Snow and some geese

Ok, I know that every blogger in Central Virginia has already posted pictures of today’s snow.  But not everybody has Walden Pond in their pictures.  By “Walden Pond,” I’m not referring to the place where Thoreau “went to the woods to live deliberately,” but to the little fishing pond in my apartment complex.  It’s not exactly a natural wonder, but snow makes everything beautiful.  I don’t need some transcendentalist to tell me that.

A tasteful fanfic

So…you see how long this post is, and you’re probably thinking, she’s already broken the resolution she made just yesterday.  But this is an exception.  I’ve been intending to post this story since last Thursday, when I had a rare dispensation of writing inspiration.  That night, I wrote a short story about a guy who finds some of his lost confidence in a bakery (I’m looking for a more traditional distribution channel for that one), and I still had enough leftover writing high to dash off another quick story before I went to bed.  This second one is a Harry Potter fan fiction.  But put images of a Draco/Harry romance out of your mind; this one is in good taste, and nobody acts out of character.  Be warned, though: you might cry.  A few readers already have.

Fred Weasley’s funeral was eventful, something no funeral should be.  They had it in the back yard of the Burrow, exactly where Bill’s wedding had been a year before.  Charlie walked in late because he had forgotten how to get to the house, which made his mother cry even harder than she was already crying.  Ron didn’t say a word all day; he just stared out into the middle distance with red-rimmed eyes.  George wouldn’t look in the casket, and people kept starting when they saw him, as if they’d seen a ghost.  He kept his head down during the funeral and completely disappeared during the part when everybody came up and greeted the family.

Percy disappeared in the middle of the funeral itself; his dad eventually found him sitting on the kitchen floor, sobbing about how he shouldn’t be there and nobody wanted him there, and how that explosion should have killed him instead of Fred.  Mr. Weasley didn’t know what to say, so he waited until Percy stopped crying and then led him bodily out to where the funeral was still going on.

Ginny, who seemed the most composed of the family, made a brief speech about how lucky she was to have so many brothers, and how she loved them all, but Fred had taught her how to play Quidditch, and how he’d always said to her, “Be safe and be good, little sister,” and she’d say, “You too,” and they’d said it not even an hour before he’d died.  Ginny had inserted oblique messages into her speech for certain brothers, but Percy wasn’t even there when she said the part about putting the past behind them, and Ron was completely checked out when she talked about trying to get along better with her brothers and not argue so much.

Bill felt torn between Fleur, who felt like an outsider even though she had the proper surname, and his mother, who looked very alone when Arthur was off chasing down their missing sons.  The people who didn’t have the proper surname felt extraordinarily out of place.  Harry had wanted to sit with Ginny, but Hermione thought the front row should be family only, so the two of them hovered restlessly in the second row.  There were only a few others: some random extended family members; the awkward neighbors, the Lovegoods; Angelina Johnson, an old Quidditch teammate who had gone out with Fred once or twice.  All the others who would have come were busy with losses of their own, or reluctant to leave their loved ones.

At the end of the day, everyone was so tired they didn’t even want to eat.  Mrs. Weasley cooked anyway.

Read these other blogs.

I did not expect to find inspiration for my blog from a tutoring appointment I had to cover today.  The tutee, a native Korean speaker, wanted me to check her blog posts to see whether they sounded like idiomatic English.  I fell in love with her blog,  Despite its title, My Continual Feast, it’s not exactly a food blog, though she does occasionally include some pretty delectable-looking descriptions and pictures of her culinary creations.  In general, “feast” here should be understood in a metaphorical sense.  It’s a feast consisting of notes from friends, watercolor Christmas cards, Central Virginia foliage, good dreams, and a beloved cat.  It’s a feast, in short, of all God’s blessings.  Looking at her blog made me a bit embarrassed of my long, sometimes pretentious posts.  When I showed her my blog, I wished I had included more pictures, more recipes (told in narrative style), fewer words.  (She did say she would use my blog as “homework” to practice her English reading comprehension…not exactly what I envisioned when I started it, but at least somebody is getting some use out of it.)

This is another blog that inspires me:  The author of this one is a native English speaker, a very articulate one, but she manages to keep her posts simple and lovely, and people actually want to read them the whole way through.  I want my blog to be more like these two that I’ve mentioned.  Maybe that will really happen; maybe it won’t–after all, I’m me, not them.  But you can probably expect a few changes over the next few weeks.  Meanwhile, you should start following these other beautiful blogs.

More thoughts for the Academy

I’m slowly working my way through the Oscar-nominated films that I actually want to see.  I watched Moneyball a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it, though I wouldn’t exactly say that my mind was blown.  I just saw The Help this afternoon and liked it in spite of trying hard not to.  I would still like to see The Descendants and Midnight in Paris; the rest of the nominees I could take or leave.

I was looking at the list of nominees the other day and thinking about how few of them I’ve actually seen–and not just in the Best Picture category, but all of them.  I thought, “Did I just not see very many movies this past year?”  That’s somewhat the case; my intense summer of PhD classes didn’t leave me much time for film-going (though I did make an exception mid-July; you get three guesses what the movie was).  But as I reached back into my memory, I recalled that I did see a fair amount of movies released in 2011, and for the most part, they were good movies.  Movies like Crazy Stupid Love, Take Shelter, 50/50, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (yes, I’m a bit biased on that last one, but I’m not the only one who thinks it got stiffed).  Even Winnie-the-Pooh: no, it isn’t a Best Picture, but surely it’s better than at least one of the Best Animated Feature Film nominees?  (I’m talking to you, Puss in Boots.)

What I’m saying is nothing new.  You’ve seen this rant plenty of times already if you’ve been paying attention to Oscar buzz at all.  But I’m going to steer my rant in a different direction.  My admonition to my fellow armchair film critics is this: We can’t influence the mercurial tastes of the Academy.  So let’s stop whining, and let’s stop feeling guilty if we don’t see all the films that get nominated.  As I hope my list has shown you (and this is indeed a partial list; I would love to see your additions), good movies come out every year that don’t get recognized.  We can still enjoy those movies, demonstrate our approval of them by paying to see them, and spread the word about them, as I’ve just done.  Seriously.  You should see those movies I mentioned.  I have good taste. 😉

Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!

Today is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birth.  I have been trying to decide how best to use my blog to commemorate the day, and I haven’t come to a satisfying conclusion.  I think the problem is that there’s too much Charles Dickens.  I can’t pick just one favorite character from his teeming world, where every time you turn a London street corner you’re likely to run into an old enemy, a dear school friend, or a long-lost relative.  Or, maybe just a singular character whom you ran into on that same street corner ten years before.  I can’t pick just one favorite line from the most verbose Englishman since Shakespeare (I’m not doing an accurate word count, here; I’m just referring to the exuberant flow of language that characterizes the work of both authors), who mastered both snark and sentiment, and can still make readers who have never seen the Thames feel a creeping London fog rolling in with the night over the river.

To my readers who don’t know what I’m talking about: for the characters, read David Copperfield.  For the descriptions, read Bleak House.  For something short to start off with, read A Christmas Carol.  And let me know what you think!