Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is he legend?

I Am Legend was a surprisingly decent film for a Will Smith action flick directed by someone mainly known for music videos. The CGI was good, the plot passable, and Smith's performance as Robert Neville was surprisingly solid. But the thing that really stuck with me was the transformation of this tale through its various incarnations to now, and how each reflects a different culture. The original novel was written in the "paranoid fifties", and it raised deep philosophical questions about humanity's need for control of others and the tendency toward revisionist history; it has been viewed, as it should be, in the context of the "Red Scare", and the language it uses is far more politically-oriented than subsequent versions. Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth was a 1960s schlock-horror mutation of the story, which reflects more of the fact that much of pop culture became almost irrelevant in the face of drastic social change. In the early 1970s, Charlton Heston cooed his way through The Omega Man, which transformed the story into more of a social dialogue by having Neville's adversaries conversing with the hero as non-threatening communalistic rational zombies. The culture in that film was one of social commentary, not political, and it seemed to deliberately avoid making much impact. In the 2007 version, the "Darkseekers" are despicably inhuman, and any social activity is only observed through suspicion on the part of the viewer. But what is really interesting is that, unlike Heston's Neville who achieves his humanity through quoting Shakespeare and the greats, Smith's Neville communicates through pop culture. New York in 2012 is full of not-yet-realized pop cultural touchstones, such as a Batman-Superman movie. Several scenes focus on a movie rental store, and it is implied that movies are Neville's only entertainment. In one scene, he quotes Shrek at length to tell his perspective - the scene does work very well, but that is perhaps in spite of itself. And most distinctively, the movie ties Neville to Bob Marley, even using "Redemption Song" over the end credits to drive home its point. The manipulation of pop culture is very well done, despite the constant presence of product placement, but it is most interesting that pop culture is portrayed as the language of the culture, and that the most meaningful dialogue seems not to be political, social, or even from high culture, but on the mass culture to which this film appeals. Perhaps this is merely a tool for connecting with the audience; but perhaps this says more about our society now. I don't think the movie was going this deep, but it seems to me that the parallelism between the dehumanizing of the Darkseekers by a virus and the dehumanizing of Neville by pop culture is unintended but inescapable. Pop culture, and our obsession with it, could be responsible for what has happened in this supposed future. Or maybe it is just all "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Either way, it is interesting that pop culture is now perceived to be the language of the whole culture, and that this truth is shown in I Am Legend.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hidden gems

One of the best parts of being a culture-watcher is the moment of discovery of a hidden treasure. It's that moment when you realize that you are experiencing something that is worth experiencing, but that does not have exposure (or sometimes even appeal) to the masses (or has not yet had the opportunity to have that exposure). As I have continued to develop my tastes and awareness of both myself and the media I follow, I have learned much more effectively how to spot those very special films, albums, television programs, books, or video games, and how to begin to tune out the need to be in touch with everything that happens in the mainstream. Note that these hidden gems are not necessarily always "indie" by definition; sometimes they are just neglected children of the mainstream. Sometimes these discoveries are on my own (like when I randomly started listening to Mika in February, when he didn't get popular until May), but they are often conducted with a braintrust of peers who have the same mindset and goal: to find the best of what is out there. I have people who back that up in music, movies, and TV, and it adds an extra level of satisfaction to share those discoveries with someone. Recent examples in my viewing include The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson's completely ignored tale of brothers travelling through India, and Rescue Dawn, Warner Herzog's masterful depiction of an American soldier (Christian Bale) escaping from a Vietnamese POW camp, and To End All Wars, a 2003 film about Americans living in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. I believe that good examples of media will have staying power, and that this kind of discovery can take a lifetime; my hope is that I never stop in my pursuit of discovering the best culture out there, however I may do that.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Creatively exhausted

I have found that one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher for the first time is the need for constant generativity of ideas, assignments, methods, management strategies, and assessments. As a teacher, I have to constantly take several often disparate sources for ideas - including my own experience, the curriculum, the personalities of the students, the desires and experience of the community, and the resources available, for example - and create a new entity - the course that I teach. And since I am trying everything out for the first time, I have no "safety net" of what works and what does not work, and coping with the things that do not work require more creativity. Creation is a very draining process - I'm sure this explains why God had to rest on the seventh day. This is why many musical artists only release songs every two to three years - they need the time to recuperate from the intensity of the creative process, which they do through touring. It should be noted that the growth of b-sides and EPs in the digital generation still gives those artists a creative outlet for when they need to get something out, but do not have the energy for creating a full album. In the same way, this is a time of my life in which I am doing everything for the first time. I know that once I have classes established and I have some assignments and ideas that I can just pull out that I will be able to (and will need to) have those little bursts of creativity to keep me going. But for now, my brain needs a break, so it's a good thing that there are only nine school days left.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From "Guitar Hero" to zero

I have a new addiction: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Both Ariann and I have really enjoyed learning to play this game in the past week, and it has been very satisfying to see my improvement since I started playing. The game really has changed the way I think about music, and it has taught me a lot about the elements of music (particularly rhythm and pitch), besides being a whole lot of fun. And I got to play through "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse! But I came across a problem as I neared the end of the game, as the game's storyline focusses its energies on a final climactic showdown with your manager, who turns out to be the Devil. The final round of songs includes Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast", as well as Slayer's "Raining Blood" - both of which are songs and artists I would avoid at all costs because of the ungodly sense of their music. So I decided that I would play the songs with which I do not have any problems, and that I just simply would not be able to finish the game. It's sad, because I was very strongly considering purchasing the game soon, but I really do not want those songs to be anywhere near my house. Of course, it is further troubling because the Guitar Hero games also conveniently function as advertising for these bands, and that means more kids investigating these bands. I know that some people would say that it should not matter, but it does to me. Guess I'll just stick to good wholesome songs like "Welcome To The Jungle." Ummm...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Something's gotta give

I think I might be one of the few people around who actually is not opposed to the writer's strike. I have realized recently that I have too much going on, and that I need to drop some things from my diet. In the past few months, those have mainly been things like watching movies and hanging out with people. I would like to change that. Although I have less on my plate now than I did yesterday, due to the end of a module and of dessert theatre - I still am trying to manage my relationship with God, an impending wedding and the fiancee who goes along with that, a very work- and mind-intensive first year of teaching, church, new social connections and old friendships, and personal interests and entertainment. I realize now that I have much less time as well as much less "mental space" to deal with things, and that I have to make some choices about what to cut out. In my final year of university in Regina, I was able to spend a lot of time in ministry and with friends because I cut out movies and television - but now almost all of my movies and television are tied into my relationships, as I have "buddies" for nearly everything I watch. So the question still is where the cuts need to be made. I feel like this is a year to continue to do a lot of that pruning in my life, and even in my relationships, and that I will need to make some tough decisions about what to keep up and what to drop off. I actually welcomed the hockey lockout of three seasons ago because it took one more thing off my plate that year, and there was one less thing I had to think about. So I have to think hard about what needs to give, now that life is entirely different than it ever has been. But in the short term, a solution seems to be this strike, which will reduce my television watching to Corner Gas (which I am assuming is not affected because it is Canadian) and Survivor (ah, Reality TV). So, as I figure out my life, I welcome the strike, because something had to give.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The heart of the matter

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man. - Proverbs 27:17 + 19

I recently finished reading John Eldredge's book Waking the Dead, in which the author makes a very compelling argument about the need for us to understand the true nature of our hearts - that they are good, and that we need to be careful about how we treat them. I was reminded of this again this morning at church, as the pastor's sermon focused on different things that destroy our heart. But I have trouble with this whole concept, because I have found that I filter almost everything through my brain - thus explaining this entire site. Mind - not heart, soul, or strength - is my default, but I need to remember to focus on my heart, too. After all, it's the first one listed in the greatest commandment (Love the Lord your God with all your heart). But I need to allow that fact to get past my brain and into my heart.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why I spoiled my ballot

I consider myself to be an informed person when it comes to politics. I read, I listen, I watch, I converse. Despite my efforts to participate in the political process, I found that it was really difficult to engage in this 28-day debacle that was referred to as a "campaign." One commentator on CBC radio remarked wryly that this election reminded him of the TV show Seinfeld, "not because it was funny, but because it was about nothing." It seemed that all the parties cared about was sniping at one another, rather than presenting a viable plan to lead the province into the next four years. After all the hoo-hah, I could not honestly in good conscience vote for one party to run the province, nor did I know enough about the individual candidates to vote for any of them responsibly. Since the ballots lack an abstain option - which, to me, seems like a perfectly viable political statement to make - I chose to nullify my vote by spoiling my ballot. I believe that, though my action essentially just means that my vote is not regarded, the action of spoiling my ballot shows that I care enough to vote and to make a statement, even if I am the only one who knows I made that statement (other than you, of course). Criticize me if you will, but I honestly felt that spoiling my ballot was the best option. And do not try to talk about the integrity of elections: they do not even check ID to make sure you are who you say you are. This campaign has been a gong show, and I refuse to play the game. But I will still vote: it's my civic duty.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blockbustered out

I wish I knew what it was that keeps me coming back to watching summer blockbusters. Even though every year I determine that I will not watch bad summer movies, I still somehow get sucked in to watching them - at least on DVD if not in theatre. And I watch them even when I know they will be horrible - case in point Transformers and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. But I guess part of the reason is that these movies are easily accessible, and it's just too easy in some cases to just lazily watch a movie, as happened with both of these stinkers. Maybe I just want to be able to know what's going on in the world, and so I watch these movies as a way to participate in popular discourse. Or maybe I still have high hopes, and I still hold out for what I think could be good - even if I know deep in my soul that those things will never happen. I have at least cut back on these kind of movies, but there's still something inside that gets me excited. Like the movies scheduled for 2008: The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Get Smart, The Happening...I mean, the list sounds promising...right? They cannot be all bad...can they? I need help.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm published!

In the Saskatchewan Book of Everything, the latest in a series of coffee table books focussing on different regions of Canada. The SBoE contains information on Saskatchewan's history, people, natural landscape, entertainment, and government - among other facts - as well as including these whimsical lists called "Take Fives," in which Saskatchewan personalities create a topical top five. I got to write one of the "Take Fives" - the last one published in the book, as seen in the Table of Contents. I know it's a brief section in a pretty insignificant book, but it is really neat to know that residents of this province and people from all over the country will be reading something that I wrote. It is an inspiring feeling, and it is part of what made me want to blog again. Oh, and by the way, it's all about who you know: I got to be published because an old roommate was one of the editors of the book. So I'm barely out of college and already those connections are coming in useful - but I suppose that is the way things are here in Saskatchewan.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Authorial control...or conceit?

I recently read a piece of news in which Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced that Albus Dumbledore is a homosexual. Something struck me as fundamentally troubling about this announcement - and it was not the fact that the beloved schoolmaster is reported to have been gay, which did not surprise me, given some of the revelations of the most recent book. The question this announcement brought up was whether Rowling had the authority to make such a statement, even as creator of the character. Once a character is out there, and the author has had their opportunity to make their case, is it not realistic to ask them to bind themselves to the same canonical material as do their readers and/or viewers? Through extraneous writings and speeches, it is possible to gain significant insight into works, but is it possible to make declarative statements like this? J.R.R. Tolkien deliberately eschewed any attempts of this kind, and directed his questioners either to the work in question or to the broader genre to which he was appealing. And why was it even necessary for Rowling to announce this fact, rather than leaving it ambiguous? I, for one, find it an interesting theory to describe his relationship with Grindelwald, but still feel that I did not need to "know" this fact to fully understand Dumbledore. It is okay to leave some things to the imagination, and Rowling has shown her distrust in readers to come to their own conclusions - much as she did with the ill-advised epilogue in Deathly Hallows.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Back from hiatus

After going private with my blog, I realized that the main person it affected was me. I simply did not have the motivation to keep blogging to a limited audience (it doesn't matter if the audience is limited anyway - maybe it's just a perception thing). So, here's the experiment: I am going to try blogging openly again. I believe that I have been missing out on a valuable part of logging my first year of teaching, and I have been neglecting opportunities to discuss what is going on in my world. I'm going to try it again, and see what kind of past posts I might hide or otherwise manipulate to ensure there is nothing incriminating here. All that effort and time, and I just ended up where I began. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

When the Towers fell

It was six years ago, exactly. Tuesday, September 11, 2001. My roommate ran into the room and woke me up with his shouts about someone hitting the World Trade Center. I groggily arose and dragged myself to the television, upon which I saw the explosions. And, in all honesty, my world was not that shaken, but it was not quite the same. I will never forget the feel of that day - an odd disquiet, even in the midst of raucous conversation. And the fact that P.O.D.'s amazing album Satellite (ironically? featuring the song "Boom") was released the same day. Six years ago today.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Going underground

I know I have been promising to privatize my blog for a year, but I have finally done it. The impetus has been provided by working at CHS, but the means to do so has happened in large part because I can make my posts available through Facebook. I do apologize to regular readers who now have to log in to read the blog on the site, but I think this is the right step to take. If you want to be a registered reader, just send me an e-mail, and I will invite you to have access to the site. Thanks!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

First day of school

Thursday, August 30, 8:15 am. First class of the day. The room was bright - almost too bright. Slightly before the first bell, the grade nine students started to come: they came close to the door, looked at the room number, and then looked at me for affirmation to make sure they were actually in the right place. As soon as I smiled at them, they knew instantly - this is where they were supposed to be. I was not quite sure how the class would go, but neither were they. It was the first experience of school for all of us, and it felt like that first step onto a stair that is not possible to see, even if you have taken other stairs before. We stumbled a bit and fumbled to find our way, but we could finally put our feet down with confidence and continue on our journey. We got through. And by the end of fifth period, it was old hat for all of us. That was the first day of school.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Afterwords

I have been a fan of Collective Soul since their first album in 1994, and I had yet to be disappointed by a new CS record. Until today. But let's begin with some background...When Collective Soul released their album Youth in 2004, I was concerned because the band had lost their lead guitarist and their record label, and was independently distributing the album. It turned out that I did not have as much to worry about as I had thought: the album contained several very good singles that sounded even better in concert. CS followed up that album with two very interesting and successful projects: a stripped-down acoustic EP called From The Ground Up, which contained songs from Youth and a few other favourites; and a CD/DVD release entitled Home, in which they performed concerts with the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra. These albums seemed to show a rejuvenation of the band, though I still awaited the next album to see whether the band could become relevant once again, or whether they would descend into bar-rock mediocrity. That wait ended today with the release of Afterwords, an unfortunately mediocre and predictable album. Although Ed Roland has written lyrics that seem more personal and reflective, the music does not demonstrate that same quality. On previous albums, the listener had a sense of familiarity with the band combined with the freshness of the band's approach; Afterwords just feels derivative. The album is too similar in pacing and style to Youth, and there are too many flashes of trying to regain lost glories from earlier efforts. But maybe that sense of familiarity is actually in the band's favour, as they have mastered the art of the three-and-a-half-minute-long pop song. But, as with previous efforts, Roland reaches out beyond his lyrics with a sense of earnestness and amiability that transcends the album's (and band's) shortcomings. So, despite the fact that I think that this is quite possibly the band's blandest album to date, I still like it. Afterwords might not push its way into my regular rotation, but some of the songs will really grow on me, as they have already begun to after the first listen. Overall, Afterwords is a good album for fans of the band, as it's a fun summertime pop-rock album, but it is not likely to bring in many new fans. It's a nice afterthought to the last couple of years, and it maintains the status quo for the band. The album is kind of like porridge: it's kind of sweet, warm and fuzzy; it reminds you of good memories from the past; and it's nice to have every once in awhile - just not every day.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Eating my words

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to publicly recant my earlier statement about Facebook. After some careful investigation of the site, I found that I could actually do a lot of the things that I wanted to without compromising my personal or professional identity. So now, not only have I joined, but I have spent a fair bit of time developing my presence there, and I am quite happy with what I can do with Facebook. I think it will be a good safe addition to my communication methods, and I am looking forward to using it this year. Furthermore, I find it interesting how it has added another level of formality to e-conversation, and how it has not replaced but instead refined e-mail communication - no longer is it necessary to use e-mail for those silly "organizing details" kind of e-mails, and there is comfort in having the availability of instant messenging without needing the immediacy of direct contact. In short, I approve. So, consider this my eating of my words.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rescue Dawn

Dieter Dengler was an American fighter pilot whose plane was shot down early in the Vietnam War. He was placed in a Vietnamese POW camp, and after years of planning his exit he finally escaped. When he was picked up by the U.S. Air Force, he weighed 86 pounds. Rescue Dawn is his story.

Read the rest of my review here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What a week...

So, for those trying to keep up with the Life of Turner, here are the changes of the past week. Camp is done. Ariann and I got engaged, and are planning our wedding. I have a job teaching in Caronport, Saskatchewan, so I'm moving to Moose Jaw this week. And I joined Facebook. What a week.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Here's a shocker...

I know this will come as a huge surprise to all of you, but I just took a personality and mutliple intelligences test, and here are the results. Enjoy!

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Saturday, July 28, 2007

HP and the literary legacy

Note: I have done my best to avoid spoilers. I just finished Deathly Hallows, and I must say that it is even better than I expected it to be. The way in which J.K. Rowling fleshes out the Harry-Voldemort relationship, the story of the Horcruxes, Harry's final challenges, and wraps all storylines up is very impressive, and I believe this final chapter seals Harry's legacy not only as a pop culture phenomenon, but also as a literary triumph with a future legacy in academia. I also have assorted thoughts on the series' place in the culture around it, its post-modern leanings, its mythological ties, and the themes in the series, but I will save those for future conversations. Well done, J.K. You can retire with your millions knowing that you have made the world a better place, just like your Boy Who Lived.

P.S. Happy blogiversary to me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Die Free or Live Hard?

Almost two decades after John McClane single-handedly defeated a group of terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza, he returns to the big screen to save America from villain Thomas Gabriel. Of course, Gabriel is out to destroy all computer systems governing the United States. The result is an entertaining and at times preposterous blockbuster that is high on adrenaline-driving, testosterone-pumping action sequences and short on plot, character and continuity with previous installments in the Die Hard series....


Read the rest of my review here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a decent movie. The daunting task of translating the 750+ page book into a workable movie was accomplished with relative success. The screenwriters did a good job of trimming the fifth book of the series, and crafting a movie that preserves the essential parts of the story and keeps the movies going forward. The editors made some questionable decisions, as there are some awkward and abrupt transitions. The characters were well-done, though unfortunately underused save for Dolores Umbridge. But the movie just did not feel like it really hit all the heights, as the previous two editions had, and I think the blame lies in the direction. Unlike Azkaban, the third movie directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and to a lesser extent the Mike Newell-directed Goblet of Fire, Phoenix did not seem to achieve a sense of identity or pacing; rather, it seemed like director David Yates was trying to get through scenes to get to the next one. This resulted in several significant plot developments being insufficiently explained, and some confusion for the viewer. And unlike the previous movies, there was not much of a sense of the feel of Hogwarts or the magical world. Very little time was spent on establishing the feel of classrooms and what OWLs would be like, and there were virtually no storylines that were extraneous to the main plot (such as the Yule Ball in Goblet). There are several elements that were done very well, such as the Thestrals and the final battle in the Department of Mysteries; but there were also several disappointments, such as the lack of screen time for the Order of the Phoenix. I think this movie would have been better with a little more meat on its bones, and a director with a clearer mind for the movie having a life of its own. But, it's still a Harry Potter movie, and that in itself makes it worth seeing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Last chance for JFJ

The annual NHL free agent frenzy seems to have come to an end after two busy busy days of signing and lots of money being given to players who probably do not deserve it. The early winners seem to be the New York Rangers, who became the early favourites for the Stanley Cup with the signings of Chris Drury and Scott Gomez; the Pittsburgh Penguins, who addressed their needs for players to back up their big guns; the Philadelphia Flyers, who really had nowhere to go but up; and the Colorado Avalanche, who signed some good Canadian boys (Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan) to address their lack of grit. The big losers, initially, appear to be the Buffalo Sabres, who lost Drury and Daniel Briere; the New Jersey Devils, who lost Gomez and top defenseman Brian Rafalski; and the New York Islanders, who lost pretty much everyone and saw three teams in their division get better. And to keep up with all of the action happening in the Eastern conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs made their big splash by signing...Jason Blake. For $20 million for five years. Adding yet another too highly-paid player to the Leafs' roster. The Leafs made a big trade last week for goalie Vesa Toskala, which might pay off and help incumbent Andrew Raycroft get back on track, but they needed to address the need for someone to go with Mats Sundin. Although Blake just scored 40 goals (in a contract year, mind you), I'm still not sure he is that guy. The Leafs should still be in good shape to make the playoffs, with the impending demise of the Islanders and Canadiens, but I think they still need to get rid of one of their overpaid undertalented defenseman and get a good second-line forward. But this will be John Ferguson Jr's last chance with the team. If they do not make the playoffs, or even just squeak in, he should not be around next year. He has had a chance to make his mark and build his team, and this will be the year to prove his mettle. It will not be easy, but maybe Blake can pump in 40 goals and make a difference in Toronto. If not, JFJ will say bye-bye to the ACC. Then again, there's still a summer of wheeling and dealing to go.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Job searching

I had a job interview yesterday. I did not get the position, but the experience was still valuable, and I felt that I did what I could in the interview. But I've never really gone job searching before. I have gone through applications for camp and interviews, but I have not endured the process of hoping and applying and interviewing and waiting and writing letters and being ready for rejection. It took me several months to get even to the place where I could go through this process, and it is much more intense than I had thought it would be. I think the part that is the most stressful is the not knowing where I'll be, what I'll be teaching, or whether I'll even have a classroom of my own. But I have decided that regardless of how this all turns out that I am better for enduring this process, and that it will help make it easier the next time I have to look for a job. To myself, and to those looking like me, I wish "Happy Hunting!"

Friday, June 22, 2007

I (heart) SK

I went to my first Riders game in ten years tonight. It was a preseason game with no meaning in the end, but the Riders won 23-21 over the hated Stampeders. It was great to finally go to a game again, but do not ask me why it has been a decade since I last went - it was probably because the opportunity to do so was never removed, meaning that there was no urgency in attending a game. As we were sitting in the highest row of the stadium - which meant that we got a very scenic view of the city of Regina - something struck me. I have missed something in not going to games all these years. I have missed part of Saskatchewan. Football - especially the Riders - is a big part of this province. I take Saskatchewan for granted. When I have the opportunity to see it through the perspective of others who have not grown up here or who are visiting, I begin to realize anew how unique our culture is, and how special Saskatchewan really is. I am proud to be from Saskatchewan, and I (heart) SK. I even have a T-shirt that says it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

At wit's...err, world's end

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It does have a very epic and appropriate ending, as well as some very well-crafted sea battle scenes and an enjoyable cameo by Keith Richards. The movie unfortunately emulates its predecessors in having some odd and awkward scenes (this time by portraying multiple Jacks in conversation), several convoluted plot developments, and some interesting perspectives on the spiritual and supernatural. But, despite its flaws, it did redeem the second film's mistakes, and gave the trilogy a good ending. Even if it was fairly open-ended, and will lead to a fourth romp on the high seas. But why do movie studios push their luck and make that extra movie? Think of all the bad fourth movies: Batman and Robin, Lethal Weapon 4, Star Wars Episode I, Alien Resurrection. Rocky V, Star Trek V and Star Trek: Insurrection both followed what were essentially trilogies in their respective series, and they sucked. And soon we will have Live Free or Die Hard (which we can hope is the movie that finally forces Bruce Willis to go into hiding for several years) and Indiana Jones 4. There is a reason there is no Godfather 4 or Back To The Future 4. Why studios attempt to override our natural preference for the aesthetically pleasing nature of triads is beyond me, even if there is money to be made. Of course, there are movies that did not make it to the trilogy (Ghostbusters, Wayne's World, Bill and Ted), but the statute of limitations should have run out on those franchises (though the talk of the first two still surfaces every once in a while). But they were probably smart to quit while they were ahead; after all, the trilogy drive is what gave us classics like the Ninja Turtles going to ancient Japan and the upcoming Rush Hour 3, which is destined for greatness (Please note the sarcasm in that statement). Plus, you can watch a trilogy in one night, for the most part. Though by the time the Turtles are fighting Samurai in medieval Japan, most people have already checked out. Just like we all should for the fourth movies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Small world

It never ceases to amaze me how small this province can be. I discovered today that a lady that has been working at our camp for the past few weeks was my aunt's teacher in Grade One. Or, in another recent example, an old friend from Regina showed up as a sponsor with a youth group a few weekends ago. I suppose that I do know a lot more people than others do, and that I have spent my entire life in this province, but it's still just weird sometimes. And, of course, it's never going to get any bigger here. I suppose that is why I will need to get out fairly soon, so I can appreciate this quirk of Saskatchewan that much more when I come back.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Caught up

There is a certain satisfaction in being able to spend some time catching up on things that have been waiting for some time to be completed. This weekend, I watched some movies I have been meaning to watch; I finished reading a book; I listened to a CD a friend gave me a long time ago; and I cleaned out my car. It was very good to uncrastinate and get some stuff done, although I still have a lot left to do to thbe "caught up." But that is part of the good thing about being at camp: although I "miss" things in the outside world, I can catch up on past tasks because I do not start anything new. And, really, anything that is worth catching up on will still be around in the fall.

Friday, June 08, 2007

End of the world

Lately, I have been intaking a lot of material that has to do with the end of the world, or at least some kind of dystopic future projection of our world: watching movies like Children of Men and 28 Days Later, reading George Orwell's 1984, and wasting a lot of time watching this hilarious and profane internet flash animation. What really strikes me as interesting is how different people predict the end of the world, and how those all, to varying degrees, agree that humans will be responsible for the conditions in which we find ourselves. Though there may be some other inciting force that will make things worse (eg. the lack of reproduction in Children of Men), it always seems that human nature is to blame for the atrocities to come. Some provide a place for God, and some deny that He ever was purported to have existed, but most of these narratives acknowledge the basic depravity of humanity and that, left to our own devices, humanity will be the cause for its own destruction. This parallels a lot of my thoughts about my life as of late, as I have celebrated some accomplishments, and in doing so have realized that anything I have tried to do without help (whether divine or temporal) has led me closer to my own undoing. Like humanity in these narratives, I am responsible for the evils that could lead to the end of my world...or at least its functioning less efficiently and effectively. But unlike these stories, I know that there is a place for God in my life, and that that place is the only reason that I can do any good at all. Were I left to my own devices, I could see these stories with a cynic's eye, that is, pessimistically. Instead, I see them as cautionary tales with a ring of hope that can help us prevent the events they predict. I know some people find these kind of stories draining to consume, but they energize me and renew my faith in God as systematically dismantle my faith in humanity. After all, to err is human, but to forgive is divine.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Choke may never come again

In many ways, this year's Stanley Cup playoffs were a major disappointment. There was only one seven-game series (Vancouver vs. Dallas), in which many of the games were flat and boring after the Game 1 4-OT thriller. There were no great comebacks, or tales of perseverance, or guarantees of victory. There were no Cinderella stories, nor were there any stars that rose out of the bowels of the third and fourth lines to stardom. There were, however, a lot of chokes. Nashville, San Jose, New Jersey, Buffalo, and the most classic chokers, who had the chance to choke on the biggest stage this year, the Ottawa Senators. It was a choke for the ages, and this may be the closest that us Leaf fans get to celebrating a Stanley Cup for awhile, as that joy might be the only joy that exceeds watching the Senators choke it away. The playoffs, like much of the season, were boring, plodding, and predictable, and the team I called (the Ducks) from Day 1 of the season and playoffs won out. And so, for all the Ducks fans out there, I salute you with a hearty "Quack!" And for Sens fans, there's always next year...to choke.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pomp and circumstance

It seems all too easy to eliminate most ceremony from our lives nowadays. Everything we do is privatized, individualized, and circumcised to the point at which it is devoid of much of the sense of significance. That is why, when I walked across the stage today to have the hood placed around my neck and to hear the University Chancellor say "I admit you" at my convocation, there was something special about the occasion. There was a sense of awe about the proceedings, that this celebration truly was an extraordinary event. And with one simple walk, I am now a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, having earned my Bachelor of Education (with Distinction) and my Bachelor of Arts (with Great Distinction). I now have letters behind my name, and I am glad to have gone through the ceremony to receive them.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Some kind of zombie

There is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly butchering of a man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body, and leaves it standing in its place…. Neither is it true that this fineness of raillery is offensive. A witty man is tickled while he is hurt in this manner, and a fool feels it not.
- John Dryden, “A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire”

From the ancient Greeks to 18th-century writers such as Jonathan Swift to filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, satire has long been an established part of our ability as a society to analyze itself, make social commentary a matter of public concern and even to cause change. But it seems that self-serious figures like George W. Bush and Michael Moore have perpetuated a culture of fear toward satirical hallmarks such as wit and subtlety, and that true satire is fast becoming an endangered species in mainstream entertainment.

Read the rest of my article at Relevant Magazine dot com.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Choke is on!

Game 1: 3-2, Anaheim. Game 2: 1-0, Anaheim. The Senators need to win the next two games at home just to get the split. I know it's early, but to all those who doubted us faithful who knew the Senators would choke eventually, it's looking like we can say "I told you so." And this time the Choke will be more epic than ever. Quack, quack, quack!

Mechanically addled

When I was born, my father proclaimed that I was going to be a mechanic, just like him and his brother. He soon discovered that that would not be the case. Although I loved using building toys like Lego, it became apparent that I would not be transferring any of those building skills to the real world. I am simply not handy. I can clean, organize, dismantle, and sometimes even reassemble something, but I am not the kind of person who can be told "build a step for this house" and do it. I think I could be - but with a lot of practice. My job at camp right now is very focused on being handy, and I can only do so much, but I guess the important thing is that I'm trying. And, to honour the spirit of the classic Red Green sign-off, I hope they find me handsome, because right now I'm not that handy.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Most likely to succeed?

Over the past month, I have had a lot of time to think about the state of my life and to reflect on my many years of school. In the wake of congratulations about my position at camp (program director) and my completion of my degrees, I have been considering what it means to succeed. When I graduated, I was voted by my peers as the "male most likely to succeed", even though another person was on the verge of being drafted into the NHL (he has played some NHL games, but is still in the AHL), and there were others who could be far more successful than I ever could be. It was an honour with a lot of weight, and I have been thinking about what it means to succeed, and whether I have done so. And I feel that I have, but with an asterisk beside my name in the record book, like I really have not in some ways succeeded. I have done well, often despite fairly severe circumstances, but I have failed in so many ways. Maybe this is also a part of the oncoming quarter-life crisis as well, but I cannot help but think that I, by my own efforts, have been a complete and utter failure, and that anything good that has happened is because of Christ working in me. It is very interesting being at this crossroads, with twenty years of school behind me and forty years (and of work, education, ministry, marriage (soon, with hope!), raising children, friendships, and life ahead of me, without any direct next step. I have a lot of places I would like to go, and somewhere I am, but not a very good idea of those places in between. And to be honest, I do not know if I will end up living up to that title of "most likely to succeed", at least in the eyes of the world: I may not be rich or famous or hold a powerful position or be published or do any of those things that make someone a "success"; but I know that as long as I keep following God that He will ensure my success, and that others will see that. My hope is that others see my success for what it is: Christ working through me. That fact, and that fact alone, is what will make me "most likely to succeed."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Amazing grace

I recently watched Amazing Grace, the story of English parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who was primarily responsible for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in the early 19th century. It is a truly inspirational story, and one that made me think about my own life. Wilberforce was focussed on his goal, and it almost consumed him in the end; it was only through the provision of God's grace that he was able to accomplish his task. The movie is full of great thoughts about faith and a life following God, and it made me think about what my legacy will be, and about the great effort I hope to accomplish with my life. I am at a point at which I can really begin to think about the rest of my life, and at which I have to begin that process. Wilberforce had a lot of connections and history in the community and the political arena that enabled him to accomplish his goal, and I believe that the experiences and contacts I have will be part of my future. But no matter what, I know that it will only be God's amazing grace that will save a wretch like me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Our hero's adventures continue...

And so our intrepid protagonist embarks on yet another epic journey, this time on an extended stay at Glad Tidings Bible Camp. There he will brave excitable children, dirty cabins, impending renovations, and planning programming for the summer. It would be a daunting task for many a weaker man, but our hero should be up to the challenges that await him. Stay tuned over the next three months to hear more wild and wacky tales from the world that is camp. Same Turner-time, same Turner-channel!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The invisible man

Do you ever have those moments when you read (or hear or view) something that puts everything in life in perspective? The following passage from the Wells classic science-fiction novel The Invisible Man did that for me recently. Just replace the phrase "invisible man" with the phrase "university graduate", and this passage describes my state of life over the past four months with a prosaic perfection I could never hope to duplicate, except in its subsequent transcription.

"I was surprised to find, now that my prize was within my grasp, how inconclusive its attainment seemed. As a matter of fact, I was worked out; the intense stress of nearly four years' continuous work left me incapable of any strength of feeling. I was apathetic, and I tried in vain to recover the enthusiasm of my first inquiries, the passion of discovery that had enabled me to compass even the downfall of my father's grey hairs. Nothing seemed to matter. I saw pretty clearly this was a transient mood, due to overwork and want of sleep, and that either by drugs or rest it would be possible to recover my energies. All I could think clearly was that the thing had to be carried through; the fixed idea still ruled me. And soon, for the money I had was almost exhausted. I looked about me at the hillside, with children playing and girls watching them, and tried to think of all the fantastic advantages an invisible man would have in the world" (137). [Wells, H.G. The Invisible Man. Toronto: Scholastic, 1975.]

Monday, May 07, 2007

Righteous indignation

"What right do you have to complain? They've given you hours of free entertainment. If anything, you should be paying them." - Jerry Seinfeld

Over the past two days, I have spent some time perusing the critics' reviews of Spider-Man 3; though many of the reviewers from larger publications got their reviews right, there are a lot of country bumpkins who really liked this movie. I just do not get how people liked it. I have also spent some time thinking about my reaction to the movie - why did I get so irate at the movie, and do I have a right to be irate? I have concluded that, as a paying customer, that I do have that right. I spent time anticipating this movie, thinking about it, and earning money to spend on it, and it let me down. I also have a right to be offended as someone whose intelligence was insulted by this movie. Three years, and this schlock was the best they could come up with? Really? But even more than that, I had really identified with Spidey in the first two movies, and this movie destroyed that. In a way, I lost a friend and confidante when they made Peter/Spidey a real tool, and that angers me. And finally, I have now lost hope for the rest of the summer's movies. I know that some of the movies I am still anticipating will be good, but if Spidey cannot pull it off, how can I expect any of the other myriad sequels of worse movies to exceed even low expectations? I am hereby proclaiming that this will be the "Summer of Undeserved Hype" in the theatres, and that intelligent moviegoers will be more disappointed by more movies than they will be proven wrong. Let the righteous indignation continue!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Too much Venom

With this weekend's record opening of Spider-Man 3, the summer blockbuster season has officially opened; so, too, has the summer blockbuster disappointment season. The critics were correct, especially Rick Groen from The Globe and Mail, in their reviews of the movie. I was incredibly disillusioned - and even irate - with the movie, and I have spent much of the last day trying to figure out why. Although it is not necessarily just to judge this movie by its predecessors, the first two movies set a high standard for this installment, making the movie's most egregious error its lack of continuity with the first two. While they were paced well and featured a manageable number of characters, "3" has a great beginning fifteen minutes, slogs through an hour and a half of romantic comedy, and rushes to the end with little thought for character development. Here is where I think the movie went wrong, and where it could have gone right. [Caution: spoilers ahead!] First, there were too many characters and too much stuff crammed in to one movie. In addition to the Peter-Mary Jane love story, the brewing Peter-Harry conflict, and the delightful newsroom antics, the movie introduces Sandman and Venom as well as an alternate love for Peter, Gwen. Simply put, the overabundance of development needed means that everyone is shortchanged, and so neither Eddie Brock/Venom nor Gwen Stacy receive the attention they deserve, while the Sandman story also gets unfortunately abbreviated. In the meantime, far too much time was spent on useless scenes like Harry and Mary Jane making an omelet, and "evil Peter" dancing in a jazz club and trying to mack women on the street. There are, quite simply, too many of those throwaway scenes to keep the pacing strong. The irony, of course, is that these scenes are added in the name of character development, while not actually spending any time developing the character. Spidey is evil when he is wearing the black suit (and there might be a racist subtext there - after all, he dances when he's in black), and the cue that the audience has is not the acting - it's that Peter becomes Spidemo and wears black eye makeup. The overabundance of characters also means that Raimi takes unusually lazy shortcuts, such as using a newscast to narrate the final scene and far too many flashbacks. The action scenes are relatively well done; it's just that there are too few of them, and they are not spaced evenly. Most of the acting is tolerable, though Kirsten Dunst's only ability seems to be to scream and look hurt. In short, the movie succumbs to all of the negative conventions that the series had previously defied, and effectively kills the series, plotwise. So, of course, the question is how I think the movie would be better. Number one: remove Venom from the movie. There would still be two villains - Goblin and Sandman - both of whom could then have been developed. Two: cut the superfluous scenes. The movie could have been at least twenty minutes shorter. Three: remove the religious/political symbolism. The waving American flags and shots of Jesus in the church were confusing, awkward, and irritating. Four: develop the characters of Eddie Brock and Gwen Stacy. Do what you did with Peter and Mary Jane in the first two movies and make us care about them. In my ideal Spider-Man 3, the movie would have focussed on the struggle between vengeance and forgiveness, demonstrated in Spidey's battles with Sandman, Peter's conflict with Eddie, and Peter/Spidey's conflict with Harry/Goblin. It would have ended with a climactic battle with the Sandman in which Peter and Harry would have to team up to beat him (as they did in the real "3") and in which Harry dies and Sandman is defeated by concrete mix (instead of blowing into the wind). And, although Spidey would have hurt others because of the symbiote, he finally is able to wrest himself from it and move on with life. The final scene would be Eddie in the church asking for forgiveness, and then being attacked by the symbiote, becoming Venom, and leaping at the screen to end the movie, therein setting up the conflict for Spidey 4. But the moviemakers neglected to contact me before making this movie, so we are now stuck with this: a bloated, self-important, boring movie that intertwines an underdeveloped love story, awkward symbolism, too many villains, and a host of umet expectations. A disappointment with too much venom and too little character development.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Escaping the bubble

I went out yesterday to visit the school in which I taught for four months, and I had a really good visit with staff and students while I was there. One thing that stuck out to me was how many people commented on me "coming all the way out there to visit" - but it's only an hour's drive away. Then I realized that it was not really the physical distance but more the psychological distance that was difficult to breach, and that it was the act of escaping my bubble that proved the most daunting of tasks. It is easy to stay in a bubble, which for me has been school, camp, work, IVCF, or certain groups of friends at different times of life. It is not easy to break out of that bubble and to put effort into going beyond the boundaries of that world, but when I do, it is almost always rewarding. The problem is that inertia is such a troublesome force in not taking hold of those opportunities. Of course, it is not always a good idea to burst out of the bubble; sometimes the effort required to do exceeds the benefit of doing so. But more often than not, it is good to get out of whatever world in which you find yourself and pop the bubble that is your life.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Camp countdown

Once again, it's the time of year when it seems as if I can really come alive after a winter of school and focus my existence on the next step of life - camp. This is the sixth time I have gone through this process (and likely the last time I will for awhile), so I am quite familiar with the steps: eat as much as possible from food I have already purchased so that I do not have many groceries left; give all borrowed items back to their original owners; take a lot of stuff to Value Village; pack everything I will not need over the summer and put it into storage; figure out all of the people whom I really need to see before I leave for the summer and try and fit them all in before I leave; watch a lot of hockey while I can; and generally finish whatever life circumstances I am in to the best degree I possibly can. This countdown is always an exciting time, but it is always bittersweet leaving the realm of the comfortable and familiar for the unknown that lies ahead. But what makes this countdown unique is that, for the first time, I do not know what is on the other side of camp. This time, I think more than any previous excursions to camp, really requires a leap of faith. And that makes this time, when I am saying goodbye to the life I have known and preparing for a new chapter in life, all the more significant.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Where the streets have no name

As I began driving to the university to prepare to write the final final exam of my degree around noon, I realized that today was a "Joshua Tree" kind of day. (Yes, I can define days by which U2 album characterizes them.) The first song, on this album, "Where the Streets Have No Name", features a minute-long instrumental introduction: the opening synthesizer chords lead into Edge's iconic guitar riff, which are followed by Adam's thudding bass line, which all come together in a harmonic climax before Bono cuts through the wall of music with his opening line, "I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside." Everytime I hear this song, it gives me goosebumps, and I am reminded of all of the incarnations of this song, particularly of Bono reciting part of a psalm during the intro on the Elevation Tour, and of his cries of "Africa!" during the song's introduction on the Vertigo Tour. I am reminded that the performance of this song during the concert in Vancouver (which was two years ago today) still remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life, a time when I could feel the presence of the Holy Almighty God almost physically. I am reminded of all that I have been, who I am, and how someday I will be where the streets have no name. It is a song that transcends my ability to describe its effect on me. And today, singing along in my car with Bono in that moment when he first cries out "where the streets have no name", for no reason at all and for every reason present in God's creation, I cried.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Last Call

While researching for my recent retrospective on my time in the student press, I stumbled across a couple of gems from my first year at the Carillon: copies of Last Call, the comic written by our graphics editor, Adam Dodge. The comic featured the adventures of two alien-looking guys, Gord and Marv, which each related to a different reference from pop culture. Thankfully, some of the best cartoons were scanned and put online, so here they are for your enjoyment.

Wayne's World

The Price Is Right

Adam Sandler on SNL

Charlie's Angels

Charlie Brown

Scream

Yesterday's news

My time in the student press has finally come to a close. Over the past seven years, I have been an editor (in my first year of university!), a volunteer and contributor, a Director (on the Board of the Sheaf), and a CEO (as chair of the Sheaf Board this year), so you might say I have some experience with the student press. I have a lot of memories from over the years, but here are the things I remember most from my time in the student press.

Opinions Editing for the Carillon (2000-2001): I was 18, I had been in University for a week, and I was already involved on the staff of the student paper. I did not expect to get on staff so quickly, but it was a great year. I made a couple of really big mistakes, but it was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. Most of the issues are still online, so everyone can look back and laugh at discussions like this office discussion on Trudeau. I am certainly not proud of everything I wrote, but upon further reflection, I wrote well even back then. But there were a lot of good times, a funny spoof issue, and some great top ten lists and cartoons. Good times.

The Lana Nguyen scandal (2001): Most of the last month of that year on staff was spent dealing with the once-in-a-lifetime story of Lana Nguyen, an engineering prof who was forced to leave the university because she was qualified to be neither a professor nor an engineer. The story had identity theft, affairs, cover-ups, administrative oversight, criminal charges, and a whole lot of very mad engineers - you could not write something like this. If you ever have a half-hour to kill, peruse the links below to get a sense of the story as it unfolded.

March 1, 2001: Nguyen Dupes Hundreds, Police to decide fate of fraudulent prof, Red flags raised years ago, and an editorial entitled Investigation necessary to solve Nguyen situation; March 8, 2001: Phony professor allegedly received preferential treatment, Quest for research gone awry?; March 15, 2001: Prof guilty of telling the truth, External review announced; April 4, 2001: A professional's opinion on Lana Nguyen; May 17, 2001: Nguyen jailed again; November 29, 2001: Phony professor pleads guilty to fraud; No jail for Nguyen? (editorial)

CFS and other student politics (2003-2007): Longtime readers will know my unlimited distaste for the Canadian Federation of Students, and how their antics took a lot of time and money from a lot of people. I will certainly remember the problems at the U of S, but they were sketchy even in my time at the U of R. But we "No" voters were vindicated by the legal decision to discount the referendum. At least none of my money went to that organization, unlike the USSU, which certainly had its ups and downs during my time at the U of S. The main lessons I learned: do not trust anyone under 24 with representing you well; and enjoy the politics because the stakes are so small.

In Deep Sheaf (March 2006): The little cartoon that could made life interesting for a month. It is one of those experiences for which I was in the right place at the right time, and that will be memorable for the rest of my life.

Interviewing bands (2001-2007): Switchfoot (twice), Skillet, Superchick, Project 86, Reese Roper, Blindside, Pigeon John, John Reuben, Mute Math, Copeland, Underoath, Thousand Foot Krutch, and a number of local bands. It has been really great to interview artists over the years - almost so good that I considered a career in it. I have enjoyed these opportunities, and I hope to be able to keep it up somehow in the future.

In the end, I have had a good run in the student press. I have a lot of contacts in the lower echelons of music, journalism, politics, law, and academia as a result of my involvement over the years, as well as a lot of friends. I am glad to have put a lot of time into the student press, but I am also glad that it is now yesterday's news.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Round 2

Some things I learned about the NHL after Round 1:
1. I know the East fairly well, but my knowledge of the West needs to be refined. I overestimated some teams and underestimated others. But at the end of the round, three of my four conference finalists are still going strong (Buffalo, New Jersey, and Anaheim), and they're all looking good.
2. The end of the season makes more of a difference than I had thought. Calgary and Nashville both ended weakly, but I thought they would use the playoffs to pull their efforts up. That did not happen.
3. The competitiveness I had predicted for the first round did not really materialize. Even in the series that went six games, there were few games which were instant classics because of the effort of both teams. The most exciting game ended up being the 4OT thriller in Game 1 of the Vancouver-Dallas series. But I think that there will be more competitive games in Round 2, and that all four of the series will be very entertaining.
4. San Jose is a lot better than I thought they would be. I'm picking them over Detroit to go to the Conference finals, along with my previous picks - Buffalo, New Jersey, and Anaheim.

Let's see how Round 2 goes!

Friday, April 20, 2007

I am relevant!

I have been a reader of Relevant Magazine for a few years now. Their website is a key part of their media presence, and I often find that it provides commentary that is at the very least interesting. But what is really interesting is that much of the site's content is contributed by freelance authors. For a while, I have thought about writing something, but I just never did - you know how it is. But about a month ago, after I watched TMNT, I decided to expand a blog post I wrote shortly thereafter and to submit it to relevantmagazine.com. After four weeks of waiting, it finally got posted on the site! And I am now considered a "contributor" to the site and have future assignments. I honestly do not know why I did not do this about three years ago, but at least I have started now. Let me know what you think of the article, either here or in comments there. Man, I love being a freelance writer!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The days you cannot forget

Columbine. 9/11. Katrina. Now Virginia Tech. If I was a little older, I could include the Challenger explosion, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, and John Lennon, and the October Crisis. These are the kinds of days on which something so shocking and so horrible occurred that they are burned on your memory permanently, the kinds of days after which nothing is the same, and a once-idyllic bubble of a world is burst in a paroxysm of violence, anguish, and despair. You will not forget where you were when you heard, or what your initial reaction was. I still remember almost everything I did on September 11, since everything that happened on that day was magnified due to its proximity to the collapse of the Twin Towers. In the same way, I will remember much of today after learning of the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. I wish these days did not come so often, but I also hope that somehow, there is more good accomplished in the long run than there is immediate evil. Some people point to these kinds of days as proof that God is dead; I believe that they are proof that we need Him more than ever. It is up to us to use these kinds of days to create good in the face of overwhelming evil, and to cling to hope ever the more strongly in the presence of such strong adversity, so that the good works that arise from days like these far outweigh the initial negative impact. I am glad that I do not forget these kinds of days, so that I may continually be encourage to pursue hope. Our world is not Pandora's box, and hope is not our enemy; it is our only hope.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rethinking "best of"

Sometimes I wonder about the practice of creating "best of" lists at the end of the year, as I find that by the middle of April that much of my lists from the previous December are almost null and void after four additional months of movie-watching and music-listening. I have also found that as I have grown as a blogger that my perspective on "best" has changed, and that many movies I listed in my "best of" were really just "favourites" from that year, and those are often two entirely different lists. So here, for your perusal, are my new suggestions for the Best Five Movies of each of the last three years, each of which includes any remaining "spoilers" to the list that might creep in once I finally watch them.

2004 Movies: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Incredibles, Shaun of the Dead, Sideways, Spider-Man 2 (Spoilers: Collateral, Closer, Hotel Rwanda)

2005 Movies: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, Walk the Line (Spoilers: Munich)

2006 Movies: Children of Men, The Departed, Pan’s Labyrinth, Stranger Than Fiction, The Prestige (Spoilers: United 93)

And now, for a quick revision of my Best of lists for music in the past three years. I have noticed that I am becoming increasingly aware of music nearer to its release date now, thus decreasing the likelihood of these lists changing in the future. I have also noticed that I have very disparate taste, and that it can be truly difficult to compare a hip-hop disc with a hardcore disc. Such is life. Here are my revised Top Ten CDs from each of the last three years, each with an honourable mention or two and maybe a spoiler or too as well.

2004 CDs: Blindside - About A Burning Fire; Demon Hunter - Summer of Darkness; Further Seems Forever - Hide Nothing; Keane - Hopes and Fears; Killers - Hot Fuss; Lovedrug - Pretend You’re Alive; Mute Math - Reset EP; Relient K - mmhmm; U2 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb; Underoath - They're Only Chasing Safety

2005 CDs: Audioslave – Out of Exile; Blindside - The Great Depression; Coldplay - X&Y; David Crowder Band - A Collision; Demon Hunter - The Triptych; Mae - The Everglow; Moby - Hotel; Project 86 - …And The Rest Will Follow; Sufjan Stevens - Illinois; Thrice - Vheissu (HM: Death Cab For Cutie - Plans; Neverending White Lights; 4th Ave Jones - Stereo: The Evolution of HipRockSoul) (Spoilers: Bloc Party - Silent Alarm; Copeland - In Motion; Foo Fighters - In Your Honor)

2006 CDs: See the 2006 Year in Music review, since there have been no recent changes. (Spoilers: Copeland - Eat, Sleep, Repeat)

This suggests to me that I should actually time my Best of lists with Chinese New Year instead of our New Year, since I made fewer alterations to my 2006 picks than to previous years. But whatever happens in the future, I am a lot happier with these new picks than with those old ones - even if it was just for my own peace of mind. Thanks for indulging me!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The chance

The Stanley Cup playoffs are here yet again, and despite the lack of my beloved Leafs in the playoffs, I will be watching hockey intently for the next two months. So I now enter my picks not only for the first round, but for the entire playoffs, with as little commentary as I can provide for guidance as to my picks.

First round in the West:
Calgary (8) over Detroit (1) in 7 - it's tough to pick against Hasek, but I think these Flames have the heart to go at least to the second round.
Anaheim (2) over Minnesota (7) in 6 - the Ducks have experience, youth, and the best defensemen in the NHL.
Dallas (6) over Vancouver (3) in 7 - if last night's 4OT marathon between the Canucks and the Stars is any indication, this will be a long and hard series that will be decided by Mike Modano's goal in 2OT of Game 7. Just wait for it.
Nashville (4) over San Jose (5) in 7 - this would have made a great conference final; alas, the Sharks will be done in the first round thanks to the Preds' depth and desire to win a playoff series.

First round in the East:
Buffalo (1) over New York Islanders (8) in 6 - I can see the plucky Isles taking two from the Sabres, but not four.
New Jersey (2) over Tampa Bay (7) in 6 - Tampa's success came from the shootouts, and they don't have that luxury in the playoffs.
New York Rangers (6) over Atlanta (3) in 6 - These teams are nearly identical, with high-flying European forwards (Kovalchuk and Hossa vs. Jagr and Straka), relatively new European goalies (Lehtonen vs. Lundqvist), mobile defense corps, and a dominant power forward (Tkachuk vs. Shanahan). The difference: Sean Avery. Rangers win.
Ottawa (4) over Pittsburgh (5) in 6 - It's easy to forget that Sid the Kid is only 18, and that he has a whole career to win. Ottawa has something to prove, and they'll put off the coronation of the Penguins by at least a year.

So, with these picks in mind, here is how I see the rest of the playoffs shaping up. Second Round: Anaheim (2) over Calgary (8) in 7 and Nashville (4) over Dallas (6) in 6 in the West; Buffalo (1) over NYR (6) in 5 and New Jersey (2) over Ottawa (4) in 7 in the East.
Conference Finals: Anaheim (2) over Nashville (4) in 6 in the West; Buffalo (1) over New Jersey (2) in 7 in the East.
Stanley Cup Final: Anaheim over Buffalo in 7. The Ducks finally win their Cup. Quack.

I'll be back at the beginning of the second round to evaluate my first round picks. And until then, there is a lot of hockey to be watched. Go Ducks go!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Anticlimactic

I write my first of my four final finals tomorrow night, and I think other people are more excited about it than I am. It's not that I am not glad to be done; it's just that I find it more tiring to be excited about the prospect of being done school. It feels really anticlimactic to be celebrating my completion of school at this point, following what has perhaps been my weakest semester work-wise and certainly one of the more stressful life-wise, rather than in the past when I might have felt more able to appreciate it. I feel as if I said a lot of my goodbyes to the student lifestyle at the end of the last school year, and certainly at the end of my internship, and that these last four months have been far more of an inconvenience than they have been a great opportunity. But life is slowly returning to me, and I will be done in seventeen short days. Okay, I guess it does feel pretty good after all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Awakening

It sometimes occurs to me that I do not post enough silly stuff I find on the internet, nor do I discuss music nearly enough considering the amount of time and money I spend on it. This post is a solution to both of those problems. Take Switchfoot's newest single, some cool animation techniques, Guitar Hero, and Tony Hale, and you get this, the most awesome video of awesomeness. Enjoy.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

No name Facebook

I have been inundated lately with e-mails requesting my presence on the new internet rage, Facebook. In response to these queries, I wish to issue the following statement: I will not join Facebook. If I was going to, I would have last year when I first heard about it. I have decided to begin to reduce my internet presence, and will be taking steps to do so with even this blog (such as removing my name from it as much as possible) within the month. I have heard all about how Facebook is safe and great for finding people and everything, but the fact is that I have also heard horror stories about it not being safe, and that people can find me if they need to without using sites like that. I know I am a gaping hole in the Facebook world, but you will all have to deal with it. No Facebook for Turner. Deal with it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Baby steps

It was two years ago that I first began to find out that friends of mine were pregnant and starting to have children, and I still have several friends who are having children, and some who may soon be on their second children. The oldest of these kids are around eighteen months old, and I have begun to see them actually grow. Until fairly recently, I have had no idea how to deal with babies - how to hold them, how to react to them, how to exist with them around. They have confused me and weirded me out, likely because I had never really been exposed to babies for much of my life. But I am actually starting to know how to deal with infants and toddlers - it may have taken me over a year, but I am getting used to babies. And, even weirder, I am starting to enjoy having babies around. I suppose that means that I might be ready for one of my own eventually. Until then, I will continue making "baby steps" in enjoying my friends' children and watching them grow up and making me smile all the while.

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.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Final Oscar Picks 2007

In preparation for tonight's Oscars, here is the quick review of my picks for the awards. I hope to beat my 7/9 from the last two years, and to finally correctly guess Best Picture, but we'll see what happens.

Best Picture: Babel
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Actor: Peter O'Toole, Venus
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Best Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Animated Picture: Cars

Bonus Picks:
Best Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth

Other predictions:
Ellen bombs, the telecast is the longest ever at over four hours long, and at least three people get cut off in mid-speech by the musicians. It should be a fun night!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Foreman, Marsh, and myself

This one's 'bout a concert I saw last night. Although, as with several of their albums, I have had difficulty figuring out what I think about it, Oh! Gravity has grown on me, and its true nature was revealed in last night's concert. The band played half of the songs from the new album ("Oh! Gravity", "American Dream", "Dirty Second Hands", "Awakening", "4:12", and "Faust, Midas, and Myself", and thankfully omitting the utterly forgettable "Amateur Lovers")as well as many hits taken almost exclusively from 2003's The Beautiful Letdown ("Meant To Live", "This Is Your Life", "Ammunition", "Gone", and "On Fire") and 2005's Nothing Is Sound (set opener "Stars", "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine", "We Are One Tonight", and "The Blues"). There were many highlights to the show, but the back-to-back crowd-chosen songs "Learning To Breathe" and "The Blues" were very good, as was a Mute Math-esque breakdown after "Dirty Second Hands". The encore featured John singing "Only Hope" solo on the guitar, as well as beginning "Dare You To Move" by himself before being joined by the rest of the band halfway through the song. The set proved three things to me: that despite some weaker songs on the albums (1-2 each album), the best songs pass the test of a live performance; that Jon Foreman is one of the best combinations of songwriter and performer working in music today; and that Switchfoot is a band that everyone should see live to really appreciate. Opening band Copeland also played an amazing set, though most of the crowd was either ignorant of or indifferent to their music, and they should be commanding much more attention within a year after recently signing with Columbia. And getting to interview both Foreman and Copeland frontman Aaron Marsh was the icing on an already-delicious cake. Last night's concert may not have been "More Than Fine" (the most glaring omission from the set list), but it certainly was my Canadian dream.

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