This blog isn’t abandoned, though it’s only barely qualifies as active. At the very least, it’s not so dead that I’m not writing my annual year-end post, even if it is 5:08pm on December 31. That lack of activity is due almost entirely to a lack of time; other things are, ultimately, more important, and my free time lately has been spent mostly on family history.
What have I written this year? Let’s just go through post-by-post; it won’t take long.
First was “Consecration to St. Joseph,” about the book of that same name by Fr. Donald Calloway, which is pretty good but not great. Next up, in April, was “Snap Back to Reality,” reviewing Neovictorian’s most recent novel. Highly recommended, with a couple caveats. Jumping ahead to August, we arrive at “You’re the Mandarin Now, Dog,” the second-best article title of the year (this and “Snap Back to Reality” are among my best ever, if I do say so myself). My attempt at learning Chinese has slowed along with every other project I have, but I’ve managed to maintain it.
September brought “Two Books for Raising Saints,” a very important subject. Finally, in October, I discussed the film “The Road Home.” I can at least say that the five posts I did write were done well, probably better than last year’s five posts though with less variety.
Shortly after I began studying Chinese, I thought it would be interesting to check out some Chinese films. I can’t really understand spoken Chinese well yet, so admittedly, any movie would be more for entertainment and a touch of cultural immersion more than a language learning tool. Nonetheless, I decided to give The Road Home a shot recently since it’s well-reviewed and looked like a film my wife might also enjoy, which is rather rare with movies I like.
The Road Home was directed by Zhang Yimou and released in China in 1999. The movie is a bit unusual in that there are essentially two narratives, one told within a framing device that opens and closes the film, the other within the central portion. I’ll be a bit free with spoilers here, because the movie’s strength is its aesthetic and themes, not the plot. At the start we meet our narrator, Luo Yusheng, who is returning from a big city to his home village upon the news of his father’s death. His father, Luo Changyu, had been the village schoolteacher for forty years and died during a snowstorm while out seeking funds to rebuild the school building. When he arrives, his uncle and the village mayor inform him that they would like to hire a car to bring his father’s body back for burial, but his mother, Zhao Di, wants his body carried back in a ceremony that hadn’t been performed since the Cultural Revolution a good twenty years before at that point. Unfortunately, though they wanted to honour Di’s wishes, they lacked the manpower to carry this out since all the young men had, like Yusheng, left for the cities over the years, so they hoped to find a compromise.
Now, this framing device is filmed in black-and-white, but here it changes to colour as Yusheng narrates the story of how his parents met and married in 1958. This part of the film is visually beautiful, but the plot here is relatively simple. Di and Changyu were eighteen and twenty years old when he came to the village to teach. Di fell in love at first sight, tries to catch his attention and succeeds after a couple attempts, and her feelings are quickly reciprocated. However, he is called away due to a political investigation; he is able to sneak back briefly, but ultimately returns after a couple years.…
Last year, many of the books I read had to do with marriage. Now that I’m married, much of my 2021 reading has to do with raising children. The topics vary; most useful are those that are just “this is what you do with a newborn,” that is, how to feed, diaper, take temperatures, that sort of thing. Baby sign language is another interesting topic, as it allows older babies (roughly six months and older) communicate their needs, as well as share observations with family as a bridge to speech. For instance, they can sign that they’re hungry, thirsty, want more, etc., as well as make signs for “dog” or “aeroplane,” among other things.
Thriving in the world is a first step, of course, but ultimately my goal is to raise my daughter to be a saint, so I’ve also checked out a couple of books on raising children to be good Christians: The Religious and Moral Training of Children, by Rev. James McGovern, and Parenting Towards the Kingdom, by Dr. Philip Mamalakis.
Back in February, my mother-in-law came to visit my wife and I at our new home, and over dinner she told me that she was counting on me to teach our daughter Chinese. My wife insisted that she was joking, and I am sure that she’s right, but I wouldn’t let that stop me – I decided that I was going to learn Chinese.
Now, my interest in China and the Chinese language has, until relatively recently, been limited to the Confucian canon and the historical context needed to understand it. Naturally, though, I became curious about how Confucianism has been practiced in the real world, leading me to begin reading more history. The language, though, hadn’t ever piqued my interest beyond my general interest in any language. So, I began my study thinking I’d simply dabble in it for a few weeks, then set it aside and go back to my attempts at Latin. Instead, the opposite happened – Latin is on indefinite hold because studying Chinese has been the most fun I’ve ever had learning a language, by far.