Sunday, November 30, 2008

International Anne Johnson Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you tired of a religion so crowded with followers that people get stomped at 5:00 a.m. just trying to bust their way into the church? Step aside from that madness! There's a kind bored Goddess who will shower you with serendipitous gifts, just if you smile at Her. Stand aside from that throng! It's evil.

There are so many holidays, and the biggest ones fall in the darkest months. That's a tough sleigh ride, my friends. Think about it. Do you ever see anyone stressed out over the Fourth of July? Even if your large and dysfunctional family gathers on that day, they all seem to get along.

Not so for Thanksgiving and Xmas. Why is it that these two pustules on the holiday calendar bring out the very worst in everyone? And not just your mother-in-law. You can understand that. But how about the dude in the car behind you, honking his fool head off because you dare to obey the speed limit? What happens to people this time of year?

I know, I know. It's the short days, the dark months, the lack of sunlight, the cold. Which brings me full circle to my first question: Who decided to schedule big family gatherings at this time?

I've given some serious thought to this, and I've decided to create a new holiday. About a year ago I plugged my name into some computer thingy that told me there are 341,000 Anne Johnsons in the United States of America. (I wish I'd bookmarked that.)

So, all you Anne Johnsons out there, let's get together and choose a date, and on that date we rule.

Personally I'm not in favor of scheduling this holiday between October 31 and February 14. My preference would be some time in August. Beach weather. So that, on International Anne Johnson Day, all the posh seashore resorts will be sprinkled with delighted Anne Johnsons, soaking up the sun and reading an improving novel, occasionally venturing into the surf, and then spending the evening strolling the boardwalk with nary a family member in sight!

If your name is Anne Johnson, please contact me to help me secure a date for International Anne Johnson Day. For the purposes of this occasion, we will graciously include Ann Johnsons as well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alpha Female

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Thanksgiving 2008! Don't forget to set a place at the table for your ancestors, and/or the bored god or goddess who leads you through life.

I am now the Alpha female in my husband's family, which means that Thanksgiving is at my house, and I am responsible for the lion's share of the chores. This is fine with me ... but the problem is that I was preceded by two extraordinarily formidable Alpha females, and both of them are here today with me.

Mr. Johnson's grandmother is now 95. When I picked her up yesterday at her waterfront home near Annapolis, she wasn't sure what holiday we would be celebrating. But I can remember a time when she served 25 people Thanksgiving dinner in her home ... and I didn't so much as bring rolls.

Mr. Johnson's mother is 75. She's still feisty enough to want things to be done her way, and to mess in and see that it happens. Again, in her heyday she was a Grade-A chef, which I've never been. When I picked her up at her condo in Baltimore yesterday, she stuck me with yet more dime store decor ... she wants to redecorate my house.

Yesterday I drove a round trip of 250 miles to pick up these two ladies, including a one-way transit of the stunning Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Wish me luck as I navigate today, hopefully having washed the dishes in time to see the Eagles receive yet another drubbing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Twilight, as Seen by Anne

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," celebrating the return of the vultures to Wenonah, New Jersey! More and more buzzards appear each evening as winter settles in. You see, here in New Jersey every bit of countryside has been cleared for development ... leaving old Wenonah, with its large, mature pines, as the buzzard roost of record.

My daughter The Spare wanted to see this vampire movie Twilight over the weekend. What was remarkable was that she agreed that I could come along. (This is a huge concession when you're 14.) Then she invited two of her friends who I can actually tolerate. Off we toddled to Twilight.

You get to be a certain age, and some things occur to you that pass right over the head of a 14-year-old audience. Like, the entire cast of vampire high schoolers looked like they ought to be sipping pina coladas at Trader Vic's. And who applied the makeup? Little heavy on the white powder, eh? If I were the school nurse, I'd be sending home sharply worded letters about anemia.

How do you go to high school without touching anyone all day, every day? Without being openly OCD, I mean. Surely you're going to rub against someone in the crowded corridor. And if that someone is as cold as a corpse, you're gonna say, "Whoa. Dude! You feel dead!"

I know this about crowded corridors. I work in a high school. I wish they would call me more often.

But the school is one thing, and locking lips with a vampire for purposes of snogging is another.

Hopefully you were never shoved over to an open casket and ordered to give dead Granny a goodbye kiss. I think that kind of thing went out of vogue with the Victorian era. But if his fingers are cold as ice, what about his lips? Is that as easy to overlook as morning breath?

Turns out vampires can be killed by being beheaded and set on fire. Which leaves nothing behind for Sacred Thunderbirds. Objectionable content.

A word about the acting. Sucks, except for the dad. He was pretty good. Furthermore, it is very easy to find the real James Dean on DVD, and whoa, doggies, he is sexy like Saturday night. Our dear Edward in Twilight is a pale -- very, very, very pale -- imitation.

So, when it comes to Twilight, we at "The Gods Are Bored" say, "Save your money." Unless you've got a 14-year-old who allows you to go along, and joke afterwards with her pals at Friendly's. Her pals who say you're the coolest mom around ...

Wow. That was a great movie!

FROM ANNE
BABBLE WITHOUT A PAUSE

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Contest Continues!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where silence is golden and leafblowers are compost! Give me a break. I mean, a rake!

Warm and hearty congratulations to Sageweb, winner of our first weekly Christmas contest! Sage won herself a hopelessly tangled string of Christmas lights, and I'm sure she'll find plenty of uses for it!

This week we have another fabulous prize for a commenter drawn at random from the chat chart between now and Black Friday. You will win....


Yes, readers! Look upon them and weep! Rainbow-hued candy canes by SweetTarts, radiating all the colors of Mardi Gras just in time for Christmas! You get the whole box, still in its cellophane wrapper, because I am not the slightest big interested in tasting one of these.

But maybe you are! Maybe you decorate your house with bold, summery colors during the Yuletide season! Or perhaps you have a tot who has bellowed for a box of these every time you've gone to the grocery store since September. Take a chance! Think how your child's eyes will light up (and teeth will rot within) when you dole these confections out.

Increase your holiday cheer by leaps and bounds by entering our Great "Gods Are Bored" Christmas giveaway now! Just leave a comment, and if you don't have a link, leave your email. And then plan how you will use these Day-glo candy canes in a tasteful and appropriate manner when they arrive at your doorstep! Good luck!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Interview with a Bored Goddess ... about Feet!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where downsized deities dig in during Depressions! Yes, there are many wonderful gods and goddesses in need of praise and worship stimulus packages. Do your part!

It's been ages since we had a guest speaker here at "The Gods Are Bored." But today I have a perplexing problem, and so I sought a helpful Goddess for advice. This Goddess is not only bored but pissed off as well, so be kind to Her. Let's give a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to "Fair Ankled" Nike, Ancient Greek Goddess of Victory!


Anne: And it's not a coincidence about your name being on those overpriced sneakers made with slave labor, is it?

Nike: No! Damn profiteers! They stole My name, stuck it on an athletic shoe, and all they do is exploit! Oh, don't get me started... *gnashes teeth*

Anne: Given the sorry history of that product, You should really be glad, O Goddess of Victory, that so few people know where the name came from.

Nike: Yes, but recall that I'm a member of the Greek pantheon, and we Greek Goddesses like to be lavishly praised and worshipped. So I would like some airtime. For instance, would it have hurt Michael Jordan just once to have said, "I owe this championship to Nike?"

Anne: He sure did his part to peddle ... the shoes.

Nike: Wait till he gets to Hades. We'll see who the victor is then!

Anne: Emmmm. Let's move along. Great Goddess Nike, I've asked you here today because I have a rather unusual problem.

Nike: You're not victorious enough, I guess, and you'd like me to change that?

Anne: No, that's okay. When you get to my age, the definition of victory widens considerably. Like, if I get to the Vo-Tech on time in the morning, that's a victory. If the computer works, that's a victory. No, actually I want to ask you about my daughter The Spare.



Nike: Oh, she's a cutie!

Anne: Yes, and a goddess in her own mind, trust me. But Nike, The Spare has a problem. She keeps hurting her feet! I mean, little bumps and bruises and cuts and warts and such usually get spread out all over the body. But every one of The Spare's injuries, great and small, have occurred to her feet.

Nike: Very odd. Examples?

Anne: Well, she had an ingrown Plantar wart that required painful surgery. She got her foot stuck in the spokes of a bicycle wheel -- emergency room for X-rays. She stepped on broken glass. Antibiotics. She got a sore that wouldn't heal. More antibiotics. And last night, at the homecoming dance, someone trampled her with a stiletto high heel. She had to come home early. Which was like death to her, believe you me. What can I do to keep her feet safely stuck to her legs?

Nike: This is a no-brainer, Anne. As one of the many bored Goddesses who regularly follows your blog (and thus tags along as you go through life), I have noticed that your daughter The Spare doesn't like to wear socks.

Anne: Yes, she is often a sockless wonder. Today I forced her into a pair, because it's 20 degrees outside.

Nike: She needs to wear socks. And not just any socks. Magical socks.

Anne: I don't know where to buy Magical socks. And if you say Wal-Mart, I'll opt for the continuance of the foot injuries ... and so will she.

Nike: No! Any socks will do. You buy them, I will infuse them with Magic. Oooopa! End of problem!

Anne: You would do that for me, O Great Goddess Nike?

Nike: Of course! It has not passed my notice that you have never purchased a pair of Nike shoes, even when they were a bargain and you sorely needed athletic footwear.

Anne: I don't think I've ever seen a bargain pair of Nikes, but you're right, I do not purchase anything that has a swoosh on it, even from the thrift store.

Nike: Go get the girl some comfy socks, and I'll do the rest.

Anne: It's on days like this when my job here is so rewarding. Goddess-speed to you, Nike the Victorious! And please take a fresh bagel with you on your way back to Olympus!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hoping for the Future of Eco-Burials


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," o ye who seek guidance from the Sacred Thunderbird! If Samhain is over, guess what is right around the corner??????

Oh, poo poo to Christmas! The East Coast Vulture Festival 2009 will soon be upon us! More on that later.

I read in the newspaper yesterday that some people are demanding "green burials": wooden or cardboard coffins (or no coffin at all), a hole in the ground, no marker, no lawn maintenance.

Don't know about you, but the idea that my mom is embalmed and lying in a steel coffin at the bottom of a waterproof steel shaft is troubling. Trust me, scientist of the future. You do not want to revivify that person. Seriously. What is the point of all that preservation? So she can be shocked back to life and become a bipolar redneck badass again?

My personal preference has always been cremation. Until now. I'm going whole-hog for this green burial idea. You know why, don't you?

If green burials take off in popularity, it won't seem like such a reach if someone requests to have their body just dumped in the woods on top of the ground, with all organs inside. The better to be consumed by the Sacred Thunderbirds.

Sounds impossibly progressive, doesn't it? Yeah, right. Native Americans did it all the time. Except they made it even easier for the Sacred Thunderbirds by building platforms in trees.

So, reader, root root root for green burial! The Sacred Thunderbird you feed may fly you to the stars.

Gorgeous black vulture picture comes from The Birdchick Blog.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Remembering Jonestown


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from the border between Rationalville and Lunatictown. Where do you live?

Thirty years ago today, more than 900 followers of religious leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide at their compound, "Jonestown," in rural Guyana. The prior day, Jones had ordered the assassination of California Congressman Leo Ryan, who had flown in to investigate "Jonestown" at the urging of concerned relatives in his district.


Jones, a charismatic faith healer who attracted followers with a message of racial equality and socialism, had become a psychotic manipulator, a drug addict, and a despot with full powers over those foolish enough to join him in his jungle "utopia."

At Jones' orders, his followers drank cyanide-laced fruit drink, either killing their children first with the stuff or shooting the children and then drinking the stuff. Anyone who protested was shot. Jones killed himself the same way ... although his son was safely in Guyana's capital and so escaped the massacre.

I wrote here recently that religion soothes us, makes us feel that we're in concert with Higher Powers. That does not mean that we should accept religious practices or religious leaders that make unreasonable or irrational demands. And the vast majority of us are capable of seeing the distinction between rationality and lunacy. Sadly, some people -- for whatever reason -- opt for the lunacy.

And it's an invisible boundary line that runs between Rationalville and Lunacytown. Where does it begin? With the Mormon divorced mother of five who gave ten percent of her welfare check to the church? (I knew her.) The young guy who sells flowers 14 hours a day at the airport? The parent who trusts her young son to the guidance of a kindly priest? The couple who marry without ever having met before, because they were "paired" by the leader of their church?

The Jonestown Massacre is a radical example of what happens when groups of religious followers surrender all rationality. But this happens all the time in more subtle fashion. If church authorities are out to capture your mind or your body, leaving you unable to make your own choices, or afraid to do so, then brothers and sisters, you are in a cult.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are all about finding a praise and worship framework that encourages freedom of the mind, body, and spirit. If you fear your deity or the leadership of your religion, get a new religion. There are so many religions! And so many sects within religions. Act now! The sanity you save could be your own.

Peace to the children of Jonestown. Peace to the people of Jonestown. Lest they will have died in vain, we say: "Freedom of the mind is what every good person should have."

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN (IN ABSENTIA) OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Monday, November 17, 2008

Little Annie's Orphans


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," sacred to the Egyptian pantheon! If there's a Goddess of Cats out there, She is Mighty.

Just the other day I fretted that my three foster kittens would languish in the shelter like enemy combattants, times being what they are. Nevertheless, on Sunday I had to take them in. When they start galloping, it's time.

On the way to the shelter in their coop, they did every single gross thing a kitten can do. I will not elaborate. Let's just say I was glad that the shelter stocks plenty of hand sanitizer.

So I told them goodbye and good luck. And some bored goddess was listening.

Four hours later the shelter manager called. All three had been adopted. Two went to a couple newly moved into a home. The other one went to the couple's mother-in-law, who couldn't stand the idea of breaking up the litter.

Two or three times I've had people come to the house to see foster kittens prior to adoption. But this was the first time I ever dropped a litter off and saw them adopted out before they had to spend a night under the shelter roof.

Here's to happy beginnings!
Don't forget to participate in Anne's Great Christmas Giveaway! Sign up now to receive a free strand of hopelessly tangled Christmas lights! See below.

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Cheesy Christmas Stuff for You!


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go!

Some retailers used to hold off until after Samhain to get their Christmas gear out and spiffed up and hung. No more. I've been seeing fake trees and garland in stores since September.

When Geezer Annie was a girl, you saw nary a wreath until the day after Thanksgiving. Snow, yes. Christmas decorations, no.

It's understandable, I guess. The retail stores are all feeling the pinch, since the rest of us are pinched. They want to bombard us with pine, get us feeling desperate to fill those loved ones' stockings.

Have no fear! Annie is here to help you this year! And she's not waiting until after Thanksgiving, even though she knows it's the proper thing to do!

Taking a page from Mrs. B's playlist, I'm going to be giving away essential Yuletide items once a week between now and December 22! All you have to do is leave just one little comment sometime between now and Friday, and you'll be entered in this week's contest!

(If you don't have a blog account, be sure to include an email where you can be reached.)

The first giveaway is that all-important holiday item, the one you just can't live without: a tangled strand of 100 multi-colored lights!

Yes! This one-year-old strand of multi-colored lights will come to you a tangled mess, just like they all do when you pull them from last year's storage box. Because that's where they'll come from -- my storage box!

You know you want this, reader. It's what Christmas is all about!

Future Christmas giveaways will be just as wonderful, so stay tuned. I may even step up the pace of giving, if I sense a genuine need to do so.

FROM ANNE
MERLIN (IN ABSENTIA) OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Playing with Fire: Please Respond!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," purveyors of perfect pantheons! I'm your host, Anne Johnson. It's a wonderful name, and I'm proud to bear it.

There's a faerie living in my computer who will not allow me to post YouTube videos on this blog. That's okay. I'm more or less a word person.

But just yesterday, my awesome friend, the computer Yoda, handed me a DVD that had been rendered from an old VHS that had in turn been rendered from reel-to-reel footage from the early 1960s.

That footage shows my beloved father setting stuff on fire.

Dad taught high school chemistry in Appalachia. He was a hands-on kind of guy, someone who taught science with dramatic flair. His students remember him fondly as someone who expected them to maintain flawless lab books, but who in turn allowed them to do many more experiments (and much more dangerous ones) than would ever be allowed in these ergonomically correct times.

At some point it occurred to the Powers That Be in my hometown that they could put Dad on closed-circuit t.v., and he could set stuff on fire while being watched all over the county. And thus to me has been bequeathed two of my most precious possessions: video of Dad, and the black mortar-and-pestle that he uses in his videos.

If someone were to ask me, "What exactly is a Druid?" I would give them my father as an exemplar. He was college-educated. Fascinated by nature. A believer in -- and teacher of -- science. He loved to sing. And he was extremely skeptical of much religious teaching, being at heart a scientific rationalist.

Remember that Druids were the educated class of people in Celtic society, not just religious leaders.

At the end of his life, Dad told me he saw Peter Pan standing in the doorway of his hospital room. So I know the faeries claimed one of their own. His daughter says, "Pish tosh on that scientific rationalism!"

So, readers, please do me a favor. Go on over to YouTube, search "Principles of Combustion," and watch "Principles of Combustion 3." It's only three minutes long. Then give me your honest opinion of my dad, the Wizard of Western Maryland.

PS: I'm not sure how long the federal government will allow this footage to be on YouTube, so time is of the essence!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

What Does Religion Do For People?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," waxing philosophical until your brain sparkles and shines! It's the soft cloth and the elbow grease that really make a difference.

I am back substitute teaching at the Vo-Tech, and darned glad to have a job in this "economic downturn." (Funny, it looks like a recession/depression to me.)

Yesterday I covered for a teacher who I was in for long-term last year. The subject: World History. The topic of the day: World religions.

Hoo boy.

This school has a little task they call "Do Now," that the students are supposed to complete when they enter the room. Yesterday's "Do Now" question (supplied by the missing teacher, not me) was: "What does religion do for people?"

After the students write out a written response, the teacher is supposed to ask the question again and gather voluntary answers from the class.

So, after asking how many of them went to church at least a few times a year (smattering of hands), I said, "What does religion do for people?"

Most freshmen-aged kids are not eager to speak up in a classroom. But it was early in the day when a student said, "Religion soothes you."

Religion soothes you.

Okay, Karl Marx, maybe it is the opiate of the people, but if you're in pain you need an opiate. So religion soothes you.

It is perhaps a tad too soothing to think there's some Higher Power out there who has already decided how your life is going to go -- or who you think will fix every little bump in the road for you. But to me (and to this student, perhaps), the feeling that Higher Powers exist is soothing.

To me, meditating on the divine and all goodness is soothing.

You could argue that even the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center found their religion soothing. They thought they were going on to some heaven of some kind. So, what soothes one person might be dangerous to another.

That's where we hope some common sense will prevail. Some set of rules of decency.

Rules. That was the other, more common response at the school to the question, "What does religion do for people?"

You. You along the road. Must have a code that you can live by. If none of the codes you're aware of suit you, consult the bored gods. They have theirs -- some quite good ones, in fact.

FROM ANNE
MERLIN IN ABSENTIA OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Explanation

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you from the Vo-Tech! Back to substitute teaching, and glad to have the job in these times!

I have just begun a new daily blog called "Six Word Blog." It's in my sidebar. If you go there and you see an entry in italics, that means it's a short story. A very, very, very short story.

Have a nice day. Praise the deity you love.

FROM ANNE
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Simple Life

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where deities come to laugh at us moderns who think we know it all!

Here's a fascinating topic: Computer problems.

No, no, don't leave! I'll try to make it funny!

Mr. Johnson bought me a brand new printer last summer. It was always finicky. Right around the beginning of the school year, it broke for no apparent reason. It claims to have a paper jam. I examined its guts the way a buzzard would dissect a cow carcass. There's no paper jammed anywhere. Numerous attempts to get the thing up and running have failed, and I learned that bringing in an expert repairman will cost more than a whole new printer.

Of course all this gets me longing for the good ol' twentieth century.

Why? Because my daughter The Spare, never the most organized student, needs to print stuff out all the time for school.

Let's look at 20th Century v. 21st Century High School Homework.

High School Homework, 1976:

1. Read textbook, answer questions on mimeographed handout, using #2 pencil or ball point pen.
2. Make sure name is on paper.
3. Take to school.
4. Hand in.

High School Homework, 2008

1. Check eboard for assignment.
2. Download any worksheets needed for assignment.
3. Complete homework using Microsoft Office applications.
4. Make sure name is on homework.
5. Save homework to course name folder within personal name folder.
6. Print out copy.
7. Take to school.
8. Hand in.

If printer is malfunctioning:

9. Call up sister's email, attach homework to message to mother's email.
10. Send backup email to school teacher with homework as attachment.
11. Send second backup email to school teacher with homework copied and pasted into message section.
12. Sign off email account on home computer.
13. Go to local public library.
14. Scan library card to get next available computer.
15. Log onto library computer (six steps).
16. Open email account.
17. Open attachments, send them to library printer.
18. Scan library card into library printer.
19. Call up print jobs, pay fee of ten cents per page to activate printer.
20. Take to school.
21. Hand in.

Computers have made life so much easier! I can hardly stand how easy my life has become! What did I do in the twentieth century, without all this fabulous technology?

Used to be that your dog ate the homework. Now the computer eats the homework -- and the teacher believes it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Les Mouserables


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where darkness falls at 4:55 but gloom springs eternal.

This is one of the three foster kittens that I have at home. He's slightly older now than in the photo. In fact, he and his siblings are ready to go to the shelter.

Here in Chateau Johnson they've been cossetted and spoiled. They're allowed the run of the house (because they've learned where their box is). They fight and play, eat, curl up and sleep, wake up, run around, fight and play, eat, curl up and sleep. In the evening they crawl up on me and Mr. Johnson and fall asleep in our arms.

But they have to go to the shelter. If we kept foster kittens, this house would be overrun with cats ... and we'd be off the list as foster parents.

It's always hard to part with kittens that you've bottle-fed, or tamed, or just nurtured through an illness. But right now it's especially hard.

I read in the newspaper today that some people who have lost their jobs or their homes, or both, have been forced to surrender their pets to animal shelters. This has made the over-crowded shelters more crowded than ever.

The shelter I work for is run by a lady who won't put a dog or cat down unless they're:

1. Very old.
2. Terminally ill, or ill with a communicable disease.
3. Wild without hopes of being tamed.
4. Proven to be dangerous.

And so, her shelter is becoming crowded with incoming litters of kittens (typical for this time of year) but also incoming household pets with nice dispositions. And in these hard times, people aren't adopting new pets.

Over the years I have seen several of my bottle babies go to a cat cage in the shelter and grow up there, cooped and wretched. They always get adopted in the end, but sometimes it's a long stay in the cell.

Two of the three kittens I have now are polydactyl, meaning they have six toes on their front paws. This will make them more adoptable because they look silly. But the other one, the little wretch pictured above, is just another run-of-the-mill gray tabby cat.

There are so many.

If you know someone who is having a hard time financially, maybe you might want to leave a big sack of dog or cat food on their doorstep. If you know someone with feral cats living (and breeding) under the porch, you might want to help that person trap and spay them. At least in New Jersey, you can get a coupon from any vet that will spay a feral cat for $40.

Sorry for the downer post, but I feel the weight of all these unwanted pets on my shoulders. May the bored gods of Ancient Egypt help my foster kittens ... and all shelter cats ... find happy homes.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

The Incredible Ordeal of Decibel the Parrot

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" But sometimes it's hard to feel sorry for the bored gods. At least they aren't caged parrots.

Back in my foolish youth, I purchased a baby macaw. When I got him, he was the size of a peep. He grew fast, topping out at the size of a kestrel.

Decibel the Parrot isn't one of your largish, bright-feathered macaws. He's smaller, and his feature of interest is a brown unibrow. When he unfolds his wings, he's magnificent: every shade of blue known to the eyeball, plus some red plumage, all usually hidden beneath his solid green exterior.


In the spring and summer, we put Decibel out on the front porch. The squirrels climb his cage and eat his food. He lets them. Otherwise he seems pretty content outside, for a creature that's lived in a cage for 22 years.

Twenty-two years in a cage. And just like the Count of Monte Cristo, he committed no crime.

When the weather turns cooler in the fall, we bring Decibel to a halfway point near the front door. His cage sits in our dark foyer, just in case we have a mild day when he can go outside.

Decibel hates the foyer. And when a parrot hates, it hates loudly.

Yesterday there was nothing any of us could do or say to shut Decibel up. He screamed at the top of his lungs from early morning until after dark. We tried food, we tried talking to him, we let him out, we covered him up. Nothing worked.

This morning I decided to move Decibel to his winter quarters, our bright, bay-windowed dining room that looks out over the back yard.

It's not so easy to move Decibel around because his cage is so big and heavy. So I had to wait for Mr. Johnson to be available to help me. In the meantime, Decibel got it in his head to stroll around a little. So when I came down to begin the move, Decibel was on the floor.

I startled him, and he took off flying, which for him is like the stress test that the hospitals do on cardiac patients. Flying, for a biggish bird like Decibel, takes a lot of energy. Soon he was clinging to the living room curtains, puffing and heaving like some old fat dude trying to play hoops with his college pals.

In addition to his prodigious noise-making abilities, Decibel also bites. And when you've been bitten by a beak that can crack a walnut, you know you've been bitten. So I tried to scoop Decibel up with a bath towel. He would have none of it. Bath towels usually mean he's getting a bath, and it was cold inside today.

Finally he scurried over to his cage and climbed up on it and stood there looking at me as if I was an underperforming hired hand.

For my part, I was questioning yet again why I ever bought a parrot. I liken the decision to the bad marriage you make in your youth, or a stint doing some really addicting drug, like crack. This bird is the mistake that won't go away ... maybe never in my lifetime.

Mr. Johnson and I carried Decibel to his winter quarters, where he can easily be moved to see me while I'm making dinner, and otherwise he can look outside all day. Decibel lost no time in trying to take a chunk of flesh from Mr. Johnson. But hey. A man doesn't live with a flesh-eating parrot for nearly three decades without learning how to avoid contact.

Decibel has been sitting quietly all afternoon, watching the foster kittens cavort and listening to the wind blow. I try to do right by him, but it saddens me to think what his life might have been, had his parents not been wrenched from Costa Rica and plunked in an aviary in Michigan.

Does Decibel talk? Yes. He calls for The Heir, using her real name. The Heir went away to college in August. Decibel doesn't understand that concept. Oh, how it cheers me to hear him calling the daughter I miss so much! (Yeah. Uh huh. Right.)

At least I had the good sense not to teach him to curse.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Foot Make Good Eatin'

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on the second consecutive gorgeous autumn Sunday in the Great Blue Northeast! Oh, it was beautiful here this morning. I wasted six good words on it before setting out on a walk.

There are several strings of dreaded words in every parent's life.

First there's AR (assembly required).

Then there's NI (needs improvement).

Let us not forget SAT (you know what that is)!

And the ultra-dreaded PDT (project due tomorrow).

Today's project for my charming daughter The Spare was to create an animal cell, somehow being creative about it. So she decided to make a cake, cover it with homemade fondant, and use candies as the organelles.

This necessitated a trip to the latest blot on the South Jersey landscape, a mega-supermarket called Wegman's.

Wegman's tries to be everything at once. It's a full buffet restaurant. You can buy lavish prepared foods that only have to be warmed in the microwave. Artisan breads. Gourmet desserts and chocolates. Organic. Greek olive bar. Cheese island. Flower shop. A model train chugging around overhead for the kiddies. And the biggest regular grocery store in the county ... except they don't stock TaB cola!

There's also a candy aisle.

This whole multi-acre spread has a metal ceiling painted some grisly hue of burnt goldenrod. Seriously the ugliest color of paint I have ever seen in my life. The lack of windows makes it dark inside, like a casino.

And the place was packed.

People drive across the bridge from Philly to shop in this over-the-top emporium. And I swear that today the whole Fourth Ward was in the store. Carts bumping together, people dodging other people, babies wailing, kids cajoling. And The Spare, blithely charging through the many aisles she needed to visit in order to get all her($$$$$) supplies.

Finally I just stopped pushing the cart and leaned my head down on it. The Spare didn't care. She wanted me to stay where she could find me.

So I guess I was just resting there, with my head in my arms on the shopping cart, maybe about two or three minutes. I felt someone tap my arm.

It was a young woman in jeans and a jacket. She said, "Are you all right?"

And I said, "Well, honestly I hate this store, and it's really extra-crowded today, and I'm alright, I was just resting."

She said: "There are chairs and comfortable sofas up in the restaurant area. Why don't you go sit down?"

And I said, "This is where my daughter expects to find me. So I'd better stay here. And honestly, I find all parts of this store equally repulsive, so I don't really care where I am in it."

She asked me again if I needed her help, or did I want her to call someone? I said no, really, I was fine. Just trying to escape the immediate reality.

At which point she said, "We're so sorry to hear you feel this way about our store. We try hard to make everyone happy here. Sometimes it's just not possible, especially when it's this crowded."

Oooooooops! She didn't have on one of those sappy uniforms! I had no idea she worked there! Must have just ended her shift or something! Lord love a fruit fly, I sure was embarrassed!

I didn't apologize, though. I meant it. Wegman's is a blight.

But the next time The Spare scampered into view, I told her I was going to go and sit down on a chair in the coffee section. Which I did.

Then we searched the checkout line for the hottest cashier. That cheered me up considerably. Because not only was he good-looking, but the employees are judged harshly if they're not super-nice. So he even smiled.

Then we came home, and the dreaded PDT commenced. What a day.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

For the Love of Fruit Flies


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" What are those pesky insects hovering over the bowl of ripe peaches? Out, out, damn fruit flies! Stupid little insects! A blot on the ecosystem!

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will grant you that the U.S. government has spent some money on some silly things, just to keep the local legislators on good terms with their voters. Why, when I was a mere stripling, the U.S. Department of the Interior paid me minimum wage to clear brush and paint fences at Harper's Ferry National Park, under a program called Youth Conservation Corps, or YCC. (Our government, like most, loves acronyms.)

Ronald Reagan took an axe to the YCC long ago. And I hope you don't mind my saying this, but Harper's Ferry is a weedy mess these days. Fences haven't been painted in ... decades.

YCC is one of those examples of evil socialist pork that the defeated candidate for president railed against. But since the YCC was long ago squelched, sending its mostly urban minority workforce back to the kitchens of KFC, Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin had to draw upon more recent examples of pork barrel spending to bolster their free enterprise platform.

McCain railed against a federally-funded project to study grizzly bear DNA in Montana. That project has ended. It cost $5 million. (Don't know how long it takes the military to spend $5 million in Iraq, but who's counting?)

The results of the grizzly bear DNA study prove that there are almost four times the number of bears in the targeted area than scientists thought were there.

The study was conducted in order to see if that region could be opened to oil and natural gas drilling without decimating the grizzly population. So we spent $5 million to allow the oil barons a green light to dig for Texas tea in a previously off-limits part of Montana. They'll shove fistfuls of free enterprise largesse into their pockets, and the grizzlies will rock on. This is kind of like spending $1.00 on a lottery ticket and winning big.

But the more egregious example was Mrs. Palin's attack on the noble fruit fly, the species from which we've learned the lion's share of what we know about DNA and what can go wrong with it.

To my mind, belittling fruit fly research ranks right up there with not knowing that Africa is a continent. Can any student -- even those home-schooled in Mormon compounds -- get through school without being introduced to red-eyed fruit flies? Heck, your well-funded public high school is gonna be doing simple experiments with the critters right in the classroom.

We owe huge debts to the humble fruit fly when it comes to research in genetics, pesticides, plant biology, and hereditary illnesses. And it's hard to work up a lather of sympathy for something so short-lived as a fruit fly, even for me. Were we going to breed mutant puppies to learn about DNA? I think not.

Everyone has a different reason for being happy (or sad) about the outcome of this presidential election. As for me, I'm happy as hell that we've elected a leadership that won't sneer at science.

Nevertheless, I do advocate a line item veto -- at least make the Congressperson or Senator explain exactly why they need the new bridge, who's gonna use it, and what long-term benefits it brings to our nation. Under this scrutiny, fruit fly research in France and grizzly research in Montana will pass the muster with flying colors.

Flying colors ... flying ... flying ... oh, for the love of those flying fruit flies! Sign off, Anne.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

I Have Started a New Blog

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," world-weary, wobbly, and woozy. Wow.

It's Friday evening, and I would like to take a moment to thank all of you who commented on the final destination of my Obama/Biden sign (see below). I'll let you know if it's still there when I go back on Memorial Day to spruce the place up.

Today's sermon:

Lately I've seen much scorn heaped upon web logs, most of it suggesting that the form does not rise to artistic heights. In other words, snobs still get into print, while we bloggers multiply like Tribbles and are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Harsh.

Yes, I wanted to be a newspaper columnist. For awhile I reviewed books for the Detroit Free Press. I loved that. But it was as close as I got to being a real print journalist.

I also wanted to keep a diary. But I'm left-handed, and writing longhand has always been a messy struggle for me. So when this blog business came along, it was like a miracle. I can keep a typed diary, and you can read it! And I can read yours!

Web logs may be the maggots of the lit-tra-cha world, but let me tell you this. Over a year ago I wrote a post about an award-winning author named David Bradley, and a book he wrote called The Chaneysville Incident. Lo and behold, about three weeks ago I opened my email, and there was a nice note from Mr. Bradley -- a person I've wanted to meet since I was 20 years old! He saw my blog post about him. (I bet he would love "Sign," below, even though I'm not a real writer.)

In a similar way I have made contact with Professor Rodger Cunningham and an old friend in Detroit City, Dean Dauphinais. People do Google their names occasionally. Unless they've been stuck with a moniker like "Anne Johnson."

Actually, I beg to differ with the smarty-pants people out there. All sorts of folks who have had the urge to write but never the time, or the encouragement, have done some great stuff on web logs. Rosie is one writer who springs to mind. She is getting published all over the place, and she deserves it.

Partly inspired by Rosie, and partly inspired by a newspaper story I read last week, I have inaugurated a new web log that is now listed in my sidebar.

The web log is called Six Word Web Log, and that's what it will be. No entry will be longer than six words. The punctuation will vary, as will the subject matter. But six words it is, and that's all.

Think how long it will take you to read it! I hope you'll try it out. I'm going to keep everything over there very minimal (needless to say), so please keep coming here for the worthless verbiage of another useless blogger.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Sign

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," endeavoring to be as serious as Sponge Bob since 2005! I'm your host, Squidward Johnson. I play the clarinet.

Just two days before the election, my daughter The Spare and I got a Barack Obama sign for our front lawn. It stood proudly in our yard the moment he was declared victorious in the election.

This morning, after the fact, we found ourselves suffering through one of our fabulous Nor'Easters, which means rain and wind and all-around bleakness. The Spare had a report to do, and I'm old-school, so I insisted on going to the public library.

But first, I told her, we had to give away the Obama/Biden sign to people who deserved it more.

The Spare leveled her super-drama f-bomb scowl at me and demanded to know who we would be giving the sign to. Who, @#$#@ it, who?

I wouldn't tell her. I just pulled up the spikes and loaded it into the back seat of the car.

Have you ever experienced the scorn of a 14-year-old girl? Do you recall that look they can give you? Kind of like your fourth-grade teacher when your long division didn't come out right ... ratcheted up by a factor of ten.

We started off in an odd direction, and she kept peppering me with questions, harsher and harsher. So finally I told her.

"We're taking it to the colored cemetery," I said.

She did not utter one single peep of complaint thereafter.

There's a borough near here that is a historically African American community. During the Civil War, the black soldiers who were killed were not interred in the federal cemeteries ... because the federal cemeteries were white only. So this little borough volunteered to pay for the shipment and burial of any Union Army soldier of color who was unknown or unclaimed by family.

More than 100 African American soldiers wound up in this little local cemetery, including one who earned a Congressional Medal of Honor.


You can find pictures of anything on the Internet. This is the place.


The Spare and I took the Obama/Biden sign and placed it at the head of a parallel row of Civil War-era tombstones, all decked with their American flags.

I said to The Spare, "These men deserve this sign more than you and me."

And she agreed.

As a species we feel that the dead often linger around or near burial places. Very few cultures just heave their deceased off cliffs and forget about them. And so I feel that those soldiers, who knew damned well what they were fighting for, deserved a sign that proves they won.

I did it for them. I did it for my dad's people buried at Andersonville. I did it for freedom of the mind, which every good person should have.

And my daughter, who like all people her age covets souvenirs, gladly parted with a nice one.

I bet when we go back next year on Memorial Day it will still be there.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bad Day for Bullwinkle

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" No sanity, no Hannity, save the manatees!

Anyone coming here for enlightenment would be better served by a 40-watt GE from the supermarket.

Yes, yes, I know. I KNOW. All the smart, sane, intelligent people are taking the high road here, celebrating a historic moment in our history and pledging to try to unite our fractured nation.

Go ahead, with my blessings. Because I just have to pucker up and do some razzing!

PAGING BULLWINKLE THE MOOSE. BULLWINKLE THE MOOSE. URGENT CALL FOR BULLWINKLE THE MOOSE ON LINE 1.





Here I am! You want to see me pull a rabbit out of my hat?


BULLWINKLE. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY. EVACUATE TO CANADA IF POSSIBLE.


Gee whiz. I'm not sure I can! Why should I?

BECAUSE SARAH PALIN IS COMING BACK TO ALASKA WITH A CHIP THE SIZE OF CONNECTICUT ON HER SHOULDER. SHE'S GONNA WANT TO HUNT HER A MOOSE.

Oh, no worries there! Not a one! I've got a nice new pair of binoculars...

BINOCULARS, BULLWINKLE? YOU THINK BINOCULARS ARE GOING TO SAVE YOUR MOOSELY HIDE?






Well now, that depends on what you can see through them, doesn't it?

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How Faeries Vote


Welcome to The Day I Never Thought I'd See! I'm your host, Anne Johnson. I've been in this world awhile, but it has not ceased to amaze me. Thank goodness. Because why get out of bed in the morning if you've seen it all?

There's a law on the books in New Jersey that you can't wear political items into a polling place. No shirts, hats, pins, etc. At first blush this seems like a violation of the First Amendment. But if you live in New Jersey, you understand pretty fast that you could get in a rather rancorous disagreement with someone intead of voting, just based on your tie tack.

Nevertheless, being bluer than blue, I wanted to wear some sort of little token that subtly gave away how I planned to vote.

I had a teeny tiny AFL-CIO pin with the American flag and "Union Yes!" on it. I knew exactly where I put it, because I planned to wear it to the polls.

So yesterday morning, I reached for it, exactly where I had left it ...

You're a regular reader, right? You know what's coming...

The pin was gone. I searched the shelf, the surrounding countertop, my sparse jewelry box upstairs, my bowl of faerie wear. Little pin gone. Or not gone (as we know), just hidden by the faeries.

In a last-ditch attempt to find it, I opened The Big Junk Drawer. Every kitchen has one -- that place you throw stuff that you hardly, if ever, use. And in there I found a pin. Not the one I was planning to wear, but a pin nevertheless.

The pin was an Allied Orders of the Grand Army of the Republic pin.

The Grand Army of the Republic was, of course, the Union Army in the Civil War. My father's ancestors enlisted in the Union Army by the fistfuls, some in the infantry, some in the cavalry. Two of them are buried at Andersonville Prison National Cemetery in Georgia.

So I went to vote yesterday wearing my Allied Orders pin. (Allied Orders is a society of descendents of Civil War veterans.)

My daughter The Heir and I went into the voting booth together, because she was keen to press the Obama button, and I was equally keen to let her do it. But I also felt in there the presence of my ancestors who did what they could to help runaway slaves during the dark times, and fought as they could to free the slaves when the war came. My father's people voted with me.

Later in the evening, as we were watching the returns, I went into the kitchen to clean up. Lying there on the counter, in plain view, was the little AFL-CIO pin.

The faeries wanted me to reflect not on my own immediate struggles, but on the desperate historic struggles that my ancestors saw and sought to avenge. Let no one say this election was not about race. It is about race. It's about stepping away from the way things were and trying out a new path for how things should be.

Leave it to the faeries to understand that.

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Well, Glory Be...

America the beautiful. Blessed be!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm Not Really Voting for Thomas Jefferson


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" This is the first Election Day for this blog. What do I say?

If you're a longtime reader of "The Gods Are Bored," you know I take a dim view of democracy, because it imposes no test of mental capacity in order to cast a vote. Trust me, there are end-term Alzheimer's patients who will vote today, thinking that they're casting a ballot for Gerald Ford or Lyndon Johnson. The people who "help" them will be very helpful indeed.

If this sounds cynical, it's not. My sister saw to it that my father voted in the last election. Dad went off with the faeries three months later, convinced he'd cast his final ballot for Eisenhower.

That said, we are given the right (sort of) to choose our representatives. So we should do it. It is a civic obligation.

We are sure to see history made today. Either the nation will elect a president of color or a female vice-president. Don't believe the polls! It's going to be close.

As for me and my house, we will call upon the bored gods of Kenya in their North American incarnations and petition their aid in the elevation of Barack Obama to the presidency. Because as much as we would love it to be the case, there's really no separation of church and state in this country -- only the possibility that some religions cancel out others in the power struggle.
Continued safety to you, Candidate Obama. May it be the will of the bored gods!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Endorsements 2008

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!"

Mindful that presidential elections are very important, and that everyone should vote for the person they think can run this very large, very important country, we offer the following endorsement for President of the United States of America:

Thomas Jefferson.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Grizzabella the Faerie Continues Her Reign

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," and Happy New Year! Make a resolution, find a solution, avoid electrocution, you say you wanna revolution?

If it's rhyme time there must be faeries about!

Last spring my daughters and I went to visit my sister at her new house. I left behind a teeny tiny faerie, just to provide a little solace to me when I happened into such a rigorously Christian abode.

My sister found the faerie, named her Grizzabella. And since then Grizzy has been hard at work, sowing the big, broad, flexible outlook among my sister's many collections of childhood belongings!

You may have trouble seeing Grizzy in some of these photos, so let's just call it a sort of "Where's Waldo" enterprise!




Yes, that is a little rubber toy vulture. She is my sister, after all!

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