Turning Cobra into Python

By on August 1, 2013

Here is a posted response to my recent review of “Sullivan’s Travels”.  I included the picture the reader references.

No way would I put an actual photo of a cobra here. Those things are evil. Like “anaconda” and “black mamba”, “cobra” is one of the best names in the animal kingdom.

No way would I put an actual photo of a cobra here. Those things are evil. Like “anaconda” and “black mamba”, “cobra” is one of the best names in the animal kingdom.


John on July 20, 2013 at 9:59 am said:


In the past, I have tried but failed to sit though Preston Sturges’ films, so I read a biography of him in hopes that that would help – but it did not. Your review has. I will go back and see them now.

Your stream of consciousness method of film review – I found delightful – especially the picture of the python attached to that part of the narrative – hilarious.

I can not believe you have crossword puzzle/Jeopardy coincidences as well.  Now I find that even eerier than the coincidence you mentioned.  I have them involving crossword puzzles and books, Jeopardy and that same days random but focused conversations with co-workers.

You constantly amaze me Dan.


Dear “John”,
Kaa the python from Disney's 1967 "The Jungle Book"

Kaa the python from Disney’s 1967 “The Jungle Book”

I’ll tell you what’s hilarious, and I don’t mean this sarcastically:  As many times as I used the word “cobra” in that “Sullivan’s Travels” anecdote, you referred to the snake in the picture, where I used the word twice, as a “python.”  I feel completely upstaged.  Actually, “python” is another great name for an animal and is very succinct and strong, as though an exclamation point after the “n” is implied.  One thing I debated cramming into the small space of the cobra caption was how ironic it is that such a repellent animal is so beautifully patterned.   Look at pictures of anacondas, pythons and cobras.  They’re beautiful; you just have to get past the fact they’re serpentine and deadly and that eating low-on-the-totem-pole animals like rodents and fish doesn’t seem to be enough for them.  Try telling them they miss the point.  Florida already had given me nothing but reasons to avoid it but this explosion of invasive Burmese pythons really sealed the deal.

IMG_1791The fact that someone else tried to watch Preston Sturges films and came up empty-handed AND has repeat occurrences of coincidences the same way I do has given me relief.  I’ve never come across anyone who shared either experience.  In the case of the coincidences, it’s been a lifelong ongoing gag to the point I want to say, “OK, what’s your point?” to no one in particular.  God, I guess, although you’d think God would be much too busy to spend time playing mild practical jokes on anyone, much less me.  Although, when I think about it, it makes sense God would do something like that.

IMG_1800I never felt an all-powerful being would want anyone to spend their time worshipping him. He has to be much too practical and comfortable in his skin to be in need of that kind of validation.  Think about it:  What exactly would God get out of it?  By any rational definition of what God is, he has no needs.  No being that’s omnipresent needs validation.  I just had a vision of God, in white, asking an angel, “Does this robe make my butt look big?” and the angel desperately trying to concoct a diplomatic response.

Chuck Norris StoryOfCreationI think if you really want to get on God’s good side, start doing Chuck Norris-esque jokes about him.  Without itemizing examples, we know he has a sense of humor.  Maybe just plagiarise the entire Chuck Norris catalog and insert “God” where “Chuck Norris” appears.  Like this one:  God can divide by zero. Or maybe, God wants to be Chuck Norris when he grows up, which might already be a Chuck Norris joke.  Or things like God ran for Pope but didn’t make the first cut.  You could come up with different endings for that last one like, ‘…but he didn’t meet the height requirement or but he scored poorly in the bathing suit competition or but he dropped his playing cards trying to do a trick for the talent portion.  The source material gives us a lot to work with.

IMG_1805It’s in man’s nature to project his needs, insecurities, and limited perspective onto whoever it is he worships as The Creator, which is why guilt, fear to the point of paranoia, and being judgmental are so integral to many religions. These are all devices used to keep people in line.  It makes sense that the contributors to the bible would write what they wrote since none of them are God.  Who exactly really witnessed anything God is purported to have said based on what’s in The Bible?  Do you really think that God would make an appearance those few times then go on a two thousand plus-year hiatus on the premise that everyone that followed would take the word of men – whose perspectives were not only limited (“The earth is shaped HOW, again?”) but constricted by irrational fears (“See you at tonight’s witch-drowning and don’t forget, you’re bringing the coleslaw!”) – about what happened (or didn’t happen) into perpetuity?

Depiction of a Joseph Smith revelation in South Park's "All About Mormons"

Depiction of a Joseph Smith revelation in South Park’s “All About Mormons”

To get a feel for how a religion and its beliefs can be founded, watch the South Park episode “About the Mormons.”  Here’s the entire episode: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s07e12-all-about-mormons

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the episode:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_About_Mormons

Long before its Broadway adaptation became a monster success, this was my favorite South Park episode, and that show has a lot of great episodes.  The Marlboro Country music score alone is exceptional.  Not only is this one of my favorite South Park episodes, it’s one of my favorite all-time TV episodes, period.  The South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, deserve all their success for what they’ve created while seeming to have a good time while doing it.

IMG_1806After seeing the episode and reading up on Mormonism, try explaining to a Mormon that his religion is founded on fabrications and has no basis in fact.  My best friend when I was in junior high living in Cheyenne, Wyoming was Mormon and his family was exactly like the one depicted in the episode.  Curt even looked like the main character of this episode and had two beautiful, blonde, smart, and extremely friendly older sisters; one was a cheerleader at the local high school and the other was a cheerleader at BYU.  His father was the regional manager for a big supermarket chain and his mother looked and carried herself like a red-headed Elizabeth Taylor (without the drug problems and multiple husbands) and always insisted I stayed for dinner or spent the night.  Probably the most warm, sincerely nice, well-adjusted, well-intended, and hospitable family I’ve ever known, and I’ve known some good ones.  Curt himself was smart, athletic, personable, sincere, generous, positive, agenda-free, and a great friend.  In other words, Curt was the antithesis of a stereotypical provincial New Yorker.

giant Buddhas of Bamiyan

One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Before and after. Tragic.

Back to the topic of God. No supreme being would be sadistic enough to want his creations to think in the unhealthy and detrimental ways religions implicitly teach.  Westboro Baptist Church, the group that defies logic by somehow equating the deaths of U.S soldiers with America’s “acceptance” and “promotion” of homosexuality?  That’s religion.  When the Muslim-extremist Taliban destroyed the magnificent Buddhas of Bamiyan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan in March of 2001, which was a precursor to what would happen six months later and there seemed to be absolutely no reaction other than being “internationally condemned” (BIG DEAL)?  That’s religion.  The Crusades?   You guessed it.

IMG_1811Even on a daily, personal level, especially in the Midwest and provincial New York, people use religion to justify and rationalize their bad behavior.  I’ve repeatedly come across people who consider themselves devout Catholics and they are some of the most angry, judgemental, and unstable people I’ve ever met, and I was raised Catholic.  They are very self-serving in their interpretation of the concept that confession absolves all sins.  When you wrong someone – assuming you recognize it – you don’t confess to God, you apologize to that person.  Better yet, don’t do it at all.  I could go on but you get the point.  All of a sudden Mormonism doesn’t seem so bad.

owners manual 2God wouldn’t create anything for the purposes of seeing it eat itself alive or destroy anything or anyone or do many of the things people do in the name of religion, or rather, as a result of selectively misinterpreting the teachings of a religion.  He wouldn’t want to be acknowledged at all, other than in ways of appreciating his other creations, like other people and nature.  A supreme being would want people to focus on living a good, productive, ethical life rather than devoting so much time and effort preparing themselves for what they think will happen after death, which I imagine baffles him (“Where the hell did they get THAT from?”, as he fumbles through the instruction manual he thought he left with us).  Religion makes things much more difficult than they need to be.  For all its efforts at recruiting new members, I’m not even sure it’s that good at creating jobs even though the major religions are money machines.

buddha happy-buddha-on-the-moneyLook at how much money is being made in the name of Buddhism in the form of books, audio recordings, retreats and seminars.  All of those things make Buddhism and meditation much more complicated than they really are.  The essence of both is the definition of “minimalism.”  For most of 2012, I went several times a week to meditation sessions where the regulars had all meditated and studied Buddhism for more than 40 years.  Not one of them got the point.


One guy in his 60’s and in terrible physical condition was very affected, pretentious, and judgmental.  He validated himself by what he knew about Buddhism, the books and CDs he purchased, and the retreats he attended as though there was a competition I didn’t know about.  That guy wasn’t insecure at all.  He complained about wanting to move to California (from KC) but couldn’t afford it and resented not being a “trust fund kid.”  In the same conversation, he admitted he was “lazy.”  In other words, he blamed the world for his problems and took no responsibility for the position he had put himself in.  Hey buddy, I just came here to meditate.  At the time I met him, his wife recently left him and his boss recently fired him.  I wonder why.  A woman in her late 50’s could not converse without complaining about an illness or symptom she or one of her many dogs and cats had.  She wasn’t looking for sympathy at all.  glass laughing-buddha-against-money

A well-dressed and well made-up woman at least once a week did the group a favor by letting us know, in a very nasal tone, that she was an ATTORNEY and that her husband was an ATTORNEY, which made them both ATTORNEYS.  (Thank God she informed us of that last fact because I kept forgetting to bring my calculator to meditation.)  She repeatedly also announced that she was thinking about starting a meditation group exclusively for ATTORNEYS because she thought the nature of the work ATTORNEYS did required a special program and was playing with the idea of calling the group “Meditation for ATTORNEYS.”  She wasn’t looking for validation at all.  I wasn’t sure if it was a revenue-generating idea or not, nor did I ask.  Assuming that was the case would make it seem like I’m trying to use her as an example to emphasize my points.  That’s not what I’m doing at all.

IMG_1813What they all shared were off-putting and self-serving compulsive behaviors.  The guy that recommended meditation to me in the first place (I’m plotting my revenge as we speak) and bought me two or three books on it (see what I mean$) is a collection of compulsive behaviors whose perspective is dictated by his affiliations, including his religion, his association with AA, his involvement in meditation, and his sexual orientation.  One of his compulsive behaviors is his need to belong to groups, which makes him a joiner (I learned there’s a word for it on “Jeopardy” and thought of this guy immediately when I gave my correct answer to the clue in the form of a question).  One of his compulsive behaviors is repeatedly recommending meditation to others.  Meditation, Inc. and Buddha Corp. reading and audio materials and retreats have this guy in the palms of their hands the same way Apple owns the souls and bank accounts of its legions of lost lemmings in search of validation.  These people, upon purchasing the newest iPad, are already looking online for speculation and rumors about features the next version will or won’t have, essentially making their recent purchase obsolete.  In marketing class, that would be considered amplifying “post-purchase blues” or the regret you can feel after you buy something, especially something expensive.

IMG_1815This guy can’t stop recommending meditation; it’s out of his control.  He’s a poster child for why people should NOT meditate, at least in the way he means it, which is in a very defined, structured, and complicated way, which is exactly what meditation should NOT be.  I’ve only recently realized he was obsessively compulsive after knowing him for almost eighteen years.  Any or all of the people I mentioned would turn an alert person away from both Buddhism and structured meditation and probably have.  They did that exact thing to me, now that I think about it.  Literally, I just realized that.  Writing things out makes me realize things that would not otherwise be on the forefront of my thinking.

IMG_1817Take a week off life and go to a place in the middle of the woods, on the ocean, or anywhere you’re otherwise surrounded by nature and without electronics or anything else that would take your focus away from you just being you.  If you’re paying attention, you’ll learn what meditation is.  You might even think of it as a religious experience, with you being the sole member of your denomination.  Pay yourself 10% of your income if it completes the experience for you.

You don’t have to go out of your way to experience the benefits of meditation.  Whenever you’re doing something like gardening, cooking, washing the dishes, exercising, or something repetitive (but not stressful) at work, if you focus just on doing that one thing well, it can be meditative.  It can be therapeutic because you block out everything else at that time, which is the goal of meditation; blocking out unnecessary thoughts and distractions.  IMG_1819Eating a meal can be a very meditative experience, especially since you see, touch, smell, and taste food (I guess you can hear yourself eat as well).  Slow down the next time you eat a full meal and really enjoy the experience.  Because it’s multi-sensory, there’s a lot to focus on and literally digest.  Walking around your home in silence as you do things can serve the same purpose.  Take any advantage to be alone in your thoughts. A lot of people already do meditative things without thinking of them as meditation, which is how it should be.  Our ability to meditate was always built-in; it just gets more buried as our priorities and values get progressively worse.

Going back to the idea of projecting one’s thinking onto that of a supreme being, this comment I made at the end of the June 29 article I wrote about my aversion to political conversations came to mind:

. . . I’ve made an art of deflecting and defusing flattery, which I decided at the age of eight didn’t have value or serve a purpose for me.

When flattery means little to you, non-constructive criticism will be similarly weightless.  I refer to my own writing like I’m Ernie Pyle or Dave Barry.  Here’s a comment I made at the end of the review I did for “The Great Gatsby”:

Rather than wasting energy thinking about the sexuality (or any other personal aspect) of someone they’re not in an intimate relationship with, people would find they’d get more out of life by focusing on doing the best they can with their own relationships, responsibilities, hobbies and interests.

IMG_1980That’s an ongoing theme with me and it appears in different forms on the site.  In the column I also include pictures and short video clips of nature, which I promote because, as I say repeatedly:  I love nature; it’s the only thing that’s real.  Apparently, I think if I say these things enough times, they’ll stick.  That would only be effective if the site attracted more readers.  I told the guy who runs the site we could increase our readership if we advertised on something big that everyone’s interested in, like Justin Bieber’s hair, Kim Kardashian’s ass, or Kanye West’s ego.

Maybe it’s because I recognize the coincidences (I know, I forgot what I was originally talking about, too) and somehow appreciate them that they keep happening.  Almost every occurrence is witnessed by someone else or is provable.  Besides, if I was going to lie, as lacking in creativity as I am, I’d come up with something better than that.

Blondie One Way or AnotherOne coincidental occurrence happened when I worked in a steel mill – the few years off I took from school taught me its value – with a co-worker as we left the plant at the end of a Friday night graveyard shift.  To shake off the week and kick off the weekend, we took a ride to get high and hang with each other before I took him back to his car.  Even though the radio was playing a different song, for no reason, I started singing Blondie’s “One Way or Another”, which my passenger would only have noted otherwise because I can’t sing.  I didn’t even like the song and found it grating and it was a several years old at that time.  The next song that came on the radio was “One Way or Another.”  Dave could have gotten whiplash for how fast he turned his head to look at me and he yelled, “Oh…my…God!  What made you sing that song?!  That’s just f’ing WEIRD!  Let me outta this car NOW!”  He lost all interest in getting high – and that guy breathed pot like it was air – and was sincerely freaked out to the point of being frightened, which was something I never saw in him before or after (he started in both football and wrestling in high school), and we hung out a lot, mostly making each other laugh.  I laughed at his reaction but he refused to take my cue and was stressed on the drive back to his car.  I don’t know if he overreacted or I underreacted.  Nothing you can do about it other than laugh.

Emeryville Crescent State Marine Reserve.  I moved from the Bay Area in 1995 and never new this area to be a state reserve.  See San Francisco in the distance?

Emeryville Crescent State Marine Reserve.  See San Francisco through the fog in the distance?

A similar but less stressful occurrence happened years later.  I was driving with a buddy in Emeryville (which is where Pixar is headquartered) when I lived there and we were driving toward the marshlands just before you approach the Bay Bridge.  I said, “Ever notice how, whenever we go out and get high together, we see the strangest things?”, which he acknowledged.  Right after I said that, as we stopped at a T-intersection, directly in front of us in the high grasses we saw a very tall crane, which the windshield framed perfectly, standing close to the street, which in itself was unusual.  At the end of its long bill was a mouse, desperately fighting for its life.  Our view was such that we could see the mouse’s every frantic

Westbound on the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, December 7, 2012

Westbound on the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, December 7, 2012

movement, a scene which looked comical despite its life and death implications.  I didn’t even know cranes ate mice, although I never put much thought into what exactly constitutes a crane’s diet.  In a much lighter reaction than the one Dave had, my buddy looked at me and said, “OK, that was weird.  Maybe we should stop getting high when we go out together.”  The light turned green, we went on our way, and continued getting high as we drove into The City.  The drive across the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco never, ever gets old.

Thanks for the very complimentary and very flattering feedback.  Tell dad I said “hi”.


August 1, 2013

The pictures of the fog, lamp posts and flat part of the front of my property were taken during my 5:00am walk on July 29.  Look at how different the foggy pictures at the beginning of the walk look from the last one of the open grassy area.  They were all taken within a 35-minute period.  I took the picture of the white moth the next day around noon.  I followed it as it fluttered for ten minutes before it finally stopped so somebody better see that picture.

Added August 6, 2013:

While Pope Francis’ recent comments on gays won’t change church doctrine, he’s still the Pope and his statements are historic and something I never thought would happen in my, or any, lifetime.  I imagine a lot of Catholics lost sleep as a result of what the Pope said.  Now they have to look somewhere else to direct their hate and judgement.  Maybe it will give them — and any anti-gay people — a reason to think about how wasted and misdirected that hateful energy is.  He sure got my attention; “Popes” is one Jeopardy category I don’t stand a snowflake’s chance in hell of getting any clue correct.  http://www.psmag.com/culture/the-catholic-church-changes-its-positions-all-the-time-as-its-supposed-too-63940/

About Dan Walker

As part of an Air Force family, I went to elementary school in Great Falls, MT, junior high in Cheyenne, WY and high school and college in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in business. I was fortunate to have worked for great companies in Silicon Valley (Oracle Corp) and Hollywood (Miramax Films). I also lived and worked (primarily in financial services, which has no great companies) for eight years in Manhattan, New York City. I now reside in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley.

One comment on “Turning Cobra into Python

  1. Dan,
    I do actually and I think you should cobble these together turn it into a book. I think a big part of the problem today is that people are too busy or too lazy to think. You have this opportunity, as did people from years ago, before all this texting and linking and multitasking, not only to be one with nature but more importantly, to have the time to think things out, to have a viewpoint and a persuasive way of presenting your opinions – along with dazzling photographs that illustrate your stories. Each piece is different yet certain themes hold them together – the nature – the coincidences – your memories – your humor and your experiences in the film industry. I will not speak to anyone thing in particular because I am more of a generalist. I appreciate the larger take on things but I can say that I enjoyed each and every part of every piece you have written.

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