Friday, December 29, 2006

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

I recently watched Talladega Nights, which as a movie was a wholly disappointing enterprise and odd mixture of graphic sexual language, poor character development, and awkward plot progression (though it begs the question of whether a movie can be disappointing if very little is expected in the first place). Despite the obvious and recurrent flaws of the movie, one scene did make me think. Early in the movie, Ricky Bobby is praying to "baby Jesus" while saying grace for a meal. When he is questioned about the correctness of his prayer, since Jesus was a man, Ricky replies that he just likes thinking of Jesus that way. Upon this confession, the others at the table communicate how they picture Jesus, each of which reflect some understanding about their character. The scene made me think about how many of us create a picture of Jesus to suit our particular bent in life. For example: to the conservatives, Jesus was a moral crusader campaigning for right action and behaviour; but to the liberals, Jesus was a revolutionary who advocated political anarchy in the name of transcendent love. Unfortunately, some of these stereotypes have become entrenched in wider culture and in the church, particularly the fair-skinned, sun-bleached, blue-eyed, domesticated image of Jesus that was perpetuated during my childhood, only to now be unfortunately replaced by the fair-skinned, sun-bleached, blue-eyed, tortured picture of Jim Caviezel's portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. But how often do we question our Jesus - our preconceived notion of who Jesus is? Ricky Bobby is forced to consider his "baby Jesus", but I think that we do not often question our version of Jesus, and that we often allow such thoughts to interfere with our viewing of the real Jesus - the Jesus of the Bible and tradition and who was tough and loving and active and gentle and a complete paradox of God and Man. Let's make sure to look past our filters to see the real Jesus - not baby Jesus, not bloody Jesus, not conservative Jesus, not white Jesus, not anti-homosexual Jesus - Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, and the Saviour of the world.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rocky Balboa

I was in my mid-teens when I first watched Rocky. Over the years, I have watched its sequels repeatedly, with the exception of Rocky V, which had a horrible reputation by that point. I did not want to tarnish the Rocky legacy in my own mind and heart; now, with the release of Rocky Balboa, I no longer need to worry about that happening. This film represents the true legacy of Rocky: a story about an ordinary man who faces extraordinary circumstances. Rocky Balboa is tied most closely with the first picture that won Best Picture thirty years ago stylistically and thematically; although it briefly acknowledges the largesse of the Rocky films in the 1980s, the film avoids the kind of cliche and overwrought sentimentality that plagued the films in the middle of the series. Stallone's Rocky is a man who is still seeking his true purpose, and who has to answer the question of who he really is in the only way he knows how: in the ring. He is proud but humble, weathered but earnest, tired but energized, and Stallone manages to convince the viewers that once again, he is Rocky, and not Stallone. His performance, and the film, have nuance and sublety and even a message, perhaps one of the most poignant of Stallone's career. One website connects these themes to Biblical principles and presents them in a way that Bible study leaders can then use in their small groups, but I think that that processing, while beneficial for some, may also inhibit the interpretation of the artistic nature of the film. Rocky Balboa, like the original Rocky, is about a man searching for his purpose in life, and trying to convince the people in his life to do the same. It took sixteen years for this movie to be made, but it was worth the wait. This is the movie for which Rocky fans have been waiting for thirty years, and it was worth the wait. Rocky Balboa shows that the character, the franchise, the city of Philadelphia, and Stallone the actor could "go the distance." And remember this advice from Rocky: "it's not about how hard you can hit; it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." I am glad that Stallone moved forward, and that he has inspired me to do the same.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Commodifying Christmas

In some ways, I do not like Christmas. I complain every year when Christmas decorations are up the day after Remembrance Day, and complain even more loudly when they precede that day. I rant and rave about how Christmas is being monopolized, corporatized, modified, commodified, and bastardized by companies, and how it is becoming little more than a hollow shell of its once glorious self. But today I was reminded that I too, whether by subconscious exposure or through direct saturation, model some of these practices which I detest so vehemently. I still measure gifts and evaluate spending and allow commercial interests to determine my personal relationships. I still match up my total expenditures against total income to find out if I am "making money" on Christmas. I still lose the meaning of Christmas in all of the hustle and bustle and merry-money-making. And I still make those same mistakes year after year without realizing it. I do not know exactly how to avoid this kind of mindset, since it is so all-pervasive, but I know that I need to try to do my part to keep away from the "X-mas-ization" of this sacred time. I hope that now that I have reflected on this year and observed some of my mistakes that I can fix them for next year, and really celebrate Christmas the way it needs to be celebrated: with gifts as honest expressions of caring for the people in my life, and receiving gifts with grace and joy. That's the kind of Christmas that I want.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Operation: Internship...Complete!

Yesterday was my last day as a teacher at HCI. It is sad to think that I will not be with those kids and the staff when they come back in January, but it is also exhilirating to think that I have only one semester left before I can go and teach for a career. Everything is wrapping up well here, and all that is left is to finish up the moving back to Saskatoon. Oh, and Christmas too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reflections on Survivor

[Warning: Survivor discussion ahead!] Survivor: Cook Islands finished over the weekend, and it turns out that my pre-season predictions actually turned out pretty good, as all four of my picks made it at least to the jury, which was as good as the writers at RNO. The thing that really surprised me about this season was how interesting it became. Although the premise of racially-divided tribes was very engaging, the cast had initially seemed somewhat bland, and it seemed especially more so after some of the more colourful (and annoying) contestants were voted out early on. But the series produced one of the most physically talented Survivors yet (Ozzy), one of the most strategically talented Survivors yet (winner Yul), and one of the best "villains" yet (Jonathan), the three of whom made the season worth watching in spite of the presence of many immature and uninteresting cast members. It was also interesting to see the evolution of the game: the challenges were more difficult, the strategy was more involved, and the twists were more common and more drastic. Cook Islands also featured some Survivor firsts: the first time for three in front of a jury, the first all-minority final four, the first Asian-American winner, and the most diverse cast yet. In the end, it was a good season: not one of the best three, but probably in the top five or six seasons yet. The question now, of course, is how can Survivor stay fresh? Season 14 will be in Fiji, and it looks interesting, as it will feature some new twists, like two immunity idols and a tribe that gets to live in luxury. It looks interesting, but I think that Survivor is nearing the end of its run: I anticipate that there will be only two more seasons after Fiji, with one season being a second All-Stars edition. See you in Fiji!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Callin' in sick

Sometimes I need to be reminded that the world can go on without me, and this is one of those times - sick days. I rarely take them because I rarely get sick. I remember that my parents forced me to take a sick day in grade 12 (I was not going to take because I had too much stuff to do at school that day, or so I thought), so I stayed at home and played Donkey Kong all day until I felt better. I have rarely missed classes in university due to illness, and even rarely on this internship...until now. I started feeling woozy on Friday, and I spent the better part of the weekend stuffed up and headachey. I started to feel better, but then it turned into a stomach thing, and back into a feverish head thing. Normally, I would just push through it, but I know that if I do that it will just be worse for longer, so I think I will actually take a sick day tomorrow and avoid leaving the house. It is really difficult for me to do that, though - it almost feels like an admission of weakness; the irony, of course, is that it is, but that I still do not want to recognize the presence of such weakness despite its universality. So I will take a sick day, get caught up on some rest, and the world will go on without me, and I will just have to join in on Wednesday wherever the world may be. And hopefully I'll be feeling better by then.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mark my words

I think I have discovered a new "worst thing about teaching": the marking. I had the unfortunate circumstance of starting all of my units at the same time due to the mid-semester break, and so all of the students' assignments came in around the same time, therein creating an overload of marking to be completed before I leave at the end of the week. But it is not just the workload that is bothersome - it's the entire enterprise as a philosophical debate. What qualifies me to grade students? And assuming I am qualified, how do I determine those marks? What is the difference between an 80 and an 85? A 75 and a 76? What does a 90 actually look like in practice? What does it matter if all the students do is look at the number and toss it away, maybe after arguing with me about it? Why do we even use this horribly inaccurate, idiosyncratic, seemingly arbitrary system to determine the worth of the students? Because our system is established around those marks, and we cannot change the system. Or so I am told. So, for now, I must put any philosophical debates aside and simply strive to get the marks in so that students can look at that number at which I painstakingly arrived, compare it with all of the others in the class, and stuff it in their binder never to glance again on my comments about comma splices or transitions. Well, maybe my class on Assessment and Evaluation will help me semester, after I have already completed internship. Sigh.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Studio 60

My most recent television project was to try watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, NBC's much-hyped new drama about the production of a weekly sketch comedy series from Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing). Although I feared that it might quickly devolve into a self-congratulatory pat on the back in-joke for the entertainment industry, and though according to this flowchart I have no business watching the show, I have now watched the first two episodes and been riveted. The writing is compelling, the pacing is captivating, the interplay between characters is intriguing, and the hypothesizing of "what if this was real" is engaging. It is smart, funny, and knows when to be serious and when to lighten up. In addition, it is interesting to note how the interaction of religion and culture will be developed, as leading cast member Harriet Hayes is a devout Christian (even praying before showtime) while there are show sketches about "crazy Christians". I waited to check it out until NBC confirmed a full-season order, so at least major plotlines can be resolved. (By the way, has anyone else noticed how NBC took over the TV world again this year? Heroes, Studio 60, the Thursday comedy powerhouse of My Name Is Earl and The Office...for the first time since the end of Seinfeld, NBC is actually Must-See TV. But I digress.) So Studio 60 should keep me busy over the holidays, especially with no new episodes of Heroes until January. Now, the question is whether I will actually try to watch 30 Rock...

Friday, December 08, 2006

The final six

[Survivor spoiler alert!] Survivor: Cook Islands is finally nearing its conclusion, as there are now six survivors left after the ouster of my favourite from this season, Jonathan (which was not only a silly move strategically for several of the remaining six, but also one that makes the show far less entertaining). But an important question remains: it is now December 8, and there are two episodes and a finale left, and if form were to hold true, the finale would be on Christmas Eve. There is some talk that because there were more Survivors at the beginning and a larger jury, that there might be three Survivors facing the jury. Three! As much as I enjoy the twists and turns that are introduced to the game, this is somewhat akin to Jeopardy! eliminating Final Jeopardy! without notice, or The Price Is Right just up and trashing the Showcase Showdown. The fact is that the conclusion of this season will be interesting, but that I do not foresee that Survivor has much time left before it really has gone too far. Then again, it is essentially the pioneer of a genre, and it is now in its thirteenth season - how much more can it give? I guess "Yul" see what happens over the next few weeks, and it would be "Adam" shame if they messed with the jury.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

History bites

I have recently rediscovered the wonder of History Bites, a Canadian comedy show that satirizes historical eras by imagining if television was around in that time. I discovered it in my search for resources for teaching (in which several episodes will be most useful), but they are also very entertaining just watched by themselves. And then I realized that I actually enjoy being a history geek: knowing the dates, and how things work together, and even debating the validity of the history upon which we focus and the accepted canon of historical knowledge, especially at a secondary level. I also enjoy communicating that knowledge, and determining creative ways for students to learn it. I realized a few weeks ago that I think I would rather be a history teacher that uses literature than an English teacher that uses history. (I do use the word "history" rather than "social studies" deliberately - the two terms are often conflated, but are not equivalent. But I digress.) Anyway, my point is that I like history, and especially History Bites.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reading style

Sometimes, they get these internet quizzes right. I think this is actually a fairly accurate description of me as a reader (and a description that seems to be appropriate for a high school English teacher, too).

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

(Thanks to QOWP for the link.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

For your consideration

I recently watched the newest Christopher Guest (and company) film For Your Consideration, which is all about what happens to the cast of an independent film when Oscar buzz hits. It is as hilarious as its predecessors in this family (A Mighty Wind, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman, and This Is Spinal Tap), though it is slightly less of a "mockumentary" in the truest sense - that feel comes from the interspersion of entertainment news bits throughout the film. Nevertheless, it is certainly a mockumentary, and maintains Guest's title as the king of that unfortunately limited genre. The mockumentary has begun to expand into television, as some shows like The Office have made use of the format, while others like Arrested Development have also maintained that feel but without the presence of the documentary interviews, but still there are few mockumentaries. Why is it a fairly limited genre - why are more people not making mockumentaries? I think it might be because it is slightly more difficult to create the world of the movie and also to create the world viewing the world of the movie all within the movie. It is difficult to make a funny mockumentary, and it requires a lot of ingenuity from the director as well as the actors to do so well. But with documentaries on the rise, as they have been in recent years, should it not follow that mockumentaries will also see a surgence (not really a resurgence, since there is no surge to repeat)? In some ways, I hope that more mockumentaries can succeed, but I also hope that the genre maintains the general level of quality that it has kept so far. And that Christopher Guest keeps making great movies.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Personal vs. professional

One of the big questions that has plagued me from well before day one of my internship has been the struggle of how much personal information to divulge to my students (a problem reflected in my continual concern about this forum), and how much information is beneficial for students. I do not know that I have yet arrived at an answer to this very difficult question, but I do think that I will have to answer it once I decide to pursue a permanent posting as a teacher. How will my classroom reflect me and encourage learning? How will my daily and weekly routines show who I am as a person and as a teacher? How much information is "too much information", and how little keeps students alienated? It is a fine line, even a tightrope, to walk, and I am still figuring it out. I guess the goal is to eventually become Mr. D. Turner, the combination of private and professional, and for students to see the Teaching of Turner along with the Life of Turner.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

English teacher arts

As I have been teaching and working on establishing curriculum in my English Language Arts classroom, I have been reminded of the gaps that exist in my own reading, and I realize that I need to begin to make amends to rectify this situtation. I began this last week by finally reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (I loved it), but I realize that the problem goes much deeper than that. So, in the spirit of my ongoing list of "Movies I need to see" (which is unfortunately not much different from what it was in February 2005), I have decided to begin a list of "Books I need to read". These are the kind of books should be essential to have read in order to be an English teacher (that of course I have not yet read). (I think the biggest hole to plug is American Lit, interestingly enough.)

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Anything by Charles Dickens
1984 - George Orwell
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Native Son - Richard Wright
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham
Who Has Seen The Wind? - W.O. Mitchell
Medicine River - Thomas King
Two Solitudes - Hugh McLennan
The Iliad
The Odyssey
A Passage To India - E.M. Forster
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Of course, this small list will take me up to years to clear out due simply to the non-exclusion of other reading, but I am always willing to keep the list going, and, at least I have somewhere to start. Suggestions, as always, are welcome!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The play's the thing

One of my biggest regrets of my university career has been that I did not have more opportunities to participate in drama. It was just always one of those things that was too time-consuming or too inconvenient for me to take a meaningful interest in, and I knew I would come back to it sometime. I always had tastes of it at camp, working with kids for a week crafting a skit or pantomime to music in a drama skill, but never that extended exposure for which I have been longing since high school. One of the best parts of my internship has been helping out with the drama as assistant director (and stage manager of sorts). I have so greatly enjoyed being on the other side of the production and seeing these kids come from nothing to a great cast. We had our first performance tonight, and I had forgotten the thrill of the show, the excitement of going on stage, and the mix of adrenaline and fear that courses through your veins when someone forgets a line. I got that taste again tonight, and I have re-energized my love for the theatre. Now it will be interesting if I can find a way to keep this dramatic fire ignited and keep kindled my love for AC-TING! (see Jon Lovitz, SNL). Yes, the play is the thing, and all the world's a stage. At least my world is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In need of distraction

I do not know exactly when or how it happened, but somehow I have now reached the point at which it is difficult for me to do anything, particularly more routine tasks, without a distraction. I almost cannot commit to doing things without having other conversations on the go or having music or television in the background. It is a very interesting problem to have, and I still wonder why I have it. It may be because I have grown up in an age that is increasingly media-oriented, and so it is a natural extension to always have something going. It could be because there is simply too much out there to digest, and multi-tasking is the only way to be able to do it with any kind of volume or efficiency. Or it could be because I need the distractions from what I am doing because it is stressful (ie schoolwork). But it is troubling that I do sometimes find it difficult to focus without this "white noise" (whether music or video games or television or whatever). The other problem, of course, is that although I may complete more tasks in a given time (or seem to), that tasks take me more time to complete - so instead of doing things sequentially, I am simply doing them concurrently, which may result in a loss not of productivity, but of quality. Sigh. To wit, I have checked several other conversations while writing this post, which has taken me far longer to compose than I had anticipated. I need a different distraction.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


This is my public affirmation of my continued fandom of M. Night Shyamalan, regardless of the lack of commercial success of this summer's Lady in the Water. I recently re-watched Unbreakable, and it was every bit as brilliant a reworking of a superhero movie as when I first watched it five years ago. Some people have discounted his work since the "twist endings" are not as good as they used to be, but those people are silly. Shyamalan's work is about reinventing genres, amazing performances, and subtle camerawork, not a twist ending. He is truly our generation's Hitchcock, and I think his work will certainly stand the test of time and critical analysis. I will be intrigued to see what he does next to "come back" from the disappointment of Lady in the Water (which was a great film, just one that a lot of people did not understand correctly) in a couple of years. In my DVD player, M. Night is alright.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turner television

It has been a little while since I have shared my small screen indulgences with you, so I figured I would update things all at once. The current "must watch immediately" list consists of only three shows: Corner Gas, which just recently featured one of the series' better episodes in "Blog River"; Survivor: Cook Islands, which has now reached the jury phase and gotten much more interesting, and Heroes, which is easily the best show on television right now. Period. In the "when I have time" category is My Name Is Earl, as well as the "reali-T" series I Pity The Fool, starring Mr. T. In the "I would like to watch but just cannot find the time" category right now are The Office and Jericho, while The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Hockey Night in Canada are all in the "I am looking forward to having time and cable television again" category. I suppose when I look at it now that that it looks like a lot of TV, but I think that it works out to about an hour or less each day, which is why I cannot keep up with everything I would like to. Well, I guess if all I can complain about is how I don't get to watch enough TV, I am doing alright.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Productively unproductive

I had a weekend that was productive in its unproductivity. I accomplished a lot over the course of the weekend, particularly in the area of long-overdue social interaction and significant decisions about my future, yet I still have a feeling of lack of accomplishment. There were things that I needed to accomplish for school that I did not think about, and so I am still stressed out now about the upcoming week, and I feel guilty about not getting enough done. This feeling of obligation and guilt from lack of fulfillment of that obligation is the worst part of internship; after all, no matter how much I get done, it is never enough. But I suppose when I can work a fifteen-hour day and still not get enough work done that that is life in full-time teaching. Urgh.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Midterm election thoughts

Today was voting day for our southern neighbours, and I do not imagine that too many Canadians even took notice (unless they are fans of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report). It was not the big presidential election, but the "midterm elections" in which seats in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and Governors are up for grabs. And lo and behold, the Democrats took control of the House, effectively taking power away from the previously omnipotent Republicans (who had controlled all three houses). Watching the American system in action has made me think about our own brand of politics. Say what you want about the negative elements of a two-party system with fixed elections and somewhat disproportionate district distribution; but in some ways it makes sense. Sure, in theory, the balance could shift every two years from one party to another, but what is to say that is a bad thing, especially when compared to the Canadian legacy of minority governments? It could keep parties in check and ensure strong mandates from governing parties. In Canada, we mock the two-party system, while we often fail to acknowledge our own two-party system (quick, name the two parties that have been elected to federal government in Canada...Liberals and Conservatives!) and the flaws of fracturing a vote with regionally-based parties (cough*Bloc*cough) that have no business in the federal arena. Sure, California re-elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor, but we've got Belinda Stronach in our Parliament. I guess what I am trying to say is that for all the criticism that Canadians make of the American electoral process that Canada has as many flaws in our system, and that once you understand the American system, it (gasp!) begins to make some sense. I do not necessarily believe that Canada needs to reform our electoral system to follow the model of the US, but at least that we can see some value in it and take the plank out of our own eye before investigating the speck in theirs.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

U218 Singles

How do you sum up a career like that of U2 in one disc? That is the question that the band is attempting to answer with its upcoming release "U218 Singles", which consists of sixteen of the band's most famous singles, as well as two new tracks recorded with Rick Rubin (of Johnny Cash's American Recordings and Audioslave fame of late). First of all, here is the recently announced tracklist:

1. Beautiful Day / 2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / 3. Pride (In The Name Of Love) / 4. With Or Without You / 5. Vertigo / 6. New Year's Day / 7. Mysterious Ways / 8. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of / 9. Where The Streets Have No Name / 10. Sweetest Thing / 11. Sunday Bloody Sunday / 12. One / 13. Desire / 14. Walk On / 15. Elevation / 16. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own / 17. The Saints Are Coming (NEW TRACK) / 18. Window In The Skies (NEW TRACK)

Despite the fact that I already own all but two of these tracks several times over, I will likely be buying the CD. Why? Because I'm a sucker, that's why. And because there's a special edition that comes with a bonus DVD. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the track selection on this disc. If the CD's purpose is to serve as the one U2 CD that people can own to have their main radio hits, it accomplishes it, and I would recommend it for that purpose. There are, in fact, few changes I would make to the track selection - or even order, for that matter - though I would argue for the inclusion of "Even Better Than The Real Thing" from Achtung Baby, as well as tracks from 1993's Zooropa and 1997's Pop, which are not represented here ("Numb" and "Discotheque, respectively). Then again, I suppose if people want a more complete Best Of that they can buy the Best of 1980-1990 and Best of 1990-2000 and the inevitable Best of 2000-2010 in five years. But if you are among those who did not buy either of those collections over the past eight years, it seems as if U218 Singles will suffice for that "I just want to own all of U2's hits on one CD" crowd, while causing people like me to fork out more money for what essentially amounts to a glorified cash grab between album releases. And I do not know what's worse: that they grab for cash, or that I know that they do and still participate. Sigh.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Under construction

Well, it took two months, but it finally happened. At least one student has found my blog. (I had an assignment handed into me that had my profile picture on the front.) Although I have anticipated this happening since I knew I would be interning, it is slightly different to have had it actually happen (although a relief that it took two months). The question, of course, is how this affects my blog. The answer, I think, is that it does not affect my posting. I feel comfortable in what I am posting in content, and will strive to continue the high quality of Turner thoughts to which you are accustomed. But I have decided as an interim measure to counteract any possible problems to remove my links list in the interim, since I cannot control content on external sites. I have wanted to revise that list and format for some time, and I now have the impetus to do so. So please do not be offended by the removal of the links...consider this a construction site that should be back at full capacity in January. Until then, you can drive at reasonable speed through my regular posts and my archives! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Photocopying 101

One of the most common jokes about the College of Education is that they offer classes like "chalkboard writing" and "photocopying"...which, of course, they do not. But it truly is amazing how much time and effort those little things will take out of your day. Photocopying, stapling, hole punching, and collating all can take a lot of time, and they often prove to be very frustrating activities. In addition, it can be difficult to put handouts in just the right order and to make sure everything is done just right. Plus, photocopiers are always jamming or breaking down - and when you understand just how many sheets get run through a photocopier each day, you will begin to appreciate how crucial of an educational tool the photocopier really is. And there is nothing worse than being stuck waiting for another teacher who is photocopying a ton of material. Many of you will scoff at the so-called difficulty of photocopying, but if you ask any teacher, they will most likely state that photocopying is one of the biggest headaches of the profession, and one of the biggest nuisances of their life. Trick of the teaching trade number 4: learn to photocopy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

River rat

Over the past year, I have developed a great affinity for poker - especially Texas Hold 'Em. There is something about sitting around the table with a bunch of guys with beverages and pride and some money on the line. I got watching a series of High Stakes Poker on the Game Show Network in January, and I have really come to appreciate the game. I really enjoy the strategy involved in knowing percentages and knowing the other players, but that it is a game that also involves risk. For example, I was playing tonight, and on one of the later hands of the evening, my competition attempted to take me out by bidding in increments (I was by far the chip leader at that point). He finally went all in after the turn (the fourth card), and I called. He had top pair (kings), while I had a flush draw (diamonds) and a straight draw (if I got a ten). I calculated the odds and decided to risk it...and got a ten on the river to put him out. I also won the game on a king on the river (when faced with an ace-high hand), so I earned the title of "river rat." Although I do not necessarily like playing off the river, it does take skill to do so, and I came up on the right end tonight twice. River-riding notwithstanding, I feel like I am actually getting to be a better poker player (not that I am good, but that I am getting better), and that also helps me enjoy the game. But we will see what I say after I get beat good a few times.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Teacher clothes

I have gone over two of the teaching tips I have already discovered: Have lots of shortcuts, and have a wide base of seemingly useless knowledge. And here's trick number three of the teaching trade: look the part. I went out to Value Village before the school year began and picked up "teacher clothes": slacks, khakis, long-sleeved dress shirts, and ties. I was not sure if I was going to enjoy wearing more formal attire than I have been used to (keep in mind how long I have been alternating between university and camp), but I knew that it was part of the professional appearance I had to convey. And I have discovered something I did not expect: I actually like dressing that way on a regular basis. I enjoy looking professional, and it causes me to act more responsible. Plus, I really like wearing funky ties. I have a fairly set routine for clothes: either Monday or Tuesday is a tie day, as is Thursday; Friday is casual day, and Wednesday, as it has been for several years, is "Hawaiian Wednesday." I do realize that it is relatively easy for us gentlemen to dress professionally, but I had not thought of the difference it would make in my daily countenance. The clothes may not make the man, but they at least make the man (ie. me) feel more like a teacher.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Out of touch

Today marked the three-quarter mark of my crazy journey through the final two thirds of 2006: first camp, and now internship. While I do appreciate the space I have had and the time I have been able to devote to my work, as well as to catching up on some personal goals, I am beginning to find myself feeling "out of touch." This is a very unusual and disconcerting feeling for me, and although I see how it has been necessary to go through this process, I am certainly beginning to yearn for getting back in touch with people and life in Saskatoon in general. I think I feel not only out of touch, but "out of sight" and "out of mind", both on my part and the part of others. I need to keep others in sight to encourage me to keep in touch, much as others might need that same source for encouragement. Of course, the sobering reality is that I have two months left out here, but I do want to make the most of it. Therefore, I will be attempting to get back in touch, and would appreciate any attempts on your parts to do likewise (particularly if such an effort were to result in a visit to Humboldt). So I mean it when I say "keep in touch."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Go banana!

I posted a few weeks ago about how the key to teaching was developing a bag of tricks that would help you succeed in the classroom. Well, I think I have figured out another key: knowing random trivia. For example, when seeking different motivational sets in an English class, my recently-latent yet still-near-encyclopedic knowledge of the first ten years of The Simpsons comes in very handy (as does YouTube!), in addition to my memory of obscure cartoon plots from the 1990s (eg. Tiny Toons' "The Tell-tale Vacuum"). It is so helpful having those references, as well as random meaningless tidbits of information, that can help keep students interested, as well as make me seem really cool. Key to teaching number 2, folks.
On a related note, the debate going on in my circles over the past week concerns the relative inability of women to remember and quote pop culture like Simpsons or Seinfeld (there are, of course, exceptions) as compared to men. We can have a lot more at our figurative fingertips, whereas it seems that if women do remember quotations, it is from sources they have held dear and viewed again and again. Is this because women choose to invest more in "relationship" with such media, whereas men are just out for a quick fix? Is there some natural reason for this phenomenon, or is it a product of nurture? Food for thought...and comments!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh, freak out!

I am now in last week of the first half of my sixteen-week internship experience, and I find it interesting that many of the other teachers are checking up on me to make sure I am doing okay. And what is perhaps more interesting is that, aside from the occasional difficult day, that I am just fine. I have pondered this fact for several weeks: am I not stressed out because I am doing really well, because getting stressed out is simply not a healthy way to react to stressful circumstances, or because I am not doing the work I need to be doing (or doing it at the level at which it should be done)? Other interns I know are freaking out about getting little sleep and being stressed and feeling so much external pressure, while I am still relatively calm and collected about the whole thing. But I would rather not descend into a spiral of self-doubt and lack of self-confidence if I am, in fact, just handling things well, so I feel safe in making the assumption that if I am actually way off track that there are the necessary structures in place to make me aware of that fact and accountable for it. My working theory is that I am who I am, that I am confident in who I am and what I can do, and that this "extended job interview" will not be helped by me stressing out, which would entail me forgetting small things and getting angry at people for no reason and shirking work. So I have decided that I am okay with not being stressed out. Unless someone with the power to evaluate me tells me I should be. Then I might start stressing out. [Bonus points if you can identify the source of this post's title.]

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Good night, and good luck.

I finally watched George Clooney's film Good Night, and Good Luck (only a year after I saw Clooney interviewed about it on The Daily Show!), and immediately realized that it deserved all of the accolades it earned, as it is a brilliantly acted and directed film. What really struck me was the difference between television journalism in the 1950s and today; at that time, television was a still-growing industry that was still deciding what its medium would be, much like the internet has been in recent memory for our generation. The unfortunately low intellectual standards that are now assumed with news broadcasting were not entrenched then, so Edward R. Murrow could freely quote Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in his commentary and not blink an eye. Now, aside from some isolated ventures, it is scarely possible to call what passes for news on television "journalism". Maybe it was the invention of "entertainment journalism" that killed the intelligence; or maybe Entertainment Tonight was a response to the dulling of the medium and the culture around it. In the film, Murrow expresses his dismay in what he predicts will be the future of television, particularly in comparison with its potential, and I am inclined to agree with him as far as "news" is concerned. The medium is one of entertainment, and so television does an excellent job of entertaining; unfortunately, McLuhan seems to be right, and entertainment has become the message of television, including the news. It is somewhat depressing to note the similarity of the rise of television with that of the internet because the 'net (and blogs) could well end up the same way as TV, but it is also invigorating to think that we could learn from our past mistakes and make the internet - and possibly even television once again - a medium that is more than entertainment. I guess all I can say about that is, well, "good night, and good luck."

Friday, October 13, 2006


The war is over. After a valiant effort in last year's referendum, a brief glimmer of hope in February, and a soul-crushing mind-numbing decision by the Students' Council in March that created as bleak a tapestry as has ever been made in student politics, the system has finally vindicated those of us who have rallied long and hard for the past two years against the invasion of the CFS. Former USSU president Robin Mowat filed an application to Queen's Court Bench to have the results of the referendum overturned. The judge's ruling: "I order that the referendum held by the USSU on the issue of whether it should join the CFS is of absolutely no force or effect." The sweet smell of judicial victory still lingers in my nostrils like the smell of a long-awaited turkey dinner. Stay tuned to Apatheology and for further triumphant reactions. We did it. We beat the CFS. We are hereby vindicated.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I need a hug.

There is nothing in the world like a good hug. The kind of hug that shows a level of depth and caring that no other form of physical affection can. A handshake can do in a pinch, but it is not a hug. Other displays of affection are not the same. There is just something about that warm embrace between two people that seems to temporarily heal all of the ills in the world around you and that makes you say "I am glad to be alive." It can be a greeting hug, a goodbye hug, an "I'm sorry" hug, an "I missed you so much" hug, or an "I know" hug - each hug may have a different purpose, but a hug still has that one purpose: to show you care. Today I really needed a hug, so I received some "phone hugs", which were very very good...but they simply cannot replace the real physical contact between two people. So I still need a hug. Any takers?

Monday, October 09, 2006

A wacky red violin

Since the beginning of the MTV generation, popular music has gone through many phases: punk, new wave, bubblegum pop, hair metal, power ballads, grunge, post grunge, gangsta rap, hip-hop, rap-rock, ska, electronica, boy bands, metalcore, and emo. And polka. There has been one man who has transcended the shifting tides of popular taste to finally hit the Billboard Top 10 albums after over two decades of making music: Weird Al. Not only has Al's newest album Straight Outta Lynwood garnered commercial success, it is very possibly one of his best albums yet. He tackles Green Day ("Canadian Idiot"), R. Kelly, Chamillionaire, and Usher, among others, in what is his most diverse and possibly entertaining effort since 1996's Bad Hair Day (he would have included a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful", except that Blunt's label - Atlantic - didn't allow it. You can download "You're Pitiful" here. But I digress.) Somehow, Weird Al always finds a way to keep his finger on the pulse of the culture around him, and to stay, well, weird. Sometimes, he might be a little too weird, but what can you do? Encourage him, I guess. Keep on cranking out the hit parodies, Al! (P.S. - This post's title is an anagram of "Weird Al Yankovic." Cool, huh?)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bee movie?

I finally saw the instant B-movie classic Snakes on a Plane last night, and I loved it! The movie was very cheesy, and it truly seemed like the violence was played for laughs. It seemed as if the movie did not take itself seriously, especially Samuel L. Jackson. But, as often seems to happen when I watch movies, it made me think about the nature of the genre of which the film purports to be the new leader: B-movies. The main question I have is whether a film like Snakes has brought on a new viability for that type of film. Can a B-movie be considered a success if it excels in the main market - or can it even be called a B-movie at that point? Certainly, the production values of the film, as well as the acting in it, would lead to the conclusion that it is undeniably a B-movie. But does the marketing of the film as such negate its very nature as such? That is the question. Either way, Snakes is and will continue to be a classic B-movie, right up there with other classics like Evil Dead and Hell Comes To Frogtown, as well as many others. I think there is a difference between a good bad movie (ie. a B movie that you can enjoy) and a bad bad movie (ie a C-movie or lower) that is just painful to watch; at least a B-movie has the bonus of a semi-recognizable rong figure, and some promise of comical awesomeness. A good B-movie every once in a while helps cure anyone's desire to take themselves too seriously - ergo, I highly recommend a good B-movie every so often, especially during awards season. And in November next year, there may be a new entry to the genre...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ruby Newsday

Today was a big release day for movies and music, but I managed to resist all temptations (X3: The Last Stand on DVD and new albums by Skillet, Evanescence, Pillar, The Killers, and to a lesser extent Jet) save for one: Corner Gas Season 3. Granted, that resistance was due primarily to the limitations of my particular geographical location (translated: no good music stores here), but I could not resist the "Awesome Eight" superhero caricatures of the characters on the cover of the DVD. Plus, it was cheaper in Extra Foods here than it was on Amazon (that was truly the clincher). Season 3 has some of the best episodes yet (out of the forty episodes in the first three seasons), but I understand that there are some people in my readership who have not yet experienced the wonder that is the Gas. Therefore, here are my top five must-watch Corner Gas Season 1 episodes for the uninitiated watcher: "Tax Man" (2), for the amazing banter; "World's Biggest Thing" (6), if not only for the "crack hoe" jokes; "Cousin Carl" (8) - Brent is emasculated; "Comedy Night" (10) - Book club is brilliant; and "Hook, Line, and Sinker" (11) - the respective interplays between Hank and Karen and Brent and Lacey are hilarious. Honestly, I do not think this show could ever get old.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tricks of the trade

I have been reflecting recently about my past month of teaching - a process that has been partially inspired by this week's internship inservice and parent-teacher interviews - and I think I have discovered the key to teaching. No, it is not curriculum, or public speaking, or knowledge of material. It is knowing the tricks, tips, and shortcuts that make life easier as a teacher, whether it is in classroom management, marking, or content instruction. Teaching is very idiosyncratic, so every teacher has their own methods that they use, and they will share their ideas with interns (sometimes at the expense of the intern's attention span). Some teachers take longer to figure out those useful shortcuts, while some stumble across a good idea early on in their tenure and hang on to it as long as it works. While I am certainly learning many of those tricks along the way, I think that the lack of these tips is one of the most frustrating aspects of internship: not only do I not have my own shortcuts to help me out, but I have to accommodate other teachers' shortcuts as well. But, in the end, I will have a nice "grab bag" of educational goodies that will help make my life easier after I have been teaching for several years. Sigh.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Top five...

I have just finished reading Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity, and I must admit that although it was difficult to separate the novel from the film that the film captured the spirit of the book very well, even in Americanizing the setting. The book is brilliant, and reading it made me again realize how much I can identify with Rob, the owner of Championship Vinyl, as far as being a "music guy" goes. (The film, by the way, is in my top five films about relationships, along with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) His incorporation of music into all areas of his life reminds me of me (although I've no doubt he would dismiss me for my fandom of U2), because that is what I tend to do. Compilation discs and/or tapes help me express how I feel, and particular records define certain periods of time in my life. (Top five songs that made me want to move in summer 2006: Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy", Keane - "Crystal Ball", Lovedrug - "Rocknroll", Underoath - "There Could Be Nothing After This", Gnarls Barkley - "The Last Time".) Anyway, this book really gives an insight into the mind of a music lover like myself, and helps laypeople understand why people like me think about release dates and compose top five lists and laugh at the songs playing in the supermarket and relate our lives to a Johnny Cash song and ridicule DJs when they play "Cadillac Ranch" and "The Sign" and "Hollaback Girl" back-to-back-to-back. That's life when you live it in "high fidelity."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

One month down...

It is hard to believe that a full month of my time here in Humboldt has passed already, considering how busy it has been and how much busier it promises to become. I have had a productive month as an upcoming professional, but also in adjusting to the pace of life and in accomplishing some things I have wanted to do for some time. I have been reading fairly voraciously (among my conquests thus far have been Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian trilogy, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and Nick Hornby's High Fidelity), catching up on television (Arrested Development), and even getting in some time playing video games. It has been difficult to adjust, as an extrovert, to not having people around socially, but it seems like life is just humming along. Now if I can just get in some more exercise, I will be doing great...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Watch more ZooTV

U2 recently released their ZooTV: Live From Sydney concert on DVD for the first time since the filming of the concert in 1993. (Coincidentally, the concert took place on my sister's ninth birthday. But I digress.) What really struck me as I watched the DVD and all of its extras is that I truly wish that I had been old enough to be a fan of the band at that point (I was ten years old). The complete insanity of the entire ZooTV tour has been captured for posterity, but it would have been so amazing to have lived through some of the now legendary elements of that tour: seeing Bono transform himself into The Fly, MacPhisto, and Mirrorball Man; the giant vidi-walls and satellite signals that were set up on stage for each show; the trabants hanging all over the set; and the complete deconstruction of the entire identity the band had established in the 1980s. It is truly the most interesting period of U2's history, and one of which I have only very faint memories from when it happened. It is still great to relive the brilliance of this period on DVD, and even the more so because this release likely will lead to the release of the remainder of the U2 video catalog on DVD. It's "Even Better Than The Real Thing."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My secret identity... not so secret. We had an interesting conversation about internet identity at today's Saskblogs barbecue (at which, in true Turner fashion, I knew three of the other four attendees through random past encounters. But I digress.) Some are very guarded about their online nomenclature, whereas some (like myself) are completely open about our "secret identities." I do understand the need for some blogs to have anonymity and/or confidentiality, but I have decided to be who I am, online or in real life. Still, that decision has made for an interesting dilemma, now that I am in a school. Though my teaching career is in its infancy, I have learned quickly that I am now both "D----" and "Mr. Turner" wherever I go. I have seen students at a rock concert and at the mall, so I continually have to be aware of the reality that I am a professional. Does this mean that I am constantly in a state of tension, wondering if my dark deeds will be exposed to the light of the students were I to be seen "out of character"? Not really - it means more that I must continually strive to be a "whole" person, and to live a life in which I do not have those secrets that can be revealed. But I have also been wondering about this identity problem online, since I am pretty easy to find - I am now the number one "D.... Turner" on Google. Do I need to stop doing what I'm doing here just because I am a teacher? I do not think so, but then again, who knows what may come up in the future? All I can do is be who I am, no matter where I am, and trust that my integrity will come through in the end. Mr. Turner out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A constant commute

I do not know how people commute all the time. I had to commute to Saskatoon twice this week for different functions, and I found that I was tapped from all of the driving, yet there are several teachers who make the commute every day, one hour each way. I suppose if you have to live in the city and you have a good job, you could make it work, but I think I would be completely burned out if I had to drive two hours each day just to get to work. Even commuting into Saskatoon on the weekends is getting tiring (though I suppose the fact that I have not travelled in only three weekends since the beginning of May contributes to that general feeling). Perhaps the commute is not so much physically tiring as it is psychologically tiring - the constant need to be in two places and the ever-present tension between work and life continually affecting your life. I know I still feel that tension, as part of my life is in Humboldt, but part of my life is still in Saskatoon with my friends and commitments, and that that balance can be easily disrupted. But in the end, my internship is the most important facet of my life (well, not including the givens like God), so that is where it has to be in the pecking order. Such is the constant commute of my life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A moment suspended in time

I did something last night that I do not do often: I paid to go to a show. He Is Legend, Moneen, and Silverstein all opened up for one of the best live bands around, Underoath. He Is Legend put on a decent set despite some sound issues, but Moneen was by far the best of the opening bands. Nothing, however, could compare to the sonic fury that was Underoath. It was one year ago that they graced the stage in Saskatoon as an opening act for The Used with a half-hour set of pure metalcore energy. With that standard fresh in the mind of many in attendance, as well as the anticipation of the performance of new material from this year's hit album Define the Great Line, the crowd buzzed with eager anticipation as the band took the stage. The sextet from Tampa did not disappoint us. From the opening notes of concert (and Line) opener "In Regards To Myself", the band captured the hearts, voices, and energy of the crowd, and they did not let go until the crowd dispersed a dozen songs later, hoarse and drenched with sweat. Underoath cemented their reputation as one of the best in the biz at pacing a show, as the dynamics of song selection allowed for a natural flow between the intense and more reflective moments. The best moment of the set was the somewhat unexpected choice to begin the band's encore, the somewhat slower closer from They're Only Chasing Safety, "Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape", a song which is perhaps the most worshipful of any that the band has recorded. In the midst of that song, at the end of the melodic phrase "Jesus, I'm ready to come home", the band came in full force on the word "home" before eventually returning to a more peaceful denouement for the song. That moment, to me, defined the evening because it proved Underoath's mastery of their genre muscially, lyrically, and demonstrated their confidence in their vocation, and it remains the moment that is suspended in time.

Underoath's set list: In Regards To Myself / It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door / There Could Be Nothing After This / You're Ever So Inviting / I Don't Feel Very Receptive Today / To Whom It May Concern / Young and Aspiring / A Moment Suspended In Time / Writing on the Walls / (Encore) Some Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape / A Boy Brushed Red in Black and White / Everyone Looks So Good From Here

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The 13th Survivor

As many of you know, I am parked in front of the television on Thursday nights at 7 pm for my weekly addiction. Survivor is now in its thirteenth installment, now located on the Cook Islands, and this could be one of the most interesting seasons yet. Although there has been some skepticism about producer Mark Burnett's choice to divide the tribes along racial lines (Latin American, African-American, Asian-American, and Caucasian), I think it will provide one of the most interesting juries in Survivor history. (I do wonder, however, where the representation from Native Americans has been, as I do not recall ANY Native people on any episode of Survivor. Perhaps Burnett thinks they have a built-in advantage after surviving all of the horrible crimes perpetrated against them for the past five centuries? I don't know. But I digress.) It is interesting, however, how different survivors have reacted. Some have seemed completely indifferent to the division, while others are "representing their people." It will certainly be interesting to see what alliances emerge once these tribal lines are blurred, and particularly how the Caucasians do (since most survivors would have the incorrect impression that they have the advantage because of their race). Nevertheless, I plan to watch this season closely, and here are my early early picks for the final four: Jonathan, Sundra, Rebecca, and Yul. Survivors, on your mark!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A movie a week

In a recent situation in which I was forced to make small talk, the conversation turned (on my directing) to a fairly universal subject: movies. After asking the others present what was the last horrible movie they saw, I realized that I had difficulty answering the question myself, as I do not watch many movies that are not worth my time and thus do not remember the last "bad" movie I watched. After some further reflection on my movie-watching habits, I have found that I watch, on average, one movie each week. I deliberately, most often in a social setting, endeavour to view at least one movie in main theatres each month, with an additional viewing at Rainbow also at a rate of once per month. (There are, of course, the busy seasons in which I will have additional viewings due to a greater volume of releases in which I am interested.) I think that I began this habit in early 2005, when I was writing a weekly "Review in Haiku" feature on this site (a feature that I miss dearly and may yet still resurrect), but it has become fairly entrenched as a part of my (typically) weekend routine. I find that a movie a week is a fairly decent pace, as it allows for the constant influx of valuable culture without the issues that often originate from overindulgence and from a glut of poor members of the medium. In essence, I can keep up with the good stuff, avoid the bad, and still keep life in balance at this pace. I believe that a movie a week - or 52 per year - is a good standard to continue experiencing and evaluating culture, and I would not be surprised to continue this habit for many years. Of course, I would love to set the pace that I watch one movie for every book I read - I am getting there, but I still have some reading to do. Nevertheless, a movie a week keeps the brain fresh and the faith engaged. Now to figure out which movie I will watch this weekend...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A new kind of Christian?

I had a good conversation with a friend over the weekend during the course of which he revealed to me that I have changed in the time I have known him - that I have become more liberal in many of my beliefs, but that I still manage to maintain that tension between faith and practice and criticism and acceptance in regard to my faith journey. That conversation, as well as my current reading of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian trilogy, has led me to reflect on where I am, where I have been, and where I might be going in my life's quest to follow Jesus. I too realized that I am far more liberal now than I once was: I drink, smoke cigars, cuss, watch movies, and I even listen to bands that are not singing to or about Jesus. There was a time when I would questioned someone like me (although I often still do question myself), and may have even attempted to justify any form of judgement I placed upon said person, even if it were in what I deemed to be the best interests of either that person or of God. There was a time when I would at least have questioned whether or not engaging in such activities was actually productive in one's faith journey, and whether said activities might actually, in fact, detract from one's journey to become like Christ. There was a time when that questioning would not have been productive, but would have been more critical, and thus detrimental to any good I would have purported to perpetrate. Now, when those questions arise, I may have similar answers in some cases, but something is different, as far as I can tell: the focus. My focus then, I believe, was still Jesus, but I needed to have those other areas "in line" with Jesus to support Him in my life; now, my focus is still Jesus, but my faith transcends those human concerns, and He informs those decisions, rather than the decisions conforming to Him. There is a difference between those ideas. I remember when I was at my Fundiest (c. Feb. 2002-Feb. 2003), and although I don't necessarily regret my actions at that time, I would not choose to re-enact them now. I believe that my foray into Fundamentalism helped me to understand more what issues I have with that worldview and helped me reach the point at which I currently reside; I also believe that that time enabled me to understand more of the mindset of the Fundies and Evangelicals so that I could continue to have influence in that world and see the good in that world (since no worldview is entirely flawless or flawful). I think the real turning point for me, the point at which I "converted" (to use the lingo in an ironic sense) to a non-Fundy, was in late December 2003. The occasion? My first drink of alcohol. With one sip, I began to truly deconstruct the arbitrary barriers that I and others had established for me, and to realize that faith goes beyond Fundamentalism. Since that point, I have felt such a freedom to be who God created me to be, and to investigate His entire kingdom - not just the Western branch of Evangelical Presby-Lutheranism (my thanks to Rev. Lovejoy for that phrase) - but to reach beyond and to push those boundaries in my quest for Christ. I will admit that sometimes I have pushed those limits, and have had to lessen the pressure somewhat, but it has been and continues to be a fruitful enterprise in my life here on Earth. This brings me back to what being "a new kind of Christian" means in my life: it means a new outlook, even if a significant portion of the beliefs remain the same. I may now consider myself, albeit jokingly, a "heretical" or "disenfranchised" Evangelical, but right now, I remain an Evangelical. But I have pushed the boundaries in my own life, so I feel fewer of the constraints of traditional Evangelicalism in my journey - I feel like someone who can now not only survive but thrive in the once-dreaded "gray areas" without enduring a faith crisis at every corner. I feel like I can be someone who has a place within the Evangelical community, but also sees the world beyond, and hopes to help others see life in a new way. I know not everyone is called to be "a new kind of Christian" in the McLaren sense of the phrase, or even in my interpretation of the ideal, but I do know that this is my calling, and that we all need to fulfill our calling and to allow Jesus to "make all things new," and that is what will give us our "living hope." All I can do is continue to run the race before me with perseverance, looking toward Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1-2), and know that He who has begun a good work in me will carry it on until the day of completion (Phil. 1:6).

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I was minding my business today, wandering through a local music store, and I figured I would take a stroll through the TV DVD section. It was then that my eyes spied a long-awaited treasure more golden than the yolk that lies at the centre of the egg of freedom, more sweet than the frosting on the cake of justice, more valiant than the heart of the bus driver of liberty...I speak, of course, of...The Tick! [If you are lost at this point, checking the link may help you understand. Maybe.] The adventures of the staunch defender of The City, along with his sidekick Arthur, have finally been released on DVD after a long wait. I was surprised to discover that Buena Vista - a Disney company - released the DVD; what I later discovered was that Disney bought several of the mid-90s Fox Kids properties, and it has taken a while to get them to DVD. Now, however, the spell has been broken, and more Tick awaits, as well as (oh please oh please) the animated X-Men series! I also hope that if this set succeeds that it will instigate the release of other superhero spoofs such as Freakazoid!...because I obviously have nothing better to do than to spend my time in imaginary superhero worlds. Well, my mom thinks I'm cool. Seriously, we watched the DVD together. Sigh.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The golden age of comedy

As I finally starting watching through Arrested Development last night, I truly began to appreciate the age in which we live: the golden age of comedy. In the last few years, comedies like Corner Gas, My Name Is Earl, The Office (U.S.), the recently cancelled Arrested Development and the currently in limbo Curb Your Enthusiasm have been going strong and getting better each season. Now, think for a moment if there has ever been a time in which five comedies of this quality have graced the small screen. That time does not exist. Now is the golden age of comedy, despite the recent loss of Development and Enthusiasm (which nevertheless persevere on DVD). But the Age shall continue, with the other three all getting stronger, and with the eminent return of Futurama to Comedy Central with 13 new episodes. All of these shows certainly owe a huge debt to Seinfeld, as well as predecessors like Sports Night that helped pave the way for these new comedies to succeed. And do not forget that Stephen Colbert is possibly the funniest thing ever to happen to TV; he and Jon certainly pack a mighty one-two punch. This is the golden age of comedy, so appreciate it while it lasts. If history provides any lessons to us, Danny DeVito is about to get his own sitcom with Rhea Perlman...and that will signal the end of the Age.

Monday, August 28, 2006

They call me "Mister Turner"!

Today was registration day, and tomorrow is the first day of classes. The long-awaited transformation is all but complete. I now have teenagers and fellow adults calling me "Mr. Turner." It feels very surreal to finally be teaching, after so long of waiting for this time, but it's also a good feeling. My lessons are coming together, and I am finally feeling like I can live up to that name. I doubt that I will be posting many more specifics about my internship, due to the sensitive nature of the internet (and the fact that I am now the number one response when you Google my name), but I do plan to continue making the same kind of observations about life as should be expected from the Mind of Turner. That's about it from my corner...Mr. Turner out.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What's the point?

Some of you, upon reading the title of this post, may have assumed that I would be positing a somewhat fatalistic diatribe about the futility of attempting to change an institution like the evangelical church despite the seemingly obvious alterations that need to be made to make it a more effective and relevant organism; those of you who made that assumption would be wrong - this time. This post was inspired by my recent viewing of the Jack Black comedy Nacho Libre, and a comment from a friend who, upon seeing it, denied that the film had any intrinsic value or that there was any point beyond creating an inane exercise in slapstick comedy. I, as I often do with this friend, disagreed virulently, as I saw some very strong points about faith and identity and God's calling in the film (much as I did in Spiderman 2). But then I got to wondering whether these points are actually inherent in the film, or whether I interpret the film and attempt to find a point, even if there is none apparent. I came to the conclusion that there are times in which I try to find a point when there is none, but that for the most part there is a point to find. I do not know if you can have a film made simply for film's sake - there has to be some kind of point or message beyond simply entertaining. Then again, I probably tend to shy away from the kinds of films that have only that visceral purpose inherent in their existence, or to view them in their proper place (ie. Wayne's World). My point is that there should be a point, and that I like to find that point, regardless of what other people think. Nacho Libre was a Jack Black vehicle, but it had some good points, and it was not just me. That is why I ask "what is the point?"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Recasting the 'net

You really do not know how much you miss the internet until you get it back. After enduring a summer of dial-up service with spurts of high-speed upon visiting people on the weekends, I am finally in a position in which I have access to the wide world of the web at home. The thing I find interesting is that I do not feel like I know what to do with all of this newfound access. I am so accustomed to checking the most pressing e-mails and performing the absolute minimum of tasks that even though I no longer have to operate under those restrictions I still find myself doing so. I suppose it is a good thing that I am not spending as much time on random sites (like CBC Kids' Games), since I will not have as much time this fall. And of course, this all means that this site is also back at high-speed. Boo yeah.

Man about town

Well, my summer vacation has been crazy - all four days of it. I have really enjoyed the last few days, both because of and in spite of the frenetic pace, but also because I saw a lot of people. There were many people I intended to see, but also many whom I encountered randomly and unexpectedly at social gatherings or while getting my glasses fixed, for example. It was only a few days, but it really gave me a taste of living life in Saskatoon and being the "man about town" that I am. Although it was somewhat disheartening for me to inform the interested party upon being prompted as to my plans for the fall that I would be moving within the week, I was encouraged by the overwhelmingly supportive and positive response I received, which essentially consisted of others either implicitly or explicitly allowing me the space I need to finish my internship well without having the burden of having to maintain life here. That is not to say that I do not want to be that "man about town", or that I want to abandon friendships, but rather to point out that people are willing to sacrifice their preferences for my well-being. So a short respite ends, and the next chapter begins in Humboldt. And Saskatoon during most weekends. That's the Life of Turner for me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


"Why do you assume that whenever I'm talking about belief that I'm referring to God?" - Shepherd Book, Serenity
"I don't care what you believe...just believe" - Shepherd Book, Serenity
" belief needs a doubt, I need your love" - U2, "Hawkmoon 269"

I watched both Serenity and V For Vendetta in the past week, and I was very interested by the common focus on belief in both movies, and have subsequently been thinking about belief. In V For Vendetta, V stakes his entire course of action on his belief that he can awaken belief through becoming the personification of a lost ideal. He chooses even to hurt the woman he loves (Evie) in order that her belief in something greater than her own life might be awakened. For V, belief is the prerequisite to action, and he has to risk his own life in the belief that his actions will inspire the actions he wants to see. In Serenity, the normally "agnostic" Captain Malcolm Reynolds (I use the term metaphorically, as he is primarily concerned with his immediate circumstances and not with a higher power, not unlike an agnostic) is confronted with a nemesis whose belief in an ideal is so strong that he is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. Mal is challenged by his spiritual mentor Book to also believe in a cause outside of his own survival with that same intensity as is possessed by his nemesis. Mal eventually has to put his own life on the line because of what he believes, and is forced to have his crew trust him as he does so. Mal has belief despite himself, whereas V's belief is crucial to his identity and existence. But for both V and Mal, belief is a powerful tool and weapon, and it is the motivation behind their actions. It is interesting that in both films that strong believers find themselves having outgrown the circumstances in which their belief was forged and thus have to re-examine their belief and how it must adapt to altered circumstances - in a way, they are forced to doubt their beliefs in order to strengthen them. The notion of belief presented in each of these films is not unlike its reality - belief (or faith) is required to act, and it must be tested in order to be strengthened. Just like V and Mal, actions demonstrate belief, which is reminiscent of the thoughts on faith and deeds found in James 2. But then the concept gets tricky, as some Christians would say that only belief in the Christian God is meaningful; I disagree. Any belief is valuable because it gives purpose and direction, and because it can help us become a better person. I am not saying that all beliefs are equal, or that there is more than one path to God; rather, I think that having belief is preferrable to not having belief, period. Mal did not have belief, which is why Book encouraged him just to believe; I think that was the first step on a long journey for Mal, and that Book understood that the first step is simply to believe in something. V and Mal believed in something bigger than themselves, and they were willing to die for their beliefs; I only hope that if I am ever presented with the necessity of choosing whether to die for my beliefs that both my beliefs and my fortitude are strong enough to put those beliefs into action. That's what I believe about belief.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Runnin' back to Saskatoon

I'm back. It was only a three-hour drive to get back to Saskatoon from camp, but it seemed a lot longer in a lot of ways. I detoured for awhile in Moose Jaw, and then finally finished the journey with mixed feelings. I do not know why, but I did not really want to come back. It is not that I do not want to be in Saskatoon, or that I still want to be at camp - it is good to be here, and it was time to leave; rather, I think the significance of the trip really hit me when I got to Moose Jaw. All the hopes, dreams, vision, expectations and fears of May have now coalesced into realities and memories, and it is time for a new chapter. It was the closure of another chapter, and preparation for actually training to be a professional in my field. I am still a "student," but this is the final year in which I can cling to that designation, and it is rapidly nearing the time at which I can no longer claim to be part of that group. Coming back to Saskatoon means dealing with issues and running errands and moving on - a simultaneously exhilirating and terrifying reality. But for now, I am here in Saskatoon, and getting ready to move on. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A bittersweet day

I woke up at 7:30 to a somewhat overcast and blustery day, and immediately realized the ways in which the day would be bittersweet: not only was it the final day of camp, but it was exactly a year ago that my friend Dwayne passed away after a brief battle with cancer. It has been a long journey since that difficult day, and today, at least in my mind, marks a transition point, from past to future. After today, it will have been over a year since someone to whom I was close died, therein placing more distance between myself and the immediate grief, and I will soon be leaving camp and moving on in my professional career as a teacher. It is, in all, a bittersweet day, but a necessary one.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The cadence of small towns

I blogged about my sometime affection for Saskatchewan small towns at the end of April, but since then I have had the opportunity to spend a fair bit of time in small towns in southern Saskatchewan (including the ficitional Dog River, in watching through both seasons of Corner Gas in May and June), and I have been greatly entertained by the pace of life in smaller communities. The hustle and bustle of the city is not there, and life just goes slower. I do not know if I would ever want to spend a significant amount of time in a small town, but I do enjoy the pace for short amounts of time.I have been in Assiniboia since last night, and I have spent time on the internet, done some laundry, driven around town, eaten some bacon, visited a guy who lives in a motel (no joke), bought stuff at the Salvation Army, and learned to play Cities and Knights of Catan - just a very relaxing and refreshing time. I think that being in Humboldt for the fall will actually be somewhat relaxing (despite the harried nature of internship), and I may even decide to move to a small town to teach afterward. Ah, small town Saskatchewan.

P.S. As a bonus, here's the cover art for the Season 3 DVD of Corner Gas, due for release on October 3! Yay for all of the characters being drawn as superheroes! Yes-HA!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One week...

It is really hard to believe, but there is only one week left in this summer of camp. I am definitely beginning to feel the stress of internship beginning soon, as well as all of the planning that I have yet to do as the semester starts, but I am endeavouring to focus on finishing well here at GTBC. It has been a great summer, and I hope it will have a great conclusion. (By the way, if you were intending to send mail to me, send it to my permanent address, since I will likely be leaving camp before I would receive it.) Now back to our constantly malfunctioning computers...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Speaking the truth

God not only has a sense of humour, but He also has a sense of adventure. This week is Junior Teen, and our director informed us at staff meeting that she would be speaking this week. She seemed somewhat non-enthusiastic about the idea, so I mentioned that I might be able to help her out. Then I went to the bathroom, and suddenly I had a theme for the week and most of the chapels planned. So I went back to the director and convinced her that I would be able to speak for the entire week. I have wanted to be a speaker at camp since I was a camper, so this has really been the fulfillment of a longtime dream, but it has been a daunting task, given my lack of preparation time. I chose to focus on observing characteristics of God through biblical characters, and the response has amazed me. I am writing this post after Wednesday night's chapel, in which I talked about how Jesus demonstrates God's love, which was followed by a majority of the female campers remaining in the chapel fpr an hour praying. Wow. Despite my problems and lack of preparation, God has used me, and I still have a day and a half left to speak with these campers. God has used me to help change their lives, which is a very humbling experience. I guess I always knew I was a preacher - it has just really had the opportunity to come out this week. But I boast not of myself, but of Christ, because without Him this week would not have gone as it has. So there is another aspect to the Life of Turner - preachin'. God figured.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Like old pants

God has a sense of humour. I went to Saskatoon last weekend for two weddings, and basically did not stop going for forty hours while I was there, but I thought it was alright because I would have a nice relaxing week at teen camp, since I did not have to run the LIT program (they were campers). I pulled in to the camp, and within one minute of arriving my dreams of relaxation were dashed, as I was informed that one of the cabin leaders had fallen ill and that I would replace him in the cabin. With the kids. All week. I was somewhat apprehensive at first, but I soon realized that cabin leading again was like putting on an old pair of pants. At first, I wasn't sure how it would fit, but I knew I had to do it, and once the week was going, everything loosened up and it was just like old times. And it was not long into the week that I realized that it was teen camp that I had to leave early last year after Mike committed suicide, and that at the time I had half-wished that I could get another chance to lead a cabin of teens. I, of course, had assumed that that chance would not come, so I was very amused when it did. In other news, I have three weeks of camp left and then it's time to teach. Also check out the Gnarls Barkley record St. Elsewhere, especially the track "Crazy." It's the "Hey Ya!" and "Feel Good Inc." of 2006. And I just celebrated my second blog-iversary. Happy blogday to all of you who have stuck with me this long, but remember: the best is yet to come! Peace.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

There goes my hero... him as he resigns. My good friend Evan finally decided he had had enough of the pettiness of student politics, and decided to bow out gracefully rather than compromise his integrity. I know there are many people who might have had misinformation about all of the goings-on while Evan was in office as USSU President, and I would advise those people to do some more digging and talk to Evan before they continue to judge him. Titus over at has a copy of the resignation letter and is keeping up on the story, so read it over, figure out which questions to ask, and then when you have those questions answered begin to form your opinions. I'm standing by Evan; he has fought the good fight and run the race well, and I have no doubt that someday he will be rewarded for his integrity, honesty, and true leadership. You will always be President in my heart, Evan.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Board game geek

I have a confession to make: I am a board game geek. In the last two months, I have purchased about 25 board games - the vast majority for two or three dollars at Value Village - in addition to the over forty (plus card games) that I already owned. I am just a sucker for a cheap well-designed game, even if I do not have an opportunity to play it in the immediate future. I have a fairly extensive variety of most kinds of games - common party games, esoteric party games, card games, word games, about ten different versions of Uno, and even some strategy games. I am not a big fan of more traditional board games (like Monopoly, Life, or Sorry), so I have fewer of those variety (though I am sure if I ever have children that those games will be a necessity to own). My biggest problem - other than I can rarely refuse a good deal on a cheap used game - is that I rarely have people with whom to play said games. Maybe when I move back to Saskatoon I will have to start up a board games club. Or maybe I will just have to become a middle years teacher and have all kinds of cool games in my classroom. Now to go play some Bohnanza.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

For Mike

It was a year ago, when I was counseling at teen camp, that I got a phone call that I hoped I would not get, but that I was unfortunately expecting: the call that my friend and former roommate Mike had finally lost his struggle with bipolar disorder and committed suicide. I was not able to attend his funeral, due to other commitments, so it has taken me a long time to begin to sort out my feelings about the situation. I think the best way to describe my emotion is disappointment - disappointment that I could not share anymore jokes with him, that I could not tell him to check out some sweet tunes, that we could not play Mega Man together anymore, that he missed out on what would have been a great life, that we missed out on having him around. My close friend Becca was one of the people most affected by Mike's death, and I recommend you visit her blog to see how she has dealt with the entire situation. She recently compiled a book with a collection of thoughts from Mike's friends in Regina, and I wanted to share an excerpt of my submission, because I think it not only helps me deal with things, but also gives you an idea of who Mike was to me and to those around him.

When I first met Mike in the fall of 2002, I did not know what to think of him. Here was this kid who could make funny faces and quote The Princess Bride and who enjoyed the same kind of humour I did. But I did know that I had a connection with him, because he reminded me of myself. It did not take long before Mike became like a little brother to me, a relationship he unofficially cemented by referring to me as "Papa Turner." Soon after we met, Mike and Trent moved in with me and Lee into a house which we affectionately referred to as the "WASP’s nest," primarily because we were all White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. As that year progressed, I realized that Mike was a lot of fun. We connected well on superficial interests like music and video games, and there were many jokes that remain known only to the members of that household. But I also saw the deeper side of Mike. I saw someone who was confronted with issues in his life, and who struggled to meet God in them. I saw someone who was willing to grow and be molded by God and by those around him. Most of all, I saw someone who had a huge heart for the people about whom he cared. Mike went out of his way for me so many times, and the only thing he asked for in return was friendship. I kept in good contact with Mike over the two years after I moved away from Regina, though it proved increasingly difficult to do so with Mike’s reluctance to open up. Nevertheless, whenever we met, we had those experiences that were both superficial and meaningful at the same time. But over time, I saw changes in Mike, and it seemed as if all I could do was to continue to encourage him, pray for him, and wait for him to change. But regardless of his struggles, the old Mike shone through. He still had a huge heart for his friends, and still reached out to those around him to bring them joy and laughter. Perhaps the story of the last time I saw Mike will demonstrate the kind of nature to which I am referring. The last time I saw Mike was in March of 2005, when he stayed at my house in Saskatoon on his way to Regina. We shared some good laughs and a good talk, but I was very uneasy about Mike. I knew that he needed help, and that he was in a dangerous place. As always, I did what I could to help nudge him in the right direction, as "Papa Turner" would be expected to. But then I woke up in the morning, and Mike had gotten up and made breakfast for me. Despite my concerns, the Mike I knew was still there, and he still cared. Even though he was struggling, he still reached out to me - simply because he cared about me. I do not know if Mike ever knew how much his friendship meant to me, but I count him as the little brother I never had. My life is richer because I was friends with Mike, and I will always miss him.

Papa Turner out.

Monday, July 10, 2006


I bought the new Johnny Cash CD - American V: A Hundred Highways - on the weekend, as well as a live recording of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson performing on VH1's Storytellers in 1998. As I listened to the latter disc, it occurred to me that every song had a story to be told, whether it was about why it was written or a funny story about how it was performed. Then it occurred to me that there are few artists today that are those kind of storytellers in their songs, save for those who have been doing it for many years. Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, and U2 spring immediately to mind as examples, but where are the next generation of storytellers? Coldplay? The Wallflowers? (If they're still a band?) It seems that the art of telling stories in songs has been suppressed by the need for catchy pop tunes and emotional identification with song subjects. At least those artists who have been doing this for decades have a significant back catalogue for me to catch up on, given the apparent dearth of storytelling in music today. And there's always Johnny Cash, ready to tell me about "Folsom Prison Blues."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A calling to ecumenism

Today I attended my fourth wedding of the summer (of eight), and it was a delightful affair: a small Catholic wedding with family and close friends and a very good time. As I reflected during the day on this summer of weddings, I began to think about the variety of faith backgrounds represented in the weddings of this summer: conservative charismatic; Anglican; Mennonite; Catholic; Alliance; Baptist; disenfranchised Evangelicals. But things have been this way for my entire time of university: I have friends in almost any legitimate strain of the church, and I have grown in my understandings of those traditions. A Catholic friend of mine noted that I knew the mass as well as he did, and I realized that was true. I felt completely at home in the Anglican wedding I attended a few weeks ago. And I had a great three-hour long exploration of theology with another friend who wants to become a Catholic priest (primarily his asking about my understanding of Evangelical theology). And then it hit me: I feel essentially at home in all of these places and with all of these people. This is, however, not a surprising realization. I have known for years that I would not enter a life of ministry with a church or denomination if at all possible, but that my life's ministry would be conducted through interdenominational parachurch organizations such as CSSM and IVCF. I know already that I do want a home congregation, but that the variety in the spectrum of my friendships, as well as my own desire to expose myself to new challenges and ways of thinking, will mean that I will live a life that is likely more ecumenical than many other people. I hope my children will attend Anglican services and Catholic mass and Pentecostal prayer sessions and house churches. I hope and believe that I will continue to grow in my understanding of my faith in relation to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and that I will not be limited to a more narrow denominational understanding of Christianity. I strongly feel that I have been called to an ecumenical life of ministry, and it is exciting when I get a taste of what that feels like, because it is already happening. May the peace of Christ be with you.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cryptically thinking

Since I was about ten years old, I have loved puzzles and games, particularly those found in Games Magazine. I have always loved to exercise my mind, whether in crosswords, logic puzzles, riddles, trivia, or word searches. A magazine of puzzles will keep me busy for a long time, but there have always been a few puzzles I avoided - primarily paint by numbers and cryptic crosswords - until now. Cryptic crosswords - in which the clues are coded through manipulating synonyms, rearrangements, and other various forms of wordplay - were outside of my ability until I began to do them more intently over the past few months. Once I trained myself to think in the way that the clues are written - looking for unique words, patterns, and unusual constructions - it became far easier to complete the puzzles. Much to my surprise and delight, I now find myself able to complete them with much the same efficiency as a regular crossword. It is quite exciting to begin to master a new form of puzzle, just like I have beginning to do with sudoku (yes, I got hooked on sudoku). I may be a nerd, but I am proud of my nerdiness and how I learned to do cryptic crosswords.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A summer of new music

One of the best features of working at camp this summer is that I have been working with two other audiophiles who love music as much as I do, so I have been exposed to a number of new artists. You might wonder how much more new music I need, considering the preponderance of music to which I already listen. I myself wondered that same question, and my answer has been - to both my dismay and delight - much more. Part of my exposure to new music has been intentional, as I deliberately sought out artists like Thrice, Sufjan Stevens, and the David Crowder Band in the months leading up to camp. But what has been truly delightful is having access to the others' music collections, and getting significant play of a host of new-to-me artists, such as Dashboard Confessional, Keane, In Flames, Lovedrug, Still Remains, Death Cab for Cutie, As I Lay Dying, Thursday, and even a little bit of the Buble. It is nice to have the time to be able to invest in some new artists, since a number of my mainstays released albums in the fall and thus do not require immediate attention. Of course, that means that there are even more albums that I need to buy...but I can wait until after the summer and listen to the others' music in the meantime. 2006: the summer of new music in the life of Turner.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The other half of summer

The realization that the summer is now half over has made me realized just how complicated my life continues to be. I had a nice break from a number of things in May, but June was very busy, and July and August appear to be even busier. By Labour Day long weekend, I have to: attend five weddings (including two on one day), find a place to live in Humboldt, begin to plan my classes for internship, apply for student loans, start work with the Sheaf board, see friends who are moving away, and help save Evan (more on that later). Oh, and help run the camp at which I am working. I think my internship might actually be a break. That's the life of Turner for you. Well, for me, anyway.


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