Monthly Archives: October 2015

Happy Halloween!

Yes, it’s All Hallows’ Eve once more, that special day right before All Saints’ Day that involves chocolate, masks, and scary movies.

For something really spooky, though, check out this cool article about the ossuary churches in Europe. Ossuary churches are constructed entirely (or almost entirely) from the bones of the dead, not from a sense of morbidity but as a way of remembering the dead.

To wrap things up, we have a neat little video from Catholic theologian Dr. Taylor Marshall on the Catholic elements in Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula.

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Feast of Christ the King

No, I am not early. The Feast of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday in October in the Extraordinary Form/Tridentine Mass as opposed to the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo celebration on the Sunday before Advent. This is one of my favorite feasts because it really drives home Christ’s majesty and power. Plus, we break out some of the even-more-awesome-than-usual Gregorian Chant.

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

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Doctor Who Review: The Woman Who Lived *Contains Spoilers*

Well, folks, Ashildr isn’t Romana, Susan, Jenny, River, Missy, the Rani, or any other Time Lady the Whovians have hypothesized she might be. She’s just an immortal Viking woman. Such is life.

The Doctor is traveling on his own this week; Clara is busy with her Tai Kwon Do (I really hope we get to see her skills in action some week). It’s completely by accident that he runs into Ashildr again; the last time he saw her, she was opening a leper colony. Now she is the Knightmare, the most wanted brigand in the land. It’s not that she needs the money; she does it for the adventure. After living for 800 years, life is basically a series of adventures for her.

At least, that is what she wants the Doctor to believe at first. But it isn’t long at all before the Doctor realizes this is not the sae brave girl who had a head full of stories. She no longer goes by the name Ashildr–in fact, she doesn’t even remember that name. She no longer goes by any name at all, simply calling herself Me. The lonely centuries have made her callous and self-centered. She no longer has any family, any love, or any hope.

The Doctor is saddened to discover how she has changed, but he will not take her aboard the TARDIS. Her disregard and disdain for life–she even claims the reason she never gave anyone the second Mire medical kit was that no one was good enough–go against everything he holds dear. Of course, Ashildr realizes by the end of the episode that she still does care about humanity…but, as evidenced in Clara’s photograph, she isn’t going to let the Doctor forget about her anytime soon.

What I would be most interested to learn is what happens to Sam Swift, the brigand she makes immortal to close the portal. Does he remain with Ashildr so they can be immortal together, or do they go their separate ways? Sam, I believe, would be good for Ashildr since he has not (yet) lost any enthusiasm or love for life. Perhaps she will remember the good in life and regain a small measure of happiness.

It’s obvious we haven’t seen the last of Ashildr…but next week, we’ll see the welcome return of Osgood!

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Online Movies for Halloween

Halloween will soon be here, so it’s important to watch the proper movies to get into the mood. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood blogger is here to assist you.

With some of the old silent movies, the copyrights were never renewed, meaning those movies are now in the public domain…meaning they are available for free on YouTube. The first one we have is one of my favorites (and one I’ve posted about a lot), the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, Sr. as Erik, Mary Philbin as Christine, and Norman Kerry as Raoul.

Of all the film adaptations of Phantom out there, this probably adheres to the original plot of the book the most closely, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.

The second silent movie we have is the 1922 vampire film Nosferatu with Max Schreck as Count Orlok. Nosferatu has an interesting history; technically it is the first ever film version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it was unauthorized. When Bram Stoker’s widow found out the company was making the film without the family’s permission, she tried to halt production. Production continued only after the plot and character names were altered (Dracula becomes Orlok; Jonathan becomes Thomas; Mina becomes Ellen). This wasn’t enough for Stoker’s heirs, though; they sued the movie studio and won, with the court ordering that all copies of Nosferatu be destroyed. A few managed to avoid destruction, which is why we can still enjoy it today.

If you weren’t feeling it already, hopefully the Opera Ghost and Count Orlok have gotten you into a festive spirit.

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Doctor Who Review: The Girl Who Died *Contains Spoilers*

Moffat had been cagey in his responses as to whether or not Maisie Williams was playing an old Doctor Who character or someone new. Well, it seems that there’s a 98% chance that Ashildr is just an ordinary Viking girl, but there’s always that 2% chance she’s a chameleon-arched Time Lord (the Doctor appears to recognize her but passes it off as “remembering in the wrong order”; she’s always been different; her head is full of stories). Granted, there’s no sign of a fob watch, and she has a human father, but certain elements of her conversations with the Doctor seemed to remind me of how the Doctor would converse with Susan.

It was interesting, too, to see how the Doctor began to wonder if he had done the right thing by giving Ashildr the Mire medical kit. Usually we see him save people without batting an eye, so to see him wondering if he should have let the dead remain dead is an interesting twist.

There was something quite beautiful in the Doctor’s translation of what the baby was saying. Some people might find it corny, but I thought there was beauty in it–and in the Doctor’s explanation that laughing is how babies sing. I wonder if I’m going soft in my old age.

Probably the biggest part of this episode was the Doctor’s sudden remembrance of where he got his face and why he chose it. He chose it as a reminder than when everything looks hopeless, he is still capable of saving at least one person. And it meant a flashback to Pompeii, Ten, and Donna! Yay!

About the only thing I didn’t like was the super-heavy foreshadowing of Clara’s imminent departure. She’s going to leave; she’s probably going to die; everyone will be crying, and the Doctor will be heartbroken–WE GET IT ALREADY! Although I must admit, it would be truly priceless if Jenna Coleman doesn’t leave after all this buildup, and we learn the whole thing was a ruse.

Next week’s episode, “The Woman Who Lived”, will be a look at the aftermath of Ashildr’s immortality, and maybe–just maybe–we’ll finally get answers as to whether or not she really is a previous character.

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Doctor Who Review: Before the Flood *Contains Spoilers*

I’m going to be honest–the more I see of Peter Capaldi, the more I absolutely love his Doctor. His opening monologue about the Beethoven paradox was delivered spot-on…and I have to admit that having the Doctor playing the beginning of Beethoven’s 5th on his trusty guitar was oddly amusing. Oh, and I loved how they included Capaldi’s guitar riffs in the theme song. That man is living the dream, I tell you.

There was more potential fodder for a Doctor/Clara relationship in this episode (“If you love me at all, you’ll come back to me.”), but I really hope they listen to Capaldi’s advice and don’t go down that road. It’s a nice break for a change. Yes, they hinted at it in season 8 with the Doctor’s heartbroken look when Clara said she loved Danny (and Clara did admit that she loved the Doctor), but I think we could all do without another “Doomsday” or “Journey’s End” scenario. Also, Clara seemed vaguely whiny in this episode for some reason.

The timey-wimey aspect of the episode was extremely satisfying, and on the whole this episode felt as though it nicely wrapped up the story line that was introduced last week. I was sad to see O’Donnell get killed, but on the other hand, she did kind of seem like an Osgood copy. It would have been nice to have kept her around a little longer and see her become her own character.

In summary, I’d say that “Under the Lake/Before the Flood” was an excellent two part story and will undoubtedly remain one of my favorite stories from season 9. It’s definitely one of my favorite Twelfth Doctor episodes.

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Answering the Discussion Questions in the Back of My Copy of “Dracula”

I finally have my very own copy of Dracula as opposed to the ebook version I have, and this particular copy came with some discussion questions in the back. A couple of the questions I thought were actually fairly good, but there were also some that I thought were just plain stupid. In the enterprising spirit of blogging, I decided to answer three of the questions found in the back of my book. There will be sarcasm.

  1. Dracula has never been out of print, and more movies have been derived from Dracula than from any other novel. To what do you contribute this continuous popularity? The story, in one form or another, has been popular in many countries for a long period of time. Does that suggest that it answers some need that is simply human rather than social or historical? 

    The reason Dracula remains so popular, I believe, is that at its core it is a tale of good vs. evil. These days, moral relativism is a big deal to most people; it’s nice to believe there’s no such thing as an objective, absolute truth because then we have to be answerable for our own actions. If there’s no such thing as absolute good, then evil doesn’t exist, either. It’s a popular theory nowadays, but I think deep down in the soul, people do long for clear cut, black and white scenarios. At our core, we do know that some things are inherently good and some are inherently evil, and Dracula illustrates that point.

  2. Lucy seems more susceptible to Dracula than Mina. What is it in Lucy that makes her more susceptible; what in Mina makes her more resistant? 

    Lucy was a daydreamer and a romantic whereas Mina was more practical and more grounded in reality. Lucy’s daydreaming tendencies disconnected her from reality somewhat, and by having less of a grasp on the real world, she was more susceptible to Dracula’s influence. Mina, on the other hand, was firmly grounded in her life; I would even venture to say that having detailed plans (being a teacher, getting married, studying shorthand so she could help Jonathan with his work after they were married) were instrumental in helping her to resist Dracula for so long. She had goals; she had plans for her life that she didn’t want to let go, and people tend to be more determined to resist temptations or overcome obstacles when they have a goal that they want to accomplish.Moral of the story, kids–daydreaming and not having plans for your life can turn you into a vampire. Don’t be a daydreamer like Lucy. Be a doer like Mina.

  3. Could the end of the novel be fairly described as the triumph of scientific teamwork over superstition, the rational over the irrational, the light of modern Western European civilization over Eastern medieval darkness? 

    Did whoever write this question not bother to read the book? Because science takes a pretty good beating by the end. Lucy died because science, rationality, and Western European civilization said that vampires weren’t real. Those so-called superstitions, however, that insisted that vampires were real–and they were right. Those so-called superstitions were what saved Mina’s life after Dracula attacked. Van Helsing realized that modern science was powerless against the ancient evil of the vampire, so he resorted to the ancient stories of how to defeat vampires. So, no, I do not think the end of the novel can be described as the triumph of scientific teamwork over superstition, the rational over the irrational, or the light of modern Western European civilization over Eastern medieval darkness. I think it can be described as a lesson in caution, namely that modern civilization can be so rational that it can fail to acknowledge the truth it has deemed too fantastic or impossible to be true.

There you have it, folks, my answers to the questions in the back of my copy of Dracula. I don’t think it was quite as sarcastic as I had anticipated, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway.

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