Friday, March 31, 2006

Yesterday's enterprise

One of the most highly-regarded episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation is "Yesterday's Enterprise," a third-season episode that revealed that TNG, at its best, was really quite good. The Enterprise-D (of Picard) encounters an unidentified ship which turns out to be the Enterprise-C, which was thought to have been destroyed decades earlier. The problem is that the appearance of the Enterprise-C has changed the entire timeline of the Federation, and now the Federation is losing a war against the Klingons, rather than existing peacefully with the Klingon Empire. No one notices the change except for the unusually perceptive Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg, whose appearances conveniently coincide with a need for plot development that cannot be fulfilled by other cast members), who knows there's something off about the way things are; she can't identify it concretely, but she knows that something is different, and that this (war with the Klingons) is not the way life is supposed to be. Of course, the Enterprise-D helps bring order by sending the Enterprise-C back into the past and restoring the timeline, and life goes on.
I mention this because I really identify with Guinan regarding my own life. I cannot say that anything "went wrong," but I do feel as if this isn't the way it was supposed to go. I am not sure that this is true, but I sure feel that way sometimes. I do not have the capacity to "right" my timeline, as did the Enterprise-D, so I have simply to deal with the outcome as it comes. My primary conflict in this area is that I believe that God is sovereign over my life, and that He has been guiding things, and that there are inherent purposes to the ordeals and trials which I have undergone. But if I can mess things up, does that not mean that other people could also interfere with the intended order of my life? I know that God will not let anything happen that I could not handle, but is it not possible that in the exercise of free will that he allows things to happen that were not optimal, not only on an individual level, but at an interpersonal level? Am I completely to blame for my current circumstances, or are there others who can be brought into account for the way they have acted and the effect that has had on my life? (I speak primarily of the issue I had with my professor earlier this semester, the consequences of which I am still sorting out.) Finally, what can I do now to "right" the sequence of events and ensure that life returns to normal? My thought is to do what I can and then move away in a month's time, which is not coincidentally what is happening. But whether I have dug this hole, or others have helped me, I have to deal with the hole, and I unfortunately cannot send a starship back through a temporal distortion to make everything right. Yesterday's enterprise has today's consequences, and I must still work those out with fear and trembling (cf Phil 2:12-14).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Let's get (a) physical!

I did something today I have not done since Grade Nine: I got a check-up from my doctor. It wasn't by design that I waited almost a decade between visits; it was more due to the fact that I had never had a reason to go since I was routinely healthy. I have gone to the medi-clinic twice that I can remember since my last visit to the doctor: during my first summer at Stoney Lake Bible Camp, I went into Melfort because my bowels were having fun at my expense; and following my final summer at Stoney, I went in to check if I had a minor concussion as a result of my golf cart antics. But I am a generally healthy person, so I do not go to the doctor. The good news is that I am still healthy, aside from a little too much weight around the midsection. (The bad news, therefore, is that any problems I do have are emotional and/or psychological, but at least they're not medical!) I then realized how amazing it is that I have not had to see the doctor in that long, and that my general good bill of health is quite a blessing, considering what some friends have to endure. I am also glad because the rest of this year (camp and internship) will demand my physical health, and the fact that I am healthy removes one more worry from my life during that time. So now all I need to do is increase my exercise and start losing that weight...Hrm.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

CCM: is it still useful?

I finally fell in love with Sufjan (Soof-yawn) Stevens' Illinoise. I have been behind the curve, but once I finally started listening to the album, I have not been able to remove its haunting melodies from my memory. It is a beautiful portrait of the state of Illinois, and it reflects the creative nature of the God to whom Sufjan acknowledges his life is committed. This album has made me think about the nature of "Christian music" in a new light, and has inspired me to reconsider my thoughts on the Contemporary Christian Music industry. My primary question has become whether CCM needs to exist, given that "Christian" artists like Sufjan and Copeland are able to not only exist but rise up to success outside of the traditional CCM barriers. But I also wonder whether CCM does more harm than good. Does it allow artistically inferior artists to record because they are Christian? Does it keep bands like Switchfoot, Skillet, and Relient K from widespread exposure because they are "Christian"? What about a band like MuteMath, who is suing Warner for marketing their Reset EP in the Christian market because they feel it damaged their reputation? These are all questions to which I, other Christians, Christian musicians, and an emerging group of academics are attempting to address. Here are some of my initial thoughts.
I own about 400 CDs, of which at least 80 % are in some way "Christian", so I definitely have a unique viewpoint. I have spent a significant amount of effort on knowing the CCM spectrum, and I am considered by many to be an "expert" on the subject. So do I believe that there is still some good in CCM? Yes, I think there is. It is a relatively trustworthy entrance point for people to music that has a defined focus of message. Even I still find that I am more likely to find a band I would like in a Christian music store than in a mainstream store. But I think in many ways that CCM is more of the "milk" as opposed to the "meat": it is a great entrance point, but it is difficult to stay there, because I feel like it is no longer challenging me. Some people can be happy there, and I am glad for them, but I know that I want and need more. It seems to be much like the Evangelical wing of the church, which is ironically the wing of the church that is most supportive of CCM: it is a great place to start out, and some people can stay there, but others such as myself feel the need to move on to different experiences of faith. I am glad to have the experience of CCM and the Evangelical church, but I need more. I guess my conclusion is that CCM does still serve a purpose, even if its influence in my life is apparently waning. Nonetheless, it does remain valuable. I realize that I have essentially avoided answering many of the questions I asked, but for now, my realization is what is important. I can answer those other questions later on, and I likely will do so. This is just the beginning of my analysis of CCM, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

IDS: Three weeks later...

It was three weeks ago that the infamous "Capitalist Piglet" cartoon was published in the Sheaf, and as expected, most of the brouhaha has finally died down. There has still been some response, but most things that can be said have been said, and so there is little of value left to discuss, even in this forum. What I have found interesting is that the reaction I have personally received over the past two weeks since the publishing of the letter I wrote in response to the issue has been overwhelmingly positive from all sides. I expected to be a touchpoint into the issue for the Christian community, but my reach has exceeded what I had anticipated, and has been (in my estimation) surprisingly positive. I have had many people take the time to comment on how much they appreciated the perspective I brought to the situation, and people I don't know have communicated with me through my blog to express their respect for my position. I do not share this to boast of my own ability, but rather to boast of Christ, who worked so clearly through me during that week. I had a difficult task in balancing friendships, faith, and professionalism, and I know that it was only through Christ that I could have accomplished it as I did. It did exhaust me, but I know that I was in the right place at the right time, and that is what matters. SDG.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Life-cleaning

Any of you who have ever had to write a paper or study for an exam know that such times are the best for keeping a clean house, and so it comes as no surprise to me that I have had to undergo some "life-cleaning" before I could focus primarily on schoolwork. Some of it, such as finally finishing the sixth Harry Potter book, is admittedly skewed from what I could be doing, but I have been accomplishing things nonetheless. There is still a fairly significant amount of work to be done in cleaning life up, but most of that will have to wait until this deluge of schoolwork is completed. By April 10, I have to write two English papers, one research paper, compile a resource binder on grammar education, finish off my extra-curricular commitments, and study for and write a final. I have a bit of a break thereafter, but that is when I hope to do a lot more life-cleaning. If you don't see me over the next few weeks, it is not because I don't like you: I simply have no choice but to finish my semester. Then the process of seeing people and saying goodbyes and finishing up life in Saskatoon (for the rest of the year, most likely) begins. See you on the other side.

Monday, March 20, 2006

"The intangibles"

Sportscasters often refer to the different characteristics each player will bring to a team, and they often use the idea of "the intangibles" in their analysis. "The intangibles" are those characteristics that cannot be pinpointed exactly. They are the qualities that cannot be quantified or qualified except to be grouped as a quantifiable characteristic called "the intangibles". They are, just as they are said to be, intangible. The term is most often used in a positive description of the player, in praise of their leadership skills or extraordinary abilities. Though occasionally they are applied to an unidentifiable downfall, they remain as elusive of definition and explanation in defeat as they do in victory. I mention the idea of "the intangibles" because there is so much about my "season" of school that can only be explained by the presence of "the intangibles." So much of the last year does not make sense through quantifiable measure or qualitative examination, and the only way it makes sense is to know that there are intangible factors that are affecting my performance (unfortunately often in the negative sense this year) in school. But paradoxically, it is often those same "intangibles" that allow me to make it through. I am in the stretch run now, and those "intangibles" will come in handy as I finish this season, hopefully on a high note. I may have had an off-season, but I hope to finish strong, and make the currently intangible completion of the semester a tangible reality in the next month.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pandora's jukebox

I was recently introduced to Pandora, an internet music resource that features a database of millions of songs and that claims to be able to tailor stations to your musical preferences. The designers of the site have spent years listening to all kinds of music and classifying artists and songs according to "genes", as the creators of the "Music Genome Project" (that led to Pandora) explain:

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like. Over the past 5 years, we've carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.

As I tried to enter some of my favourite artists, I found that I was attempting to predict whether certain other artists would be included, and that I often agreed with their assessments. And then it hit me: I knew a lot of what they were recommending, and I have the knowledge to agree with their picks. I realized further that this is the kind of endeavour that I have undertaken in the past in recommending artists or songs to others; I may not have been able to talk about tonality or vocal harmony or other technical musical ideals, but I could still discuss the artists, and I knew what they sounded like generally and so I could make my recommendations. As I reflected on this sudden realization, I began to realize just how abnormal I am: not many people own as many CDs as I do, nor do they act as intentionally toward music as I do. I have interviewed artists and reviewed CDs and talked with my music friends and considered it normal, but my interest in music exceeds that of many other people. So I am a "music guy" after all, I thought. And while Pandora is interesting and will no doubt expose me to some new things, I believe that I stand to learn less from it than do most people simply because I have taken more time and effort to learn more about music. I may not know everything, and I may occasionally fade out of the scene, but I hope to continue being a "music guy" for at least a little while longer. Now let's see what Pandora recommends for someone who likes old-school DC Talk, just for kicks...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The end is nigh

I feel like I am in such a strange place in life right now. In just over six weeks, I will be packing up my life and heading away to camp for the summer, followed by my education internship in the fall which will likely also be away from Saskatoon. That means I have six weeks to wrap up life here in Saskatoon: finishing my classes; following through on my extracurricular commitments to their ends; seeing friends whom I will not see very often for the rest of the year. It is strange to think that this "Saskatoon era" is just about finished, and it seems much more surreal than when I was wrapping up my time in Regina three years ago. I know I will be back here for that final semester, and I certainly do not know what is happening after that, but when I come back for that semester, I will no longer be as much of a "student." I will be an early professional, with experience in my field and possibly looking for a job as a teacher. Habits will change. Roommates will change. Friendships will change. Life will change. But for now, I am focussed on the present, the time in which new initiatives are put aside to allow for the successful completion of existing commitments. The end is nigh, and it feels weird, but it feels good. Really good.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"My peace I give you."

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. - John 14:26-27 (NIV)

I had to make a very difficult decision tonight. I have had a situation with a professor in which I believe that I have been deeply wronged, and I know that I have every right to pursue the means to make this professor's life miserable and get what I deserve. But I was reminded today by a wise friend of how Jesus had every right to fight for his right to live, but He laid down His life willingly so that everyone might have the chance to truly live. And so I decided to be like Christ and to lay everything down at God's feet: the credits, the tuition money, the need to take an extra course in my final semester, the delay of my convocation on my B.A., the stress. I cannot, however, even begin to compare this decision to Jesus' decision to die on the cross. What I have experienced is such a tiny glimpse of that action, and although it is meaningful to me, it is only meaningful because it has allowed me to experience Christ in my life. I know from the peace that I have that I have made the correct decision, and I can only pray that others would see Christ working through me as I move forward. Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cruisin' Turner-style

I have had a week to become accommodated to the new car my parents bought last week. Not just a new car, but a "new" car. (Keep in mind that I grew up riding in an assorted collection of 1970s station wagons and early 1980s Toyotas.) So my parents finally got the urge to splurge, and they bought...a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser. In white. It's a very comfortable ride inside, but since it's pretty much a Neon with a bunch of extra junk on the top, it's pretty gutless. Still, it is the only new car our family has ever owned, and it's kind of fun to drive, especially with all the ice and not a lot of traction. Here's my dilemma: I have never liked PT Cruisers, and I still don't. At the same time, it is a car to drive, and it is fun shocking people when they see me behind the wheel ("When did YOU get a CRUISER?!). And the ladies like the Cruiser. I think. Plus, I can always just say that it is my parents' car, thus removing any possible thought that I had any say in choosing it (which I wouldn't have). I will be driving it for only a couple of months, but it's a fun ride in the meantime. Even if I am ashamed, yet proud, to be seen driving a PT Cruiser. The "P" is for "party," and the "T" is for "Turner-style."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Time vs. Emotion

If I were to graph my current commitments with time spent on one axis and emotion invested on the other axis, I think that the graph would be very skewed toward emotion. I feel like I have time to do things, but that I am lacking the ability to invest myself in anything beyond what I am committed to right now. And then, of course, there are things like the Sheaf and like an issue with a professor that unexpectedly monopolized my past week and took focus away from things upon which I should be focussing, like school. Unfortunately, there are still things that require significant emotional expenditure occurring during the course of this week, a reality which will continue to affect my studies. But my hope is that these will subside by the end of this week and that I can really get down to work after that. I hope.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Faithful Skeptic strikes again!

Faithful Skeptic, a writer for the MB Herald, has struck again. After sharing thoughts on church, now FS reflects on communion. Although it is great to see such articles in a denominational magazine, it is still somewhat disconcerting that the author remains anonymous. Whether the anonymity is due to personal choice or for fear of recrimination from others in a church, I do not know. But as long as FS keeps churning out quality thoughts, I suppose it does not matter how anonymous the authorship remains.

IDS: We now return...

The weekend has almost passed with little new news in the Sheaf cartoon scandal, a development that has been both unsurprising and very refreshing. There will no doubt be further discussion of the issue for the remainder of the school year, but it seems as if the worst of the Sheafstorm is over. I will, as a member of the Board, have to continue to deal with the issue, but it seems as if most people have at this point made their stances clear and that there will be few new developments to which response will be required. I will continue to monitor the media coverage to this issue, as well as the response on campus, and I will continue to report anything that needs to be known here at Life of Turner. For now, I am hoping to put the issue to rest, or at least to the background, and allow it only intermittent interjections into my regular life. And so I attempt to resume my life and move forward to the end of the semester, which is closer every day. We now return to our regularly scheduled Turner.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

IDS: Primary sources needed

I do not know how much more productive discourse there is to be had about the Sheaf cartoon due to all of the misinformation being bandied about in the name of fact. Whether it's the Support the Sheaf blog or the Boycott the Sheaf blog, or many of the other opinions out there, the fact is that there is a lot of rhetoric being spouted in support of all sides of the issue. If you want to know what is happening, go to a primary source and find out, like any historian would advise you to do. Jeremy at Wayward Reporter is a good source, I consider myself a good source, and the Sheaf is perhaps the best source. Find out how the Sheaf works, investigate the bylaws, and do your homework before you speak out. I am getting tired of rhetoric from every side: oddly enough, I have been called right-wing and left-wing for the same reasons by different people who are entering the debate without all the information. The truth is that I have been through almost all of the proceedings thus far, and the board does not have an agenda against Will Robbins, or to propogate communist doctrine, or to subordinate all students to our rule of tyranny. The people at the Sheaf, whether they are volunteers, editors, or board members, are there because they care and because they want to make a difference. I understand the right and need of people to question the Sheaf and its board, but do it properly please. Go to the primary source and then make your decision. And in the case where there are good sources with different stories, look into them all and make an educated decision. Please just stop the rhetoric and ensure that this issue is discussed as all issues in university should be discussed: in a calm, intelligent, informed forum. Help create positive and productive discourse by being informed. It will go a long way to seeing this situation reach a peaceful and intelligent resolution.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sex in Christ?

I know sexuality is a gift of God and an undeniable element of human existence, but I wonder whether the "Sex in Christ" website takes the concept of all sex designed by God a little too far. Thoughts?

IDS: The apology

The new issue of the Sheaf is out on stands now, and the question now is whether the apology will be accepted, or whether it will be regarded as weak and insufficient. I believe that there are a number of people out there who will not rest until all the Sheaf staff is replaced (which will happen in six weeks' time due to the change in publishing year anyway) and who will not accept an apology no matter what, but I also believe that a lot of the people who would not accept an apology are not the primary group to whom the Sheaf needs to apologize. The main group the Sheaf is accountable to is its membership, the students, as well as the entire campus community, NOT the greater Saskatoon community, which includes fanatics like John Gormley. I am not saying that the Sheaf should not apologize to these people, only that as long as the apology is accepted by the immediate U of S community that it should be considered sufficient, and that the acceptance of the apology by a community that would not accept anything less than the destruction of the Sheaf should not be necessary - though would still be preferable - in a peaceful resolution to the situation. I believe that the apology is heartfelt, well-expressed, and reflective of the penitent attitude that I have seen displayed by the staff of the Sheaf, and I sincerely hope that it is accepted for what it is: an admission of wrongdoing, with a pledge to take the necessary steps to ensure that the chances of something like this happening again are minimized as much as possible. Now, all that remains to be seen is whether the greater community agrees with me.

IDS: Brace for impact

Day 7 of the cartoon crisis begins in waiting. The story has been featured extensively in the local media, and to some extent at a national level. The new edition of the Sheaf will be on stands later tonight, and the public will be able to respond to the Sheaf's response. There have been four distinct stages that can be identifiedin the overall reaction to the cartoon so far: the initial shock that occurred between the release of the issue Wednesday night and Friday night; the exposure of the larger U of S community to the cartoon over the weekend as a result of Peter MacKinnon's letter as well as wide distribution on the internet; the initial media response over the past two days that has brought the cartoon to the attention of the entire province (and beyond); and the response to the Sheaf's actions of the past few days. It seems that the first three stages will have been processed with the publishing of this week's issue, and that there are several more stages that will ensue this week: the national broadcasting of the story; the reaction to media coverage; the reaction to Will Robbins' resignation; the reaction to the Board's actions; and the reaction to the treatment of the issue in this upcoming issue of the Sheaf. Beyond that, there will be the addressing of internal issue at the Sheaf; the complaints made to the Human Rights Commission; the evaluation of any further action the Sheaf needs to take; and eventually finishing the publishing year. Today will be a bit of a lull, since there is little to which to react until the new issue hits the stands tonight. At that point, the fifth stage will begin, and there will be responses to the responses and to the Sheaf's apology. It will be interesting to see how the Sheaf reacts and how the public reacts to the Sheaf's reaction. For now, it is simply necessary to enjoy the calm in the midst of the Sheafstorm and prepare for a new wave of communication on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

IDS: Response to print media

I have now had the opportunity to peruse the way in which the story has been depicted in the written media, and I must say that I have been fairly impressed so far. Janet French of the StarPhoenix has written an article that includes many different responses to the situation, including my own. The Canadian Press picked up the story, and it ran today in the Globe and Mail. The article, featuring some of my thoughts (!), is located here. I do feel that it is necessary to clarify that my awareness of the cartoon previous to its publishing was not due to any executive or editorial capacity, but rather to friendship with the author of the comic. It is unfortunate that the story does not portray the relationship of the Board and the editorial staff as accurately as it should, primarily due to the confusion caused by my comments. The Board has no say in the direct editorial decisions of the Sheaf, only in the managing of the Sheaf Publishing Society, Inc. I apologize for any confusion I have caused.

IDS: Some seek forgiveness...

The following is a submission to Life of Turner from an anonymous source. I believe that this commentary is indicative of the type of response that Christians need to consider in their dealings with the Sheaf over the publishing of the "Capitalist Piglet" cartoon. Please read on.

I've been trying to figure out what the publishing of the "Capitalist Piglet" means to me, and I realize the answer is not much. Did the Sheaf have the right to publish it? Yes. Did Yiph have the right to create it? Yes. Do I have to like it? No. As a Christian, I am taught that that which is permissible is not always beneficial. This cartoon is obviously not beneficial to me, but I have to respect the permissibility of it. Furthermore, I am taught that where I am weak, God is strong. Looking at the cartoon makes me want to be outraged and yet I can find peace. Part of this peace is knowing that my outrage is superficial at best, as this cartoon does not hinder my salvation or the salvation of anyone else. My outrage is based either in the fact that their own editorial policy was broken, or that my fees have paid for this to be published. Peace comes in knowing that Christ has been here already. He was sworn at and spat on during his march to Calvary, and this is no different. If I am to be an ambassador of peace, then why should I be up in arms? My role is to spread truth and to help find resolution rather than to point blame. Mistakes were made, and now forgiveness is to be had. As a Christian the best thing I can do now is to love those who need it. When dealing with an issue in the Bible, Jesus would often use wit to turn a situation around and to bring something beneficial to light. Our wit is this: the staff at the Sheaf need to be encouraged. They need support, but mostly they need forgiveness. The University community needs to put this issue down and to have something productive come from it. We all have a part to play in being Christ to the world and it all starts with forgiveness.

Thanks to the contributor of this piece for your timely and appropriate thoughts. Amen.

Monday, March 06, 2006

IDS: Sheafstorm (Day 5)

It was a manic Monday at the Sheaf, as every major local news outlet came asking about the cartoons, and the Sheaf staff weathered the media blitz well. Though I have yet to see the article(s) in the StarPhoenix, I have been impressed with most of the media coverage thus far, save for Saskatchewan's answer to Rush Limbaugh, John Gormley. I think the hope for intelligent discourse on campus still exists, but it is not likely within the larger community due to some of the blatant slander propagated in the name of news on Gormley's popular call-in show. The story will likely remain local for at least another day, but it will in all likelihood become a national story by mid-week as I predicted early in the evolving situation.
I would like to take this opportunity to communicate how impressed I have been with the entire staff and board of the Sheaf, as I have been personally interacting with them over the past few days and have seen many of the events from inside the Sheaf. These people have been conducting themselves professionally and admirably, given the stressful circumstances, and I have nothing but respect for all of them. I especially want to communicate my appreciation for Will Robbins and Jeremy Warren, who have both been outstanding examples of journalistic integrity and professionalism through the entire process. Kudos also to Liam Richards, who managed the media stress much "betterly" (a word Liam used in a TV interview) than I could have hoped. Now the main issue is where to go from here and what steps to take, and I believe that the Sheaf is now in a position to consider these things appropriately and with integrity. As always, feel free to contact me with any concerns or ideas.

In deep Sheaf: the issues

As this weekend has passed, I have gotten increasingly involved in the Sheaf cartoon debate, and I have little doubt that I will continue to do so during the course of this week. Jeremy at Wayward Reporter has done a great job of stating his case, and there is some great discussion occurring at Dave Hutton's blog, as well as the blogs of Rochelle Knox and Mark Watson (the creator of the Capitalist Pig figure, but not of this comic), who gives a very interesting take on the issue. (As an aside, I have decided to use the title "In deep Sheaf" to identify the issue at Life of Turner. "Sheafgate" just did not cut it for me.) Of course, to call it one issue is simplification at best, and so I am attempting to disseminate the different issues at play in this entire situation for your ease:

1. The use of offensive religious imagery: The comic is primarily offensive to Christians, but is also offensive to Jews. The question is whether this depiction of Christ depicts "hate literature" or violates either or both of the Sheaf's publishing policy and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

2. Journalistic integrity: Not everyone is offended because of the imagery used, but because the publication of this comic directly violates the policy stated by the Sheaf just a week earlier regarding their decision not to publish the Mohammed cartoons. A double-standard has been displayed, and the argument is for the paper to decide either to publish both or neither.

3. Freedom of speech: Though the staff at the Sheaf do not defend the publishing of the comic, some comments have already been defending the paper's right to publish these cartoons because of free speech. This ties in with the issue of religion, as the question is whether the commentary in this cartoon is valid enough to warrant its publication.

4. Christian and Muslim reactions: Much is and will be made in way of comparing the reaction of the two religions, both seriously and jokingly. Some people have questioned whether there would have been this kind of reaction if the Sheaf had published the Mohammed cartoons, and rightfully so. Are Christians just using this as an opportunity to advance their own conservative agenda, or is this an honest reaction?

5. The structure of the Sheaf: What was previously an issue of primarily internal concern will now be opened to a far wider base of people who will (and should) rightfully question whether there are the proper structures in place at the Sheaf to have prevented this from happening, and if those structures do not exist what structures should be instituted now.

6. The state of the student press: This issue will cause campuses across the country to question their student press, and the role of the student press will come under great scrutiny. If it is to be an alternative source of information, can and/or should it bow to pressure from any particular group (such as Christians), or should it stand by its decisions and damn the consequences?

7. The response of external media: In light of the charged climate, how will other local (and likely beyond local) media sources portray the story? There have already been varied responses across the blogosphere, from outright condemnation to defense of the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to see how different media sources (ie. CanWest vs. BellGlobe Media vs. CBC) treat this issue.

8. The public reputation of the U of S: The U of S has been damaged through this, which seems to be the primary reason university president Peter MacKinnon issued his e-mail, and it will be interesting to see how the institution responds over the next week.

9. The response from the Sheaf: The onus is now on the Sheaf to respond in a way that is appropriate and satisfactory, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to respond. How they respond will greatly affect the rest of the treatment of this issue from all sides.

10. The response of advertisers: Some people are promising to contact each advertiser and to communicate their displeasure with the Sheaf, and it will be interesting to monitor which advertisers choose to take action, and what action they will take.

11. The future of the Sheaf: With an Annual General Meeting scheduled soon, hiring for next year about to commence, and changes to the Sheaf's policy certain to be suggested by both insiders and outsiders, the future of the Sheaf is in question. There will be a future, but the quality of that future could be challenged and determined in the next few weeks. It will have to be different, but just what changes will take place remain to be seen.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A letter to the Sheaf

I have submitted the following letter to the Sheaf for publication in the upcoming issue. I believe that it encapsulates my thoughts on the publication of the cartoons.

The publishing of questionable comic(s) in the March 2 issue of the Sheaf has caused me, along with countless numbers of U of S students, a considerable amount of consternation, and I have felt that I need to contribute in a meaningful and public way to the discourse surrounding this issue. I believe that I have a unique position in this entire situation, as I currently sit on the Board of Directors, I have strong ties within the Christian community on campus, and I have worked within the student press for six years. As such, I feel that I am qualified to contribute to the discourse on this issue in a manner which few, if any, others would be able to express. It is my belief that the publishing of this letter was not an attempt by the editorial staff to make a statement or to prove a point. Rather, it was a mistake in the truest sense of the word. Several members of the staff have contacted me personally to discuss the issue, and they do not support or defend their decision to publish the comic(s) in question. The publishing of these cartoons reflects the structural problems that currently confront the paper, rather than the character of the students filling those positions. The editors - my friends - realize that what they have done is wrong and that it has caused deep hurt to many people, including myself, and they have already begun to discuss what steps to take now. I have heard that there is already a backlash within the Sheaf's walls and that some writers are choosing no longer to contribute to the Sheaf, and I respect that decision. I have decided that now is not the time to leave these people, and so I am deciding to stay on the Board and as a contributor of the Sheaf. I believe that I can have a greater impact by staying there than by storming off because they have offended me. I by no means defend the publishing of this comic (and neither do those who published it), but I do stand by the Sheaf and the staff. I believe that good can and will come of this situation, and that many of the changes that have needed to happen to the Sheaf will happen. I would encourage students, especially Christian students, not to react harshly against the people at the Sheaf, but to temper their dealings with the same love and charity with which they would be expected to be afforded by their peers if they were to sin against others. I have no doubt that the publishing of these cartoons was wrong, both from a religious and journalistic perspective, but the damage has been done. The question now is how to deal with things in a manner that brings dignity, honour, and respect to the editors of the Sheaf, religious groups on campus, and all students at the University of Saskatchewan. I am committed to that end, and to whatever part I have to play in the proceedings, and I hope that other students will act the same way.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

All hail the king

Last year, I made the mistake of getting addicted to the games at the CBC Kids' site (courtesy of my Queen). I boasted in my triumph on the Mighty Mahjong game, but I have hit a new high: 0.32 seconds, and many hours of procrastination. I now must leave this site, lest it cost me more time and sleep. But I leave the victor, and still King of Mighty Mahjong.

Second annual Oscar picks

In all the hubbub of the past few days, I have almost forgotten to deliver my picks for this year's Oscars. I know these picks are coming late, but the timestamp on the blog will validate the timing of my choices. I picked seven out of nine categories correctly last year, and I will be attempting to match or better that mark this year in the nine categories I will be predicting. Here are my official picks:

Best Picture: If Brokeback Mountain doesn't win, I will eat my cowboy hat. I doubt it is the best of the bunch, but this is its year.

Best Director: Again, this seems to be a no-brainer, as Ang Lee should win hands-down for Brokeback Mountain.

Best Actor: This is a two-horse race, and quite possibly the most difficult category for me to choose a winner. Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant in Walk The Line, and I hear that Philip Seymour Hoffman is similarly brilliant in Capote. The buzz on both was huge, but I think Hoffman will take it. This in turn will spur a sequel to Walk The Line so that Joaquin can win the Oscar he so desperately deserves.

Best Actress: Felicity Huffman has a lot of buzz, but there is little reason to believe that Ryan Philippe will not be picking up Reese's pieces (get it?) after wife Witherspoon walks away with this Oscar. And I would much rather see Miss Reese win than a desperate housewife playing a man playing a woman...or something like that.

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney will be fiiine when he accepts the award for the dreamiest man at the Oscars, as well as when he beats main competitor Matt Dillon for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Syriana. Clooney's up for three awards, and this will be the category in which they acknowledge his brilliant year.

Best Supporting Actress: The question in this category is whether they choose the lauded role in a relatively un-nominated film, or use this category to give a many-time nominee from a much-nominated film the Oscar she has been waiting for. As much buzz has surrounded the former nominee, Rachel Weisz, I think Catherine Keener is going to take it for her portrayal of Harper Lee in Capote. Call it a gut feeling.

Best Animated Feature: Wallace and Gromit will beat out Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle. (I could make a crass World War II comparison here, since a British film will be defeating a Japanese film, but I am going to take the high road. This aside is to let you know that I was aware of the possibility of such a joke being made.)

Best Original Screenplay: I think Paul Haggis will get his win in this category for Crash. It is a very well-written film, but this award is as much for his writing in last year's Million Dollar Baby as much as it is this year. If it was not for Haggis, I would think Syriana's Stephen Gaghan would win his second Oscar, but Haggis will bring a little Canadian flavour to the stage and win.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain strikes again, this time for Larry McMurtry, who was last nominated in 1971. Thirty-five years later, he will get his Oscar.

Those are my picks for the 78th Annual Academy Awards. Jon Stewart should make a great host, and I will see how my picks stack up against the winnners tonight!

An update on the cartoon flap

Only one day has passed, but a lot has already happened with the Sheaf's publication of the cartoon. This story is unfortunately going to be as big as I predicted, and I am expecting national press attention by the middle of next week. In the last day, a very close friend of mine has begun to collect signatures for a letter he is submitting to the Sheaf, and will likely have several hundred by the time he is done. Peter MacKinnon, president of the U of S, sent out a letter to all students demanding an apology from the Sheaf. Dave Hutton, former Editor-in-chief of the Sheaf, will have some interesting observations, as will former News Editor Jeremy Warren, who recently resigned over the Sheaf's decision not to publish the Mohammed cartoons. Kate from Small Dead Animals, Saskatchewan's most popular blog, has picked up the story, and is giving it a lot of exposure. Lost Budgie provides some dialogue on the issue as well. Folks, I think this is the Perfect Storm, and I'm in the eye of the storm. For now.

When trailers become spoilers

I went to the cinema and had some Fun with Dick and Jane last night. The film was pretty much exactly what I expected: a fun slapstick comedy with a relatively thin plot and several laughs that was able to distract me from the heaviness of the evolving cartoon debacle. But I came away from the film thinking that if I had not been so overexposed to several of the film's most comedically successful scenes that I would have enjoyed the film more. The scenes were very humourous, but I had become so deadened to them through commercial overexposure that they ceased to be funny. I can understand that trailers and commercials are used to sell a product, but I do not like it when they negatively affect the product in question. Any other examples of movies ruined by commercial overexposure?

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Sheaf hits the fan

Ah, the student press. Only a week after publicizing their decision not to publish the infamous Mohammed cartoons out of sensitivity for the Muslim people, the Sheaf decided to print several comics about Christianity, including one featuring Christ performing oral sex on a character named "Capitalist Piglet." (The comics are located on page A16 of the March 2 issue.) I do not know whether they chose to do so to prove a point about the public perception of Christianity versus that of Islam, but the decision to publish the comics now is especially ill-advised. I wish the best to the editors of the Sheaf, because there is little doubt in my mind that this will be a big story locally, and possibly beyond that if CanWest picks it up. My hope is that this situation creates positive discourse, rather than fanatical reaction from overzealous Christians who give those of us who want to engage in intelligent discourse a bad name. Whatever happens, it should be a fun week around the Sheaf office.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Student politics

"The reason why student politics are so vicious is because the stakes are so small."
"Student politics make me long for the simplicity of the Middle East."
- Henry Kissinger

First of all, congratulations to Senator Tank on recently adding USSU president to his resume. He can now join the presidents' club. My (IVCF) presidency was of a slightly less public calibre, but a presidency nonetheless, and for two terms. Beat that, Evan. All congratulating aside (both self- and otherwise), today I got to thinking about my place as a participant in student politics. I have constantly been an active observer, and never a direct part of the process. I have pontificated before about my thoughts on political partisanship, but I do not know if that model applies to student politics or not. I am also unsure whether my lack of participation is due more to my own design or circumstance. I think it is a combination of the two, but the fact is that I know the people who play the game, and I do not want to play their game. So I observe and contribute where and when I can and do more than I could if I were subject to their rules. I find it interesting that people often assume I was the kind of person who was on student council in high school. I tried to, but I never got elected or appointed to any positions. Still, I believe that I accomplished more with what I had than many of the people in those positions accomplished with what they had, or what I would have been able to accomplish in their positions. I guess my point is that I find student politics an intriguing exercise, I do what I can, and I am glad that I can live the experience vicariously through someone else.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In like a lion (always winter)

It's always nice to look out the window / And see those very first few flakes of snow / And later on we can go outside / And create the impression of an angel that just fell from the sky /
When February rolls around I'll roll my eyes / Turn a cold shoulder to these even colder skies / And by the fire my heart it heaves a sigh / For the green grass waiting on the other side / It's always winter but never Christmas / It seems this curse just can't be lifted / Yet in the midst of all this ice and snow / Our hearts stay warm cause they are filled with hope / It'd be so nice to look out the window / And see the leaves on the trees begin to show / The birds would congregate and sing / A song of birth a song of newer things / The wind would calm and the sun would shine / I'd go outside and I'd squint my eyes / But for now I will simply just withdraw / Sit here and wait for this world to thaw / And everything it changed overnight / This dying world you brought it back to life / And deep inside I felt things / Shifting everything was melting / Away oh away / And you gave us the most beautiful of days / Cause when it's always winter but never Christmas / Sometimes it feels like you're not with us / But deep inside our hearts we know / That you are here and we will not lose hope.

- "In Like A Lion (Always Winter)", Relient K (Apathetic EP, 2005)

The voluminous snowfall of the day brought to mind this song by Relient K, since March comes in like a lion, but it seems like it's always winter. This song was inspired by C.S. Lewis The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it provides an interesting commentary on my own life. I have my own snowbanks of schoolwork to shovel out over the next month, and it does often seem like it will never end, and that winter will last forever. But the truth is that soon all the snow will be melting and school will be over. This is the winter of my discontent, but I will not lose hope.

Cartoons of Fury

Neat zinger on the cartoon debate. I like the candor:

"Europeans have chosen cartoons to circle the wagons in defense of secularism. How much have we fallen, when mockery is our highest ideal?"

(From a discussion on Urbana.org - Here)

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