Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Early Oscar observations

It's that time again...time for the Academy Awards! The nominees were announced today, and there were a few surprises, some disappointments, and a lot of staying the course. The biggest surprises I had were two of the Best Picture nominees: Capote and Crash. I have only seen the latter, but it's not because of quality that I'm surprised they were nominated: they seemed like the kinds of movies that would garner a few nominations but that would ultimately be passed over for Best Picture. I was half-expecting King Kong to be nominated for that category, and I'm glad it was not. I am, however, disappointed that Walk the Line was not nominated in that category, nor for James Mangold's directing, neither for the adaptation of Cash's books into a great screenplay. I think the only other real surprises were the lack of nominations for The New World (only one for cinematography), since Oscar usually loves Terrence Malick's films, and that Sandra Bullock was not nominated for her role in Crash. I think that the Academy actually got nominations right for the most part, and aside from the aforementioned Walk the Line, there are no glaring snubs (a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind last year), nor were there movies that did not deserve the number of nominations given them (The Aviator, anyone?) Of the main nominated films, I have seen only two: Crash and Walk the Line. I am hoping to see many of the other films over the next month, but especially Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich, and Syriana. I am not sure if I will watch Brokeback Mountain, the early favourite, for a number of reasons: the homosexuality; Jake Gyllenhall; Heath Ledger; and the fact that it's an Ang Lee film (I have seen only two of his films, but liked neither). I may yet watch it, though. There are already some interesting races shaping up, and it should be an interesting Oscar season. The countdown to March 5 is on!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Save Ferris

I couldn't get to sleep last night. My head was running with all kinds of information, and it was keeping me awake. So I figured I may as well distract myself from all that stuff and see what was on television, and I found Ferris Buehler's Day Off on cable. I finished watching the movie and finally went to sleep, but I promptly forgot the things I had absorbed from the movie when I awakened this morning. I was stressed out and worried and overthinking and fretting and longing for a less complex life. A friend reminded me tonight that life is what you make it, so if you make it simple, it will be simple. And then I remembered the lessons I learned from Ferris and Cameron: life should be easy. You have to enjoy life as it comes and deal with things as they come, and not sweat the small stuff. There are times to be like Ferris and less like Cameron, and I need to remember that more often. Ohhhhh yeah.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My So-Called Blog Life

Late July, 2004. I was in summer school, I had just gotten engaged, and I started to blog. Today marks the eighteen-month mark since my first post here at Life of Turner, and so I thought it would be appropriate to spend some time reflecting on the evolution of my blog. Blogging at that time was just beginning to open up to a wider audience. I had a couple of friends who had been blogging since the beginning of 2004, but it was still a growing enterprise. I remember intending to start several months before I actually did, and I finally got around to it near the end of July. My early blogs were a mishmash of ideas and random thoughts on the things going on around me at the time, particularly CBC's "50 Tracks" and the reality-TV hoax Joe Schmo 2. My blogging style and ability changed and grew over the rest of the year, but it wasn't until the following January that I really began to feel as if I was really growing as a blogger. I kicked off 2005 with a redesign of the blog which also helped direct the content. At the time, I had a lot of stuff going on (the Pop-Culture Shout-Out, Verse of the Week, weekly CD reviews, Review in Haiku of a movie) in addition to the primary blog. That lasted for about six months, and then I simplified the blog when I went to camp. I returned, but the simplicity stayed, and I adjusted things in September to what has become Life of Turner's current state. I integrated everything into the main text of the blog, but also created a couple of side projects to handle the diversions from Life of Turner. I think one of my favourite features of blogging is that it's a medium that allows for constant reflection and change: it's always evolving, changing bit by bit, and I am always tinkering with the links or template to accommodate those changes. There are far more bloggers out there now, and many more blogs that I read, but the difference is that my attention is not devoted only to people that I know. I have an identity in the blogosphere, and I have gotten to know some people through their blogs, as they have through mine. And so eighteen months after beginning, I have somehow developed a forum here at Life of Turner that people enjoy and appreciate, and that gets included on a list of Saskatchewan bloggers that seems to be standardized throughout the diaspora of Saskatchewanites who participate in the blogosphere. Blogging has become a vital part of the way in which I process things and express things, and has both intrinsic and extrinsic value to me now. I don't know how this blog will continue to develop, but I am constantly evaluating and reflecting on its present and future. And so this Life of Turner continues, along with the actual life of Turner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The final countdown

It took me five weeks last semester to get to the point where I was ready for school. This semester it has taken me only three weeks to get to this point, at which I actually want to be on campus and studying and doing homework and all the other things that school entails. I don't remember that it used to take me this long to get into things, but I also don't remember life being this complex, either. And now I'm on the final countdown to being done this degree, which has also taken some adjustment on my part. The idea that I will not be at university in the fall (not until January due to internship) still blows my mind. But since I have taken a few weeks to get everything together, I have a fairly good idea of what I need to do over the next three months, not only in school, but also in life. It's the final countdown.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The day after the vote

It's the day after the election, and I heard university students all over campus today grumbling about our incoming prime minister and his Conservative minority government. After reading the Globe and Mail, the StarPhoenix, and observations by bloggers who know what they're talking about, I have reached my personal conclusion about the results: this is what is best for Canada. We have a change in government for the first time since I started paying attention to politics in Grade 5 (1993), but with adulterated power (that seems like it should be the appropriate phrase to use, doesn't it?). (As an aside, the last time Canada was conservative was when the Blue Jays won the World Series...the first time. But I digress.) Some change is inevitable, but Harper and his government will have to work some things out and pick their battles carefully. Whether I support everything the Conservatives do is not relevant; whether I think Canada will be better as a result is, and I believe that the decrease in Liberal and Bloc representation, along with the increase in Conservative and NDP representation, will be good for Canada. I'm sure some pundits will already be comparing this result to Joe Clark blip in Liberal dominance in 1979, or but I think it can be more aptly likened to Lester B. Pearson-like shift in thinking, in which one minority government (Diefenbaker) gave way to another, which led to a majority in the subsequent election, and then Trudeau for the better part of two decades. Is Canada's Conservative Trudeau on the horizon? Might it be Peter MacKay? I can only hope. It will be interesting to see how things shape up in '08 and how Mr. Harper does. Welcome to a new Canada.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fix the election!

The Conservatives did it. I am actually somewhat surprised, as I was not sure that the polls would carry over to a win, but Stephen Harper is our nation's next prime minister. But the biggest thing that has been revealed in this election campaign is Canada's need for fixed elections and electoral reform. Our system is beyond ridiculous, whether you consider the problems in regional representation or the party system, but especially in the running of Elections Canada booths. When I voted today, I did not have to show any personal identification. I could have walked into other polling stations and likely voted for other people, had I known their addresses. Doesn't that seem wrong? Canada should regulate elections so they cannot be manipulated by any party in Parliament (thereby significantly changing the ramifications of minority governments, which is not necessarily a negative point) as well as ensuring the best possible training for officials working the election. Everyone says that voting is such a democratic privilege, and that should be reflected in our electoral system. But it probably won't be long until we go through this again...see you at the polls in 2008!

Note: I have changed the post to minimize my own ignorance. My comments were not meant to reflect upon the qualifications of officials, or upon any particular person, but rather upon the problems that I see in the system itself, which I still believe is fundamentally flawed and needs significant revamping. My apologies to those parties whom I offended.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

All good things...

Well, I made it through the retreat I discussed in my previous post. It was a good weekend, filled with people, though it lacked a lot of the significant spiritual output of years previous. Still, it felt like it was and would be a real pivotal time in my life: a time at which past, present, and future converge in a strange union of hope, memory, and existence. It reminded me of the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation (from which this post derives its title), that this weekend was a time that will affect the way I see the past, my actions in the present, and my plans for the future. I was constantly reminded of events of the last three years' worth of retreats, the situation in which I currently find myself, and the effect that my decisions now will have on my future. And while the weekend was devoid of the revelatory moment that I have experienced at the past retreats, the entire weekend was eye-opening: what was is no more, what is will only be for a short time, and what is to come is still changeable. I don't know that my life changed right now, but I think I will look back and see this weekend as a time where the change really started. To give a crude and possibly blasphemous analogy, there was some idea at the time Christ was born that He would be as significant as He would end up being, but it was not until long after that time that it would be assigned the significance with which it is now assigned. Not that I'm claiming that this weekend will have the significance of the birth of Christ, of course, but at least that I can only evaluate its impact in part, and that the course of my life will determine just how important it was. At any rate, I feel like this weekend has really marked the beginning of the end of the way life has been. Things have been put in motion that cannot be undone, as Gandalf said. All good things must come to an end, but it is only in dying that a seed can truly sprout. And so the end begins.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wonder Bread and Welch's

"This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." Jesus' body is small chunks of white Wonder Bread? "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, Whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." Jesus had Welch's grape juice running through his veins? I'm really confused. These were the thoughts that were running through my head during communion last Sunday at church, and that I have had in previous communions. This type of communion, generally celebrated in many Saskatchewan Evangelical churches, really does not cut it for me anymore. I have been blessed by priests in the Catholic church during Eucharist (the only way I can participate, not being Catholic), I have taken of the elements in the Anglican church, and eaten the unleavened bread and sipped wine from the same glass as all other church-goers in yet another assembly, and in each of these experiences, I have come away with a profound sense of the presence of God. The "white bread cut into small chunks with a chaser shot of grape juice" falls short. Maybe it's because I've experienced "more" in other forms of communion. Maybe it's because I spend a lot of time thinking about how the church has bleached Jesus just like the bread, or how everything we get is so processed and all we have to do is swallow it without even chewing. Sure, some Jesus gets stuck in our teeth every once in awhile, but it's really just an inconvenience that has to be removed. Whatever it is, I really have a tough time experiencing the presence of Christ through this kind of ceremony. Give me a hunk of bread that I have to chew through and focus on; give me wine that will remind me of the indwelling of the Spirit all the way down my throat. Don't give me the same old kids' communion. I want the wonder that is Christ, not Wonder Bread; I want the true vine, not the grapes. Communion can, and should be, a life-changing experience, as it has been repeatedly in my life. Most people spend their nineteenth birthdays getting drunk; I took communion. I remember the "Communion Nights" of IVCF in Regina, and how much happened because of those nights. I remember the first time I couldn't take communion because I knew I wasn't in the right place with God. I remember the first time I drank wine in communion, and what a sensation that was. I want to keep remembering, and Wonder Bread and Welch's is doing more to suppress my memory than to enhance it. May the words of Paul from I Corinthians 11 always be true of communion: "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Beware the Penguins

"I know it sounds crazy, but as I watched I felt like I was one of those penguins. They have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day their babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly well. Maybe it isn't so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me."
- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (p. 57)

Today I watched March of the Penguins, and I was reminded of this selection from Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz (arguably the Mere Christianity for the emergent church), which is subtitled "Penguin Sex." Before watching this film I wondered why penguins are so popular in cinema lately (the recent Madagascar, the upcoming Happy Feet, that Coca-Cola commercial), but after watching it, I understood: there is some kind of kindred spirit that we can feel with penguins, because their experience is reminiscent of our humanity. We are stuck in a place that is not friendly to us, and we have to journey long and hard and endure unbelievably harsh conditions during out life, but the product is worth the entire ordeal: new life. As I watched both the film itself, as well as the documentary which chronicled the making of the film, I empathized with the subjects of the film, much as Miller did when he watched a different penguin documentary. The film is powerful, and it does not shy away from showing death, in addition to the shots that make you say "Awwwwww!" It paints a compelling portrait of a wonder of God's creation, both in the penguins themselves and in their Antarctic surroundings. The film also represents a remarkable achievement of human perseverance, as it took the filmmakers over a year to capture all the film. And it seems very fitting that it is narrated by Morgan Freeman, who portrayed "God" in 2003's Bruce Almighty. Penguins is a film that is beautifully and wonderfully made, and it will warm your heart, as well as make you think. And as a bonus, men, it's a great "chick" flick.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Dr. Strangebus...

...Or, how I learned to stop driving and hate public transit. I took the bus for the first time in a long time today. And I remembered something: I hate the bus. I loved taking it in high school, because it gave me freedom to go where I wanted to go, and because I didn't have to pay for it. But in the last half of Grade 12, once I had finally gotten my license, the thrill faded, and I decided that I never wanted to take the bus again. And I didn't, until last year, when I sold my car to pay for tickets to U2 and pay off some debt and I started taking the bus again. I did not hate it as much as I thought I would, but I did give me freedom again, and my house was situated at a high-bus-traffic intersection, meaning that bus travel was rather convenient. But now, after driving all year so long, I've reactualized my hatred for public transit in Saskatoon. It's not that convenient at all, and the fare is now $2.25 per ride for students. I'm sure that once you factor in plates and maintenance and parking and gas that driving still costs more than that, but if I am maintaining a car (and therefore those costs) anyway, it's really just parking and gas that are the costs associated with transportation to school. So I'm adding to my time of travel, inconvenience, and likely not saving much money in taking the bus. And even if it does cost more, I would still rather drive. Once you have been bumped up a transportation bracket, it's hard to go back. Stupid bus.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Super Size This!

I just finished watching Morgan Spurlock's 2003 documentarySuper Size Me, which details his thirty-day journey of eating only McDonald's food. I was especially prompted to watch it after reading Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, which is being made into a movie to be released later this year directed by Richard Linklater and starring, among others, Avril Lavigne, Greg Kinnear, and Kris Kristofferson. Spurlock's arguments are primarily physiological and personal, whereas Schlosser's case focusses upon the negative economic, environmental, and sociological, but he point that both Spurlock and Schlosser make is the same: fast food is not good for you, or for anyone. I was not surprised by thie revelation, but rather at the severity of the damage that fast food has done not only to North America, but to the world. But both Spurlock and Schlosser have hope that their work will help change society, as they both point to smoking as an example of a life-threatening habit that has finally begun to decline. Their hope is that fast food will decline, and that in a quarter-century that things will change from the top end of the fast food chain. But they also both advocate personal change as the primary method of altering the trajectory of fast food. And this is where it hits home. I haven't eaten McDonald's in years because it makes me feel queasy, but in the last two days alone I have consumed A&W and KFC, mainly because I don't have groceries at home. I don't have any illusion that I will never eat fast food again, but I think I need to point myself in that direction. That means making sure I have food at home to prepare, and that I give myself time to prepare it; not carrying spare change to spend at food places on campus; and going to local restaurants rather than fast food places to eat. Fast food is wasteful and it ultimately is not satisfying, but it is also designed to be very enticing, which is what makes avoiding it difficult. I will not promise myself I will never eat fast food again, but I will promise myself that I will make choices that will make it incredibly difficult for me to do so. If you haven't read the book or watched the movie, do so, because they will change the way you think about how you eat. They did for me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Highlight of the day

So I'm in the library at school, and my day was already great after seeing Ky an hour earlier. But it got better (apologies to Ky, who will no doubt understand, as will many others who attended the U of R) when as I was leaving for lunch, I spotted someone I never expected to see at the U of S: Dr. James Pitsula, a Canadian History prof from the U of R, and better known to some as "Jimmy P." It was all I could do to keep from shouting "Jimmy P!" to get his attention, but I refrained and called out the classier "Dr. Pitsula!" I took his "Canada Since 1945" class over five years ago, and he still remembered me. We chatted for a spell, and then I helped him find his way out of the library, and we parted. What a glorious moment. And believe me, I'm still kicking myself for not taking his "Canada in the 1960s" course when I could have. I do not know why I did not, only that I was obviously deranged at the time. Jimmy P. is one of the best profs I have ever had, and his class alone might have been enough once to convince me to be a Canadian history major. But instead, I am now planning to be a history teacher, so I figure that's close enough. I think I can honestly say that this was one of the best random run-ins I have ever had on campus. Good ol' Jimmy P...kickin' it to ya history-style!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The end of the vacation

It's taken a few extra days, but the end of Christmas vacation is finally here. I did start school a couple of days ago, but for all intensive purposes, now is the time when I have to start figuring out how all my time is going to work this semester: fitting in classes and extra-curriculars and people and reading and homework and trying to find a job. It is really nice that I could take this last week and start to get a handle on things, but it's still kind of frustrating not being in full "semester" mode just yet. This week should solve that problem. For now, it's mission "get a job" that confronts me this week. Fun fun fun.

Friday, January 06, 2006

People who meet people

Tonight's birthday celebration was excellent. There was a strong turnout, and a number of people from different spheres of life, including my first time meeting a blogger in person whom I had not known outside the blogosphere. I think one of my favourite things about having celebrations like this is that my worlds come together. Saskatoon D meets Regina D meets Sheaf D meets IVCF D meets blogger D all the other Ds, who are really the same D, but just seen in different ways. And people who know me in different capacities interact and connect and cross-reference, and stories that I maybe didn't want to have spread end up spreading, but I really enjoy having these people meet, and when there's actually some kind of connection made. I don't think I've done much matchmaking, but even knowing that two people who know me connect on some completely different level and that maybe that connection continues is really great. And how this blog even serves as a further level to that connectivity. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Man, I love being a Turner!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Birthday the 23rd

It's finally here: birthday number 23. This birthday feels a little different from last year, and I don't think it's just me, but I think there's something in number 23, that it's a smaller milestone. It's kind of like 20, but not nearly as pronounced as 18 or 25. It's the feeling that since 25 is coming soon, I need to start to figure things out in life, like who I am and what I will be doing in the near to far future. But I think it's more than just the number of the birthday: I feel, like my 20th birthday, that I'm in a place to really move forward and re-establish direction in my life. I don't think it's coincidental that that birthday occurred in my third year in Regina, and this birthday in my third year in Saskatoon, and although I am not planning to move away like I did three years ago, I face a significant life crossroads now similar to the one I did then. There are still things that I have to finish out and complete, and things that I cannot finish before April (like my degree), but I have the chance now to begin to implement changes that will help me end this time of transition that I have endured for the last year and a half and move into the next phase of life. It's tough to do that right now, but I know it will be coming during these next four months, and it's good to have this birthday to begin that process, even at just a mental level. In all, I think this will be a good birthday. If you would like to help me celebrate it, there will be a bit of a collection of people at Jerry's Food Emporium on 8th St. starting at 8:00 pm, including me, and ice cream cake. It'll be a birthday - and hopefully ensuing year - to live to the fullest, and I am very excited to see what it holds.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Kong more donkey than king

Due to the fact that Narnia was sold out, I ended up watching King Kong, directed by Peter Jackson. Critics loved it, and the hype was as huge as the titular ape, but it was not a very good film. I don't know that I was disappointed, because it did pretty much exactly what I expected: showed that Peter Jackson can be as self-indulgent and overwrought as I thought he could be. I have myriad complaints about the film. It was far too long. It was far too obvious (lines from Jack Black's clich├ęd director, for example, or Kong getting shot in the heart). There were too many special effects, and far too many instances when the effects were themselves far too obvious (bad blue screens, for example). There were far too many close-ups of the three primary protagonists. And the entire film was an anachronism, and not just the giant monkey in Manhattan. It seemed very out of place to be watching this film set in the 30s but made with modern special effects. I was bored, annoyed, and aggravated by the preachiness of the film. I felt as if any of the meaning of the original story or film was lost in making this film into a blockbuster, like Jackson's work was an unintentional self-parody. If it had been cut down by about a third, relied less on special effects, and incorporated more sublety as opposed to bludgeoning the audience over the head with "the point." King Kong did corroborate my theory that Peter Jackson is not a good director, and that Lord of the Rings was successful not because of him, but in spite of him. It's not your money that would be the biggest waste in seeing Kong; it's your time and intelligence as a moviegoer that you really have to sacrifice. But the ape was really well-done. You make the call.

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