Friday, March 30, 2007

Personality conflict theory

Some of you may have noticed that I have a bit of a strong personality. You may have also noticed that I can be rather obtuse to how my innocently-intended actions affect others, which is not good, since my actions often do affect others. But every so often, I kind of forget that, and act as if people don't take time to get used to me (which a lot do). But it is sometimes really frustrating and draining being a strong, confident person, because people do not often know how to deal with me. And it's never something that goes away: people take some time to figure me out, but once they do it's all good. I just get frustrated with people who don't know how to deal with me, who use non-direct methods to confront me, or who think that I am some kind of unbearable ogre who is out to hurt others and make girls cry (I have found, historically, that I have more issues with females than I do with males). I know I'm still learning (and will always be learning), but these kind of personality issues will always be a source of frustration and some amusement. After all, how many times can I hear the phrase, "D----, you're a person who has a strong personality" before I just burst out laughing in someone's face? Hopefully, one more than the times I do hear it. But maybe someday I'll get to the point when the number of people with whom I have to have those kinds of conversation is minimal; until then, I will just have to keep trying my best and working through those situations. And for future reference, when you have a problem with me, tell me, I'll deal with it, and we'll move on. Kapeche?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I love being a turtle!

As a child of the late 80s and early 90s, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had the figurines, I watched the show, I memorized most of the second movie ("Secret of the Ooze"), as well as Vanilla Ice's "Ninja Rap" ("Yo, it's the heroes in green, gonna rock the town like it's never been seen. Have you ever seen a turtle get down? Slam and jam to the new swing sound!", and so forth). So imagine my excitement in getting to view a cutting-edge CGI version of the heroes in a half-shell fifteen years after their heyday, when I thought any mention of the Turtles would be limited to fond nostalgia, like so many other 80s and 90s cartoon fads. TMNT shows the Turtles the way they should be, since their full range of motion is greatly extended from the animatronic early 90s movie Turtles, and it actually has a decent plot and good character development in addition to being a functional part of the Turtles storyline and canon (yes, there is a TMNT canon). But putting nostalgia aside, there were a high number of young viewers in the audience, and I began to wonder why these anthropomorphic reptiles were still popular. As I watched the movie, it dawned on me: the Turtles are characters to whom we can all relate. Everyone has a favourite (Donatello!), and that is in large part because we can relate to them; sure, they might be predictable, but so are humans sometimes. I began working on comparing the Turtles to existing constructs of human behaviour, and I wondered whether they would relate better to the seven cardinal vices (Leo's pride, Raph's anger and envy, Mike's gluttony and sloth) or to the four cardinal virtues (Leo's fortitude, Don's prudence and temperance, Raph's justice), but there seemed to be something amiss with that model: the Turtles did not quite fit the construct perfectly, as some characters seemed to be loaded either toward virtues or vices, and - in all honesty - I don't think the "party dude" character of Michaelangelo was ever intended to be psycho-analyzed using high moral truths. Then I realized the irony of the situation: the Turtles, like humans, represent the best and the worst of humanity. They are indicative of both the potential for good and the capacity of evil, as are all humans. And that is why, in essence, the Turtles can remain popular and earn new fans: it is one thing to have really cool ninja fighting and neo-retro-cool dialogue (Cowabunga!), but it is entirely another to create characters to whom the audience can relate. Although they may be giant green turtles trained in the martial arts by a mutated rat who fight aliens from outer space, they are still as human as the rest of us, and we can share in their repeated proclamation: "Man, I love being a turtle!"

Friday, March 23, 2007

The defeat of Dawkins?

I'm not much of a philosopher m'self, but boy is it fun sometimes to watch them in action. Alvin Plantinga does a number on Richard Dawkins in this commentary on Dawkins' latest book. I must admit that it is kind of fun to see someone like Dawkins have his theories dismantled so reasonably, logically, and eloquently. Enjoy.

Six weird things about Turner

I got tagged a while back by Senator Tank, so here's my capitulation to his desire for my "six weird things about me". "Here are the rules: Each player of this game starts with the 'six weird things about me' blog post. People who get tagged need to write their own six weird things post and state the rules clearly. At the end of the post, tag six more people and don’t forget to leave a comment on their blog to tell them they have been tagged and tell them to read your blog."

1. I talked to Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk while he was in orbit in spring 1996. When I was in elementary school, I was in an organization called SPACE club (Saskatoon Public AerospaCe Education) for four years, and they gave us the opportunity to do so. I also led a mission to Mars and captured an "alien" (read: bumblebee) with our "safety equipment" (read: two plastic cups) in the space station. And I got to skip school.

2. I have been on national television twice (to my knowledge). The first time was when Wide Mouth Mason visited our high school when I was in Grade 12 for filming a program called "Spill Your Guts". Each program focussed on a theme and used questions asked by students to famous bands in their hometowns. I was in the episode about "sex" because I asked a question about their stance on pre-marital sex in light of their tour being sponsored by Durex condoms and some other stuff. I still have not seen the episode in question. The second time was when CBC held their "Town Forum" about Canadian journalism at the U of R, and Peter Mansbridge hosted an all-star panel (Knowlton Nash!) discussion. I was in the audience, so I was in the background of a number of shots over the course of the program.

3. I know most of the words and music to The Sound of Music because I played Captain Von Trapp in a high school production of the play. Good times...even if I did have a little fun at the expense of my co-star. Ask me for the story sometime.

4. The first CDs I ever bought were the Simpsons' Songs in the Key of Springfield and Simpsons Sing The Blues. I got rid of them in the great purge of '02 - kind of sad, really. The first "Christian" CDs I bought were Skillet's Hey You, I Love Your Soul, Third Day's Conspiracy No. 5, and the O.C. Supertones' self-titled debut. Man, those rude boys could pop some rude boy attitude.

5. I have interviewed two bands that have had albums in the top three of Billboard at some point in their career - Switchfoot and Underoath. Other bands/musical artists of note who I have interviewed over the years include Skillet, Superchick, Copeland, Mute Math, Blindside, Pigeon John, Reese Roper, Project 86, Thousand Foot Krutch, Tree63, and John Reuben. The whole interviewing thing is a pretty cool gig, but I do not know how I am going to keep it up after I leave school (and the student press). I'm sure I'll find a way, though.

6. I have not owned a bed since I graduated from high school. Seriously. I am also on roommate #14, phone number #14, and house #14 (soon to be 15 in all of those categories) since moving out in 2000. That's an average of two per year (though in 2003 I received mail at five addresses) during my university career. Maybe it's time to settle down...

I am tagging...Ariannland, QOWP, Becca, Eternalee, A Mandolyn And Ky, and Krieger.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A farewell to student politics

I have had the fortunate opportunity to have what has essentially amounted to two undergraduate lifetimes, during which I have been heavily involved in student groups and the student press, as well as tangential involvement with student politics. Although I have occasionally poked my head into the fray (ie. CFS referendum), I have generally remained a conscientious participant on the outside of the core of student politics, primarily through my interactions as a member of the press (which puts me on the "inside group" of people who are politically aware on campus) or through a certain individual who has recently decided that the only purpose of student politics is for his amusement. I have been tempted to run on occasion for some kind of office, but I have never actually done it, mainly because the game they play just tires me out. It's fun to watch, but it is far more exhausting when it's your life, as I have discovered on those few occasions when I have gotten involved. It is exhausting seeing the hypocrisy of candidates and the apathy of students collide in an ultimately meaningless flashbang, though mocking posters is a fun pastime for a couple of weeks. The fact is that this current election, which concludes tomorrow, is likely the last time that I will be part of the student political scene in any form, and I am quite glad that my time has come. In the end, student unions got some of my money and some of my frustration, but I think I'm coming out alright. Plus, the CFS didn't get a dime from me while I was a student at the U of S, and that counts for a lot. To commemmorate my farewell to student politics, I offer this haiku, which I believe sums up the entire enterprise well. Enjoy.
Student politics:
Petty, personal, pointless;
Future MLAs?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Have We Lost Our Minds?

One of the main issues that often seems to arise when watching and recommending movies is how to balance the expectations of faith with the need for quality art. Jeffrey Overstreet of Christianity Today Movies has prepared what is perhaps the definitive statement for any Christians seeking a philosophy for navigating these murky waters.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness

It's that time of year when every shot must count, when every foul can have dire consquences, and when the hopes of students at colleges across the United States rest upon a small group of unnaturally gifted athletes. A bad day can mean the end of your season or cause your draft stock to drop off significantly, while a good day or couple of days can change your legacy for years to come. And then there is the challenge of following along at home and trying to fill in the bracket correctly, cheering for obscure schools in distant states for no other reason than you picked them to go the Sweet Sixteen. It's March Madness. I first started watching March Madness almost ten years ago, and I have so many good memories from watching the tournament: Wally Sczerbiak and Miami (OH) upsetting their way into the Sweet 16; Gonzaga upsets year after year; Mike Gansey and the West Virginia Mountaineers; picking MSU and UConn to go all the way in 1999 and 2000 respectively; watching teams like Wisconsin (2000), Ohio State (1999), and George Mason (2006) upset their way into the Final Four; and randomly culling two dozen people together at Boston Pizza in 2003 on a last-minute whim to watch the game. I have followed players into their NBA careers, and some of my favourite pros were on my teams in the tourney (MoPete from MSU, for example). It is also, of course, a signal that the end of the school year is near, and that I have to work extra hard during the week to be able to watch games on Thursday to Sunday. Some years I am busier, so I do not get to watch as much, but I always get a couple of games in, because I love March Madness.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The problem of pop

I always feel the need to justify any pop music that I like. Last week, I discovered an album by a Lebanese-born British falsetto singer named Mika called "Life in Cartoon Motion" that is pure, unadulterated, unapologetically catchy pop. He channels eighties pop, Freddie Mercury, The Police, David Bowie, and Robbie Williams in what is an essentially flawless execution of the pop genre. I was beginning to think of the album as a "guilty pleasure", but then I realized that using that phrase implies that there is something wrong with listening to it. And I believe that as one of the best examples of its genre - admittedly a genre for which I generally have much disdain and a low tolerance level - that I should not feel ashamed of listening to it. In fact, I should be proud of being able to listen to the best that a genre has to offer. And so I publicly proclaim that I am a fan of Mika. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Delinquent blogging

I realize that I have started becoming a delinquent blogger. I do not know why, but I often feel like I do not have much to say in this forum. Maybe it is because I have said a lot already, and I am concerned about repeating myself; maybe I just do not want to take the effort to actually write a post. But I have also slacked in other areas of blogging, particularly in the reading of others' blogs. Maybe it is just one of those phases I need to get through to catch the vision of blogging again, kind of like a blogging adolescence. I mean, I could talk about the movies I've seen recently (like I often do) or the music I'm listening to (which I often do), but I just do not always want to do that. Still, I want to keep my audience happy and informed, so I feel the need to blog when I am delinquent in doing so for a few days. And here it is, my attempt at a post. Maybe I'll have more to say tomorrow. I'm sure I'll snap out of this funk soon, for my sake - and for yours.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Legacy and heritage

As I have been attempting to draw near to the close of my time in university, I have been considering what I want my legacy to be as I finish up in different groups and activities in order to determine how I can finish well. But attending my great-grandmother's funeral today put everything in perspective. Her legacy, and therefore my heritage, is that she put God first, family second, and everything else after that. It was great to celebrate her life as one lived well, and to see that her greatest legacy was there today: her family. I particularly appreciated being one of the unfortunately few of the family who claims not only genetic heritage, but also spiritual heritage; not that I wish that selectivity to continue, but just that I value being able to share that dimension of the proceedings and of her life. But back to the point - my legacy now as I end university. The fact is that I have done a lot of good things and I have worked hard, and my legacy will live on primarily through the relationships I have built. Those relationships - not the classes, not the activities, not even amending constitutions - are the important legacy, and part of the heritage that I can leave for the generations of students who follow in my footsteps in those groups and activities. And I feel good about that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Timeless movies

I finally watched The Departed this weekend, and I have to say that it earned each one of the Oscars it received (picture, director, editing, and adapted screenplay), and was held short on a couple of nominations (Jack and Leo, especially). (Which reminds me: Leo has overcome the curse of Titanic. He really is one of the best actors working today. I was initially inclined to disagree, but think about his roles for a minute, and I think you'll agree. But I digress.) But its win at the Oscars got me thinking about the nature of "timeless movies" - those movies that transcend temporal trends and are relatively widely acknowledged as meaningful and worth watching - and whether The Departed is one, as its win would appear to indicate that it should be included in that group. My conclusion is that it is, particularly in the "cop movie" genre. Think, for a second, of how many cop movies would have that moniker: The Sting, The French Connection, and L.A. Confidential for sure, and maybe Training Day and Serpico. But consider also how many movies are released each year that could be considered "timeless"; I would argue that there are usually no more than six or seven in any given year. It is difficult to judge a movie's long-term reputation at the time, but there are some methods that can be used: award recognition (especially the Oscars), cultural impact, and box office (though increasingly less so). A movie's legacy can often be judged by its director, but even then each director has certain movies that will stand out; Scorsese, for example, has directed many movies, but his "timeless movies" are far fewer (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and now The Departed. Occasionally, a timeless performance can elevate a movie into this category, but I would posit that "timeless performances" is a category independent of "timeless movies". And to hazard an early guess, I would say that the "timeless" movies from 2006 will be The Departed, Pan's Labyrinth, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Borat, and Stranger Than Fiction. But time will tell.

In Deep Sheaf: The anniversary

It was one year ago that the Sheaf published the cartoon that rocked Saskatoon. I documented my journey through the proceedings fairly extensively for posterity at the time, but also for people who are even now wondering what happened regarding that issue - which is essentially that it went away. The issue still comes up in classes, but even this group of students - who were around when it was published - seems to have abolished it from their collective memory. But what (if any) long-term effects has the cartoon had on the viability of the Sheaf? The quality of the cartoons has stayed relatively constant; the content of the paper is perhaps marginally improved; and there has been no effect on relations with businesses or advertising. The main result is that in the intervening year, the Sheaf Board (of which I am Chair) has changed some of the structure of the Sheaf to avoid some of the problems that arose at the management level in response to the publication of the cartoon, and that the Sheaf is now a part of the Canadian University Press, a national student press co-operative, and as such has access to content from other papers as well as legal counsel. The bottom line is that, despite the forecasting of an early apocalypse for the Sheaf one year ago, the Sheaf is healthy and doing well, and still generating some cartoon controversy (now with "Snowy Bear"'s take on the USSU - see B7 of the Mar. 1 issue). The Sheaf is no longer hitting the fan.


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