It might be a new museum exhibition, or something at the opera, symphony, or ballet, or it might be something I've (we've) seen on the street. Whatever it is, it's a quick review and impression of what's captured my thoughts for the moment.

From the Sublime to the Religulous

I love Saturdays, especially those that are unscripted and open to possibility, so it was delight on this last Saturday after having breakfast at the diner with the Times and the Chronicle that Arthur came home early from the gym and I suggested that we both take a hike. I suggested Muir Woods, but Arthur was worried about hordes of tourists, so we took one in our own back yard ­ San Bruno Mountain. It is only notable for its crown of radio transmitters seen as one drives up and down 101. Should you take the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway (a four lane highway that cuts through the park, connecting Brisbane and Daly City), you get a better idea of this slice of countryside in the midst of a dense urban area. If you want to get there from The City, take Bayshore Boulevard from 101 to the Parkway entrance in Brisbane, and make a right. At the summit, there is a gate house, parking lot, and picnic facilities. We continued further to the other side, the southern side, where we parked and walked to the trailhead.

It was one of those wonderful October days that we have here in San Francisco: blue sky, not overly warm, gentle breeze, and, in this location, the subtle perfumes of the scrub oak and wallflower. We took the Eucalyptus Loop Trail (1.08 miles) to the Dairy Ravine Trail (.43 miles). On the loop trail, one winds back and forth on the eastern side of the park overlooking the bay and east bay hills. Looking down one can see the new developments in Brisbane (we wondered what all of this will do to the almost Bolinas-like attitudes of Brisbane residents). There is a quarry that takes a sizeable chunk out of the lands once owned by the Crocker family.

The Dairy Ravine trail (was there ranching up here once) edges a small eucalyptus forest, whose leaves condense the fog and make for a lush forest floor of grasses, flowers, ferns, and berry bushes. The ground cover was so lush that the trail almost disappeared at points. At over 700 feet above sea level, one begins to put the pieces of the northern peninsula together. The whole of downtown San Francisco becomes eveident, and we were able to see the Blue Angels perform their stunts (It was Fleet Week) over the skies of The City. Looking to the West one can let eyes wander up the Pacific coast to the cliffs of Drake's beach and beyond. Eyes cast down see red and white berries, holly and ivy (Arthur began to sing the carol), and wonderful purple daisy-like flowers. Even though the city is close and visible, it soon is very far away.

We decide not to take the Summit Loop trail which would have taken us up to 1,300 feet, but rather made our way down on the western side of the park. At the parking lot, we got in the car and drove a paved road to the Summit which is full of American Tower buildings, each hosting a radio antenna. At the end of Radio Road, one can take the Ridge Trail (2.3 miles) to the eastern end of the mountain. Staying where we were we could see planes take off from SFO into the gap and on to Japan, China, Hawaii, or Europe over the polar route. We looked down own the cemeteries of Colma, and the blue of the Pacific. All about us was the hum of urban life, the roar of planes, and the buzz of electronic equipment blasting radio waves into the ether. It was good exercise, so we made our way over to the picnic area, and had some fresh peach and water, looked at some new housing and went home. It was definitely time for a nap on the sofa.

In the evening we wandered about the Filmore, energized by carrot cake and a mocha, and then later sushi at Saporo Ya in Japantown. The tickets for the evening were at Sundance/Kabuki for Bill Maher's Religulous. Attending was like going voluntarily to your own mugging. The previews, however, had looked interesting. There is bad footage of televangelists doing healings and speaking in tongues, and holy rollers bouncing all over the place. What was interesting, however, was the equal amount of literalism with which Maher meets his fundamentalist guests. There seems to be no middle ground for Mr. Maher, and a slightly superior attitude toward any and all involved in any kind of religious life. All fall short of the glory, and all ar ridiculed or made the subject of the film's bemused attitude.

I had hope that Mr. Maher would have approached the subject with a little more intellectual endeavor than was evident in the film. The cheap shots at fundamental Christians, the Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims (oddly he doesn't do anything with Hinus, Buddhists, Taoists, and similar travelors), though funny and entertaining, become finally a wall of buzz, and not a well of understanding. There seems to be no interest in what motivates and engenders religious life other than unremitting stupidity. In the end, the audience's laughter dies as Mr. Maher delves into a diatribe on religious life, declaring any of us who are religious members of a conspiracy against humanity. It was an ending not worthy of him. It was, well, ridiculous.


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