Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Time To Be Young

I hate to say how long ago I was young, so I won't. Things weren't great for young people then. But as far as learning stuff in a taxpayer-funded building was concerned, it was okay.

Not so these days.

I'm going to do some counting here:

September -- 3 to 4 days
October -- 2 days
March -- 3 days
April -- 4 days
May -- 2 days

That's 15 days this year that young people I am closely associated with will be taking ass --- es --- ments. These are not mere queries from me on topics the young people have recently delved into. These are standard +  ized t and e and s and t and s.

Three weeks of every 180-day cycle are spent on standard  +  ized    material! In one case the young people have to do the same one, exact same one, twice!

And they wonder why young Americans are not performing similar to their peers in Vietnam.

This has great import for the people (like me) who work with the teenagers. The object is not to advance our nation's mental capacities. It is to under + mine one of the few remaining powerful collective bargaining units in this country.

If medicine can be for profit, and pharmaceuticals can be for profit, and energy can be for profit, and college can be for profit, why not learning institutions for younger kids? There's money to be made and pensions to chop!

The victims are the young people. How stifling of all creativity, how anxiety-provoking, how deadly dull their year between Labor Day and Summer Solstice must seem! I feel for them. To Hell with what happens to me. It's them I feel bad for. This country is a joke.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

SNBN

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," swirling in the Moronic Inferno since 2005! My name is Anne Johnson, and I work with young people in a society setting.

Last night I dreamed that I was getting my score back on the life-altering examination that my young people just sat through. I looked at my results, and it was just enough to proceed. Right on the money. But I was red-hot furious. "Look at this result!" I shouted. "I went to Johns Hopkins and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and this is the best I can do on this thing? What about my young people?"

Pardon me for being so oblique in my vocabulary. But you see, the creators of a certain widespread examination for young people is actively mining social media for peoples' opinions of said exam. Any person who works with young people who says anything about the examination will be investigated for possible discipline. This is an attempt to silence dissenters who feel this examination makes young people sick, not better.

With a respectful nod to Voldemort, I will call this t  and  e  and  s  and  t "The Examination That Shall Not Be Named." And then, as this is a certain sector of society known for copious acronyms, I'll call it SNBN, for Shall Not Be Named.

There are some hallmarks of SNBN that boggle the mind.

One is that it's so hard that young people will be forced to learn more to meet its demands. This is backwards thinking to me. I feel like all the excitement and interest can be sucked out of something if it's too difficult to understand. Young people tend to give up easily on stuff they think they will never get, stuff that they see no point to. Of course, if they do give up and cry "uncle," the burden and blame will fall upon the folks like me who are working with the young people to help them proceed in life.

Two is that every young person who takes SNBN becomes part of a pool of information to be stored by the federal and state governments. We don't know who will be able to swim in that pool; namely, whether or not future employers will be able to see the Score! s. We don't know who the government will sell the information to, either. We do know that the government will use it to ... how can I say this to sneak it past Older Male Sibling? ... map the navigation and chart the course of our striplings.

Last, but to my mind the most pernicious, is that SNBN is being administered and Score! d by computers. Basically where SNBN is concerned, it's not what you have to say that counts, it's whether or not it's said according to arbitrary, hidebound, and confusing vernacular. Although one part of SNBN asks young people to create fiction, it is Judge ing for skills that used to be inculcated using diagrams and smart slaps with the ruler across the hand if not completed properly.

To me, all of this runs counter to the kind of  imagination and spontaneous thinking that has been a hallmark of this nation. Suddenly, young people are no longer individuals, they are d plus a plus t plus a. And what they have to say, no matter how creative, will not matter, because how can you entertain a computer?

Our society is becoming a vicious place where your numbers will drive everything you achieve. If your numbers go down, you will be sacked. A world of mercy and understanding will be washed away as pre-Christmas Scrooges rule the day.

I weep for my young people. I really do. And since it's International Water Day, I'll add that all of this will reach critical mass when that most essential of commodities -- water -- becomes scarce. Hope I'm wrong, but could a day come when your SCORE! on SNBN will determine how many gallons of essential fluids you receive?

Hoping I have foiled attempts to divine my purpose I remain,

Anne Johnson

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Bless Me, Ultima

Another day, another winter storm! Welcome to my Equinox blizzard!



Alas, there is no Goddess Ultima. That's just as well, because the weather's not conducive to shopping for biscuits and tea. We were supposed to get a slushy inch of snow, but that was five inches and all day ago. It's coming down in buckets.

This is a good time to argue: Who decides it's Spring, the cosmos or the weather?

We've already picked up about 90 minutes of daylight since the Solstice. The birds are singing lustily in the morning. But there's not a single swollen bud on the trees, and -- at least in my yard -- only the pathetic first shoots of daffodils. When the calendar says Equinox, First Day of Spring, and the elements say Whopping Snowstorm, I come down squarely on the side of the elements.

March is almost always a dreary month around here, and April's not substantially better. The temperatures can vary so much that I prefer to think of Spring not as a date but as a change in the weather. This is why I sometimes minimize the Equinox/Eostre celebrations in favor of Beltane. It may rain on May Day, but it sure isn't likely to snow!

There's a lot of evidence to prove that many animals and birds go less by the elements than by the daylight. Can you spot the bald eagle?



Yes, this was an eagle on a nest on March 6 (we had a snow day that day) somewhere in Pennsylvania. Greater love hath no bird ... I know, right?

There's a pair of sparrows building a nest on my front porch. They're sitting out there right now, with their half-finished hut, looking at each other as if to say, "WTF?"

Anyway, it's been a long, tough week. My students sat for The Exam Which Shall Not Be Named on Monday and Tuesday. I will tell you about that tomorrow.

Keep warm!

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Photos from the Flower Show

I'm so lazy I've never hooked my phone to my Wi-Fi. So when I tried to email myself the photos of the Philadelphia Flower Show, the messages didn't go through ... until I went out roaming about and caught someone else's signal.

It's hard to describe the Flower Show. Hard to photograph it, too. The theme was "Movies," and so each display, large and small, had something to do with films. They even had some really cute homages to screen writers! Anyway, here are some pathetic attempts to capture the moment.


This was the sign at the large Peter Pan display. The display was mounted by a grower of orchids. It had a lagoon, all sorts of palms and ferns, and of course -- orchids, cascades of them! Nestled in among the greenery was Peter Pan's hat, Captain Hook's hat, an Indian headdress ... and I am totally sure Tinker Bell was there somewhere, I just couldn't find her.


Obviously I didn't take this one. It is the central display, Cinderella's Wedding. Disney, Inc. lent a glass slipper, which is under a dome on the right side of the photo.


Frozen! This one was appropriate, seeing as how the only reason I was there was because there was a snowstorm that day.


The table top ones are always beautiful.


They're easier to photograph, too!



Patio! Not yours or mine, of course.


Mr. J next to the Nightmare Before Christmas display.



Critter made of flowers! Look at his hair!



This was the entrance.



And of course, yours truly, all decked out in her snowstorm apparel!

I never had more fun at the Flower Show. Usually it's so packed with people you can't move. But hardly anyone was there. Only a lunatic would go out in a major winter storm to look at flowers, right?

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Dubious Ethics of Performance Art

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" My name is Anne Johnson, it's on my birth certificate (with an appropriate middle name), and I'm the chief loudmouth on this site.

Today's sermon is about a piece of performance art. You be the judge. Is it appropriate? Is it ethical?

My daughter The Heir is an artist. Over the weekend she agreed to photograph a series of performance artworks in the pedestrian tunnels under City Hall in Philadelphia. These tunnels are part of Philadelphia's subway system.

Heir was particularly perturbed by one of the pieces.

It was a younger woman, slightly older than Heir. This woman had cut a slit in her tight skirt where her butt was. And she wore no underwear. Basically she was strolling around the subway pedestrian tunnels with her derriere on display. She also had a paper bag which contained hard core pornography pictures. Occasionally she would drop the contents of the bag and let passers by help her to pick them up, or just see them.

When Heir caught up to this artist, the artist was not in the main pedestrian tunnel, but instead in a side tunnel that is popular with the city's homeless population. It was a cold day, so there were homeless men in the tunnel.

One of the men noticed the woman's butt and began to comment on it. He took out a sweater and tried to wrap it around the woman. Then he tried to get a feel. At that point, Heir stopped photographing and intervened, telling the woman they ought to move elsewhere. As they started off, the man followed them. When they started walking faster, he yelled at them. Then he got into an argument with another homeless man who also accosted Heir and artist. A policeman appeared and began to argue with the loud homeless man. The last thing Heir heard was the homeless man shout, "I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!"

I think this performance is unethical and inappropriate. My daughter The Spare says I'm victim-shaming, and that this brave artist was bringing attention to the plight of objectified women.

My ethical dilemma with this piece is not that it was being performed, but that it was being performed in a remote place, and its viewers could face police prosecution for their response to the art. I think the woman did not do the right thing by choosing a tunnel where the homeless congregate for her performance. I wonder, however, if she might have faced charges herself if she chose to perform this piece in a more crowded concourse.

Then there's the bag filled with pornography. I think this is also inappropriate.

Personally, I have to be really careful what I look at, because pictures of starving children and gory violence make me physically ill. I think that some people have the same reaction to pornography, especially people who have been raped or sexually abused as children. And again I'm wondering what sort of charges might occur if this artist dropped her bagful of pictures and a policeman saw them.

What do you think of this piece of performance art? Spare would have me know that performance art is supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable. Heir and I feel that people who view performance art by appointment at an advertised event would indeed be prepared for such a piece, but that people just walking, or basically living, in a pedestrian tunnel under a city are not, nor should they be, prepared to see this artwork. It is, in fact, intrusive beyond appropriate bounds.

I anxiously await your take on this.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Interview with a Bored God: Thor

On Wednesday last, I wore my lucky snow man necklace to work. I petitioned the Bored Goddess Sedna for inclement weather. I lit all my candles and did some deep breathing, mostly to dispel the angst I brought home from the work day.

It wasn't Sedna who came through for me, though. It was Thor.



Poor Boston! Like they needed more snow. And things are a mess in the mountains ... flooding from so much water and snow all descending at once. For me and my household, however, Winter Storm Thor was a blessing. So I've invited Thor for lunch ... because today is another snow day. Two days off school for six inches of snow! I tell you. The Mid-Atlantic. Sheesh.

Anyway, please give a warm, wonderful, Gods Are Bored welcome to Thor! (I don't think He needs any further descriptors.)

Anne: Welcome, Thor! All Hail! Have another plate of eggs!

Thor: THANKS! I WILL.

Anne (to herself) These manly deities always seem to speak in caps. (to Thor) Great One, how does it feel to have a winter storm named after You?

Thor: IT FEELS WONDERFUL! YOU KNOW WHAT'S BEST ABOUT IT? PEOPLE KNOW WHO THE HELL THOR IS.

Anne: Yes, Your renaissance began way back. For me it was comic books. Honestly, next to Spiderman, you were my favorite. I felt like this little girl, in fact:



Thor: THIS IS AWESOME.

Anne: I know, right? I wanted to be You, too, when I was a kid. I don't care what anyone says, inside every person (especially little kids) is a bit of bad ass. It's all in how you manage that piece of your personality. I'm not inclined to exercise my inner bad ass too often. When I was a kid, though, I wanted to be able to whack stuff with hammers.

Thor: EVERYONE SHOULD BE PREPARED TO WHACK STUFF WITH A HAMMER. WHERE IS YOUR HAMMER, BY THE WAY?

Anne: Oh, gosh. I guess I have one on the tool table downstairs. It pays to be meek in my line of work.

Thor: IT NEVER PAYS TO BE MEEK.

Anne: Not gonna argue with a Norse deity. I concede the point.

Thor: ARE YOU GOING TO EAT THAT ORANGE?

Anne: No! Have it! I sliced it up for Decibel, but Decibel only needs one slice. Anyway, back to the interview. So I had a snow day named after You. Looked out the window, the white stuff was piling up. But it doesn't honor Thor to stay inside, under a blanket by a fire, on a snowy day.

Thor: I DON'T KNOW. IT DEPENDS ON HOW MUCH FOOD YOU'VE GOT STORED THIS LATE IN THE SEASON. IF YOU'RE WELL-STOCKED, A DAY UNDER THE BLANKETS IS ACCEPTABLE. YOU WORKED HARD SOME OTHER TIME.

Anne: Well, my pantry was well-stocked, and it was indeed tempting to build a fire and be sluggish. But Thor! It's the first week of March in Philadephia!

Thor: SO WHAT?

Anne: So it's Philadelphia Flower Show week! Ah, the Flower Show! The Flower Show! It's one of the highlights of the year in the City of Brotherly Love.

Thor: IS THAT WHAT THEY CALL PHILADELPHIA? WHAT A DUMB NAME. SO, LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT. YOU WENT OUT IN A SNOWSTORM TO SEE FLOWERS?

Anne: Yes! The best florists and landscapers in the Delaware Valley create huge exhibits and turn the Convention Center into a floral paradise! This year's theme was the movies. It was amazing.

Thor: THIS LOOKS RIDICULOUS.

Anne: No! It's beautiful! Remember, we must always stretch our concepts of beauty ... just like that little girl who thought You were beautiful.

Thor: WHY IS THE SKY BLACK?

Anne: It's inside a building. The Convention Center.

Thor: SO YOU WENT INTO A BUILDING TO LOOK AT FLOWERS.

Anne: Yes. It's kind of an antidote to winter.

Thor: THERE SHOULD BE NO ANTIDOTE TO WINTER EXCEPT SUMMER!

Anne: Again, not going to argue with You. That's a zero sum game. Suffice it to say that I thank you, Thor, for a snowstorm that:
a) gave me a day off school
b) during Flower Show week
c) with weather so bad that the show wasn't packed with people -- or even particularly crowded.

Thor: NEXT TIME YOU GO OUT INTO A STORM, HAVE A DECENT REASON! GO HUNTING.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Thank You!

Dear readers, The Spare's campaign to raise funds for her web series has ended, and you who visit "The Gods Are Bored" contributed about 75 percent of the money she raised! I am so grateful to all of you.Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Spare had her first weekend of filming last weekend. She called me on Saturday evening, very pleased at how everything had gone. One actor had been a no-show, but The Heir was on hand, so she got a promotion. For my money, The Heir is quite funny, indeed. She's a fearless kind of funny, not afraid to gyrate and screw up her face into extremes. Anyway, Day One was a success.

Then there was Day Two.

Spare called in tears at about 5:00 p.m. They had filmed all day, and the leading man worked hard. But after he left for the day, he sent a text message quitting the show. He was the leading man. He knew it! Didn't matter. He bailed. He has not answered any messages from Spare and her colleagues.

Well, you know, this is a situation that faces many auteurs who don't have a big budget for salaries. Spare was disconsolate for a few hours, but after that she and her team got started on Plan B. They are moving ahead.

It's evening here at "The Gods Are Bored," and I have been petitioning the Great Goddess Sedna for a snowstorm, yea verily a blizzard. It's very tense at my school just now, and I'm hoping for a snow day. Standardized tests are scheduled for next week, and nobody's happy.

Maybe Sedna will drop by for tea tomorrow! If I'm home I'm going to make muffins.

Thank you again, friends. May the Gods and Goddesses of multiple pantheons from every corner of the Earth bless you and keep you and shine Their faces bright upon you!

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