

“There may be value in increasing dementia-related clinical resources in the winter and early spring when symptoms are likely to be most pronounced,” the authors said. “By shedding light on the mechanisms underlying the seasonal improvement in cognition in the summer and early fall, these findings also open the door to new avenues of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Source: PLOS

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