Author Archives: kaiserssouth

“Doctor Who” and the Twelfth

 

Recently, the world of the Whovians has exploded with excitement, wonder, puzzlement, worry, anxiety, and disappointment. Why? Because, as it was released a good bit of time ago, the eleventh Doctor is going to be leaving us, and the twelfth will rise.

For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is rather famous and fun TV series put on by BBC (BBC America here in the U.S.A). It’s hard to summarize a show that began in the 1960s, took a hiatus in the 80s, and came back with gusto in the new millennium, but I’ll try to catch the highlights. There were eight Doctors in the first twenty years of production, then the show resumed with the ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston.

The continuation of the series was far from a remake. The essence of the character, The Doctor, carried over, and some familiar faces can be seen in a few of the episodes.

How can this be done? Simple.

The original creators of Doctor Who made it amazingly adaptive to the world in which we live. The Doctor is not human, he is the “last” of an alien race known as the Time Lords (really, really, really good and smart time travelers). The Time Lords don’t die, they regenerate (not indefinitely). Each time the Doctor “dies,” he regenerates and comes back, but looks and acts differently (though some aspects of the character have never changed). Thus, it made it easy to keep the series going, even when actors could no longer do so. And since the Doctor would change personality as well, the writers could alter, or adapt, the show to fit the current times.

Here’s a picture of all the Doctors, 1-11:

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I began watching the show a few years ago and, like most of my generation who watch it, I started with the new Doctors. I started with the very first episode of the ninth doctor, Eccleston, then continued on through the tenth, played by David Tennant, and eventually to the eleventh, currently played by Matt Smith (On a personal note, I have to say that Tennant is my favorite of the most recent three).

This brings us to the heart of the matter.

It’s not news to many now, but the eleventh doctor (Smith) is leaving the show as his doctor regenerates. For weeks and weeks, the fans of the show, known as Whovians, have been speculating and arguing and theorizing who the next Doctor would be. The cannon of the show would even allow the Doctor to regenerate as a woman, so the options of actors and actresses was quite large.

After keeping us on the edges of our seats, Steven Moffat, the head writer and executive producer, has finally revealed who the next doctor, the twelfth, will be played by.

Peter Capaldi.

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To most of us Americans, he’s not very well-known (which, in my opinion, is better), but he’s an established British actor and even made an appearance on the the show during David Tennant’s time as Doctor.

Looking at the picture, it’s plain to see that he’s not a young man (he’s 55). Most people have been groaning and complaining, saying that he’s too old for such a youthful character. However, I’d like to point out that the Doctor is over 900 years old and has been played by older men before. The age of the actor doesn’t matter, it’s really about the character. The writers and producers, particularly Steven Moffat, have to look at the show and decide what would be better for its future. We still don’t know what type of character Capaldi will bring to the Doctor, but that’s what makes the show fun.

This brings people to wonder, after the last season of eleven, if the new Doctor will be dark and brooding, a man with a more sinister look at the universe, or if he’ll be a complete reversal. Will he be a combination of nine’s rough, determined personality, with a bit of ten’s quirkiness? Will he be something else entirely? Will he be the same?

There are so many personality traits for the Doctor that they could bring in, it puts very few limits on what he could turn out like.

But there are a few traits we can guess he’ll have (but we can’t be 100% certain). He’ll likely have his funny moments, his serious moments, his sad moments. I like to picture the tenth, Tennant, as an iconic view of the fundamental character of the Doctor.

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First, it’s the need to have someone there with him. As Donna, one of this companions said, sometimes he needs someone there to stop him. But really, the Doctor just needs someone with him, a hand to hold. 900 years of life can be very lonely if you’re the last of your race.

The second is his devotion and fascination with the human species. He may not have been able to truly save his own people, but he feels an insatiable desire to protect and preserve humans.

Third, he lightens up even the darkest situations with humor.

Fourth, he is someone you do not want to make mad.

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In the end, Doctor Who is a show about change, about adapting to and living with the difficulties of life. It’s not about which actor plays what role. It’s not about how the Doctor will overcome some new obstacle or enemy. In it’s most fundamental aspect, Doctor Who is about resourcefulness, courage, determination, and what is right and wrong in the face of all adversity.

Neil Gaiman, the English author of such wonderful books as Stardust and Good Omens, once said, “Doctor Who has never pretended to be hard science fiction . . . At best Doctor Who is a fairytale, with fairytale logic about this wonderful man in this big blue box who at the beginning of every story lands somewhere where there is a problem.”

The Doctor, the man who stands up to all things against him for the sake of those unable to defend themselves.

The ninth Doctor, played by Eccleston, never wanted to die, never wanted to regenerate, but he willingly gave himself up to save Rose, one of his Companions.

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So, to those who are hesitant to embrace Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, just remember that he is Matt Smith, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, and all the others before him. He is just the Doctor. He will have his trials on and off the screen, he will face the Daleks and the critics, and he will be awesome.

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Categories: Misc. | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Greatest Creation

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I consider myself an aspiring author. I’ve written dozens upon dozens of short stories, a smattering of poems, and even have a handful of novel-length projects in the works. None of them, however, have been published (I did have a research thesis published, though). I like to think of the world I create in my head as unique, different, something special I can add to the world, make it better, or at least make it more interesting for some. I may never have the notoriety of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and others, but I may be able to reach out to some.

But in all ways, whatever I write, whatever I manage to get down on paper and ink, it will pale in comparison to the greatest thing I have ever created (albeit with a little help). My little girl, my beautiful little daughter, is by far the greatest thing in this world that I have ever had, or will ever have, a hand in shaping. She’s beautiful and already full of personality. Her eyes are curious and searching, her hands gripping and reaching, her feet strong and kicking. Her hair is always changing color, from red to blond to brown and back. Her expressions are priceless and often have her mother and I in giggles.

But no explanation, no description, no analogy, no simile, nothing, could ever truly begin to describe her. A physical image is a simple enough thing to describe, sure, but there is such depth of meaning to the way she looks at me, the feelings I have when I see her, that I can’t explain.

Does that make me a bad writer, that I can’t describe a feeling or emotion? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say absolutely not. I believe that every author, every true author, knows what parts of the human psyche that can and cannot be explained. Courage, the absence of fear. Love, gushy feelings for someone. Hate, anger. Etcetera. But what is courage, what is fear, what is love or anger? An emotion far beyond words. We can relate them to something, but we cannot define them completely. We can explain cause and effect, but not the emotion itself.

When I see my daughter, small and helpless in this big world, I can’t help but want to pick her up and hold her, protect her from whatever lurks outside, keep her safe and healthy and happy. What is that emotion? Love? Sure. Some sort of guardianship? Most definitely. But that still doesn’t explain the emotion.

The only reason emotions work in literature is because the reader knows what it is.

They can’t explain it, either, but they know it when they feel it.

I created something that can’t be explained or described or defined. I created a life, a living human being who will experience all the emotions in the world, who will feel, talk, act, who will make an impact even if it’s only on a few.

My single greatest achievement, my greatest creation, is and always will be my children.

Categories: Nature, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Change

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I was relaxing on my day off from work, text messaging my father, and started thinking about “change.” First, my thoughts jumped to Jim Butcher’s novel Changes in the Dresden Files series. After that, I managed to start thinking on change more seriously. Surprisingly, though, Jim Butcher’s book continued to hold in my thoughts. So I started picking it apart, dissecting its title and plot. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, Harry Dresden, undergoes several changes in mind, body, and soul. Granted, his experiences in this particular novel, and the entire series, go far beyond anything a normal person will know.

I then started to think about my own life and the changes that I’ve experienced in my small number of years. I’m young, in the grand scheme of life, but even I have had some changes. My older brother enlisting in the Army; graduating from high school and moving out of state for college; getting engaged; graduating with honors from college; getting married; the news of our soon-to-be-here daughter; new jobs; new responsibilities.

Have those changes been good, or bad? In hindsight, they’re good. At the time, though? Some of those times were rough, and not necessarily filled with hope and happiness. My brother joining the Army was something very hard for me. It meant that he would never be to any of my football games, or see me graduate from high school. It meant he would miss out on many things in my life. It made me sad and depressed that every time I made a great play, or somehow stood out from others, that he couldn’t be there to see it. As I grew up, I realized that was pretty selfish. He’s proud of me, even if he couldn’t be there in person to see those accomplishments. In turn, my sadness grew into overwhelming pride in my brother. That itself was a change.

My entire scholastic experience was filled with hundreds of changes, from handling stress to dealing with “questionable” situations on my own. I’m no longer the boy that I was my freshman year of high school, or even the man standing at the altar getting married. Life has an interesting way of directing and influencing your life.

The quote above by Heraclitus is a perfect example of change. Though his topic was on metaphysics and the perceivable world, it still applies. His concept was this: you cannot step in the same river twice because it is always moving, always changing. The water is not the same water that you had stepped in before; that water has flown downstream to be replaced by other water. Those same molecules are somewhere else. Holding to that principle, your right foot and left foot aren’t even in the same river. Life changes, moves, adapts. The water flows around you on its insistent journey downstream.

You are never the same person.

Yesterday, I made decisions and was formed by those choices. The day before, I also made decisions and was formed by those. Today, I’m faced with choices I must make. Tomorrow. And the next day and the next after that. Every single day of our existence, we are faced with choices. How we respond to those choices, to those situations, dictates who we are and who we eventually become. An ancient Greek philosopher (forgive me for not remembering his name or the exact quote; I believe it was Aristotle) said something to the effect that actions create habits and that these consistent actions, or habits, create who we are, so be careful with what you say and do for it will form your character. Every choice we make is an action, and therefore lends itself to the formation of who we are.

Change is simply the effects of those choices. If we choose to switch lanes on the highway, then get stuck behind a slow car while our previous lane zooms by, thus making us late for some appointment, we must live with it. We must adapt. We must change.

Darwin flushed out the idea of the Survival of the Fittest. It is, in a way, the essence of our daily lives. Not in some kind of physical confrontation, or even intellectual competition, but in our own capacity for handling whatever life throws at us. We are forced to adapt, to change, to grow, or risk being stuck in whatever station we find ourselves in.

This requires a certain amount of courage and hope.

My parents are moving up to Alaska this weekend. For the first twenty-something years of their marriage, they lived in California, then a few years ago moved up to Washington so my father could get a better job. That job turned out to not be that great, but they were better off in a new place. Now, they’re doing something takes much more courage than facing a bad job every day. They are leaving behind what they know and understand and are embracing a completely different life. My older brother will be there to help them, with his wife and son, but it is still a vastly different experience. It is a major change in their lives and it has not come easily.

Both are plagued with doubts and worries, particularly my father, about “abandoning” my wife and I (and our upcoming daughter). My father worries about the example he’s set for his sons, about the choices he hopes we do or do not make. I can’t blame him for his concerns. If anything, it proves to me just how great of a man he is. He’s sacrificed so much for his family, just so we could have food on the table and a roof over our heads.

The courage and strength he’s shown us is the best example he could ever have set.

Change is a part of life, it’s what makes it exciting, terrible, wonderful, sad, beautiful, terrifying, and amazing. Every twist and curve in the road of life is centered on change. Every choice, every decision, every opportunity shown to us requires courage and hope. One verse in the Bible that is my personal favorite and that I believe exemplifies the belief in courage and hope is John 1:5 – “A Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Even a single candle can light up a room. One, small, solitary flicker of flame at the end of the tunnel can guide you through the whispering darkness.

Tread forward, dad, and embrace the change for what it is: another step on the road of life. Enjoy the ride. When you’re on a rollercoaster, you can’t change its speed or direction. All you can do is enjoy it. Throw your arms up in the air when you go plummeting down and let out a scream of excited terror, then take a deep breath and relax on the slow climb back to the top. Because, no matter what, there will be a top, a top that, when you get to it, let’s you see the whole world.

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Categories: Misc., Nature | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Vikings – Quick Glimpse

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Here’s a small bit on the vikings. To tell their whole story would require much more time and space than I have available. With this, I’m simply hoping to shed a little light on who they were.

To many people, the vikings were a barbarous group who spent the majority of their time murdering and pillaging and all the things associated with both. While this did often occur, I would not call it the bulk of their daily activities. Their culture was different than those they came into contact with: far more aggressive and yet surprisingly rich. Viking beliefs and technologies spread across the world, from the concept of a wergild to the design and construction of their ships.

Every person in a viking society was worth something. This is the concept of wergild. The king of the land was worth more than the peasant who mucked out the pigs’ stalls, but both were worth something. If the king murdered that peasant, he was bound by his society to pay the peasant’s family compensation. In the instance of theft, fingers were usually removed as a physical sign of the thief’s actions in addition to any monetary compensation. Wergild was incorporated into the Laws of King Alfred the Great in the late ninth century. King Alfred was the king of Wessex (in the west of England) and was the first English monarch to envision a unified England.

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The construction of the viking ships was unique at that time as well. Above is an example of the general shape and structure. Not all were built to this size (this particular one was probably used for transporting trade goods; the width was necessary to store large quantities without over-balancing) but many were indeed large. Look at the structure, how the wood bends and forms the prow. Unsophisticated barbarians would have had a difficult time mastering the technique needed to create these ships.

Another interesting trait for many of the viking “longboats” was the entire steering apparatus. While virtually all other seafaring vessels had fixed rudders, the rudders on many viking longboats could actually be raised or lowered or even removed entirely. This allowed them unprecedented range. By being able to raise the rudder, the ships could sail into rivers and streams.

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There are records of vikings sailing along the Euphrates River, serving as mercenaries to a warlord in modern day Turkey, and even trading with the Inuit peoples of North America. When reading the Sagas of the Icelanders, it’s interesting to note how one of the stories talks about a viking ship being blown far off course to the south, to warm region with tall trees and “strange” people. The leader of the voyage was described as red-haired, tall, and with a large beard. An account by the Aztec people of a “god,” red-haired and tall, arriving to their land in a strange boat coincides with this story.

One last little tidbit about the vikings. They did not create maps. They traveled and traded all across the world, from Europe to Africa to Greenland, and still managed to find their way. They traveled, as all ancient explorers did, by the stars and memory. If you knew the route and the dangers it entailed, why create a map so your rival could find it? Or your enemy find your home?

All in all, the vikings were a very complex society, with their own beliefs and practices that set them apart from other cultures. As I said in the beginning, there is simply too much to the vikings to adequately describe them here. If you are interested in reading more, I highly recommend Vikings: A History by Robert Ferguson. Also, my honors thesis on the vikings is published online if you want to look: http://www.carroll.edu/library/thesisArchive/KaiserB_2012%20final.PDF

I’ll leave you with one final thought. This is not a viking:

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Categories: History | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Wind

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Today I woke up to very loud, strong winds. The leaves are not rustling, nor the branches creaking. They are hissing and moaning. Dirt flies through the air as easily as birds. There are no clouds in sight, not even a tiny, wispy little thing. Eyes, lips, and noses are dry, clothes are full of static, and cars are pushed around as you drive down the street. As some people would say, it is a very blistery day.

But is the wind really bad? What is the wind? Air moving about? The breath of some deity? Like the sunset, wind is full of symbolism and meaning. Can any person living truly live without breath? Our lungs wouldn’t inflate, our heart wouldn’t pump blood throughout our bodies. We would, quite simply, be dead.

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Despite the cold harshness of a winter wind, or the humid, muggy blanket of a summer gust, wind is vital. It circulates oxygen, carries pollen spores for plants and trees, and, as a friend from high school once said, “It cleans everything.” In some places, a good, strong wind storm will blow all of the top layers of dust and grime, leaving things clean. However, in other places, particularly desserts, a strong wind storm brings the dust and leaves a thick layer of it over everything. Ever look at someone’s pool after a good dust storm? It’s a mess to clean up.

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But what about that gentle breeze, the one that lightly stirs your hair or turns a field of grass into a soft, rolling sea? That caressing breeze, that comforting touch of coolness on your skin on a hot day? The one that carries the wonderful smell of baking bread from the house to the children playing outside? The soft wind that carries the laughter of families across the empty spaces? The warm wind at the ending of winter that brings such stirrings of hope that you know spring has come?

It is easy to forget the quiet, gentle breeze when the tornado is ripping your home apart. There’s a passage in the Bible that speaks about finding God. Again and again, God is looked for in the peal of thunder, the flash of lightning, the roar of a firestorm. But in the end, He is found in the soft whisper of a gentle breeze. Too often we look for answer in the big things, the grandiose explanations. Why did the chicken cross the road? To create a philosophical quandary, or to simply get to the grain on the other side? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why does it matter, both are here. Or perhaps this: What is the meaning of life? That is a question that has hounded thinkers throughout history. What are we supposed to do with our lives, our talents? Change the world of course. It’s a rather simple answer, but means so much more. Deciding to become a teacher changes the world. Deciding to spend your life in quiet contemplation changes the world. Every action, no matter how small or large, changes the world.

And so, as I sit here looking out my window as the wind sways the trees back and forth, I can’t help but think about how important it is to remember the softer, quieter parts of life. I always seem to be on the move, doing one thing or another, tossed this way and that by the winds of life, but I tend to forget the quiet parts that let me think, let me enjoy the people around me. The wind is howling outside, but sooner or later it will become a soft and comforting breeze.

Categories: Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunset

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As the sun sets in the west, casting a beautiful golden glow across the hills and clouds, I can’t help but think of what it means. Symbolically, a setting sun means death, destruction, the coming of the darkness that is night and terror. It means an end. An end of what, though? Poverty? Sadness? Happiness? It’s a very versatile metaphor. By using the west, the setting sun, as a symbol, an author can convey a breadth of meanings. Then, couple the setting sun with the promise of dawn and an entirely new set of meanings emerge. 

In reality, what is a sunset? Merely the sun passing beyond the currently visible horizon. The sun isn’t actually falling below the earth, or dying, or fading into the underworld to be reborn the next morning.

The picture above is full of its own meaning and symbolism, apart from the sun. But let’s just focus on the sun for now. Is it setting or rising? It would appear to be setting, but can we know that for sure? Maybe the camera is looking to the east on a particularly foggy morning? Are those mountains continuously cloaked in mist, thus obscuring the rising sun? Maybe, maybe not. 

So, is a sunset really focused on an end, on death? Some would argue that it is necessary for the sun to set, so that night can be born. So perhaps it can also symbolize birth? Ah, but the birth of what? Night is not frequently held in high regard for “good feelings.” 

My conclusion on the sunset is this: It is an end to one day, the beginning of night, and the promise of a new dawn. Everything must come to an end, both good things and bad. This is neither a curse, nor necessarily a blessing. It simply is. So it is with our lives. Each human on this planet goes through a sunset, an end. A death. A darker time when the good things are cloaked in shadow and the bad things seem all the larger. Night will come, in its inevitability, but also will the dawn. 

Categories: Nature | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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