“I’m a Little Bit Country,” 701, is South Park’s Episode about War

The outcome of this episode is classic South Park, through and through. Why? Because it emphasizes the Middle Ground and everyone’s right to his or her opinion, insisting that we need everyone’s opinions to have the best of both worlds. Indeed, that’s what makes our country great.

Frankly, I think that everyone should watch this episode so I’m not going to spoil all of the juicy goodness. I am, however, going to give you a spoiler alert for the following quote which is pretty much the episode’s summary. Cartman says:

“This country was founded by some of the smartest thinkers the world has ever seen, and they knew one thing: that a truly great country could go to war and at the same time – act like it doesn’t want to. You people who are for the war: you need the protesters, because they make the country look like it’s full of sane, caring individuals. And you people who are anti-war, you need these flagwavers, because if our whole country was made up of soft pussy protesters, we’d get taken down in a second. That’s why the founding fathers decided we should have both. It’s called having your cake and eating it too.”

What great stuff! South Park makes me feel like such a patriot, and as a Penn alumni, I love anything that mentions Benjamin Franklin, who makes a special guest appearance on this episode.

Did you see it? What did you think? Who’s your favorite founding father? Are you for or against the war? Despite your opinion, do you appreciate the importance of having the opinion of the other side and of living in a country where you can express yourself as you please?

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South Park’s “Follow That Egg” Legalizes Gay Marriage

When Mrs. Garrison decides that she is ready to forgive Mr. Slave and take him back only to discover that he plans to marry Big Gay Al, she vows to prevent the legalization of gay marriage in Colorado and keep them separated forever.

To do this, she creates an experiment whereby the children in her class have to take care of an egg, and by pairing up two boys, she plans to prove that men are incapable of caring for a child. Then she’ll show the results of her “scientific” study to the governor who will have a reason to prevent the passage of the gay marriage bill without being directly responsible. Brilliant….really brilliant.

At the end of the episode, when Big Gay Al and Mr. Slave are getting married, funny enough, it is Father Maxi – a Catholic priest! – who presides over their marriage. Curious, considering that Catholicism doesn’t tolerate homosexuality, much less its sanctioning by the bonds of holy matrimony.

Personally, I think gay people should be allowed to marry, if not in church, at least legally. In fact, I don’t think that the government should have anything to do with the term marriage. I think that only religious or other institutions should concern themselves with that term. My issue is what the government does because only the government affects all people in the U.S. and has the obligation to treat us all equally.

That said, the government should ONLY have the right to grant people the status of “civil union.” Any two consenting adults should be able to join in such a union and then reap the benefits, tax or otherwise, of this union. In this way, marriage and the government have nothing to do with one another and no one has to worry or be treated unequally. You want to be married? Let your priest do it and call it whatever you want.

Do you like this episode? What’d you think? What are your thoughts on gay marriage?

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Topical Tuesdays: Volume and Pitch – The Noise a Writer Needs to Do the Deed

And just to clarify for those of you with less than savory minds (or particularly savory minds, as the case may be), that deed is writing.

Yes, this Topical Tuesday is all about the volume: TURN IT UP! Or maybe for me, turn it down. We’re all a little different with our noise preferences when we sit down at the computer to write (or just work), but in order to do what needs doing, we all need it to be the pitch and volume we like it.

Noise In Israel

When I was getting my Masters in Jerusalem, I happened to live on the corner of a particularly busy street (Hapalmach and Koveshei Katamon, for those of you who may be familiar), and it was a noisy street. The #13 bus ran down Hapalmach and began very early in the morning and ended very late. Cars honked incessantly (everywhere in Israel) and motorbikes roared. It was also heavily trafficked by pedestrians and people had no consideration for the volume of their voices as they reprimanded their children, called out to a friend or simply discussed the days events. Honestly, all that noise never made it too hard for me to work. I wrote and I read and I did just fine.

But then the Sabbath would come. Though Israel itself stays relatively lively on Saturday (that’s the Jewish Shabbat), Jerusalem truly becomes very quiet and Sabbath-like. All the buses stop, very few people continue driving, and though the foot-traffic increases so more people are talking on the streets, there really is something less noisy about it all. Shabbat was quiet and on Shabbat you better believe I could concentrate and got some work done (though you’re not supposed to work or use computers and electricity or write, but if that’s the only time Israelis shut-up what can God expect).

Quiet in the U.S.

Upon returning to America I lived in the suburbs in a quiet neighborhood where the only noise was the kids across the street playing for an hour outside as they got home from school. It was blissfully quiet. This is where I wrote most of my book, but this level of silence actually has its ups and downs.

It was so quiet that I’d get sleepy around 1 p.m. (after 5-6 hours of writing) and want to take a nap. With no noise or external distractions, I would succumb to this unnecessary sleeping sensation and waste the rest of my day napping, then being groggy, then saying it was too late to keep writing. So in this way, noise can be good for me and my work.

Volume Up

Now I live on a busy street in downtown San Francisco. Buses go by. People are loud checking into the hotel across the street and walking around, and the noises of the city (and my loud cat) keep me up. Though I haven’t begun writing again I think that this environment, similar to my life in Jerusalem, will keep me alert and active and able to write – and if I need to turn down the volume there are always earplugs, my recommendation to everyone who needs that whether awake or trying to sleep.

Oh, and as for music: only when I do mindless work. I can’t write to music at all because the rhythm doesn’t allow my brain to think entirely in its own way. Do you listen to music when you work?

Do you like noise or quiet when you work? Is your situation conducive to those needs? What tricks do you use to keep things at the proper volume for you?

For more on this Topical Tuesday discussion check out Chandler’s blog.

In the News: Protestants and Catholics Still Over Centuries-Long War

U.S. President George W. Bush has just gone to the Vatican where he was welcomed warmly by Pope Benedict XVI. That is, an evangelical leader of the free/WASP/non-Catholic world (perhaps that’s giving a lot of credit to Bush, but allow it for the sake of comparison, please) has met with the Pope, the spiritual leader of the world’s billion or so Catholics.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to not the sixteenth century.

Now, of course, pope’s and U.S. presidents have been meeting for years now, and the Catholic Church and the Protestant world (though it isn’t so easily grouped in a unified way as Catholicism) have long since made amends…effectively. I for one, would like to state quite clearly how awesome that is.

We really take for granted in our day how wonderful it is that there is a relative amount of unity, a high degree of peace and a general disregard for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Christian world is pretty much A-ok on an inter-denominational basis. Sure, the Christian and Muslim worlds are effectively at war (though I neither believe that it is as ubiquitous as I have made it sound nor as dichotomized as Christian v. Muslim), but it’s great that Catholic-Protestant relations are at the height of their strength. Why am I harping on this issue, you ask?

Well, it really wasn’t like that for a very long time. The Puritan roots of this country can be traced back to a need to escape the Anglican Church because it was too close to and corrupted with popery – or Catholicism – Puritans claimed. People in the colonies hated, persecuted and banned Catholics in various places for a very long time. Life as a Catholic in America wasn’t easy for a while. Now, can I blame Protestants (back-in-the-day Protestants, that is), for being terrified of and hating Catholics? Considering the Church’s history and the way it treated dissenters, no, I really can’t, but let me be frank: relations never had to normalize.

Wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe were on an unimaginable scale, comparable to parts of the crusades, in certain areas of Europe killing up to a third of the population (sometimes more deadly than the Black Plague), and many people believed that Catholic and Protestant countries would never be at peace with one another. Slowly but surely, however, countries realized that interests other than religion set them at odds with one another and unified them with each other, and today, in our post-industrial, post-Cold War, newly hyper-globalized world, issues like whether you are a Protestant or Catholic country are really not the issues at hand. And that’s spectacular.

But then again, we’re not talking about countries, per se. The Holy See may be a country, but at the end of the day, it’s the Roman Catholic Church through and through, and I still think it’s awesome that an evangelical Protestant leader and the pope can greet each other warmly and genuinely, get along, discuss their common goals and interests (even if, unfortunately, some of those happen to be banning abortion and stem-cell research and continuing to promote abstinence – issues we will get to in due time, I’m sure), and be so friendly. It’s important, and not what one would expect after a few centuries of animosity and wars. If in the seventeenth century you’d asked who a Christian’s biggest enemy was, he’d say, a Catholic – never a Muslim, a Democrat or Oprah Winfrey or anything like that (don’t you love topical humor!).

So, that’s my thouhgt: we shouldn’t take for granted that the Protestant and Catholic worlds are effectively at peace (save a few small pockets of course), and when U.S. Presidents and Popes are hanging out together, we should appreciate that we’ve come a long way since the Thirty-Years War.

Note about tomorrow’s post: I will be posting in the afternoon because tomorrow is Movie/Book review day and I am going to see a matinée of The Happening. I have pretty low expectations but a close friend is a screenwriter of horror movies so we’re going – let’s see if it can break the low bar I’ve set. Check back tomorrow afternoon for the review of The Happening.