Monday, March 31, 2008

Paranoia Strikes Deep

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we have nothing to fear except Interstate I-81! Talk about the highway to hell. I hate that road!

The human race has often succumbed to bouts of collective paranoia. And when we look back on them from a historical perspective, they always look appalling. And then we turn right around and do it again. Chalk it up to insufficient evolution.


During my stay with my sister, she gently guided me into a Christian used bookstore. Prominently displayed on a special shelf was a trade paperback called Deliver Us from Evil: Putting a Stop to the Occult Influences Invading Your Home and Community, by Cindy Jacobs.


We at "The Gods Are Bored" were keen to add this work to our library, and at $2.50 the price was right. So now that we bought the book, we're gonna take a stroll through it chapter by chapter. And you, readers, should thank me for this, because it frees you from listening to Focus on the Family!

Before we begin deconstructing Deliver Us from Evil, a word about the author. She and her husband have a ministry called Generals International, and she describes herself as a prophet.

We all know what prophets are. They're fortune-tellers who don't get paid. Except, of course, there's a fee for an appearance by Cindy, but I'm sure there's no profiteering in her prophesying.

While I was doing a little birdwatching this morning, I Googled Cindy and found that on March 14 of this year, some of her own called her a "Jezebel." Ouch! That's gotta sting.

Well, Cindy Jacobs, rest easy. We at "The Gods Are Bored" will be very respectful as we peruse your paranoid worldview. "Jezebel" is so harsh, especially when "nutcase" will do every bit as well.

Actually we plan to use your own quotes to sink your sad boat.

From Deliver Us from Evil, p. 25:

"There are only two sources of supernatural power in this world: that which comes from God and His kingdom and that which comes from Satan's kingdom."

Except that Satan wouldn't have a kingdom unless God gave him one, so that narrows it to one source of supernatural power, allowed by its creator to have both positive and negative influences.

For the love of all that is fruit fly! It's not like God is the only deity who allows his alter ego to go around stirring up trouble. But this particular bipolar deity is currently worshipped by more than 1/3 of the entire population of the globe!

If you're reading this, and you're deathly afraid that every breath you suck in could possibly infest you with Satan, take heart! We at "The Gods Are Bored" can introduce you to scads and scads of fine deities who have boxes of Band-Aids that are older than Satan!

We will also try to poke a few holes in Mrs. Jacobs' arguments, so long as it doesn't get boring and the furniture doesn't get ink-stained. I'm a patient woman, so long as no one smears my chintz.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Deliver Us from Pepsi


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we believe we have found a permanent supplier of TaB Cola! O happy day!


We at "The Gods Are Bored" have decided that anything can be a deity, if only it is worshipped. Ergo:


Hail TaB
Full of fizz,
The buzz be with you.
Blessed art thou amongst soft drinks.
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Diet Coke.
Holy TaB
Mother of sodas,
Make us all winners,
Now, and when we measure our breadth.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Coming Soon to a Rural Area Near You



I asked my daughter The Heir to take some pictures for me while we were home in Western Maryland. The red brick house pictured here is protected from tear-down because it is historical. It was probably built around 1840, which means in all likelihood that it housed wounded soldiers from Antietam. My daughters and I were able to take a tour because the house is empty and someone had broken in, so it was easy to open the door.


The other pictures are the "neighborhood" in which the 1840 house now finds itself. Within 10 years it will be surrounded. The roads have been plotted out, the sewer lines laid. The developer is just waiting for the current real estate bust to turn around, and then he'll start churning out "luxury homes" again. But he can't demolish the old farmhouse. It will sit there till it crumbles from a broken heart.



My sister is concerned about the old house. Since it was broken into, she is sure it will be used by teenagers for Satanic rituals. If you ask me, the devil's not in that house. He is nearby, though. He creates a wasteland and calls it progress.



If you want a luxury home with a view, here's a nice one. It has an enormous solarium facing southwest.


There is no need to ask the bored gods to curse this development. The builders did that when they loaded the luxury homes with great big windows that will catch every ray of afternoon sun, all summer long.
Pay no attention to that sound in the distance. It's just a way of life crumbling. It will soon subside.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Be It Ever So Humble


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," brought to you from the Garden State... New Jersey! Isn't that one of life's little ironies? New Jersey: The Garden State. Well, you can't argue that we grow good vultures here.

The Garden State. Can you picture Bruce Springsteen in bib overalls, forking manure onto his tomato patch? Me neither.

From Tuesday evening until Thursday morning, my daughters and I were guests in my sister's new home in Western Maryland, better known as Chateau Fundie.

I know that the Christian religion brings great solace to my sister, so the fact that she would have Christian art did not surprise me. What did surprise me was the scope and extent of it. Either your eyes fall on the tarnished view outside or on some piece of religious artwork. Or the floor, which is now being occupied by a sprightly and amiable mutt, new to the family.

The dominant motif consists of huge wooden plaques that have been digitally carved with Bible verses, or whole hymns complete with the musical notation. There are alcoves with crucifixes, several Bibles on display, portraits of handsome, white Jesus throughout. A prayer my grandma cross-stitched hangs in the guest bedroom.

I noticed a pretty painted object that was not religious on one of Sis's tables. It turns out that thing was a Native American item brought back from Ecuador by her pastor. He was in Ecuador doing missionary work amongst the heathens who apparently can't do anything right but make gorgeous artwork.

What bugs me the most about Chateau Fundie is that it is one small piece of what I'll call the reconfiguration of the old home county. The house sits in a brand-new development on what once was a Mennonite farm well known to me. Other farms have likewise disappeared under a grid of big box stores and developments. The crowning blow will be the development of Artz Farm, which was one of the largest of the farms between our home and Antietam Battlefield. I believe 1800 homes are planned.

By golly, I never thought I'd get lost in the land of my birth, but I can hardly drive around anymore and recognize anything. I had the deuce of a time finding Sis's development in the dark, even after I'd been there 24 hours. This might not sound surprising until you consider that the development is about three miles from the home where Sis and I grew up.

I will have more to say on the subject of housing developments when my daughter The Heir loads the photos she took for me.

On Thursday afternoon, myself and daughters Heir and Spare went to our favorite nosh pit, the Road Kill Cafe in Artemas, PA. It will be hard to alter the landscape around the Road Kill Cafe, because the place is so deep in the mountains that you need several good hounds to sniff it down. But hey. The developers are trying to bring their McHouses to the area. It just hasn't happened yet.

By the time myself, Heir and Spare stumbled out of the Road Kill Cafe, stuffed to the gills with savory home cooking, I had pretty much decided I couldn't stand the sight of Interstate 95 through the windshield. So we headed north and got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It's a longer trip. I haven't gone that way in years.

We tootled back on the Turnpike, and when we were about 45 miles outside Philly, Mr. Johnson called on the cell phone. The Walt Whitman Bridge -- the one I wanted to take to the Smokestack State -- was closed in both directions due to a hostage situation. The Walt Whitman is Philadelphia's busiest bridge. I was headed straight for an F5 traffic jam.

So I said to self: "Anne, you can't find your way around the old home county anymore. Let's see how you do in your replant region, your good ol' major metropolitan area. Let's find an alternate route."

I did it. And without a GPS.

I circumvented every backup and every roadblock. In the process I passed the exit we take from the Blue Route to get to our Druid Grove meetings (a welcome signpost indeed) and the road to the book store where The Heir works. By the time we got home, the hostage situation had resolved, but the bridge was still closed due to ongoing investigation.

Ah, my messy, cat-infested, book-laden, faerie-filled domain! Ah, New Jersey, trampled into hideous conformity during some other generation! As Dorothy put it, "There's No Place Like Home."

Never did the ancient and widespread New Jersey asphalt look better.

FROM ANNE
THE SEAGULL OF NEW JERSEY

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Off We Go

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," out of town until Friday!

Well, we've lost 4,000 Americans in a battle over crude oil. But be prepared, gentle readers, especially if you're under the age of 25.

(I know that narrows the field quite a bit.)

Read my article in The Smart Set and ask yourself if you can't see a whole new reason for warfare on the horizon.

Back to meaningless laughter on Friday! Christopher Hitchens says women don't know how to be funny. I say he ought to see me trying to put washer fluid in my car, and he'd change his mind.

"Bottled Water World," by Anne Johnson: http://www.thesmartset.com/

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easters, Old and New

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proud to be providing meaningful content to downsized deities everywhere! When someone asks me, "What god do you worship?" I answer, "Whoever needs it most at the moment!"

Here's an Easter story straight from my navel, so toddle off if you came looking for issue-oriented reporting.

About two weeks ago, my daughter The Heir came home from school all excited. "Hey, Mom, guess what?" she said.

I expected she might have gotten an "A" on a paper or a raise at work.

She blurted: "I'm gonna be the Easter Bunny!"

Apparently the local Rotarians recruit members of Snobville High's National Honor Society to work as the Easter Bunny at the annual Snobville egg hunt. The Heir got to dress up in an Easter Bunny costume, ride the fire truck, and hug scads of sweet tots. The Rotarians were very pleased with her performance, rewarding her with one of those really, really humongous chocolate bunnies that you see in the store but never buy because they're too expensive. It's like the Oscar of chocolate bunnies, so of course it's on display on our mantelpiece.

Anyway, as The Heir hugged toddlers and posed for photos, it occurred to me that my former Christian church always has an Easter egg hunt on the Saturday before Easter. It's held in the backyard of my friend Celeste, the only church lady who has remained buddies with me since I strayed the fold.

The Rotarians were only too glad to allow The Heir to have the bunny suit for a few more hours. So I phoned Celeste and said we'd be over to greet the sweet little Methodist kids. And off we went.

I formally severed ties with the Snobville United Methodist Church three years ago after undergoing a period of intense enlightenment. So when I arrived at the Methodist Easter egg hunt in escort of The Heir (in her costume), I saw some people who I hadn't seen in three years. To say their reception was frosty is putting it mildly. Not even a "thank you" for bringing The Heir in her fluffy suit, even though this event had never had an Easter Bunny before!

Of course Celeste was her usual sweet self. And another gal who has every reason to blacken my eye for not helping with some DAR stuff was clearly glad to see me. Otherwise, although I greeted everyone warmly and asked how they and their children were doing, the warmth only flowed one way. No one even asked why I was there.

This behavior has very little to do with my choice to leave the church. (I never really made my reasons public.) What it actually is, is normal for that group of people. Except for Celeste and the DAR chick, the Snobville Methodists are just plainly a bunch of cold fish. No wonder it was so easy for the bored gods to gain my ears! I was surrounded by Ice Mommies. God can have them.

Nobody even inquired after my daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Don't tell me it's because no one remembered their names. Who can forget names like Heir and Spare?

The Heir did her bunny gig for the Methodist kids (who were nearly as cold as their folks), and we hoofed it out of there, both eager for a cold can of TaB Cola. Which we had at home, and it tasted awful as always but soothed every frayed nerve.

On this Easter Sunday, self, Heir and Spare climbed into the car, quit Snobville via the Walt Whitman Bridge, and drove to our Druid Grove gathering of Alban Eiler. I've never quite gotten out of Church Lady mode, so we had dyed three dozen eggs for our event. The Heir hid the eggs in a field, but then she had to go retrieve a dozen for the ritual!

We had a lovely bonfire in a park-sanctioned pit, and enjoyable, spiritually-rewarding ritual, a fun time spreading blessings and hunting eggs, and then we repaired to a nearby Irish pub for some extra warmth.

I think I'm doing better now. I wish The Heir could have kept the bunny suit through Sunday, because now I hang with a group of people who know how to treat Easter Bunnies and other human beings.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Poem


I think this is from the Carmina Gaedelica.


I will rise early in the morning
I will sing my rune and rhyme
I will go sunwise with my basket
To the nest of my hen
I will place my left hand on my chest
My right hand to my heart
I will seek the loving wisdom of the gods
Abundant in grace, in broods, and in flocks
I will close my two eyes quickly
Moving slowly, as in blind man’s bluff
I will stretch my left hand over there
To the hen’s nest on that side
The first egg which I bring near me,
I will put it withershins round my head
I will put the egg down in my right hand
So there will be one on the basket
I will raise my left hand on high
I will stretch it out quickly
I will lift two eggs down here
There shall then be three in the basket
I will stretch my right hand again
I will lift three eggs at a time
I will seek a ruling from the gods
Then there will be six in the basket
I will raise my left hand a second time
I will take down four eggs with it
In the name of the gods, all powerful
Then there will be ten in the basket
With my right fist of the strongest claim
I will lift two eggs in my fingers
When I’m done, my brood will be complete
From beneath the breast of the speckled hen
I will put soot on their two ends
Not saying a word all the while
In the name of the gods of sea and hill
In the name of the protectors and guides
In the name of Aine, mother of all
In the name of Arthur of sovereignty
I will set the eggs down on Thursday
And the happy brood will come on Friday.


FROM ANNE


THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS


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Friday, March 21, 2008

Guess I'll Never Stray Far from Home


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Please pass Go and collect $200! Just not from me. I might be able to spot you a dollar, if you promise to pay me back.

Do you own a passport? I'll bet if you do, today you're wondering who's been looking at it, tampering with it, or otherwise snooping around inside its (supposedly) secure cover.

I don't own a passport. I've gone so far as to have the photo shot, but I'm a terrific procrastinator, so I've never sealed the deal. Ditto for my daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Kind of sad to think they've never left America's borders. But damn, America's got big borders. There's plenty to see here.

When I write my drivel for this web log, I fully expect that all kinds of people will show up, snoop around, make judgments, gossip about me. But who cares? I'm aware of your eyes, reader.

But the thought that some "contract employee" could eyeball my passport, if I had one, is distasteful.

Let's make sure we all know what "contract employees" are. These are people who work inside the government for outside companies. The government saves money on contract employees because contract employees don't get government benefits, which are some of the best around.

I was just conferring with Mr. Johnson about this. If it's so easy for any day laborer to access private passport files, who's to say that those files can't be cooked to make it look like you've been dealing drugs out of Paraguay?

Here's another question. Is the IRS also using contract employees? Excuse me, Fearless Leader, you can call me a godless liberal if you want to, but please hire a regular workforce. For the love of fruit flies! Contract workers in the State Department!

I guess that's how they save the money they need to bring democracy to Iraq.

I used to dream of going to Scotland some day, or Paris. And I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Canada. When I was living in downtown Detroit, it was easier to shop in Windsor, Canada than at home. And there are no more beautiful cities than Quebec and Toronto. But back in the day when I bought my toothpaste and skivvies in Windsor, all you needed to cross the border was a birth certificate. Pretty soon, just to get to Niagara Falls, you're gonna need that little blue book.

O Canada, I think I'll gaze at your verdant shores from this side of the Detroit River from now on. If underpaid, no-benefits contract workers can plunge their schnozzes into my passport at will, why would I want to travel abroad?

Passport-free I remain,

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Thursday, March 20, 2008

That Pesky Constitution


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," viewing the Supreme Court with a wary eye since 1991! So far we've avoided having to learn about Intelligent Design in schools, but thorny issues still bedevil our learned justices.

This week the court is hearing arguments about a handgun ban in Washington, DC. Certain citizens of our nation's capital think this ban is unconstitutional.

At issue is the interpretation of the Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Now, you guys and gals out there who want freedom from religion, just remember that there's more than one Amendment on that ancient parchment. The troublesome clause above has been used for years by groups like the NRA to oppose gun control legislation.

To me the Second Amendment seems contradictory. Do you understand it? Seems to me to suggest that only the well-regulated militia ought to have the arms. Personally I would not call a bunch of drug dealers on a DC street corner a well-regulated militia. Nor does the term spring to mind when some scary wackadoo runs amok at a university and starts shooting everything that moves.

On the other hand, the second half of the sentence states that We the People can "keep and bear arms." Does that mean people who aren't part of a well-regulated militia?

Personally I have not been, nor am I now, a member of a well-regulated militia. So I don't own any guns. Guns give me the creeps, because, you know, "production for use" and all that. If I owned a gun, I'd be so curious whether it was working or not that I'd probably plug some innocent bunny or squirrel from time to time. And that wouldn't be very nice.

In the state of New Jersey, getting permission to purchase a firearm is a long and arduous process. A local newspaper reporter decided to try her luck. The cops came to her house and interviewed her entire family. Then they interviewed her neighbors. Then they did a thorough background check. She had to release her medical records. I think it took her about two months to get a permit, and by that time her privacy had been pretty much ripped to shreds.

Across the river, in Pennsylvania, it takes about three hours to buy a gun. Then you have to wait a day before you can buy another gun. The state legislature debated changing the gun laws -- lots of people from inner city Philadelphia went to Harrisburg to support stricter controls -- but Pennsylvania's law held.

On this one I think I would be a strict constructionist. You want a gun? Join the National Guard. That's our well-regulated militia.

But what about the little old lady in the bad neighborhood who owns a handgun and knows how to use it? Wouldn't an intruder think twice before trying to rob her?

My personal solution to this dilemma would be to dig up the authors of the Constitution, re-vivify them, set them adrift in an inner city for a few days, allow them to sample all the state-of-the-art automatic weaponry, and then convene them for discussion. They might want to tweak the grammar on the Second Amendment a little bit.

As for me, the only arms I'll ever bear are the two that attach to my body at the shoulder. Can't kill bunnies with those.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On the Relative Lengths of Wars

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we like our roses to have thorns, our ice cream to be fattening, and our sofas to be stain-free! Since 2005 this site has advocated breaking up the One God monopoly in favor of a plethora of polytheistic pantheons. One size fits all? Pish tosh. If a piece of clothing says "One Size Fits All," that only means it won't look good on anyone.

For my ten regular readers, this is a banner day! My story on the Berkeley Springs Water Tasting is at banner top at The Smart Set. Go have a sip. And then come back here tomorrow for the latest laffs!

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the War in Iraq. So this conflict has now surpassed the U.S.Civil War, World Wars One and Two, the Korean War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War, and -- a personal favorite since the old ancestors were involved -- the Whiskey Rebellion.

Oh, my bad! I forgot the War of 1812!

Of course, all of these wars pale in comparison to the Hundred Years' War (which I believe began sometime in the 1300s, I'm too lazy to look it up) or the Crusades -- lump those babies together and you've got three centuries of fighting. There's also that conflict that was never declared and was decided mostly by biological warfare, but still has pockets of resistance yet today: The War between Eastern and Western Hemispheres. If we say it began in 1492 and ended at Wounded Knee, that's one friggin long war.

Even that war is just a tiny blip on the radar when compared to the Biggest War of All Time: Them vs. Us.

The War of Them vs. Us has raged since the Pliocene, maybe even earlier. It is grounded in the very fiber of humankind, which consistently shows itself as a species to be fettered by a bad combination of survival instincts and the ability to think in ways that enhance personal survival.

Look around you. From the teams on the Little League field right up to the Nazis invading Poland, we're wired to see the world as Them vs. Us. And we are better than they are. We're smarter, we're stronger, we deserve more, they should listen to us, and then they'd be so much better off! We've got it right, they've got it wrong, how can we convince them to be like us? And if we can't convince them to be like us, wouldn't it be better to get rid of them, so that they don't try to make us into them?

We at "The Gods Are Bored" try to advocate a big, broad, flexible outlook as a way to advance the evolution of humankind. And then in the next breath we pronounce Rick Santorum a moron. Which he is. He's one of them. And we don't like them.

So then, how do we transcend this genetic glitch that leads to war anniversaries? Sorry, this sermon is open-ended. We at "The Gods Are Bored" don't have an answer. But we do believe that whatever deity actually created this species ought to get right to work on the problem, and solve it in a hell of a hurry.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy Buzzard Day!


Welcome to "The Buzzards Are Best!" I'm head priestess, Annie, a.k.a. Buzzy!


Every year on March 15, the enlightened citizens of Hinckley, Ohio celebrate the return of vultures to their hamlet. This incursion of Sacred Thunderbirds is Hinckley's sign that spring has sprung. They throw a big bash (well, actually a little bash, it's a small town).


Hinckley is the only place in America that has a sacred site dedicated to vultures, with a sign and everything. I have made my pilgrimage there (1983) and am therefore cleared for heaven.


So today is Buzzard Day. Spend it wisely. Throw a rack of spare ribs into a field. Not too close to the road, though. You don't want some bored god to be flattened by a 16-wheeler.


O ye Sacred Thunderbirds! O ye Mecca of same, Hinckley, Ohio!


Our operators are standing by to take your call.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Peace at Last?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Just remember, if you drink 40 million glasses of water, you'll fulfill the equivalent of one Vicodin. So, bottoms up!

Two days after I poured a whole bottle of Triple Sec at the feet of the dread Tiki (see below), he departed as mysteriously as he came. He's gone, there's no sign of him. Nor are there the charred ashes of a bonfire.

Such are the ways of the bored gods. Is your god too busy to answer your prayers? Our operators are standing by to take your call.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tiki Update and Great New Meme!



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where your advice is welcome and wanted! We value your comments, because that's how we learn to deal with bad bored gods!

Oh dear readers, the dreadful Tiki now lies in blissful booze-fueled slumber on a bed of leaves! Some time in the 24 hours after I poured a whole bottle of Triple Sec at his feet, he fell over! I guess I got him rip-roarin' drunk.
Exhibit A: Truth in Advertising




My daughter The Heir thinks that when the Tiki wakes up with a morning head he's gonna be worse than ever. What do you think?
Evn tagged me with a witty new meme. I couldn't have thought of a better one in a month of Pagan holidays! Here it is:

10 RANDOM THINGS FROM YOUR DESK DRAWER

Open the drawer closest to your computer, pull out 10 things, and say what they are.

(Evn, this is bloody brilliant. Whovever you work for ought to give you a raise).

Annie's Random Writer's Desk Drawer Objects

1. The first bank book that ever was put into my name, from First Federal Savings and Loan of Hagerstown, 27-33 N. Jonathan St., Hagerstown, MD. Last transaction on last page, 14 July 1978. Withdrawal, $130. I needed some money for Bastille Day. Vive la France!

2.Interesting Scenes Pennsylvania Turnpike: "America's Super Highway." Postcard booklet with 8 cards of the brand-new Pennsylvania Turnpike. Postcard stamps cost 1 1/2 cents "without message." I will sell this to the highest bidder, email me.

3. A bead necklace The Spare bought at the flea market. Sky blue.

4. Mildly used Crest toothbrush. Also available to highest bidder.

5. Crewel embroidery scissors. Wouldn't part with them for the world, so don't ask.

6. Tape measure. So finally I found it! Damn faeries! I've been looking for it everywhere!

7. Another treasure: Dancing Bear stamp from Woodstock Trading Company. Does anyone have an ink blotter?

8. Multicolored lizard pin. Defies any other description. Will autograph for highest bidder.

9. Green ponytail holder with jingle bells, left over from Xmas, perfect for Home Rule Day, highest bidder as above.

10. Tarot of the Holy Grail. Tarot deck based on the Knights Templar and other elements of Medieval mysticism. Possibly the most fascinating Tarot deck I've ever seen.

Oh gosh, now I'm rooting around like I usually do when I'm hunting for a pen, or a pencil, or a paper clip! Can't resist this one last gem:

11. Baltimore Orioles World Series 1983 "American League Champions" pin. Authentic. Pardon me for borrowing from Jimmy Buffett, but, how it got here I haven't a clue. Bids start at $100.

This meme is far too great for a slow spread. I hereby tag everyone who reads my blog today! Open that desk drawer! Spill those secrets!

I love you all.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Geezer

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on March 11, 2008!

Today when I left for work, the American Association of Incipient Geezers met me in the driveway. My membership has been approved.

It's my birthday.

The year I was born, Alaska and Hawaii became states.
Fidel Castro took power in Cuba.
Barbie was born too. She's aged better than me.
Eisenhower was president.

Too young to be a hippie, too old to be a yuppie, I remain

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Free Advice


Is Daylight Savings Time getting you down? Be on the lookout for this handy, legal product. Once you get past the taste, it damn well keeps you awake.

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H2 Whoa!


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Gods and Goddesses are Great! Hallelujia!

Worship as you please, just don't stain my furniture.

I've been working and working on an essay for The Smart Set, an online magazine. When the story runs, I'll link ya to it. It's about my latest lucrative (not) line of work ... water tasting.

I attended a water tasting competition in Berkeley Springs two weekends ago. I was a judge. In the space of six hours, I ranked 71 different kinds of water in four categories. At the end, one of my fellow judges and I realized we probably drank about 82 ounces of water in that time.

So, does all water taste alike? Well, if you've had 71 tastes in 6 hours, it does all start to taste the same. I imagine 71 orgasms in 6 hours would all start to feel the same. But hey, I'd try it anyway!

On Sunday night, as part of preparation for the story, I staged a mini-water tasting at home. I chose five types of water:

1. Berkeley Springs from the spring head
2. Tap water that runs from that stupid little spout on the refrigerator door
3. Water fountain water from the Vo-Tech
4. Dasani
5. Fiji

I used the ranking sheet from the official water tasting competition. My daughter The Spare helpfully brought me each different water in an identical glass, one at a time. It was a blind taste test. The last water she brought out was the best by a long shot.

Here is how the waters ranked at the end of the tasting, from worst to best:

5. Vo-Tech water fountain
4. Tap water from the stupid spout on the fridge
3. Berkeley Springs
2. Fiji
1. Dasani

Honest, I didn't cheat!

Now here's the amazing thing. Without looking, and before The Spare told me which entry was which, I correctly identified the source of three out of five samples. The only ones I got mixed up were Dasani and Fiji.

If you can do the math, go ahead. But I know that way beats the odds.

One note: Berkeley Springs water might not rank at the top taste-wise, but it is super for the digestion. Kind of like a Metamucil that isn't disgusting. So drink it to your health, just like George Washington did throughout his life!

The moral of this sermon: Before you plunk down $1.49 for that nine-ounce bottle of Fiji Water that leaves a carbon footprint the size of a Brontosaurus, grab a Dasani. It's the Wonder Bread of bottled waters, the product of scientific wizardry, and it was probably bottled not far from where you live.

As always, this sound advice offered free of charge.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Tiki Rolls On


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," stubborn no more in the wake of deity-induced cataclysms!

Dear readers, I surely do appreciate your advice. Finally, brought to my knees, I am going to accept it.

Tonight, after dark, I will pour at the feet of the Dread Tiki an entire bottle of Triple Sec. Please do not tell the Tiki that I had this bottle in my basement unopened from the time of my life (not long ago) when I made those blender drinks with little umbrellas in them. Now I dispense with the blender and the umbrellas, so the Triple Sec can perhaps be of use pacifying a Pacific deity.

This bored god is the worst troublemaker I've ever seen. Since he reared his hypomanic head, I've had to go to the doctor, I've had trouble with both the Heir and the Spare, my basement flooded, and a windstorm blew down the power lines.

Maybe all the trouble our country is in right now stems from some Tiki lurking in the bushes at the White House. I have a whole new respect for this particular set of deities, and a burning desire to get one of them off my back.

Till dark I remain,

ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Friday, March 07, 2008

The First Estate

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You can read here for free, but if you want a piece of pie you'll have to give me $2.50. After all, as our Fearless Leader noted today, the economy is slowing just a little bit.

I make good pie, so it's worth the investment.

Maybe about two years ago I found myself visiting the in-laws on the night when their local Roman Catholic private school was having its annual fundraiser. Since my niece and nephew attend the school, I was given to understand (in a nice way, my i-l's are swell) that if I wanted to eat I'd have to buy the goods at the fair.

The eats were so-so and pretty pricey, but I found little to quibble with about that Catholic School fundraising fair. First of all, you could buy beer and wine, as much as you wanted, or until your dough ran out. Then there was the gambling. Roulette and Bingo till the wee hours. And the schoolgrounds were jumpin', let me tell ya. It was so crowded that my brother-in-law gallantly stood in line for all the beer, all the time.

That left my sis-in-law and myself together at a picnic table. We rarely get to talk alone, so it was nice.

I said to her, "Golly, this fair must pull in heaps of largesse for your school! Look at this place!"

She replied: "Not really. We have to send half of all our profits to the Vatican."

I said: "My dear, surely you jest! You pay tuition here, and this fundraiser covers the rest, but you have to give up half the money to that fat guy in the white gown?"

I said it just like that. My sister-in-law knows me.

S-i-l said: "Did you know that just one of those Cardinal's robes costs $30,000? They need the money from these fundraisers to pay for that lavish stuff."


Yes, she was bitter. And I was glad, because I felt free -- especially after several expensive cold Budweisers -- to vent freely about her church.


(What I didn't tell her is how I plan to work with my niece and nephew when they get older so that they lapse brilliantly.)

I was reminded of this incident day before yesterday when I read the Philadelphia Daily News. A young Hispanic girl is spending her senior year of high school working in a pizza parlor because her parents have an outstanding bill at a Catholic school in Philly called "Little Flower School." The girl's parents owe the school $4800.

(I'm not bothering to link you to Little Flower, because they have a deliberately user-unfriendly site that makes it impossible to send nasty emails. Trust me on that one. I really wanted to crack on them.)

Not only can this girl not attend her parochial school, she also cannot attend public school, because the LITTLE F***** FLOWER POPE-CLOTHIER will not release her transcripts until the bill is paid!

This girl's parents aren't scofflaws. Her dad had a massive heart attack and had to go on disability. They have offered to work out a payment plan to discharge the debt.

When the Daily News reporter called the school, this is what the Catholic Church had to say about its tuition students:

1. We give lots of scholarship money out. You never write about that.
2. If we didn't have this no-transcript policy, our students would bail to the publics and leave us with unpaid tuition.
3. We do not negotiate payment plans, because after students graduate, their parents don't pay up.

Someone please tell me how anyone could kneel to such a church. They are ruining a young girl's life in the name of collecting $4800, of which presumably $2400 will go to the Vatican to buy pretty red robes. And I love the trust they place in parents and students who are supposed to be educated to the plimsol line with sound Catholic doctrine.

The girl's mother says this is testing their faith in God. If you ask me, they ought to flunk that test and go looking for a better god.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Anxieties of Anne



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," consumed with anxiety since 1962! I know, I know, you'd never guess it from reading this drivel, but I'm a nervous wreck. I was born that way.

Today I've got a new worry that's nagging at me. It should really take a number and be seated, because there are a gazillion other things to worry about. But it's nagging at me like a hangnail.

I've been reading a book called 1491, by Charles C. Mann. The writer brings together all the recent archeological findings about the Western Hemisphere's human population prior to the arrival of Columbus. And let's just say that for every Athens and Sparta, there was a corresponding clash of city-states on these shores, stretching back in time to, like, Stonehenge era or farther.

Today I was reading that the ancient Maya civilizations had huge pantheons of gods and goddesses, almost all of them lost to the mists of time. One presumes that other Native American cultural groups also had deities, or a single deity, whose name and exploits have vanished from all human memory, no chance of retrieval.

What's worrying me is simple. Suppose one of those lost deities was the One True Deity? You know what I mean -- the one Big Cahuna we're all supposed to worship to the exclusion of all others?

If you look at the Christian religion, you find millions upon millions of people who lived before Jesus who never had the chance to be saved by him, so those people must all be in hell.

What if it also works the other way? What if some ancient Indian tribe pulled the lucky straw and got the One and Only? Now all those people are gone, they can't tell us about their True Deity, and so we're as lost as if we were ancient Greeks or modern Hindus!

You see, the bored gods we know about are just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands and thousands of deities who we know nothing about at all. If one of them's the Big Dog, it won't matter if we're Christian or Pagan or Golden Dawn. We'll all be cooked.




To make matters worse, the dread Tiki is still haunting my neighborhood, and something is hitting the fan in gobs around here. I guess the d.T. didn't like the wishbone I left for it any more than it liked the little gold pin for service to disabled veterans.

Oh, what is to be done? I wish I knew.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Black History Month

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If you've just stumbled in here for the first time, well .... gosh, I'm sorry about that broken step! I should have it fixed. Do you need a Band-Aid?

I have spent the last six weeks teaching world history to ninth graders at the Vo-Tech. I have 130 students, and only two of them are white. The rest are African American, Hispanic, and Asian. Only about 12 of my students are Asian. (They are all children of Vietnamese refugees.)

New Jersey has a "core curriculum" for each and every course that is taught in the state's public schools. And the world history core curriculum does not include a unit on Africa. Not even ancient Egypt. It's as if the entire continent of Africa doesn't exist where world history is concerned.

I couldn't begin to enter the minds of the high-paid consultants who devise educational core curricula. It's a tough job, I'm sure. And tough jobs almost always attract morons with meaningless credentials. So there you are.

However, my African American ninth graders, fully 40 percent of the total, felt that they should be learning something about black people during Black History Month. And yet I persisted with the core curriculum, shoving John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Robespierre, Napoleon, and (next week) John Stuart Mill into their fine young minds.

No, it doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me either. I'm glad you agree.

I have covered for the missing history teacher through a whole marking period. It was her habit to assign one major marking period project. So I followed suit.

My marking period project involved having the students talk to a family member about their own family histories, compiling a family tree, etc. This, I thought, would enable the black students to learn black history, the Hispanic students to learn Hispanic history, and the Asian kids to learn Asian history.

The projects were due last Friday. And amidst the moaning, complaining, and prevaricating, some real gems came to the surface. One student discovered that he was related to the recently-retired mayor of Philadelphia -- and to me, since we both have Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. Two students descend from Native Americans, their parents knew which tribes. There were tales of sugar cane factories and getting the hell out of the South, of hopscotch and Desert Storm, of love that grandparents feel for the kids asking the questions.

One student wrote that her grandmother's grandmother warned of a monster called the cuco that would come out from under the bed at night and eat children who misbehaved. Another reported that his great-great-great grandfather, who worked in the sugar fields, became afflicted with a leg injury that grew so painful he took a machete and hacked his leg off ... dying from blood loss. This student read his paper out loud to the class, drawing appropriate "oooooooos" from the audience.

I did not clear this project with the school administration before I assigned it. I figured they'd probably say it shouldn't be done, privacy and all that. However, I did include my school email address and school extension on the assignment sheet, telling the students that if their parents objected, the parents could call and I'd give another assignment to that student. No parent called.

So that was my solution to a Black History Month in which the state of New Jersey expected me to cover the Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the empire of Napoleon, and the Cultural Revolution. Ergo, all white dudes, except for Marie Antoinette. (Wasn't she a pip? Sort of like Alice Walton, only better looking.)

Moral of this sermon: The most important history is your own, what your people have gone and done and been through. Unless you're a consultant to a state committee on core curriculum standards. If you're one of those, you probably leaped straight from monkey to man, with nothing in between.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In the Realm of the Sacred Thunderbird

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," nursing our sore bones in the wake of this year's East Coast Vulture Festival! If you are a regular here (a sign of keen intellect, by the way), you're familiar with this author's reverence for all things vulture.



It's safe to say that Vulture Fest 2008 will be a great success in attracting new believers to the wide-open faith of the Sacred Thunderbird! In my position as one of the lead shamans (that's me in the forefront), I can tell you that many vibrant youngsters left the evening with a whole new outlook on the Thunderbird. One pair of little boys in particular kept shouting good-bye to me until they were a block away from the ritual. Ahhh. What a happy feeling, to be a missionary on behalf of a worthy bored deity!

Our service last night included a presentation by a bird rehabilitation clinic in South Carolina. They use birds that can be tamed but can't be returned to the wild as teaching tools, to give audiences better appreciation for the mishaps that can befall America's raptor population.

The presenters brought a red-tailed hawk, a falcon, a barred owl, and ... drum roll ... a black vulture. The birds were trained to fly across the audience's heads, which in a big multi-purpose school room can be impressive indeed. The vulture was content to strut around the aisles so everyone could see him close-up. I got the impression that he would have done a tap dance for whatever it was they were feeding him morsel by morsel. But that's vultures for you. They are among the easiest of birds to tame, because they're smart and they love to eat.

Here's an important item from the sermon that I simply must post. When you are driving in the car along a highway, do not drop food out the car window. Gosh, I've always done that without thinking. Why drive around with an apple core under the dash? But the shaman in charge of the wild birds said that the amount of food hurled from cars along highways has increased the number of mice, rats, and rabbits along highways, and has thus led to bird mortality when nice hawks and such go after the prey and run smack-dab into a 16-wheeler full of Pampers.

One member of the congregation last night said he'd never seen a dead buzzard on the roadside, that vultures never seemed to get killed by cars. Au contraire. I've seen dead buzzards all wound in with the road kill they were munching ... sobbbb ... so I know it does happen. The shaman said the same.

Here are two facts from the Vulture Canon that I have often repeated (so often, in fact, that I've gotta find a new topic):

1. Vultures do not grab living things, including baby kittens. They get accused of doing that, sort of like Pagans get accused of slaughtering kittens in pentagrams. False, false, false! Vultures can't grasp things with their feet or carry weighty objects in their beaks. Similarly, true Pagans wouldn't dream of killing a kitten or worshipping a deity that demanded such rot.

2. When threatened, a vulture defends itself by vomiting. I've never been cornered, but this seems like a sane defense policy, and a lot easier on the joints than kung fu. However, I do have some doubts that my vomit would be as unsavory as a vulture's, except maybe after a heaping helping of Spam and TaB.

So, in conclusion, let me just say that I feel honored and privileged to be a high head priestess of the East Coast Vulture Festival. And if you think it's easy to walk around in that costume for five hours, go ahead and try it. By the end I was so deprived of oxygen I thought I was an Andean condor. So might it be!

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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