Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Mutemath - Armistice

I think it's often an indulgent practice when music reviewers say more than 200 words about a disc, but I think I can make an exception for Armistice, the most recent entry from the New Orleans-based band Mutemath, my second-most anticipated album of the year after U2's No Line on the Horizon. I have followed Mutemath since their inception after the demise of Earthsuit, the band that two of the members were previously part of. Their first release, 2004's Reset EP set a high standard, and their self-titled follow-up album in 2006 raised the bar further. Since then, I have seen them live twice and eagerly anticipated new material such as their take on the Transformers theme and "Spotlight", their contribution to the Twilight soundtrack. Suffice it to say that Mutemath is one of my favourite artists, and that anything less than an amazing album would have been a disappointment. Lead singer Paul Meany has said that they sought to embarrass their last album with Armistice, and I am pleased to report that, though they had nothing of which to be ashamed before, this album is demonstrates a continued pattern of creative growth and development that only serves to make me more excited for their next album. But on to the actual review.... Mutemath has an energy and a verve that most artists lack, and that comes across through the album. Much of that energy comes from drummer Darren King, who seems to not know or care what a rock beat is, eschewing the tedium for creative and original beats. Uptempo tracks like opener "The Nerve", "Spotlight", "Goodbye", and the jazzy-rock-fusion titular track are rife with that energy, as should be expected, but the real test are the laid-back tracks. "No Response" and "Pins and Needles" provide a welcome repose from the enthusiastic musical onslaught, but still demonstrate a swagger that belies an inherent energy and flow. Perhaps the best song on the album is the closer, "Burden", a 9-minute long reflection on human nature and place in the world, which includes an instrumental section that will almost undoubtedly be adapted into a much more active interlude when performed live. Of course, that will be the true test of the album - how it comes across live - but judging from this album, it will not be a problem. I just hope the tour comes to the Island sooner rather than later. Armistice is a must buy for even a casual fan of the band, and one of the best albums of the year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 700 Club

At the end of July, I celebrated a milestone for this blog: five years online. And now I am writing my 700th post on Life of Turner. I'm not sure if I expected it to get this far; then again, I'm not very good at quitting things before they're finished. Although I have vacillated over the years about the professionality and viability of maintaining this site, and at times have become an absentee blogger not unlike many of my way-fallen comrades, I have kept coming back to it, and here it is, still active and vibrant after five years. As I thought about it, I realized that this is the only period of my life in which I have kept a journal; in any other period, I have made half-hearted attempts to chronicle the events in my life that have not rooted themselves in habit or become meaningful - but somehow this has. And here I have a track of the mundane events of my life - some of the everyday events and pop culture reviews and random websites I liked - alongside the meaningful. "Life of Turner" has existed for the duration of my engagement(s), my wedding, my graduating from university, and my first job, and I have written of them all, to varying degrees of disclosure. I was 21 when I began; I am now 26, and my world - the world - seems a lot different, even if it really isn't. And I guess that's the point - life is life, and that's what I sought to do here: to live part of my life. This place has helped me, healed me, frustrated me, annoyed me, inspired me, distracted me, and provoked me; it has been valuable as a means to an end, but also as a means to experiencing my life. After all, Turner is not just a lifestyle; it's a way of life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking stock

Since we have returned from Taiwan, I have been on a cleaning binge. We are continually working on projects in our storage room to attempt to reduce the amount of stuff we have and making sure that what we have is organized. I did a lot of it before the move to Victoria, but things get out of order if you do not deal with them for a year. Anyway, it has been very valuable to have some time in which I could do that cleaning out and do it well. I have also been working on managing as many "to do" tasks as I can before school starts; I know I've had this rant before, but little things can be such a drag. But this morning I took it to another level: e-cleaning. I finally took the time to clean out my e-mail and Facebook account. I had messages from when I joined two years ago that I had not erased, and a host of small adjustments to make to my account. It was good to finally get it done, and it does feel very good to have all of these things done and out of the way. At the same time, I am tired of little things and need something more meaningful to do with my time - like resuming my job. Yes, oddly enough, with still two weeks to go until staff meetings start, I am now looking forward to going back to school and resuming regular life in the school year. I've still got some work to do around the house over the next couple of weeks - particularly preparing for a garage sale - but my focus has now again shifted to the upcoming challenges in September. It was a strange and sudden shift, but I think I'm okay with it. And even if I'm not, I still have a couple of weeks to get used to the idea and waste some time on the Wii.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Taipei: recapping the first chapter

We landed a week ago, and jet lag has finally passed me by. It has been an interesting week as we have started to reintegrate into our life in Victoria. I feel like we have hit the ground running, even though we are still in the midst of our summer vacation. Since we got in last Wednesday night, we have spent several days sorting through our house in a belated spring cleaning push, played a lot of Wii, gone to a wedding, hosted friends from Saskatchewan for three days, and I have been ill for a couple of days. And while our lives here have been busy, we still have this sense of needing to deal with everything that happened in Taiwan so that it does not stay part of our past. I don't think our experience was long enough to really cause me to undergo "reverse culture shock", but Ari has has more difficulty in returning. Still, I thought I should take stock of what happened to us in Taiwan before it is too far removed from memory, so here's a short list of what I experienced in Taiwan.

- Saw a full solar eclipse
- Experienced my first earthquake
- Ate hot pot (shabu shabu) for the first time
- Learned to read Pinyin (romanization of Chinese characters)
- Viewed Chinese historical artifacts that were up to 5,000 years old
- Taught Taiwanese students from Grade 3 to 10
- Worked within the context of an international camp
- Discussed different facets of Canadian history with Taiwanese, Americans and South Africans (particularly our treatment of First Nations peoples and the relationships between English and French Canadians)
- Explored a large portion of Taipei via high-speed transit, bus, taxi, and foot
- Ate a lot of great food for cheap
- Had numerous encounters with God through Oasis church
- Experienced life overseas with my wife

I think it's safe to say that I am a different person after those 40 days (seemingly a significant number), and it will take a while to sort out all of the ways in which I am different. It might take years for everything that happened there to shake out, but that seems to be what could be expected from this kind of adventure. I'm sure this isn't the last of my tales from Taipei, either - it's just the first chapter of a much longer story.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Lost!

A couple of days ago, I had another life experience that would (will?) make a great sermon illustration someday. I was walking from my father-in-law's house to the house of the pastor of our church, and I got lost. Utterly and completely lost. For an hour and a half. I had no idea where I was, and I didn't understand the language, and I did not know where to go. It has been a long time since I was so far beyond any sense of direction, and I think I handled it surprisingly well. I did not panic, but I rested on a park bench for a while to regain my strength. I also happened to be carrying several bags of clothes and kitchenwares belonging to my wife and mother-in-law, which complicated the situation. But I kept my composure, pursued the most logical route, and within a few minutes of starting up again I encountered my wife and pastor, who had begun to wonder where I might be. I had several observations which struck me at the time regarding how this experience was reminiscent of my faith. Sometimes we get completely lost, and we have no idea where to turn or which way to go. Sometimes we are carrying baggage - either or own or that of others - and it makes things harder. Sometimes we even think we know where we are, and it looks like where we should be, but it's not quite right. In this case, I knew his apartment was by a playground, and there just happened to be a second playground east of the one by his house. But although it seemed familiar, I was lost, and part of the reason I continued to be lost was because I had difficulty getting past my own mindset and ideas. Once I gave those up and walked where I had not really thought of - along the river - people were waiting to rescue me from my lostness. And sometimes, we just need to be reminded of what it is like to be truly and absolutely lost so that our dependence on God (and others) increases. So, oddly enough, I'm glad that I got lost and remembered what it felt like, and not only because it will make a killer story in a church sooner or later.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Returning from the Oasis

Camp is now over, and we find ourselves in an interesting place: not quite ready to leave and ready to come home. We are trying to make sure that we finish our time well in Taipei, and that we are ready to return. It's a mix of going places one last time, seeing people, and a few errands - kind of the same as what it was when we left for Taipei, but with more of a sense of significance, as we will not likely be returning to Taipei soon. In the same way, we are in an interesting place in life. This has been a valuable place of transition, and as I predicted a month ago, I am not the same person I was before I came - but I'm not sure how I've changed, and I'm not sure I can fully know until I am back in Canada. A lot of things have been spoken over us while we have been here, and we know that life will be different; the challenge for us is making the things we have learned and prayed here into reality as we return and take up new positions of ministry and authority in our communities (school, church, life) in Victoria. I think it might be prophetic that this trip is 40 days in length, as 40 (days) is a length of time that repeatedly represents a time of preparation in the Scriptures (Jesus' temptation, the Israelites in the desert, etc.). So we will return from our Oasis (in the metaphorical sense of refreshing and the name of the church we attended here) refreshed and renewed and ready to re-engage our Canadian life in a new way; we just don't know what way that is. I'm glad that school does not start for a month so that we have some time to work out our salvation with fear and trembling in the meantime.

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