Monthly Archives: December 2015

The End of 2015

Here we are again, bidding one year farewell and saying hello to a new one. I hope you accomplished everything in 2015 that you wanted–and if you didn’t, well, that’s what 2016 is for (seriously, I know the feeling. There’s stuff I wanted to do this year that didn’t happen because of life).

Like I did last year, I wanted to share my stats report with the rest of you because you are ultimately the ones who make this blog worthwhile.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,100 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My views went down from last year, but views do fluctuate from time to time, so that’s not really an issue. I did write more posts, which was one of my goals for this year, but it wasn’t by all that much–last year’s total was 66; this year’s was 69. So I suppose I can say I met that goal. Sort of.

Before I sign off for 2015, I want to provide you with the link for the Patron Saint Name Generator again: My patron saint for 2016 is St. John of Damascus (aka St. John Damascene), patron saint of pharmacists, icon painters, and theology students…of which I am none. Still, he’s a Doctor of the Church, so it can’t hurt to have one of those interceding for you during the year.

Happy End of 2015!


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Doctor Who Review: The Husbands of River Song *Contains Spoilers*

Well, folks, here we are with the final Doctor Who review of 2015. I wasn’t able to tear myself away from my books yesterday to write this, so you’re getting it today. Moffat promised us a cheery romp for this year’s Christmas special, and he certainly delivered one. Of course, there were also poignant moments of sadness because this was, after all, written by Steven Moffat, who feasts on the sorrow of Whovians.

In a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor gets swept along into a scheme to remove the head of King Hydroflax, a scheme masterminded by none other than Hydroflax’s wife River Song–the same River Song who is supposed to be married to the Doctor. The Doctor is just as confused as the rest of us, and River doesn’t recognize this incarnation. In a sense this is really River’s adventure, and the Doctor is just along for the ride. He doesn’t particularly mind–he gets to do his own version of the iconic “It’s bigger on the inside!” reactions–but it is difficult for him not to have his wife recognize who he is. In fact, when River remarks to him that the easiest way to manipulate a man is to tell him you love him, you can see the little wheels turning–he’s wondering if River lied to him the entire time.

Of course, we later learn that River was never lying; she has always loved the Doctor–but she doesn’t believe that the Doctor loves her. It’s the curse of their timey-wimey relationship; they’re never on the same page. Once the adventure is over, the Doctor decides to take River someplace where they can talk everything through–how he really feels about her, her concerns that her diary is running out of pages, how many times she’s borrowed the TARDIS without his realizing it…he takes her to the Singing Towers of Darillium.

And then he gives her the sonic screwdriver she uses in “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”. And suddenly Christmas is a lot more depressing. But it is Christmas, so Moffat doesn’t make it too depressing. When we first met River, she told the Doctor that the last time she saw him, they spent their evening at the Singing Towers…and a single night on Darillium, we learn today, lasts 24 years.

Will this be the last we see of River Song? Who knows. But it was nice to see that before she sacrifices her life for a Doctor who barely knew her, she had a chance to spend 24 years with a Doctor who knew everything about her and loved her dearly for it.


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Christmas Proclamation

Well, Christmas Eve is here once again, and I sure hope everyone is ready! I’ve got a special feature for all of you this year, a clip of the Christmas Proclamation from the Vigil Mass for Christmas. At least, I think it’s from the Christmas Vigil. I’ve never heard this sung at Midnight Mass, and the Christmas Vigils I’ve attended in the past have been Low Masses, which means no singing. Either way, it’s cool, and I hope some year I can hear it sung live.

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Fear, Free Will, and “Return of the Jedi”

Last night I was watching Return of the Jedi to celebrate the release of The Force Awakens (which I have not seen yet, but when I do, I will be posting a review). As a teenager, RotJ was my favorite Star Wars movie, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, so I was curious to see how/if my opinion of it has changed as I’ve gotten older. It hasn’t. It was just as epic as the last time I had seen it–especially Luke’s confrontation with the Emperor, which was always my favorite part of the movie. As an adult, though, I picked up on a few themes that I hadn’t really noticed as a teen, and those themes deepened my appreciation for this film.

When Yoda tells Luke that he must confront Darth Vader in order to fully become a Jedi, at first I called a George Lucas Plot Hole. “You literally just told him in the last movie that you didn’t want him to fight Vader, and now you’re saying you do! Make up your mind, muppet man!” As the movie continued to play, I realized what it was that Yoda was really asking Luke to do. In telling Luke that he must confront Vader in order to fully become a Jedi, Yoda is telling him that he must confront his own fears and insecurities before he can live up to his full potential as a Jedi. At his core, I believe that Luke was afraid of falling into darkness the way his father did, which is why Yoda warned him not to seek out Vader in The Empire Strikes Back; he knew that Luke was not ready to know the full truth about his father and would begin to doubt himself and his own motivations, fearful that he would become as dark as Anakin Skywalker. Now clearly Luke was not suffering from self-doubt when he organized Han’s rescue, but Yoda could sense Luke’s unease. He knew the only way to dispel that unease would be for Luke to confront Vader a second time and, in doing so, confront the darkness and fear in himself.

This is an interesting tactic when you consider that in the prequels the young Anakin was not given the opportunity to face his fears. Yoda famously tells him in The Phantom Menace, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” Anakin was told from the start it was wrong to be afraid; it was wrong to miss his mother; emotions are bad, so don’t have them. As a result, he never truly controlled his emotions; he buried them and pretended they didn’t exist. If he felt anything at all–grief at his mother’s death, love for Padme–he took it as a sign he was a failure as a Jedi. As most people are aware, burying your emotions instead of confronting them usually blows up in your face. Anakin got to the point where he couldn’t bury them anymore, and it sent him over the edge to the Dark Side.

While on Dagobah, Yoda had plenty of time for thinking, so it probably occurred to him that telling Anakin not to be afraid was part of what turned him to the Dark Side–he never acknowledged his fear, and it consumed him. So when Anakin’s son comes to him for training, he pushes him to confront his fears and move past them instead of dwelling on them.

There’s another reason, too, why I think Yoda wanted Luke to confront Vader. He wanted Luke to see the Dark Side in its entirety and know how it felt. In days past the Jedi only worked with the Light Side of the Force; the Dark Side was seldom discussed. It represented a tempting forbidden knowledge, which was another facet of Anakin’s fall–he didn’t know the whole truth about the Force, how intoxicating the Dark Side’s power truly was. Yoda realized that Luke deserved to know the whole truth about the Force, both the Light and the Dark Sides. He deserved to experience its power for himself…but he also needed to see the corruption that resulted. Yoda trained Luke in how to be a Jedi, but Luke had to decide for himself if that was how he wanted to live his life.

That’s why the scene where Luke throws his lightsaber away is so powerful–this is the moment of his choice. He has experienced the allure of the Dark Side and reveled in its power, but he has also realized the power would make him as bad as his father, maybe even worse. He chooses not to become the same kind of man Vader is, and this choice abolishes his fears. He was afraid of becoming like Vader, but now he realizes that he doesn’t have to be afraid. He can choose to be someone different, and he does. He chooses to be a Jedi, like his father…his real father.

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My Favorite Editions of “A Christmas Carol”

In an effort to stir up a more festive spirit inside myself (it’s getting there; it’s just limping along slowly), I decided to write a brief little post about my favorite versions of A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol has got to be one of the most definitively Christmassy stories of all time–is there really any story more closely associated with Christmas than Charles Dickens’s yuletide ghost tale?

  • Scrooge (1951, starring Alastair Sim, Mervyn Johns, Michael Horden, and Hermione Baddeley): This movie is required viewing at our house every Christmas. Alastair Sim absolutely nails the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, and the story is pretty faithful to the original Dickens novella (yes, I have read A Christmas Carol. Is anyone honestly surprised?). I especially enjoy the part where (spoilers!) Scrooge goes to his nephew Fred’s house and asks forgiveness for how poorly he was treating him and his wife Clara.
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1987, starring Michael Caine, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmere, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz): The Muppets take on the beloved tale of an elderly miser who learns the true meaning of Christmas as only they can–with singing, dancing, and bantering. I make no apologies for still liking this movie as an adult.
  • Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol (2010, starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Michael Gambon, and Katherine Jenkins): Yes, even Doctor Who has tackled this literary classic as part of their tradition of airing a special episode on Christmas Day. The timey-wimey gets all wibbly-wobbly here as the Doctor attempts to use time travel to soften the heart of Kazran Sardick, a lonely, bitter miser who is willing to let an entire shipload of people die because he simply doesn’t care about their lives. This is probably one of my favorite Doctor Who Christmas specials.

Hey, I think it worked! I’m feeling a little more festive already.

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Doctor Who Review: Hell Bent *Contains Spoilers*

I apologize in advance if this review isn’t entirely coherent. A lot, and I mean a lot, of stuff happened in this episode, and I’m still trying to process everything that happened. There was trauma and tears and loathing of Moffat, and Doctor Who will not be the same show after this.

Clara’s alive–sort of. After the Doctor emerged from the confession dial, the Time Lords kept pressuring him to reveal what he knew about the Hybrid, and he told them that they would have to bring Clara back if they wanted him to talk. So they all went to the extraction chamber to extract Clara from her time stream in the second before her death in “Face the Raven”. She’s essentially frozen in the space between one heartbeat and the next, but the Doctor wants her heart to start beating again. He wants Clara back, which is why he told the Time Lords she had information about the Hybrid–he knew they would be willing to retrieve Clara from the moment of her death to get what they wanted.

He steals another TARDIS–shoutout to the classic white control room!–and takes Clara away from Gallifrey, thinking that escaping the Gallifreyan time zone will restart her heart. But Clara’s death is fixed in time, and the Time Lords will not let them escape. The only way they can walk away is if one of them forgets…

This was a true emotional roller coaster of an episode. The Doctor’s back on Gallifrey! Clara’s not dead! Ashildr’s still here! We have round things! The Doctor’s playing Clara’s theme on his guitar, but he doesn’t remember her, and, Moffat, what have we ever done to you that you are doing this to us!? It really was heartbreaking that the Doctor was the one who had to forget his companion–I thought it would be hard to have Clara forget the Doctor the way Donna had to, but to have the Doctor forget–that was cruel, Moffat, just cruel.

Despite the sadness, the season still feels as though it ended on a high note–Clara can continue to travel, just with Ashildr instead of the Doctor, and the Doctor himself seemed to find a modicum of peace at the end. One thing’s for certain–any companion they choose will have humongous shoes to fill.

Although this was the season finale, we still have one more episode left before the end of the year, the Christmas special “The Husbands of River Song”! I, for one, am really looking forward to how River interacts with Twelve.


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Advent is a Time of Grace

Advent started on Sunday, and I’ll be honest–I wasn’t ready for it to begin. Seeing Advent begin again was a reminder that another year of my life is on its way out, and I wasn’t ready for it to go, and I just haven’t got the energy to be festive this year.

My attitude changed after I went to Mass on Sunday, and it was due to the sermon the priest delivered. He drew parallels between the first coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of the world and how remembering the first Advent helps us in our second Advent, but that wasn’t what got my attention. What got my attention was his statement of how lucky we are to live in the time we do. Why? Because we’ve got the sacraments! We’ve got sanctifying grace! Sometimes we take stuff like that for granted, but the priest made me realize that, yeah, sanctifying grace is kind of a big deal. He also talked about since Advent is the start of the new liturgical year, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunities for grace we are given each day and those we receive in the sacraments.

Suffice it to say, his sermon inspired me to make the most of Advent’s preparatory time. And that, I believe, is what a good sermon is supposed to do–inspire you to do better.

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