Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Until My Heart Caves In

I hemmed. I hawed. I debated and argued and agonized all weekend. And in the end, I made the right decision. Audio Adrenaline's new album, Until My Heart Caves In, was released yesterday (August 30), and I was not sure what I was going to do. Was I going to trust them to produce an album that was worthy of the glory days of Bloom, Some Kind of Zombie, and Underdog? Would it be a more reflective album like 2001's Lift, which was a bit less rock n roll and a bit more worship? Or would they drop the ball and release an album like 2003's Worldwide, which was a giant disappointment, despite having some really great songs? I was concerned. I've been an Audio A fan for years (since 1998's Zombie), and I was really conflicted about the new album. Was I going to allow one bad experience to sour many great ones? In the end, I decided not to allow that bad taste to influence this decision, and I purchased the album. And I'm glad I did. UMHCI is the album that Audio A should have released two years ago. Worldwide was more of a collection of songs and B-sides, and should have not been a full release, but an intermediate release to tide fans over until the next true album (like Mae's Destination: B-sides preceding The Everglow). In a way, it was, and this is the album that Audio A fans have been waiting for for four years. The album is very similar to Lift in feel and in songwriting. Unlike earlier releases in which many of the songs were epically anthemic, UMHCI is more understated and humble, yet still powerfully effective. It is worshipfully reflective like Lift with some of the fun rock for which Audio A came to be known, and the mix works really well. The title track is a powerful song written from the point of view of Jesus singing to us ("I'm a warrior...), and there are at least three other songs on UMHCI that could easily become worship standards. And perhaps most exciting for me is the song "Your Love Lifts Me Higher," a cover of Jackie Wilson's classic "Higher and Higher" (the song that they used to take the Statue of Liberty move in Ghostbusters 2), which fits in well with the band's history of updating a classic rock tune (Edgar Winters Group's "Free Ride" on Bloom, The Who's "Let My Love Open The Door" on Underdog). I think on UMHCI Audio A has embraced their ability to write and perform great songs, and has rejuvenated a career that I thought might have gone astray in Worldwide. This album should be on sale around Christmastime, and I highly recommend that you put it on your wish list, as this stands up with the best of Audio Adrenaline's work.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Dates to remember

The next four months should prove to be fairly exciting in the realm of new releases of CDs and DVDs, as well as concerts and movie openings. Here, presented in chronological order, is as comprehensive a list as I can muster for dates that I want to remember over the next four months.

Sept. 13 - Switchfoot, Nothing Is Sound (CD)
Sept. 13 - Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (DVD)
Sept. 18 - Underoath (Concert)
Sept. 27 - Project 86, ...And The Rest Will Follow (CD)
Sept. 28 - Collective Soul (Concert)
Oct. 18 - Batman Begins (DVD)
Oct. 18 - Legend of Zelda, Complete Series (DVD)
Oct. 25 - Demon Hunter, The Triptych (CD)
Nov. 1 - Third Day, Wherever You Are (CD)
Nov. 11 - Zathura (Movie)
Nov. 18 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Movie)
Nov. 18 - Walk the Line (Movie)
Dec. 6 - P.O.D., Testify (CD)
Dec. 9 - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Movie)

It should be a busy couple of months. Thankfully, right after this onslaught comes Christmas and my birthday, and then a few months where not a whole lot happens so it is easier to catch up. Whee.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

An online inspiration to the end

On Saturday, August 27, the StarPhoenix ran this story about Dwayne Harms on the front page of the newspaper. Wow. I am truly amazed at what God is doing through this whole situation, especially how he has used me. Allow me to relate part of the story from my point of view.
On Monday June 20, Dwayne sat in my living room, looked me in the eye, and said that unless God was to perform some miraculous work, that he was dying of cancer. We talked about other things that day that now seem very insignificant, but he also shared with me is desire to chronicle what would eventually prove to be the final leg of his journey in a public format. He had been enamoured with my blog during its entire existence, but he wasn't so sure that he would be able to do so himself. After some prodding and encouraging on my part, I gave him the directions on how to begin a blog. That night, after he talked with his family, he posted his first thoughts on the situation. Within the week, the blog became a staple for everyone to walk with Dwayne on this journey. I posted a link on this blog for people to read Dwayne's powerful account. Little did I know the effect that post would have.
My friend Dave Hutton, who I had come to know through the Sheaf, read my blog, went to Dwayne's through that link, and began to be touched by Dwayne's story. Unbeknownst to me, he and another Sheafer, Jeremy Warren, were working on a feature story about blogging to run late in the summer, and began to concoct a way to incorporate Dwayne's story into the article. Dave contacted me, and I advised him to contact Dwayne's wife Janet. Unfortunately, Dwayne passed away before that contact was complete, and so the story was put temporarily into limbo. Dave called me at camp, and I suggested that he run the blogging story separately but still write a feature on Dwayne, thinking that such an article might run in a Weekend Extra sometime in the fall, probably in the Religion section. Little did I know that it would end up as a story on the front page and reach hundreds of thousands of people, with more likely to come. Wow.
I do not relate this story to boast of my own involvement. I am just amazed at how God uses seemingly simple things like my blog for far greater purposes. God chose to use me, or at least the online facsimile of me, in a task far greater than me. Now I think I know how the apostle Paul felt when he boasted in Christ. This blog, the Life of Turner, is still ultimately like everything else in my life: for the glory of God. Soli Deo Gloria.

Bands I need to check out

In the same vein as my "Movies I need to see" post back in February (which has been updated but generally unfortunately unmoved) comes a new list that has been percolating in my brain for awhile. This list concerns the bands that I need to spend more time checking out in order to decide whether I will listen to them. Right, like D needs more music. Well, there's always new music out there to experience, and I want to intentionally do so. There are times where I will check out a band and decide they're not for me (Norma Jean arises as a recent example), but there are times where they become a staple. Chevelle is a recent example of that, along with Underoath and most recently, As Cities Burn. How does the investigation work? Often, through recommendations and samplings of music, I determine which musical artists may hold my interest, and deserve some future attention. I then keep an eye out for those artists, generally in the collections of friends, or with Colin at Scott's Parable, but also on sale for cheap in pawn shops. If all I lose is $5 and a couple of hours of my time, so be it. Of course, it's not always feasible to investigate all of these artists at once, so it is usually a process that takes some time. I have also included on this list artists in whom I may already have a significant interest, but of whom I own no CDs at this time. It is a more time consuming effort than one might believe, especially with all the music there is to keep up with already. Still, I endeavour to investigate one new band a month to continue exposing myself to new things. You know, if I keep this up,I might have to make some kind of job or career out of this. Anyway, here is my list, as it exists, of bands to investigate. Feel free to add your comments and thoughts.

Alexisonfire
Audioslave
Casting Crowns
Copland
Dashboard Confessional
David Crowder Band
Deepspace 5
Haste The Day
Jack Johnson
Keane
Mae
Postal Service
Rocket Summer
Sanctus Real
Shane and Shane
Taking Back Sunday
Thrice

Approaching normality

One of my favourite movies so far of 2005 (a subject of a post in the near-future) has been The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. The characters in the film steal a ship that has a prototype of an "improbability drive" that causes very improbable things to happen when it is pressed. When the period of improbability ceases, the computer calmly announces that the ship is "approaching normality." Things are not quite normal yet, and there are a couple of little blips of interesting things left before complete normality is reached, but for the most part, normality is an inevitable occurrence of the near future. So why is this significant? Because that is where I am right now. I hit my "improbability drive" on about June 9 when I left for the Great Western Canadian Road Trip, and I am finally approaching normality. Of course, things in my life have been anything but normal in the intervening eleven or so weeks, but school will bring with it a cadence and rhythm that will be normal. I'm not quite at that stage of normality yet, as I've still got some things to be worked out before I can achieve normality, hopefully by about September 11 or so. Things like going to Regina to see a couple of friends before they move across the country and also dealing with some of the stuff left over from this crazy summer. But normality is approaching and imminent. But then again, how normal can things ever get for me? After all, this is the Life of Turner.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

In the near future, I am looking forward to...

The celebration of Dwayne's life tomorrow;
spending some quality time with God this weekend;
listening to the new Blindside album from beginning to end without interruption or distraction;
some awesome shows in September;
hockey!;
being a music guy again;
fixing up my computer;
dealing with stuff;
leading a small group in the fall;
my classes this upcoming year;
having a phone number again;
new roommates;
having all my stuff in one place at one time;
roadtripping to visit friends;
spending more money I don't have;
very few weddings over the next few months;
no ADHD children around;
and hopefully a normal week of camp this week!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dwayne's journey: an end and a beginning

Dear friends,

Thank you for journeying with me and with my friend Dwayne Harms over the past two months. After about a three month struggle with adrenal cancer, Dwayne passed away this morning at 7:30. His condition had begun to deteriorate rapidly, but he was peaceful and lucid when he went home. Though this is a conclusion to his time on earth, it is a new beginning for Dwayne in heaven, where he is praising his Father in glory. I would appreciate your prayers in this difficult time, as I am still working at camp. Thank you for your time and your prayers.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The difficulties of camp

As some of you may have realized, counselling at camp is taking its toll on me in a way that it did not in past years. Granted, the external circumstances of this summer have definitely exacerbated the difficulty of being at camp, but I do think that camp counselling has gotten more difficult for me because of the ways in which I have changed in the last two years, but also in the ways in which camp is changing. I thought it would be time to post some of the difficulties I have experienced this summer. Please note this is not to devalue the experience of working at camp. I would not trade my experiences this summer for anything. This is just for me to say that these are some of the things that are making this summer the most difficult I have had in my time at camp.

The lack of contact with the outside world and forced ignorance of the happenings therein;
The lack of contact with people in the outside world and not being able to be there for them all the time when they need me;
No alcohol on the camp premises;
Not owning a car;
Too many weddings, and especially the exhaustion that comes from being part of the wedding emceeing process that is made worse when I have to be at camp the next day at 2:00 pm;
Rarely attending church on Sundays due to travel from weddings, and the fact that I attend an evening church;
The apparent increase in number and in severity of ADHD kids at camp, and the fact that I have had more than one in my cabin on two different occasions now;
Having close friends go through dark times relating to death and dying, and not being in the midst of it;
A lack of ultimate frisbee;
No music at camp;
Not being able to blog all of the thoughts that I have throughout the day!;
Having little time to read recreationally;
Often starving for intellectual stimulation after dealing with kids and non-university-educated staff all week long;
Spending time off not at weddings running errands I can't do when I'm at camp;
No e-mail access during the week;
A nomadic existence;
Camp politics;
and not enough games of dominoes!

Why am I writing this list? Because as much as I miss so much, and while this summer is proving to be difficult, it is also exactly what the Lord has ordered for me. I have two weeks left, and I am really excited to be there. I have begun to cultivate some good relationships with people, and it has been a rewarding time for me. Still, I'm also really excited to be done, and to be moving on with everything that I have been putting on the backburner all summer long. I also write it as a reminder to myself not to look at how great I am because I am sacrificing so much, but to look at how great God is for enabling me to do this beyond the limits of my own strength. In closing, I would like to share with you a passage from Philippians 3:7-21 that I believe sums up what I think about me being at camp this summer.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

I think I need to memorize Philippians this year. Who's with me? Have a great couple of final weeks before school starts!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What one adjective...

would you use to describe Turner? (me, not one of those other ones you can Google.) If you could use only one adjective to fill in the sentence "The _______ Turner," what would it be? Intense? Audacious? Dynamic? Incorrigible? Discuss!

An Epic Tale of Woe and Victory

In the spirit of my friend J. Krieger, whose occasionally colourful but always entertaining blog is full of silly stories from his own life, I shall relate to you a story from my own travels today. It is one of those stories that many would argue helps define the Life of Turner. I shall allow you to judge that claim for yourself. Many of you may remember the epic tale of Toquey back in January...well, prepare for the sequel, Cappy's Journey.

Saturday, 12:45 pm. As Dan and I drove to the music store to pick up the musical equipment for the hootenanny to follow the wedding of our friends, we realized we would not have much time at all to get everything that needed to get done done. As such, we rushed to load said equipment in the back of the truck, and did not stack it well. Two of the mains were very shaky, and so I offered to sit in the back and hold them down. Unfortunately, the only place for me to rest and complete this task was on the tailgate. So as we begin driving down Albert Street in central Regina, I am praying furiously that: a)a police officer does not see this escapade; and b) the tailgate doesn't drop, therein causing me much harm. As I focussed on maintaining myself in a non-dead state, I realized about two seconds too late that my cap - my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs 7 5/8 fitted cap - had flown off my head onto Albert Street. As I looked back, I saw it run over by the vehicle behind us. I was very sad. Very very sad. It was a great hat. But I was determined not to bury it until I knew it was dead. Because Dan and I were still in a rush, I could not yet go hat hunting. And there was great woe in the land.

Fast forward two hours. Holding out hope, I decided to take a very quick detour from the route to the Cathedral to see if I could find my hat. I looked, and did not see it. But as I began to resign myself to the fact that my hat was indeed gone, I looked again, and there it was! Delirious with joy at the impending reunion with Cappy, I quickly conducted an illegal U-turn and drove toward my wayward companion. As I drove by, I opened up my car door and gently rescued him from his asphalt tomb. Cappy was back! A flattened, blackened, worse-for-wear Cappy, but Cappy nonetheless. He now fits a little bit tighter, and he has a black tire-streak running up the middle, but Cappy is still a functional cap, and he will continue to serve in his capacity as my hat throughout the remainder of camp. In the beginning, woe, but in the end, victory. Welcome back, Cappy. Welcome back.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dwayne's ongoing journey

I urge you to continue to visit my friend Dwayne's blog and to read his thoughts as he moves forward in his struggle with cancer. Your prayers are urgently requested today and for the remainder of the week, as Dwayne will be undergoing fairly serious surgery and will be beginning the road to recovery. I had the privilege of visiting him today in the hospital, and just as his blog has done continually over the past month, he encouraged me so much by asking how my life was going and taking time to pray for me. Wow. I believe that the Lord is listening quite strongly to our prayers with and for Dwayne, and that the prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much (James 5:16). Please continue to share in this journey with Dwayne and myself and all of the other people who are journeying with Dwayne. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phillippians 4:6-7)

Great songwriters vs. great performers

Last summer, in my early days of blogging, I wrote a lot about CBC radio's attempt to list the top 50 songs of all time. Soon after, Rolling Stone released their list of the top 500 songs of all time. So I spent a fair amount of time in the waning months of last summer thinking about the pop music of the last half-century, since Bill Haley and The Comets had the first number one on Billboard in 1955 with "Rock Around The Clock." One area upon which I have spent much time reflecting is the difference between songwriting and performance. There is a difference between writing songs and performing them. I do not believe that all great songwriters are great performers, and neither do I believe that all great performers are great songwriters. The two are often linked, but not always. My measure of the greatness of a songwriter is to see whether their songs transcend their own performance, particularly in their inclusion in the canon of pop music and in their music being performed by other artists. I believe that a great song, in its own right, should be able to go beyond its original performer and gain new meaning and still be a great song. I think that although there are some great songwriters out there today that the art of songwriting has devolved quite substantially over the past decade, and that there are few true patrons of the art who still remain, at least in the public consciousness. In no particular order, here is my personal list of some (twenty in total - twelve old and eight more recent) of the greatest songwriters of classic rock of the last few decades.

Burton Cummings (Guess Who)
Randy Bachman (BTO)
Bob Dylan
Neil Young
Neil Diamond
John Fogerty (CCR)
John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Johnny Cash
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Pete Townshend (The Who)
Sting (The Police)

And artists still producing who I would venture already do and will continue to belong among the greats:
Bono / Edge (U2)
Chris Martin (Coldplay)
Liam/Noel Gallagher (Oasis)
Moby
Billy Corgan
Ed Roland (Collective Soul)
Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)
The Creegan brothers (Barenaked Ladies)

Granted, a number of these artists have been among the most prolific, but their music has definitely gone beyond their own performance. And I will admit quite openly that this is a personal list. I tend not to prefer the Beatles' own versions of songs, but I freely place both Lennon and McCartney in my top songwriters list, if not only because their songs sound so good when performed by other artists. I do think that it is possible to separate personal preference from objective diagnosis. I do not particularly enjoy Oasis' music, but I do think that the Gallagher brothers are among the better songwriters working today. Similarly, Neil Diamond wrote songs for so many other artists that it is impossible to omit him from such a list, despite your opinions on his own music. Ed Roland of Collective Soul or Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins are two other examples: writers who many people may not really appreciate, but whose talent is clearly a step above others. As you may observe, the sixties, seventies, and even nineties are fairly well represented, while there is a dearth of artists from the 1980s. That's because the 80s really stunk. Van Halen and Bon Jovi were great performers, but terrible songwriters, I think. Madonna? I would argue neither great songwriter nor performer. And I also realize that a significant percentage of this list are British. Hrm. Notable omissions are Jim Morrison (The Doors) and Mick Jagger/Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) - distinctive performers, but great songwriters? I'm not sure. At any rate, who would you say are some of the greatest songwriters either in rock history or still working today? The lines are open.

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