a little holiday and a lot of death

It feels like I’m going to start every post on this blog with some kind of “I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long!” message.  But that’s always been true of me with blogs and diaries and things; don’t feel bad, War with Oblivion, you aren’t the exception.

I’ll just run through a couple of short things today, and maybe later, I’ll write you some longer stuff.

Interring ashes: it’s kind of weird

Last week, we interred my paternal grandfather’s ashes.  Before this year, I hadn’t been to a funeral since I was nine or so, when my maternal grandfather died, and then, we went away before they lowered his casket into the ground.  This one, the one last week, was a nice little memorial service; I liked how informal it was.  The pastor read to us, we said a prayer, and then Dad and Uncle Tom lowered the little box into the ground and we set flowers over it. 

It’s a faraway cemetery, relatively speaking–way out in the country by where Grandma was raised–but that’s perfect.  I always think of him and Grandma as being a part of the countryside in a way my maternal grandparents–especially my maternal grandfather–wasn’t.  Neither’s better or worse, and both are lovely resting places, but I’m glad Grandpa will be out where there are a lot of trees and prairie grasses in the distance, and just a little two-lane highway nearby. 

During the service, a hawk circled overhead, and I heard it cry in that sort of skree-skree way they do.  And Grandpa loved hawks–there’s one that my cousin Tilly drew etched on his grave.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about since he died is how great a children’s book his life could make.  Grandpa was raised in the southwest during the Great Depression; his youth was spent around farm workers, miners, railroad workers, and wild donkeys.  And, of course, horse thieves!  You could make a wonderful book out of stories like that–and historical fiction is really my favourite anyway.  (If I ever do become a proper writer, my goal isn’t a Newbery Medal–though that would be nice, lol!–but a Scott O’Dell award for historical fiction.  That’s the highest honour I can think of, to be awarded a medal named for the author of my favourite book of all time.)

If I have one regret, it’s that I never asked him to sit down and tell me his life’s story as I did Grandma.  He didn’t talk much about it to us, though I remember him telling me once about the Mexican children he saw (and didn’t much interact with, I suppose) when he was a boy. 

Regionalisms

Speaking of writing–and words in general, I guess–one of the things I love about the way my grandmothers talk is their use of very, very Midwestern speech.  My maternal grandmother especially.  The word I always think of in relation to her is a contraction I’ve never heard outside my family; you take the words “pretty near” and telescope them down to something that sounds like “prinyer.”  I’ve always understood what “prinyer” meant, but it took me until I was in my teens to work out how it must have originated from “pretty near.”  (And actually, since I don’t know anybody else who says it, that’s just an educated guess on my part!  But since there are other, similar regionalisms out there–here’s the example of “pert near”–I think I’m right.)

It’s a word I like, and one I’ve adopted into my own speech.  I’ve always been a bit of a magpie when it comes to other people’s speech habits: if it’s shiny and a little unusual, I’m interested.  (I remember when I was five or six, we went to pick up my British cousins at O’Hare, and everyone laughed and laughed when I told them not to have a bird.  That’s something Great-Grandma Hazel used to say, and she was still alive at the time.  She was also fond of “Good night!” as an exclamation.)  And it’s one I’d like to include in my writing, but I’ve always been unsure of how to spell it.  (My initial inclination would be “prinure,” but that makes it look almost Latinate; it certainly hides the word’s rather more humble roots.)  And who would understand what I meant if I threw it into a story about the Great Depression? 

And how pretentious I must sound, talking about a word like “prinyer” and saying things like “my initial inclination”!  All this to say that I am very, very fond of that word.  I also like how Grandma puts an R in words that include an “awsh” sound, like Washington, but I wouldn’t borrow that for myself.  That’s too much accent–and now that I’m not in middle school, putting on English accents to feel elegant, I prefer to borrow people’s vocabulary instead.

…Oops.

It’s just not fair that the Criterion Collection sale happens right by my birthday, guys.  I feel like I shouldn’t buy things, because my birthday is coming, but at the same time, all those lovely movies for half price.  It doesn’t strictly matter anyway, because I went to a Barnes and Noble to look at the selections, and they didn’t have the greatest selection of Criterion DVDs.  I wanted any of the following, and I don’t think I saw any of them:

  • The 39 Steps
  • All That Heaven Allows
  • Au revoir, les enfants
  • Black Orpheus
  • Brazil
  • Carnival of Souls
  • Charade
  • The Complete Monterey Pop
  • F for Fake
  • Fanfan le Tulipe
  • The Flowers of St. Francis
  • Grey Gardens
  • Harlan County, U.S.A.
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • I Know Where I’m Going!
  • If…
  • Kes
  • Martha Graham: Dance on Film
  • The Most Dangerous Game
  • Night and Fog
  • On the Waterfront
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Paul Robeson: Portraits of an Artist
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Rebecca (okay, since it’s out of print, I didn’t expect them to have this.  BUT STILL)
  • The Red Shoes
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Shoah
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • That Hamilton Woman
  • The Threepenny Opera
  • The Times of Harvey Milk
  • Topsy-Turvy
  • Young Mr. Lincoln

I don’t think these are all that obscure of movies, frankly–I’m pretty sure I saw part of Joan of Arc when I was little.  Most of them aren’t even foreign.  (I wish I was more into non-English-language cinema, but the fact of the matter is that old Hollywood holds the key to my heart.  Sometimes I feel so uncultured, lol!)  So disappoint.  But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t end up walking out with a bunch of movies anyway, sigh.  (In my defense, they averaged out to $5.75 a DVD!  I was still being thrifty, I promise.)

  • Bedazzled (2000)
  • Inkheart
  • The Iron Giant
  • A Film Unfinished
  • Hanna
  • The Tuskegee Airmen
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Airheads

Barnes & Noble knows that Brendan Fraser is one of my cinematic weaknesses, so they put a bunch of his movies in the $5 DVD bin.  I’m ashamed to tell you all that I was unable to clear them out, because I already owned some of the ones they deemed unlikely to sell without a “$4.98” sticker on them.

Anyway, I am pleased with what I did find, even if the overall collection available was pretty weaksauce.  The Criterion Collection sale is something losers like me look forward to yearly (seriously, people get really excited about it on the AV Club).  Why would you just call it your “arthouse” sale and primarily sell a bunch of recent shit?  I mean, I understand why, my movie dollars aren’t going to be any big box store’s bread and butter (since I range from buying Be-fucking-dazzled remakes to demanding The Passion of Joan of Arc), but I really wanted to see a better Criterion selection.  Ah, well.  I’m thinking about going to a different Barnes and Noble today and seeing if they have anything I want.  Lol!

Something that’s actually about books now

I’ve started a little project, and that’s putting together lists of picture and chapter books I enjoyed, with separate lists for childhood favourites and adulthood favourites.  I know people with babies suddenly, and I also just want to keep track for my own sake.  So I thought it might be helpful to be able to show people lists of things I enjoyed and would maybe recommend to others.

There’s the caveat that the nature of a GoodReads shelf is such that you can’t exactly explain your picks.  So I can’t put up notes saying things like “I THINK THIS BOOK HAS REDEEMING VALUE BUT IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE EARLY 20th CENTURY AND YOU SHOULD PROBABLY DISCUSS THE RACISM IN IT WITH YOUR CHILD AND/OR PREVIEW IT TO MAKE SURE IT’S SOMETHING YOU WANT YOUR CHILD READING.”  But if a book is especially racist, sexist, or anything else -ist, I hope you’ll assume that I’m recommending it with that in mind.

So, if you’d like to take a look at what I read and have read, you can check out these links:

There’s some YA mixed in with the chapter books, because it’s hard to separate those out.  And, of course, these lists are a work in progress!

Now, if only there was a way to acquire old books on tape easily!  I have been longing after Apple Tree Christmas, the one where the two sisters played in an apple tree until it was destroyed in a storm, and then their father managed to save the branches they loved for them for Christmas.  I can still hear the narrator’s voice in my head, and I thought it was just a wonderfully performed story.  I don’t think I ever saw what the book actually looked like until I went looking for it last night.  And while I’m sure it’s lovely to read as well as to hear, the memory of listening to it is what’s dear in my heart.

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