Monday, December 31, 2007

Poetry by Elijah B. Pringle III

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Free advice up front today: Don't drive tonight. Stay home and watch Twilight Zone re-runs.

Last month I met a poet named Elijah Pringle who came to "Pizza and Poetry" in Camden. Elijah read a moving poem about his grandmother and how, after she died, no one wanted to remove the marks her plate made on the coffee table from the final time she made her lemon meringue pie.

I got to talking with Elijah, telling him about my dad, who now fights pirates with Peter Pan. I didn't even notice that Elijah was taking notes as I talked. But afterwards he sat down and, in a magical eyeblink, wrote a whole poem about my dad! Elijah said the energy I gave off while talking about Dad was inspiring.

Thank you, Elijah, for a wonderful gift. I hope to see you often in 2008!

Poem for Anne -- Dan Johnson
By Elijah B. Pringle III

Appalachia in 1966 had more
Televisions than science teachers
And they didn't have that many tubes
Yet there was daddy closed circuit
Chemistry teacher opening minds

Communicating the art of science
Organic chemistry & blowing up things
Igniting the imaginations of children
Colors pyrotechnically exploding
Before us on the Black & White in '66

I have the memory on VHS
Along with a mortar & pestle
Which I now use to grind
My spices flavored with the
Thoughts of the crazed chemist

And the pride that somewhere
In TV land a doctor was born
An engineer found direction
That the poverty of ignorance died
And where daddy is a Dylan song

Forever young blowing in the wind

Labels:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time to Write the Cards



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where I'm dreaming of a wet Xmas! Forget white. Doesn't happen in a month of Xmases. Not here, not now. I understand it was different when George Washington was residing in these parts.





If it's December 30, that means it's time to sit down and tackle the old Xmas cards. I mean, write them up and send them out. And this is an odd ritual, because I always dread it and then, when I've gotten all the cute pictures of my cousins' kids and the sweet notes from old folks I never get to see, I like responding to them. Warms up the ol' spirit, dontcha know.



It's not enough for me just to write a cheery note inside each card. (And, I forgot to add, I just got 2 packs at 5o percent off at the pharmacy up the street.) I like to compose a little holiday poem all of my own, just to let everyone know that I still have a pulse.



Nobody on my card list reads this blog. Not one soul. So I'm sharing this with you, having no fears of duplication of effort!



That nativity scene
On the courthouse lawn
Is unconstitutional--
It should be gone.
But if you like it,
More power to ya
Just duck when the ACLU
Moves in to sue ya.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
With this post we welcome our new official TGAB photographer, my daughter The Spare! Wait until you see her most recent cake!

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Delegate X and the Mayor of Snobville

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," with liberty and justice for the rich!

I'm watching the various political candidates strutting around Iowa. Trust me, readers. Not one of them cares about you or me. Not one. You can't even believe Oprah on this. Democrat, Republican, eenie meenie miney moe. They don't care about you. Go get a hanky, have a good cry about it, and move on.

My first job was working for a Republican politician in the Appalachian district where I grew up. From that day to this, he is the only politician I've ever respected. He wanted to be an elected official. So here's what he did. He knocked on every single door in his district -- Democrat, Republican, it didn't matter. And he said that if he was elected he would work for the people he was representing, he would vote their wishes even if he didn't agree. He was elected by a good-sized margin in a district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1.

And then he did what he said. When important votes were coming up before the Maryland General Assembly, he would send out poll sheets to see what his consitutents wanted him to do. Listen to this: People would actually call him with problems, like Medicaid problems, or even federal problems, and he would work to solve them. (I helped with that.)

He's still in the Maryland General Assembly 30 years later, currently serving as a state senator. How did he get elected state senator? He knocked on 70,000 doors. Absolutely true story. He is a very physically fit gentleman.

When I first began working for Delegate X, as he was in those bygone days, he gave me a stamp that said "For You from Delegate X" and an ink pad. then he showed me the 30,000 Maryland maps I had to mark with the stamp.

I said, "WTF?"

Not really. I was more polite in those days.

He said: "These maps were just sitting in the state office building for anyone to take. I think my constituents would probably like to have them, since they paid for them with their taxes."

I said: "How are you going to hand them out?"

He said: "Do you have a comfortable pair of shoes?"

Yes, we hand-delivered 30,000 road maps. I had a black-and-blue mark in the palm of my hand from stamping those suckers.

We celebrated the end of the ordeal by having a Popsickle in the city park.

Now you can say, "Well, Anne, you beautiful and witty lil' thing, you, Delegate X was a small-town Appalachian politician, able to mix and mingle with all his constituents. That can only happen on a local level."

I totally agree that your friendly neighborhood Congressman isn't going to shove a U.S. road map under your front door. But that's not my point. My point is that, other than this one politican I just described (and probably a few more like him in places like Far Rockaway or Randolph, Vermont), all politicians at all levels are in the game for one reason: personal gain.

To which you reply: "Oh Anne. You may be beautiful and witty, but you're so cynical! Why, I'm sure your local city councilpersons would bend over backwards for you."

Try this one:

I think I have mentioned that Snobville, my current place of residence, has a little museum from the Revolutionary War era that is owned by the state of New Jersey. There's a large oak tree outside the museum that is administered by the Borough of Snobville.

One day the museum curator saw me on the street, and knowing me to be a good (if odd) citizen, asked a favor. Would I speak to the mayor about having an oak limb trimmed that hung over the museum?

I looked up, and sure enough, there was a bloody gigantopithecus oak limb poised to come crashing down on the museum roof in the very next hurricane.

So I phoned the mayor. I emailed her. No response. Emailed again. No response. The threatening limb remained in its place, month after month.

And then one day the limb disappeared as if by magic.

A few days later I was walking downtown and ran into a very wealthy local lawyer who is also interested in the museum. I said to him, "Well, the borough finally trimmed that limb from over the roof of the museum!"

And he said: "Yes, I spoke to the mayor about it last week."

And I said: "I've been trying to speak to the mayor about it for six months! What the heck?"

And he said: "Well, I assume you didn't throw a re-election barbecue for the mayor and 200 of her closest friends, like I did."

If all politicians in the world were like Delegate X, we would have a sober and sane democracy. Alas, what we really have is an army of politicians like the Mayor of Snobville.

If you don't have the money to throw a fundraiser for the presidential candidate of your choice, forget it. He or she isn't gonna care a fig about you. Everything stays the same, only the names change.

I once asked Delegate X if he would ever run for Congress. He said no, that was too many doors to knock on, and he didn't want to take fundraising money. He said that the minute you start accepting money from people they somehow expect you to do their bidding in the legislative arena.

Gosh, ya think?

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Friday, December 28, 2007

We Can Fix It

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hanging from the cliff by a fingernail! Ah, but it's a strong fingernail. Maybe it will hold. Maybe not. La di dah. Toujours gai, anyway!

First I must say that yesterday's post about the servants all packing up and leaving was a satire. I only have one servant. His name is Decibel the parrot, and his duties consist entirely of serving as a deterrent to burglars. He is extremely capable in this regard.

On to today's sermon: an entirely true tale of mother-daughter bonding!




In the good ol' days before Dubya did his little Sherman March to the Sea over our national economy, our family had a tradition. Every New Year's Eve we would eat one of these delightful confections. It's called a Yule Log. I always bought one at the neighborhood bakery.
This year when I went to the n.b., I ordered a Yule Log, and the sweet lil gal behind the counter wrote $35.00 on the order form. That's probably double what they cost last year, or nearly so.

Well, one has to draw the line somewhere. So I cancelled the order and returned home determined to make my own Yule Log. I knew I could count on my daugher The Spare to help. She is aces in the kitchen, so long as you don't ask her to clean up after herself.

Now here is Annie's free advice of the day:

If you Google a recipe and it begins: "This delicious cake might look complicated at first glance, but it's really easy to make, and it's always a hit at the church potluck" ... put a large body of water between yourself and that sucker.

Silly me. Spare and I printed out the Church Potluck Yule Log recipe and embarked upon it. We even called my dear friend Celeste, a superior church lady cook, and sought advice. Alarmed, she brought some of her own kitchen supplies over. She couldn't stay, though. She was going to dandle her grandkids on her knees, and they live in far-away Allentown.

Step One in Potluck Yule Log is making a thin cake that you roll up in a towel that is "sprinkled with candy sugar." Celeste warned us to heap a rich coating of "candy sugar" (a.k.a confectioner's sugar) onto the towel. So Spare and I whipped up the thin cake batter, which was heavy on the eggs ("beat until fluffy" -- should have been another tip-off). And we shook enough candy sugar onto that towel to send Brett Favre into diabetic shock.

When we inverted the towel onto the cake and re-inverted both, confectioner's sugar exploded into the air, onto the floor, table, and chairs. It was like a scene from Scarface. But it worked. We rolled the cake into the towel and let it sit until it cooled to room temperature.

There was something alarming about the listless appearance of the cake wrapped in the towel, but no matter. It was Xmas Eve and all that.

Step two was to whip heavy cream until frothy, spoon in sugar and vanilla, unroll the cake, and re-roll it with this filling inside. Except our traditional Yule Logs from the bakery always had chocolate mousse inside. So Spare and I decided to make chocolate mousse using Jello Pudding and Dream Whip. Spare didn't follow the directions on the Dream Whip box quite to the letter, but our concoction looked enough like chocolate mousse to fool a moose. So we unrolled the cake thing, de-towelled it, and began coating it with mousse as we re-rolled it.

We wound up with something that looked less like a log than an ancient piece of wall-to-wall carpet, rolled up for trash disposal with the padding inside it.

The directions then said to cut off both edges. So we did, and that was when The Spare suggested that I taste it.

It tasted less like cake than like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet, rolled up for trash disposal with the padding inside it. I told The Spare as much as I dumped the whole sorry thing into the garbage.

We were left with about a cup of The Spare's chocolate mousse mixture in a big bowl. We both stared at the dregs of the mousse. The Spare dipped her finger into it, sniffed, and tried. "Actually," she said, "This tastes pretty good."

Now this is where a Phi Beta Kappa degree from Johns Hopkins really comes in handy. I've got the PBK from JHU and rarely trot it out for use. Maybe I should put it into gear more often.

I stepped on a handy kitchen chair, reached into the top cupboard, and palmed three of my mom's 1950's-era dessert cups. In the meantime, The Spare found the ice cream scoop.

The Spare carefully decanted a scoopful of mousse into each cup. She went outside and got holly and some berries. I said I didn't think we ought to use the berries, because they're poisonous and they might accidentally sink into the mousse. So The Spare found some cake gel. She used green for eyes and red for a nose, holly leaves for antlers, and by gum, that mousse suddenly looked like a cute lil' old reindeer, staring up out of a 1950's-era dessert cup! It looked way better than this, I'm proud to say.




And please note how closely this resembles the fancy Yule Log above. Okay, yeah. This discrepancy was not lost on me and The Spare.


What fun The Spare and I had, bragging about our brilliant Yule Log cake all day! By the end of Xmas Eve dinner, my daughter The Heir and Mr. Johnson were fairly frothing at the mouth to try some. Spare and I made them close their eyes as we brought our brilliant creation into the dining room.

To say Heir and Mr. J. were surprised is an understatement. Thankfully, Celeste had dropped off some fresh cookies as a token of holiday cheer.

Spare and I laughed a good bit over this, and then Spare said: "You know, this would make a really great cooking show for t.v. You could have a kitchen disaster, and make something else out of it. You could call it, 'We Can Fix That.'"

Not only did I think that was a great idea, but I was deeply touched by the "We." Spare is 13, not the age usually associated with anything bigger than "I."

The moral of this sermon: If they sell it in a bakery, there's a reason. It's because You can't make it at home, so don't even bloody try.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Disaster

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," adrift at sea! Oh, woe is me!

I had no idea there was such dissention in the servants' wing until yesterday morning. My daughter The Spare threw a fit because the refrigerated perfumes kept next to her personal hot tub were not in alphabetical order. The Spare fired the offending personal assistant, and the entire staff packed up and left.

All except my husband's gentleman's gentleman, Meadowes. He's been with us since 1981 and does not mingle with The Spare.

I'll admit I did have a slight difference of opinion on the matter of white sauce with my chef, Alphonse, last week. But for him to collect his belongings in his satchel and leave me with all this entertaining to do -- it's unspeakable. Just unspeakable. I have had to engage the sous chef from Le Bec Fin, Philadelphia's most prominent restaurant, to come and prepare meals for us. Thank goodness he was on Christmas vacation! It also helps that we have a permanent table at Le Bec Fin at which we dine several times a week.

Not one of these ungrateful servants will get a positive reference from me, to be sure.

Does anyone know how to set a table? Horrors! The silver has a day's worth of tarnish on it already!

You can't get good help these days.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Whatever You Call It



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!"





However you say it, whatever gods or goddesses or sacred icons or holy handbaskets you worship, have a happy holiday!



If you need faeries to help you with your cooking, take mine. Please.



We at "The Gods Are Bored" have only one Yule wish. If you like what we dish out here at this silly site, please tell a friend or two. We enjoy your company, and we're sure we'd love all your pals as well.



Oh yeah, and if you think of it, lob a few cans of Dinty Moore into the nearest food collection box. My newspapers say the food banks are at all-time lows in supply.



Cherry Swiss Miss!



From:

Anne & spouse
daughters, Heir and Spare
cats, Alpha and Beta (Willoughby the Kitten moved out.)
faeries, Puck, Princess, and Aine
parrot, Decibel
and
basement crickets as follows:
Leroy
Cindy Lou
Big Bubba
Spike
Clarice
Little Scratch
Laundry Lubber
and
Jiminy

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thoughts for a Gloomy Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," mindful that Cernnunos reigns in this dark time of the year that plunges so many of us into gloom.

Last month the big HMO Cigna bought out an insurance group in the Midwest. Price tag: $1.5 billion.

The latest data available on Cigna's CEO, from 2005, listed his salary as almost $14 million and his unexercised stock options at $15 million.

In the meantime, a 17-year-old girl in Los Angeles died this week when Cigna refused an experimental treatment that might have at least lengthened her life. Or not. But the girl and her parents wanted to take every chance. Gee, some 17-year-olds are like that, you know?

This sort of thing happens with every HMO across the country, all the time. What makes this tale different is that Cigna reversed its decision after the hospital nurses staged a protest rally on the patient's behalf, and the story made the news.

Alas, Cigna approval for the operation was too late. The girl died.

In a public statement, Cigna offered its condolences and prayers to the family. One assumes the prayers will be directed at God, from whom all blessings flow.

I have some questions.

The first: Do HMOs exist to promote health and save lives, or are they soulless corporations out to maximize their profit margins at the expense of their sickest clients?

The second: When did we become a nation where the insurance companies get to decide how patients are treated, rather than the doctors? Because I'm here to tell you that my doctor of many years retired early because of this very issue. He was not a man who liked being told what he could and couldn't do.

The third: Why have doctors become pawns in this game? Why don't they get up and stand up?

The fourth: Where are those who advocate Right to Life when real money is on the line? It's fine and dandy to agitate for Terry Sciavo, who had no chance at all of recovery. But a 17-year-old with a slim chance, if she got expensive experimental care? Not a peep from the Right to Life crowd. You'd think they'd have taken up a collection and paid the cost of the operation themselves. Didn't that born child have a Right to Life, if she wanted it? Shouldn't the Right to Lifers be challenging Cigna even as we speak? These people seem to have some political clout.

Here's my final beef: Why do HMOs put out money for physical illnesses but refuse to pay for mental health care? Please don't tell me that they do pay for mental health care. Have you ever met an HMO psychiatrist? I haven't, and not for lack of trying. Don't these greedy bastards realize that our streets and prisons are full of citizens who, had they been able to get mental health care, would be productive members of society? Mental illness is a physical disorder. It's not something you can "get over" by "pulling yourself together."

Recently my husband's union had to issue bad news: Beginning in 2008, we will have to pay a monthly stipend along with our co-pays, for ourselves and each of our children. The union president said: "If you want to keep these costs down, don't go to the doctor."

We at "The Gods Are Bored" wish all HMOs a Merry Christmas. Have a seat in our waiting room. Cernnunos will be with you shortly.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Terrapin Run Delivered

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Yule, 2007! Strike up the Nutcracker Suite, we're dancing for joy!

Good tidings came to me last evening, by email, which seems to be the tidings-bringer of preference these days. The bored gods have saved Terrapin Run!

For those of you who are just filling out applications to "The Gods Are Bored," here's the back story:

Terrapin Run is a tiny seasonal stream in Western Maryland. It begins as a series of springs on the eastern flank of Green Ridge and runs southward toward its confluence with Fifteen Mile Creek. Fifteen Mile Creek empties into the Potomac River about midway between Cumberland and Hancock.

EXHIBIT A: FIFTEEN MILE CREEK






A few years ago a large private property, through which Terrapin Run flows, got sold to a developer from Columbia, Maryland. The developer drew up plans to create a town of 11,000 people on the site, complete with shopping, ATV trails, and an equestrian center.


Currently the only thing on this property is wildlife and second-growth forest. And the aforementioned Terrapin Run. The property borders Green Ridge State Forest on one side and the Billmeyer Wildlife Refuge on another.

At first most of the citizenry of Allegany County liked the idea of a bustling new borough in their struggling midst. Largely through the work of a small group of environmental activists and local residents, however, Allegany County's rank and file changed its mind. When last polled, 80 percent of those responding said the Terrapin Run development should be scuttled.

Nevertheless, the developer persisted. Don't they always? This led to an expensive and lengthy land-use lawsuit that was just heard by the Maryland Court of Appeals during the final week of November. While the lawsuit proceeded, Allegany County's Water and Sewer board told the developer he could only build a maximum of 900 units on the property. (The developer wanted 4300 units.)

Yesterday, the Maryland Department of the Environment barred the developer from doing any large-scale construction on the property. The MDOE cited environmental degradation of Terrapin Run and Fifteen Mile Creek. The latter is a Tier II stream that harbors one of Maryland's two populations of the endangered plant, Harperella.

"So, Anne," a bored reader asks, "What did you do to push this along?"

Thank you for asking! Would you like some home made fudge? Oh, go ahead. Take two pieces. Yes, it is good, if I must say so myself. It's that easy recipe on the side of the Marshmallow Fluff jar...

Where was I? Oh yeah. What I did to push along the salvation of Terrapin Run.

Practially speaking, I became one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, because my co-owned piece o' nuthin farm is nearby. Before you call me a NIMBY, please be advised that my farm is on the next mountain over, on the western side, and wouldn't have been impacted environmentally by the development, except perhaps in the rather important issue of ground water.

So don't call me a NIMBY. You can call me Gumby. I'll call you Pokey. And we'll have a swell time.

Being a card-carrying Pagan, however, I could not trust this momentous series of unfortunate events simply to the machinations of the apparent world. And so I Cast a Work on Terrapin Run. I called upon the Gentry of Sidhe to protect the creek. As a symbol of the sprites and bored gods and goddesses I urged to Work with me on this, I left ceramic elves on the old concrete bridge where Scenic Route 40 crosses Terrapin Run. And for two years I have been wearing an ankle bracelet with a terrapin charm on it -- an old relic from my dad's days at the University of Maryland. I said I wouldn't take the bracelet off my ankle until I knew the creek would be saved.

EXHIBIT B: MARYLAND TERRAPIN






Today I'm wearing a new pair of shoes, and that little terrapin charm is biting and scratching my ankle every time I move. I think it knows that it could take a nice long rest in my Spare-ravaged jewelry box.

As night falls on this shortest day of the year, I thank the Gentry, the fae, the wood-sprites and elves, Chonganda, and all the other deities who have teamed to protect Terrapin Run. Never has a Yuletide brought more warmth and light to me than this.

Moral of the sermon: Magick works. And don't forget to butter the pan before you pour the fudge mixture into it.

FROM GUMBY
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS



Thursday, December 20, 2007

Poor Zeus, Overlooked Again!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," promoting deity diversity in the Land of the Christians, by the Christians, and for the Christians!

Poor Zeus takes it on the chin again.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, aka http://www.phillynews.com, recently hired an unemployed ex-politician named Rick Santorum to write a bi-weekly column entitled "The Elephant in the Room."

It turns out, after several lengthy columns, that Ex-Senator Santorum is an excellent writer. Really, very, very, very good. So good it makes you believe in ghosts. This ain't unscripted "man on dog" stuff.

Today's "please re-elect me" diatribe is entitled "Mitt Romney and Religion: Politics and Faith," subtitled "A candidate's faith is important. It will influence his or her decisions."

True indeed. One is tempted to link Ex-Senator Santorum's drubbing at the polls with the way his religion influenced his political decisions.

In the midst of a column that manages to offend deeply on multiple levels (albeit quite smartly written), Ex-Senator Santorum offers this tidbit:

"Virtue -- a person's ability to control his desires and order his actions according to the Golden Rule -- makes freedom and democracy possible. For most, virtue is derived from religion, but that hardly means a man without religion cannot reason his way to virtue. Witness the ancient Greeks."

First of all, let's get real. Reader, do you think Rick Santorum wrote that? Me neither.

And wowwie. I didn't know that the ancient Greeks reasoned their way to virtue without benefit of religion. Did you know that? I guess it's too late to tell Zeus. Or Athena. Or the rest of those who were so scrupulously worshipped that we still honor their holy days.

However, it was not this quibble that prompted me to email Ex-Senator Santorum at his new mailbox, which I will attach below, in case you've got a puppy you want to get rid of.

Here's another Santorum tidbit:

"It was Christ's mandate to care for the poor that inspired my efforts to take a leadership role."

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!

My query to Ex-Senator Santorum was simple enough: "Dear Sir: Please tell me what you did for the poor while you were in office. Because I'm racking my brain and I can't come up with one damned thing. Pardon my use of foul language, I was raised in Greece."

I will be timing my cleanings of Decibel the Parrot's cage to coincide with Rick Santorum's ghost-written pat-self-backs.

If you would like to send holiday greetings to Ex-Senator Rick Santorum, it's easier to find him online than in Pennsylvania, the state he purported to represent.

Here's his address: rsantorum@phillynews.com

Caveat: We at "The Gods Are Bored" waive any responsibility for the safety of your canines if you communicate with this man. Whenever we knew he was near Philly, we hid the cats in the basement but left Decibel the Parrot on the porch. Decibel knows how to say "ouch" in a very loud way.

Labels:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to Avoid Eating Cookies This Holiday

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on these, the darkest days of the year. And they are dark days indeed if your loved one is fighting overseas in Iraq.

Here in Snobville we have a little Revolutionary War-era museum. Every Christmas the museum curator (in his obsessive compulsive way) tries to find groups to decorate the museum for the holidays.

Hold the phone a minute. If you were living in New Jersey in 1777, did you deck the halls with boughs of holly?
Open your history books to Page 10. Oh my. New Jersey was under siege by the British in 1777. The danger zone was everywhere! What makes me think the holly never left the bush?

Which brings us to a different kind of Bush. Look at this, and if you don't vomit, at least you won't be tempted to have too many cookies this evening.


If I didn't even know this woman and her back story, this picture would make me heave. There she sits in front of her designer HOLIDAY tree, with her meticulously-groomed pedigreed animals, beaming as if she holds the key to Peace on Earth.

When really all she probably has is the key to the liquor cabinet.

If you aren't sufficiently sickened by this photo to get yourself through the HOLIDAYS without stuffing your face like a chipmunk, then do this: Go to the White House's official web site and click on "Barney Cam." When I did it, I got the transcript of the most recent conversation our Fearless Leader had with his dogs.

Never has "man's best friend" been more fitting.

If you need the weight control, read the transcript. (I have a feeling the video got yanked because it was YouTube edit candy, oh yes indeed.) Fearless Leader and his beautiful daughters wax poetic over our National Parks.

Our National Parks? You mean the ones with $5 billion in deferred maintenance projects? You mean the ones run by a series of Interior Secretaries from the timber industry? Oh yeah. Those National Parks. Yeah, they're great. So proud and all that.

But what is worse about this little bit of piffle from the White House (its grounds are also a National Park, sez Fearless L.) is that ... excuuuuse me, famille Bushe?

THERE'S A WAR ON, AND YOU'RE CAVORTING LIKE THE ROMANOVS ON RUSSIAN ORTHODOX EASTER.

Lavish decorations. Cutesy lil' doggies. Smiling twins, sober for five minutes.

Gag me with a gazillion-dollar war debt, almost 4,000 dead Americans, Iraq laid waste, Osama still at large, and all but our nation's 400 billionaires staggering toward poverty.

I can think of one National Park that could be maintained much better if the occupants of its house were kicked out in the street by their own pedigreed Scotties.

Yours with 'roid rage,

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gonna Fling Some Bats, So Duck!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," rock-hard believers in karma! What goes around, comes around. So if you forget to water your plants and they die, don't be surprised to find yourself with car trouble somewhere between Las Vegas and San Bernardino.

I'm just back from my first visit to a new doctor. You see, I have four limbs, and only one of them works properly -- that would be my right arm.

Can you believe it? Some people are born with bum knees. I'm one of them. And it seems the bum knees have, through the course of time, wreaked havoc through the ol' feet, toes, and hips. I hurt my elbow about six years ago, and that's never healed either.

This is what comes from living too far from Berkeley Springs to take the waters regularly.

So today's post is ... emmm ... postponed until tomorrow, when I'll be loaded to the eyebrows with steroids and fragged to the max with Xmas preps.

Since I had planned to write about our Fearless Leader's wife and her pedigreed pooches, maybe it is a good idea to wait until I feel like ripping off heads and sucking out spinal columns.

Ta ta for now! All sweetness and light, Miss Annie. At the moment...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Aunt Annie's Great Gift Selections


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," shopping lightly in troubled times! This is not, nor has it ever been, our Yule tree. However, today marks a week and counting until Xmas is upon us again!



No single religion or culture can lay claim to gift-giving as a sign of affection. We at "The Gods Are Bored" feel that this urge to give unto others, particularly our families, goes back so far in time that the gods and goddesses who proposed it are lost to memory.

Picture it. There stands Ogette in the cave, stirring up the last of the fresh apples in a tasty broth, thinking how much Og will appreciate it when he gets home from wherever he went. And in walks Og with a plump partridge and some pretty little uncut gem that he bartered 16 arrowheads for. Then Og winks at Ogette and lumbers off to carve a little toy or some such for Baby Oggie.

You just know when Baby Oggie grows up, she's gonna remember that scene and encourage her husband Iggie to be more like her dad.

With that in mind, we at "The Gods Are Bored" holler UNCLE and offer you these wonderful free, absolutely free shopping tips. If you hop right on them, you can still get your gifts by next Tuesday ... I think. Hey, I'm a goat judge, not a Postmaster General.

Jeff at Druid's Journal has created a 2008 appointment book with Druid/Nature themes that will be just perfect for your hectic schedule. As you record the date and time for your root canal, you can stare at his soothing pictures! (In all seriousness, Jeff is a thoughtful, insightful Druid, and his calendar reflects his sensitivity.)

If what you need is a t-shirt with your favorite bored god or goddess on it, fear not! This is the era of the Internet! Thalia Took has created a fabulous, colorful, cross-cultural series of t-shirts that would make a great gift for the Mormon brother-in-law. I can personally vouch for Thalia's wares. They are superb.

Speaking of t-shirts, I'll bet there's a dude in your life that you just can't find a damn thing for, no matter how high or low you look. And he just loves "classic rock," and he never mentally left the 1970s. (As a matter of fact, a lot of really young dudes dig 1970s music too! And no wonder. Have you listened to today's Top 40?) Hooray! Annie's here to save you. Check out Woodstock Trading Company. Yessirree, Woodstock has you covered for rock music, just look at all those John Lennon shirts! Even better, Woodstock has a humongous, gigantic, and eclectic store of incense from the far reaches of the Orient. And a resident incense expert who will know the answer to your every question about the stuff. Shop on, Summer of Love!

Well, that covers Og and Ogette. On to Oggie, and your inner Ogette!

I can't recommend enough the products at Jules Enchanting Gifts. Hey, a store owned and run by a pretty girl named Happy can't possibly steer you wrong, can it? (Happy is her real name.) Faeries, faeries, faeries! And a lot of other neat collectible stuff for the granny who has everything. If you shop with Happy online, you'll also be helping the economy of Berkeley Springs, WV, which is where her darling little shop is located.

Maybe what you want to do is make the world a better place. And you already know how to do that, you've got charities that you endow with your hard-earned money. And they love you for it. You make things better, and there's something to be said for that! However, if you're searching around for a worthy charitable project, we at "The Gods Are Bored" prioritize The Rare and Endangered Species Trust in Namibia. RARE is currently leading a crusade to save the remaining Cape Gryphon Vultures from extinction.

Remember, we at "The Gods Are Bored" are conducting a Great, Grand, Gryphon Grab! Let us know if you've made a donation by January 1, and your name will be entered to win a surprise package from the 2008 East Coast Vulture Festival ... oh, joy, it's just around the corner!

Now I've got you covered, except if you need a pet. Go to Petfinder for that! For the love of fruit flies, don't waste $1000 on some pedigreed pooch that will keel at the ripe old age of five!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Puck Gets a Duck


Welcome to "The Faeries Are Bored!"

It's me, Puck. Your luck.


Anne has gone to the home of a friend to make Wookies. Anne's friend is a good church lady, so Anne hopes they can avoid all magick falling into the Wookies by chatting about other things. Like the weather this morning. It's socks.

So, Tra la la! Here I am, pink like Spam!

PUCK PRESENTS YOUR FAVORITE MISHMASH CAROLS!

Chess buffs boasting like a bunch of liars
Cracked crust slipping from your nose...
Stool-sized barrels being flung from a wire
And folks dressed up like Eskimo pies.

We three rings of oily tar
Whereon slips your favorite car.
Yield and countin'
Hit the mountain
All 'cause of oily tar.

We dish you a berry mishmash
We dish you a berry mishmash
We dish you a berry mishmash
And a crappy new beer!


Now bring us some figgy pudding ... (I like that line!)


I'll be loam for Christmas
You can plant on me.


And now, for my personal favorite...

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walkin home from our house Christmas Eve,
You can say you don't believe in Santa,
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

Some Mishmash carols don't need improvement.

Berry Mishmash for now!

FROM PUCK
Oh yeah, I forgot! Anne wanted a duck for The Spare. The Spare has a thing about ducks. So I found a cute duck for Anne at the thrift store. Now the Spare will get a Mishmash gift!

Labels:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Of Mimes and Monsters

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where -- despite the advice of some of our readers -- we will not lace Xmas cookies with Ex-Lax, even if they are to be consumed by mega-church fundies! However, the suggestion was appreciated greatly, because it fulfilled the central mission of TGAB:

Make 'em laugh. Including me!

Would you believe I just had to make a list (and check it twice) because I have so many topics I want to write about? I'm glad the topic calendar is full, because when I turn this space over to my faeries they use potty words.

Tonight is Mime Night in Snobville. Yahoo!

Every year prior to Solstice, the quaint, histrionic (oh wait, I meant historic) borough of Snobville has fun Friday night shopping. Each Friday the town fills with strolling carollers and dulcimer groups. Santa holds court for the tots, and there are horse-drawn carriage rides. Traditionally the third Friday in this melee is Mime Night.

One of the local schools has a mime troupe. The mimes are unleashed upon Snobville and are a huge hit with the under-15 set.

Of course Snobville has another mime. That would be the Fighting Wombat Mascot, a.k.a my daughter, The Heir. She considers the Wombat her opportunity to mime. She is never seen in anything but the full costume, and she never speaks a word while she's wearing it.

Heir deems her Wombat outings "performance art." She's at that age, dontcha know.

I usually follow the Fighting Wombat around. Some middle schoolers have evil minds and will try to tackle the mascot or pull off its head, gloves, or even its furry feet. So it is necessary for the Wombat to have a "keeper" at a discreet distance.

This is what I've learned from following The Snobville Fighting Mascot as it makes its way through sporting events and community affairs:

The vast majority of children who are old enough to walk are not afraid of the Fighting Wombat. In fact they usually want a hug or a high-five. Toddlers and babies are sometimes frightened by the Wombat. To them this huge furry thing is real and big.

Kids who can walk have learned that big furry things are just nut case people who dress up and sweat like pigs to entertain them.

Many times I've seen a kid strike a pose in front of the Wombat, and then the Wombat strikes the same pose back at the kid. It is far more rare to see a kid imitate a Wombat pose. I won't say it never happens, but it's rare enough that I wish I could sell it on ebay.

To me, the Wombat is sort of a local Cookie Monster. Kids love the Wombat, but they recognize that the critter is wacky and unreal. Even teeny tiny tots somehow realize that if they imitate the Wombat they're going to look like bozos.

The same holds true for Cookie Monster. The vast majority of kids who watch Cookie Monster will not shove fistfuls of cookies into their mouths until they drool crumbs all over themselves. Even their three-year-old peers would say, "Ew! That's gross!" And as much as we would love our kids to shove fistfuls of carrots into their mouths because Healthy Food Monster does it, they ain't gonna comply.

Why would that be?

Okay, let's face the Inconvenient Truth.

Cookies taste better than carrots.

There. I said it. We're a nation of lardasses because cookies taste better than carrots. When kids pig out on cookies, they're not doing it because that wacky blue thing on t.v. does it. They're doing it because Mom stacks the cupboard with cookies and eats them herself. Or, if Mom's one of those 5K, mega-vitamin kinda people (seem to be more and more of them all the time), the next door neighbor is some kindly granny who dispenses Hershey bars ... and cookies.

Honestly, which do you grope for when you're stressed -- a carrot or a Hershey Bar? If you picked carrot, you're on a diet because you've eaten too many Hershey Bars.

Let's stop blaming Cookie Monster for our epidemic of childhood obesity. Cookies taste better than carrots, a fact is a fact. That's why my fundie sister asked me to make some cookies for her, instead of sending her a pretty tin full of carrots.

How can we cure the epidemic of childhood obesity without dumping Cookie Monster? Well, I could write an epic poem on that topic, but instead I'll just say:

DUMP THE DAMN ABSTINENCE LESSONS IN "HEALTH CLASS" AND PUT THE KIDS BACK IN P.E. WHERE THEY BELONG!

Why is my daughter The Spare learning about abstinence when she should be out in the wind playing kickball? If she gets fat, I know who I'm gonna blame: Focus on the Family!

I defiantly remain committed to the Cult of Cookie Monster. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a savory carrot downstairs just a'callin' my name.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cookies and the Craft


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," baking until we break since 1987!

You know how it is. You start out sending cookies to friends and family because it's a cheap gift. Then they like your wares and start asking for cookies every year. Little do they know that most of your cookies are products of the Pillsbury Doughboy.

But not all. Some are really home made. And I need your advice, readers.

Before my dad flew off to spend eternity with Peter Pan, I used to send him a big cookie tin full of cookies every year right around now. He liked to eat them, and he liked having them on hand if company came. That's what he told me.

In truth my sister absconded with the bulk of Dad's cookies. Now she's asking me to make some for her. And I'm suspicious.

You see, Sis is one of those healthy type people who eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day while getting plenty of exercise and gulping down vitamin packs with excess amounts of water.

It's counterintuitive, if you ask me. She's a fundie. Seems to me her pastor makes her heaven sound so good, you'd think she'd be so anxious to get there that she'd supersize her daily McDonald's meal! Nothin' but fries and pies -- get that heart attack done and get to heaven sooner.

This year once again Sis has asked for home made cookies. Do you know what I think? I think she's taking them to the fundie church potluck.

I am a Druid, but I do not practice Craft work. Are you kidding me? I'm about as brave about magick as I am about gobbling shrooms. If you take the Craft seriously -- which I do -- you don't wanna mess.

I'm faced with the prospect of baking cookies that I know are destined for fundie consumption, probably preceded by saying Grace and thanking God for the cookies' existence. (???)

So, first of all, I don't want to imbue my cookies with negative feelings toward their consumers. Bad cookie karma is something I do not need.

Second, I would like to infuse my baked goods with big, broad, flexible outlook.

Sis and I get along fine, but we rarely see each other. That's because there's a 900-pound gorilla in the room with us ever time we meet and greet. That gorilla is her faith, which point blank assigns me to hell.

I do not have such feelings about her faith. I believe in her god. I just don't worship her god. I think he has a mean streak. He's not alone in that. Lots of deities have mean streaks. But most of them don't have a gazillion followers who vote.

Before I get to sermonizing, I've got to ask. Does anyone know how to bake cookies that are laden to the plimsol line with positive vibes about inclusion and tolerance? Conversely, does anyone know how to spend four hours kneading sharp pecan pieces into tough dough without getting pissed off about the product's final destination?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Here's a mini-sermon. Don't you think it's criminal what they've done to Cookie Monster? He's not allowed to eat cookies anymore! Even as we speak, they're downsizing him in the Sesame Street pantheon rather in the same way that deities were downsized by missionaries back in the day. "Healthy Food Monster" can be blue and furry, but he can't shove fistfuls of cookies into his mouth and make yummy sounds. Ergo, soon you won't see him on the show at all. Or if you do, he'll be munching a carrot, mumbling that everything's all right because St. Bridget has her feast day.

Restore the awesome, moving power of Cookie Monster! Go and buy old back episodes of Sesame Street and show your kids that Blue is True! Carrots are for rabbits.

Our operators are really standing by for your call today. Advice on baking cookies can be dispensed in the "comments" section of this web site. Solidarity for Cookie Monster can be expressed here as well, but please back it up by taking the above steps and finding yourself an appropriate Cookie Monster t-shirt at the nearest thrift store.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Your Carbon Footprint in the Sands of Time


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we sniff all snake oil before we buy it! No wonder everyone around here has a sinus infection.

My mother, may her reincarnation as a newt be going well, had a favorite poem that went something like this:


Lives of great men do remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And in parting leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.

If I heard that once as a kid, I heard in 1000 times.

It wasn't until I'd grown up that something dawned on me. Footprints in the sands of time! For the love of fruit flies, footprints don't last long in sand. Anyone who's ever strolled along a beach knows that. One nice-sized wave roaring up at high tide, and your great men (above) are gonna be totally forgotten! Footnotes in the archives, if that!

Problem with deconstructing the poem above is you wind up not caring a fig whether you're great or not. Mom wouldn't like that. She was all about greatness. Her constant advice to me was, "Marry a doctor."

So, let's turn this poem over to the faeries, who love a challenge. Have at it, o ye fae!

Flies that ate men do remind us
We'll soon be far past our prime,
And in farting leave behind us
Carbon footprints full of slime.

There now. That's better, don't you think?

I'll see you tomorrow. I have to make a casserole.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Bad News ... The Good News


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," unsuccessfully trying to make it on niceness alone since 2004! Ah well, I'd rather be a little bit nice than be Donald Trump, and that's a natural fact.


The Bad News:

About three weeks ago I began substitute teaching at Snobville High School, where my daughter The Heir is a senior. I'm sort of in between long-term jobs at the Vo-Tech, and I need the dough. Snobville High doesn't pay as well as the Vo-Tech (and the lunches suck), but I can walk to work, which saves gasoline.

I guess all told I went to Snobville High six times. And there was my memorable morning with the Pre-Ks and their jar of marbles. That was Snobville Elementary (Truman C. Tewell, to be exact.)

Yesterday I subbed for the first time at an ultra-posh private Quaker school nearby. And when I got home from that, tired out as one can be after spending a day in a new place, I got a call from the substitute scheduler at Snobville School District.

It went something like this:

Snobville Scheduler: Ms. Johnson, can you please tell me why you didn't show up at the high school today? You were scheduled to cover a science class.

Anne: Well, that's news to me. I didn't have that date on my schedule.

SS: Well, it's on my schedule, and I never make mistakes! And they're very angry at you at the high school, because they had no teacher for a busy classroom.

(Long pause as she waits for me to grovel.)

Anne: I have no record of being asked to come to the high school today. But I can understand why they would be angry. I would certainly understand if they didn't want to employ me anymore. They are, of course, under no obligation to use me as a substitute teacher.

SS: Well, we'd like to remove you from the list, yes indeed, but we're having trouble finding substitutes, and beggars can't be choosers.

Anne: What a lovely sentiment! As a matter of fact, I won't be available again until after Christmas anyway.

(Anne returns telephone to its cradle.)

Soon after Christmas, I return to the Vo-Tech.

I'll admit that I'm getting a tad forgetful as I drift into my prime years of life. But as the bored gods are my witnesses, I did not make any plan to be at Snobville High on Monday, December 10, 2007. In fact, the same loathsome scheduler spent part of Friday evening attempting to lure me back to Truman C. Tewell Elementary on Monday. I wish I'd recalled that when she was on the phone, but it wasn't until I hung up that I remembered. Which bolsters her case, I guess.

When all is said and done, it's pretty pathetic that I can't even make a few bucks substitute teaching. I'm wondering if I could even cut it flipping burgers at McDonald's. I'd probably shove someone into the boiling french fry oil on my second outing.

A day may soon be coming when I have to put that last part to the test.

But that's enough bad news! Ack, phooey. It's only money, right?

The Good News:

You might remember that my friends at Woodstock Trading Company gathered in a really young kitten from their crawlspace in early November. I fostered the lil' guy until he was old enough to go live in the wonderful store, where it is always 1972, except no pipes.

Kitten has been at Woodstock for two weeks and is groovin' on it, yeah baby.

Anne got some kitten medicine from the animal shelter where she volunteers. Ergo, the owners of Woodstock Trading Company have given a hefty donation to the animal shelter.

Woodstock Trading Company has put up a donation jar for the animal shelter.

Woodstock's owners are handing out fliers for the animal shelter to all the handsome young adults who prowl through the store looking for Steely Dan t-shirts.

So the kitten is happy, the store owners are happy, and a crowded animal shelter will be a little more merry and bright for the holidays.

Doing good never pays you money, but this afternoon I'm sitting here unemployed but feeling ... okay. Some bored goddess is going to look kindly upon me in the Great Hereafter. I'd bet the farm on it. And I really do have a farm. Sort of. A piece of a piece o' nuthin farm.

In the interest of further spreading cheer, I kindly direct all of you to Woodstock Trading Company, where you can order Steely Dan t-shirts online. Or Velvet Underground. Or Moody Blues. Or the store's clear preference, The Grateful Dead.

Do you remember those dudes? You do? Then you must be like me -- unsure which butt cheek you were just resting your weight on a minute ago.

What a long, strange trip it's been!

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

(Mis)Behaving Myself at "The Golden Compass"


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Want to brighten the day of a bored deity? Buy 'em a ticket to The Golden Compass!

Last night I dragged my reluctant teenagers The Heir and The Spare to see The Golden Compass. The Spare wouldn't have gone at all, except that she saw The Heir schlepping into her coat and didn't want to miss any opportunity to be a financial burden.

When we got to the cineplex, and I was parking the car, The Spare spoke up in her most determined 13-year-old scold voice:

Spare: Mom. Please don't cause a scene at the movie.

Anne: Why, how would I do that, darling?

Spare: Just by being yourself.

I laughed so hard I almost passed out.

The Golden Compass is the second film I've seen recently that was preceded by a well-made cinematic commercial for Wal-Mart. The commercial ends with a graphic that tells the viewer that Wal-Mart "saved the average family $2,500 last year" and then says, "What will you do with the money?"

To which I shout: "Pay more taxes to fund your employees' health care!" Whilst flipping the bird at the screen.

Maybe The Spare has a point.

The Golden Compass was not well-attended at its 8:00 p.m. showing on the Saturday night of its opening weekend. Heir and Spare thought this to be a victory for them -- clearly the thing was going to bore them to tears.

Then it started, and it did make both of them cry, and they sat on the edge of their seats the whole way through it. Afterwards they asked a quadrillion questions about the books and spent the whole drive home discussing what their daemons would be. They both loved it. Especially Heir, who loathes all things Harry Potter.

Folks, if you want to see a movie where the witch is a beautiful heroine and organized religion the villain (no earnest Hollywood attempts to hide that fact change it a bit), you simply must support this film project with your dollars and your prayers.

On the other hand, if all you're looking for is a fabulous evening's entertainment, go see The Golden Compass.

Watch out for that Wal-Mart commercial. By that I mean, sit in the rear of the theatre where little kids won't see you flipping the bird at the screen.
FROM ANNE AND BUZZY
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS AND HER DAEMON

Friday, December 07, 2007

Marooned in the Hallmark Store

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If Jesus is the reason for the season, where does that leave the Hallmark store?

I do not wish to discuss the circumstances, but this afternoon I found myself confined to a busy Hallmark card shop for 90 minutes.

Granted, there are far worse places to be stranded for 90 minutes. The El platform springs to mind. But you might be surprised at how 90 minutes in a Hallmark store can bend your mind.

(Some minds are easier to bend than others. I stand accused.)

How do you shop Hallmark? I usually go into a Hallmark store with a particular objective: a birthday card, a little keepsake gift, a Yankee candle. I choose what I want, reluctantly de-wallet the debit card, collect my receipt, and dash for the door.

Today the time constraint forced me to peruse the merchandise in great detail.

Holy Toledo, Batman! Who buys this stuff?

Let's take Xmas cards, for example. Did you know you can buy a Xmas card for your cat that says, "Happy holidays, kitty, you bring me such joy!"

Pity the puss that gets that under the tree. Wanna make puss purr on Xmas? BUY HER AN EXTRA CAN OF CAT FOOD!

I really should charge money for such good advice.

When I go back to the Blue Ridge I try to pick up some Colonial Home candles. Can't find them around here. Yankee candles are the next best thing. And it's fun to spend 15 minutes sniffing all the different varieties, from Melon Mango Chutney to my personal favorite, Sauerkraut. This particular Hallmark store had a very limited quantity of Yankee candles, most of them tailored to the autumn or Xmas season. I sniffed every last one.

More valuable free advice: All the red Xmas Yankee candles smell the same. All the green Xmas Yankee candles smell the same. Except for Frankincense. It's red. Not for me. I wonder what Jesus thought of it.

You can expend 15 good minutes whiffing a small display of Yankee candles. Then what? Ah, boxed Xmas cards! Some of them are very pretty, and they have nice neutral greetings on them, and they cost frickin 15 bucks a box! When did that happen? I could buy 15 packs of Juicyfruit, mail it out to my fam and buds, and they'd have something to show for my financial output!

Actually I do send Xmas cards. I buy them at the Rite-Aid, the day after Xmas.

More good advice! Okay, now I'm going to start charging money. I'm broke, remember?

Up and down the aisles we go, Merry Xmas to a Fabulous Priest; I don't know what I'd do without you, Sister (religious), Sis (non-religious), Sister-in-law (and that's a lie, you damn well know what you'd do without that pesky person). Dad, Uncle, Cousin, Niece, Nephew, Grandson, Granddaughter, Baby's First Birthday (baby's gonna love the card, see cat, above). Mail carrier. The mail carrier? Well, we once had one that deserved a tip, but if you tip the cute ones you've gotta tip the ugly ones. Somehow they find out about it and all come to call, looking for their Xmas card from Hallmark.

When I was a kid, we decorated the Xmas tree with old glass balls that all looked pretty much alike. I remember my mom made a big deal out of a pair of hand-made embroidered, beaded Xmas ornaments she got one year in a raffle. We put them right in front, where everyone could see them.

(Note to fans: Anne has now had her cocktail.)

This Xmas you can decorate your tree with Spiderman, Darth Vader, and the aforementioned Batman. As well as the entire cast and set of The Wizard of Oz, and ... that pretty pert lil' thang that's the same age as me: Barbie! Tiny Barbie dolls, Barbie clothes, Barbie accessories, Barbie hangouts.

How come Barbie and me were both created the same year, and she's still a babe?

Back to ornaments. Cute kittens, cute angels, cute faeries (yes, they've started a "series"), cute miniature model trains, cute Peanuts characters. Cute. Cute. Cute. At $10 or more a pop. Your Xmas tree, fully decked out with Hallmark ornaments instead of boughs of holly, could run you into four digits.

Give me a needle and some Jiffy Pop, and I'll show you how to decorate a tree.

Now we've exhausted a mere 30 minutes of our enforced 90-minute stay. A brainstorm! Need a romantic card for the spouse. Always give him one, every year. And this has become more challenging as the years have passed ... and passed ... and passed ...

It's got to be romantic (because I luv the dude), but it's also gotta address reality. As in, we've got no dough, and it's gonna get worse.

By golly, the shelves are packed with such cards! It takes a mere three minutes to pick a fabulous $3.99 Xmas card from the "Husband" section. And that's comforting. Nice to feel you're part of a huge demographic that still loves the spouse amidst genteel poverty. Me and Mr. Cratchit, we got a thing.... goin on....

Whew. I've got a card in hand now, so I look like a serious shopper. Off I go to a new display of designer ornaments, modeled on old-time Xmas ornaments from maybe Jane Austen's time or something like that. Yawn. How much more time do I have to stay in this fragranced, theme-music-soothed nightmare?

Enough time to browse the regular gift items, like the 100 job-oriented coffee mugs, each with a cute little phrase on it describing the job-holder. Gardener. Accountant. Teacher. Lawyer. Nurse. Doctor. Volunteer. Homemaker. Policeman. Firefighter. Dog-Catcher. Could someone explain to me why they don't have one for the Underemployed Ivy League Graduate With Minimal Computer Skills Goat Judge? Where do I lodge a formal complaint?

From there I head to a notebook with bookmarks, all the size of playing cards and all bearing names (alphabetical order) along with an appropriate Bible verse. Wouldn't you know, they're affordable! Out, out, damned Bible verse! Fortunately, they're all out of "Spare," so I don't have to buy one for that daughter. They've misspelled "Heir," so I save some money there too. And, they've left the "e" off of Anne! Hooray! I wasn't planning on sending a gift to Ann Coulter, so close that notebook and call it a day.

Except I can't call it a day, it's only 2:50.

But it's snowing!

Ah, snow! That soother of spirits, that gentle white fluff, drifting down from above .... Onto a humongous parking lot, filled with SUVs. Pizza Hut and Watchoveryou Bank in the middle distance. Puts a whole new spin on "Let It Snow."

It's too depressing to stand and watch precious snow melt on asphalt, so I return to the merchandise. Here's a glass case filled with porcelain figures from famous movies! Oh, how I wish I had $145 to spend on a porcelain Wicked Witch of the West on a PMS high! WHO BUYS THIS STUFF?

Porcelain Tinker Belle is cute, but she's also $100, and crikey, you couldn't buy just one of these things. They're like Snow Babies. If you buy one porcelain movie knockoff, you've got to fill your house with them. Honestly, do you know anyone who has just one Longaberber basket?

Okay, the porcelain statuettes are out of my price range. (If you get right down to it, the oxygen in the store is out of my price range.) On I move to another set of shelves, these filled with adorable little ceramic mousies, oh, such cute little mousies, I've gotta have 'em all, every one! Oh, look at that sweet little momma mouse, reading to her brood of 12, all scattered around the puffy lavendar armchair.....

Hold the phone. I had an infestation of mice before I got my cats, Alpha and Beta. No more mice now. Makes that Xmas card for the kitty look more enticing!

Moving away from the cute mousies brings me to ... gasp ... the cute snowmen!

Bored gods and goddesses all, preserve us from cute snowmen.

I'm fond of snow. Four years in Michigan did not cure me. Love the stuff. Ergo, love snowmen. Have built a few in the day. Watched Dad build a few whoppers. I guess Hallmark is counting on that when they do their fourth-quarter earnings sheet.

Forget it, Hallmark. I ain't gonna buy a $59.95 plush sculpture of three snowmen sitting piggy-back. I would question the basic sanity of anyone who would. Yet there it sits, all fluffy and adorable, in the store window. Someone's gonna buy it. And display it for a few years. And stack it outside at a yard sale. From which it will be bought by a dealer, who will cart it to the flea market. From whom I will buy it for $3.00 in 2012.

More free advice. Make check payable to Anne Johnson.

Would you believe that all this browsing only consumed 60 of the 90 minutes? I had to re-visit the card aisle, watch snow fall on a Pathfinder, and pay for my Xmas card (snapping up an impulse necklace for The Spare at the counter), and still I had time to go!

Hours later I'm still shuddering from this ordeal. The moral of the story is, pick a religion that doesn't celebrate Xmas so you'll never find yourself in my sorry shoes.

I think that's Jehovah's Witnesses. Or Seventh Day Adventists. I'll have to do more research.

I hate this time of year. What can you do but laugh at it?

And now, pay up for all these valuable shopping tips!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kingdom Come Undone

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If Jesus is the reason for the season, where does that leave Wal-Mart?

Having lots of better things to do this afternoon, I took a break and toddled over to the Left Behind web site, where authors Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye hawk their Armageddon novels. They're up to 16 volumes now, and they're showing signs of running out of steam.

At their site you can read a sample chapter of their latest tome, Kingdom Come. In the sample, Jesus's angels separate people into groups. The group on the left, quite to the surprise of its members, goes plunging into a chasm toward the center of the earth, presumably into that great satellite office known as Hell. Of course a certain amount of screaming, weeping and wailing accompanies this sudden shift in the Earth's crust and sudden winnowing of the human population. The screaming, etc. is done by those who got stuck in the left lane. The folks in the right lane are just motoring on past, smiling and congratulating themselves on finding Jesus in time.

If I had been raised on Bora Bora and had never heard of the Bible until now, I'd be asking: "Who is this Jesus, and why does he want to throw me into a chasm? That's not very nice."

Sadly, Jesus hasn't changed with the times. When his vice-chairmen were writing the Gospels and the Revelations and all that charming, inconsistent literature, the world was a very small place. You could picture all the good people getting raptured and all the bad people staying behind, because, well ... there weren't as many people. Nowadays, Jesus (or someone who works for him) will have to knock off six billion human beings to get this Rapture thing done.

Gosh, that puts Stalin in a whole new perspective. Hitler and Mao look like pussies. Whoa. Hold the phone! Jesus might rank right up there with malaria as a mass killer!

People talk about how the bored gods don't have any official literature to back up their claims. I think that's a good thing. Because the Bible is asking me to root for a god who's gonna go after nonbelievers like a toothbrush goes after plaque. Swish, swish, celestial Scope, kills millions of little microbes in one fell swoop!

With all the updating of language and syntax these Bible editors do, you'd think they'd re-assess the tone and tenor of the manuscript and institute some modernizing influences. Either that, or we should just accept what the Bible says as wholeheartedly as we accept the deeds of King Arthur.

If you want nice modern, up-to-date religion, just drop on by "The Gods Are Bored." Ten Commandments? Naaah. How about Ten Polite Suggestions? And instead of carving them in stone, we'll carve them onto a bar of soap that we're gonna use in the shower.

When the collection plate gets to you, please remember that it's the holiday season, and give accordingly.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Marbles in a Jar

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," searching for weapons of mass destruction since 2000! Haven't found any. Sorry. I'll keep looking, though. I promise.

Both of my parents were teachers, so it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. Unfortunately I lost my job in 2004 (after 20 years of service), and about all I could do in a jiffy was apply for a substitute teaching license. Mostly I've been working at a magnet high school for inner city kids, but right now I'm between long term positions and I didn't want to go to that school day-to-day.

To answer your question, yes. I do need a full time job. If you have any suggestions, lob them at me.

Last night the phone rang, and the substitute schedule lady from Snobville was on the line. Would I do a morning in pre-kindergarten?

It was either that or a whole day of sixth grade. Wow, that decision was a no-brainer. Pre-k all the way!

There were seven cute tots in the class with three teachers, including me.

True to the nature of young human beings everywhere, the tots sized up the situation and promptly moved into "hey, we have a sub" mode. In other words, they were a just a bit je ne sais quoi ... rowdy. But not too rowdy. Looking around, I wouldn't have thought they were exponentially more rowdy than they would be with the regular teacher standing guard.

The regular teacher had a jar of marbles on a book case. I was told that when the students were good, she added marbles, and when they were bad she took marbles out. The object was to fill the jar to the tip-top and then have a party.


Morning circle had hardly commenced before the teacher's aide snatched a fistful of marbles from the jar. Then we moved into small groups. A darling little girl in my group told me I was sitting in the wrong chair and showed me the teacher's chair. For that, I said, I would put a marble in the jar.

"Only one marble!" the teacher's aide told me.

Dutifully I snatched two marbles and dropped them discreetly into the jar.

We did the math worksheet, broke for snack, and returned to small groups for another worksheet. (Nope, kindergarten ain't what it used to be, geezers, I promise you that!) Then we returned to our circle, and the kids got just a tad rowdy again. Just a tad. An iddy biddy tad. No reason to call 9-1-1 or anything. No neighboring teacher peeking in to see if the sub needed help. Just a few little boys laughing.

Swoop! Down flies the teacher's aide into the marble jar! Out with another whopping fistful of marbles!

I said to my seven charges: "Oh my. Everyone look at Ms. J. Let's be really good and try to earn back some of those marbles."

Fourteen soulful eyes met mine. Silence reigned supreme.

But the aide said, "Oh, it's not that easy to earn marbles. Not at all!"

By 11:15 I was not only certain that I was the most hapless substitute teacher of all time, but I was also thoroughly convinced that I couldn't hack kindergarten if I had to return to it in the twenty-first century.
I slunk out of that shiny classroom like a snake who just got caught plucking peeps from the henhouse.

Hours later I'm sitting here calculating the marble deficit and wishing I could see how that pre-k teacher runs things when she's there. I did meet her -- she seemed very stern -- but let's get real here. How quiet can you keep seven tiny kids? Guess I sucked at it.

But here's good news for the CIA. I didn't see any weapons of mass destruction in the pre-k kindergarden room at Truman C. Tewell Elementary. So there's one location you can rule out.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Labels:

Monday, December 03, 2007

Preachin to the Choir, I Figger

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," a daily waste of time since 2005!

Is blogging a waste of time?

My spouse has a friend who is a well-known local sportswriter. The friend in question is getting up in years, and some local bloggers have questioned the man's grasp of modernity while also commenting on his girth. This sportswriter is not the type to suffer trolls gracefully. He answers back, pound for pound (pardon the allusion).

Last night as we gathered around the supper trough, my spouse was talking about his friend. Said spouse: "What are bloggers anyway but people who have nothing to do but sit around and spout off about nothing?"

Ouch.

Both daughters stared in my direction immediately, but spouse couldn't figure out why his precious Annie had gone so dead silent. When daughter The Heir pointed out his comment, he apologized and said "present company excepted."

Ahem, I hope so, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

This is what blogging does for me:

Just like almost everyone in Middle America, I have a sucky life, all your typical bullshit problems like a fractious tween, a bum hip, reduced wages and higher prices for everything, worries about global warming and useless moronic wars, concern about the Appalachian county in which I grew up, anxiety about my future, my spouse's future, my kids' futures, my cats' futures, my car's future, the starving children in Africa, the gun violence in Philadelphia, and the planned takeover of Amerika by the Christian Blight.

I sit down here at the computer and try to make myself laugh so I'll forget all that stuff for awhile. That's what I do at "The Gods Are Bored."

It's cheaper than reefer and legal to boot. No one gets hurt, and the stains that might get on the furniture go onto the computer's surge protector instead. (I happen to know that my spouse hates stains on the upholstery. That's what endeared him to me back in the day.)

Am I wasting my time? Yes, of course. There are a million things I need to be doing at this moment. But nothing is more important than finding a reason to laugh. If I don't laugh I'll go crazy. Then, not only will nothing get done, but we'll also be socked with psych bills and I'll be stigmatized in my community.

Don't you love "not only ... but also"??? Elegant grammar and sophisticated vocabulary are but two of our hallmarks here at "The Gods Are Bored!"

What do you think? I know it's kind of silly asking bloggers if they think blogging's worthwhile. Just like asking choir members if church attendance is worthwhile. But I'm asking? Do you read a newspaper? Do you listen to Focus on the Family every day so that you're educated on gay marriage and evolution? Do you use your blog as the sports column you'd love to write, if only?

My blog plugs the hole that's causing my life's sap to ooze out and drip away. I am wasting time so that time doesn't waste me.

(Apologies to Shakespeare from stealing one of his great lines)

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Believing in Buzzards


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," blissful buzzard worship for the masses! Do you have a personal relationship with the Great Sacred Thunderbird? Would you like to have one? Pull up a chair! Have a doughnut. We'll pass the collection plate later.

For those of you just joining us, like Buzzardbilly, this site is known worldwide for its praise and worship of the Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura. That fancy pants Latin (kath-ARE-teez OW-rah) means "Golden Purifier."

All ten of you regular readers out there must wonder how (and perhaps why) I prostrate myself before bald-headed, carcass-rending scavengers.

Here is the "how":

I woke up this morning with a blistering sinus headache. Got up in the pitch dark and dressed. Went downstairs. It was 5:00 a.m.

Took a couple of Advils and climbed into the car. Drove to a Dunkin Donuts near Wenonah, read the newspaper, drank a cup of tea, and waited for dawn.

As the sky began to brighten, drove the rest of the way to Wenonah and parked near the water tower where the vultures congregate. And as the sun rose, the congregation rose with it, soaring all over the sky, wings touched on the undersides by the first rays of daylight.

It was an explosion of buzzards. At least 70 and probably 100 or more individuals, all swirling together in the cold morning breeze. Barely grazing the treetops, passing over so close to the ground I could see their beady little eyeballs in their bright red bald faces.

I didn't pray or sing hymns, but I did express my awe and wonder at the spectacle, chiefly by saying, "Oh man, this is great!"

Then I drove home, warmed by the close encounter with such a large number of graceful, gorgeous, useful, wonderful winged fowl.

This is "why":

It's all well and good to have faith in things unseen. I do. But there's nothing less sublime about experiencing certain visible, aural, or tactile phenomena in a religious manner.

Long ago, when I spent the summers on an Appalachian mountainside, I became fascinated by turkey vultures -- just from watching them fly. Over the years I have come to realize that the turkey vulture, a bird unknown in the British Isles, has claimed my Celtic soul as a totem animal. Any time I see a vulture, under any circumstances, it immediately arrests all negativity I'm feeling and gives me a burst of joy. Seeing over 70 in the sky at one time is tantamount to, well, to flying myself.

You godda problem widdat?

Of course you don't! If you hadda problem widdis, you'd be reading Rush Limbaugh's blog or watching Focus on the Family or re-runs of Mr. Ed or something. Or you'd be a troll, peppering my comments section with snarky remarks. And you don't do that, so come and watch the buzzards with me!

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

Note on previous post: This Dream Weaver stands aside to the superior powers of Terri in Joburg, who took my friend's dream to its deepest level of interpretation. You can read Terri's award-winning commentary in the comments section of the "Dream On" post. It must be all that nearly-summer sunshine she's getting down there in South Africa.
FROM ANNE
BUZZARD PRIESTESS OF NEW JERSEY

Labels: ,