Friday, November 30, 2007

National Meth Awareness Day


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," officially welcoming back the vultures of Wenonah! Yes, they have returned to their winter roost in numbers. Therefore we are off to see them! O, praise ye the Sacred Thunderbird! Hallelujia!

Only have a minute or two if I want to get down to Wenonah by flyover time.

Even the most grotesquely inept presidents can do some little good. Accent on the little. Apparently Dubya has named November 30 National Meth Awareness Day.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" recognize crystal methamphetamine as one of the great dangers of this era. That shit will kill you. And we have a flighty 13-year-old to worry about in this house. So we're concerned about crystal meth. We think perhaps more government money should be going to eradication of meth labs and less toward eradication of Iraqi children.

Beseech your gods and goddesses to protect people everywhere from the scourge of crystal meth. We at "The Gods Are Bored" do not curse anyone, but we hope that the evil inflicted by meth dealers comes back upon them threefold. So might it be.

Off to see the buzzards fly in for the night. Talk about a natural high!

FROM ANNE
WENONAH BOUND
Photo: The vultures of Wenonah

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Multi-Entry Blogging: Something for Everyone!



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Pant. Pant. Pant. So many adventures, so little time!

The trouble with me is that everything interests me. This can be a problem when I sit down to write something pithy for thith column. I get so caught up in some little thing I read in the newspaper that my navel gazing gets shoved off for another day. So today I'm catching up on the n.g., but I'm doing it in a way that might entertain you.

Cat lovers, scroll down. There's a kitten post.

Monkey Man devotees, scroll down. There's an interesting anecdote about how poetry and chemistry, combined in proper proportions, create magic. Oh, ye of little faith in alchemy!

And today's featured sermon is on the topic of ecstasy-inducing music and its role in religion.

Oh, that sounds dreadfully dull, doesn't it. SO DAMN! LET'S GO ON A SPREE!

Last summer my daughter The Heir dragged me (kicking and screaming) to a concert by a band called The Polyphonic Spree. All she told me beforehand was that the group had more than 20 members, including a choir and strings, and that the music would be ... emm ... musical. The show was to be held at one of those smallish venues where everyone under 21 has to stay downstairs, standing up. At least the ticket prices were reasonable: $25 apiece.

I prepared for an ordeal. Instead I got a SPREE.

Wow! Let's dance! Let's sing about finding yourself! Let's cavort as cannons shoot confetti into the air! Let's watch this high-energy crowd of musical whirlwinds spray the air with sound! Let's sing along ....

Ooops! I'd never heard of this band. And they ain't geezer rockers. So I couldn't sing along.

On the other hand, when the band came out for a second set dressed in white choir robes and led the crowd in chants that sounded suspiciously like Awens, I caught up pretty quickly.
EXHIBIT A: THIS SUMS IT UP NICELY




The Polyphonic Spree created a spree that lasted into the morning hours, and as I left the concert hall I wondered what had happened to the beaten-down, worn-out, sad old buzzard of an Anne who had entered five hours ago. Not that I minded being free of that saggy old lady. Because suddenly I was young again, ready to follow the day and reach for the sun! The world looked bright and beautiful, which -- given the fact that I was standing on a street corner in Philly at 1:00 a.m. -- was pretty remarkable.

I told The Heir I had never had that much fun for $25 in my entire life.

It will come as no surprise that when I learned that the Polyphonic Spree would be returning to Philly for a second concert, I snapped up two tickets without a moment's hesitation.

The second concert fell on a Wednesday night, two weeks ago. You can see beautiful pictures of it if you go to this link and scroll down to the Polyphonic Spree review:


This concert was pretty much the same as the first one, only shorter (it was Wednesday). This time I knew all the words and could sing along. I also brought all three of my fairies -- Puck, Princess, and Aine.

Again the spirited, solid wall of sound. Again the snowstorm of confetti, which now looked to me like a massive invasion of the fae. Again the feeling that the years had melted away, and Anne was suddenly just a tot of 17, going nuts at a kick-ass concert.

The music ended at 11:00 without an encore. The performers were tired. However, they must have told the theatre staff that they would be coming out to sign autographs and mingle. Because that was what they did.

Even after the music ended, the spree continued -- this time driven by enthusiastic youngsters and nutty geezers who weren't ready to call it a day.

You see, the theatre floor was covered with about a foot of confetti. Or faeries, if you prefer. And some of the pumped-up wackadoos decided that the confetti/faeries looked like a winter wonderland all set up for a super duper snowball fight.

Here's where I'd like to tell you that The Heir waded in and started pelting strangers with fistfuls of confetti, whilst I, her sensible mom, tried to rein her in.

Alas and alack, the opposite was the case. Anne waded in and began hurling confetti into the air, and then at some dudes who flung it back, and then just in general, and then back at the same dudes, and then the dudes got Anne, and then they turned their backs, and Anne stuffed faeries down their shirt collars, and then they pelted the heck out of Anne...

And then the Heir stepped in, dragged Mom off the dance floor, and shoved her into the cold, unforgiving air of East Philly. Heir wouldn't even let Anne mingle with the members of the Polyphonic Spree. It doesn't do, she thinks, to get to close to performers. They might not live up to your expectations.

Heir doesn't realize that by the time one gets to be my age, expectations have altered so much that if someone sneezes on you, you say, "Why, thank you."

Where was this sermon headed when I began it? Scroll up .... Oh yeah! Here's what I think. If you are Pagan and you can't sing or dance, you should check out the Polyphonic Spree and let them do it for you. Their operators are standing by to take your call.

Tomorrow: Dream interpretation. Or I'll pelt you with confetti. You choose.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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The Otherworldy Spirit at Pizza and Poetry: A Monkey Man Moment

My ten regular readers will remember that I often write about an eccentric but gifted poet named The Monkey Man. It's a long story, how we met the Monkey Man and his cast of puppets, but we're glad we did.

Once a month the Monkey Man hosts a Pizza and Poetry night at Slice of New York Pizza, 3rd and Market, Camden, NJ. My daughter The Heir and I try to go every month.

I fear the Monkey Man's group may outgrow Slice of New York Pizza, because on Tuesday night we filled every seat. It's not a big place, but it's big enough -- we're just getting more and more folks all the time. Our collective Walt Whitman "barbaric yawp" rattled the walls of the place and caused the dear old dead poet to smile in his nearby grave.

The theme of Tuesday night's P&P was death.

Well, gosh, what else do poets write about but love and death? Okay, okay, nature. I'll give you that. But death's a biggie.

The Heir and I each took a seat at one of the tables. A well-dressed black man sat down next to The Heir. I couldn't estimate the man's age, but he might be in my ballpark, maybe a bit younger. (More and more people are younger than me all the time.)

Across the table from The Heir and me sat a couple who would not stop talking to us long enough for me to share even a polite "hello, I'm Anne" with the African American gentleman. But then the poetry commenced. After a few of the regulars had shared their latest, the gentleman stood and read a very moving poem about his late grandmother and how there was a ring on the coffee table from her pie plate that was once filled with delicious lemon meringue pie.

After the gentleman read, the Monkey Man announced the awaited pizza break. The Heir dashed off to get her slices, giving me a chance to introduce myself to the gentleman.

I praised his poem, and I told him of an incident that happened in my house that week.

My daughter The Spare is studying chemistry in 8th grade. My late father (who now fights pirates with Peter Pan) was a chemistry teacher. Back in the 1960s, I told the gentleman, my dad did chemistry classes on closed circuit t.v. that could be shown in high schools scattered across our Appalachian county. A few of Dad's episodes survived on an old VHS that Dad gave me before he went off with Peter Pan. The Spare wanted to take the VHS to school to show bits of grainy footage of Dad blowing up everything in sight.

I was willing to part with the precious VHS, but I suggested that The Spare and I should pick one particularly vivid explosion to show her class. And there, on the footage, stood my precious dad in the prime of life, mixing up chemicals in a mortar and pestle that now sits in my kitchen.

Of course the sight of that old tool of Dad's, now mine (and -- gulp -- used to grind spices!) made me weep. But then it comforted me to realize that an important piece of Dad's equipment will forever be with my family.

So, I told all of this to the African American gentleman, and he started writing things down. He apologized for being rude and then said, "You are just radiating so much energy on this that I'm being inspired."

By the time we had finished eating pizza, the gentleman -- who had never been to Pizza and Poetry before -- had written a moving poem about Daddy the Chemistry Teacher and his mortar and pestle, now used to grind cinnamon. Like, I mean the dude wrote a fabulous poem in less than 15 minutes. He impressed the hell out of everyone and caused me to weep again.

This was, of course, powerful magic at work. If you don't believe in magic, what are you doing on my site? Go toddle off to Hanna Montana dot com or some such place.

The gentleman had extremely scratchy handwriting and resisted copying the Daddy poem out in more legible form because he said he wanted to work on it some more. So I gave him my email and begged him to send me the final draft when he finished it. At the end of the evening we shook hands and went our separate ways. I do not remember his name.

Driving home, I told The Heir that I wasn't sure this gentleman was even a mortal. You never can be sure about the celestial status of anyone who hangs around the Monkey Man. So, if I never see or hear from this extraordinary African American poet again, I will assume he was a messenger from the Great God Chonganda, sent to ease my sorrow about losing my dad to Peter Pan.

If that dude is mortal, I wish him a long life, good health, and that his pen never runs out of ink. Because I don't think I've ever witnessed greater magic from an inkpen in my life.

To date I have not heard from him.

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Cat Blogging: The Incredibly Awesome Adventure of Willoughby the Kitten


One of the Johnson family's favorite hangouts is Woodstock Trading Company in Cherry Hill, New (and Used) Jersey.


One of my regular commenters, a blighter named KD, once said he wished it could be 1970 again. Well, KD, you just need to open the door to Woodstock, and there you are. The clock stopped there around 1972 and has never started up again. Please note that they do not sell pipes, never have, honestly. That's what it says on their door. But if you have a craving for any other kind of legal merchandise from the Summer of Love era, you have found your store.

Four weekends ago, the staff of Woodstock heard dramatic caterwauling from the crawlspace below their hippie dippy showroom. At no small amount of effort, they penetrated into the crawlspace and extracted a kitten, about 2 weeks in age. It had been there, screaming, for two days.

Just as they were standing there wondering what the heck to do with such a small kitten, in walks ... moi. Kitten foster extraordinaire.

Remember, we at "The Gods Are Bored" do not believe in coincidences.

Mr. Johnson phoned that he needed the car keys, so I had only a moment to grab the little shaver, promise to love and nurture him, and dash to the good ol' homestead.

Said kitten, given the provisional name of Willoughby, will return to Woodstock Trading Company tomorrow to take up permanent residence there. He is a spirited, thriving, purring, romping little bundle of joy. The staff can hardly wait to claim him. He has made four conjugal visits during which he's been lovingly received by all.

I'm particularly happy about this rescue because I frequently feel the need to return to 1972, so I go to Woodstock all the time. Goddess willing (and I think She is), I will be able to watch Willoughby grow and thrive! Always before this, my fosters have gone back to the animal shelter, and from there to homes -- I know not where. But this one is different. He's gonna be my forever kitten buddy!

If you want to see pictures of Willoughby, the Crawlspace Hippy Summer of Love Kitten, Woodstock Trading Company has a MySpace with 32 pictures of the feline already on display. Mind you, this cat is not yet 8 weeks old.

But we all know how that is, right? Everyone loves to take multiple baby pictures.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ohhh, Dream Weaver





Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true!

Part of what drew me to Paganism is its respect for dream magic.

This is not to say that the Christian church has not produced dream magicians -- the final chapter in its Big Book is a fab Dream Weaver opus. But just today, as a Dream Weaver, I feel more comfortable in the Pagan fold.

What is a Dream Weaver? Well, so far as I can tell, there are two kinds.

Some Dream Weavers actually see future events in their dreams, then write down the events as they experienced them, then publish them in the Bible.

Okay, perhaps a radical example, but a fair example nonetheless.

Other Dream Weavers believe their dreams to be gifts from the deities, bored or otherwise. These dreams are to be remembered, studied, enjoyed, feared, interpreted, and/or used for creative purposes. I am this sort of Dream Weaver.

I'm never happier than when people say to me: "Wow. I had this amazing dream last night. I wonder what it means?" In ten out of ten cases, I can exactly tell them what the dream means and how it reflects what's happening, what has happened, or what is about to happen, in their lives. Even if I do not know them.

Any bored god will tell you that Sigmund Freud was no Dream Weaver. His outlook was not big, broad, and flexible, which is what it needs to be to understand the gift of dreams.

Psychoanalysts charge big bucks to hear you talk about your dreams. Which should put the scotch to them right then and there. A Pagan Dream Weaver will gladly interpret your dreams for free, so long as you don't phone up at 3:00 a.m. or stain the furniture. At the very least he or she might charge a nominal fee depending on how lightly you sleep and how much interpretation you need.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" interpret dreams, following the above Pagan pay scale. We would sincerely appreciate not hearing from you if your dreams are all about violent attacks on elected public officials or your neighbor's noisy pit bull. Thank you for your consideration.

Here's a quick for instance on how a Dream Weaver works.

A young gal told me that she dreamed she was about to step into the bed of the man of her dreams.

Wait a minute. That sounds postmodern. Let's try again.

A young gal told me she dreamed she was about to step into bed with a guy she likes, but he didn't know she liked him. In the dream though, he was blissfully surprised at her willingness, and he invited her. Except she was wearing a big oversized sweatshirt, and she got all tangled up in it trying to get it over her head. She was finally able to wrestle out of it and move on to the good stuff.

If you can interpret this dream, you may be a Dream Weaver. Take our correspondence course! Our operators are standing by to take your call.

My Dream Weaver response will appear in a subsequent post.
FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Dreamy faerie dude by Seitou

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Banned Books Day!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," using banned book lists as reading guidelines since ... emm ... never mind. It's a long time. Forget Oprah! If you're looking for quality literature, the banned book list rarely leads you astray.




All the hoo-hah over Harry Potter being Satanic has made me laugh, because Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, also a trilogy for tween/teen readers, makes no bones about its loathing of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular. As I read the three books cover to cover, I kept asking myself, "Wow. How come these tomes haven't been banned by the usual suspects?" I mean, it's not every day when you can read a book where the heroine and hero kill God.

(Pullman won the Whitbread Award, the British equivalent of the National Book Award, for The Amber Spyglass, the final volume in the trilogy. It was the first time a children's book had ever won such a prestigious award in the UK.)

Back to my question: Why hasn't this trilogy been banned?

Fear not, seekers of truth! Over the weekend, the Catholic Church issued a statement urging its members not to go see the movie based on the first volume, The Golden Compass. Concerned parents are having the trilogy stripped from the shelves of school libraries even as we speak!

My guess is that the film version of The Golden Compass minimizes the anti-Christian bias. But if the filmmakers wander into vols. 2 and 3 for cinematic brilliance, they won't be able to avoid the God thang.

Banning books traditionally increases interest in them, so we at "The Gods Are Bored" are thrilled that His Dark Materials has finally found its way onto the list. If you're looking for a good Xmas gift for that younger reader in your sphere of influence, get thee to a small, independent bookstore post haste!



And now, in honor of banned books, here's another banned hero, Captain Underpants (by Dav Pilkey, it's must reading for the crazy kid in your life)! From one of his books, the Captain has a little fun exercise for you today.


Discover your real name!

1. Use the third letter of your first name to determine your New first name:

a = snickle
b = doombah
c = goober
d = cheesey
e = crusty
f = greasy
g = dumbo
h = farcus
i = dorky
j = doofus
k = funky
l = boobie
m = sleezy
n = sloopy
o = fluffy
p = stinky
q = slimy
r = dorfus
s = snooty
t = tootsie
u = dipsy
v = sneezy
w = liver
x = skippy
y = dinky
z = zippy

2. Use the second letter of your last name to determine the first half of your new last name:

a = dippin
b = feather
c = batty
d = burger
e = chicken
f = barffy
g = lizard
h = waffle
i = farkle
j = monkey
k = flippin
l = fricken
m = bubble
n = rhino
o = potty
p = hamster
q = buckle
r = gizzard
s = lickin
t = snickle
u = chuckle
v = pickle
w = hubble
x = dingle
y = gorilla
z = girdle

3. Use the third letter of your last name to determine the second half of your new last name:

a = butt
b = boob
c = face
d = nose
e = hump
f = breath
g = pants
h = shorts
i = lips
j = honker
k = head
l = tush
m = chunks
n = dunkin
o = brains
p = biscuits
q = toes
r = doodle
s = fanny
t = sniffer
u = sprinkles
v = frack
w = squirt
x = humperdinck
y = hiney
z = juice

Thus, for example, George W. Bush's new name is: Fluffy Chucklefanny.

Banned, banned, banned! Can I please buy 12 copies?

FROM SLOOPY POTTYSHORTS
THE MERLIN OF DORFUS HAMPSTERDOODLE

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gambling in Bethlehem


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the big issues are too big to tackle. We prefer to seine for smelt!

Speaking of smelt, today's topic is the historic Bethlehem Steel plant in ... emm ... where the hell is that thing located? Somewhere in Pennsylvania, I think.

Yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News ran a full-page story about how the Sands Casino is building a big-ass gambling emporium cheek-to-jowl with the historic (and shuttered) Bethlehem Steel plant. Sands is encouraging nonprofits to donate money in order to make the steel plant a tourist attraction.

"Okay, kids. Mommy's going to play blackjack nonstop for the next 24 hours. So let's go visit that great big place over there, where generations of hard-working, unionized AMERICANS made the steel that created World War II's battleships and the sturdy Golden Gate Bridge! That steel mill is a monument to America's industrial era, a testiment to American hard work, innovation, and ingenuity ...

"No, sorry, they're not still making steel there. Our steel comes from China now. Over in China they don't have to pay a living wage and take care of their workers if the workers get old or sick. But hey. Let's hear it for free enterprise!

"So you think it would be boring to tour a quiet, empty steel mill? Well, darlings, Mommy just loves to play blackjack, and there's nothing else to do here while she pisses the mortgage payment away under dim lights with all the free booze she can swill.

"And that nice elderly gentleman who's bringing her the martinis didn't have a job for years until the great visionaries at Sands came along and decided to open a casino here. So it's a win-win-win situation! Except for Mommy, of course, but she does love to play blackjack."

We at "The Gods Are Bored" watch in dismay as casinos rise up at the edge of Gettysburg Battlefield and in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel Mill. We find it ironic that the two growth industries in this country right now are prisons and casinos. Both are touted as good for the economy.

If you can figure that one out, I'll buy you a crab cake.

And where does the high and mighty Christian Right stand on casinos? Damn if I know. I've never heard a single pastor or group denounce them, except the old liberal minister from my bygone days who rather tepidly said from the pulpit that gambling runs counter to the Methodist Rule Book or some such waste of paper.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" offer no opinion on gambling. It is a self-destructive vice, but hey. It's your life. Go play blackjack. See if we care.

However, the prospect of having gambling dens shoved up against the ashes of proud moments in American history makes us want to heave our turkey casserole.

At least Sands won't have trouble naming their new casino. They can call it Bethlehem Steal.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Black Friday Eve


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Just kidding about that headline.

America designates this day as one of giving thanks for the harvest. So, with big, broad, flexible outlook in hand, we at "The Gods Are Bored" want to wish you and yours a happy day.

As for me, Anne, I'm thankful for all the nice readers and new friends I've met through this site. If the price of gasoline doesn't go through the roof, I'm mulling a "blogger road trip" in which I'll come visit you and drink your beer. If you're willing, of course. (If you don't want to meet me, leave the beer on the porch.)

What is the weirdest food you'll eat today? To be polite I'll have to take a portion of my mother-in-law's sauerkraut and Polish sausage.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Every Religion Needs a Trickster

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," calling upon various bored deities when the need demands!

Today my daughter The Heir was performing her final pep rally as a high school senior in her Fighting Wombat mascot costume. The entire senior class decided to follow behind her into the gymnasium after all the other classes were seated.

Like a dutiful parent, I arrived at the school's front office and asked for a pass to go watch the rally. I was denied. I was told that no parents were allowed at the pep rally. When I said, "My daughter's the Fighting Wombat mascot, for the love of fruit flies!" I was told disdainfully that a cheerleader's mom was also turned away.

So I left the office and went back outside. That's when I asked myself, "WWTD?"

What Would Trickster Do?


Many religions have a trickster deity. Here's Loki, he's fun to hang out with, so long as someone else has the car keys. Coyote and Anansi are also Tricksters of note.

Any Trickster knows the difference between a law that mustn't be broken and a stupid idiotic moronic rule that someone made up and that no one enforces.

To make a long story short, with Loki as my guide, I proceeded to the A Gym and watched the pep rally until the exhausted Heir asked me to take the Wombat suit home. Right now the Wombat costume (sans Heir) is seat-buckled into the passenger side of my car, looking out the window.

If the cheerleader's mom is reading this and feeling that she was cheated, well, honey, maybe you need a Trickster deity in your life. Tricksters give you the freedom to question all the answers and decide for yourself whether or not you will harm yourself or anyone else by attending a high school pep rally.

There were plenty of bleacher seats available for any parent who might have wanted to attend. Loki and I had a swell time, and I'd like to thank the Asatru people for lending Him to me. (Hope I spelled it right that time!)

Likeness of Loki the incomparable artwork of Thalia Took!

If it's already Black Friday and you're here at TGAB, read below for helpful hints on surviving the upcoming holidays.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Promises You Just Can't Keep

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where your church is our church. Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? All hail! The Starship Enterprise? Beam us up, Scotty. No sign of intelligent design on this planet.

Every year around this time we start making promises to ourselves that we are absolutely destined to break. You know what I mean.

Let's start with Thanksgiving.

1. "I'm not going to miss the Dallas game because I'm slaving in the kitchen." BAMP! Wrong.

2. "I'm not going to fill the table with enough food for 20 people when there are only going to be five of us eating." BAMP! Wrong. (Mother-in-law sees to that.)

3. "I'm not going to stuff myself." BAMP! Wrong.

4. "I'm not going to drop turkey on the floor for the cats." BAMP! Very wrong.

5. "I'm not going to look at the newspaper circulars and pick out early bird Xmas specials I can't afford, and then get up at the crack of dawn to go fetch them." BAMP! Wrong. I need some new Xmas balls for my tree.

Which brings us to The Holiday That Can't Be Just Called a Holiday Because It's Christmas, For God's Sake!

Every year Mr. Johnson and I pinky swear that we won't spend an arm and a leg on Xmas gifts. And every year we wind up on December 26 searching for our misplaced limbs. This happens when you've got kids.

Here are the Xmas promises I make and break every year:

1. "I'm not going to spend an entire weekend in the kitchen making cookies." BAMP! Wrong. Even with The Spare helping. Especially with The Spare helping.

2. "I'm not going to fret over how the front of my house looks." BAMP!

3. "I'm going to get an early start on those Yule cards. And they're going to have faeries on them." BAMP! Cheap dollar store cards bought at day-after sale.

4. "I'm not going to gain two pounds from eating cookies and drinking egg nog." BAMPITY BAMP BAMP! (Burp.)

5. "I'm going to get swept up in the holiday cheer. It will help me deal with my Seasonal Affective Disorder." BAAAAAMP!

'Tis the season to be crabby. Don't you agree? Humbug.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And the Days Go By


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where people age but deities don't! The most ancient Goddess still doesn't need foundation and pressed powder to make herself look good. And that's the way of it.

In November of 1988, after feeling inexplicably nauseous for several weeks, I discovered I was expecting a baby. I remember driving to the beach, walking along the surf, so depressed, thinking, "Well, there goes my life. Now all I'll be is a servant to someone else."

That "someone else," also known in these pages as my daughter The Heir, just got a letter of acceptance from a college.

The letter arrived while The Heir was cavorting in Manhattan's East Village with her young auntie, who's an executive at Viacom.

Readers, I suck magnificently when it comes to drawing first impressions. But never did I stray so far from reality than that day on the beach when I predicted that having a baby would ruin my life. I created my own best friend, and now that she's about to fly the coop I can't imagine being without her.

Moral of this sermon: Spending the day at the beach is overrated.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Robotic Roaches





Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," ceaselessly longing for the twentieth century! Well, parts of it anyway.

In the twentieth century I spent six years living with these. You cannot avoid them if you take lodging in Baltimore, Maryland. Forget hard shell crabs. In the cold light of day ... emmm ... I should say in the bleak darkness of night ... the cockroach prevails. They reign supreme. Out of respect for your digestive system I will not bore you with details of my many personal experiences with Baltimore's legions of cockroaches.

Today on the snippet of news radio I got to hear, there was a story about scientists who created robotic cockroaches.

I'm not going to go all woozy over the century that produced the atomic bomb and the Final Solution, but give me a break. Someone just got paid good money to create a mechanical roach.

Because, you see, there just aren't enough roaches in the world. But wow! We can make them! Don't you love this century? Me neither.

Tonight I searched the story on the Gestapo Search Engine Which Will Not Be Named on This Site. But if you like to yodel, you'll find it under "Robotic Bugs Mingle with Cockroaches."

Here's the jist for my busy readers:

Scientists at the Free University of Belgium created little robot roaches and put them in dark corners of a student apartment. At first the real roaches said to each other, "Oh look! The latest invention to obliterate us. AS ... FUCKIN ... IF!"

Needless to say, the real roaches did not invite the robotic roaches to happy hour, which consists of the little drop of Budweiser you spilled on the floor when you popped the can.

Then the brilliant scientists in Belgium got the idea to paint the robot roaches with cockroach pheromone. Then, by golly, the real roaches got all swell with the newcomers.

Remember this information when Christmas comes and you're mulling the purchase of Paris Hilton cologne for your significant other.

The researchers discovered that roach society is leaderless. They move as a team, mostly.

Geez, give me that grant money. Once I left a slice of pizza on the apartment counter when I went to bed. News flash! Cockroaches move as a team. Until you turn the light on, and then it's every roach for him or herself. (Hey, that's not in the research! I want my MacArthur Foundation "genius fellowship" NOW!)

Here's the earth-shattering discovery of the savvy scientists who made robot roaches:

When given the choice of sheltering in a dark place or a light place, 75 percent of cockroaches will choose a dark place. The robotic cockroaches showed an 85 percent preference for the dark place.

When re-programmed to prefer the light place, the robotic cockroaches still wanted to cluster in the dark place (sue me if I misquote the stats, but I think it was around 40 percent of the robots programmed to prefer light.)

The real roaches were never fooled into sunbathing. These are not stupid creatures, reader. Perfect specimens of cockroach have been found in fossilized amber.

If there's any upside to this ground-breaking discovery, it is that the research was conducted in Belgium. We waste enough tax dollars in this stupid country. We don't need to be making robo-bugs.

If any foundation that doles out grant money happens to read this, please send me a stipend, and I will create several doctoral-length theses on cockroaches, without the trouble of making iddy biddy robots and painting them with roach stink.

I'm begging you.

FROM ANNE
THE WARY MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Image: Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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A Change of Venue

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," with malice toward none and with charity toward all!

And when the guy who penned those lines gets up and runs for president again, I might vote Republican. But only if he's not soft on slavery.

On Wednesday I completed a long-term substitute teaching job at a Vo-Tech school that draws its students from Camden, New Jersey. The school is 65 percent Hispanic, 33 percent African American, and 2 percent Asian. The white student population of this school is not statistically significant. As in, three white kids. And one of them is a teacher's son.

I never thought I'd like to teach. Spent 20 years at home writing stuff, all alone, just me and Decibel the Parrot. And in fact I didn't like substitute teaching much at first. Then they put me in charge of classes for long terms, and I liked that. Even though it's hard work.

The whole time I've been working as a sub, I've been going to the Vo-Tech. And I may be going back there in January for another long-term assignment -- that is, if Warren Buffett doesn't decide to hire me to run one of his companies or anything like that.

Today I am substitute teaching at The Heir's high school. Ninety-nine percent white, one percent Asian, African American statistically insignificant. As in, maybe five black kids.

It's funny somehow. I lived through years where we tried to do something to get the races to mix and mingle. It didn't work.

The other day when I was driving to the Vo-Tech, I heard that working black people earn 58 cents for every dollar that white people earn.

I don't have a solution for this problem. If I did I'd share it with the world ASAP. But for me, working closely with Black and Hispanic students has broadened my horizon and given me new young people to love.

It will be very interesting today to see how I'm received at the all-white school, how vibrant the students are, and how they treat me. I'm not optimistic. I'll let you know.

Yo, from Miss Johnson, yo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Our Monkey Man


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we never ask you to abandon all hope when you enter. We leave that to the great poet Dante at the gates of hell.

Hope springs eternal, doesn't it? I hope so. Tee hee.

This evening, just at dusk, my daughter The Heir and I had a Monkey Man sighting. He was on his bike, crossing our street, just as we were headed to the El.

At one time, a Monkey Man sighting used to put us in a state of awe and wonder from which we would only slowly recover. Who was this odd guy who rode around on his bike with monkey puppets, shaking them at kids and making friendly monkey noises? Where did he live? Was he homeless, dangerous, a lunatic, a pedophile? Or just weird?

One night I stalked him in the grocery store. He had put his puppets in the child seat of the cart.

Today he stopped by our car. I rolled down the window. We greeted him enthusiastically. He had a gorilla puppet with him. He said he was glad to see The Heir feeling better. (We had an Heir Scare about two weeks ago, a real one.) We told him we wouldn't miss the next Pizza and Poetry in Camden, which he runs and leads. We missed the last one because The Heir was sick. (I had to email him that we couldn't make it.)

He was headed about a block up the street to see a drop-dead gorgeous multi-hued maple in all its fall glory.

The Monkey Man doesn't know that there's a Facebook chat group about him, that he's the subject of blog entries and photo essays. He does know that my inner city students recognize him because he lives among them and has taught some of them at the Friends School in Camden. He is less of a mystery to them than he is to the kids here in Snobville.

To us he is no longer a mystery.

Emmm. Well, not exactly. The Monkey Man doesn't give much back story on his long life, except for snippets in his poetry and essays. He grew up in the house behind ours and graduated from the school that The Heir attends. He went to college, worked for awhile as a journalist, and then headed to San Fran at the height of the hippie awakening.

That's all we know. So this is delicious. He's a good friend now, but he remains a mystery. As The Heir noted tonight, there are a lot of years unaccounted for in his past. Not knowing is a form of faith. We love him.

FROM ANNE THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Monday, November 12, 2007

When Good Newspapers Go Bad


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proudly biased since 2005! Fair and balanced treatment? Is that what you want? Good bloody luck finding it. In fact, tell me if you do. I'll send you the Brooklyn Bridge.

A little more than a year ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer and its poor little sibiling the Daily News got sold because some fat cat venture capitalist in Florida wasn't making enough profit on Knight Ridder stock.

The new owner of both newspapers is a local guy who loves his sports teams, and that has allowed the Daily News to survive. (It has the best sportswriters in the country.) Any other buyer would have crused the DN like a bug.

Mind you, the Philadelphia metropolitan region, better known as the Delaware Valley, has more liberals in it than you can cluster in an anti-war protest.

Ah, but here's the rub. The new owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News is a conservative Roman Catholic who made his fortune as an advertising executive. His clients included the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

The new owner promised that he would maintain the newspapers' editorial integrity. And it's not like the paper didn't have conservative columnists. It runs George Will and Jonah Goldberg and even has its own rah-rah-for-the-war-in-Iraq op ed guy named Kevin Moron ... errrr ... Ferris.

But that just wasn't enough.

Oh, the puff pieces we now get every day about benificent nuns and kindly priests! We at "The Gods Are Bored" are ready to convert! (um, not really.)

For awhile we cancelled our subscription, but we need that daily weather report and horoscope in order to function in polite society. So we re-instated.

This past Thursday, a new bi-weekly columnist wrote his first piece. More likely, someone wrote it for him.

That columnist is Rick Santorum.

One marvels at the cheek of a newspaper owner who would hire the most virulent conservative in the whole pack of hounds (mmmmm ... hounds ... down, Ricky down!) in a city where he was defeated like an egg-sucking dog, by something like 80 percent of the electorate. (mmmmm ... egg sucking dogs ... down, Ricky, down!)

In his first column, Ricky enumerated the variety of names he had been called in the pages of the paper. (Among the best, "snake oil peddler" and "chicken-livered.") He didn't say whether those names had appeared in reader commentary, news stories, or official editorials.

He promised a bold agenda ... to get past partisanship and unite us all on common ground.

Yeah, okay. Right. Right. Right.

Anyway, midway in the process of phoning to voice our disdain, we at "The Gods Are Bored" realized that we need fodder for our little site here. So we officially welcome the opinions of Mr. Rick Santorum, along with the Catholic Church puff pieces, to the pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

We will respond to them promptly every other Thursday. A Daily News columnist, whose blog is super lively, promises to do the same. The columnist (his name is Will Bunch, he went to college with Keith Who Will Not Be Named) is a professional. I'm an amateur. Please visit us both, I promise I'll link Ricky's drivel to my space. Well, maybe. Okay, possibly. Yuck -- sometimes you gotta swim with the leeches.

Ex- (with emphasis on the EX)-Senator Santorum's column is called "The Elephant in the Room." Where are those nasty ivory poachers when you really need them?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Druid, the Grapples, and the Tape Dispenser

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," lobbing Grapples at the squirrels since yesterday, and it was a one-time event!
Call me a quick-moving chump. I was in the grocery store, in a hurry. I saw this new product. It's called "Grapples." Pronounced GRAY-ples. A Grapple is an apple that tastes like a grape. Figuring it was some kind of weird genetic engineering that would turn me into a newt if I ate it, I bought a few.

Didn't look at the small print. Ordinary apple, infused with "natural and artificial grape flavors."

Talk about something vile. I thought my daughter The Spare was gonna heave. I sent those suckers rolling into the underbrush with my best baseball moves, warning the faeries not to touch them.

Squirrels aren't as picky as faeries.

On to today's sermon!

I have a friend who lost her job about the same time that I lost mine. She started a little business moving senior citizens from their homes into assisted living. At first she struggled, but business is picking up. Her best clients are hoarders.

You know what hoarders are. They're folks who never throw anything out.

If you combine hoarding with collecting, which one of her clients did, you get a whole house filled floor to ceiling with stuff, except for one small pathway through it all to a moth-eaten bed. The poor dude (for dude it was) had more than 1,000 packs of toilet paper. Unopened. He could have stocked a Staples with his mounds of office supplies.

Anyway, today I helped my friend clean up the apartment of an educated man who had lived there alone for 40 years without ever cleaning once. He was a minor hoarder. We filled 20 boxes with books.

I should say that I filled 20 boxes with books while my friend did other chores.

Here's the rub. I'm completely clueless about the simplest of tools.


Tape dispensers are the enemy. And in order to transport the boxes of books, I had to tape the boxes shut.

This is where the good Old Time Religion serves you well.

A Christian would see a tape dispenser as the product of human ingenuity. Perhaps, in struggling with it, the Christian would ask the help of his/her god. (But recall that this deity is very busy and not likely to take things like tape dispenser difficulties and inability to score in the red zone very seriously.)

As a Druid, I addressed the tape dispenser directly. You see, everything in the world is endowed with a hidden life force. Anyone who has cussed their computer out knows this.

I looked the tape dispenser in the sharp teeth and said: "Sweet thing, you and I are going to have to work together today. Please be congenial. I need the dough I'm gonna get from this gig."

Before making this address I'd had a bear of a fight with that thing. Afterwards it was more like a marriage. Good sometimes, tough sometimes, but never as impossible as in the beginning.

The moral of this sermon: Feel free to talk to your appliances big and small. If anyone overhears you, just say, "I'm a Druid." That should clear everything up.

Friday, November 09, 2007

National Novel Writers Month


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we do all we can for dumped deities! Won't you join us?

One of the biggest bummers about being immortal, I suppose, is that inevitably you run out of novels to read, even if you read every novel ever written about 15 times.

If you wonder why some bored gods are grumpy, try reading a Nora Roberts novel 15 times.

My college professors had even worse news for the bored gods. The professors said that every story that could be told had been told, and that the novel was a dead art form. They called themselves "postmodernists." I called them morons. But only after my grades had been posted.

November is National Novel Writers Month. You're supposed to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. They give prizes out and everything.

On your mark, get set, go.

Only I gotta warn ya, novelist-to-be: You ain't gonna get it right in 30 days. The only people who have ever done that are Shakespeare and Jack Kerouac. The former really needed the dough, and the latter spiked his cigarettes with something you can't buy at the farmer's market.

This month, ironically, I will be correcting the proofs of my own novel. The one that took me 15 years to write.

As far as my novel goes, it's like that old story of the farmer and his axe. The farmer said: "This is such a great axe. I've had it all my life. I've only had to replace the handle three times and the axe head four times, so that's one damned fine axe."

I do not consider myself a good candidate for National Novel Writers Month. But that's just me. If you can crank out a spiffy story in a heck of a hurry, go for it! The bored gods will lap it up and roar for more!

Some people say, "I would love to write a novel, but I don't have any ideas." Okay, if that's you, you can write a novel about your inability to write a novel. Then you're a postmodernist, and you can get a cushy job at some university where all the buildings look like failed sand art.

The other side of the coin: "I would love to write a novel. I have so many ideas. I just can't seem to get them down on paper." Well, that's just fine. Think of the trees you'll save from being pulped, and get right on with your life. No one will think worse of you, trust me.

Other people say, "I would love to write a novel, but all the people I know will recognize themselves in it, and they'll want to kill me." Put down that pen! The life you save may be your own.

Here's one I really love: "I'm writing a children's book about my cat. Do you know where I can get it published?" If this is you, take a number and be seated. Do not refresh the page, or you will lose your place in line. Rest assured, your children's book is important to us. Please wait for the next available operator. Click. Line dead. Dial tone.

The once-famous and now nearly-forgotten writer Samuel Johnson (no relation) said: "Only an imbecile would write for anything but money."

I respectfully disagree with this particular Johnson, although Johnsons are hardly ever wrong about anything.

Taking up writing because you want to make money is like taking up fishing because you want to haul in Moby Dick with your hand-tied lure. Somewhere, I'm sure, there's some beefy, beered-up dude who cast a regular old line into the deep and bagged a mighty orca. Experience tells me that this does not happen every day.

Write first to entertain yourself. If you're able to entertain yourself, try out what you've written on a few people whose opinions won't crush you like a bug. If they like it, you might have something good on your plate.

As for me and my novel, I threw it at a number of folks over the years, from fellow scribes to literary agents to my sister (who hated it -- a promising sign). Lo and behold, the doggone manuscript finally landed in a little heap of fertile soil. But long before that happened, I entertained myself for years with the story and the characters. They strutted and fretted for me, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Good luck with your November novel-writing! Enjoy yourself! Just please remember to set aside time every day to come visit us here at this sunny little site. Think of it as a much-needed break to reduce writer's cramp.

FROM ANNE
THE BUZZARD OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
(Someone left a comment that only men could be merlins, so I'm resorting to my true totem animal in order to clear up any confusion.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Moron Building as Metaphor

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," promoting a plethora of deities who won't inspire people to kill other people! Hey, would you One God types quit Crusading, maybe plant a tree or pet a puppy or something? Because fighting isn't nice.

Today is International Anne Johnson day. So if you're one of the 341,000 American women named Anne Johnson, enjoy yourself. As for me, this is the first time I've been home alone with no chores to do since August.

I actually got to read the newspaper today. Say what you want about Yahoo news, it's not very inspiring. (As a matter of fact, say what you want about Yahoo. The dude who runs that shop is really reeeeaalllly sorry he's helping to put Chinese dissidents into jail by selling them out to their government. Would someone help me pick the bored god to mete out eternal punishment to this guy? Because he reeks.)

Back to our main story. Look at this building.








It is called the Stata Center. It sits on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its architect, Frank Gehry, was paid $15 million to design it. The building cost $300 million to construct.

Now M.I.T. is suing Gehry's firm because the structure is leaking, there are drainage problems, there's mold growing on the exterior, and snow and ice fall off of it in huge chunks.

Would this information surprise anyone who's ever built anything more sturdy than a sand castle? I mean, look at this monstrosity! It's leaking? Gosh, I'm so shocked!

Let us use this leaky, moldy building that spews blocks of ice at whim as a metaphor for our great nation, the US of A.

Just because something looks expensive, and sophisticated, and innovative, and eye-catching, doesn't mean that it's practical and created for the long haul. Right now our democracy is tilting like this building. It's leaking, and there's mold growing on its most visible parts -- its leadership. The big blocks of snow and ice falling off at random might hit some criminal passing on the street below, but other pedestrians will also be damaged in the process.

So, who can we sue for unspecified damages?








It's just a thought.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

In Which I Scab for the Soap Operas

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," America's best clearinghouse for absolute nonsense since 2005! We're glad you joined us today. And lucky for you there's a commercial break running, so we can update you on today's developments.

The Writers Guild of America is on strike. No new negotiations are scheduled. The biggest issue is how to compensate writers when material goes onto the Web or onto DVDs. Sort of like what's facing rock stars when their stuff is pirated from the Internet.

But, o ho! Lots of writers on picket lines! That means employment opportunities for unemployed writers -- like me!

By Friday your favorite soap opera will be showing re-runs because the soap writers have all walked. Luckily I am here to fill the gap (and take a scab check for my services).

Ooops! Commercial's over! Time to get back to General Hospital. Script by Anne.



(Laura is lying on her deathbed with her adoring Luke at her side. This is the 9th time Laura has died on GH, and like a cat she's not expected to return this time.)

Luke: Darling. Oh, darling. Speak to me!

Laura: I see the light. Actually, many many lights. Oh, it's faeries! They're coming to take me to Sidhe, to rest in the arms of the Goddess Queen Brighid the Bright!

Luke (taking her hand): Oh, my love. I so despaired over losing you until now. Just to know that you'll be cared for eternally by the loving and joyous deities and faeries of Sidhe brings me such comfort!

Laura: They tell me that you can join me some day, if you're willing to scrap your Ford Escalade and buy a nice sensible economy car.

Luke: Consider it done!

Laura: And make sure all the lights are off at your house when people leave rooms. Get some new, energy-efficient appliances. Oh! The faeries are telling me I'll be a little girl again! And I'll have wings!

Luke: So, you're really not coming back this time? Not even as an evil twin who was separated at birth and finally traced her biological parents?

Laura: Who would want to return to this fucked-up world when beckoned by the Gentry of Sidhe?

Luke: Are we allowed to say "fuck" on the air now?

Laura: New writer. Oh, Luke ... the light is getting brighter ...

Luke: Hey! That rhymes! I like this new writer.

Laura: The faeries are so beautiful. They are saying ... they are saying ...

Luke: Yes, my love?

Laura: They want you to march in protests against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and all they stand for. They want you to support stem cell research and an end to government-imposed "morality." And Luke ...

Luke (stifling tears): Yes, Laura?

Laura: They want you to begin a brand new Druid grove right here in Port Richmond, so that we can build story lines all around how great it is to break free of dogma and embrace a deep universal spirituality that has a big, broad, flexible outlook!

(Laura emits one satisfied sigh and lists back onto her nicely-fluffed pillow. Luke weeps.)

Luke: I vow to live by the advice given me today by my own true love! Oh Great Goddess Queen Brighid the Bright, give me strength to build a whole new world on the ashes of the old!

COMMERCIAL BREAK -- SCRUBBING BUBBLES


So, what do you think of my script? I'll bet there's not one member of the Writers Guild who could do any better.


Now I've got to develop that "Luke the Druid" story line. Toodle-ooo!
FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dia de los muertos


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Dia de los muertos, Day of the Dead!

A college professor of considerable accomplishment pointed out in the comments section below that traditionally, "All Souls Day" is November 2. Considering that today is Dia de los muertos, I can only agree. Which still begs the question: Why did the local Catholic church have a special Mass on Halloween?

Another commenter thoughtfully proposed that I desist from tormenting the Catholics by pointing out to them that they were celebrating a pagan holiday. The rationale was excellent, so I hereby share:

We at "The Gods Are Bored," recognize that not all gods and goddesses are jealous, "me-and-only-me" deities. These more inclusive gods and goddesses want all people to feel the thinning of the veil between the dead and the living. All deities recognize that the deepest human suffering stems from the loss of loved ones. We at "The Gods Are Bored" celebrate any and all deities, ceremonies, and memorials that seek to bond people with those they have lost.

Dia de los muertos originated (so my shoddy research claims) with the Aztec pantheon. So today, even though many of those who celebrate this occasion will not acknowledge the Aztec deities directly while doing so, the celebrants nonetheless warm the hearts and pique the interest of the deities among whom the festival originated.

So today, when we set out a plate of vittles for our beloved departed, we at "The Gods Are Bored" are going to remind ourselves that there's nothing to be gained in a policy of "It's My Way or the Highway." Total tolerance of other peoples' faiths will pay off in the long run when enough people compare the straight and narrow to the big, broad, flexible outlook and find the latter to be more groovy.

No Roman Catholics have been harmed in the preparation of this post.

PS - Check out Tennessee Jed's awesome Jack o Lantern! He's making matters better, one pumpkin at a time.