Thursday, 17 March 2011

CONFESSIONS OF AN ADULT LEARNER


I have a confession to make: Every Saturday for the past six weeks, I've been attending a University Prep course at my local university (The University of Prince Edward Island, or more commonly, UPEI). This two-hour-per-session course is designed to help adult learners return to, or in some cases join for the first time, academia.

A friend of mine who is a professor at UPEI brought the program to my attention and suggested in his firm but polite tone that I attend an information session, so I did (I had already learned that it almost always makes sense to pay attention to Dr. Miles Turnbull). At the session on a very snowy January night, a mismatched group of potential adult learners gathered in one of UPEI's lecture halls, and were introduced to the University Prep program by Treena Smith, Transition Coordinator at the university's Webster Centre for Teaching & Learning. The University Prep program is Treena's baby, and kudos have to be given to her (they already have, as she's won an award for this program) for recognizing this gap and taking steps to address it. Treena ran through the topics that would be covered during the upcoming sessions, and more importantly, she made obvious her enthusiasm for learning at all stages. Her zeal proving contagious, I was sold on the program, and signed up, paying my measly 50 bucks.

Over the next six weeks we covered topics ranging from Learning Styles to Critical Thinking with sessions led by Treena, Dr. Barb Campbell, Anne Bartlett and Kylah Hennessey. The original “mismatched group” was reconfigured significantly from the information session, and this still-diverse collection of adult learners who were considering taking the plunge back into education for a variety of reasons, presented an opportunity to discuss, examine, and to be exposed to new, and in some cases oppositional, viewpoints. The information imparted during the six weeks was essential, giving any student a jumpstart on their post-secondary education. Developing improved study skills was a highlight, as was the discussion aspect of each session. Perhaps the two most important things that I take away from the program, however, is a rediscovered enthusiasm for learning, and the discovery that there are a lot of people at UPEI who are enthusiastic and supportive of adult learners who WANT US TO SUCCEED! And for someone considering a return to school after a twenty-year absence, THAT is critical knowledge.

I also have a second confession to make: Our final assignment was to make a brief presentation about what we got out of the University Prep course. With contemporary technology turning the concept of traditional presentations on its ear, I elected to use my blog as my presentation format. Clearly, my presentation is what you've just read above. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.




Tuesday, 1 March 2011

MY FAVOURITE GIALLI

Italian thrillers known singularly as giallo (pronounced as “jah-lo”, and meaning “yellow” as per the primary colour used on the lurid book covers that these flicks are named for) and plurally as gialli, have long been an obsession of mine. Starting back in the early 1980's with my first exposure to whited-out, censored VHS copies of Dario Argento’s classics like Deep Red and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, I developed a taste for these highly stylized and often nonsensical mysteries highlighted by violent and indelible set pieces.

A problem some people have in engaging with these films is that, unlike a typical blockbuster, they ask something from the viewer. As a burgeoning fan of odd films from around the world, I learned to let go of my preconceived notions of what constitutes story, I learned to look past horrible dubbing, butchered framing and cut prints, and I learned to enjoy the impressionist response that these film elicited from me. Through my eyes, watching a giallo is all about the experience, the feeling. It’s Hitchcock’s theory of “pure cinema” at its most basic. For me, this is extremely rewarding.

Defining giallo is somewhat difficult, but here are some of their prevalent characteristics: Their heyday was from the mid-1960’s to early 80’s. The majority of gialli are from Italy, though Spain and other countries also contributed to the canon. These murder mysteries frequently feature killers clothed in black leather gloves, a raincoat and a fedora, obscuring their identities and sometimes genders; they are highly fetishized. As mentioned previously, the attack scenes are the highlights of each film, giving the director an opportunity to use all of cinema's resources: composition, sound, editing, movement, intense colour or stark black and white. These films are lurid, dealing with drug addiction, backstreet abortions, extreme sexuality, child murder, greed, blackmail, and insanity. Conversation and threats are whispered through closed doors, over the phone, or left playing on reel-to-reel tape recorders. Their musical scores are memorable, created by maestros like Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Riz Ortolani, and in the case of Argento’s Deep Red, Goblin provides an appropriately pounding rock score. In almost every gialli, someone will swig from a bottle of J&B and in many cases, someone will shout “Pronto. Pronto? PRONTO!” into an oversized telephone receiver. The titles of these films are almost poetic, making obscure and evocative use of words; the films themselves are also very much like this, but in a filmic sense. Look for directors with names like Argento, Bava, Martino, Fulci, Dallamano, Margheriti and Lado; actresses Edwige Fenech, Susan Scott, Erica Blanc, Florinda Bolkan, Anita Strindberg, Mimsy Farmer and Daria Nicolodi; actors George Hilton, Fabio Testi, Ray Lovelock, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nero and Jean Sorel. Don't forget, the revelation of the killer or killers is frequently secondary to the path we take getting there. You've been warned.

Put your understanding of conventional storytelling on hold, pour yourself a Scotch on the rocks, and begin your fall into the underbelly of cinema. There’s just so much out there to discover in this uncharted territory. Here is a list of my most highly recommended gialli:

ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK



AUTOPSY



BAY OF BLOOD



BLOOD AND BLACK LACE



DEATH LAID AN EGG



DEEP RED



DELIRIUM



DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING



EYEBALL



THE FIFTH CORD



THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION



THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH



THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS



THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN



A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN



MY DEAR KILLER



PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK



PERVERSION STORY



THE PSYCHIC



SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS



THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH



THE STENDHAL SYNDROME



STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER



TORSO



WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?



WHO SAW HER DIE?



YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY