South Park Buddhism

My greatest weakness is my inability to listen and comprehend. When I listen to someone speaking, my mind tends to follow the music of the voice and gets distracted from any notion of the content being shared. When I taught reading comprehension for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes one summer, we used a method that stimulated the child’s ability to visualize each part of a story. Since then, I try to visualize in the same way when I’m listening to a story or a lecture, yet I can only keep it up for so long before I become conscious again of the music of the voice or simply of consciousness itself.

While I continue to strengthen this faculty, I rather appreciate visual animations of voice recordings, which is what I have found here. These three voice recordings by the Buddhist scholar Alan Watts have been animated by South Park team members.

“Pickles Pig,” a silly book for kids.

What a sweet story. Or not. Poor Pickles Pig doesn’t want to be sold by the farmer and get turned into crisp-fry bacon. He learns that he must be sold because it’s the only way the farmer can justify his expenditures on the pig’s food, like the horse who earns his food by plowing the fields or the cat who rids the farm of rodents. Pickles Pig needs to find an alternative way to earn his keep if he doesn’t want to become crisp-fry bacon. In the meantime, he plays with the farmer’s daughter and discovers how to use a computer. He writes his life story on the keyboard, gets it published, gets paid, and turns flips of joy in front of his farmyard friends when he is saved from the slaughterhouse.

The lesson I have learned, and correct me if I’m way off, is that the value of a life can be determined by the economic returns it produces; however impossible, we are all capable of providing our owns means for sustenance, we just need to keep trying harder and soon we’ll discover that most unlikely mode of economic production, that is, if we don’t want to become someone else’s food…

I’m fascinated by the explication of human emotions. This excerpt from Norbert Elias’s The Civilizing Process isolates the clandestine character of shame. Clandestine because shame (real morbid shame) follows from some behavior on our part that conflicts with the values of our intimate community of friends and family. Yet, why do we disguise the feeling of shame, when it’s actually a human response that illuminates our understanding of moral values, rather than an unfeeling abandonment of them?

“[T]he anxiety that we call ‘shame’ is heavily veiled to the sight of others; however strong it may be, it is never directly expressed in noisy gestures. Shame takes on its particular coloration from the fact that the person feeling it has done or is about to do something through which he comes into contradiction with people to whom he is bound in one form or another, and with himself, with the sector of his consciousness by which he controls himself. The conflict expressed in shame-fear is not merely a conflict of the individual with prevalent social opinion; the individual’s behaviour has brought him into conflict with the part of himself that represents social opinion. It is a conflict within his own personality; he himself recognizes himself as inferior. He fears the loss of the love or respect of others, to which he attaches or has attached value. Their attitude has precipitated an attitude within him that he automatically adopts towards himself. This is what makes him so defenceless against gestures of superiority by others which somehow trigger off this automatism within him.”

This video not only rocks, but makes me want to abandon the hum-drum of academia to work with all these good-looking and creative hipsters at an Internet company. Just look at that office. Seriously. I checked their job opportunities. I’m not qualified.

Lip Dub – Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri and Vimeo.

How refreshing! It’s adorable that she can’t keep herself from giggling every time she says ‘Cookie Monster’. And that she’s so affectionate with Kermit (although I think she’s trying to give him rabbit ears at the end of the alphabet).

Cookie Monster on YouTube

This summer I will teach Lars Eighner’s personal essay “On Dumpster Diving.” Eighner, homeless during three years with his dog Lizbeth, recounts his personal experiences and strategies for scavenging a living from the discarded food, clothes, and household items of local residents.

This essay, which turned into the longer memoir Travels with Lizbeth, surprises us with its clear, frank manner of detailing his thought process as he evaluates any variety of leftover raw foods and dry foods for safe consumption. His welcome attitude toward what others have considered garbage makes for a harrowing account of the current state of middle-class values.

Whereas Eighner scavenged dumpsters to survive, a yuppie coalition of dumpster divers has emerged with a solely political agenda. This New York Times article “Not Buying It” tells the story of these “freegans.”

“Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.”

According to this New York Times article, social interactive web sites ala MySpace are cropping up that are targeted at young girls with their simple communication tools. More specifically, most have in common the real-life obsession girls have with “dress-up.”

Sites like Cartoon Doll Emporium feature a selection of dolls kids can personalize. “Belle of the Ball,” the doll I personalized below, is the only doll which had the selection features we’re used to in Avatar designs, such as Zwinky. But most, oddly, were basically online versions of paperdolls, in which we drag cutouts of clothing onto the body of the model. (Perhaps these dolls are targeted at a younger age set, who might delight in simply dragging and dropping the doll clothes. I think it’s a poor use of technology.)

What surprises me most is how much I loved personalizing my “Belle of the Ball,” as I do all the avatars I create for myself. Am I creating a technological image of the person I perceive myself to be? fantasize myself to be? I never know. And yet there always seems to be “rightness” in each color or style of clothing I select. It’s an amazing power to be able to fashion oneself without limits, without consequences.