Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Grad pictures

I had my sitting for graduation pictures today. Although it ended up taking up only half an hour of my life, it was fairly significant as a reminder that I have fewer than three months left as an undergraduate student. Unless I choose to find some way to stick around longer, I am now in the twilight of my career as a student, and I need to start saying goodbye to all of those institutions and organizations with which I have been so involved over the past few years: IVCF, the Sheaf, USSU, the CFS (good riddance!), in addition to preparing to leave behind all of the benefits of the student lifestyle. Then again, I might actually be able to not continually operate my finances at a deficit, or allow petty squabbles in student politics to take up my time. I am on the farewell tour to the U of S, and it will likely take the rest of this semester to extricate myself from this campus. It has been a good - though unexpectedly long - four years, and now I begin to seek just how to move on. And which ridiculously expensive package of grad pictures to purchase.

Friday, January 26, 2007

An Inconvenient Parent

Leave it to some wacko American Evangelical to force a school not to show An Inconvenient Truth and to claim that global warming is a sign of Jesus' return. The argument the wacko provided is that there needs to be a balanced case which also includes articles disproving global warming. Guess what? They don't exist. And shame on the school board in Seattle for caving in on this one. Stand by your guns, school, and tell the truth.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bono: In Conversation

"I'm a scribbling, cigar-smoking, wine-drinking, Bible reading band man. A show-off...who loves to paint pictures of what I can't see. A husband, father, friend of the poor and sometimes the rich. An activist traveling salesman of ideas. Chess player, part-time rock star, opera singer, in the loudest folk group in the world." (49) - Bono on himself, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

I remember a couple of years ago that someone in a class discussion felt that it was necessary to condemn Bono for his crusading for Africa and to equate him with other attention-seeking celebrities who act out of character. After a few minutes, the professor (who knew my point of view) allowed me to defend Bono, whom I claimed did not act out of character since charity has been part of his art since day one. With that, the discussion ended, and I felt like I had defended...a friend. Bono is, of course, not a friend, but he comments several times in the book Bono: In Conversation that his fans are closer than friends because of the intimate nature of U2's music. But my point is that I think that it is useful to deconstruct Bono and to see him as a person, which this book does. He discusses his childhood, the band, ZooTV, and Africa; he reveals parts of himself about which he may not have known until the conversation happened, and the reader is drawn into conversation as a result of that openness and honesty. Sure, Bono is a rock star, but he is a person, and too often we forget that in our idolizing or defaming of the persona of Bono. It seems as if Bono has realized the difference between the persona and the person, much as he did on the Vertigo Tour DVD, when at the conclusion of "An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart" he pulled a young boy up on stage and introduced himself: "My name is Paul, but most people call me Bono." But whatever Bono is, he is honest, and he is both the persona and the person, which makes conversation with Bono (even in book form) so interesting.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar! Oscar!

It's that time of year again, folks! The Academy Award nominees were announced today, and there were not a lot of surprises (I successfully predicted four out of five Best Picture nominees, though the absence of Dreamgirls from Best Picture and Steve Carell and Jack Nicholson from acting awards is somewhat unexpected), and a few pleasant revelations (three nominations for Children of Men, for example). It should shape up to be an interesting month of Oscar buzz and movie watching. I will attempt to keep my good streak of predicting Oscars going (7/9 in 2005 and again in 2006), and to finally correctly guess the winner of Best Picture. Here are some of my early thoughts and predictions.

Best Picture/Best Director: It's between Babel and The Departed. Babel seems like the kind of picture that would win, but does Marty finally get his award? I think the split trend will continue, and Babel gets Best Pic while Marty gets his Oscar for The Departed.

Best Actor: Do Will Smith or Leonardo DiCaprio finally win awards, or does the Academy assume that they will have other chances and give it to the once-in-a-lifetime role of Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker? In any other year, they would, but Peter O'Toole certainly throws a wrench into it. This is the hardest category to pick, but I think they will go with O'Toole.

Best Actress: It's a battle between giving an award for a much-nominated movie (Helen Mirren in The Queen or a much-nominated actress (Meryl Streep). It could go either way, but I think Mirren wins. I mean, how do you not give the award to the Queen?

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls. No question.

Best Supporting Actress: Three relatively unknown newcomers, a previous recent winner, and a buzz role from Jennifer Hudson. The Academy makes up for its Best Picture snub of Dreamgirls with two acting awards.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed should win as compensation for not being voted as Best Picture.

Best Original Screenplay: It's between Babel and Little Miss Sunshine. I think Sunshine gets its love from the Academy here.

Best Animated Picture: Pixar seems to get it whenver they make a movie, so Cars should drive away with this award.

There are a couple of more categories that I typically don't pick, but I'll throw them in as bonus picks.

Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth should win. And hopefully Saskatoon will start showing it soon.

Best Documentary Feature: Al Gore, the inventor of the internet (An Inconvenient Truth), beats Ted Haggard, an abuse of the internet (Jesus Camp).

So there are my picks. I don't know if any of them will change, but we will see what happens over the next month. And now I have a month to see Blood Diamond, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, Pan's Labyrinth, and The Queen. Let the buzz begin!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Beta is the new blog

Blogger finally allowed me to update my blog(s) to the new-fangled stylins' of the future. I have also administered an early update to my links (more to come). I think I'll keep the same colour scheme. Comments?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Creative editing

One of the truly amazing features of the download age is the ability of artists to take and combine different sources into a new entity. One example of this creative editing that has become prominent in the past year is the "re-cut trailer", in which scenes from a movie are cut together, often with music and narration inserted, to recast the movie in a different genre. Check out the links here, especially "10 Things I Hate About Commandments" (The Ten Commandments as a high school comedy) and "Brokeback to the Future" (Back to the Future as a romantic drama). The humor comes from the often unexpected twists they take, and the fact that the editors have made something completely new out of essentially old material. The other main area of creative editing is in the fashioning of "mash-ups" or "smash-ups", in which the vocals of one song are juxtaposed with the instruments of another. Most of these efforts have been very underground and opposed by the mainstream (prominent examples include DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, Dean Gray's American Edit and the Kleptones' A Night at the Hip-Hopera), though the genre is becoming increasingly appreciated, as seen in Sparrow Records' 2003 release Smash-Ups, which represented the first acceptance of such material by a label. The Legion of Doom are one of the forerunners of the genre now, as they have expanded into hardcore and metal, as well as combining two of 2006's catchiest songs into "Crazy As She Goes" (yes, it's as good as it sounds, with a little Grandmaster Flash thrown in for fun). I think what really intrigues me about this trend is the sheer creativity that it takes to be able to see one song in terms of another and make those connections, and then to make those thoughts into an entity which captures the spirit of the original while yet introducing a new creation into the world. In some ways, it takes more talent to go through this process than to simply create something, and it is just very interesting to hear the results. Plus, it is just neat to see how some songs can be put together and still be great songs. All I can say is keep on editing, cutting, mashing, and smashing, deejays!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Babble

It seems that every awards season I fall prey to watching at least one movie because of hype that turns out to be a pretentious undecipherable self-important piece of tripe. Winners of this award in previous years include The Aviator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but there is a new contender: Babel. This multi-character film, which is in the vein of Traffic, Syriana, and Crash, is touted as one of the year's best, and it just won the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Picture, putting it in prime position for Oscar buzz over the next month. I went to see it because of all of the hype, since it seems like the kind of movie that people like me should see. I have to learn to not do that anymore. It was disjointed, awkward, pretentious, and about a third longer than it needed to be. Worse yet, it played to the horrible overuse of imagery and lingering camera shots that have too long been associated with "brilliant films." It seemed as if the entire film was spent trying to convince me that this was a brilliant film without actually having a point or doing anything to make it brilliant. Seriously, if anyone figured out the point of this film, let me know, because I just did not really get it. But maybe the point is that it has no point, and that is what makes it brilliant. Uh, right. Of course, what is probably the worst is that I will undoubtedly make this same mistake again, year after year. When will I learn? Sigh.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Early morning, April 4

Even though I am not American, I always feel a twinge whenever Martin Luther King Day comes around. I do not really know why, but I feel as if there is something special about this day that I am missing out on. Maybe it is a longing for that kind of universal meaningful hero in Canada. India has Gandhi, the U.S. has MLK, and we Canadians have...who? Terry Fox, I guess. Still, it seems as if we do not have that kind of moral leader who epitomizes the nobility and courage of the human spirit. Of course, I am not unaware of MLK's notorious womanizing, but he still certainly stood for something transcendent. MLK has been immortalized in song and in writing, perhaps most famously in U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (which contains the mis-sung time of MLK's assassination, which was actually in the early evening, that forms the title of this post) and "MLK", both from the band's 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire. MLK Day just reminds me that we have to do more in Canada to remember our great leaders and innovators. Saskatchewan government, forget Family Day: it's time for Tommy Douglas Day!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Are movies inherently social?

I did something on Friday night that I had not ever done: I went to a movie by myself. The Prestige was playing at midnight, and I really wanted to see it, so I went. It surprised me how much effort it took to convince myself that I could go to a movie without someone else there. It made me consider how much I have socialized the act of movie-watching, which in many ways does not lend itself naturally to being a social act. But why have I created this social construct? Although one of my primary reasons for watching movies socially is to discuss them afterward, I think there is just something that makes watching a movie together more fun by sharing the experience. I suppose that is part of the appeal of watching a movie, period - to be able to share that experience with the makers and other watchers of the movie and extend that experience beyond the sphere of the movie, such as the discussions that occurred after I watched Children of Men with some friends on Saturday night. I do not know when I will go to a movie alone again, but it certainly was a valuable experience, if only to help me think about the ways in which I have been socialized in regard to mass media. By the way, want to go to a movie?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The aftermath

Today is the day after the blizzard took Saskatoon down from its high and mighty position of weather-beater and humbled an entire city, the citizens of which proved to either incredibly hardy or incredibly foolish (and sometimes foolhardy). It is being called the worst storm to hit Saskatoon in fifty years, and it featured 90 km/hour winds and 25 cm of snow. Near the middle of the afternoon, at the storm's apex, it looked as if someone was holding a white sheet less than three feet in front of your face. We tried vainly to carry on as normal; I myself was one of the many who came to school, only to be told at noon to go home and prepare for the worst. Roads began to be shut down, and the city for the most part closed in on itself, save for those souls who were attempting to reach home on streets packed with snow and vehicles. And then...it passed. By about 8:00 pm, the storm had ended, and the city was left with snow. But today, there were very few reminders of yesterday's carnage. Piles of snow everywhere, bumpy roads, some vehicles in the ditch, and a general sense of having persevered, but otherwise life continues. We are a mad people, living in the heart of the prairies, yet when we persevere, we can hold our heads high, and complain about it for the next fifty years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My virgin ears

I recently watched most of the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively positive outlook the film has on the main character (Andy) and his choice to remain a virgin. Except that it was not necessarily a choice, per se, but rather a result of neglecting to grow up and face adulthood. The film metaphorically represents this idea by having Andy as a collector of action figurines, unmoving plastic toys that remain in their pristine untouched condition, even going so far as having one of the characters compare Andy to his toys. The fact is that Andy is closer to a 14-year-old than a 40-year-old, particularly in his complete lack of awareness of sexuality of any form; he has remained blithely oblivious to any sexual drive for the entirety of his life until his friends decide that Andy needs to lose his virginity, despite his instistence that he is doing just fine. It is only when he starts dating and beginning to see himself as a person with a sexual nature that he begins gaining confidence and succeeding in life. (As a side note, I appreciate how the filmmakers cast Andy's friends in a very poor light and that they, although being more overtly focussed on sex, are much more immature than Andy, and remain so in the end.) Andy's journey made me think of the way that the church in general deals with sexual issues, which is to say not much at all (except for the Catholics under Pope John Paul II, the most prolific studier of the theological ramifications of sexuality of our time). Christians are often at the very least implicitly encouraged to suppress or divert any sense of sexuality from their identity, and to not consider themselves beings with sexuality until marriage. This, of course, like in Andy's case, results in a skewed perspective not only on sexuality, but on the God who would allegedly force us to deny a fundamental part of our nature. The fact is that we are sexual beings, that there are elements of nature and nurture that enforce that part of our nature, and that we need to find healthy ways of expressing that sexuality regardless of our marital status. I, although unmarried, am nonetheless a person with a sexual identity, and I have to decide how that identity should be manifested. (Note that this does not necessarily refer to physical sexuality, but more to the psychological dimension of sexuality.) I have made certain choices to live my life out this way, and I am glad that I feel that I have a healthy understanding of myself, my needs, and my sexuality, and I believe that all Christians should be encouraged to do the same in spite of the pressure to simply repress it all until "bridal college". Just like Andy becomes more of who he is when he acknowledges his sexuality, so do we all. That is the way God designed us, and that is the way we need to be, regardless of our stage in life.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Creating "home"

Over the past week or so, I have yet again had the opportunity to create a new home for myself. I have been sorting and organizing and decorating and attempting to create the kind of space that I need to work and play and live. In the past, I would have the settling in process done in a night; it now takes me significantly longer to complete. I am not sure if that is because I lack the naive enthusiasm of my younger days, or whether it has simply become more difficult to uproot and replant myself, particularly in a place in which someone is already established. But though it will be temporary, this "home" is now feeling like home, and I will have a few months before I have to uproot and replant myself and make a new home.

Monday, January 08, 2007

24

"If only thirty-three years can save my life, I've had twenty-four more to make things right." - Demon Hunter, "Not Ready To Die"

"Twenty-four oceans, twenty-four skies, twenty-four failures, twenty-four tries. Twenty-four finds me in twenty-fourth place; twenty-four drop outs at the end of the day.
Life is not what I thought it was twenty-four hours ago, still I'm singing 'Spirit take me up in arms with You'; And I'm not who I thought I was twenty-four hours ago, still I'm singing 'Spirit take me up in arms with You'." - Switchfoot, "24"

It is funny how every age seems to have an identity. Now that I am 24, life seems somewhat different, and I do not know why. Maybe it is because I have made the transition from early- to mid-twenties, or that I am one year closer to being 25. Maybe I feel like I need to be more mature, or less childish. Maybe it's because it is one of the best ages for factoring (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12). I do not know why it feels significant, but I do know that I have a good year ahead of me: finishing university, working down debt, living in the city, and hopefully watching through the TV series that bears my age. I think I will like being 24.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stranger than fiction

I watched Stranger Than Fiction last night, and I came to two realizations: Will Ferrell can act, and my life is often stranger than fiction. In the movie, Harold Crick (Ferrell) is an IRS agent who slowly comes to realize that his life is being narrated by author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), and that she plans to kill him. He begins to understand what it means to live life, and that true life may only come in death. The film makes many interesting points about the intersection of art and life, and about genre theory and character development, but perhaps its most revelatory moments come in the growth of Crick into a person who is living his life in the way he has always wanted to. It is in these moments that the parallels between Harold's experience and our own become more pronounced. Much like Harold, many of us do not live to our full potential. Then one day, we realize that there is a greater purpose guiding our existence. It may take some time for us to tap into that purpose, and we need guides and help along the way, but we can find that path with some good listening and faith. The unsettling part, much as it is for Harold, is that once we begin on this path, we are soon forced to realize that the path must end with our death to be of any significance or substance. We do not know what will follow that step, but we know that we must take it to complete our journey the way the author has designed it to be. The path I am referring to is that of following Christ, as Harold is very much a Christ figure in the film. My life as a Christ-follower, like Harold's as a narrated character, does not always make sense; but as a character in a much larger story, I must continue to strive to find my purpose and die to myself daily. As such, my life - the "Life of Turner" - ends up being, well, stranger than fiction.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Oh! Gravity

In February 2003, my musical world changed with the release of Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown and seeing the band in concert. After releasing the mediocre Nothing Is Sound in September 2005, Switchfoot released their new CD Oh!Gravity just over a week ago, so they have been on promotional tours ever since. They performed their new hit "Oh! Gravity" live on Letterman tonight, and had a very solid performance. I still have not figured out what the fifth member of the band does except for standing in the background and filling in guitar riffs when one of the main guitarists is playing keyboard, but I suppose that is for them to know. At any rate, the new single is catchy, and the new album is definitely an interesting step for the band...maybe not a step forward, but certainly a step in a less poppy and more ethereal direction. I am still undecided as to whether this is a good step or not, but my early thoughts have been that they might have been better off to release the best songs from Sound and Gravity on one album. I will have to decide more by February, when the band visits Saskatoon, hopefully to be subjected to my queries about their new direction. But hey, any album with Steve Lillywhite attached as executive producer has to be good. Right? Ask me in a month's time.

Settlin' in

Although I have not been happy to have had school over these past two days, I am glad to have had the opportunity to "settle in". After the continual state of moving and upheaval over the past few weeks, I am quite glad to be settling in to home and school and routine and relationships and church and all that jazz once again. It feels good to be at rest, if only for a time. One thing that I really missed about university is that you can take a couple of weeks to settle in and get used to things, and you do not really miss a beat. It is a completely different way of life from what I am used to in the last eight months, but I think I can get used to it again and settle in and settle down. Contented sigh.

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