Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Great Advice from Annie

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where our legions of readers support us each and every day!

Okay, not necessarily true, but we don't want welfare. We're able-bodied and willing to work our own magick.

This item was just slopping along among the drivel on my Yahoo! home page:

"How do I stop the pain of wearing heels?"

Asked by Buffy, the Bachelor-Slayer.

Buff, here's a real quick solution.

Go to the thrift store and get yourself a pair of slightly-used sneakers. Wear them.

Problem solved.

PS - No bored gods were harmed in the preparation of this advice.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Imagine We the People ...


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," just three days before Imbolc! If you don't know what Imbolc is, you're not alone. We'll talk about it tomorrow, and we hope to post a fabulous poem on Friday, pending permission of the author of the poem.

You, too, can post a poem on Friday and be part of the Great Imbolc Blog-a-Poem! Spread the word.

If we don't get the poem we want, brace yourself for one about buzzards. I've written volumes and volumes of poems about buzzards, so the only hard part will be picking the best one.

Okay, tonight I'm asking my legions and legions of readers for their prayers and/or positive thoughts.

I have sent my resume, a copy of my book, Defining Moments: The Scopes Monkey Trial (Omnigraphics Press, 2006), and a cover letter that falls just short of an abject plea to ....

Drum roll ...

The National Constitution Center Museum.

The resume was solicited by an employee there, so I am on my knees to every bored god and goddess of every pantheon in every lovely land, and of every lovely era.

Oh, pleeeeeeeeeeeze!

If you've never been to the National Constitution Center Museum, you're missing a treat. It's in Philadelphia, cheek-to-jowl with Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. And it is just a wonderful, terrific, fabulous, inspiring, and humbling place to spend a long afternoon. It opened I guess about four years ago. I've visited it three times.

One of the most interesting aspects of the NCC is how they have managed to make the U.S. Constitution interesting to people of all ages. The first time I went there was with my daughter's Middle School class. Her teacher had given the kids a bitch-long study sheet of stuff they were supposed to learn and write down while they were there. The kids groused and moaned about it all the way to the museum. But once they got there, it was like a scavenger hunt for information. They loved it. And they learned a truckload about how our government ought to be run.

The next time I went was with my other daughter's class. She was in 4th grade at the time. Having seen the museum, I couldn't imagine how kids that young could get anything out of it at all. But trust me, the 4th graders loved it even more than the Middle Schoolers. The NCC has interactive exhibits designed especially for kids, and one of those spiffy multi-media introductions that the young set seems to crave.

As for me, I was most impressed by two things. Each Amendment has its own black marble monument, running around the roof in chronological order. Beneath the Amendment are exhibits geared to that Amendment and the time period in which it was passed.

The other thing that fascinated me about NCC is that it gives visitors a chance to air their views on constitutional issues. They'll ask a question like, "Do you think public schools should teach the creation story as told in Genesis as a viable alternative to evolution?" And they have those little post-it notes there for you to write your opinion on. Well, that's just right up my alley. Of course you're gonna get the usual teenage crap like "For a good time call Buffy." But you'll see some thoughtful answers stuck up there, reflecting both sides of the issue. We the People. I like that.

So, being a pessimist I predict that I'll either never get an interview at NCC, or I'll get a job and find myself in some underground cubicle dealing with impossible deadlines. But I don't think even that would blunt my enthusiasm for working at the National Constitution Center. Fragile though it may be, our U.S. Constitution is the document that separates us from fascists and barbarians -- for the time being, anyway.

Today I sent them my resume. Gosh, you'd think they'd want to hire America's only Pagan member of the Daughters of the American Revolution!

Wish me luck.


FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Image: "Waiting," by Seitou.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quick Head's Up

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," and to all a good night.

My artist friend Seitou now has her own site. It has been linked to my sidebar. Be sure to ask Seitou if you want to use Seitou's artwork. It's only polite, right?
EXHIBIT A: ARTWORK BY SEITOU


This one is called "Torn."
The very important Holy Day Imbolc is Friday. Hecate (also in sidebar) tells me that there will be a poetry blogfest that day. We at "The Gods Are Bored" will be posting a fabulous poem. If you read this, please post a poem on Groundhog Day. I know I can count on the Wandering Hillbilly (also in sidebar).

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Woman of Constant Sorrow

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming soon to a theatre near you!

Today, Saturday, protesters against the Iraq War
gathered en masse in Washington to demand an end to the madness. People traveled by bus great distances to be there.

Me, I sat at a D.A.R. banquet, praying to God to protect our brave troops in the war.

Well, I didn't really pray. Me, pray to Mr. Jealousy, God Almighty? I gave that up for Lent.

But this afternoon, as I left the posh nosh with my door prize (a box of tea), I felt, to quote Huck Finn, "tolerable cheap." Like I was part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Well, we all have issues, don't we? Mine is very simple.

I'm a pessimist.

The combination of Scots-Irish Appalachian DNA and a bipolar mother imbued in me from an early age the steadfast notion that nothing will ever get better, no matter what I do or don't do. I don't attend political protests because it doesn't change a damn thing. Once in awhile someone like Martin Luther King Jr. comes along, and it looks like things will change, so someone shoots him. Done.

I have written a novel. A couple of agents have looked at it. One kept it a year. The rest turned it down within weeks. One rejection letter even got the title of the book wrong. Did I keep trying? Hell no. I can't even bring myself to send a few chapters to OakWyse. When the going gets tough, I quit. To be honest, I'd have been far more surprised if some publisher had accepted my novel than I am to have been rejected.

Pessimist.

Pessimists believe there will always be wars, because too many human beings seem hell-bent on exercising their worst impulses. Pessimists believe that no politician can be trusted, that they're all out for personal gain, and if they aren't they get assassinated.

Pessimists believe that they can't even protect one little tiny mountain stream from a big city developer.

But on that one I keep trying.

Fortunately I'm far from alone in this bleak world view. 'Tis an Appalachian who wrote "I am a man of constant sorrow, I've seen trouble all my days."

Misery loves company, and in Appalachia misery has always been abundant.

Every now and then the stars align. I visit Berkeley Springs and soak my head. I attend a ritual. For awhile I feel better. Then my nature re-asserts itself, and the whole world turns dark again.

Writing this web log helps me to laugh at it all, but it hasn't changed my ultimate mindset, which is simply that things won't get better no matter what I do, no matter how many bored gods I invite to dinner.

Fortunately for me, the bored gods accept that. And deep down I do believe that things will get better -- on the other side. Not here. Not now. Not ever.

What the heck do you expect from someone whose favorite pastime is watching turkey vultures?

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELY SPRINGS

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's 11:00. Do You Know Where Your Ancestors Are?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we love apple dumplings, baby ducklings, and cats that look like Hitler.

On Saturday I'm attending the yearly luncheon feed of my Daughters of the American Revolution chapter. The vittles are always superb at the Country Club where it's held, and there's a cash bar to boot. Nary a spring chicken attends this event, self included. As the wait staff brings out the soup, a vast sea of blue hair will perk up, dash for a last Manhattan, and tuck into the eats.

You might wonder why I bothered to join and pay dues to a stuffy group like the D.A.R.

The answer is simple. We live in a culture that holds forebears/ancestors in no regard whatsoever. I happen to think that's a sin.

Many great religions have been founded and run on ancestor worship. Ancestor worship is endorsed by the Intergalactic Federation of Gods and Goddesses (IFG&G) as a valuable tool for enlightenment.

Okay, so maybe your great-great grandfather was a booze-swilling saloon-keeper who ran cockfights on the side. But probably not. And even if he was, don't you feel his spirit at work in your life? You would if you knew his name and beseeched his help.

Think about all the women who had to go through childbirth to create the babies who grew up to be your ancestors, until you came along. Do you know their names? It's hard, in this country where we come from all over the globe, to keep a good record of "who's who." (It's particularly difficult for African Americans, and that's why I pray so often to Chonganda. I always ask him to help his people re-connect to their spiritual roots.)

Aside from the Mormons, whose ancestor worship is upside down, just about the only group you can join where you can blather on and on about your ancestors is the D.A.R. And they don't give you a test on your ability to blather before you join. You have enough hoops to jump through to get that little round gold pin. After you're safely in the fold, though, you learn quickly to blather -- or better yet, to listen raptly as others blather.

The best listeners get to be national presidents. Look for me, I'll be there in about 2029.

I beseech the blessings of my ancestors, without whom I wouldn't be quaffing a nice glass of chablis overlooking a sea of blue hair and the golf course where snowboarding got its start.

All hail those who have gone before. So might it be.

FROM ANNE
N.S.D.A.R.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Digging Up Grandma


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We enjoy your company, but please watch your beverage and see that you don't stain the furniture.

Something's been bothering me for a long time.

I think this nagging idea came back to me when I heard that the treasures of King Tut are scheduled to make a stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Actually I've been nagged by this notion before but never resolved it. The notion is this: Should we perform archeology?

Well, now you think I'm a rube. (Have I ever disabused you of that idea?) How in the world would we learn about the past if we didn't open up these old tombs and shove their contents out into the hands of scholars? Think of all we've gained from the excavations of the Mississippi Mound Builders, the Pharaohs, the Barrows of the British Isles, the Catacombs!

Except for one thing. We're digging up dead people and taking their stuff.

Oh, it's all well and good if the stuff we dig up and take belonged to some kid king 3000 years ago or such much. What, are his children going to complain? Are his heirs going to step forward and demand the items be returned? Hardly.

Suppose for a moment, though, that an archeologist dug up your grandmother's coffin, pried it open, and used those sharp little exacto-knives to pull apart and study the strands of polyester fabric in her best church dress. That's your granny on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art! And she looks a mess! She looks ... dead. And there's her wedding ring, under a glass. And the thick spectacles she wore because they didn't have good cataract surgery then. And the Eastern Star pins she earned from years of service, hung on a wall, also behind shatterproof glass.

Rich people with museum memberships are staring at your dead granny while sipping champagne.

I started feeling uncomfortable with this little wrinkle years ago, during my college years. One of my classes was Human Osteology. We studied normal skeletons. They came from poor people in the Third World who actually sold their skeletons before they died and got good money for something they eventually wouldn't need anymore.

The abnormal skeletons came from the aforementioned Mound Builders of Mississippi, ca. 900 AD. These scattered bones, all helter skelter and stained with age, showed missing teeth from arthritic jaws, bone spurs jutting from heels, long growths of arthritic deposit on vertebrae. Once we finished looking at them, the bones went back to their carefully-numbered drawers in the Smithsonian Institution.

That's someone's granny, in a drawer in a big concrete building. She thought her bones would spend eternity in a spectacular mound, with all her kinfolk of a dozen generations. But no. Now a few pieces of her rest in Washington, DC, and the rest of her -- and the kin -- have been scattered all over the place, in the name of science.

This bothers the bored gods very much. Just so you know.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Monday, January 22, 2007

Why Are the Gods Bored?


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your primary pathway to prosperity!

Oh yeah, if only.

This is a site dedicated to worship and respect for the bored gods and goddesses. Some people think its author, moi, is actually a cynical atheist poking fun at all religion.
Not so.
We at "The Gods Are Bored" are not able, by virtue of familial and work obligations, to go off to a cave or a sacred spring for long-term meditation.

We would if we could, but we can't so we won't.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are true polytheists. (poly=many; thea [or theo]=deity). That means we accord reverence and respect to all deities, but especially to the ones that have been overrun by zealous missionaries for other faiths.

You see, we at "The Gods Are Bored" feel that you can't respect a human being if you think that person's religion is wrong, or less worthy, or less meaningful than yours.

Our tongue-in-cheek put-down posts against the Christian god are motivated not by the deity himself, but by the actions of his followers and the intentions of the authors of his literary texts. We object to any religion that sees itself as the "only true religion."

It's human nature to want to share great discoveries with other people. For the love of fruit flies, where would we be without that impulse? But the same impulse that drives us to share the secrets of the internal combustion engine, the polio vaccine, and water purification can go sour when they are expended on matters philosophical and religious.

To put it another way: If there can be one heaven, why can't there be a thousand heavens? Or ten thousand? Or 100,000? Wouldn't you find it a pleasant surprise if every nice person you ever met, no matter what religion they followed (or none at all), found their way into a nice heaven?

Over the decades, when we at "The Gods Are Bored" worshipped in the Christian faith, we often found ourselves doubting the whole idea of life-after-death. We've since been convinced of its probability, thanks to authors like the recently-deceased Robert Anton Wilson, as well as personal experiences in our lives.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" therefore feel that every human being should be given a clean shot and his or her heaven of choice, so long as no one gets hurt and the furniture isn't stained.

Peace to all,

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
"Rebel," by Seitou, reprinted only with permission of "The Gods Are Bored," please.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Gods Aren't Bored Enough to Go to 7th Grade


Welcome to "The Gods Aren't Bored Enough to Go Back to Seventh Grade!" Yes, my daughter The Spare is completely correct. No god or goddess in his or her right mind would turn back the eon clock and go back to Deity Middle School.

If you missed the post below, you haven't yet reveled in the special hell that is raising a 12-year-old whose mind rests only on boys, friends, clothes, makeup, pop music, vapid t.v. shows, and hanging out with friends who have video systems.

Tonight at dinner, I said, "The Gods Are Bored."

The Spare replied, "Well, they'll be worse than bored if they go back to Middle School."

Can't argue that one.

For my newer readers: My daughters are named The Heir and The Spare because once I was watching something about Princess Diana, and the commentator said, "Well, at least she produced what every princess is supposed to produce: an Heir and a Spare."

Sounded logical to me.

So tomorrow I spend the day at a Vo-Tech teaching English and the evening badgering The Spare. Calgon, take me away.

FROM ANNE
GOING THROUGH 7TH GRADE FOR THE THIRD TIME
AND YES, IT SUCKS.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What's Unique about Me

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you want your prayers to be answered, cast a wide net! Pray to every god and goddess you can think of. One of them's bound to be waiting by the celestial telephone to take your call.

Most of us yearn to be unique in some way. And with 400 million people just in this country alone, it's a doggoned challenging proposition.

Fortunately for me, I can make claim to an unparalleled level of uniqueness.

Oh sure, there are scores and scores of people who spend hours sitting under pine trees staring up at turkey vultures. Gosh, we talk about it every day in the lunchroom at the school where I work. You know, trading good roost sites and describing a particularly fetching buzzard, or remembering buzzard-watching of days past. Old hat. So commonplace.

But me, ah! I stand alone.

I have an unruly twelve-year-old.

My daughter The Spare, age 12, is beautiful and a talented actress. She had the lead in her school play back in November. But -- I know this will surprise and mystify all of you -- she doesn't give a fig for her schoolwork. Her grades have tanked. She lies about being prepared for tests, she lies about having her homework finished, she gives up when the going gets tough -- and of course she tries to sneak all of this past myself and Mr. Johnson.

Friday she was supposed to attend an after-school study group on science, for a test on Monday. But Friday night was also the date of the Middle School's only semi-formal dance -- an event she had been slobbering over in anticipation for weeks. She had a dress all ready (custom altered by her grandma), a cute bolero jacket, shoes, and about 50 ideas on hair dressing.

At the prompting of her friends, she blew the science study and went out for pizza.

Mr. Johnson and I had no choice but to forbid her to go to the dance. We stood like a united front as she:
1. Wept loudly.
2. Pitched a fit and threw things around.
3. Abused the teddy bear that belonged to her late grandfather.
4. Hurled insults at me (I wish I could remember the ones that made me laugh, but alas, the only ones I can remember are the ones that made me want to cry.)
5. Bemoaned her stupidity and predicted a future of worse failure.
6. Spent the rest of the evening crying.

I'm sure those of you reading this simply cannot imagine such a one-of-a-kind scenario. Yes, you completely understand my collection of vulture feathers and my willingness to sit through a two-hour planning meeting for the East Coast Vulture Festival, but you must be entirely baffled by this extraordinary young teenager.

Yeah, I'm well nigh stumped too.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Don't Shoot at the Buzzard!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your premiere site on the World Wide Web for vulture worship! I'm Shaman Annie, head priestess of the Church of the Golden Purifier!

I'm off in five minutes to go "buzzarding." Ah, there is no more sublime way to spend an evening! I travel to Wenonah, NJ, site of the East Coast Vulture Festival, to watch the unparalleled majesty of about 200 buzzards who come into the charming hamlet to roost at night.

It is my honor and privilege to be a member of the ECVF's steering committee. Let's just say it makes all other volunteer work die in the dust. (Good for hungry vultures.)

As for the title of this post, it's a standing joke in my household that when a basketball game is won when some player "shoots at the buzzer," we all freak out because it sounds like "shoots at the buzzard."

Quoth Shaman Annie: "He who shooteth the Sacred Golden Purifier will suffer from facial blemishes, yea unto seeking medical help."

Do you suffer, poor soul? Does your heart yearn for meaning? Let the Sacred Golden Purifier inhabit your life! Know buzzards, know peace.

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Monday, January 15, 2007

Do the Right Thing


On this, Dr. Martin Luther King's 78th birthday, we at "The Gods Are Bored" ask that, if you have not already performed a good deed, you consider sending a donation to Save Terrapin Run.


We at "The Gods Are Bored" think Dr. King would care about a small stream as much as he cared about humankind.



Peace,

Anne

The Merlin of Berkeley Springs

An Afternoon at the Bijou: Pan's Labyrinth


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Perhaps the gods wouldn't be so bored if they went to the movies more often. But alas, some of the bored gods get so little praise and worship they can't even afford the 10:00 a.m. senior citizen budget schedule!

We at "The Gods Are Bored" live by a few simple rules:
1. Never stain the furniture.
2. Never forget to feed the goats.
3. Never attend an R-rated movie that lists "violence" as one of the reasons for its rating.

You know what? That rules out a hell of a lot of movies. We at "The Gods Are Bored" have never seen any of the following:
Apocalypse Now
Schindler's List
Saving Private Ryan
The Passion of the Christ
Silence of the Lambs
The Exorcist
Pulp Fiction

On and on and on. You see, we at "The Gods Are Bored" are squeamish. We most certainly don't set out the fatted calf for Mars, or any of those manly War Gods.

So it was with great trepidation that we broke our standing rule on R-ratings to go see Pan's Labyrinth. We felt that, as the subject matter contained faeries, we needed to go. So, on Sunday, Anne and her daughter The Heir (a fully-fledged 17-year-old) went to see Pan's Labyrinth.

The Heir absolutely loved it. She frothed at the mouth. And The Heir knows her movies. She's a film buff of the first stripe. When she heard that the writer/director of Pan's Labyrinth turned down the gazillion dollars offered to him to direct Chronicles of Narnia in order to make Pan's Labyrinth instead, she praised the director to the skies for having such high artistic and moralistic standards.

I agree that Pan's Labyrinth is a brilliant movie, the best I've seen this year. However, it did remind me that when the rating is "R," and that rating has been gleaned for "violence, torture," and you're a squeamish little earthworm, you'd best pass.

I even read a "spoiler" plot description on Wikipedia. And, par usual, Wicked-pedia got it wrong, but close enough that I knew when to dash from the theatre. Still, the entire subject matter of this film, and its view that children (especially female children) have no port in the storm -- even in other dimensions -- was unsettlingly close to my own childhood.

So, yes. This is a four-star film. But don't round up the kiddies from the playground and take them to this fairy tale. And while you're at it, don't take your personal faeries either. I can't tell you how glad I was that I left Puck and Princess behind. After I told them what happened in the flick, they gave my husband back his Rolex watch, missing since October. I am not even kidding.

Oh, and just so you'll know. My aversion to R-rated movies does not extend to those with torrid sex scenes, drug use, or potty language. Bring 'em on!
FROM ANNE
THE SQUEAMISH MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Don't Know How I Missed It

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your oversight capital of the World Wide Web!

Tennessee Jed, one of my favorite bloggers, noticed the "23" above Robert Anton Wilson's head in the photo below. Twenty-three skiddoo! That's no coincidence. Wilson wrote a great deal, especially in Cosmic Trigger, about the number 23 and its mystical significance. If I recall correctly, he wrote that the fact that the digits add up to five make 23 a particularly potent number. I do recall vividly that he added: "If you haven't noticed the number 23 before now, you will certainly notice it now." (Cosmic Trigger)

Wilson was also quite eloquent on the concept of synchronicity, i.e., that nothing is a coincidence.


EXHIBIT A: MICHAEL JORDAN
















We at "The Gods Are Bored" endorse the philosophy of synchronicity and urge our readers to try to find a copy of Cosmic Trigger. Don't look for it at Barnes & Noble. You'll have to try the Web.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Vote for Anne! http://2007.bloggies.com/
Best Blog that No One But Very Very Smart People Read

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Freshman at the God College - Robert Anton Wilson


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your turnpike truck stop for Twinkies and testimonials!

Bored gods and goddesses everywhere are today marking the passing of author Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson, who wrote more than 50 books (fiction and nonfiction), and was an original thinker of the first stripe.

It's been gratifying to surf through the pagan web sites and find how many of them have lauded this unique individual. We at "The Gods Are Bored" had no idea what a groundswell of popularity existed for Wilson's work, particularly Cosmic Trigger, which was our personal favorite as well.

It's impossible to summarize Wilson's philosophical/theological/cosmological writings, way past the ability of humble goat judges like me. But here's a nice quote I found out in the wild, wild web:

"I have an open mind about things
I don't have any dogmas,
I await further enlightenment."

Based on this simple utterance, Robert Anton Wilson has been accepted into the 2007 class at the Intergalactic Academy of Gods and Goddesses (IAG&G), located in the Crab Nebula. Largely unappreciated on this planet in this era, he will have a chance to work his wonders elsewhere, among those who will truly appreciate him.

Bon voyage, RAW!

From your fan,

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Gods Are Deaf

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," holistic help for your hellish dilemmas! Got a vexing problem? Bring it to Auntie Anne.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are especially adept at interpreting weird dreams. Take advantage of our two-for-one special, and save 15%!

Do you know anyone who got from the age of 15 to the age of 30 without making a terrible mistake along the way?

Usually it's a bad marriage, or experimenting with drugs until addiction sets in, or running up massive credit card debt, or plunging your car off a cliff after a long night in the pub.

These things can be cured. You can go to rehab, AA, get a divorce, find a payment plan, and generally settle down into a sane, reasonable life.

Anne made a mistake in her 20s that can never, ever be rectified. This terrible mistake will outlive her and be a burden to her children, possibly even her grandchildren. It's a mistake that haunts her daily, with piercing ferocity. It cannot be fixed in any humane fashion.

In 1987, Anne bought a macaw. The macaw was a baby, a little chunk of pink flesh with no feathers.


The macaw (I'll call him Decibel) can talk. A few words. What he does best, however, is SCREAM HIS FOOL HEAD OFF TILL HE CAN BE HEARD DOWN THE BLOCK. (They say you should use capital letters only to indicate screaming.) When this bird starts, he sounds like someone being assaulted slowly with a very deadly weapon.

He has spent 20 years in a cage, removed from his kind and his homeland. Every time I see him, guilt pierces me worse than his noise. I wish I could find some happy bird sanctuary for him, but 9 out of 10 people who buy macaws wish the same thing. Sanctuaries for captive-bred macaws do not exist.

Lately I've been working away from home, long hours. When I step through the door he goes nuts, screaming and whistling so loud the jet pilots overhead can detect the racket.

There's no turning back time for me. But consider this little entry your Birdaholics Anonymous testimonial.

Do not buy a captive bird. Birds are supposed to live outside, in the trees. They are social species who make lots and lots of noise.

The next time you hear a blue jay or a crow calling to its cohorts, imagine if that sound was coming from a creature sitting right next to you in a cage.

The bored gods are going to send me back for another round of hell on earth for buying and keeping a caged parrot. And I'll deserve it too. No complaints uttered, it is my forever sin.

FROM ANNE

THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No President Left Behind

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," polytheism and politics wrapped in a polyester pantsuit! I'm your host, Annie. I'm old enough to remember a time when girls couldn't wear pants to public school. (It was a very good excuse for sucking in kickball.)

Today I'm going to address our Commander in Chief, Mr. George W. Bush. He's the architect of the "No Child Left Behind" rhetoric now wreaking havoc in school systems everywhere.

In my era of public schooling, we recognized that the guys who wanted to fix cars and the girls who wanted to dress hair probably would not need to write essays about the political-sociological implications of early Medieval Italian politics as revealed in Canto XVI of Dante's Inferno.

You think I'm kidding you, right? Right? Right?

It happens that I have been teaching in a Vocational-Technical school that draws students from one of the most impoverished cities in this country. These students are kind, lively, intelligent, and optimistic. But they just simply haven't had the educational background or parental prodding of their cohorts in the tony burbs. Don't get me wrong. The students love their parents, and vice versa, but sometimes those parents don't even speak English.

These students -- your future auto mechanics, electricians, nursing home aides, and word processors -- have to pass the same standardized test that every other student in New Jersey has to pass.

Okay, you say, fair is fair. No Child Left Behind.

Except that the damned standardized test is so friggin hard that 2/3 of the adults in New Jersey (including moi) couldn't pass both parts of it. How long has it been since you determined the area of a rhombus?

Let's get past the math. I know more about English.

The English portion of New Jersey's standardized high school proficiency test is so hard, I've seen college exams that were less rigorous. I saw a group of Juniors taking a sample test in a class at my school. The reading they had to do was from Edith Wharton, Ethan Fromme. For the love of fruit flies! I stared at that assignment and wondered if my own kids would be Left Behind. Or if I would be Left Behind, if I had to take the sucker.

One thing I'd bet my house on, and everything in it. George W. Bush could not pass both parts of that test.

I'm not completely against standardized tests for passing high school. Heck, I took one back in 1521. I remember it clearly. The reading assignment came from the back of a boxed cake mix. There might have been a newspaper article or two. The math portion was balancing a checkbook and figuring interest on credit card purchases. So, if you can't read enough English to bake a cake from a box, maybe you don't deserve a high school diploma. Fair is fair.

But giving kids from, say, Gary, Indiana a selection of Ethan Fromme? Is that fair?

You can imagine where all this is heading. The teachers at my school have to drill and drill and drill the kids to prepare them for this one stupid test. Everyone frets about it. And of course some of the kids don't pass, and then they have to jump through even more hoops. When all they want to do is change your oil.

I have an idea that we could turn this whole nation into Edith Wharton-loving savants, if we just spent on education what we spend on spewing flames in foreign countries. But assuming that our nation's spending priorities won't change, shouldn't we cut the auto kids and the floriculture kids, and the welding kids a break and give 'em a friggin career-area test instead?

I say, if they can pass a written driver's test, they can read. And if they can balance a checkbook, they can do math.

Pass.

Oh yeah, did I mention that there are no exceptions to this test? Kids with Down Syndrome who could once clutch a high school diploma as a matter of pride now have to read friggin Ethan Fromme.

And all of this from a president who has otherwise done his level best to increase the discrepancy between the "haves" and the "have-nots." At that little task, Dubya's succeeded brilliantly.

What a pity he doesn't have to craft a 5-paragraph essay about the steps he took, with perfect grammar and flowing sentences, in 60 minutes! Spelling counts.

Once again longing to be Left Behind, I remain,

Your Merlin of Berkeley Springs,
Anne Johnson

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Shameless Plea for Promotion

Exhibit A: Roman Bath House, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," o ye legions and legions of readers!

Well, maybe it's all you small clusters of readers.

Okay, Anne, who the hell are you fooling?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," o ye sparse handful of readers! We value your patronage.

This weblog was inaugurated in 2005 after Anne heard a televised lecture in which an atheist said, "If you want to know how stupid the concept of God is, just substitute the name 'Zeus.' Now try it: 'In Zeus We Trust.' 'One Nation under Zeus.' See? Isn't that ridiculous?"

Anne was overcome with pity for poor Zeus. Here's a deity who once had an extensive praise and worship team, talented and intelligent, and so dedicated to Zeus that Zeus's huge shrines stand to this day, ancient as they are.

How would you like it if you were on top of the world one minute, and shit out of a job the next? I know it's happened to me. It feels terrible.

I decided to dedicate a website not only to Zeus, but to all the deities, ancient and modern, who've been drubbed out of business by take-no-prisoners praise and worship teams. And you know if you're in one of those. Chances are there's a nice brick building dedicated to your deity right in the next block.

Oh well, the church in the next block to me is made of stone. Stone, brick, it's all the same. No Zeus, no Hera, no Queen Brighid the Bright, no Sedna, no Loki, no Sacred Thunderbird.

We've had a lot of fun here at "The Gods Are Bored," talking to bored gods and goddesses from all kinds of praise and worship teams, on all sorts of topics. And if I might brag a bit, we've dispensed fabulous wisdom on seminal subjects like Tab Cola, supersized flatware, casinos on Civil War battlefields, and where to go in New Jersey for your civil union.

Now we're shamelessly asking you to vote us into the stratosphere. Please nominate "The Gods Are Bored" for a Bloggie award! If you do, and you let us know, we'll send you a free candy cane.

Well, not really, we didn't buy any candy canes this year.

How about a wine cork with the likeness of the Green Man on it? Pinky swear.

Here's the link: http://2007.bloggies.com

We suggest the "unsung hero" category, or whatever it's called, for blogs no one reads.

Might miss posting for a few days. Not feeling well.
(Now see? There's nothing we won't do for your vote!)

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Pagan Summer Camp: Four Quarters Farm

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you keep all your fish in one boat? Is that wise? Adopt a pantheon of bored gods today, and spread those fishies through a whole fleet of clipper ships!


My legions of readers know all about the Boy Scouts and how they won't allow any gay members. And we at "The Gods Are Bored" say, oh well, the Klan probably doesn't allow black members either. Clubs are clubs, you know what I mean?


But what exactly is a strapping young gay guy going to do if he wants to go to summer camp? And we haven't even addressed the other gender, the gals who crave scouting opportunities in the great outdoors.


We also haven't addressed the fact that the vast, vast majority of summer camps are allied with some Christian denomination. And one can just imagine that these camps would not be eager to fling wide the gates to a bunch of Asratus, Wiccans, or Druids.


Weep not, wise ones! There's a great camp for you! And as an added bonus, it's only about 20 miles from Berkeley Springs!


Four Quarters Farm is a huge, beautiful property located along scenic Sidling Hill Creek in the extreme south of Bedford County, Pennsylvania. To say this place has a big, broad, flexible outlook is putting it mildly. You can worship any way you want, dress any way you want, and otherwise commune with your deities whoever they may be.


Exhibit A: Four Quarters Farm



One of the many joys of this locale is its swimming hole. Appalachian creeks always have great swimming holes, and Four Quarters has got a whopper. For the less intrepid there's wading in shallower sections of the creek - bring an old pair of sneakers, because the rocks are sharp.



Old geezers like me can't tent camp anymore. But if you're a young, spry scout or a prime-of-lifer who digs canvas, there are campsites galore. Communal fire rings. A circular henge of stones, half complete, that gets closer to completion every year. They even have hot showers and a bistro. (As a young, spry non-scout, I would have scoffed at these luxuries. I have done me some wild camping in the years when my knees and hips worked.)


The aspect of Four Quarters I find most intriguing is the opportunity to erect private shrines in the woods. You'll be meandering along, and suddenly you'll see a little cairn of stones, decorated with mementos. As a person who thinks everyone should have their own personal deity to whom they dedicate a shrine, this is simply sublime.


Needless to say, every public campground must have some basic rules, if only to cover their keisters against lawsuits. This holds true for Four Quarters, of course. But if you want to drink yourself blind and slaughter deer with your bare hands, you can go camp in nearby Green Ridge State Forest. If you see a forest ranger coming, just dart into a thicket, dragging your deer carcass behind you.


We at "The Gods Are Bored," having attained a certain age (but having kept our girlish figure), prefer the comforts of a mattress and roof. These can be had in Berkeley Springs (posh), Hancock (reasonable) and Town Hill B&B (quaint and right up the road). We also can't forget to mention the inimitable Road Kill Cafe not far from Four Quarters. We strongly recommend at least one breakfast there. The possum gravy and biscuits can't be beat. So tender.


Four Quarters has large rituals on all the pagan holidays, Dark Moon meditations, and drum circles. All faiths are welcome.


So there you have it. Poo poo to the Eagle Scouts! They can have their god and country, no homos allowed exclusivity, not to mention all those militaristic badges and scarves. We at "The Gods Are Bored" like a variety of veggies in our soup.


One final note: If you take Interstate 68 to Four Quarters Farm, you have to make a right turn off the exit ramp. If you turn left and pass the Town Hill B&B, you'll wind down a mountain and at the bottom find an iddy biddy crick called Terrapin Run. We at "The Gods Are Bored" encourage you to seek out this crick (see sidebar) and do what you can to save it. You might earn your first Pagan Scout badge.


Ack. Forget the doggone badges. Don't you think they're way imperial?


FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Suckin That Aquifer Dry

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we want to take just a moment to salute Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House. We at "The Gods Are Bored" have less than a thimbleful of respect for any sitting member of U.S. Congress. However, Ms. Pelosi is the best of a bad bunch. Long may she preside!

We here at Chateau Johnson got a water bill a few weeks ago. It was a whopper. The meter reader hadn't gotten in for awhile. Even so, it was a stinker of a bill. So Mr. Johnson called City Hall and talked to the water people.

They said we used 25,000 gallons of water in 4 months.

After Mr. Johnson recovered from fainting dead away, he asked how that could possibly be true. And the water people told him that our usage is conservative compared to the average in our sleepy little borough!

Quoth the water people: "The folks who water their lawns with sprinklers use far more water than you Johnsons do."

No one knows better than me the weight and volume of a gallon of water. Whenever I can get home to Berkeley Springs, I fill about 25 gallons to bring back to the Great Blue Northeast. It is one heck of a chore, lugging those one-gallon containers to the car parked less than 100 yards away.

So, if I repeated that arm-straining task 1000 times, I'd have our family's 4-month water use. It boggles the brain. Especially my brain. I spent the summers in my grandparents' house in Appalachia that didn't have running water. Ain't no doggone way they used 25,000 gallons of H2O in 4 months.

Sipping a precious glass of Berkeley Springwater, I prayerfully consulted King Triton about my family's abuse of a precious (and dwindling) natural resource. He gave me some tips.


*low-flow potties (already had those)

*showers, not baths (this hit daughter The Heir like a ton of bricks)

*water-conserving appliances

*don't water the lawn (wouldn't dream of it)

I thanked King Triton with a suitable flower arrangement cast into the nearest moving body of water. Then I did an assessment of my appliances.

I found the outlaw. It's my clothes washer.

With two kids, self, and spouse, I could do a load of laundry every day of the week. Usually I would let the stuff pile up over time and then do seven loads in a day. But that only works if you're employed in your home as a goat judge. When you've got to go out and be a teacher, you can't be chained to the washing machine.

Enter the local laundromat.

Did you know they have machines there that can wash six loads of laundry at once? It costs a little over five bucks. And those big, efficient dryers! In, out, la dee dah!

King Triton said that I'll break even financially using the laundromat, but I'll save time and water. Time that is better spent at the pub, drinking beer.

Do you need good advice from a bored god or goddess? Our operators are standing by to take your call.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Weirdest Turn Yet in a Very Long Story


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we must navel-gaze about a very odd occurrence on January 1, 2007.


Only my most dedicated readers know the long saga of the Monkey Man. I guess it quickly bears repeating, the way Carl Hiaasen writes over and over about Clinton Tyree.


1. Four years ago, my daughter The Heir was walking home from school when a man passed her on a bicycle. He was wearing a jester hat, clown pants, and carrying a stuffed toy monkey. In monkey voice, he said, "Hello, girls ... ooo ooo ooo AH AH AH!"


2. For a short time I wondered if there was a Mark Foley in our midst. But The Heir, loving all forms of weirdness, made it her personal goal to find out as much as she could about the Monkey Man.


3. Literally for two and a half years after that, a Monkey Man sighting, or any information on said individual, was coveted like the Holy Grail. It seemed everyone had an opinion on the guy -- everything from the assertion that he lived under the railroad tracks to the assertion that he had grown up in this town and was known and loved by many.


4. Turns out the latter is true. The former is not. He has a house. He used to own the house behind mine. The one that now contains two beastly yappy dogs.


5. Once when the Monkey Man lost his monkey, he gave my daughter The Spare his email address. He also posed for a snapshot with The Spare. (That was proof enough for me that he had nothing to hide. When did you ever see a picture of Foley with his arm around a page?)


6. After an exchange of emails, it transpired that the Monkey Man did indeed know all the neighbors who used to inhabit this tightly-packed block. The neighbors unanimously spoke warmly of him.


7. Nevertheless, the guy is a distinct individual, which is a nice way of saying he wears a jester hat and rides around on a bike with a monkey puppet. He also writes poetry and recites Walt Whitman, who he resembles to a proper degree.


Now, here's the weird thing.


My mother-in-law was visiting for New Year's. That means I had to stage one lavish meal after another for two days. The most lavish of all, of course, was the New Year's feast. Trust me, it rivalled anything they've ever dished out in Whoville, either pre- or post-Grinch.


Get this.


About an hour before the feast was set to be served, I walked out to my car to go get The Spare from a friend's house. As I looked in my rearview, I saw a bicyclist coming up the street. Then I saw the jester hat. Total, complete coincidence. If I had come out 5 minutes later, he'd have been gone. If he'd been 5 minutes sooner, he wouldn't have seen me.


No one in my family had laid eyes on the Monkey Man in 3 months. And there he was. He said he just happened to ride up my street instead of the one his old house was on.


I invited him to the feast. What the heck?


At this point I'll add that my spouse, Mr. Johnson, is pretty tolerant of my bouts of weirdness. Not many men would take it in stride when their wife got up at 5:30 a.m., drove 30 minutes to a neighboring town, and watched vultures for two hours. (I did that on Friday.)


So we set another place at the table for the Monkey Man -- daughters gawking, mother-in-law highly amused.


Guess what he had been doing in the old neighborhood? He'd taken a Polar Plunge into Dog Poop Pond! His hair was still wet. Even his monkey was a tad moist.


Last point of weirdness.


Mr. Johnson always likes to listen to music during dinner. He prefers Big Band. While we were eating the roast beast, a song came on. It's called "Mairzy Doats."


Simultaneously, I and the Monkey Man shouted: "Oh, my Dad/Mom loved that song!" (His mom, my dad.)


I've never heard "Mairzy Doats" on the Big Band channel before.


Occasionally, as befits an educated Druid, I am given to bouts of doubt on all things spiritual. So I wanted to record this navel gaze for those days when I see the world in that gray Orwellian light. There can be no other explanation for the weird entree of the Monkey Man into our New Year's dinner other than intervention by my dad/his mom, both, alas, gone to the Summerlands.


For those of you who haven't nodded off, here are the words to "Mairzy Doats":


Mairzy doats
And doezy doats
And little lambsie divey,
A kiddle ee divy too, wouldn't you?


Now if the words sound queer
And funny to your ear
A little bit jumbled and jivey,
Think "Mares eat oats,
"And does eat oats,
"And little lambs eat ivy..."


The world is weird. Who am I to buck it?

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS