Barack Obama Motivational Poster about his Nobel Peace Prize

All politics aside, I thought this was a pretty well done motivational poster.

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Matt Stone and Trey Parker Interview with Charlie Rose Reveals Zen Buddhism at the Heart of South Park

I really enjoyed this interview between Matt Stone and Trey Parker and Charlie Rose.  Not only was it fun and interesting, but Trey Parker said something that vindicates the very title of my book. The Zen of South Park.

He said:

“The people screaming on this side, and the people screaming on that side are the same people.” After watching South Park, “all in all, at the end of the day they’ll be a little more Zen Buddhist.”

Well, if calling my book The Zen of South Park doesn’t make more sense than putting peanut-butter and jelly in the same jar, I don’t know what does.

What did you think of the interview?

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Funny Motivational Posters about Video Games, Politics and Exercise

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Bizarre Motivational Posters about Ending the Universe, Motivational Posters and Politics

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Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size is a Life-Changing Experience about Weight, Food and Life

Anyone who wants to change his or her life for the better and do him/herself a huge favor should read Dr. Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight.

This book is counter-culture and earth-shattering in scope and quality. Bacon, a revered researcher of weight and related issues, single-handedly takes on the misguided and erroneous notions that pervade our society about weight loss, dieting and health. This book is well-researched and excellently cited – two huge criteria for me when reading anything of this nature – and actually breaks down and explains why and how America has been made to believe that fat kills and weight is ugly.

Well fat doesn’t kill and big is just as beautiful as anything else. We’ve been lied to by health professionals, researchers, our government and nearly everybody else.

What makes this woman – who apparently few people agree with – right, you ask? That I can hardly tell you in this brief post. I can only beseech you to go on Amazon.com or wherever you prefer to order your books and buy this one. It will change your life.

It you’re fat, it will be the beginning of a whole new life of feeling good without dieting and hating your body. If you’re thin, it will make you understand an oppressed segment of our population and hopefully it will also change your relationship with food and your weight for the better. I’m not a big guy but I will never understand food or weight the same again – and I mean that in a good way.

Click HERE to buy this book now and change your life (those of you familiar with my book reviews will know that I don’t ever attach links for a book to be purchased, but this one is too important not to).

The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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An Open Letter to Sarah Palin about Her Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs

Before you is a letter from someone I know and respect whose work is all about helping fundamentalist Christians who have chosen to leave their abusive and delusional religions do so in a safe and psychologically sound way. As the author of this letter has written, “Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold:  A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries. A longer article about Sarah Palin’s religion is on Dr. Winell’s website:  http://www.marlenewinell.net.”

Please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of this letter and reproduce the letter in its entirety elsewhere on the internet (so long as you provide Dr. Winell as the author). If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

An open letter to Sarah Palin, from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to call you on what you are doing.

This is not about disrespecting your private beliefs.  But you have a huge conflict of interest here by running for office and you can’t have it both ways (see Jesus’ words in John 2:15).

You have not been honest about the most important thing about you:  the fact that you are a born-again, literal Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.   Voters need to know you are not merely a “Christian” – a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement.  Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God’s will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.  It’s clear to me that you want to do the Lord’s will; you’ve said and done things like a true believer would. You are on a mission from God. If that is not true, then I challenge you to deny it.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world.  It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God’s perfect word.  You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity and where good and evil beings are engaged in “spiritual warfare” (Ephesians 6:12).   Like Queen Esther, you believe that God has “called” and “anointed” you to lead America.  This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the “laying on of hands” and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing?  What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God’s will.

This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white.  People and policies are either good or bad.  After all, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).  Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking.  In a spiritual war, you don’t negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would emphasize individual morality and responsibility, not a community approach with structural solutions.  You would be judgmental and controlling of personal choices regarding sex, reproduction, and library books instead of addressing global warming, torture, poverty, and war.  Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literal Bible despite its cruelties and vengeful god, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, are likely to leave you numb at your moral core.  You might recall the verse, “If a man will not work he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science?  As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings.  You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control.  More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs?  Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, and natural disasters, all as hopeful signs of Jesus’ return.  You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature.  (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3).  Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37).  Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today’s complex world is dangerous, Sarah.  There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat.  Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

So we want to know, Sarah, Warrior Princess for God —  How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home?   I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space.  How dare you look forward to Christ’s return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies?  If you deny global warming, brand people and countries “evil,” support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting.  And as it gets worse and worse, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it.  What then?  In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable.   And it will be too late.  Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics?  How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans?   Shame on both of you.

Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy.  It’s the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,
Marlene

Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
October 21, 2008

Press Release – October 21, 2008
Contact:  mwinell@gmail.com

If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

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A Review of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice-Presidential Debate

Last night I watched the entire VP debate, and I’d love to take a moment of your time to tell you a few thoughts I had and hear about anything that you observed.

1. The Moderator

I liked the moderator. Now, Biden and Palin made it easy for her because the arguing was minimal, but I thought her questions were good and she wasn’t afraid to call someone out for not answering the question she asked.

2. Demeanor

Palin was ner-er-vous. She put herself in this situation so I couldn’t feel bad for her, but she seemed downright terrified when the debate began. Her anxiety didn’t seem to diminish drastically over the night, perhaps in contrast to how confident Biden seemed. I don’t know if that made Palin seem endearing or week or Biden competent or patronizing. What did you think?

3. Talking Points v. Points to Talk About

Biden knows his stuff, but of course, this makes sense. He’s been in Congress for decades, and when Palin would bring up a bill that he, Obama or McCain voted one way or another on, he could talk about that bill and the reasons in far more detail than she ever could because he was involved. This was in stark contrast to the Obama-McCain debate when both candidates intimately knew the details of these bills and could – and did! – argue back and forth about what was what. With Biden-Palin, there was little back and forth and I wonder if it’s because she simply didn’t know what to talk about. I don’t mean this as a criticism (that’s left up to how you take her pride about not being of the Washington bunch) but merely as an observation. It seemed that Palin had been seriously prepped with canned lines and points and told to avoid all sorts of other things for fear of a huge mistake. How did you feel?

4. Gaffes

Speaking of huge mistakes, let’s talk about the one thing that all the political pundits really wanted to see – a gaffe. Now, I don’t know that there were any huge gaffes that can’t be undone. Palin did call Joe Biden “O-Biden” and she also told the moderator and Biden that she wasn’t there to answer the questions she was asked but to say what she wanted. Palin also referred to her ticket as a “team of mavericks” which is a bit oximoronic – a fact I think was lost on her. Biden was probably advised to say less than he wanted to because the more active he is the more patronizing he appears. In 90 minutes, though, these were not the big things that came out. Did you notice anything particularly outrageous that slipped by me?

5. Summary

It’s unclear to me what will come out of this. I don’t really want to give you my opinion of the particular political positions as the VP candidates stated them last night – I’d rather discuss the importance of this debate and how the candidates appeared to Americans and the world. However, as an aside, I will mention that I thought it was funny when the moderator established that the two agreed about gay marriage (despite my own disagreement with their mutual opinion). Everyone had a nice chuckle.

Pundits, as they are want to do, said that this debate could be a make-it-or-break-it moment in the political process, but I didn’t notice anything happen that would have been so swaying. I know who appeared more competent, more capable and more knowledgable and I know who appeared more presidential (mentally, not physically or genderally), but I also know that a lot of Americans are looking for something else and appreciate the different image that is being provided for them in this race.

What did you think? I’d love to hear all of your opinions, whether issue-related, debate-related, political or otherwise.

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What Are We Really Voting for This Election Season, Asks “Douche and Turd,” episode 808 of South Park

As we arrive at day 72 on our countdown to vote for the next president of the United States of America, we have to ask ourselves, What are we really voting for?

Some will say “CHANGE!” and some will say, “NOT BLACK PEOPLE!” but no matter what they say we’re presented with two choices that are likely to provide us, the American people, with very comparable outcomes. And this is what “Douche and Turd” is saying.

When South Park Elementary has to vote for a new school mascot, the boys think it will be funny to write in two ridiculous things: a giant douche and a turd sandwich. When there’s a run-off between these idiotic candidates, Stan just can’t figure out what the point of voting is and why he would even bother when the choice is going to be stupid, pointless, unable to be differentiated and nothing you’d want between two pieces of bread.

Now, of course, it must be noted that this episode was written and aired before the Bush v. Kerry election, when the two candidates had a lot more in common and America appeared a lot less in trouble. This election, admittedly, looks a little different.

To pose the more obvious observation of how the two candidates are different, one of them is white – much like John Kerry. Similar to John Kerry as well, one of them has actually served in the United States armed forces. But let’s take a quick peak at the bigger picture and remember that the two aren’t actually so different after all.

They are both members of one of America’s two big parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Though one would like to convince you that the other spends more money or that they’re more “less-hand-in-government” as a political approach to governing, that’s crap. They’ll both spend a crapload of money; they’ll both interfere in your life in a way previously unprecedented in American history, and they’ll both provide us with rhetoric that is full of shit and excuses on a pretty regular basis. And then you can turn to The Daily Show to laugh at either of them as our country and its glory spin down the drain, only to be documented in 45 years when historians can finally be far enough away to recognize some identifiable patterns.

Gloomy, no? Do I really think it’s going to be that bad? I certainly hope not – but I will say that neither candidate has actually outlined in detail or demonstrated the executable-ness of any programs that will solve any of America’s many major problems. Though I hope this isn’t the downward sloping side of the America-on-top mountain (because I think we have a lot to offer the world by way of collective equality before no one is listening to us again), I do think that when historians look back in time and have to assess, neither candidate so far has differentiated himself enough in his actual planned execution (not just policy rhetoric) so as to make him any different from the other or cause this to be the presidency of change. That’s not to say it won’t be, but just that if we went forward with what’s been outlined so far, we wouldn’t see any tangible results because nothing is really being said.

I hope that come election day we’re voting for something other than a giant douche or a turd sandwich.

What do you think? Who will you be voting for? What did you think of this episode? Do you think it’s applicable to every presidential election or just every one before a black man got in there?

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In the News: Immigration and the Changing Face of America

I want to talk about something that doesn’t really concern religion in the news: immigration and the changing face of America.

I recently heard that America’s population is rapidly growing but that 70%+ of that growth is going to be due to immigrants. A lot of people have a problem with this (even those who are not nativists and think that immigrants deserve a chance in this great country), and their gripes often come in the form of, “I don’t want a bunch of Mexicans abusing the system and not contributing to it.” Considering the fact that a growing problem has been illegal Mexicans using emergency rooms as doctors’ offices when they get a little cold, I can understand and appreciate the frustration. Quite frankly, I can’t blame any one of them for trying to come to this country – I would have probably tried too.

However, I’d like to steer this issue, if I may, and talk about the kinds of immigrants America should be letting in.

Our borders don’t feel safer or tighter, and to a point, I think we hardly know who we should be protecting ourselves from. No one believes that shoe and belt removal at the airport is helping anything. Indeed, I lived in Israel for two years, and I have a firm policy when it comes to airline security: if the Israelis don’t do it then it’s an unnecessary procedure. The Israelis do not make you remove shoes or belts.

Anyway, getting visas to this country is incredibly difficult and so is getting citizenship. Sure, that makes it easy for us to turn away every border-hopping Mexican but it also screws us in a totally different way. Brilliant people from all over the world want to come to this country. They want to work here, live here and contribute. And they’re frickin’ smart. These people should not be turned down. If the world is in a race for progress and wealth and success, these people are potential recruits that are getting turned down all the time. Ivy League Schools have huge percentages of international students – really smart ones – and most of those students are not allowed to remain in the U.S. after receiving their superb education. That is so dumb.

We are literally sending away (and often not letting in) smart people who will do a lot more for us as a society than the vast majority of voters. Oh, but they’re not Americans, you say.

Bullshit! Everyone is an American. We’re all the product of immigrants, which makes everyone in the world a potential America and gives them plenty of right to be here if they want to contribute and be a part of this rockin’ system. This country’s citizenship is not based on ethnicity, race, heritage or anything else of the sort. This is opposed to, say, being French. You can’t just become French. You can, however, just become American, and it’s what everyone of our ancestors did when they came to this country. They just became American. Now we have the ability to cherry-pick the world’s brightest people, causing a brain-drain everywhere else, and we turn them away in droves. And the ones that are allowed to stay for 12 or 36 months we make life very hard for on entry and exit and staying.

All I’m saying is that America is squandering an amazing chance to stay ahead, and if you don’t want to look at it like a competition, don’t. America is missing an amazing chance to hire not just this country’s best and brightest but the world’s most intelligent and capable people. Our system favors American Affirmative Action, but I’ll tell you what: never will I abide by quotas and affirmative action hiring. The best and most capable person for the job should get it and everyone else can deal with it. That should be our approach to hiring from the whole world. In this system of globalization it’s never been easier to get the best and to get the best for the right reasons – it’s time for American policies to reflect that ideal and that necessity.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you an immigrant or foreign national? Do you have a visa or visa problems? Tell me about your experiences.