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.

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