Monday, June 23, 2014

The Polyglot’s Guide to Foreign Films, Part 2: How to View a Foreign Film

Hello, everyone.  It's time for the second installment of The Polyglot's Guide to Foreign Films, where I give you some helpful hints for making your international cinema viewing all the more enjoyable.  In today's edition, I offer some helpful hints for watching a foreign films.

Foreign films should be approached differently than films in your native tongue.  You have to be an active participant in the viewing process when you’re watching a foreign film; you have to read the subtitles while attempting to watch the action and follow the development of plot.  God forbid the film is experimental! 

In order to prevent you from having a nervous breakdown while trying to make your way through a Goddard box set, I have some tips for making your viewing experience as entertaining as it is edifying. 

Spend the First Quarter of the Film Paying Attention to the Subtitles: Spend the first part of the film paying closer attention to the subtitles; this will allow you to get a feel for the basic plot as well as who the characters are.  Once you have worked out the film's basic plot and characters, you can begin to pay less attention to the subtitles and more attention to the action on the screen.  Believe it or not, you probably won't miss a lot by watching the film's action alone.  Most languages are gestural or rely heavily on inflection which are easy to pick up on even if you don't speak the language.

Stick with a Genre you Enjoy: If you know you love horror films in English, it might be a good idea to watch some foreign horror films.  Your infinity for a genre will more than likely traverse the language barrier.  Also, if you stick to a genre you enjoy, you're already committed (at least in part) to the film by virtue of your affinity.  

Avoid a Busy Environment: Because you'll need to concentrate more on a foreign film than a domestic film, it is a good idea to wait until your viewing space is quiet before you begin watching.  I can tell you, from personal experience, there is nothing more aggravating that to get lost in a film because someone keeps yelling/interrupting/talking/crying/yelling/ ad infinium.

Embrace Spoilers: If you are not the type to get aggravated by spoilers, it wouldn't be a bad idea to read the plot summary of a film on IMDB, particularly for a film that is notoriously difficult or mind bending.  Quite frankly, no one will think lesser of you if your had to read the plot summary of Through a Glass Darkly.  In fact, no one will know you even looked at the summary unless you tell them!

What strategies have you used to improve your foreign film viewing experience? 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What I Am Looking Forward to This Week #6

Why, hello there!  It is time for another edition of What I Am Looking Forward to This Week, the post where I, um . . . discuss what I am looking forward to in the coming week.  Here is what has me excited about the next seven days:

Monday June 23
My World Cup team, the Netherlands, takes on Chile tomorrow in their last game in group play.  It looks like the Flying Dutchmen have cemented a place in the knock-out round, but a win against Chile could put us on the right foot in the second stage.  Sadly, I might miss the second half of the game because I start my summer library hours tomorrow, but I will be checking the score periodically throughout the morning.

Tuesday June 24
This week is $1 Flip Flop week at Old Navy, so I plan to brave the crowds and cash in my Super Cash on some cheap and cheerful sandals.  When you live in California, you can never have too many Flip Flops.  We only have two seasons—spring and summer—and both are sandal weather.

Wednesday June 25
By the middle of the week, I hope to have finished the second season of Orange is the New Black.  I had wanted to finish the series last week, but I was swamped with professional development work and some tasks for my summer classes.  No spoilers in the comments, guys!

Thursday June 26
The U.S. takes on Germany is World Cup play on Thursday.  Since we won our first match and eked out a draw against Portugal, today is D-Day.  Hopefully, we will be able to hold Germany to draw or at least keep the goal differential low and Ghana and Portugal will draw as well.  America has a fighting chance to move on to the second stage of the tournament.  Stay positive, dudes, stay positive!

Friday June 27
By the end of the work week, I hope to have gotten caught up on my June TBR, at least in number if not by title.  Currently, I three books behind on my June TBR and seven books off of my Good Reads 2014 reading goal.  Since I will not be working crazy hours and will still be commuting to work, I should have more time to get caught up on my reading.  Here’s hoping I am able to inch my way closer to actually completing TBR!

Saturday June 28
By next weekend, I plan to be caught up on some writing projects I have been working on.  I have a hard deadline that is only a few months away so I need to buckle down and get to writing. 

Sunday June 29
It’s been so long since I have been able to step back from teaching and just relax that I am actually looking forward to spend my Sunday doing . . . nothing!
Monday, June 16, 2014

The Depression Post #4: Living with Dyathymia

This past weekend, I was working on a Discussion Board post for a Health and Wellness class that I am taking online this summer.  The post was meant to be related to the topic of mental health and, after some initial hesitation, I decided to open up about my own struggles with depression.  Long time readers of my blog will be familiar with my history, but for those of you who are new to this space, I thought I'd re-post my response as a way to get you up to speed.  Here it is:
Depression is an illness that I have struggled with as far back as I can remember; quite literally there I cannot remember a point in my life (even in early childhood) where I wasn’t affected by the mood disorder.  Not all “depressions” are created equally: some people only experience depression episodically and in reaction to a traumatic event, some people endure periods of crippling depression followed by manic highs, others (like me) are always somewhat depressed.  I have a form of depression that called dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder—colloquially known as “chronic depression,” “neurotic depression,” and “melancholia.” 

In layman’s terms, someone who has dysthymic disorder operates with a perpetually low mood most days for a number of years; that is to say, you’re not happy but you’re not crippled by your depression either and it’s been that way for a long time.  A common biology cause for dysthymia has yet to be found, but it is known to run in families.  In families with a history of early-onset dysthymia, individuals have a 50-50 chance of developing the disorder.  A couple of times a year, dysthymic folk will suffer a depressive episode that can last a few days or weeks.  Bad periods aside, most dysthymic people are able to maintain a relatively normal life (hold jobs, behave in socially acceptable ways) with the help of medication and psychotherapy. 

My own experiences with dysthymia have been textbook: I live a normal life with the aid of medication and biweekly psychotherapy.  As far as it can be discerned, I belong to at least the fourth generation of dysthymic individuals in my family. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t depressed to one degree or another; my earliest memories date back to when I was about three years old.  Most days my life is like a Smiths song; sometimes it is like a Joy Division song. 

For the most part, I don’t feel stigmatized about my psychological disorder; it was a genetic roll of the dice, I could just as easily have been born with blue eyes or curly hair as with depression. It isn’t pretty, but it’s under control and I am not sure who I would be without it.  Sometimes people can be unkind and tell me to “snap out of it” or “forget about it,” but for the most part, I am surrounded by people who are understanding.  When I am having a bad day (or week, or month), I have strategies that help me recover (writing, watching movies, going for a swim, or playing with my dog).

Depression isn’t a cop out, it isn’t a fashionable or artistic way of being, and it certainly isn’t fun.  Rather, depression is an illness that is readably treatable and needn’t be an individual’s defining characteristic. 
Sunday, June 15, 2014

What I Am Looking Forward to This Week #5

Happy Sunday Night/Early Monday Morning!  It is that time of the week again: time for another break down of the happenings that I am most looking forward to in the next seven days. 

Monday June 16—World Cup Matches for Group G
The World Cup started last week and I have found myself intermittently glued to a TV screen for days.  I am especially looking forward to tomorrow’s Group G matches between Germany and Portugal and the US and Ghana.  While I do agree with J├╝rgen Klinsmann’s assessment of the US team’s chances, I can’t help but root for ‘merica tomorrow . . . but my [metaphoric] money is on Germany for the Group win and the WIN win. 

Tuesday June 17—Professional Development Days!
Tuesday through Friday of the coming week, I will be at a professional development series at work.  Since the Common Core standards go into effect in the fall, we have a few last minute touches to put on our school’s instructional model before it’s “go time.” Since these work days are beyond those stipulated in my contract, I’ll be paid extra for my time.  Really, you can’t beat professional growth and extra money!  Win win!

Wednesday June 18—Netherlands vs. Australia
Though the smart money is on the Germans to take home the World Cup, my heart will always will always belong to The Flying Dutchmen.  On Wednesday, I am looking forward to watching my team trouncing the Aussies and get that much closer to total Group B dominance. 

Thursday June 19—Wrapping up Another Chapter in My German Class
I am already proficient in German, but I haven’t taken a class in the language for thirteen years.  As yet, I am breezing through my online German class this summer and I am looking forward to making my way through the next chapter in the book.  Also, my class is doing a cultural presentation on a German-centric topic of our choice.  I will be soaked to get my presentation done by mid-week.

Friday June 20—Finishing Orange is the New Black: Season 2
I have six more episodes to go in the second season of Orange is the New Black.  For the most part, I have been able to avoid spoilers up till now; however, I am not willing to tempt fate.  If I watch at least one episode a night [more like two, knowing me] I should be able to complete the second season by the end of the week. 

Saturday June 21—Breath!
I am looking forward to a restful weekend.  I feel like I have been going at full tilt for quite some time and it will be nice to have some time to myself, for myself!

Sunday June 22—Prepping for My First Summer Library Shifts
A week from Monday I will begin my summer shifts at the library.  It will be nice to get back into the library after a few weeks away . . . and to earn a few extra pennies!
Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Polyglot’s Guide to Foreign Films, Part 1: How to Select a Film

Selecting a foreign film to watch is trickier than picking a movie in your native tongue.  My virtue of it being in another language, a foreign film places greater time and intellectual demands on its viewers than the traditional (trite) Hollywood fare.  As such, it is especially important that you make an informed choice when selecting a film. 

Here are some suggestions for helping you pick a foreign film to fit your personal taste.

Stick to Your Interests: When you’re looking for a film that will pique your interests, it is best to start with a culture that you already have an affinity for or a film in a language you studied in high school or college.  If you start investigating films that are connected to your pre-existing interests, you are more likely to have an affinity for the movie and to actually finish the movie!

Ask Your Friends: Ask among your friends if there are any foreign films they have seen and enjoyed.  Your friends know you (duh) and they could tell you if the film would be to your taste or not.  If you are able to get a buddy’s assessment early in your search, you will save yourself a lot of time in the long run. 

Netflix Recommendations: Say what you will about the service, Netflix’s “Taste Profile” and “Recommendations” pagers are a quick way to get recommendations based on what you have watched and rated in the past.  Granted, the recommendations are not without fault (mine says I’d love The Human Centipedeum NO!), but it is a good place to begin or continue you search.

Browse Through the Criterion Collection’s Catalog: Criterion is one of the world’s leading distributors of classic and contemporary films.  You can search the Criterion website for films of interest and limit your query by director, country, and decade.  Some of criterion’s films are also available in VOD for Hulu Plus subscribers.

Read Reviews: Once you have found a couple of contenders, I suggest reading some reviews (sans spoilers) and user ratings on the Internet Movie Database.  If you are particularly sensitive about certain issues, IMDB will help you identify them before you encounter them on screen.

Warning: Don’t Rely on Best of Lists: Entertainment magazines and niche sites love to compile lists of “best” films.  While many films on these lists are well regarded by critics and audiences alike, their inclusion on a list doesn’t mean that you will enjoy the movie yourself.  If you consult a “Best” list, make sure to do some more digging before you watch.

Do you have any tips for selecting foreign films to watch?