Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Talk to Strangers!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," taking you back to your earliest childhood when your mama taught you never EVER to talk to strangers!

This is sound advice for tots. I do not dispute it. For tots.

However, where I grew up, you talk to strangers once you've become an adult. Waiting in line at the grocery store? You talk to the person in front of you. Doctor's office running a little slow? You complain to the other folks sneezing over the magazines. Heck, you could practically make a new bosom buddy at the bus stop in bad weather, if the transit was running behind.

I took this habit of talking to strangers with me to Detroit, where it met with success far and wide.

Here in New Jersey, the only place you can talk to strangers is in the thrift store. Everyone is nice there. Even the people who can't speak English smile at you. What a welcome relief from the rest of this sorry state!

This afternoon I was out doing errands, and the closest grocery store was the huge, expensive, yuppie paradise known as Wegman's. If there's no Wegman's where you live, count on it. There will be one soon.

Wegman's is an enormous store, but when you push past the aisles of greeting cards, "organic" food (don't believe it), expensive tableware and kitchen goods that no one can afford, bins of old-timey candy, flower shop, and sample tasting tables, you don't find many more groceries than you do in any other store.

Thus I found myself in the grocery section looking for an elusive item: Shake and Bake.

If I hadn't pegged myself as a hillbilly before, you surely know it now. Shake and Bake has been a staple in the kitchens of three generations of Johnsons. But I actually wasn't looking for Shake and Bake. My local Acme stocks a chicken coating from the deep South somewhere that is dee-licious. I figured if I could locate the Shake and Bake in the Mammoth Cave that is Wegman's, I'd also find the deep South coating mix.

I couldn't find the Shake and Bake.

I asked a guy stocking the shelves with McCormick spices. He said he didn't work there and had no idea where it could be.

So I picked a likely aisle, and in that aisle was another customer with a cart half-filled with groceries. She was younger than me, and the little "New Jersey Yuppie" warning bell did go off, but I figured, what the heck. She's clearly been up and down these aisles, she might have seen the Shake and Bake.

In my nicest, down-home way, I said, "Excuse me, have you seen the Shake and Bake?"

She looked at me as if I had said, "Excuse me, can I rip your lungs out, kick them across the floor, and leave them for the rats to devour?"

Then she replied, "No. And I haven't been looking for it either." On she walked, gently stroking her traumatized organic whole grain bagel chips.

Jeez. What did I say? She couldn't have thought I mistook her for an employee. She had a cart, and she wasn't wearing a chirpy Wegman's polo shirt.

Call it my Appalachian upbringing if you like, but I don't have a problem with strangers asking me for directions, or for assistance, or whether or not a jacket makes them look fat (thrift store). I even give change to panhandlers! What harm is done? Maybe I can't pay someone's bill for that pesky emergency room visit, but I can at least have a little courtesy.

There are certain stereotypes that cling to places. New Jersey is known for having belligerent, unfriendly residents. Just today I'm not going to disabuse anyone of that notion. If you're in a store, looking for Shake and Bake, find the guy with the chirpy polo shirt. Whatever you do, don't talk to a stranger. Pretend you're three years old again and act accordingly.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Miss Annie's Awesome Foolproof Plan for Universal Health Care

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," located just across the yard from the only fiber-optically powered Pagan shrine on the East Coast! We may lag technology-wise when it comes to computers, but the back yard has it going on. Add a fiber optic lawn gnome to your shrine today! Our operators are standing by to take your call.

I'm hearing a recurring mantra among Republicans when it comes to getting affordable health care for every American. More than one earnest Republican legislator has said, "We have to help each other." Forget the government! If people just pay for each others' surgeries, all will be well. (Metaphorically speaking.)

The problem arises when Jill, who lives down the block, falls on ice and needs to have her leg in traction for a few weeks. How are you going to pay for your share of Jill's bill? Remember, we all have to help each other.

Here's the answer.

Let's make sure that the only people we help are Americans, and that we only help people.

It works like this:

If you send money to those poor kids in Africa who have cleft palates and need simple surgery, you have to stop that right now. Tough beans, African kids! We have to help each other here in America!

The same holds true for any and all humanitarian efforts on foreign soil. Pull them out. Every missionary, every doctor who donates time, every dollar spent on AIDS education and prevention, every situation requiring even the most rudimentary sort of help. Done! We've got to help each other! All that money you put in the church collection plate for "missions?" Okay, well, your new mission is to help Jill pay for her traction. Because we have to help each other.

It doesn't stop there, either. In case you haven't noticed, health care ain't cheap. So, if you donate money to the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, NOW, or even the Daughters of the American Revolution, you've got to stop. This instant. Americans are sick, and we've got to help each other.

What you'll have to do is to take all that donation money you wanted to send to the Nature Conservancy, and instead send it to one of the big insurance companies to pay for people's health care.

I hear you, Pagans. You're saying, "But what about the little island we're trying to save from development?"

Oh, selfish selfish! That island will be perfect for some insurance company executive's 40-bedroom mansion with adjoining golf course! If we've got to help each other, it doesn't mean helping horseshoe crabs and red knots. It means Americans helping Americans. Human Americans.

If you're thinking that it's not fair to see your measly charitable donations gobbled up in the interests of corporate profit-taking on basic health needs, just remember that the rich executives will be held to the same standards you are held to. This means they will have to make their charitable donations go toward health care too. And we all know how much money these people shell out for the poor, now don't we? Why, they're veritable Santa Clauses when it comes to charity! Look at all the money they pay for black tie dinners to shake hands with political candidates. They can put that toward health care! We can help each other!

I don't know why this stuff is so needlessly complicated. It's just basic logic. And it should be universally applicable.

Let's say you don't have much money to donate for other Americans' health care. Well, you just bought a brownie mix and a jar of icing to make treats for the soccer team, didn't you? Set you back five or six bucks. Forget the soccer treats! Help Jill! If you help Jill, she'll be helping Aetna, or Blue Cross, or Kaiser Permanente!

Personally I don't think the federal government should do much of anything for us except provide us with some tanks and jets and a president who looks good in a suit and tie. We should just help each other!

It's working in Oklahoma. Just ask any Native American in Tulsa.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A New Recurring Motif

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where Friday nights suddenly mean something! Wow, I have been working hard. But I like to work. So there you are. Give me a brick wall to build, I'll start mixing the mortar.

I have landed a full-time teaching job without the certification people need to be school teachers. This means that I have to attend night school. One evening a week I have to drive to a town in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge and go to class to learn how to do the job I'm already doing. At the end of this year-long class, I'll get a piece of paper that will show that I know how to do the job I've already been doing for a year.

And by the way, Barack Obama wants moms to go back to school, but they have to pay for it themselves. At least I do.

The man who is teaching this mandatory night course needs a whole name to himself. I will reserve judgment for exactly one more week, and then I'll give him a name. Or maybe you will. We will devise a name for this dude. Because I have a feeling he's going to be a recurring motif here at TGAB.

The first night of class he talked for an hour, gave us a five minute break, talked for half an hour, and dismissed us.

This past Wednesday, he talked for an hour, gave us a five minute break, talked for another hour, gave us another five minute break, talked for a half hour, and took questions that he answered at length for another half hour.

For. The. Love. Of. Fruit flies. I've never heard a bigger windbag in my life! And that's saying a lot. I went to Johns Hopkins University, which was chock-a-block with conceited professors. But at least when they started talking from the podium, it was about something interesting, like James Joyce or Australopithecus afarensis. It wasn't about how wonderful they were, or how wonderful their big boat is, or what a great professor they'd always been.

The thought of spending every Wednesday night in a right-handed desk in a stuffy little classroom in a Catholic school with this dude is seriously making me wring my mittens!

My mother, now asleep with the Confederate dead, had a favorite saying: "Brevity is the soul of wit." (It's no doubt from Shakespeare. My mom was nuts about Shakespeare. Or just plain nuts, or both.)

"Brevity is the soul of wit." So I'll be brief when I say that night school bites under any circumstances, but to have a conceited bore for a teacher is the worst of biting. It's like being swarmed by 17,000 thirsty mosquitoes, all with that ear-piercing hum.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weird New World

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we can recall a time when making a telephone call required standing close to a wall ... and asking Aunt Belle nicely if she could stop gossiping on the party line. Do you remember phone booths? Other than in scary movies? Remember how they had phone books with hard plastic covers dangling underneath? Remember dialing "0" to get an operator to help you place a collect call?

Now you can talk on the phone while driving a car 70 miles per hour on the Jersey Turnpike. That's what I call progress! Maybe.

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I never thought I'd see some of the technological advances that I now live with every day. I thought cordless telephones were a miracle when they first came out. Needless to say, cell phones baffle me completely.

That's what a half century of lively living will do for you. All hail being baffled! It keeps one young.

All this is prelude to my suggestion that you poetry lovers out there might want to watch the little video below. (I finally figured out how to put YouTube stuff on my blog ... Progress!)

Almost ten years ago my daughter The Heir came home from school one day and said a weird man with a monkey puppet and a jester hat had ridden by her on a bike. He waved the monkey at her and said, "Hi kids, ooo ooo ooo AAAH AAAH AAAAH!"

Thus began for my family the Mighty Saga of the Monkey Man. First he was an elusive creature who we searched for, then a strange person that we stalked, then a subject of wild urban legends, then ... suddenly ... a real person. Who grew up in the house behind ours. Who knew all the neighbors. Who graduated from the Heir's high school. Who hosts a poetry get-together every month in Camden. From mysterious stranger to best friend in a decade! And the only technology used in the process was a little email and a bike.

Those of you who've been following TGAB for awhile have heard of this person. Here he is in the 'tubes! Now that's a technological advancement worth its weight in bytes!

Even if you're new here, you might want to take a look. Rocky is a great poet, and this is one of his best poems, done in his signature radiant style.

Mystery no more. World, please welcome the Monkey Man!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rocky_Easter Morning

The Monkey Man performing one of his poems.

The Pox Take All White Light!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's officially autumn. Day and night were balanced for a moment, but now the night will prevail. For awhile. We can deal with it.

There's a running joke in my household about salad. I like steamed vegetables of every kind. I like stews and stir-fries. But I just don't care for salad -- not even a well-made salad, and trust me, after 40 years of cooking, I know how to make a salad.

Whenever I begin to make a salad, I always kvetch about it. I call salad "leaves." I usually say, "Damn all leaves! Why do we eat leaves? The pox take all leaves!"

This cracks my family up. When Mr. Johnson does the grocery shopping, he says, "Do we need leaves?"

To which I invariably reply: "Damn all leaves! Leave those leaves at the store! A pox on all leaves!"

Today at my school I was using a picture book to teach a reading strategy. It's a story called "Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs" by Tomie de Paola, and it's a terrific little book.

On two occasions in the book, the hero looks out the window and sees a shooting star.

In several of my classes, the students volunteered the information that they'd never seen a shooting star. They even knew why. It's because they live in Camden, where there's so much white light you can barely see the sky at all. Philadelphia, right across the river, is even worse. Go ahead. Find a star, let alone a meteor.

During my course of years, I've been blessed to see several spectacular meteor showers. It's rather a quest, if you want to do it. First you have to know when the big showers are due (Leonids and Perseids), then you have to be willing to get up at some odd hour of the night, and then you're at the mercy of the weather.

Where I live, you're also at the mercy of white light. There's literally no place that isn't lit up in some way at night, except for wooded areas. Have you noticed? Wooded areas contain trees, and it's hard to see meteors when there are trees in the way.

So I shake my fist at the porch lights, and the street lights, and the auto headlights, and the night lights in all the buildings. A pox upon all white light!

Yes, yes, I know all about burglars and the evildoers who thrive in the darkness. I admit that night lights are a necessary part of urban and suburban life. But just like I hate salad (but it's good for me and I eat it), I hate white light. Damn it all! No one should die without seeing a shooting star.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Shoe Fits!


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hosted by a snarky bluegrass-loving Pagan with blue views and no money to pay her D.A.R. dues! I'm your hostess, Anne Johnson. I'm named after a princess.

It's been awhile since we at "The Gods Are Bored" issued a manifesto. Some of you will be as bored as the gods, but from time to time I get a new set of eyes. So, today, no surprise.

Here at "The Gods Are Bored" we believe that human beings are not the greatest blobs of matter in the universe. We're a flawed species. We even endow our deities with our flaws. As if. Faeries may be bratty (oh yeah), but what do we know about the divine? Like, why would a god be jealous? We don't tolerate that in humans.

The unseen is all around us, draped in a veil. How we penetrate that veil is a matter of culture, of nurture, of personal gift, and/or of careful training. Or, you can just drop some shrooms and skip from Step One to Step Ten with nothing much in between.

All frivolity aside, the mission of this crazy mess here at "The Gods Are Bored" is to nourish a healthy respect for all deities both modern and ancient, and all cultures who have deities of their own -- even if those deities are endowed with some of the most despicable characteristics known to humankind.

Who am I to tell you that your praise and worship team is going to fry for eternity? Pish tosh. How silly. Eternal torment is the most cruel and unusual punishment imaginable and therefore is not likely to be a favorite device of a deity system, no matter what some books would have you believe.

So. Our philosophy is simple. Flying Spaghetti Monster? Ramen! New, old, or in between, we dig our deities. So many good ones are sitting around bored, unable to find praise and worship teams. That's a waste of great divinity. Fatted calf one millennium, page 125 of Ancient Myths and Legends of the Canary Islands the next? Hardly fair. If you've lost a job or been downsized, you know what I mean.

Well jeez Louise. If we're going to endow deities with human traits, surely boredom would be among them. Drink a toast to the Ancient Ones. Yours and everyone else's.

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Equinox Navel Gaze

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" What kinds of gods do we worship? What have you got?

Today my daughter The Spare and I went to Druid Grove. The weather was spectacular. As good as it gets around here. Not a cloud in the sky, comfortable temperatures, not too hot in the sun.

Our Grove meets at a picnic ground. It was busy there today, but we did our Ritual around a fire, and we blessed the harvest fruits and enjoyed each others' company.

Spare and I had a blast on our drive to the park. We passed Lincoln Financial Field about two hours before Eagles kick-off and marveled at all the tailgaters, with cheery banners flying against the perfect sky. Driving home, we heard the same Talking Heads song I mentioned in a previous post. Not once but twice. On two different radio stations.

How did I get here?

Know what? There's no use asking how I got here. I'm here. How it happened is not important.

To Lugh, to Brighid, to the keepers of field and hearth and woodland (that would be the Green Man), to Muin and Nettle and Morgan and Michael and all our friends in Allentown ... to Heir and Artemis and all our future Grove members ... Happy Alban Elfed!

Keep the best seeds for next season and eat the rest.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Equinox Bad Book Blogging

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Equinox 2009! This is the moment when day and night balance. Then the beloved sun moves south to warm the other half of the world. I know they're waiting for it there!

As for me, I would be dreading the long dark, but having a backyard shrine to light will, I hope, blunt the seasonal depression.

Today's sermon: What Not to Put in a Book, What Not to Paint Black, and What You Should Do about It.

Whew! If you saw that posted in front of the local Baptist church, you'd no doubt skip the Sunday sermon!

Mr. Johnson brought home for me an advance review copy of a new novel called The Child Thief, by an author who goes by one name, Brom.

The book jacket makes clear the topic at hand. This is a horrific re-telling of Peter Pan, in which our ever-youthful hero uses duplicity to lure unwanted and/or in trouble kids out of the ghetto and off to Avalon, where they're put to work fighting ... something. I haven't gotten yet to what it is they're fighting.

What I have gotten to is a book that's repellent to me as a Pagan and as a school teacher.

First of all, I will say that the novel would be perfect for my students, except for the language and certain bits of subject matter. I don't know who edited The Child Thief, but let me just say that a novel containing all seven of George Carlin's dirty words, plus some, is not going to go into my classroom. I want to keep my job. I know it's the hip, cool thing to paint ghetto kids as foul-mouthed victims of planned violence, but the big money goes to books that can be touted in schools. I suppose this one will make the cut in suburban districts, where literary standards are more lenient. But those districts push Anne Rice, deservedly. I'm not terribly familiar with her work, but what I have read of it doesn't contain the "f" bomb and most certainly the "mf" bomb. The latter sinks the book for my use in class.

I know, I know. This is tantamount to banning a book. But soft, fair reader! If a student brings a copy of The Child Thief from home, fine and dandy. I just can't hand it around. Sorry, Brom, but you've lost some sales in Camden, New Jersey. That's what you get for demanding verisimilitude in your tough, sad, ghetto kids.

On to the subject matter. It's despicable. I've read over 100 pages, and Avalon is painted as a realm of evil, ruled by snarling beasts, flesh eaters, and bad faeries. There's a particularly repulsive scene describing sexual abuse of the six-year-old Peter. Queen Modred has just appeared, and she's foreshadowed as being manipulative and dangerous. Pixies and tiny faeries bite, sting, and urinate in peoples' mouths.

As for poor Peter Pan, he's a 1400 eternal youth, tortured in grand Lestat fashion by the mission he's been given to protect Avalon.

All ten of you who read this site regularly know that I believe in Peter Pan as an immortal youth, and in his Wild Boys, also immortal youths given the gift of eternal childhood as a reward for difficult earthly lives. Nothing could be more repellent to me than a work of fiction in which Peter -- no matter how conflicted -- is a conniving child-killer. Bad Brom. Very very bad. Your next novel should depict John the Baptist as a conflicted nutcase who drowns half his followers in the process of saving their souls.

The Child Thief is an insult to the ancient Celtic heritage and to its ancient bards, whose knowledge of Avalon and Sidhe we should rather trust. I also believe J. M. Barrie would roll in his grave to think that one off-handed line in his work would lead to a dismantlement of his charming faerie and that faerie's charming mission.

I've tried and tried, and no doubt will try again, to read The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's just paced too slow for me. Maybe I'll be more patient in time. There's nothing slow-paced about The Child Thief. It hums along from one moment of horror to the next.

I'm sure we Pagans can survive yet another novel in which our beloved deities and their milieu get slathered with foul-smelling mud. Heck, Chick tracts have been doing that for decades. It's just sad to see, is all I'm saying. Peter Pan deserves better treatment. You heard it here.

So. What to do about The Child Thief. Don't buy it point of sale. If you want to read it and shake your head sadly at the picture it paints of all you hold dear, at least wait until you can get a cheap copy second hand. I don't normally bash authors, knowing what it's like to depend upon royalty checks. It's just that this particular author has dealt Celtic Paganism a low blow. He should therefore not expect, nor earn, Pagan patronage.

I've never been to Avalon, but somehow I don't believe that it's a place where six-year-olds are held down, sexually stimulated, and then devoured alive. If I get to Avalon and see such things, I'll be sorely disappointed in my choice of bored gods.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gift of the Cailleach


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," confusing the Aztec with the Maya since high school! Well, heck. How am I supposed to know about anything south of Texas? I haven't even been to Texas!

Both of my daughters are having trouble with their nerves right now. They're experiencing panic attacks and anxiety. I know the feeling. I remember being in my teens. It's not the greatest time of life.

Every day I go to my new job, and I look around me, and the job and everything about it seem totally foreign. I feel like that dude in the Talking Heads who kept saying, "This is not my house. This is not my car." (I've probably got that wrong too. Lazy again, not gonna Google Talking Heads lyrics.)

How did I get here?

Having had my children rather later in life, I'm heading toward crone-hood. And that helps immensely with the new job and the mountain of responsibilities that go with it. At 25, teaching at this school where I've been hired would have crushed me like a bug. The job may indeed crush me, but it won't be like a bug. I'm just old enough now to see the Big Picture. The Cailleach showed it to me. It goes something like this: Breathe, laugh, stay calm, eat well, do your best, and love the children.

The Cailleach tells me that panic is for the young, and that the only time I'll ever need it again is in a fight-or-flight situation, which is not likely to arise. So each day I make my tea, rouse the Green Man from his leafy slumber, pour some seed into Decibel's bowl, and stride off to a foreign place, older and wiser.

Thank you, Cailleach, for guiding me into late afternoon.

Image: Another fabulous artwork from Thalia Took. Wow, you should definitely visit her site!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quetzalcoatl Explains Doomsday

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," serving tea and scones to deities you've never even heard of since 2005! There's nothing quite like seeing the happy face of a bored deity who served before the domestication of grains, as she tears into a carb-and-butter-and-refined-sugar confection. Only too glad to be of assistance!

There's been a lot of talk about Doomsday lately. I'm not referring to the literary doomsday of another Dan Brown novel. I'm talking about the Aztec/Nostradamus "lights out in 2012" hoo hah.

People are going all berserk, reading the ancient Aztec calendar and seeing it come to an abrupt end on December 31, 2012, or some such. There's much speculation. What did the Aztecs know that we don't?

Who better to ask than an Aztec deity? It's a sunny day, so that means I've baked up some sweet corn muffins for Quetzalcoatl! He's been here before for interviews. Always a lovely God. Awesome outfit. So, please give a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Quetzalcoatl, Sacred Ancient Deity of the Aztec peoples!

Anne: O mighty deity of Mexico past! Howdy! In the interest of not having to spell your name 5o times (and getting it wrong 49 of them), let's just call this "Q" (for you) and "A" for me.

Quetzalcoatl: A splendid idea. How much more time do those muffins need to bake?

A: Less than ten minutes.

Q:
Good. I'm hungry, and I don't have much time.

A: What, you're just going to eat and run? I was hoping for some entertaining myths.

Q: Cheeky European American earthling! I don't have time to sit and gab with you. I've got a Doomsday Machine to build.

A: So it's true! No splendid Mummer's Parade in Philly on January 1, 2013?

Q: Nope. Party's over. Gonna crack this planet like an egg and fry it for my breakfast.

A: Well, at least you're giving the hard-working dudes in South Philly a head's up that they won't need to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours costuming and practicing a strut for that year. But, you know I'm going to ask, O Deity. Why? Why would you destroy the earth?

Q: Mercy killing.

A: Come again?

Q: Have you checked the population estimates? Have you charted the changing temperatures at the poles? So how do you want it, Anne? Slow, or quick?

A: Emmmm..... I don't want it so soon ... emmm.... I'll only be ... not that old ... and the Heir and the Spare are still young ...

Q: Ever given any thought to what the world will be like when the Heir and the Spare are old? Trust me. They're better off going in a bang than a whimper.

A: Chill! Why don't you give us moderns a chance to curb population growth and slow global warming. Because I think we've made some progresssss..........

*Anne is silenced by Quetzalcoatl's disdainful sneer.*

A: Okay, so we're basically breeding to the point of stripping the globe bare. Which could make for some lean years down the road. But aren't you worried that your proposed doomsday event will make people hate you?

Q: It's better to be a hated deity than to be a curiosity in a museum, being dissected by snobby anthropologists who have no respect. I'm actually planning to allow the Mesoamerican anthropologists and archeologists to live the longest on Doomsday, just so they can plead to me for their miserable, atheist lives. Trust me, any museum outside Mexico that has Aztec artifacts will be the epicenter of my most particular wrath.

A: Is there any way you could possibly spare just a few people? Like, say, a nice lady who makes you Jiffy muffins with blueberry jam?

Q: You want to linger after Doomsday, with only sulfur vent worms as companions, be my guest.

A: Can't change your mind on this?

Q: It's written in stone. Unlike some other deities, whose names I'll not utter, I meant it when I set up an Armageddon. I haven't been wishy washy about it. When 2012 ends, so does life as you know it.

A: And where does that leave you? And all the other Earth deities, for that matter? Won't you be hoisted on your own petard? (I don't know what that means, exactly, but it sure sounds smart.)

Q: I'll get another job on some other planet. I mean, look at me! Wouldn't you hire me to be your deity?

A: Not really.

Q: Well, you live on this planet. There are other planets, with beings that treat their surroundings better. I'll shower a little maize on them, and they'll take me in.

A: This sounds so cold and harsh to me!

Q: That's a fine how-de-do from someone who watched her dad waste away in a nursing home! Snap! Lights out. You've got to go sometime. Might as well be quick about it.

A: Okay. I get the picture. But you're leaving me in a tough spot, Quetzalcoatl.

Q: How's that?

A: If all I have left is two years and a few months, I'd like to spend it sitting on a mountainside, watching the seasons change and reading good books. How am I going to convince my husband that we should just quit our jobs, sell everything, and move back to Bedford County?

Q: That's your problem. Give me my muffins!


Well, folks, there you are. The definitive word. Quetzalcoatl's gonna whup the Earth with a Big Bang on New Year's Eve, 2012. If you've been thinking about mending fences with people you've wronged, or who have wronged you, now might be a good time to set things right. Don't put that reconciliation off until 2013. You heard the God. It will be too late.

***For the next 10 months, "The Gods Are Bored" will not publish on Wednesdays. I have to go to night school, and I'm pretty sure blogging isn't in the curriculum.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Shallow Thinking about God, etc.

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," taking nothing seriously since 2005! Sorry, but when it comes to deep thinking, we didn't pass the swimming test.

In last Saturday's Wall Street Journal, they published one of those point-counterpoint editorial pages that I so love. Say what you will about the quickly-disappearing Fourth Estate. It's still one of the only places where you'll find reasoned arguments that are diametrically opposed, both being given the same amount of space and respect.

On this day the topic was "Man vs. God." The opponents were Richard Dawkins, celebrated atheist author, and Karen Armstrong, whose book The Case for God, will be out later this month.

First, as part of this deep-thought post, I would like to ask all you men out there why it's you against God. Chill, dudes! Let that testosterone ease up a bit! You'd never see a headline called "Woman vs. God," even though I know for a fact that there are many women who read this blog who hold no particular respect for this particular deity.

Anyway, I read both editorials, Dawkins's and Armstrong's. Old Rich makes great points. It's hard to refute the atheist arguments in this era of super-science, and as I just said, I'm not the deep thinker to do it.

Ms. Armstrong, apparently, is a deep thinker, so she took on the task. And by golly, she's practically an atheist herself! Here's a bit from her:

"Religion was not supposed to provide explanations that lay within the competence of reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no easy solutions and find an interior haven of peace."

Let me see if I haven't drowned in this fancy talk. Religion exists to give us creative brain-blankies to ease our worried minds.

Dawkins must have hooted when he saw that "defense." And I must say that I'm glad Ms. Armstrong's book is called The Case For God, and not The Case For Deities Everywhere. Perhaps it's just Yahweh who's the security blanket deity.

To all these deeper thinkers, I, Anne Johnson (basically shallow as a fishbowl) would like to say:

1. Having developed thought to the point of creative endeavor, members of humankind have experienced contact with higher powers through a variety of experiences, not all of which can be conveniently explained away by the laws of physics and circumstance.

2. Atheists assume that we have learned so much about the laws of physics that we need learn no more in order to nail shut the coffin on deity. If that is the case, why are we still training new physicists and setting them to work? We could use that money to build skate parks.

I don't think some bright young physicist is going to take a few measurements and find him or herself looking Yahweh in the eyeball. I'm just saying there's more to the universe than we know to date ... more to our own brains than we know to date ... and more about Higher Powers than we know to date.

I'm not going to make a case for God. But at least for me, religion ... yes, I know it's a bad word, bad bad bad! ... for me, religion is more than just a mystical chill pill. Can't you just feel something to be true and leave it at that?

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Very, Very Best Faerie of All


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," faerie funny, and very funny, since 2005! I believe in faeries to such an extent that my hands are raw from clapping!

Years ago I began writing this blog just to amuse myself, to "air my self-important grandeur," as Mark Twain might put it. I was well aware how many blogs are out there on the Net. I figured I'd never get any readers, but it didn't really matter. I type fast, and I have a little time to spare for self-important grandeur.

Something happened along the way between 2005 and now. Call it what you will, but I say it's magick with a "k." Readers started popping in and leaving comments. Then regular readers started leaving many comments. Then, at last year's Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm, people actually came up to me and said, "I read your blog." I've got dozens of Facebook friends who just befriended me because they read this blog.

And now books are arriving in the mail. Books for my students, who entered a classroom stocked with a pitiful, elderly supply of crumbling paperbacks. Books published in recent years. Books that tie into movies my students have seen.

There's a Faerie Godmother out there, benign and nurturing, who wants all good and wonderful things for all children. It might even have been the Faerie Godmother who led me to create and maintain this silly site. At any rate, she is rewarding me liberally... with your companionship, your friendship, and your gift of being kind to me.

I, Anne Johnson, therefore declare this upcoming week to be Intergalactic Faerie Godmother Week. Love your Mother, early and often, for it is She who guides you through this thistle-field called Life.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Magic Money

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Money doesn't grow on trees, but if it did, would you really want it to? I mean, come on already! What kind of autumn would that be, with ugly currency falling into piles, and people fighting to rake their yards before the neighbors do it for them!

Nevertheless, money is a great thing.

For instance, I want to thank the anonymous benefactress who has urged me to set up a wish list at Barnes & Noble dot com, so that she can provide books for my classroom! Just now I'm too dead tired to do the setup (here come those buzzards again ... they sense an easy meal...), but as soon as I do I'll tell you all about it.

There's a Dunkin Donuts on the way to my school. Sometimes I stop there for a muffin if there's nothing in the pantry at home. A panhandler regularly works the breakfast crowd at this store. He's done it for years.

Back when I first got my Dodge, I was running late for work one morning but was famished. So I stopped at DD and got a bagel. When I came back into the parking lot, I couldn't get the key to open my car. I tried every door, becoming more and more panicked. Why wasn't my key opening my car?

Behind me I heard a whistle. It was the panhandler. He pointed to another car. The car he pointed to was mine. I gave him five bucks and I told him, "I'm hillbilly. We never forget favors." Then I opened my car, leaped in, and got to work on time.

Ever since that day I give him money when I stop by the donut shop. (I don't go that often). Today he was particularly needy, so I gave him what I thought was the money I had set aside for lunch. I figured I could get my lunch on credit at the school. They will float you a few meals if you're cash poor.

When I got to school, I discovered I had forty bucks in my wallet. I have no idea how the money got in there, how long it had been there, or why I might have had that much spare moolah to begin with.

This was the highlight of my day. Otherwise there were moments that I devoutly hope I can remove from my mind by dedicated hard drinking.

Bright blessings to you all!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Very Model of a Modern Shrine


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Please remain seated and stay calm. That sound you hear is the twenty-first century, roaring full speed ahead, with misery and injustice for (almost) all!

When you feel that life is passing you by, with so much baffling new technology and such, one of the best things to do is retreat into ancient ways and do something like build a shrine in your back yard. Which I did. And it's a really wonderful shrine. I promise, the next time my daughter The Heir is home, I'll have her take some photos.

Just before The Heir went back to college, I set candles on all the levels of the shrine, and on the center stone, and lit them to the Four Quarters with the Druidic invocations. When I was finished, between the candle light and the iridescent marbles and crystals sprinkled liberally within, I had a thousand points of light. It was prettier than a bonfire and safer too. Or so I thought.

Enter my cat, Beta. (I have two cats, Alpha and Beta.) Beta was born behind the garage next door. There was no way I could ever make her an indoor cat. So she comes and goes as she pleases.

On the night I lit my shrine, she was pleased to check it out, not at an admiring distance, but up close and personal.

The candles were safely snuffed before this family could fulfill all the dire myths about pet torture that cling unjustly to Pagans everywhere.

Alas! How does one light a shrine with the proper glow if one can't shower the thing with candles?

This is the twenty-first century. For me, that's usually a pain in the neck. But where the Shrine of the Mists is concerned, it's a Goddess-send.

Some time ago, my daughter The Spare gave my daughter The Heir a little glo-in-the-dark plastic gnome with fiber optic innards. When turned on, this gnome changes color deep within, from rosy red to violet, with blue, turquoise, and green thrown in for variety. Best thing about this gnome, he isn't hot to the touch, and he can't singe cat hair.

Many things amuse the heck out of faeries. When I turned on this dime-store gnome and it started doing its glowy show on the Shrine of the Mists, the faeries burst from every nook and cranny and had a shindig of pre-Celtic proportions. They couldn't get enough of the plastic and fiber optic miracle gnome! So I let it rock on for about an hour.

The only downside to my very modern shrine light is that it requires batteries, and they're not terribly eco-friendly. But I'll do the right thing and take them to the proper disposal center. And hope they last through many a faerie party.

Modern can be marvelous sometimes.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A New Wrinkle on Assigning Chores to Teenagers

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Tonight I'm so dead tired I'm having to beat the buzzards off with a stick.

I survived my first full day in the classroom. I was at work 10 hours.

You know how it is. You come home at the end of a long day, and you ask your teenager to do some of the chores. Well, I'm here to tell you that my daughter The Spare just jumped right in and helped out massively!

How, you ask? Visit her blog and read all about Obama's school speech from one of the students he was trying to address!

Then come back here, early and often, for more pithy wisdom on ancient deities and their resurgence in these horrific modern times.

*snores*

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day 2009



Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Labor Day, 2009. Today we offer up yet another of our yearly sermons in favor of organized labor.

Many people don't remember that 100 years ago, workers were fighting and even dying for the minimal basic treatment we get in the workplace today.






Child labor: out.
Fourteen-hour shifts: out.
*Slave wages: out.
*Dangerous, deadly working conditions: out.
*Six-day work weeks: out.

Now you're saying to yourself, "But I do work way more than 40 hours a week, and I don't get paid enough to keep up with my bills, and I have no health care, and I'll get laid off the minute I get sick."

That's because the American labor movement has been crushed. Mother Jones would weep if she could see it.

In the 1950s, a third of the labor force carried a union card. Today, less than ten percent of workers are in unions. Why is this?

*The movement of workers from blue-collar to white-collar jobs. White-collar workers didn't think they would ever need unions. Ahem, wrong.
*The concerted vilification of the labor movement by conservative politicians and talk show hosts.
*The sharp decline in sectors of the economy where unions were strongest.
*Admittedly, corruption and greed among some unions. (I would like to thank those bad apples for spoiling the whole barrel.)

What we've lost with the death of unions is the power of collective bargaining. No one wants to give back wages and benefits they've earned in past decades through unionized activity. But no one also wants to see a company go belly-up because the company can't afford its workers. The concept of collective bargaining doesn't negate common sense. It just requires fairness from employers, not rule by despotism.

My husband receives his health benefits through a union plan. Every year it costs us more, and it doesn't cover some of the crucial health care needs in our household. But if he became ill and needed surgery, we wouldn't lose our house. We wouldn't have bill collectors calling us at all hours and hounding us for money we don't have.

My husband hasn't had a raise in five years. That's because his union has given back its raises, recognizing the problems in his industry. Next they'll probably have to give back wages. But (hopefully) my husband will be protected by seniority and not dumped in favor of a young worker who won't demand health care, or a living wage, or fair working hours.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" regularly petition the bored gods for a resurgence of organized labor. Not because we want to bankrupt the likes of Alice Walton and other corporate owners. But because they aren't sharing a big enough piece of the pie. When less than ten percent of Americans control 90 percent of the wealth, that's not equitable. It's not. Rush Limbaugh can praise it daily as a model for personal attainment, but it is not equitable.

When you get down to it, the 90 percent of Americans who aren't wealthy aren't asking for equality, they're just asking for justice. To this American, the only way we'll get it is by organizing and returning to collective bargaining.

Today my family (sans Heir) will go into Philadelphia and march in its annual Labor Day parade. The event is very anemic now. It's cloudy outside, so probably it'll be even more anemic than the past two years. Nevertheless, it's an important show of solidarity. United we bargain, divided we beg.

This is the first year of my working life that I have been given membership in a union. (They call it an "association," but that's okay. It's a union.) When the union leader introduced himself to me last week, I threatened to hug him. I also pledged that I would not scab if the unsigned contract does not win approval. I could lose my job (slowly and painfully) for this decision, but I won't budge. A world without unions gives us a world where the few get rich on the backs of the many.

In closing I would like to praise my husband, Mr. Johnson, for being on the executive board of his guild. He spends long hours on union business. He helped block his company's owner from taking -- and spending -- the company's pension plan. If not for his union, he would almost certainly be on the street with his hat in his hand. And this is a man who has so many state and national awards that he can't hang all the plaques on the wall -- there isn't room.

Please take a minute today and meditate on the benefits of a unionized white-collar labor force that would run its business and negotiate with integrity. Dare I say this health care debate would be quickly settled, with justice for all?

Happy Labor Day!

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Better Late Than Never


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," voted best buzzard blog of this or any other era!

Okay, I made that up. But who could beat me for best buzzard blog?

Thanks to a helpful commenter, I discovered that September 5, 2009 was International Vulture Awareness Day. This must be a new event. How else would I not know about it?

You would think that nothing would be sturdier than a vulture. For eons this has been true. Then, of course, along come humans, the best destroyers since that comet blasted the heck out of Mexico to end the Cretaceous Era.

In the past twenty years we've seen a vulture die-off of massive proportions. Before scientists pinpointed the reason, millions of vultures were killed in India, Africa and Asia. Some spectacular buzzards have been driven to the brink of extinction.

How did this sacrilege happen?

Farmers began giving their cows non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. And these medications cause vultures to melt from the inside out.

(Oh goodness, if I ponder this I want to weep!)

Fortunately, we now know the cause of the carnage. What remains to be done is to re-vitalize and restore the vulture populations. And why would we do this? Well, in India the role of scavenger has been taken over by dogs. So, what's more dangerous, a pack of wild dogs or a wake of vultures? (That's the group name for buzzards. Appropriate.)

We at "The Gods Are Bored" revere the Sacred Peace Eagle/Thunderbird and hope that this year, and every year, our world sets aside a Vulture Awareness Day. Long may they glide!

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

Photo by Birdchick.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Blogger Family Values


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where our deities have family values! Why do they have family values, you ask? Well, they're families! All hail polytheism, the family-friendly way to praise and worship!

This morning my daughter The Spare and I went to the flea market. We had a good time and made a dollar holler. A little jewelry, a few threads of clothing, virgin pina coladas (had to fight the yellow jacket hornets for those), and a California Raisin for The Heir. This afternoon Spare and I put together my roll book for school. I have 104 students. *nerves*

The big news here at TGAB is that The Spare has started her own blog! I know she would love it if you would go over and wish her luck with it. She's going to be a busy little beaver in the coming months, so I don't know how much staying power she'll have. But I'm flattered that she would even want to blog.

Spare's the lucky one in my family. When Heir was a teenager, I was still a church lady. Heir had to go to a milder version of "Jesus Camp," and she's never let me live that down. Now along comes Spare, and she's treated to user-friendly Druid Grove, no one coercing her to be born again or sing happy happy churchy songs.

Even as I write this, Spare is sitting next to me, typing away on her latest entry! I hope she's not writing anything bad about me. (I guess that will happen the next time I say "no" to something she wants to do.)

In other news, Mr. Johnson is just home from Wegman's supermarket, where he stormed to the Customer Service Desk with a complaint. It seems that Cosmopolitan magazine's newest issue has a headline reading, "The Sexy Ass Workout." Mr. Johnson felt that this was not something a family-friendly supermarket should have displayed for its young, impressionable visitors. Reader, you cannot know how happy I am that Mr. Johnson thought this was an outrage, an insult to everyone who sees it, and not an item to purchase and bring home to me! I guess that's what happens when you become the father of teenagers, and not one yourself.

It seems like a lovely evening to light up the Shrine of the Mists and perhaps send a little incense to the bored deities to their everlasting honor. So, if you want to go see The Spare, you can click here. Tell her I sent ya. And don't bookmark it yet. Let's see how she proceeds.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Gods Go to School

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," your polytheistic portal to perfection! As always, I'm Anne, your hostess ... hostressed ... so stressed.

But wait! I'm not actually stressed!

Maybe it's my age, but I've gotten to a point where I can see things differently than I once did. If someone tells me, "You must do this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this....." (add an exponential number of "thises"), I realize that no human being could possibly do all that.

Maybe I'll get this done. And this. And this. And that's that. Time for quiet meditation by the Shrine of the Mists!

One of the "this" musts I did for my new students was to ask nicely for the school district to provide me with reading material. That way I don't run a risk of heaving something controversial into my classroom. So I thank all of you who wanted to send me books, but I think I'll err on the side of safety and stick to the proper channels.

Now I'm finished with this. Queen Brighid the Bright and I are going to fix supper.

Oh yeah ... I forgot! Mr. Johnson has offered to help me set up my classroom! After 30 years of proofreading all his prize-winning journalism before he submitted it, I am to get a recompense! Ha ha! Who do you think is going to have to climb the step-stool and staple up the paper on the bulletin boards? Tee heee......

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ick!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," rushing to you on the first of many 10-hour work days! Cernunnos and I have been extremely busy today. He's not much of a paper-pusher, nor is He inclined to keep the faeries from stealing things. So I'm a bit stressed.

I have taken stock of the books in my English classroom, and they aren't great. Lots of V.C. Andrews and "Sweet Valley High." Ick.

Very little of anything a male student would want to read.

Ergo, another SOS.

If you have any of the following books lying around, just waiting for the bite of the dreaded silverfish, please contact me.

1. Anything a male reader ages 12-20 would like: sci fi, horror, sports, war. War books should be about current or recent conflicts, no older than Vietnam.

2. Twilight or any of its sequels.

3. "His Dark Materials" trilogy, esp. The Golden Compass.

4. The Hobbit

Also, there's not one single "Harry Potter" title in the room. And a shocking lack of nonfiction.

My next white magick project will be to alter the literary landscape of my classroom, with close attention paid to stuff boys would like to read. Even Barnes & Noble isn't very helpful in this respect (not that I can afford their prices).

Toodle-oo for now!