Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Reading Kafka improves learning

New research suggest that exposure to bizarre, surreal storylines such as Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” can improve learning. Apparently, when your brain is presented with total absurdity or nonsense, it will work extra hard to find structure elsewhere. In the study by the University of British Columbia psychologists, subjects read The Country Doctor and then took a test where they had to identify patterns in strings of letters. They performed much better than the control group. From Science Daily (Wikimedia Commons image):

 Wikipedia Commons Thumb 7 7D Kafka Portrait.Jpg 450Px-Kafka Portrait “People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings –– clearly they were motivated to find structure,” said Proulx. “But what’s more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story. They really did learn the pattern better than the other participants did.”

In a second study, the same results were evident among people who were led to feel alienated about themselves as they considered how their past actions were often contradictory. “You get the same pattern of effects whether you’re reading Kafka or experiencing a breakdown in your sense of identity,” Proulx explained. “People feel uncomfortable when their expected associations are violated, and that creates an unconscious desire to make sense of their surroundings. That feeling of discomfort may come from a surreal story, or from contemplating their own contradictory behaviors, but either way, people want to get rid of it. So they’re motivated to learn new patterns.”

via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz on 9/16/09

Reading Kafka Improves Learning, Suggests Psychology Study (ScienceDaily)

Connections From Kafka: Exposure to Meaning Threats Improves Implicit Learning of an Artificial Grammar (Psychological Science)

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Love Song


Stan Brakhage – Love Song – 2001 (still)

Brakhage on You Tube

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Harry Smith at The Drawing Center


Harry Smith, “Early Abstractions no. 3: Interwoven,” 1947–49. 16mm film, 3:20 min. (Film still.)

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Drawing on Film


Drawing on Film 4



  1. Bärbel Neubauer, “Roots,” 1996. 35mm film, 3:44 min
  2. Norman McLaren, “Blinkity Blank,” 1955. 16mm film, 5:15 min.
  3. Len Lye, “A Colour Box,” 1935. 35mm Dufaycolour film, 4 min.
  4. Robert Breer, “Eyewash,” 1959. 16mm film, 3 min.

See more here


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Poetry & Aliens


Painting by Anselmo Ballester

Anselmo Ballester

via Vintage Poster

From Poems about Aliens | Poets.org:

“The poet Jack Spicer did more than simply write poems about aliens. He famously explained that his work was written by them. Much like Lorca’s notion of Duende—the dark force poets struggle with which “must come to life in the nethermost recesses of the blood”—Spicer reported that his relationship to his poems was similar to that of a radio to incoming broadcasts and that it was Martians who sent his poems to him through space.

Whether searching in earnest for answers or simply gazing up at the stars, poets continue to engage what lies just outside of their humanity.”

Read the article here.

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