Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, Reforms Cartman’s Behavior in “Tsst,” South Park Episode 1007

Cartman, as we all know, treats his mom, well, like a dog, and it’s time for that trend to be reversed. Cesar Millan, the acclaimed Dog Whisperer, comes to South Park to discipline Cartman for Lianne Cartman and make him submit to her parental will.

Cesar ignores Cartman and touches him on the neck, saying, “Tsst” to hush him and remind him that he is just a child. Cartman can’t take this horrible treatment and all that goes along with it, like healthy food, a lack of new toys and the loss of his mother to Cesar Millan. Thus, he plans to kill his mother. When he attempts to enlist the help of his friends (and fails) he reads them his plan but leaves off the last detail which is, Frame Token.

Eventually, however, Cartman does submit to his mother’s will, through the help of Cesar Millan, and becomes a behaved and reformed child. Unfortunately for Lianne, Cesar leaves when his work is done and with no one to hang out with (for she had become dependent on Cesar’s friendship), Lianna reverts to giving Cartman what he wants so that he’ll hang out with her as a friend and not as a child.

And thus, Cartman is back.

What did you think about this episode?

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Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 267-273 Continues the Discussion of Charity

It’s interesting that in verse 268, when the Quran warns of Satan threatening us with poverty, it’s not that Satan will bring that poverty upon us himself. It’s that Satan is the one who makes us concerned that poverty might afflict us if we do not guard our money more carefully and if we don’t stop giving it to the needy. We cannot be swayed by his nagging.

I like the praise of wisdom in verse 269. Surely it’s not a praise of wisdom in a vacuum or praise of wisdom instead of faith, but that wisdom itself is valuable is important. These promises of other things (i.e. wisdom) all fall amidst this conversation of doing the right thing with the gifts that God has given us. By equating wisdom to wealth, it seems to me that intelligence and wisdom (which aren’t necessarily the same thing, and forgive me if I’m using them that way) should only be used for good – and charitably. If you are wise and capable, help other people with your wisdom and abilities – don’t keep them all to yourself, reading all day and trying to amass knowledge just for the sake of knowledge.

Verse 271 returns to the concept I addressed last week of doing charity secretly, because, as Maimonides tells us, the best form of tzedakah (charity) is that in which the recipient does not know his benefactor nor the benefactor his recipient. I’m curious about the atonement element here, though. It seems to me that perhaps giving charity to atone for your sins is not the right reason to give – that seems like a selfish reason rather than doing it for a godly reason (i.e. because it’s right). This could just be informational – ‘by the way, when you give charity like this it atones for your sins’ – but it seems hard to conclude that people would be able to set that informational fact aside and give charity in this fashion for the right reasons while knowing that to be true. Truly, I don’t look at this and think it’s a big deal – I just wonder about the order of priorities in the donor’s mind considering the emphasis placed on giving willingly and because it’s the right thing to do (next verse included!).

And in the next verse is that mention of whatever you give coming back to you – Islamic Karma 🙂

Asad, in the notes of his translation, mentions some very interesting ideas here that I’d like to bring up: that Mohammed had, because of Muslims’ penury, advised that charity only be given to Muslims in need. This verse reverses that and means that all people in need should be given charity – regardless of faith. A. That’s wonderful. B. It’s interesting because as Asad points out, giving charity to only Muslims could encourage converts for the wrong reasons and ultimately be construed as coercing conversion, something expressly forbidden (2:256). Very interesting.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about my comments and these verses.

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The Cow 267-273

267. O you who have attained to faith! Spend on others out of the good things which you may have acquired, and out of that which We bring forth for you from the earth; and choose not for your spending the bad things which you yourselves would not accept without averting your eyes in disdain. And know that God is self-sufficient, ever to be praised. 268. Satan threatens you with the prospect of poverty and bids you to be niggardly, whereas God promises you His forgiveness and bounty; and God is infinite, all-knowing, 269. granting wisdom unto whom He wills: and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted wealth abundant. But none bears this in mind save those who are endowed with insight. 270. For, whatever you may spend on others, or whatever you may vow [to spend], verily, God knows it; and those who do wrong [by withholding charity] shall have none to succor them. 271. If you do deeds of charity openly, it is well; but if you bestow it upon the needy in secret, it will be even better for you, and it will atone for some of your bad deeds. And God is aware of all that you do. 272. It is not for thee [O Prophet] to make people follow the right path, since it is God [alone] who guides whom He wills. And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’s countenance: for, whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged. 273. [And give] unto [such of] the needy who, being wholly wrapped up in God’s cause, are unable to go about the earth [in search of livelihood]. He who is unaware [of their condition] might think that they are wealthy, because they abstain [from begging]; [but] thou canst recognize them by their special mark: they do not beg of men with importunity. And whatever good you may spend [on them], verily, God knows it all.

Hilarious Motivational Posters about Diplomacy, Elephants and Ducks

Ha!

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The Art of Taking Ourselves Less Seriously For the Public Good

Read my latest Nashville Free Press article.

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Zen Talk: The Illusion of Purity

“Water which is too pure has no fish.”
– Ts’ai Ken T’an

How right you are Ts’ai Ken T’an. I recently started a very small aquarium in my home, and the first thing I learned from my very smart local aquarium store owner (Ocean Aquarium) is that the success of the aquarium and the happiness of the fish is all about the water. You can’t just put fish into the water that comes out of your faucet. It’s too pure!

You have to spend weeks treating your water to adjust the levels of nitrates, ammonia and acidity. And just as importantly, you have to consistently add bacteria to the water so that an eco system can begin to thrive and settle in.

So what does that mean for Zen Talk. Well, on the one hand I would say that purity is an extreme and a ‘final’ destination and that striving for purity is a false pursuit. What is purity anyway but an ever changing, relative and subjective falsity? Some people say that drugs can never enter our bodies for our bodies to be pure. Others contend that a spiritual cleansing and purity ritual involves psychotropic substances.

That’s not to say that one should shun a cleanliness of mind and body – quite the contrary. Just that an extreme, even in the case of purity, should not be sought after like some be-all end-all.

What are your thoughts on this quote and matter?

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Cartman Leads a Somalian Pirate Crew in the South Park Season 13 Midway Finale (1307), “Fatbeard”

Cartman bursts into the cafeteria with exciting news: piracy is back! He tells the other boys that freedom from their lives of oppression awaits on the high seas around Somalia, where they’ll find lagoons and waterfalls and booty.

Kyle insists that this is a very good idea, hoping that Cartman will go to Mogadishu, but says that, as a Jew, he can’t be a pirate. Cartman is glad that Kyle is finally coming to terms with his disability.

Butters, Clyde, Ike and Craig all join Cartman as pirates and after purchasing tickets to Somalia on Cartman’s mom’s credit card, they go to Mogadishu. The pirates they find, however, decide to take them captive and hold them for ransom – but of course the boys think they’re all just being pirates together since the Somali pirates don’t speak English.

Kyle is excited that Cartman has left South Park until his parents inform him that Ike has gone with Cartman and company. In Ike’s note, he reveals that he’s grown weary of the monotony of middle class life and if one more person mentions Susan Boyle then he’s going to vomit his brains through his nose. Kyle has to go to Somalia and get Ike.

Back in Somalia, the boys are traded to a French ship for a ransom but then they take over the French yacht themselves and kick off the French crew. Now deserving a little respect, Cartman, back at the pirates’ layer, tries to make everyone into what he considers legitimate pirates. With increased organization and better pirating going on the UN grows concerned, especially once it learns that a white boy (Kyle) has been taken captive and is being held for ransom.

Ultimately, the episode’s lesson comes when one of the pirates takes a moment to talk to Butters and Ike. He says that he can’t understand how anyone would want to be a pirate. That being a pirate is scary and terrible and something that you only do out of necessity. Butters and Ike realize that despite coming from a life of rules and order they have things pretty good in America and they shouldn’t be bitching about their standard middle class lives.

I take that to mean that making something interesting of yourself and making the most of your life is one thing but to bitch about the dreariness of life here is to take for granted how good we have it – especially when compared to the god-forsaken dumping ground that is Somalia.

Have you ever been to Somalia? Have you ever been confronted by pirates? Did you ever want to be a pirate? What happened to your dreams?

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Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 261-266 Speaks of Charity Given From the Heart

The message in verse 262 about the way that charity should be given (I think that’s what it means to spend one’s possessions for the sake of God) is very similar to the Jewish ‘levels’ of tzedakah (charity) that the 12th century Jewish philosopher (and doctor to the Sultan Saladin) expounded. The greatest kind of charity one could do is to give charity when neither the donor nor the recipient knew of the other. In that way, the donor has nothing to feel special about – he merely did his duty – and the recipient never has to have his feelings hurt or feel lower than or indebted to anyone.

Funny enough, the parable reminds me of a very “karmic” understanding of giving. The good you put out into the universe (in the right way, of course) comes back ten-fold. I used to wait tables when I was 19, and whenever I went out after work with my waiter friends to another restaurant they would tip so generously you’d think they’d been served gold. “Tipping Karma,” they used to say. It’ll all come back when people tip us later – but leave a crummy tip or begrudge another server his tip and you’d be like that lightening-struck rock with a run of bad tips that could last for weeks.

Now, that could seem superstitious, and far be it for me to reduce the words of the Quran to karma, but I think what it actually shows is the universality of this important ideal – generosity and the spreading of wealth beget more generosity and wealth for everyone. In the Quran, it’s just made clear that this principle originates with God. Only in this way does a Reaganomics Trickle Down Theory work because by the Quran a spiritual element and understanding have been infused into the importance of spreading the wealth, forcing us to remembers that all we have we have by God’s grace and mercy.

After these verses I read verse 266 and fail to understand the idea therein. Is the person in this verse a person who failed to share the wonderful bounty he’d been given with this marvelous land? Is it saying that he should not have let the fruit remain solely within his garden and should have spread it around so that none of it ever went bad? Verse 267 didn’t help me grasp the meaning, but if anyone could shed some light on this verse I would be grateful. I feel as though it brings these other verses in an interesting direction that I’m failing to get.

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The Cow 261-266

261. THE PARABLE of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing. 262. They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar* their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy] shall have their reward with ‘their Sustainer, and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. 263. A kind word and the veiling of another’s want is better than a charitable deed followed by hurt; and God is self-sufficient, forbearing. 264. O you who have attained to faith! Do not deprive your charitable deeds of all worth by stressing your own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy], as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen and praised by men, and believes not in God and the Last Day: for his parable is that of a smooth rock with [a little] earth upon it – and then a rainstorm smites it and leaves it hard and bare. Such as these shall have no gain whatever from all their [good] works: for God does not guide people who refuse to acknowledge the truth. 265. And the parable of those who spend their possessions out of a longing to please God, and out of their own inner certainty, is that of a garden on high, fertile ground: a rainstorm smites it, and thereupon it brings forth its fruit twofold; and if no rainstorm smites it, soft rain [falls upon it]. And God sees all that you do. 266. Would any of you like to have a garden of date-palms and vines, through which running waters flow, and have all manner of fruit therein – and then be overtaken by old age, with only weak children to [look after] him-and then [see] it smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched? In this way God makes clear His messages unto you, so that you might take thought.