Friday, April 29, 2005

City of Blinding Lights

Lee and I just returned from one of the greatest experiences of our lives - U2 live. For more information, you can read his account of the evening here, and you can check U2 dot com or u2 tours dot com for the complete set list and reflections on the evening. Or you can read on for some of my reflections.
Have you ever had an experience that is so unbelievable and so out of the ordinary that it seemed surreal, like it was not really happening? These kind of experiences usually happen in times of trauma or extreme shock, but it happened tonight. It was beyond my understanding that I was actually seeing U2 live in concert, and not filtered through a DVD, but right there, breathing the same air that I was. The opening song was "City of Blinding Lights," which I would honestly put as one of the best songs the band has ever crafted. The song carried extra significance, since the video for the song was filmed in Vancouver yesterday, and it perfectly carried the mood of the evening into the heart of the set. The set itself was masterfully composed, as the flow between songs was perfectly established. The set stayed true to the rest of the tour, and most of the focus was on songs from HDTAAB with many of the classics added in and a couple of songs being brought off the shelf for new ears.
There were a few things that really struck me during the show. First and foremost is that all four members of the band are showmen. I suppose a quarter-century of performing will do that, but each of the four have such a distinct sense of stage presence and cultivate in their own way. Especially "sexy Adam Clayton," as Bono calls him. Bono is the consummate rock star, and he seems to thrive on unpredictability, which makes the show that much more exciting.
Also, any doubts that I would have had about the true nature of Bono's walk with God were more than settled throughout the evening. The Spirit was moving, and I would estimate that well over half of the songs were sung as praise choruses tonight, or that Bono incorporated elements of worship into most of the songs. The songs that really stuck out for me were "City of Blinding Lights," "Gloria," "Miracle Drug," "Where The Streets Have No Name," and "40."
I am certain that I will have more observations as this experience continues to sink in, but that is all I will say for now.

"I will sing, sing a new song."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The U2 Mixtape

Well, in honour of today's festivities, I thought that I would adapt a meme that has been circulating on several blogs (Janny's blog, A Mandolyn and Ky, Queen of West Procrastination) to celebrate THE concert. So I present to you my mixtape, U2 style (along with the album from which the track is taken).

1) A favorite political track. U2, "Bullet The Blue Sky" (Rattle and Hum) and "Sunday Bloody Sunday (Under A Blood Red Sky) (tie)
2) One of those tracks that make you dance on the dancefloor no matter what. "Discotheque" (Pop)
3) The song you’d use to tell someone you love them. "All I Want Is You" (Rattle and Hum)
4) A song that has made you sit down and analyze its lyrics. "Until The End of the World" (Achtung Baby)
5) A song that you like, that a two year old would like as well. "Sweetest Thing" (Best of 1980-1990)
6) A song that gives you an energy boost. "Elevation" (ATYCLB)
7) A song that you and your grandparents (would probably) like. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (Joshua Tree)
8) A song that you really liked when you were 14-16, and still really like now. "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me" (Batman Forever soundtrack)
9) A sad song that would be in the soundtrack of the movie about your life. "Bad" (Unforgettable Fire)
10) A peppy song that would start the opening credits of the movie about your life. "Even Better Than The Real Thing" (Achtung Baby)
11) A good song from a genre of music that no one would guess that you liked. "Lady With The Spinning Head (Extended Mix)" (Achtung Baby B-side, electronica)
12) A song that you think should have been playing when you were born. "Beautiful Day" (ATYCLB)
13) A favorite artist duo collaboration. "When Love Comes To Town" (with B.B. King, Rattle and Hum)
14) A favorite song that you completely disagree with (politically, morally, commonsenically, religiously etc.) "Stuck In A Moment That You Can't Get Out Of" (ATYCLB)
15) The song that you like despite the fact your IQ level drops several points every time you listen to it. "Mysterious Ways" (Achtung Baby) (This was the best I could think of)
16) Your smooth song, for relaxing. "Where The Streets Have No Name" (Joshua Tree)
17) A song you would send to someone you hate or are mad at. "With Or Without You" (Joshua Tree)
18) A favorite track from an outfit considered a "super-group." "I Will Follow" (Boy), "Vertigo" (HDTAAB) (tie)
19) A song that makes you reminsce about good times with a family member. "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" (HDTAAB) (not because of a direct experience, but because this is a song Bono wrote about his own father which makes me think of my father.)
20) Your favorite song at this moment in time. "City of Blinding Lights" (HDTAAB)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Going away to dream it all up again

After the hectic touring and recording schedule of 1987-1989, including The Joshua Tree tour, the Rattle and Hum album and movie, and the LoveTown tour, Bono told the audience at U2's final show of the 1980s at the Point Depot in Dublin on December 31, 1989 that they were "going to go away for awhile to dream it all up again." The result of their absence was their next step as a group, which turned out to be 1991's Achtung Baby. It was the song "One" that convinced them that the magic was still there. And we are glad they found it again.
With the conclusion of my schooling for the summer, I am left in a somewhat similar situation as U2 found themselves in 1989. I am tired, exhausted, and in need of rest and renewal, much like they were. And I know that over the course of this summer, I need to go away and dream it all up again. My vision, passions, goals, direction all need to be evaluated, and I need to spend time dreaming. That begins now with an experience that may just change my life awaiting me in Vancouver. And then the dreaming shall truly begin.

Stumbling over the finish line

Today, I finished my final final after 20 consecutive months of full-time school. And as I wondered what I would say upon this momentous occasion, a story from my youth came to mind as a perfect example to illustrate this period of my life. Allow me to regale you with a tale from my youth that, though I obviously did not know it at the time, now serves as a typological representation of my life over recent months. When I was younger, I was strong in track events, particularly sprinting. I succeeded in elementary school, and so I joined the track team in my first two years of high school. Unfortunately, the competition there was far more fierce, as my peers had by then also hit their growth spurts and were spending far more time training than I was. Still, I decided to participate, if not only for my own good. In one of the indoor track meets at the Field House, I signed up to run the 200 metre race, which consisted of one lap around the track. I was in the second heat of the event for my age group. I stretched, got in the blocks, and started the race strong. After the first 150 metres, I was significantly in the lead as I rounded the final corner. But then the worst thing that could have happened actually happened. I was not used to running in such a way and driving myself so hard, and my legs became lactic. I felt as if I could barely bring them up and down and that there was no power left in them. I began to doubt whether I could actually finish the final quarter of the race, though I still pushed on toward the goal. The other runners who had been relatively far behind began to encroach upon my lead, causing it to diminish until it was almost non-existent. But I could not concern myself with their efforts - getting to the finish line was all I could think of. As I neared that magic white barrier, I grew weaker, and I knew I could not make it. I was buoyed by encouragement from teammates, and still I perservered. But after withstanding so much punishment for the better part of 50 metres, my legs finally gave out, and I collapsed to the ground as I crossed the finish line. I expected to be the laughing stock of my team, and that I would be ostracized for my performance, which I deemed to be inadequate and embarrassing. But instead, some of my teammates helped me up and, though they were laughing, cheered me on! As it turned out, my legs collapsing actually appeared to them as if I was diving over the finish line to win the heat, since I beat my upcoming challenger by the amount that I "dove" over the line. A few people that knew me and knew the race could tell what really happened, but most people just saw me win that race however I could. Friends would later joke with me about the time I "tripped over the finish line," but I knew it was all in good staid. I had run the race, I had perservered, and I had accomplished what I wanted to: making it to the finish line despite the circumstances. The fact that I won the heat was simply an added bonus that was rather inconsequential in my own mind.
Scripture continually uses the imagery of a "race" when talking about the Christian faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, 2 Timothy 4:7, Phillippians 3:12-14, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26), and so it makes sense that my real race would typify my Christian walk over these past 20 months. I began strong, with many different goals and visions for success. And as I ran the race, I was doing well, and life was good. Then there started to be some warning signs, signs that I was not prepared for everything life had in store for me. But three-quarters into this 20-month journey, things were still looking good. Then, with the end in sight, came the blow on December 1. I could not know how to react or what to do, because I had not prepared for that to happen. All I knew was that I would do whatever it took to make it over the finish line that the end of the school year represented. Every step of my journey began to be laboured, despite the fact that in normal circumstances it would have been fine. As I approached the end, I began to realize that I might not make it. And without the love and care of many of my friends who cheered me on, I might not have. I pressed forward, despite all the obstacles and despite what was happening in the lives and minds of the people around me. By the time it came to the final few steps over these past weeks, I was done, and I collapsed over the finish line. But I finished, maybe not as gloriously or as triumphantly as I had envisioned it, but I finished. Some people knew what was really going on behind the scenes, but a lot of people were relatively oblivious to the actual happenings in my life. Regardless, I made it through this marathon of school and life. And just like winning that heat, I have some unexpected rewards. School, while not my best effort, is done until September, and I performed better than my effort deserved. My time in ministry with IVCF is now completed as a student leader, and there is a strong and vital group in place that will take over next year. Several of my personal relationships have borne fruit greater than any I could ever ask or imagine (cf. Eph. 3:17-21). And this race is done, and I am finished this work. And so a seemingly meaningless race eight years ago prefigured and paralleled my journey over the past twenty months. That's the Life of Turner, I guess.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Bow before my Mah Jong might, puny mortals!

This is notice that I have rightfully reclaimed my throne as the King of Procrastination (no relation to the Queen of West Procrastination, despite my attempts to court her fancy) and as King of CBC Kids' "Mighty Mah Jong." Tremble before me and wonder at my might in matching cutesy tiles and using time bonuses to their maximum potential. 1.53 seconds was all it took to establish my Mighty Mah Jong supremacy. Check the "Weekly Scores" if you choose not to believe me, mere subjects. I am King, and none shall supercede my authority.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Casting Call

The summer blockbuster movie season is almost upon us. Despite the dearth of watchable movies so far in 2005, it seems that the year will still provide some very interesting and possibly very good movies. Of course, several of the movies that I want to see are adaptations of books or sequels or highly-hyped superhero movies, and the problem that always comes with those kind of movies is casting. Everyone has their ideas of which characters should be played by whom, and the internet abounds with rumours and thoughts and opinions and speculation. As I look ahead to the rest of this year, even without having seen any of the films yet, I think I have a good idea which castings will succeed and which will misfire. Here are some of my thoughts on how the casting choices of some of the most-anticipated movies of this year will turn out.

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (April 29) - Douglas Adams' baby finally comes to life, and it remains delightfully British. Martin Freeman is the perfect choice for Arthur Dent, and the rest of the cast also seems perfect. The movie has Sam Rockwell, Alan Rickman, AND John Malkovich - what more could you ask? Can't wait to see this cast in action! Overall grade: A+

Kingdom of Heaven (May 6) - Ridley Scott's newest epic about the time between the second and third Crusades in Jerusalem looks awe-inspiring. The supporting cast (Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson) looks great, but Orlando Bloom as the lead? I know he's a hot property, but didn't Troy already show his flaws? I hope that he is better, or that the movie is good enough to make him bearable. Overall grade: B

Batman Begins (June 17) - The cast that has been assembled is astonishing, and it seems as if most of the supporting cast should work out great, especially Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. I do wonder whether Cillian Murphy (of 28 Days Later) will be able to pull off the Scarecrow, especially since another actor from that same movie, Christopher Eccleston, would seem more fit to the role, but I am willing to give Murphy a chance. Of course, none of that casting matters if Christian Bale flops as Batman. I think he can pull it off, but I'm honestly not sure how this Bruce Wayne will turn out. Overall grade: B+

Fantastic Four (July 8) - As soon as I heard the cast, I was worried, but now that I have finally watched the trailers, I think they really missed the mark on this one. Though the basic facts seem correct, it looks as if they've foregone several of the dynamics of the FF, including the family-like atmosphere that they had. Michael Chiklis should do a good job, but he's not New York tough, he's Boston tough - and there is a difference. Chris Evans as Human Torch looks okay, but it's not too hard to play a young hotshot. But Johnny Storm is blond! Ioan Gryffud as Mr. Fantastic seems okay too, but he looks far too young for the role. And speaking of too young, what is up with Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman? Judging by her low-cut uniform on the poster, I can see why they cast her, but I have this feeling her presence will drag the whole movie down. Sue Richards is not a young vixen who is pouty-lipped and ready for "action," and it looks like that's how Alba will play her. It is quite possible that my opinion is being influenced by the 1990s cartoon, which captured the dynamic of the FF perfectly, and also by internet discussion of the casting over the past few years. The best line-up I heard was James Gandolfini as Thing, George Clooney as Mr. Fantastic, Teri Polo as Invisible Woman, and Paul Walker as Human Torch. But it should be interesting to see what happens with what they've got. Overall grade: C-

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (July 15) - Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka seems like the perfect move, and Freddie Highland (of Finding Neverland) as Charlie should carry the movie perfectly. With Tim Burton directing, all the right pieces seem to be in place. Overall grade: A

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (November 18) - Well, it looks like the HP crew have done it again. After the inspired casting of the entire cast in the first three movies, the two main new characters being introduced in HP4 appear to be perfectly cast. Ralph Fiennes will bring the perfect combination of class and evil to Lord Voldemort, and Brendan Gleeson will provide the perfect grizzle for Mad-Eye Moody. Still at the top of the heap for casting. Grade: A+

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (December 9) - Early views of this film show that it promises to be spectacular. Tilda Swinton seems to have the perfect aura to carry the Witch, and I can't wait to hear Brian Cox as the voice of Aslan. And the WETA workshopped characters look like they will perfectly capture the spirit of Lewis' work the same way they did Tolkien's. Overall grade: A

Spider-Man 3 (May 2007) - Thomas Haden Church was just announced as the new villain for this movie, and it is rumoured he will be playing the Sandman. It sounds perfect, and it continues in the trend of Raimi casting according to acting ability rather than star power. Of course, there is also speculation that he could be playing Eddie Brock and that the Venom story would be introduced. If I had my way, though, S3 would feature Sandman and Lizard, followed by Electro and Mysterio in S4, and Venom in S5. That is of course if they get that far. Early overall grade: B

Well, I'm excited to see how this all turns out. See you at the cinema!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Blogservations

Well, it's about that time again. Time to blog about blogging. If you read over the archives, you will see that blogging itself is actually one of the recurring topics of my blog, in posts such as "Blogging as a Hobby...and a Skill?!" (02-07-05) and "Metablogging" (11-10-04). And as it turns out, I have some more observations about blogging that I think may prove interesting. But before I get into that, if you have been a part of any campus ministry at all, you need to check out the comic Which Circle? that appears regularly in The Door Magazine. "Inter-Varsity Girl" is my personal favourite of the bunch, but read through them all for a good laugh. I also highly recommend the episode commentaries for a healthy dose of satire in your day. But on to the main point of this blog.
As you may have noticed, I have restructed my links yet again. Despite the fact that I seem to do this on a bi-weekly basis, there was a definite purpose in doing so this time. You see, I have struggled with the idea of the "blog roll" for some time. I had listed everyone as "friends," but then there were some really good blogs mixed in with ones that were never updated or were very personalized (ie you need to know the person in order to understand the blog). Those few good blogs were the ones that really have a voice and a clear sense of blog presence, and I struggled with how to value those blogs without devaluing the blogs of other friends. Some people I know put the blog roll in a hierarchical list, and although that works, I am not the biggest fan of that idea. As I mentioned, I tried the alphabetical everyone on the same level kind of strategy, and I don't think that works either. So I've created a new paradigm that I think will work. You will see that I have not altered the "Friends" list, and that no blogs have been removed from that list, and that the new "Favourite Blogs" list does not go by name of the author, but by title of the blog itself. That is because these are the blogs that I check most often because they are so well composed and written, and the blogs that I would most highly recommend. Most of these bloggers are my friends, though not all are. Some are just really great blogs. By the way, thanks to U2 Sermons for their mention of my blog on their site! But I digress. The point is that these "Favourite Blogs" are the ones that I recommend to you, regardless of whether you know the people or not. I do also recommend the other blogs listed in the "Friends" section, but not as emphatically. So that's the reasoning behind my thinking. I will have to weigh in some other time with my thoughts on the communities within the blogosphere, but for now, I will leave you with a quick imperative: go blog yourself!

P.S. I think I need to either write less or find a way to display more text on the screen at once. Hrm. Suggestions?

Violence and movies.

Violence in movies is an interesting thing, particularly as a defining factor between Canadian and American culture. In the U.S., movies with sexual content receive a higher rating, whereas violent content is the determining factor in Canada. In Canada, sex doesn't matter as much, and violence doesn't matter as much in the U.S. But what is really interesting is the treatment of violence in movies. I will say that Passion of the Christ is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen, but not because of the depth of the violence. Rather, it is because of the object of the violence. Most violent movies create a sense of "other" in order to placate the viewer, as the objects upon whom the violence is perpetrated are zombies or vampires or aliens or orcs or criminals or different from "us." At the very least, the violence becomes so ridiculous that we cannot possibly identify with the objects (see Monty Python and the Holy Grail). But in movies like The Passion or Braveheart, the objects are the very people with whom the viewer is meant to identify (ie Jesus Christ and William Wallace, respectively), and that makes the violence acted upon them that much more violent than shooting up zombies, and thus increases the impact of violence upon the viewer. I find it interesting that many Christians I know will warn me about language in a movie before violence, or even sexual content. There seems to be this belief that hearing a bad word is somehow worse than seeing someone's head blown off. I believe this is because we as viewers when watching violence separate ourselves so much from the action onscreen in order to stomach it, while the proliferation of foul language in our lives brings it back to earth and connects with people, thus making them more sensitive to the language than to the violence. I have discovered that I am very sensitive to violence in movies. When I watch Lord of the Rings, it is easy to separate myself from the violence and "appreciate" it because I know it is all faked, and that it is the vehicle of the action, not the tenor; that is, in movies like that, violence is used to create an attractive movie and not to be the focus of the deeper meaning of the film. This is why a movie like the Passion is so disturbing: not only is the violence the vehicle by which the point of the film is made, but it is also meant to evoke that identification with the deeper meaning that each of our sins helped contribute to that very graphic violence. Recently, I watched a film that profoundly disturbed me, partially because it was recommended to me by Christian friends: Boondock Saints. Not only is there lewd sexual content (homosexuality, transvestitism, etc.), but the syncretism of religion and violence in the movie is unnerving at the very least. And even beyond that, what disturbed me even more was that while the movie was ostensibly raising good questions about violence in the media and its effects, the very medium betrayed its bias in glorifying violence by placing it in a sacred context and making it very visually appealing. Of course, the immediate justification of including violence is that it was necessary to make the point of the film. I think of The Passion, Braveheart, and Saving Private Ryan as the prime examples of this idea. While in those cases it is possible to agree with the choice to use violence (not that I necessarily do, but I will acknowledge that there is a case to be made there), I do not believe that violence is always as necessary as it is portrayed to be. Though the storylines on shows like CSI are often rather interesting, the degree to which they show the violent crimes is sickening, unlike, say, shows like Law and Order (or at least the way L&O was several years ago), which manage to create a good storyline without using violent content. Why does a movie like Napoleon Dynamite strike a chord with so many people, if violence is necessary to tell a good story? I will allow that there are movies for which violence is necessary to tell the story; what I will argue is whether those stories are worth watching. I guess my overall observation is that most people are very desensitized to violence, and it concerns me on many different levels. It is no longer only used when "necessary," but also as entertainment. And the fact that the next generation is being brought up in an inherently violent culture troubles me immensely, because it shows that society is at heart placing violence as a value. I am getting to be violently opposed to violence, and I think that more people need to see it as an indication of the root of the problem of violence in society, rather than a symptom that needs to be erased to be cured. When will the violence end?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The end of reality television?

I am sure I will not be the first to say it, nor will I be the last, but I am convinced that reality television has nearly hit its saturation point, and that it will have to recede in the next three years as a pervading trend in television. I do not think it will disappear entirely in that time, but that it will become relegated to the role of filler and become the property of the weaker national networks (ABC, Fox) and desperate cable outlets (UPN). I think that there is a strong possibility that Survivor will last only between four and six more seasons (14-16 in total), and that its exodus within the next three years will pave the way for other high-profile shows to end, or at least to become rarer (i.e. producing only one season of The Apprentice per calendar year instead of two). Here are some reasons why I think this:
1. The games are getting tired. Though Survivor 10 is demonstrating an incredible amount of creativity on the part of the designers of the challenges and course of the game, other shows are not succeeding as well. The Apprentice? Getting tired after three seasons. How many more product pitches and inept candidates can we bear to watch? The Amazing Race? Still exciting, though it's now in season 7, and showing signs of age - bringing in Boston Rob and Amber just reeks of publicity-mongering. The Contender is fresh and exciting, but who knows how long that will last? And the champ, Survivor? Before this edition, the show was definitely showing signs of age (think Thailand (5), Amazon (6), and Vanuatu (9) ).
2. The contestants are getting tired. It seems more and more that all the great personalities have been taken, and that the people who are on the shows now are often just shells of previous people. Again, take the example of Survivor. Most of the people on this season just aren't that interesting, and it is showing in the play. This particular edition has been mostly devoid of strategy, and there is only one person that I would say should have made it further that did not (Bobby Jon). Still, there are several people that should not have made it this far. What does that mean? That the people playing the game are essentially not worthy of it. Think back to Survivor 2 in the Outback. Most people still could name several of the contestants. Now, they're barely blips on the radar. Occasionally, there's a real character, like Omarosa on Apprentice 1 or Ami and Rory on Survivor 9, but the people are mostly forgettable now.
3. The concepts are getting tired. Okay, so there were not too many concepts to begin with, but it's getting tired. Take the "talent" reality shows for example. There are shows for pop (American Idol), rock (Rock Star), country (Nashville Star), Vegas (The Entertainer), and even hip-hop (finding a new member for TLC). Even the hoax shows have pretty much run their gamut (Invasion Iowa being the apex of the Reese-Warnick trilogy run on Spike TV). The concepts are being stretched and squeezed of every last drop, and there doesn't seem to be too much left in the bucket.
4. The audience is getting tired. Most of us only have room for one or two reality shows in our schedule; for me, it has been Survivor, the last three episodes of The Apprentice, and a hoax show (eg. Joe Schmo 2). I just can't pay attention to any more than that. And I think most people are in the same place. We're just getting spent.
5. The genre is getting tired. Most genres have had their heyday: family sitcoms (early 90s), "singles" sitcoms (mid 90s), game shows (late 90s), animated comedies (early 00's), and now reality television. Think of late 90s prime time game shows: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? had its day, and then The Weakest Link. Where are they now? Relegated to the confines of the Game Show Network. With the rise of the drama (Lost, Desperate Housewives) this year, reality television is just plain tired as a genre.

So, what's the future like? I think that each network will continue to have its reality cash cows, but that the overall proliferation of reality television will cease within two years. Honestly, it is likely that shows like Fear Factor (NBC) and The Bachelor (ABC) will continue for years as tried and true and easy to produce shows, but I think that shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Amazing Race, the top of the genre, will go out on top. It will become a genre that is the property of Fox and cable outlets, and that networks like CBS and NBC will use sparingly as ways to make money and garner ratings during sweeps. Think Survivor: Reunion, in which everyone comes back to compete in ten years in a miniseries on CBS in 2010. On that note, my thoughts for Survivor are that they should do three more "normal" seasons, but that the other seasons should be Second Chance (non-jury members on their season get a second shot), Celebrity (who doesn't want to see celebrities endure that game?), and All-Stars 2 (featuring the best from seasons 9-15 [except the two previously mentioned ideas], and possibly from earlier seasons as well that didn't appear on All-Stars 1 (eg. Jeff, Mike, Elizabeth from the Outback, Frank from Africa). But, whatever happens, by 2008, the trend should be on the way out. It will be time for the next trend in television by then. Or maybe "The Running Man"...ah, the true apex of reality television.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Roommates in college

I wanted to share with you all a bit of my analysis of the sociological means by which college-aged males co-exist in dwellings as "roommates." A roommate, in this paradigm, is a person with whom you have lived in the same household for at least one month while both paying rent to live in said household. By this definition, I have had ten roommates over the past four years. I know that many of the people reading this blog may not quite understand where I'm coming from, since my observations are based upon two experiences I have had over the past four years: a) living with a number of roommates each year; and b) living in an all-male household. But I will do my best to illuminate the concepts I am about to present to you.
In a household of college-aged males, there are certain roles that must be filled by the residents. Except in very odd situations, these roles are not held by more than one person, although each person usually holds more than one role. And only in rare cases are each of these roles not filled. There are many distinct roles that I have observed within the constructs of a community of males aged 18-25, and they are listed here for your perusal.

Head of Household (HOH): The person in charge of the house details. This includes bills and rent paid, creating a chore schedule, and bringing issues to the rest of the roommates.

The Bankroller: The person with the money to spend on things. There needs to be one roommate who is willing to buy things when they are needed for the house and spend the money that the others do not have. They do, of course, get to keep the items later, but their funds make the house function.

The Musician: The person who experiments with their instrument, usually either guitar or drums. This may involve being part of a band as well, in which case the other roommates had better get used to it.

The Computer Guy: The person who is the resident computer expert, and the source of much advice regarding hardware and software problems.

The Naked Guy: There needs to always be one roommate who is always in a state of semi-nudity. Unfortunately, it's usually the person in the house who, according to societal standards of beauty, should be the least naked.

The Recluse: This is typically present in a house of more than three, in which case one of the roommates is usually a recluse and is rarely seen by the other roommates.

The Roommate with the Unusual Name: One of the roommates needs to have a not-normal name that makes people ask their name again, or at the very least respond with "that's a cool name."

The "Most Committed": There is always one roommate who is more committed in his relationship with his girl than the others. Even if all roommates are in relationships, one will stand out above the rest. (Colloquially known as "The Whipped".)

The Fugitive: This person is different from the recluse, because this invisible roommate is the one that is never there. Like a fugitive, he is on the run and rarely is seen at the scene of his bed.

The Neat Freak: The person who is most concerned about tidiness and cleanliness, and often the most organized in the house.

The Socialite: The person who is always inviting people over and opening up the house to others, occasionally at the sake of the sanity of the other roommates.

The Responsible (AKA "The Studious"): The person who is most diligent in their studies and style of life. This is usually the first person to rise and first to sleep, and the most concerned with maintaining good hygiene habits.

The Hub: In a house of three or more, there is one roommate through whom information flows to the others as a "hub." Usually, it is their room that is the de facto meeting place for roommates, and they initiate discussion between the residents.

The Fixer-Upper (AKA "The Mechanic"): The person who is able to fix anything and everything in the house, and who is called upon in such times as are necessitated by the relative inability of other roommates. This usually also applies to cars.

The Driver: When roommates are heading somewhere, this is the person who takes the wheel. Coincidentally, their vehicle is typically the best and most reliable of all roommates.

The Kitchener: Even in a house in which all roommates cook individually, there is still one who takes charge over the kitchen, whether it be organization of stuff in the kitchen or even just a roommate who is more active in cooking than the others.

The Stuff Guy: Who's the guy to go to if you need something? The guy who has the stuff, that's who. This is probably the most likely role to be divided among more than one roommate; one guy will be the "school stuff" guy, and another the "tool stuff" guy, and so on.

I realize that there may be more definable roles, but for now these are all that I have observed. From my experiences, this paradigm can be applied to any living situation of two or more and still work. Take some time and reflect on your experience. Does it work? I am interested to hear from females to see what roles occur in an all-female household. Hooray for life as a sociological experiment.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Meetings and people

Most people hate meetings. Just the idea of a "meeting" turns so many people off. Tonight, our church had a "congregational meeting." It was a very productive meeting, as we ended up deciding to move forward with purchasing the building. But near the end of the meeting, after almost two hours, the atmosphere was strained. People starting to leave, to talk out of turn, generally showing their disdain for the process. But this is not unique to this group of people. Almost anywhere anyplace people hate meetings. They are viewed as a burden and long and boring and unnecessary and getting in the way of actually doing things instead of just talking about them. And I really hate that kind of attitude. You see, I actually appreciate meetings. I don't mind when they go long or I might not be interested or if there happen to be a lot of them before action is taken. But I think I view meetings differently than most people, since I do not view them as an inherently unnecessary or evil entity. Meetings, when efficient and necessary, are incredibly useful. It is when they are run inefficiently, or when more meetings are called than are actually necessary, that I find meetings to be a negative experience. I think a lot of the problem with people and meetings is unfair expectation. Why people would think that a meeting about buying a building could be done in less than an hour is beyond me. I expected a two-hour meeting, and that's what it was. Now, I recognize that there are people who know that they are not made for meetings and that they do not enjoy them as a result of their personality or certain behavioural characteristics, and I respect that. The people I am referring to here are those people who are not willing to submit and acknowledge that there is someone who is orchestrating the meeting and that there is a greater good than the individual good. Put your own agenda aside, people. Meetings are a lot like milk: if you leave it too long after opening, it will not be good for very long, and then everything will go sour. Get over it, people. It's just a meeting, it's not the end of the world.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The CD preference list

Warning: Music geek blog.

I am resigned to the fact that I will never have enough music. You might think that sounds funny coming from me, with my many CDs, but the simple fact of the matter is that there will always be more CDs out there that I want to buy than I do actually buy. I have a list of approximately 100 CDs on my "to buy" list, with about another 100 on the "possibilities" list. The latter list are mostly the type of CDs that I would buy as $4 demo discs when they are done their term at Scott's Parable, or CDs that I haven't heard enough of to warrant needing to put on my "to buy" list. This is not to say that every CD on the "to buy" list trumps those on the "possibilities" list, but it at least gives a good starting point for investigating which CDs to buy. But with a list this big, how is it even possible to decide which CDs to buy? Well, there actually is a scheme for deciding. Here are some of the considerations I have when creating my CD preference list and the factors that can cause aberration:
1. Release date: When the disc is released is important. If it's a CD I really want, it automatically jumps in the list upon its release. Recent examples: Demon Hunter, "Summer of Darkness;" Project 86, "Songs To Burn Your Bridges By;" Superchick, "Beauty From Pain." When CDs by my favourite artists are released, they enter the countdown near the top.
2. Availability: A CD that is not commonly available trumps those that are. This factor often comes into play when pawn shopping, in which case a CD that might not normally jump in the order will do just that because of the reality that finding that CD at that price makes it very attractive. Recent example: Chevelle, "This Type of Thinking Might Do Us In." Normally, not an immediate buy, but its availability at the price I bought it for, it jumped up. But if a CD is very commonly available, it does not increase its appeal, unless one of the other factors is at play.
3. Price: Is this disc really worth this price now? Paying $15.99 and $19.99 for the same CD may colour my thinking on whether it is an immediate buy or not. Is it only worth paying $4 for? Will the wait kill me, or can I wait for it to go on sale? Recent example: Third Day, "Wire." Bought it for $15.99 on sale, but also in combination with factor #4.
4. Restlessness: Should I go without this CD any longer? These are often CDs that I wanted to buy upon release that I just didn't get around to, because they were trumped by other factors, or sometimes CDs that have lain dormant for years and I just finally decide it's time. Recent examples: Third Day, "Wire;" Stavesacre - Stavesacre.
5. Concert: The band in question is coming in concert, and I need to brush up or just get their most recent CD. Or I buy the CD at the concert. Recent example: Pigeon John, "...Is Dating Your Sister;" Pigeon John, "...Is Clueless."
6. Aesthetics: Completing the collection is an important factor. Recent example: Third Day, "Wire."
7. New CD syndrome: The band just came out with a new CD, and I still don't have their old one! Time to fix that. Recent example: U2, "October."
***Rarity: There are a number of CDs that are so difficult to find that they do not enter the order. Rather, they remain in the "To put effort into finding or randomly stumble across someday due to dumb luck" list. These, because of their limited availability and the effort required to find them, exist outside the preference list since they would enter immediately at the top. I would not not get other CDs to buy these ones, but if they became available, they trump. Recent examples: Argyle Park, "Misguided;" Klank, "Still Suffering." This is really the exception to the rule.

So here are the criteria I have determined for creating my CD preference list. If I were to have $20.33 (the cost of a CD at $17.99 in SK) to spend on whatever CD I wanted with none of the effects of the aforementioned factors, which CD would I buy first? This means that the rare discs are out, and that the CD is widely available and not on sale and not recently enough released for its street date to matter. I have attempted to craft the list of CDs that in these circumstances would make up my CD preference list. Since it has been enough of a task to get this list down to this, I will not attempt to order them numerically. Here's the list, 10 in total:
Collective Soul - Youth; Emery - The Weak's End; Five Iron Frenzy - Electric Boogaloo; Juliana Theory - Emotion Is Dead; Moby - Hotel; John Reuben - The Professional Rapper; Skillet - Collide (Lava version); Tree 63 - The Life and Times of Absolute Truth; Tree 63 - The Answer to the Question (Extended); U2 - Zooropa.
For the most part, these CDs all have more or less the same priority, which exceeds the CDs not on this list. So theoretically, a CD outside of this group at the same availability and same price should not supercede those in the group, except for those those aforementioned considerations. The reality is that those considerations often do create a hierarchy. For example, until the end of June, the list becomes, in order of prospective purchasing, with the applicable factor(s) listed:

1. U2 - Zooropa: #4, #5, #6
2. Collective Soul - Youth: #4, #5, #6
3. John Reuben - The Professional Rapper: #4, #6, #7

Well, I think that's enough music geek-ocity for today. I will say one final thing though: it is often from this list that it is best to cull gift ideas. These are the types of CDs that require some kind of extrinsic motivation to buy, since there is little motivation in and of themselves. They're great to have, but if something trumps them, they still wait. It's kind of like my own CD priority purgatory. I believe this sort of system is also to some extent governing my "movies I need to see" list, which is ashamedly virtually unchanged since February (see archives 02/06-02/12 for more details on that list). Interesting. And this is great. Now I've gone and made myself want to go buy CDs. Maybe A&B Sound will receive a visit soon...or at the very least Money Express to see what's new. Must resist...must...re...sist...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I love it when a plan comes together

As you likely could have guessed from my lack of blogging, this last week has been one of the most productive I have had in recent memory. One class is done, another tomorrow, IVCF will be done as of this Friday, and the roommates and I managed to get all of the Daria series downloaded. I've still got a lot to do by Friday, but everything's turning up Milhouse nowadays. I'm starting to get my life back! Yay! And it's only two weeks until Vancouver! D 1, world 0.

P.S. The titular (which is up there with masticate and exacerbate in the list of words that sound dirty but actually aren't) quotation is taken from General Hannibal Smith from the 80's classic show "The A-Team." Of course, given that it's my Roman History final today, I probably should know something about that other Hannibal, too. You know, the one who likes his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti. Or maybe there's another Hannibal I'm not remembering...oh well, I'm sure it'll come to me during the exam.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Arrogant Worms Experience

The Arrogant Worms were in town tonight at the Broadway Theatre, and they put on a great show. The last time I saw the Worms was in October 2001 when they performed in the Simpson Chapel at Canadian Bible College in Regina for the first and last time. It was also that time that I got to interview the band and subsequently wrote an article that was picked up by other student papers across Canada, particularly the U of A Gateway. It was a fun experience attending the concert with a certain good-looking blonde "stalker girl," a hot redhead, and a cute brunette (upon whom I was at that time just beginning to crush), who would collectively after that evening be known as "Geoffy's Angels." But I digress. The point is that going to an Arrogant Worms concert is an experience that everyone should have sometime. It's kind of like going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show must be - going into a venue with a bunch of people with no fashion sense (this is Saskatchewan after all) who are all singing along and in on the joke, and one annoying person who thinks that they are funny and yells out random things in the front row and has the band make fun of them to shut them up, all while the novitiate has really no idea what's going on or who these people on the stage are. The Worms are masters of audience interaction and running gags, which change each time. They have several standards that they perform - "Jesus' Brother Bob" and "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate" are probably their two most popular songs - along with their new material. There are the jokes that recur every show, along with a whole lot of improv and pure hilarity. They are Canadian through and through, and you will leave with your throat hurting from all the singing, cheering, and laughing. Here's to Chris, Mike, and Trevor, Canada's greatest non-Juno-nominated artists. The next time you have the opportunity to "worm" your way into one of their shows, do it. You won't regret it.

Budgeting time

Time is one of those commodities that everyone has, but it usually seems like no one really uses properly. I know I don't. Often with my money, I will sit down and figure out what I can spend where and how much, and budget accordingly. With time, I usually don't. Time just seems to slip away. An entire day will go by, and I haven't done what I have wanted to do. So I'm going to start an experiment in a couple of weeks: I am going to start monitoring my time. At the beginning of each day, I will budget my day, by asking how much do I need to spend on each thing that I would like to get done. At the end of each day, I plan to evaluate how I did. For example, I might set a goal of one hour a day spent on the internet, including blogging, or maybe a goal of one hour a day of personal spiritual development, or one hour a day of interpersonal interaction. I tend to be a goal-oriented person, so I think this might be a useful tool. I'll be starting on the 15th, when most of the immediate concerns that plague my existence have subsided, and I'll see how it goes. Budgeting time...what a concept.

The evolution of television

I think that one of the surest signs of the progression of our generation is found in the relatively recent trend (the last five to seven years, I would estimate) of collecting TV series. I remember when I was a kid and my father taped every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Friday nights at 10:00 pm, and how he would pause the show during commercials while recording to have a dubbed copy. I remember sometimes just watching hours of the fourth and fifth season tapes, and just soaking it all in. I especially remember watching TNG late into the night in my first May back at home after school before camp started; I think I watched the last four seasons of TNG in about a week and a half. But never did I imagine that only a few years later that this trend would blossom and bloom, aided by the mass production of the DVD and now BitTorrent protocol, and that entire series would be available long after they were thought gone. I grew up in a TV generation. In the 50s, they watched a lot of TV; the 60s were too busy for TV; the 70s was mostly bad TV; but television flourished in the 80s and 90s. It became one of the most potent mediums, and now our generation is reaping that telly goodness, particularly of the cartoon vein. Take, for example, the list of shows that my roommates have in our possession (please note that I do not necessarily like all of these shows, but I am only acknowledging that they are in our household as an indication of the trend): Corner Gas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Freakazoid, The Tick (animated), X-Men, Undergrads, Drawn Together, Invader Zim, Family Guy, Clone High, Thundercats, Daria (seasons 1-3), Star Trek: The Animated Series, Astro Boy, The Real Ghostbusters (seasons 1 +2), Transformers, Futurama, The Smurfs, Get Smart, and Captain N: The Game Master. Others on the way soon, whether through purchase or (mostly) legal download will be Darkwing Duck, Reboot, MASK, Fantastic Four, Gargoyles, Rescue Rangers, Tiny Toons, and Batman: The Animated Series. It is a lot of television, but it goes faster than you might think. The fact is, a couple of episodes of a show like that are great for a break while writing a paper. I know we're probably among the rare households to put in the work to obtain all of these shows, and it will probably take us years to watch them all, but it's so good to have them. It brings back good memories, and you even get exposed to new things. TV over the past few years has really taken a dip, though. A decade ago, I could watch a lot of shows, especially Saturday morning cartoons. Now, it's all so weak. I have two shows that I watch deliberately right now: Corner Gas and Survivor Palau. The rest is pretty much just not worth my time, even though I do acknowledge that there are some other shows that display talent in writing and acting. The point is that for the most part, television and cartoons are a flagging medium, and I have to go to the past to find things worth watching. Or, I could just always wait a year until the shows are released on DVD and watch them then. Hrm. Sometime, I will compile a complete list of shows that I would buy on DVD and/or download if they were unavailable. For now, I've got at least two series to watch. That should keep me busy during finals season. The joy of television.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Second-year Syndrome

I have made much over this past year of the state of my academic career, particularly in November and March. After some thought, I have realized why I have been as disillusioned as I have been with my Arts experience: I haven't really made it past second year. With all of the program changes and university switches and other factors in life, I haven't really gotten to the point in my arts degree where I have actually had to take much ownership for my learning. For the most part, I have taken the same classes that I actually took in my second year, and I haven't had to really specialize at all. I have gotten through these classes with a fairly basic level of education, and I have not really invested in one subject over others. To be honest, it is amazing that I can actually get a B.A. after all of this random education. I am so grateful that I will have something to show for it.
There are times where I wish that I had the kind of passion for my studies that my more academic friends do. The year where I did experience this kind of passion for my studies was my year in Education, and I do hope to reclaim that passion soon. But the reality is that my efforts have gone into the things that I have viewed as far more valuable, namely my ministry with IVCF. Some of these friends have derided me for not having been more diligent in my studies, but I'm not so sure it's a bad thing. I've been needed other places and for other things, and school just has not been a priority for me, dating back to high school. Is that bad? I don't necessarily think so, but I also do not take my education for granted, either.
I am now at a bit of a new point in life, though. I've been saying "two more years" for three years now, and now I can actually mean it. I do only have two years left, and I will be getting two bachelor's degrees in that time. My hope is that I can actually grow up, and move on from this perpetual second year into my final two years of school. It's a weird paradigm, but it makes sense. And the good news is that this fourth edition of "second year" is just about done. Three weeks to go. Now just to get there.

The things that make me me

They say that there is nothing new under the sun. Maybe that is why the thoughts of this blog are reminiscent of a blog I wrote in November, "The Passion of the D." I had a really good conversation with M tonight. An almost four-hour long conversation. The kind of conversation that you don't expect to have when you call, but that you knew all along that you needed. I normally wouldn't specifically mention the person with whom I conversed in a scenario like this, because it is generally irrelevant to the relation of the story. I mention her in this case because she is my "big sister." Ever since I moved to Regina in the first place, she took me on as a "little brother," and has always been there for me in that sisterly kind of role, of which I am of course in consistent need. Anyway, we had a really good conversation tonight. About me. Not in the self-pitying or self-servient way, but in the way that someone who knows you really well is able to tell you things about yourself that you don't admit even if you do realize them, and who says the kind of things you need to hear even if you don't really want to hear them. Yeah, it was that kind of conversation. M is a very discerning person, and her wisdom, coupled with that of people around me, has led me to understand several things about me and where I am in life.

1. I am not in a very good place in life.
2. It is okay to need other people when in that place.
3. That place will not last forever.
4. I cannot wait to make appropriate changes until I am out of that place, though there are changes that cannot be made until that point.
5. Things will get better.

One thing I have been struggling with all year has been external factors and internal motivations. How much is determined by design, circumstance, or by personal decision. The best answer I have been able to come up with is that in my case this year it has been a permutation of the three. Ergo, I need to eliminate those external factors (which will happen in three weeks' time) in order to create circumstances that will be more favourable to making better decisions. That does not absolve me from making any of those choices now, but it is a recognition of the fact that there are certain circumstances which are making it more difficult to be able to make those choices right now. Part of this is the whole search about what makes me, me. My passions and desires. I think I know, but I'm not sure. I need some time to figure that out and grow up. Ah, the perennial D resolution, that it's time to grow up. Maybe I should just stop talking about it and it will happen. Hrm hoom. Oh, the conundrum that is Turner. By which I mean me.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

In Memoriam

The world is a sadder place today with the passing of one of the great figures of the Christian faith from the past century, Pope John Paul II. He will be remembered as one of the greatest popes of the Roman Catholic church, as well as one of the most influential figures in administering significant changes both within the church itself and outside of the church. The world has been made a better place because of his influence, and it is sad to see him go, though it is a relief to see his physical suffering end. Please continue to pray for the cardinals of the Roman Catholic church as they begin to pursue the selection process and deal with the grief that the passing of JP2 has caused. And thanks be to God for allowing JP2 to serve as pope for as long as he did; he was the right man for the job at the right time, and his contributions to the kingdom of God here on earth should be valued by people of all faiths, but especially all churches. Take a moment of silence sometime today to pray and thank God for the life of John Paul II. Pax.

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