Friday, August 31, 2007

Midlife Crisis Postponed by Reality Check

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" at yet another low point in the good ol' employment search!

While trying my very, very hardest to break into the school teaching biz last winter, I missed an email from an editor for whom I'd done a piece of writing. All the editor needed was a date. Not a full date, just a year. (The year she needed was 1996.) By the time I sent her the date (with apology), she had to insert it in pages, which is expensive.

Last week I politely inquired if she had any work. She emailed me huffily that she did not. A fellow scribe, trying to be helpful, also emailed me with an entire book of entries that this editor was assigning.

That is how I lost my final job as a writer. One little date, 1996, missed in an essay of 4000 words.

Annie's always helpful free advice: Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be writers.

Today in the mail I received my kiss-off letter for not one, but two English openings at the school that I have been substituting at faithfully since the fall of 2005.

Here's the best part of the letter, which was lovingly crafted by a brand-new assistant principal who is at least 15 years my junior, if not more:

"While your credentials are impressive, and although you have been a member of our school community for some time, another candidate was chosen for this position."

My fundie sister would blame all of this on my change in religion.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are toujours gai, however. Perhaps all this rejection opens a window to a whole new venture. Chonganda and the Salmon of Wisdom willing.

Yesterday I was so down in the dumps that I wanted to punch a hole in the drywall. But today, as I perused the morning newspaper, a sobering reality check caught my eye.


This gal and I were born within a year of one another. And while she never had to worry about how she would pay her bills, I think her troubles were worse than mine. And besides, she's been dead ten years, as of today.
And I'm alive to take my daughter The Spare to quarter-a-card Bingo night at the Funkstown Rod and Gun Club.

So la di dah, there's a dance or two in the old dame yet. Cheerio, my pets!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Talking Nice to Democrats: Obama Is For It

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Anne has scheduled a mid-life crisis for sundown Friday evening. Why don't you drop by? She's baking some pies, and maybe one of her grandma's famous snowball cakes. How can you pass up an offer like that?

Mr. Johnson, the better half of the Johnson & Johnson team, is a shop steward for his union. (In his case, the CWA.)

This afternoon, Mr. Johnson was sitting in the garage, which doubles as his office. (Ain't that a guy thang?) He got a telephone call.

The call was from a young woman trying to raise funds for the political campaign of Barak Obama.

Mr. Johnson was agreeable. He likes Barak Obama. But he had a question.

"How does Mr. Obama stand on the issue of labor unions?" Mr. Johnson asked.

The caller responded: "Oh. I don't know. Hang on a minute."

In almost exactly a minute, she returned to the line. She said, "He's for it."

That's all she said.

Mr. Johnson's response need not be recorded here.

Please don't apologize for Barak if he's your man. He's just doing what all rich, important Americans do -- he's hiring uneducated youngsters at the lowest level, paying them nothing or next to it, and insufficiently training them to complete their jobs.

Perhaps he should outsource his fundraising to India.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Having Faith in Delaware

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on this, the 257th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Anne Johnson! I think we've beaten the curve.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will be away until next Wednesday, so today's post is going to be in pieces. You can read one piece each day, and then you won't even miss us!

Piece #1 Ruffled Nerves at Team Baby

Priceless comment on my post about the baby team DVDs. Ah, the power of the Internet! The company spokesman took me to task for offering my opinion of the product before thoroughly reviewing it. He even offered to send me a free copy of Baby Nittany Lion.

He did make a good point. the Baby Team videos are meant as a family bonding tool, centered on a shared love -- in this case a team franchise. And I can fully understand that. Why, in my day we used to load the family in the car and go see the Baltimore Orioles. What fun! Except that nowadays a normal family of four can't afford to go to an Orioles game unless they eat Spam every night for two weeks.

College football is no different. Check out those ticket prices on Ebay. Therefore, we at "The Gods Are Bored" endorse the team baby DVDs as a financially sensible alternative to attending a sporting event.

Piece #2 High School Reunions

Whenever I hear someone say, "Oh, I just luuuuuvvvvvved high school!" I know to bid a hasty good-day and cross the street. Everyone hates high school except the guy who becomes quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines and the girl who goes on to become a Broadway sensation.

Having said that, I'll admit that I'm going home to my high school class reunion. I think I've only missed one in XXXXX number of years.

I go to them because I grew up in a small town and went to school with the same people from kindergarten to cap-and-gown. Many of my classmates have stayed in the local area (a wise investment, it turns out). When my dad was dying, it was high school chums who opened their houses and plied me with comfortable beds and good wines. I view class reunions as a chance to chat with all these buds at once. Which reminds me, I have to go up into the crawlspace and find an ugly picture of myself from high school. The hardest part of that will be getting into the crawlspace!

Finally, it's time for today's sermon!

Piece #3: Having Faith in Delaware

When I was living in Michigan, I had a co-worker named Bryan. Bryan did not believe in Delaware. He said he'd never met anyone from Delaware, he'd never seen anything on the news about Delaware, and any map of the U.S. of sensible size hardly even showed a dot where Delaware should be. Ergo, Delaware did not exist.


When I told him I'd actually been to Delaware, that I'd visited its beaches and ate barbecued chicken at its Lions Club roadside stands, he was flabbergasted. He couldn't believe he'd actually met someone who had truly experienced Delaware.

I thought of this last night as I drove the 15 miles of I-95 that passes through ... you guessed it ... Delaware. Let's examine this for a moment.

Amongst America's enormous population, there's a teeny tiny percentage who were born in Delaware, went to high school and college in Delaware, and now work in Wilmington and drive home every day to their boxy suburban rancher in Odessa, when they aren't vacationing at Rehoboth Beach. We are talking a mini-mini-mini fraction here. However, these people can be counted on to believe in Delaware, to have had deep and authentic Delaware experiences, and to be engaged in Delaware on a day to day basis.

Since Delaware lies on the East Coast of the U.S. and allows the omnipotent I-95 to pass through it (heavily tolled for a wee 15 miles), many many more Americans believe in Delaware because they've seen it while passing through. You can't miss the sign that says, "Welcome to Delaware, You'd Better Drive 55 Or You'll Get a Whopper of a Ticket." And they mean it too. I know. So we should call these folks who've had a passing glance at Delaware the "seeing is believing" portion of the population.

What about the rest of America? And, for that matter, the world? Why should people who've never seen the state line actually believe in Delaware? Why, they believe it because they read about it in books. They see it on their maps. Except for the few rogue Bryans out there, everyone has faith that there is such a thing as Delaware.

What the heck does this have to do with bored gods? Oh damn, now you're asking me to think! Well, it's like this. All religions consist of a handful of people who have a deep, personal, daily and continuous experience of their deity or deities. Then there are many, many more who have had passing ethereal experiences of the d or ds, perhaps not lasting long, but memorable nonetheless. Then there are countless gazillions of people who just believe it because the books say it's so, and everyone else believes it, so it must be true. It's called having faith in the unseen.

Brothers and sisters, I have been to Delaware! I can tell you truly, it's there! And it's a great place, lots and lots of vultures! And traffic cops. But hey. Faith in anything is going to make you have to deal with something you don't like.

If you would like to learn more about Delaware, our operators are standing by to take your call.

See you next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. So help me, Delaware.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Verizon Horizon

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Please listen to the following list of options closely before making your selection.

If you want to go back in time to a day when computers didn't exist and your television had five channels, accessed by turning a knob, press 1.

If you want to go back in time to a day when telephones were hooked to a wall, and to reach your party you had to stick your finger in a rotary dialer (or dial the operator and tell her the number), press 2.

If you are having trouble with your cable television provider, press 3.

If you want to be able to understand the person who is being paid to help you over the telephone, press HA HA HA.

If you feel that you are giving your custom to companies that hire cheap overseas labor and then train the labor pool poorly, press 5.

If you are happy when your television remote falls on the floor and the whole doggone t.v. won't work after that, press 6.

If you cannot get a new Verizon television remote from a store any closer to Philadelphia than Paramus, NJ or Altoona, PA, press 7.

If you have 900 channels of television and the only thing worth watching is Countdown with Keith and Big Ten Football, press 8.

If you were aware that Jobs with Justice took a poll that named Verizon the American employer with the worst policies toward its workers, press 9.

If you're sick to death of needlessly complicated computer, telephone, wireless, and entertainment technology, PRESS POUND.

Hope you feel better. Me? I pressed "1" and didn't even listen to the rest!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Brave New Baby Wolverine

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" at the height of hurricane season. Please remember that you can minimize hurricane damage to your home and loved ones by leaving a suitable offering to the bored god Hurrican, sacred to the Aztec peoples. It can't make matters worse, right Jed?

My daughter The Heir is inordinantly fond of a novel by Aldous Huxley called Brave New World. You might recall it from your high school years. In the book, people are fed recorded messages while they sleep, so that when they wake up they're brainwashed.

Babies and young children are susceptible to suggestion via television. Witness all the tiny little girls who want to dress up exactly like Cinderella. They're not getting their cues from the Brothers Grimm. They're watching Disney. Over and over and over.

I count myself an avid fan of the University of Michigan Wolverines. I didn't attend Michigan, but I lived near Ann Arbor for awhile. While there I developed the "Go Blue" disease. It's never left me. It made me wonder what they put in the water there.

I think about this while pondering a new line of DVDs targeting children aged zero through five. The company creating them is called Team Baby Entertainment. The idea is to introduce your tender tot to your favorite sports team and get them all riled up about it. Here's a sample.


Right now Team Baby Entertainment is concentrating on college football, but they also plan to do pro teams in various sports.

Do you find this just a little creepy? At best it creates a rampant consumer demand amongst the rugrat set for licensed team apparel, which ain't cheap. At worst it sets your kid up for a smackdown when they live and breathe Michigan blue, and they don't get accepted to the college. What happens to Baby Wolverine when he grows up and only gets accepted to, say, Hillsdale?

And what's your kid doing watching this brainrot anyway? I'll have you know, my daughters The Heir and The Spare never spent their time in front of DVDs. Gosh, one morning when she was about eight months old, The Spare amused herself for 30 minutes with a bottle of Log Cabin Syrup that she found on the bottom shelf in the pantry. It was only when she got it in her eyes that trouble began. That stuff'll glue your eyelashes shut. Did you know that?

So, we at "The Gods Are Bored" recommend avoiding Baby Wolverine and Baby Nittany Lion. Except if your kid is going to grow up to quarterback one of those teams.

Labels:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Writing to Our Brave Troops Abroad

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Please, have some pie. Oh yes, of course you can have a second slice! I'm flattered.

You know what I should never do? I should never think to myself, "Hey, it's a pretty afternoon. Maybe I'll be able to sit on the porch and read for a few hours."

Yeah. In another life. Got back from a picnic, message from Cat Lady at the shelter. Litter of FIVE needs immediate attention! Ten days old.

I drove right over and took custody. Call me a sap. Go ahead, you're right. They're full of cat formula now, sleeping at my feet in a little furry ball.

The picnic I attended, with reluctant daughter The Spare, was an annual state-wide Children of the American Revolution get-together. This year it was held at a charming plantation house straight out of Pride and Prejudice. You could almost feel Jane and Elizabeth in the staircase, gossiping about Mr. Bingley. Spare, fresh off seeing Becoming Jane, simply loved the house.

It's typical at these things that some D.A.R. Poobah requests that everyone write a cheery note to a serviceperson who is hospitalized in Germany. "Even if it's something short, like 'God Bless You.'"

We at "The Gods Are Bored" have had enough of that.

I walked up to the Poobah, and said this:

"I worship an alternate faith. I understand from reading the newspaper and the Internet that there are servicepeople who also worship alternate faiths. They do not have adequate chaplain services. Can I write a note addressed to those of these varied faiths?"

They say if you live long enough you will see everything. She handed me one dozen cards and told me to have at it.

If there are servicepeople lying battered in some German hospital, they can soon expect cards, hand-written, that cover Wicca, Druidism, Paganism (general), and Asartu. (Hope I spelled it right this time.)

Cards read:

"May you find peace in the Four Quarters."

"May you be guarded by your Gods and Goddesses."

"May your ancestors watch over you as you recuperate."

"From the Merlin of Berkeley Springs."

Twelve times writing that, I got cramps in my hand.

And as I was writing the D.A.R. mom closest to me said, "What should I write in this card? 'Sorry you wasted your life? Maybe things will be different after November?'"

Krikey. If Dubya's lost the D.A.R., he's lost the war!

Labels:

Friday, August 17, 2007

On Ritual Sacrifice

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where it unfortunately appears that we shortly will have to sacrifice a sizable nest of wasps that has taken root in our roof. We won't make a ritual of it, though, since we feel that wasps have a right to life.

Hecate has a post on some families in Florida who are complaining about their neighbors. Apparently the neighbors are Santeria, and part of their ritual requires sacrifical slaughter of an animal.

This, of course, horrifies the good Christian next door. Why, he might be having ribs at an outdoor barbecue, look over the fence, and see someone killing an animal! One guy actually said, "I don't want my kids to see a dead animal."

There mustn't be much road kill in Florida. Possums must be smarter there.


We at "The Gods Are Bored" would like to point out that ritual slaughter of living things is big business in this Christian nation. Look at this lavish display! Not only is Aunty Em dead, but so are those roses and carnations! They were grown in posh greenhouses, nurtured, fertilized, watered. They bloomed beautifully in response to this five-star treatment. For their efforts they get snapped from the living vine and stuck in a vase. And finally they get strewn in the sun on Aunty Em's grave, where they quickly wither into an unsightly mess.

You know what I don't want? I don't want my kids to see a dead flower! Down with all ritual slaughter of plant life! It's bad enough we've got to kill the eggplant for tonight's dinner. But this senseless carnage of carnations absolutely has to stop.

Labels:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How Gods Become Bored

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," promoting distant deities since 2005! Curiously, in all that time I've never addressed a seminal question. How do gods and goddesses become bored?


The short answer is that their praise and worship teams either die out, suffer attrition of the faithful, or become absorbed into more aggressive pantheons.


Recently a suicide bomber killed 500 people of Kurdish extraction called Yazidis. The Yazidis worship a deity they call the Peacock Angel. They intermarry and keep their small praise and worship team close to home. Unfortunately, that home is Iraq. Finally, something the Sunnis and Shiites can agree on: Let's decimate these heathens and send the Peacock Angel into boredom!




On the very same day: a story about the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. Fifty thousand people attended a candlelight vigil in Memphis over the following three days. At least one person died of heatstroke in the 100-plus temperatures. A professor from Bucknell university told the newspaper of Elvis:


"He's popular beyond popular. Three-year-old children in China know who Elvis is."


In the parts of Baltimore so lovingly filmed for Hairspray, I have seen homes with altars to Elvis, including these sorts of paintings and lots and lots of candles. Some folks think Elvis never died, or else he has come back and is hiding out somewhere. Ergo, he has all the earmarks of an incipient deity.


I don't think Elvis will have staying power, even though his posthumous marketers are raking in bundles of large that make the pope salivate. Elvis was at heart a nice guy, and he did good deeds, but in the end the gourmet peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches will sink his reputation, and hence his budding godhood.



The most interesting set of bored gods and goddesses are the ones who aren't completely bored. For instance, this beautiful African deity, Yemaya, came over on the slave ships to the Caribbean. When the slaves were forcibly converted to Catholicism, they simply prayed to Yemaya as a "saint." The exact same thing happened with the Celts, which is why we have so many girls named Brigit today.


Personally, since I believe in each and every god and goddess who has ever been worshiped, both within recorded history and prior to it, I think the Peacock Angel will want a reckoning from that suicide bomber. At any rate it is despicable to see anyone killed for their religion, which is never, ever, the reason they're killed in the first place.


As for Elvis, the King is dead. Get over it, Baltimore.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Making the Ancestor Proud

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we serve the cause of scientific progress! Look here if you're searching for a god or a goddess who will approve of your decision to pursue a Ph.D. in vertebrate paleontology!

My article about the Scopes Monkey Trial, recently published in the launch of The Smart Set Magazine, has been given a thumb's-up approval by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

We at "The Gods Are Bored" heartily endorse the aims of the NCSE. Heartily.

As it happens, this blogger's father was a high school science teacher. His views were decidedly closer to Darrow than to Deuteronomy. Today I feel like I done him proud.

For those of you science teachers who have wandered in here from The Smart Set, please be advised that, in addition to teaching that the universe was created by an Intelligent Designer, you need to point out that the Intelligent Designer was the god Bumba, who vomited up the universe in one Big Bang. (Congolese pantheon.) He vomited because he was all alone in a void, and that stressed him out.

Make Bumba a part of your science curriculum today! Our children are being poorly served by public schools.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Free Air Travel Advice from Annie


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where even Decibel the parrot isn't a frequent flier! If the airline industry relied on la famille Johnson, it would have gone under years ago.


However, Mr. Johnson just returned from a business trip to Florida. When he opened his checked baggage, he found a little note from the Transportation Security Administration. It was a NOTICE OF BAGGAGE INSPECTION.

A deputy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had opened Mr. Johnson's bag to look at its contents. The mildewed swim trunks must have been a big hit.

The little note the TSA left behind said that the contents had been removed from Mr. Johnson's bag and put back in again. It warned that locked bags might have to be pried open, so don't lock your bag. If you do, don't expect TSA or Homeland Security to buy you new luggage. It's your problem.

The bottom of the little note reads: "Smart Security Saves Time." That's actually a secret code for "VOTE REPUBLICAN: WE'RE TOUGH ON TERROR."

It must be a disheartening job, rifling through suitcases full of dirty clothing, sandy socks, and well-thumbed paperback beach novels. So Annie says, let's liven up the dull jobs of the Homeland Security bag-sifters!

The next time I travel by air, my checked bag will contain a nice, handwritten note on scented stationery (I have some I inherited from my late mom.)

The note will say:

Hello, and welcome to the luggage of Anne Johnson! It's a pleasure to have you rifle through these belongings. Anne feels so much safer, knowing that you consider her a terrorist until proven otherwise by close examination of her underwear.

Please pay close attention to the following, which will make Anne's trip happier and stress-free:

1. Please return the condoms and astro-glide to the zipped compartment from which you took them for inspection. Please be aware that Anne counts condoms, and if there are any missing she will contact the Department of Homeland Security immediately.

2. The old brochures from previous vacations are arranged in alphabetical order. Please see to it that they remain in alphabetical order when you return them to the suitcase.

3. The box of tampons contains tampons. Anne counts these too.

4. Sorry about the rubber spider. The kids hid him in this bag in 1997 and it's been a running gag ever since.

5. Please leave your little calling card behind in a prominent place in this bag, so that Anne will know to go straight to a laundromat when her plane lands. The thought of strangers fingering her undergarments is decidedly distasteful, so distateful, in fact, that she would rather take her odds-on chances that some suitcase in this stack actually contains a bomb.

Thank you for visiting Anne's luggage. It's always wise to be suspicious of a middle-aged suburban housewife flying out to see her relatives in Tulsa.

Of course you can modify this note to your particular personal circumstances.

Today you get two sets of free advice for the price of one!
ANNIE'S TIPS FOR BAGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL!
1. If you are going to see a relative in Tulsa, get a box, shove clothes and undies and condoms and tampons into it, and mail it to the relative about two weeks before you plan to be there. Board the plane carrying only your purse, with toothbrush and meds inside it. At the end of your visit, shove the clothes, condoms, etc. back into the box and mail them home to yourself. Hey, if you can afford the plane ticket to Tulsa, you can parcel-post your Jockey shorts.
2. If you are going on a whirlwind tour of Paris, board the plane carrying only your purse, with toothbrush and meds inside. Have the hotel consierge direct you to a pharmacy, a department store, and a thrift store. Purchase enough used outerwear and new underwear to see you through your trip. At journey's end, leave the stuff in the hotel room. (If you like it better than your stuff at home, mail it to yourself as per advice in #1, above.)
If you don't think I really travel like #2 above, go ahead. Invite me to Paris. I'll see you at the arrival gate, carrying nothing but my purse.
Em, could you please buy my plane ticket?

Labels:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Can't Resist This One


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we suggest lactose intolerance for a few days.


You can buy your own "Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad" comics at Slave Labor Graphics.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Class Reunion 2007 of the NRA


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," reading the fine print in contests since 1976! If you enter contests, you know how important that can be.

Take the contest run yesterday by the Philadelphia Inquirer. They invited their readers to write the backstory behind a favorite literary character. The grand prize winner would get $400 worth of tickets to see Wicked, currently showing in Philly.

Fine print: Your entry would not be judged on merit, the prize would be random drawing, and your entry would become owned by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

By the time I read that part, I'd already come up with a great idea. So here it is, exclusive to "The Gods Are Bored!"

Nursery Rhyme Academy (NRA) Class Reunion 2007

Master of Ceremonies: Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty: Welcome, welcome one and all! I’m so glad you could make it to our NRA class reunion! Before we get started, can we give a big round of applause to the Four and Twenty Blackbirds for their fabulous entertainment?

(Enthusiastic applause)

Humpty Dumpty: Just a reminder, the Four and Twenty Blackbirds have a new CD coming out next month with Columbia Records, and you can catch them at the Wachovia Center on September 23rd. That is, if you can find a ticket! The show’s been sold out for weeks. Which makes us lucky to have the Four and Twenty in our NRA!

(Cheers, banging on tables)

Humpty Dumpty: Now we come to that part of the evening when we invite our classmates up to catch us up on their activities since being immortalized in a nursery rhyme. I don’t want anyone to be shy, so I’ll go ahead and break the ice … emmm … well, I’d rather not break any ice, you know, empathy and all that. Okay. As you know, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me together again. Surprise, surprise. Wrong labor force, folks! It took the students at South Fork Middle School in Lonaconing, Maryland less than two hours to patch me, paint me with shatter-proof epoxy, and beautify me with this chip-resistant, day-glo acrylic. Don’t I look spiffy?

(Applause)

Humpty Dumpty: You could lob me off the rim of the Grand Canyon and I wouldn’t break. Oh, look at Little Miss Muffett! She’s thinking about it. Never has forgiven me for the time I dropped the brown recluse spider in her bowl of curds and whey. C’mon, Muffy! Why don’t you be our first speaker?

Little Miss Muffett: Thank you, Egghead. I just want everyone to know that Mr. Dumpty got the wrong species of spider in my chow, which saved my life but sent me into therapy. I would have pressed charges, but that would be against the peaceful goals of the NRA! Now I own a boutique in the Hamptons called A Tisket, a Tuffett. Prince Charles just bought sixteen of my custom tuffetts for Balmoral Castle. (To Humpty Dumpty) Beat that, Egghead!

Humpty Dumpty: Geez, it was only a little prank. Anyone else want to catch us up on your life? Mouse?

Mouse: Life was so simple in my “Hickory Dickory Dock” days. Up the clock, down the clock. Clock strikes one, I go to lunch. Wouldn’t you know it, the clock’s owner sold it on Ebay and didn’t tell me. One day I went in to run up the clock, and the doggone thing wasn’t there! Folks, unemployment is a scary thing. Fortunately I had a cousin in a control group at the local medical research lab. Control group is what you really want in medical research, because you’re the ones who get fed a regular diet while the other guys get the equivalent of 1700 Diet Cokes a day. So, it’s boring, but it’s a job. I do miss that clock. Oh, look, here’s Mary Mary!

Mary Mary, Quite Contrary: One day I got out of bed, and I asked myself, “Why am I throwing my life away tending that garden? All that fertilizer. All that weed killer. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars on heirloom plants and organic mulch. I mean, oh please. So I let the garden go to seed, and with all the time and money I saved, I earned a Ph.D. in geothermal dynamics at the University of Southern California. I’m the co-director of the Yellowstone Caldera Energy Initiative. We’re formulating strategies to tap the caldera as an alternative energy source. Anyone else?

Jack Sprat: My wife and I just want to say we’re so proud to be NRA!

(Applause)

Jack Sprat: You all know about the immense dietary restrictions my wife and I were forced to live with all those years. She could eat no lean, I could eat no fat. But this is the 21st century. We’ve solved our problem! We both eat carbs, carbs, nothing but carbs! Pass the cake!

Little Bo Peep: I’m glad someone’s happy about the 21st century. When I lost my sheep and didn’t know where to find them, someone told me to leave them alone, and they would come home. Guess what happened? A developer bought my pasture and built 1800 single-family homes with two-car garages. By the time my sheep came back, the Residents’ Association had passed a rule against ownership of farm animals. I had to move to Scotland. But I got even…

(Bo Peep dramatically extends hand toward audience. Black Sheep approaches the podium. Audience ooohs and ahhhs.)

Little Bo Peep: Yes, thanks to cloning and genetic engineering, I’ve so improved our Baa Baa Black Sheep that he now produces 25 bags of wool instead of three. I’ve replicated him 42 times. You do the math. I just bought a castle near Prince Charles. Miss Muffett, I’d like to see your shop.

Humpty Dumpty: Would anyone else like to share? Aha! Jack and Jill!

Jill: No more pails, no more well, it’s bottled water for us, purchased by the mega-case at Sam’s Club! The well was torn down and capped as a safety measure. We’re still in the kids’ magazine business, transitioning to online and interactive. Thank you for visiting our web site!

Humpty Dumpty: And last but not least, it’s our own little role model, Jack Be Nimble!

Jack Be Nimble: Okay, okay. So I jumped over a candlestick! Dumb, I’ll admit. But listen to this. Smokey the Bear saw me, and he made me write, “I Will Not Play With Fire” 10,000 times! Tell me that punishment fit the crime. The doctor says the chalk dust is embedded in my thumb forever. But hey, I’m nimble! If you need someone to sneak up a fire escape and jimmy a window…

Humpty Dumpty: Ahem, thanks, Jack! So great to see you! If there’s no one else who’d like to speak, let’s all join in the hymn to our alma mater:

All (singing):
NRA, NRA, portal to a brighter day
Happy children come to play
Smiles and laughter, that’s our way!

NRA, NRA, loyal to you we will stay
Reaping all that’s bright and gay
Keep the children safe, we pray!


And to all a good night.

Labels:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Bad Homo! Bad, Bad Homo!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We'll bet that title has you wondering, eh?

Okay, we're not going to talk about homosexuals. Our subject today is the genus Homo, which is us and some other critters that have gone extinct.

When I was in college, studying human evolution pretty closely, my professors were excited by fossil finds of a bipedal hominid they called Homo habilis. This hominid walked upright the way we do and used its hands the way we do. It had a small brain, but that brain was still bigger than some of the other hominids that were contemporary with it, called Australopithecines. Homo habilis looked like a prime candidate for human ancestry, especially since it appeared in the fossil record before a critter we're sure is a human ancestor. That critter is named Homo erectus. (For some reason I've always loved that particular hominid name.)

Today, fresh out of Tanzania, comes news that the celebrated Leakey family has found both Homo habilis and Homo erectus living in the same environment at roughly the same time. Ergo, Homo habilis and Homo erectus probably have a common ancestor, but the one is not grandma to the other.

Well, dear ones, we are sure to get a tidal wave of "I told you so" from the Intelligent Design contingent. A hypothesis of human evolution, held by peer-reviewed scientists for 25 years, suddenly deemed wrong! New evidence proves this hypothesis wrong, wrong, wrong!

Ahem. Discovery Institute dudes? Sorry to spoil your party, but finds like this actually work against you. Finds like this show that as new evidence becomes available, scientists will alter their views. Let them come pouring from the ground, these fossils that confound the pretty progress of human evolution! Because, tsk tsk tsk. They still don't prove that the world was made in six days by an Intelligent Designer.

Science starts with a proposition and seeks evidence to prove it. If the evidence doesn't prove the proposition, science moves on to a new proposition.

Intelligent Design starts with a certainty and seeks evidence to prove it. Any evidence that disproves the certainty is either skewed, ignored, or downright falsified.

For the record, we at "The Gods Are Bored" are not paleontologists or anthropologists. (In order to study human evolution as a graduate student, you have to take Gross Anatomy. Trust me, we at "The Gods Are Bored" would rather write blurb copy for K-Mart circulars than cut up a dead person, so that was that.)

No one on the staff of "The Gods Are Bored" is an expert on the genus Homo. However, in our humble, unscientific, but perhaps provable opinion, many species both gone and among us are probably really Homo. Herein, a sampling:

Genus Homo Should Include

Australopithecines, including Afarensis and Robustus.
Pan, and that would be your chimps.
Us, and that would be Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens.

One final puzzlement for today. Who named us Homo sapiens, "Thinking human?" The majority of us don't think worth a rat's ass. I don't have enough Latin to coin the name we ought to have, Homo crap on the world and call it progress.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

In Which I Officially Join The Smart Set


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you know us, you know we've been publishing posh prose since 2005. Even so, today is a banner day.

In the launch edition of a new online magazine called The Smart Set, you will find, among the articles, a story about the Scopes Monkey Trial by Anne Johnson. So today I'd love it if you stroll on over there and check out my old chum John T. Scopes and his little problem with teaching evolution.

Since you're one of my singularly intellectual readers, you'll no doubt know that the original Smart Set magazine was a forum for H. L. Mencken, who became its co-editor with George Jean Nathan in 1914.
The new online product retains the feel of that clever, hip monthly, and I am intensely proud to be part of its launch. I hope to write more for it in the future, if Mencken's successor will have me.

Labels:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Performance Review: Negativland

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Turns out the gods aren't bored. They're all in your head.

This was the premise and title of a performance by an ensemble called Negativland. Negativland performed at the University of Pennsylvania last Friday night. We at "The Gods Are Bored" are lucky indeed that our daughter The Heir has such a weird taste that she doesn't even invite her friends to the shows she goes and sees. She takes us instead.

In this case we didn't see the show. The ensemble members handed out blindfolds before they began and asked us to use them. The blindfolds were the gaudy paper kind that kids wear when they bat at pinatas. The reasoning was that the program was meant to be like a radio show (in fact it was simulcast on an independent station). The ensemble members thought the audience would be distracted by their busy technological and script-reading activities during the performance.

Negativland got to the point right away: There is no God. Then they expanded upon this premise using their trademark technique. It's known as "plunderphonics," and it consists of stealing snippets of audio from a vast variety of sources and bending it to uses the original artists or speakers would hardly dare to imagine.

Blindfolded, the technique was compelling indeed, very spooky and original. In a break from their usual aural collages, Negativland ran longer sippets of conversation from learned atheists as well as scary fundies of every stripe, from Christian to Islamic to Catholic to Judaic. We at "The Gods Are Bored" recognized the voice of the elusive atheist speaker who sparked this web log by declaring, "If you want to know how silly religion is, just substitute the name 'Zeus' for the name 'God.' In Zeus We Trust. One Nation under Zeus."

Negativland did not use that quote, but with much dramatic crashing and booming and repetition and speeding up and slowing down, they drove home the point that this God stuff is for the birds. Not even for the birds, they're smarter than that.

The second half of the show used 9/11 to support the thesis that God people do horrible things, and they ought to be shut down by pure reason. We at "The Gods Are Bored" have always argued that people don't do anything in the name of God that doesn't really have some other underlying agenda, so we didn't quibble with this thesis.

As for "There Is No God," well, we at "The Gods Are Bored" think it's like this. Either there's no god at all, or every single god and goddess that ever existed, every totemic animal, every angel and faerie and alien off a UFO, every single one exists, NO EXCEPTIONS.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" have been known to offer up prayers to goddesses so ancient that their names and deeds have been totally forgotten. Everything is, nothing is.

Negativland feels that nothing is. They present a dramatic and fascinating show in service of their views. Afterwards they mingle with the crowd, signing autographs and soliciting opinions. Not many artists dare do that.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" thought these three artists might not want to hear the message of the Sacred Thunderbird and how worship of it changes lives, so we remained polite. It was an interesting evening. We never removed the blindfold until the last sound rolled off the machines.

You can have Madonna and Billy Joel. When we at "The Gods Are Bored" go out, we go OUTTTTT.

Labels:

Monday, August 06, 2007

More Pumpkin Questions

Okay, I should have been more specific about my inability to grow a pumpkin. I have two vines that have shown themselves recently. They have yellow flowers on them. I don't care what size the pumpkin is that grows from the vine, but once I had a pumpkin vine that covered my yard and was bright with flowers but never fruited. Do I have to pluck the unwanted flowers?

I have better luck with tomatoes. And mugwort, and jewel weed. If you need mugwort or jewel weed, call me right away.

Annie, Annie, Quite Contrary

Does anyone know how to grow a successful pumpkin? I have two volunteer pumpkin vines in my front yard (they're not getting much sun).

These vines are courtesy of Decibel the parrot, who does not eat his pumpkin seeds.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Government by Analogy

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" No words are harmed in the creation of this site.

I have to go fill 36 water balloons for a Lughnasadh picnic. (Sigh, yes, always the church lady!) So today I'm going to dish out a few analogies, and if I miss any, please provide! My comments column is getting livelier, and I really appreciate that.

1. George Bush and fellow "pro-life" Republicans vetoing a bill that would provide nationalized health care to all American children...
is like
Raising goldfish to feed to a snapping turtle.

2. Global warming ...
is like
locking the barn after the horse is free, because you don't think there was a horse in there anyway, but maybe there was.

3. Bridges falling down on major metropolitan highways while carrying on a war in Iraq...
is like
Going hungry so you can make the monthly payment on your BMW.

4. Throwing gallons of water onto perfect grassy lawns...
is like
pissing in the sand.


5. Fighting Islamic terrorists by invading Iraq...
is like
burning your house down because you found cockroaches in the kitchen.
Thanks to Cy for our trademark "Eyeball Vulture."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Talking Nice to Republicans

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," toujours bleu in the Great Blue Northeast!

Guess who I just talked to for ten minutes? The Republican Central Committee!

Actually, the nice operator girl who introduced the call asked if I would be willing to listen to a recorded message by Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. She said the message was created especially for small businesspeople such as me.

First I asked her who Tom Cole was, because his name didn't ring a bell. She said he was a Republican Congressman from Oklahoma.
EXHIBIT A: CONGRESSMAN TOM COLE


We at "The Gods Are Bored" know a good opportunity when we're offered one.


"Oh, yes, by all means, I would love to hear it," I purred.

On comes the tape, with the good Okie moron warning me that the Democrats are going to sink my small business with regulations, that they want to re-distribute wealth from those who have it to those who don't deserve it (or something like that), and all these horrible Democrats are led by Nancy Pelosi, the Wicked Witch of the West...

... Okay, so I was simultaneously misting my parrot Decibel with the garden hose. Never been much at multi-tasking. But I did get the gist.

The recording was two or three minutes long, and then a nice gentleman came on the telephone, telling me how he'd like to send me a certificate and that my small business would be a focus of political power, and even though I might not be able to come to Washington and meet the powerbrokers, they would be grateful to me nonetheless.

I let him go on and on and on. The entire pitch. The whole script.

Then I politely asked him how he'd gotten my name. He said I was on a list of prestigious small business owners.

I said that was very interesting, because my small business had been crushed by corporate greed. I added that I bleed liberal blue, that I love Nancy Pelosi and think she would make a wonderful president.

I said, "This is rich, you Republicans calling me for money. But I've enjoyed the conversation, because someone is paying for this call, so I've actually syphoned a little loot from your pockets."

To which he responded: "I'm willing to talk to you all day."

By that time Decibel the parrot looked nicely soaked, so I told the nice gentleman that I wouldn't vote Republican if Abraham Lincoln climbed out of his grave and ran for the nomination. I told him I hope he gets 10,000 small businesspeople such as myself with the same philosophy and predicted it might happen. Then I concluded with the observation that the Republican Party must be dredging the bottom of the channel for largesse because its big-time sponsors see the writing on the wall and are deserting for the Democrats like rats from a sinking ship.

Then I hung up. I'm a busy unemployed woman.

The only thing I wished I'd asked him was whether his phone solicitation job came with benefits, and whether he had a shop steward in case he was harrassed or something. Doggone it, that would have made the conversation lively indeed!

The moral of the story: Someone's paying for the call. Keep them on the line as long as you can hold your food in your stomach without barfing.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Viracocha Wants His Stuff Back

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the gods are boarded up into crates and shipped to museums! There they sit, locked in drawers, waiting to be gawked at by the proper Ivy League geek.

It's been quite awhile since we here at "The Gods Are Bored" interviewed a bored god. Today we have a visitor with a serious issue. He's been robbed. He knows where his stuff is, but the thieves won't give it back.

Please give a warm, wonderful "The Gods Are Bored" welcome to Viracocha, awesome creator deity of the ancient Inca peoples!


Anne: Viracocha, you don't need to wear your everyman beggar clothing around me. Go ahead and don the deity apparel. Ah! That's better. If a little bright.

Viracocha: Anne, did you go to Yale?

Anne: No, but President Dubya did, and if he's an example of what they produce there, I'm glad I opted for Billy Bob Agricultural University. (BBAU)

Viracocha: You know how much stuff Yale University has in its vaults that belongs to my praise and worship team?

Anne: Well, it says here in the newspaper that they've got 5,000 artifacts from Machu Picchu alone. But ... emmm ... I hope I'm not being impolite, but do you actually have a praise and worship team?

Viracocha: Would Pope Rat have one if some dude from Yale gathered up all the trappings in St. Peter's Square and locked them in drawers? I want my stuff back!

Anne: I hear you loud and clear. Just because some adventurer named Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu lying vacated in 1911 gave him no call to scoop everything up and ship it to New Haven. Doesn't Peru have any museums and scholars?

Viracocha: Snobby American intellectuals! Of course we have museums and scholars! The people of Peru deserve to have their history where they can see it. And when they do see it, maybe I won't have to work in an Abercrombie & Fitch sweatshop anymore!

Anne: Is that where you work? Gosh, and I thought I had it rough! Viracocha, we at "The Gods Are Bored" have neither money nor power. But we stand on record as advocates for the swift return of all, and we mean ALL original archeological artifacts to the countries from which they have come. In this day and age of inventive duplication, the geeks at Yale ought to be able to make copies of the important stuff. Or get off their lard butts and fly to Peru to study your property.

Viracocha: Including the human remains.

Anne: Especially the human remains. We at "The Gods Are Bored" remind our readers that it could be their dear old granny who someday gets "excavated" and carted off to China for display. Just because it's an old human skeleton doesn't mean it wasn't once a person. A proud Inca person. Viracocha, how come these Yalies don't get cursed big time for keeping stuff that doesn't belong to them?

Viracocha: Well, I am a water god. I'm on my way to investigate the sprinkler system in Yale's anthropology and archeology classrooms.

Anne: I hope you get your stuff back. This is just another example of thoughtless American greed. Isn't the first, won't be the last. Help yourself to some stewed tomatoes on your way out, honored deity. After all, your people had a monopoly on tomatoes until 1492.

Viracocha: Thanks, Anne. Here's a coupon for 10 percent off your next purchase of Hershey's chocolate.

Anne: Excellent! That's something I really need! You're a nice god, Viracocha. Best of luck to you.