Cartman Becomes the School Announcer and Rips on Wendy (like she’s Obama) in South Park Episode 1313 – and a lot of Smurfs die in an Avatar Satire

The profundity never ends on South Park – god, I f-in’ LOVE it!

The episode began with the brutal murder of the kid who does the school announcements – a murder we all hear happen over the course of five minutes on the announcements (I know that this probably undermines my opening sentence about the profundity of South Park, but I assure you that this is going somewhere). With his death there’s obviously a need to fill the spot of morning announcer, and so auditions are held. Upon beating out Casey Miller, who describes his voice as “audible chocolate,” by telling Mr. Mackey that Casey described his haircut in an unsavory fashion, Cartman becomes the new morning announcer.

On his first day as said announcer, he adds in quite a bit of impromptu commentary about the way that the school has been suffering as a result of the direction taken under its new leader, Wendy Testeberger. From here forward it’s quite clear that everything Cartman is saying about Wendy is meant to echo the way that some people in the news talk about the United States president, Barack Obama.

Essentially, Cartman drones on continuously about Wendy’s horrible policies and how she’s trying to turn the school into a liberal, socialist, left-wing, communist haven that wants to destroy the Smurfs. Upon writing a book and gaining an increasing amount of support, Cartman is told that he can no longer continue with these senseless ramblings or sell his book on school property. He storms out of school but does his morning announcements by video from abroad. Abroad where? The Smurf Village.

Cartman claims to have gone to live with the smurfs, to learn their ways, to pick Smurf berries and to live a Smurf life; Cartman also says that he fell in love with Smurfette. Tragically, he alleges, Wendy Testeberger came and destroyed the Smurf Village. But why, Wendy, why? In order to take all of the Smurf berries which she will use to power the school.

The allegations about Wendy (including the degree to which she’s a heinous slut) have become pretty extreme, and she’s being blamed for everything wrong at South Park Elementary. Since this is supposed to represent the way that people address Obama, I think lines like “maybe you should look into what student council actually does before you listen to an idiot with a microphone” and “just because a guy’s voice is on the intercom and his words are in a book doesn’t mean you should listen to him” are an amazing dig at the idiots out there with a platform to speak and the morons who believe every word they say.

Does that mean I support Obama and disparage his bashers? Hell no! It means that I agree that we all need to get a grip on the things we consider him responsible for and the degree to which his actions are having certain effects versus that which he has specifically put in motion.

Along the lines of Wendy destroying the Smurfs, I imagined at first that the Smurfs represented the “little people” or “small business” (that Obama is supposedly destroying), but as the episode went on it became clear that South Park is really pissed off about Avatar and the idea of somebody infiltrating a group of fakeass blue creatures by pretending to be one, gaining their trust and then going rogue on his own people who are trying to get an important supply of some power source. My question is, what did James Cameron rip off to make Avatar? I have to know! Please help me if you know the answer.

Back in the episode, Wendy agrees to go on Cartman’s show in order to get him to finally shut up (this after Butters urinates on her house in protest of her policies). Most unexpectedly, she admits to the whole destruction of the Smurfs thing, but only in order to take Cartman down with her by saying that his life amongst the Smurfs was meant to infiltrate and destroy them from the inside. Thus, Cartman is made to look like he destroyed the Smurfs. Wendy resigns from her post and hands the student body presidency over to Cartman. Obviously, the job is boring, thankless and sucky, and Cartman runs away crying after everybody hates him.

In a similar fashion, this is saying that those who bash the president and claim to know “what would definitely work” don’t know shit and couldn’t do any better of a job.

The episode also made a nice jab at Glee at the beginning by way of the rehearsals announcement (Glee‘s an awesome show, by the way).

What was your favorite part of the episode? Can you help me figure out the Avatar thing?

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W. – A Movie Review By Kush

The following is a movie review of W. by my friend Kush. He wrote it a while ago, recently reviewed it and told me that I was welcome to share it with you. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments at the bottom. And, of course, thanks to Kush!

The prospect of a film that would illustrate the inner workings of the Bush Administration, presidency, and perhaps even mind of George Walker Bush, seemed compelling. Furthermore, Oliver Stone’s illustration of all of the above in the context of JFK (199X) and Nixon (199X), with a Josh Brolin performance to boot, made W look like a required trip to the box office.

What the moviegoer got was not, however, the colorful, biting account of Bush or his presidency, that was expected. Instead, we got Josh Brolin impersonating Bush, rather than playing him, a story that focused more on Bush’s life between Yale and the White House than his presidency, and a slew of bad performances doing little more than paying lip service to some of the most critical members and events of the Bush Administration.

On the bright side, Stone’s account of Bush gave us something that more liberal viewers did not have going in:  a picture of Bush as a man, a son, and a Christian. The appropriately named W. features George W. Bush less as a protagonist than as the focal point through which the world is viewed. In this manner, we see Bush come to terms with the meaning of his family name, defiantly enter politics both because of and despite his father’s influence, defeat alcohol addiction, and be born-again into the Christian faith.

The only thing missing is a struggle.

Often times, it felt as though whenever W. decided to do something, it happened, less through sheer will than through the selfish maneuvering of the people around him – that and his father’s ability to pull strings whenever possible. This sense of “happening” may be due in part to the fact that the story itself is uncompelling, or perhaps because we all know the ending, but even at times when the story was new to most viewers, the plot came out flat.

Another problem with the movie is that almost the entire cast c0mes across as either lousy versions of the people they were cast to play, or below-the-belt charicatures of the real members of the Bush Administration. The actors cast to play Karl Rove and Condoleeza Rice, for example, seem built as assaults on the true versions of these people. They look and talk oddly, and don’t seem to resemble the already distinctly rich characters that we know from the news. On the other hand, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) played such terrible versions of the true characters that I spent more time focusing on how incredibly bad their characterizations were rather than the content of their delivery. George Bush Senior also came off as whiney, weak, and tired: a seemingly inaccurate characterization of a president that waged America’s last successful war.

Not only where the character portrayals poorly done, the movie focused so infrequently on the events leading up to the Iraq war that almost all scenes involving discussion of this pivotal issue took place in a windowless war room. Surely there was more to the decision to invade Iraq than three afternoon meetings in the White House Situation Room. This is the only view of “America” we see outside of the myopic Bush lens through which the movie is shot – save a short sequence of out-of-place anti-war footage, shots of the UN meeting where Colin Powell presented the case against Iraq against his will, and Bush’s address to Congress to invade Iraq.

Overall, the movie disappoints not because of the poor character renderings but because the story itself ultimately lacked conflict and drama. Stone portrays a man too preoccupied by his father’s opinion of him to really appreciate the fact that he was elected to the highest office in the most powerful country on earth. Because he never wanted to be president for the sake of being the president, he ultimately judged the decisions he made through a different lens than those who respect the office for what it really is.

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The Obama and McCain Election was a Front to Steal the Hope Diamond in “About Last Night,” South Park Episode 1212

We Got Jacked

The premise of the entire election, we learn, was that John McCain and Barack Obama are part of the world’s greatest thief syndicate. They both decided to run for president – a plan 10 years in the works – so that one of them had to win. Why president? Because an emergency escape tunnel runs from the Oval Office and under the Smithsonian, where the Hope Diamond – the current object of their thieving affections – is housed.

The rest of the episode goes down like an Ocean’s Eleven movie – and everybody’s in on it. Michelle is a computer whiz. Palin speaks stupidly to reporters about running for vice-president in ’09, but when talking to McCain and the team has a British accent and speaks about complicated, technical jargon (Elektra). They even all fake their own deaths at the end so that no one comes looking for them.

Some Meat and Potatoes

As hilarious as this context is, the actual portrayal of America is where the meat and potatoes of the episode really are. Obama supporters are ecstatic with their candidate’s win and Randy Marsh is ‘jumping the couch’ in his state of excitement. People are partying and wasted in the streets, overturning Barbrady’s cop-car, fighting, drinking, cursing out bosses, and insisting that everything is going to be different from that moment forward. They’re chanting “Yes we can,” and “Change!”

This is the delusion: that everything is going to be different with the simple election of Barack Obama – that we would wake up to CHANGE. There’s nothing wrong with the hope and excitement of this new presidency. It’s just that people seemed to think that it meant something immediate rather than long-term. This episode throws that in America’s face.

And not just on the Obama side either. The McCain supporters look like idiots, too. They build a bunker to start hiding in and fighting people off and insisting that it’s the collapse of society.

One line sums this up excellently. After Ike jumps out the window and is taken to the hospital the nurse asks, “Was he a McCain supporter or an Obama supporter.” The boys have no idea why this is relevant and she says, Because I need to know if he partied too hard or if he tried to kill himself.

Summary

This episode was classic and amazing South Park. Extreme satire and ridiculous situations reflected and distorted America’s experience last night and the feelings across the country. In the meantime it made profound points about what the reality was, as evidenced by McCain supporters going outside and seeing that the world was still standing the next day and Randy waking up hungover, unemployed and with fewer luxury goods (no tv or pants) and realizing that nothing had changed the night Obama was elected president.

Is that to say that nothing has really changed? No, plenty has and last night was a momentous night in American history. However, Obama put it best in his speech. Nothing is over. It’s only just begun. If we want real change we’re going to have to work a lot harder – and together – than anybody did to get Obama elected president.

What did you think of this episode? Did you like the plot? Did you like the points?

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Religion in the News: Where God Comes into the Republican Presidential Ticket

It should be noted up front that this is not an endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden. It is merely a few thoughts I have about the religious elements of the Republican nominee, John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, prompted by my recent viewing of the Republican National Convention.

First, I’d like to mention something that McCain said about a month ago when he was at a gathering of religious folk and required to talk about his religious beliefs. He said that he knew that no matter what he did in this life, he would be forgiven by God and accepted into Heaven.

Holy crap! I cried. That is not the kind of attitude I want my president to have. That attitude does not go well with leadership. No leader should have the luxury of believing that no matter what he does, simple repentance will result in forgiveness and a trip through the pearly gates. Such a belief leads to the possibility for cavalier missteps, especially by someone who self-promotes the whole maverick idea, wide open. I want a president who fears for his soul with every action he takes so that he calculates each and every move with unparalleled precision and forethought. Or one who isn’t concerned at all with the afterlife…

Then there’s Palin. Palin doesn’t believe in evolution. I happen to think what she’s done in Alaska is great and I like her governing style. But wait: she doesn’t believe in evolution. Seriously? You don’t believe in evolution, Mrs. Palin. Oh boy….

And those are some brief thoughts about the Republican ticket and religion.

What do you know about any of the candidates religious proclivities that you’d like to share? Anything worry you or set your mind at ease? Do you think faith should have a place in politics?

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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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Religion in the News: The Olympics Opening Ceremonies and the World’s Arrival in China

As most of you probably know and as many of you likely watched, last night the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games took place in the Beijing stadium known as the Bird’s Nest. I don’t know if you watched it, but I must say that from the bottom of my heart it was truly a spectacular event.

I cut it off shortly after the U.S. team marched (I was tired), and so I didn’t see the official opening words of the Chinese president, Hu Jintao or the words of the head of the IOC. Honestly, I would have liked to, but oh well. What I cared most about was the presentation by Zhang Yimou, an unbelievable display of Chinese history. It was one of the most sensational performances I have ever seen.

Symbolism and Performance

As many of my loyal readers will know, I love history and religion, and this performance was a masterpiece encapsulating both of those elements. Plus, the symbolism was fantastic. Many may not know the importance of the number 8 to the Chinese but the word 8 is ba, and an incredibly similar word means prosper and wealth. The Chinese pay more money to live on the 8th floor of buildings and in apartments with 8 in the number. Two 8s together (88) means double joy and happiness. The telephone number 888-8888 was sold for $270,723 in China, if that gives you any idea. What’s my point? That 8-8-08 being the opening ceremonies of the Olympics is no laughing matter or accident. Moreover, 2008 performers were in each different piece of the ceremony.

Chinese Religion and History

Westerners often fetishize eastern religions, particularly Buddhism but also Taoism. Though I’m guilty as well, I’m also slightly troubled by the fact, and thought that these ceremonies were an excellent way of the Chinese demonstrating that their religions, history and traditions have more depth than we tend to understand. Of course, it doesn’t help these ideas to try to sum up Chinese history in a few hours of performance pieces, but it was nonetheless truly a sight to behold.

Chinese characters of harmony were displayed in the most fabulous ways, calligraphy and painting were done by dancing men on an enormous moving canvas, and Tai Chi, the ancient art of body movement to enhance the flow of the chi was performed for the entire world in amazing ways. 2008 dancers in green outfits that lit up created an enormous flying dove with their bodies.

My description, as I look back, is a smack in the face of this amazing performance. Truly, you should go watch it online. The incorporation of Taoist and Buddhist thought and symbolism into multiple performance pieces designed to display China’s proud history was remarkable and makes me excited for what’s to come.

Idealistic Hopes for the Future

Those who know me may think I’m an idealist, and so might you after this next paragraph. I hope that these Olympic Games are a new beginning for China. Much of the symbolism of the performance was about opening China up to the world and welcoming it with harmony. The Great Wall was created and then replaced with flowers that symbolize this transformation.

It is my hope that this is the beginning of China relaxing its strict policies about protest, becoming more democratic, and doing the right things internationally (Taiwan, Tibet, etc.). I’m not suggesting that the day the Olympics is over all will change and be well, but I do hope that when we look back in 20 or 30 years, we look at this event – this opening of China to the world for the Olympics – just as we look at ping pong diplomacy and Nixon’s visit today. Well, even better than that.

Yes, it’s idealistic, but China is a growing powerhouse and one to be reckoned with, and I only hope that this event marks a visible turning point in its history when it realizes the value of being a part of the world order and some of the democratic values that go along with that.

What do you think? Did you see the ceremonies? What was your favorite part? What do you think about China and the future in light of these Olympic games?

Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for Zen Talk. To check out last week’s Zen Talk, click HERE. To check out last week’s Religion in the News article, click HERE.

Barack Obama’s Note in Jerusalem’s Western Wall is Published Around the World

Situation

Barack Obama went to Israel and the West Bank recently in order to discuss issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continue his international campaign for president of the United States of America. I’m going to set aside how fascinating I find the fact that this is the first presidential race that has included vigorous international campaigning (and that’s exactly what it is so let’s not mince words), and only discuss what happened during his visit to the Western Wall (also known as the Kotel or Wailing Wall). After all, this is a blog concerned with religion, not international politics, and this is religion in the news day.

History of the Western Wall

In actuality, the wall is part of a far larger retaining wall that holds up one side of a mountain, on top of which lies an enormous platform which once had the Temple sitting on it. Now, the Dome of the Rock is up there (click HERE for a picture and more history). There are actually other spots where you can go and see parts of this old retaining wall and pray if you like, but Jews, for the most part, don’t. They stick it out right here on this little section: they think it’s the holiest spot of all the potential ones. But why?

Because centuries ago when the Turks controlled the Holy Land and the Jews were praying all over the area to be as close to the original site of the Temple as possible, they were annoying the Turks. So, the Turks wanted to give the Jews a set place that they could and had to pray. Thus, they picked the current Wailing Wall. It is therefore only historical precedent which makes the Jews believe the Western Wall has some added holiness (though the proximity to the site of the original Temple does help this feeling, somewhat more justly, I suppose), and that is why they pray there. Personally, I’ve never much enjoyed the experience of going to the Wall, but we can get into those reasons another time.

Obama and the Western Wall

It is customary to leave notes in the Wall addressed to God. Many Jews do this (you can even email or fax notes and look at the Wall via webcam any day but Saturday), and many non-Jews participate in this ritual as well, believing in the sanctity of this spot and that it’s God’s post office. So, when Obama went, he too left a note. It’s not like Obama to be politically uncouth, after all.

Now, some very unethical individual decided to remove Obama’s note and bring it to a newspaper in Israel which promptly published it. I think this is despicable – less the act of publication itself than the actual  removal of the note from the Wall. Fortunately, the chief rabbis in Israel, as well as the rabbi who supervises the Wall, agree with me, and I’m surprised and pleased to get to say this.

I had feared that the rabbis would have said something to the effect of not caring that it was removed because Barack Obama is just a gentile and may well be a damn Muslim. Yes, something incredibly stupid like that. This, honestly, was my fear – that they would further embarrass Israel, the Jewish people, and anyone with half a sense of decency by saying that Obama shouldn’t be leaving notes anyway. Thank goodness this is not their policy and it’s not how they behaved. They condemned the whole thing, saying that what any man puts in the Wall is his private business and communication with God. For perhaps the first time in my life, I will say, good job rabbis in Israel.

Media Reaction

The most fascinating part about this to me is not that someone took the piece of paper. I could have called that. Instead, I love the way other media, like the BBC for instance (where I read this story originally), behaved. They seemed to condemn the Israeli newspaper for publishing the note, agreeing that it was private and an inappropriate journalistic act, and then proceeded to publish the note in full again. It was as if they loved the fact that it had already been published so that they could ‘justly’ do it and never get any heat for it. I could hear those British pricks giggling behind the html I was viewing (but maybe that was just my medication wearing off).

In any case, in like fashion, I too would like to show you what Barack Obama wrote, not only to allow the hypocrisy of my own story to come full circle, but also to note the fact that the presidential candidate was obviously prepared for such an occurrence. Why do I say that? Because there is nothing particularly personal on his note that could ever be construed as embarrassing or problematic or able for anyone to take issue with. It was a fluff note – obviously sincere – but nonetheless, a fluff note. Nearly anyone could have written it:

Lord – Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.

Personally, I would have loved to see a, “Let me kick John McCain’s old, white, wrinkly bitch-ass come November.”

What do you think about this whole situation?

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