Glide, Phish and the Pursuit of Happyness

My most recent Nashville Free Press article is all about the fascinating church in San Francisco called Glide, which is, interestingly, the name of a Phish song that comes eerily close to my thoughts on this church.

George Clooney’s Smug and South Park’s Hybrid Smug Create the Ultimate Smug Storm in “Smug Alert,” South Park Episode 1002

This episode is awesome and hilarious. On the one hand, I love the way it makes fun of San Francisco. I’ve been living in San Francisco for about 7 months and it really is a great city but holy shit am I tired of hearing about how great it is from every San Franciscan. These people think they are so progressive living in San Francisco. Even the carpet commercials say, “You’re a progressive Californian and you deserve a progressive carpet.” Oh my god! Suck my nuts! Though I like San Francisco, I love the way this episode captures the attitude out here. People here really do love the smell of their own farts (who doesn’t?).

Speaking of loving the smell of his own farts, let’s talk about Gerald Broflovski, who becomes ever more impressed with himself when he purchases a Hybrid and thinks that he’s saving the world. So smug is he that he eventually decides to move his family to San Francisco to cohabitate with all the other self-satisfied hybrid drivers.

In a desperate attempt to get his friend back to South Park (obviously Kyle went away with his family – and starts dropping acid in order to escape his parents who love the smells of their own farts so much) Stan writes a song that is meant to inspire people in South Park to buy hybrids. Well, it works, and ultimately the smug gathering over South Park at people’s new sense of self-satisfaction and the smug gathering over San Francisco combine into an unbelievable Smug System. When the smug from George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech (in which he speaks about how ahead of the times actors and Hollywood are) heads in the direction of the already brewing smug catastrophe, it’s more pressure than the western half of the U.S. can take.

See what the fallout of the smug is in “Smug Alert,” an awesome South Park episode.

What did you think? What was your favorite part?

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Zen Talk: Everyone Must Take His or Her Own Path

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” – Basho

What a great message. Many people think they should follow in the footsteps of giants, as it were, taking the path that they took in order to, presumably, arrive at the same end. Basho, however, has challenged this notion by telling us that we should only be seeking the end that great men sought and not attempting to follow their paths to get there.

I take this to mean that what they accomplished (presumably, enlightenment, but perhaps also any other form of higher knowledge) was wonderful, worthy of our admiration and of attempting to achieve ourselves, but that each of us has a unique path by which we must get there. It’s a very personal journey.

For instance, when I want to go to Frankfurt from San Francisco, there are a few paths I can take (most easily by plane) and everyone who takes that journey goes on one of them. Seek Frankfurt – take the standard path. Accomplishing what great men did – achieving enlightenment – is not about taking their path, however, though we’re going to the same point: an achievement of greatness.

We must find our own way there, because each of us has his/her own problems and issues and blinders that must be conquered and overcome. We cannot presume that the path will be the same as others took or else we would not be our own person. So, in seeking ends that others have, don’t follow their path. Make your own. That’s how life is lived and the sought after ends reached.

What do you think about this quote? What does it make you think?

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Book Review: You Suck, A Love Story, by Christopher Moore, Though Funny, Isn’t His Best

As it happens, that review would be based on a previous review of a book by Moore which I thought was incredible, and titled, Lamb or The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Best Friend. That book was truly sensational and written as a new gospel of Jesus’ life from the perspective of his childhood best friend who was there for those thirty or so years during which Jesus otherwise disappears. That book is fascinating, funny, well-researched and simply a great read.

You Suck, though amusing, was not the best. It took place in San Francisco and provided numerous scenes with rather detailed setting locations so that if you’re familiar with the city (and as I live here, I am) then it’s very enjoyable.

So the story is about a guy who is turned into a vampire by his girlfriend of a few months who was only recently turned into a vampire by a man who had been undead for centuries. Yes, that’s right, it’s a story about love and vampires. As this couple learns how to be successful vampires, they must contend with the elder vampire, the old crew they used to roll with that hunts vampires, their new minion, and then all the people that inadvertently get turned into vampires as this debacle goes down.

It’s light, quick-moving, amusing, and enjoyable and if you’re looking for something to be mindless with and chuckle at at the same time – and especially if you have a penchant for all things vampire, but aren’t too hardcore and serious about it – then this could be the book for you. No matter your penchants I highly recommend Lamb and do think that Christopher Moore is a very good and creative author.

Have you read any of his books? What did you think?

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Around the World Pic: Zen-like Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco


Personally, I didn’t find the Japanese Tea Gardens particularly relaxing. I was being a little sour and not that thrilled to be there, but it was cold and there weren’t any great places to sit and do nothing without being asked if you wanted some Tea. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not a nice place. The natural architecture of the place gives it a very Taoist feeling, and under the great conditions, it could have been a very nice time.

This is in Golden Gate park in San Francisco, California.

Have you ever been to this park or the Tea Gardens? Did you enjoy it?

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Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vauhn Have Fun in Four Christmases

It seems to me that a movie so obviously related to Christmas might have been coming out a little early when released on Thanksgiving. However, that’s the way of the world (which is to say, America) these days. Once Thanksgiving hits (though this year I’d say it came mid-November) the Holiday Season is upon us.

Typically I’m not that into Vince Vauhn doing romantic comedies. I prefer him in darker or more ridiculous roles, like say, as Norman Bates or his character on Be Cool – “E-Weezey!” However, he did a pretty decent job in this movie. Nothing spectacular, but how often does that word get associated with Vauhn anyway.

Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, is just the type of woman I like to see in romantic comedies. Not only is she stunning and classically beautiful, fun and spunky, and hints of a little naugtiness behind those big eyes, but she’s a great actress. As usual in these roles she seemed comfortable and at ease, all the while playing an excellent counterpart to Vauhn.

Living in San Francisco made this a particularly good movie for enjoying the oos and ahs of the crowd as it watched various scenes and panoramas of the city. Curiously, though, for those of us in the know, there was no reason for the couple to go over the Golden Gate Bridge on their way to the airport. That’s the opposite direction of the airport and no one is getting to Fiji driving north.

So, the movie was funny, laugh out loud a number of times, a little dumb here and there, a little over the top on ocassion but all in all a very standard and decent Holiday Season romantic comedy. If you’re into that sort of thing, knock yourself out, and if not, I’d just avoid this one.

A simple 5 Chocolate Salty Balls for Four Christmases.

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San Francisco, George Clooney and South Park’s Hybrids Collide in a Smug Storm in South Park Episode 1002, “Smug Alert”

Goodness gracious is this an awesome episode. Mr. Broflovski gets a hybrid and becomes so high and mighty that he moves his family to San Francisco where everyone loves the smells of his and her own farts. To get his best friend back to South Park, Stan writes a song that inspires everyone to become more environmentally conscious and buy hybrids. Then they all become equally as smug.

Smug clouds start gathering over South Park and San Francisco and when those smug clouds combine with the smugness from George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech (all about how advanced the people in Hollywood are), it’s a smug storm of epic proportions.

When Kyle leaves, Cartman makes Butters his Jew to rip on, but Butters doesn’t fight back like Kyle. He just laughs, and so Cartman has to go to San Francisco to rescue Kyle and his family from all the terrible hippies and bring him back. Cartman needs Kyle but doesn’t tell him that he saved his family from the Smug Storm. The way Cartman goes into the city all hazmat style is great, as is the children’s use of acid to escape their parents enjoyment of their own farts is hilarious.

I love this episode. First, I recently moved to San Francisco for a year and it is indeed an incredibly smug city. It’s a great place and I love it here but boy do we love the smell of our own farts. Second, hybrids, as much of a nice step as they may be, are not a permanent solution and people who drive them should not be so proud of themselves. And notably, Parker and Stone will mock anyone, friend or foe. George Clooney loves South Park, so much so that he wanted to be on it in the first season (he was only granted the role of Sparkey, Stan’s gay dog in episode 104). However, despite this, they tore into him for his obnoxious speech.

What did you think of this episode? What was your favorite part.

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“Something Wall-Mart Comes This Way,” South Park 809, Teaches That We Are the Soul of Wal-Mart

“If you want it to go away, all it takes is a little self control and personal responsibility,” Kyle tells people about how to get Wal-Mart out of South Park.

A lot of people don’t like Wal-Mart because they think it’s a big, giant, evil company. Moreover, it destroys local businesses by undercutting their prices. Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m not that interested in mom-n’-pop stores most of the time. I know it sounds cruel but I like options, comfort and convenience. That’s not to say that I love Wal-Mart.

I used to love Wal-Mart when I lived in Atlanta, but for some reason, the Oakland Wal-Mart (there are none in San Francisco proper) sucks. The prices are high and it’s not that great. I don’t know why. Target, I found, was much better, but it still poses the same problem to small local business.

However, are these problems and the evil Wal-Mart does in the world reason enough for it not to be allowed somewhere? I don’t think so. If Wal-Mart buys the land and builds the store and you don’t like it – don’t go! That’s exactly what Kyle was trying to say. It’s not Wal-Mart that destroys local businesses – it’s our personal decisions to go there and buy its crap. It’s a free market and the choice lies with us. Have some self control and accept personal responsibility and Wal-Mart won’t matter.

People say similar things about Starbucks being evil and a big corporation and that it destroys local coffee-shops but you don’t have to buy your coffee there. People just do. Starbucks failed in Israel and Australia because the people just wouldn’t buy it. They thought their own coffee was better. Big corporations don’t have to succeed – we allow them to succeed. So, don’t bitch about Wal-Mart. You don’t like it? Don’t buy it.

Do you hate Wal-Mart? Do you like this episode and its message? Do you think I’m an idiot and need to tell me so?

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“Night of the Living Homeless,” South Park Episode 1107, Pisses Me Off

Why does it piss me off, you ask? Because I recently moved to California and at the end of the episode, the solution to the problem of all the homeless people in South Park (spoiler alert!) is that they are led to California where people are nice to the homeless.

I’m not advocating that people be mean to the homeless but for Christ’s sake (though I don’t think Jesus would approve of my disparaging attitude towards the needy) I wish they’d leave me the hell alone. They’re everywhere. To be fair, they’re not marginally as bad as this episode conveys: when you say no or indicate that you’re not interested, they leave you alone. But holy cow are they all over the place.

This episode raises a funny point about homeless guilt: the “God bless you, sir” even when you don’t give anything. They’re never mad or rude but they say God bless you. Well, I didn’t sneeze and honestly, they need God’s blessings a lot more than I do so I refuse to feel guilty and just wish that they would stop waiting for God’s blessings and get off their asses (do I sound like Ayn Rand yet?).

One thing that is nice about San Francisco bums is that a lot of them try to sell a street paper to get change. I haven’t looked into it but I think that these papers are made for the homeless to sell so that they can do something with themselves. Do you know more about this? I also think it’s cool when a bum reads the paper aloud, hoping that he’s providing a service that someone is willing to pay for. I’m always happier contributing to someone trying to earn a living because it’s not contributing – it’s paying.

When I lived in West Philly one bum would always open the door at the grocery store. I always gave him my change because he was providing a service and not just asking for money. Maybe that outlook is evil since I don’t want to just give bums money but I condone charity and give charity – I just don’t know where the money’s going if I give it to some bum. Booze? Crack? However, if he’s provided a service then it’s like a paycheck and if you’re making a paycheck then you’re entitled to spend your money however you want. Like on booze or crack.

What’s your attitude towards the homeless? Did you like this episode?

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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?

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