Around the World Pic of the Day: The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt

Jay with Pyramids

Jay with Pyramids

Last October I went to Egypt with a buddy of mine, Jason. It was a great time: one week of practically no sleeping, going out every night, touring nonstop during the day and a good ol’ fashion balls to the wall adventure.

On our last day, we went to see the Pyramids at Giza. It actually took us quite a while to get there because we must have gotten the only cab driver in Egypt who didn’t know how to get to the pyramids with his eyes closed. We did get to see some fascinating parts of Cairo that I don’t think a lot of people get to see.

In any case, the pyramids were a lot more incredible than I was expecting. I thought it was going to be one of those places that wasn’t as good as you’d imagined once you’re up close (e.g. for me, Big Ben). However, I was quite wrong. The Sphinx was awesome and the pyramids were huge and really incredible. So impressive.

We decided to go up into one and opted for the Great Pyramid. It was wild. You walk straight up a meter-high shaft that runs at a 45 degree angle in 100 degree heat and feel like if the claustrophobia doesn’t get you, the dead pharaoh-god probably will. This goes on for a while and then opens up and has another hike up until you arrive at a large but single room at the top.

This is where the pharaoh was buried (and as they believed he was a god, that is why this qualifies for the religious sites around the world). No pictures. It is beautiful up top and you can’t believe the ceiling is single slabs of granite that aren’t falling all around you. There’s even a draft that’s been designed so that you don’t suffocate. Truly incredible.

To get down we ran in a crab-like position and were out very quickly. Unfortunately I destroyed my hamstrings doing that and literally couldn’t walk. We took a few minutes to allow the oxygen to return to my leg muscles and then proceeded on our merry way. The picture is after that when we thought it would be funny to make some nice illusions. You know, because no one’s ever done it before.

Have you ever been to the pyramids? What did you think? Did you go up inside? Cool? Send me your pictures at JaySolomon@thezenofsouthpark.com.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about and see more Around the World Pic posts.

“The Return of Chef” is an Incredible Episode about Scientology’s Evil

Yes, I said it: Scientology is evil. They took poor Isaac Hayes away from South Park and now Chef is gone forever. And this episode tells the grim tale.

The entire time you’re watching this episode and learning about the Super Adventure Club (SAC) bear in mind that the parallels to Scientology and its beliefs are quite accurate. Just watch “Trapped in the Closet” (click HERE for more on that) for more on the parallels.

So, the story, as it goes is more or less that Isaac Hayes, after “Trapped in the Closet,” was unhappy with Trey and Matt’s treatment of his religion – though he never had any problems being a part of them bashing every other religion. Hayes said, You’ve got it all wrong. That’s not how it is.

Apparently, Trey and Matt got a letter notifying them that Hayes was quitting the show but the controversy surrounding it is that it’s not clear whether or not the letter was from him, coerced from him, or written by someone else while he was ailing and unable to write such things. In any case, he finished working for the show and the first episode of the next season was this one, where Chef comes back to South Park brainwashed and interested in having sex with the children. They try to rescue him from the fruity little club he joined but the club, only concerned with more members, turns Chef into a robot (Darth Vader) instead of letting him be his own person.

What I just wrote was not eloquent but do yourself a favor and check out this sensational episode.

What did you think? Are you a Scientologist? Would you like to do an interview on my blog so that you can defend against the allegations made in this episode? Though I’ve been biased I would certainly be fair in conducting an interview and would like to hear what you have to say.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

Quran: The Prologue

The Prologue of the Quran is obviously quite fitting in its placement considering the fact that it’s a gracious prayer said by the reader of this text as he embarks on the spiritual, emotional and religious journey that is ahead of him. However, it doesn’t ‘fit’ for one reason. Do you know what that is?

Well, the Quran, other than this first sura (sura is sort of like chapter and it is how the Quran is divided, with a total of 114 suras), is ordered by length of sura. That is, the longest sura (The Cow) comes first and then they get smaller until you get all the way to Men. The Prologue is not very long – only seven verses – but it does kick off the entire Quran. It reads:

All praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds,

Most beneficent, ever-merciful

King of the Day of Judgment

You alone we worship, and to You alone turn for help.

Guide us (O Lord) to the path that is straight,

The path of those you have blessed,

Not of those who have earned Your anger nor those who have gone astray.

These are the opening verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy text. I thought it would be best if for this first entry, I simply displayed them here for all of us.

From now on I hope that you will read along with me every week. For next Wednesday, August 6th, we will read the first 100 verses of The Cow. It should only take you about 10-15 minutes so don’t worry. It’s not a lot. Click HERE to read these verses online. I will comment on them and then I invite you to do the same. Ask questions and think along with me about the text.

Have you ever read the Quran before? What did you think?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Quran Read-A-Long.

An Announcement About The Zen of South Park’s Revamping and Restructuring

Dear Loyal Reader,

I want to let you know that The Zen of South Park blog will be changing from today forward. Don’t worry – I’m not going anywhere so there’s no need to cry. I am, however, going to be changing what I do on a couple of days. I’ll explain first and then post the schedule.

From now on Mondays will no longer be days for interviews (though when I have them I’ll just post them when they seem appropriate). Monday will be Fun with the Bible day. This may mean different things on different days but basically, I’m going to pick ideas, themes, scenes or passages from the Bible – both the Old and New Testaments (probably on a rotating basis) – and discuss them in ways that hopefully you haven’t thought about before. Whether religious or secular, already familiar with the Bible or not, Fun with the Bible Mondays are for everyone with any interest in learning a little and being inspired about the Bible’s functionality even in the twenty-first century.

Wednesdays will be Quran days. That’s right – we’re going to read the Quran…together! We will begin with the Prologue today and then every week we will read only 100 verses (about 10-15 minutes, don’t worry). I will say my piece about them and then I invite you to respond and say what you thought. This will be an open discussion, and so long as everyone is respectful, I think it will go very well.

The Quran is the holy book of the Muslim religion and should therefore be treated with a great deal of respect. Though we will be reading it with a critical eye like we would any other text, I will not be approving any callously disrespectful or prejudice comments. That said, I think it’s very important for everyone to read the holy books of other religions because it helps us understand other people better, and with the current state of world affairs, I think that reading the Quran is of special importance. I hope you’ll join me on this sure to be fascinating day to read and think about the Quran. Don’t forget to go get yourself a copy or click HERE for multiple translations to read online (click HERE to read the first Quran post)!

The final change in our schedule will be Sundays, which from now on will be Zen days. As The Zen of South Park blog, I thought it was time to incorporate a little Zen into our lives. I will begin by reading very short essays by the Zen master, Dogen, from his Shobogenzo, and providing a few comments on them. When I run out of these Zen essays I will start writing about sayings of Buddha from the Dhammapada and then move onto other texts from Eastern religions.

On all three of these days (Monday, Wednesday and Sunday) I will announce each week what I will be reading the next week so that you can keep up and prepare it yourself if you want to be ready to comment or participate. Jump in at any time or stage.

As for Topical Tuesdays, Around the World Pic of the Day, Movie/Book Review Day and Religion in the News day, all of those will stay as they are. Moreover, I will continue discussing the South Park episodes that are being aired daily, making the schedule:

Sunday: Zen Topics
Monday: Fun with the Bible
Tuesday: Topical Tuesdays – join me and my good friend and fellow author Chandler Craig (chandlermariecraig.wordpress.com) to see our different takes on the topic of the day.
Wednesday: Quran Read-a-Long
Thursday: Around the World – I will post a photo of me at religious sites around the world with a discussion about the location’s significance
Friday: Movie/Book Review Day
Saturday: Religion in the News

To see an index of my blog articles by subject matter and theme, click HERE.

I hope you enjoy the blog’s new structure and stick with us as we begin exploring some of these new subjects.

Best Regards,

Jay

“D-Yikes!” has Mrs. Garrison Being a Lesbian – Confused Sexuality? I Think So

The movie 300 sucked. Yeah, there were some okay battle scenes but honestly, give me a break. I think perhaps Parker and Stone felt similarly because this episode tears into that movie. It’s pretty hilarious actually. Check it out tonight at 10.

There’s really nothing to say about it from a religious perspective.

Have you seen it? Did you like it?

Update for 8-4 with episode 107, “Pinkeye”

This is a great episode about Halloween and zombies, if you’re looking for such things. A particularly wonderful part is Chef’s rendition of Thriller.

Note the end of the episode when Kyle and Stan are talking about understanding the true meaning of Halloween and the way they confuse the purpose of the holiday with Christmas. It certainly speaks to the conflicting messages we send American children about the purposes of holidays and how it can sometimes be difficult to discern what exactly is meant to be celebrated.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

“The Losing Edge” Touches on the Stereotype of Jews and Sports

Though this isn’t one of my favorite episodes, it does have a few good moments – like when Randy tackles the even drunker and more belligerent father at the kids’ baseball game. And why do parents care so much about little league sports?

As it relates to religion, the episode does depict Kyle (that is, Kyle’s cousin, Kyle) as a ringer for the team – since they are trying to lose – because the boys think that there is no worse kid athlete around. He can’t hit or catch and he can barely see through his foggy glasses. He’s Jewish and he sucks at sports.

Interestingly, despite touching on this stereotype – that is, that Jews are unathletic and incapable of physical activities – other episodes suggest that this isn’t the case. For instance, Kyle himself always appears to be quite capable at sports. He is depicted playing hockey and football and makes the all-state team because he is the best basketball player at South Park Elementary. Unfortunately, he is not tall and black enough for basketball though and has to sit it out.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

Topical Tuesday: If I Could Have Been the Author of Any Book it Would Have Been…

Slaughterhouse 5!

First, I jumped at the Bible. Oh to have written the Bible. But hey, I’m one guy in one place and that was written by dozens and dozens over the course of 1000 years so for the sake of keeping it a fascinating text, I let my dream of writing the Bible go.

My next reaction upon pondering this question was to look at my bookshelves and pick out something that I saw there. I love my book shelves. However, upon moving to San Francisco, I left them behind. I packed up hundreds and hundreds of books and stored them in my mother’s basement. With me came about two dozen.

I don’t really wish that I’d written any of the books I have here (other than maybe The Divine Comedy), and so I had to start thinking again from scratch. Of course, there are so many classics that I could have picked but what would my reasoning have been?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn could have made a fine selection. Mark Twain was brilliant. The book was sensational, influential, historically relevant, etc. But somehow I decided that I wanted something else. At first I was toying with sci-fi: The Hobbit, Dune. I really like the idea of creating a whole different world and think that it’s very difficult. I would love to move people’s imaginations that way. Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower could have been excellent but Chandler and I did say 1 book.

Thus, I settled on Slaughterhouse 5. There are a couple of reasons. Personally, I’ve read the book about a dozen times. It reads so quickly and never ceases to amaze me. You can take so much away from this book. There are great one liners that stay with you – i.e., So it goes. There are hilarious quips about life’s odd situations. Billy, for instance, has a huge penis, and says, you never know who’s going to have one.

What’s more, the book has amazing historical relevance (related to the Crusades and WWII), an incredible message about war that it doesn’t just tell you but makes you feel, and makes you think 6000 times about the structure of the universe and time and other such things. I use the image of the Rocky Mountains from the beginning of time until the end of time all the time to convey various points about the nature of time. That and the attitude of the Trafalmadorians about life just make it an absolutely incredible book, with no extra words to spare.

So, thanks a lot Kurt Vonnegut for doing it first. Though I may not get your much deserved acclaim for this incredible masterpiece, I can certainly say that your book has inspired me on a personal level and for my writing. If I could publish – nay, write – anything comparable to the things you achieve inside that book I’ll be a very happy man.

What’s your favorite book? What book do you wish you’d written? If they’re different why? Did you like Slaughterhouse 5?

Enjoy your own copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Divine Comedy and many other great books.

Enjoy more book and movie reviews.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.