Thursday, September 30, 2010

Annual Banned Book Blog

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Dr. Who is on in just three minutes, and it's my experience that if you miss the opening credits you won't have a clue what's happening in the rest of the show.

But how can we let Banned Books Week go past without nodding in its general direction?

Have you ever noticed that some of the most popular and widely-read books actually ought to be banned?

I jest, of course. One does wonder, however, what the world would be like without certain exclusionary religious tracts.

I don't think any book should be banned. I would have trouble taking a book from one of my students if it was titled A Beginner's Guide to Undetectable Incendiary Devices. Hey, the kid's reading! Reading, I tell you ... and a science book at that!

The whole banned book thing has been on my mind recently because our school has a daily free-read where students spend 15 minutes minimum reading a "personal choice" book. This year the school administration issued a new directive: all "personal choice" books must be from the school. Students cannot bring books from home.

I guess you can imagine why this might be. Give an adolescent kid a couple of bucks, send him/her to WalMart, and he/she's likely to pick up some salacious, sexy, smutty tome that celebrates the lavish lifestyle of playas in the hood. Bring that to school, everyone's gonna want to read it, yo.

So. Let them read it.

We have not yet come to an era when reading isn't important, but we have come to an era where it's not something that some people want to do. In my opinion, anything that these people decide to read should not be banned for content, language, sexually explicit situations, or poor moral values. If it's words on a page, and someone is interested in reading it, I say --- here's a bookmark!

Now I'm missing Dr. Who. But I'm not finished with this topic for the year.

I recently had to pry a book out of the hands of one of my students and turn it over to the vice principal. It was about a ruthless gangsta who decided that nothing was gonna get in the way of his getting his woman back, even though she was with another dude and even had a kid with that dude. So the gangsta flashes some bling at the girl, and she goes running back, but her new bro's also a billionaire, so she can't decide. For awhile she hooks up with both of them, but in the end her baby daddy fixes it so that the gangsta gets shot. And the girl doesn't really care, because it's all about the money.

Trash. Utter trash!

Except that this is the plot of The Great Gatsby, which I will be teaching in Honors class this year.

You'll never see me ban a book. The most troublesome book I've ever read is the Bible, and even that I would say we should keep ... with some judicious edits.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Fabulous Shift into Wisdom

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," discoursing occasionally on Pagan topics, but otherwise just fluff and frizz. I'm Anne Johnson, your host. My Pagan name is Peace Eagle. Jot it down so you don't forget!

Do you believe in reincarnation? I never did, for a long time. The older I get, though, the more plausible it seems.

I'll tell you why it's making more sense to me.

You'd never know it to see my wrinkle-free face and my girlish figure, but I'm now officially a Crone. Since becoming a Crone, I have had the strange notion that I have lived previous lives but never came this far before. The age I am now is so "new" to me. It's as if I don't recognize myself because I'm covering ground I've never been over before.

Oh yes, the skeptic would say this is because I'm now teaching school instead of writing books. New profession brings a feeling of oddity. Of course that could be part of it. But many times lately, I've experienced something annoying that would have, in my earlier years, sent me into a big blue funk.

Take, for instance, my recent (negative) teacher evaluation by our newly-hired department chairman. I'm not tenured, and this dude seems intent on seeing it stays that way. Even as recently as a year ago I would have been all upset, convinced that I would be out of a job, living on the lawn of my foreclosed house, dying of strep throat because I don't have insurance. Now, on this very day, all I can do is smile. Why don't I care anymore? Where has this calm come from that has enveloped me?

Know what I think? I think that in a past life I must have been in agony on my deathbed at this age. Something has shifted. I feel wise and whole, and every pain-free step I take is a blessing. (Some of you might recall that I have a titanium hip, so I have been through some health stuff.)

This coming Saturday is South Jersey Pagan Pride Day, and I intend to celebrate my entree into the Cailleach years.

Guess what else? Next Wednesday I'm going out to dinner with ... Mr. Bigwand and his wife!

See? I told you something has changed.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Decibel's Antagonist Revealed

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where all parrots are lean, green, biting machines! Here's an update on the story below, in which Decibel, my macaw, got doused with Coca-Cola and otherwise pestered by an elementary school kid on her way home in the afternoon.

Today I clocked out at school just as soon as the "teacher bell" rang. I rushed home so I could be at my house in time for the local elementary to let out. I "baited" my porch with Decibel, who had been inside all day.

Sure enough, at about 3:20 I saw a girl come up on my porch. She started talking to Decibel and sticking her fingers in the cage.

So I went outside, calmly. Immediately it became clear that the girl in question has neurological difficulties.

First of all, she was old enough to know better than to pester a parrot, but she greeted me in a friendly way, with no remorse about what she was doing. I asked if I could walk to her home with her, and as we walked, she asked a dozen questions about Decibel that you might expect a much younger kid to ask. The one thing she asked me was, "Is he always that excited?" And I said, "No, he gets mad when someone puts their fingers in his cage."

Long story short, the girl was being babysat by her aunt, who told me that the girl has autism and has been bitten by other animals.

Decibel will stay indoors for now. Perhaps in the spring we will return him to the porch, but only if someone is watching him during after-school walk-home.

Personally I am ashamed of myself for thinking that Decibel's tormentor was malicious. Snobville has a heaping helping of mean kids, but this little girl is not among them.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Awesome Magickal Victory of the Great Goddess Cloacina

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson at the helm. And doing the dishes. It's just me running this ship. No wonder it's drifting aimlessly!

Actually, though, all is not aimless drift. The magickal intention I began in 2006 has been realized!

Here to celebrate with me on this blessed day is the great bored Goddess to whom I entrusted the magick, and to whom falls the continued task of protecting a pretty little mountain waterway. Please give a great, glad, warm and wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Cloacina, Goddess of clean water, sacred to Ancient Rome!

Praise and worship to you, Wonderful Awesome Cloacina! Here's the text of an email I received over the weekend from our little group, Citizens for Smart Growth in Allegany County, Maryland:

PNC Bank filed an action on September 16, 2010, in Allegany County Circuit Court to foreclose on three of Carnock's properties - Church Road Development, PDC-Collingbrook, and Terrapin Run.  A group called TR Forty, of which Michael Carnock is Manager, had taken a pre-development loan for $5.5 million from PNC Bank in 2007 as nearly as I can tell and had pledged those properties as security.
As of July 6, 2010, amounts owed were Principal - $4,727,240, Interest - $402,209, and Late Charges - $7,621 for a total of $5,137,070.

Now, to my three regular readers, you know what all this $$$ stuff means. For the rest of you, a little back story. Take it away, Cloacina!


Cloacina:  The man named "Carnock" in the above-mentioned foreclosure statement is Michael Carnock. In 2006 or thereabouts, Michael Carnock bought several large wooded tracts of land in a rural area of Allegany County, Maryland, with the intention of creating a residential/commercial town of 11,000 people -- more than 400 units of housing, a business area, and a water treatment plant that would have placed a dam on one Tier II stream and sent the sewage runoff into Terrapin Run, a little wet-weather brook that trickles alongside the boundaries of a wildlife refuge. Have I got that correct, Anne?

Anne: Absoluetly, Great Goddess. Continue, please.

Cloacina:  In order to block this action, Anne began to do magick at the place where Terrapin Run passes under U.S. Scenic Route 40. If you want to find this place, take the Little Orleans exit off Interstate 68 and follow 40 west to the base of Town Hill. There's a little stone bridge. It's easy to miss. Terrapin Run (my precious baby) is very small.

Anne: Size doesn't matter, does it, Goddess?

Cloacina: Oh, indeed it does not! To continue my tale: After working solitary magick for awhile, Anne summoned Me and petitioned My aid. Anne prayed that I would settle in and protect Terrapin Run from Michael Carnock and his bulldozers. I was eager and willing! Words do not suffice to describe how bored I was until Anne gave Me this assignment. And I cannot say enough about the beauty of Allegany County. Talk about stunning countryside! I've seen all kinds of animals that I never saw in Ancient Rome, from rattlesnakes to raccoons to luna moths. Salamanders! Newts! Crayfish! Oh, I adore my Terrapin Run!

Anne: This is the end of the demon Michael Carnock, but our job is not finished along Terrapin Run, is it, Goddess?

Cloacina: No, dear. Now the property (bought at inflated prices) belongs to PNC bank. Rest assured they will try to find another despoiler. It won't be easy for them to identify another chump as clueless as Michael Carnock, but they will try. Remember, this area lies overtop that Marcellus Shale deposit that's full of natural gas ... PNC will be all over that.

Anne: Then we will continue our Work. Together forever, Anne and Cloacina! Blessed be! May all the deities of all the pantheons bless our Work to save Terrapin Run from any ill-conceived development or mining that would foul its shining waters! Cloacina, please stay for dinner. Homemade chicken cacciatore and a special red velvet cake just for You -- and the altar candles lit with praise prayers for You as well.

Cloacina: Music to my ears. And while I'm here, I'll take a look at that little pond in the next block, across the street from the Monkey Man's childhood home. Looks like it could use some Work.

Anne: Knock yourself out. Dinner's at six.


Readers, when I heard about this huge, ridiculous housing development, I vowed to do everything in my power to keep Michael Carnock and his corps of destroyers from even breaking ground on the Terrapin Run development. In addition to on-site spells, I gave the Citizens for Smart Growth monetary donations, fine jewelry and collectible ceramics that belonged to me, and shout-outs all along the way. If any of you gave money to the Citizens, this victory belongs to you as well as me!

As to my "zero tolerance" vow, I'm not sure they didn't bulldoze a road back into the heart of the property (and they blazed some trees they planned to cut down), but not one foundation was set. The land lies untrampled, and one greedy hellhound of a developer must be doing fry-cook night shift at the Waffle House.

A busy god might not have heard my cries for help on such a seemingly insignificant petition. Cloacina embraced Terrapin Run ... and saved it. May Her name be holy unto all.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Incredibly Horrific Ordeal of Decibel the Parrot

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We've got some good news and some bad news. So in the grand tradition of Appalachians everywhere, we'll start with the bad news. Tomorrow we'll pony up the good stuff. So if you don't like bad news, biff off for now and come back later.

For about ten years now, la famille Johnson has placed Decibel the parrot on the front porch during the warm months. Decibel isn't out there 24/7, only during daytime hours when someone is home. Mr. Johnson works at home, but way in the back where he can't see the front porch.

Decibel is 24 years old now -- more or less the same in parrot years as in people years. He was captive bred, so he really doesn't know what it means to be a macaw. He's just a little human with feathers. Who screams loud. And bites hard. Really hard. He can't break an adult finger bone (although he's certainly tried), but I don't know about the slender digit of an elementary school kid.

Why would I care about Decibel biting a kid? I'll get to that.

First I would like to say that Decibel has become a happy fixture in our neighborhood, which is walker-friendly. Kids and adults alike greet him from the sidewalk, and I always warn the little ones to look and not touch, to only come close when Mom or Dad is with them.

Imagine my consternation, then, when on Friday at 3:30, The Spare called me (I was still working at school). One little girl -- name, age, address unknown -- had come up on our porch, banged Decibel's cage, pulled his food out and dumped it, then started shoving her fingers in between the bars. When Decibel did what Decibel does, i.e. lunged with intent to maim, the unruly child threw Coca-Cola all over Decibel, his cage, and my front porch.

Spare told me that this same child has come onto the porch before, usually with friends, and that she has agitated Decibel before, but never to this extent. (Spare did not speak up and chase the kids off because she was partly raised Methodist and, as she put it, "knows what it's like to be yelled at by a stranger." Of course the yelling occurred at church, and nowhere but church.)

I could use your advice on this, readers. Am I liable if some moron twisted girl gets bit by my parrot because a parrot's gonna do what a parrot's gonna do? Decibel won't bite if you don't stick your fingers in his space. It's not like he's a dog on a leash. He's sitting in a cage on my porch.

Should I keep Decibel indoors?

We have a few more prime weeks of "parrot weather" here in October. Decibel likes the porch ... under normal circumstances. And all the other parents and kids in my neighborhood like seeing Decibel out there.

I don't want any kid to get bitten, though. This is Snobville, a village of 11,000 people -- 9,000 of them lawyers.

Forget the twisted kid. What are Decibel's rights?

Oh, and by the way, I intend to come home from work early on Monday. If this child goes for Decibel again, she will find herself in the stern hands of a Title One District school teacher who not only loves Decibel but also hates coming home before all her work is done and her desk is tidy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Damn Your EYES, Spare!

Welcome to The Gods Are Bored, where the last thing we need is another addiction! Damn! Damn! Damn! Teenagers and their habits! Gonna bring me down.

I am so old (though well-preserved) that I can remember the original episodes of Star Trek. I watched it in re-run in the early 1970s when it was gaining a fan base. Then I saw the first three Star Wars films, and they were awesome. After that, I parted ways with science fiction. No more Trek films, no Lord of the Rings, haven't seen Darth Vader since James Earl Jones was the voice. Anne and science fiction went their separate ways.

Until now.

DAMN IT ALL! Spare has been consumed by "Dr. Who" since summer. Here's the quote she wanted me to record: "How I spent my Independence Day: Watching 'Dr. Who' and eating Italian food."

A few times I caught a rare glimpse of "Dr. Who," and of course I began to belittle Spare about it. The show seemed incomprehensible to me, kind of all silly action with no coherent story line. (Say what you want about Star Trek, its original episodes had chippin story lines.)

Earlier this week, I settled into the easy chair to blog on my netbook. Spare was, as is her daily habit, absorbed in "Dr. Who."

I started to watch it. And now I can't stop. David Tennant is wicked adorable, and the story lines are silly but somewhat Trekkie. And the doggone show is on every day.

I really and truly thought I was beyond any chance of getting hooked on a cheesy science fiction t.v. show. Just goes to show ya, wicked temptations lie around every corner. But, Spare, Spare, did it have to be this way? Why are you watching "Dr. Who" just when I want to catch the occasional episode of "Dr. Phil?"

Wait. Hold the friggin phone! I'm watching "Dr. Who" when I could be watching "Dr. Phil?" Need I ask you, reader, which one would rot my brain faster and with less-appealing visuals?

I may raise The Spare's allowance.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Restoring Insanity March

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," twelve miles out from Kettle Point, bound for Boston, with ... nothing in particular.

(Every now and then I have to borrow from another author for my opener. I run out of ideas.)

A trickle of news tells us that Jon Stewart is proposing a "Restoring Sanity" march in Washington, DC on October 30. Apparently the target participant for this thing is someone who is sane and reasonable. Someone who doesn't hold strong views on either side of the partisan divide.

Putting aside the fact that I'm not sane enough to gain admittance to this march, I'm not sure I would go anyway. Talk about a boring event! This promises to be a major snooze-fest. A march by Middle Americans who don't feel strongly either way on the issues facing our country? zzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzzz!

How about a "Restoring Insanity" march? We could wave Flying Spaghetti Monster banners, drink Red Bull, speak Klingon, and throw red Fizzies into the Reflecting Pool. Then we could play paintball in the Lincoln Memorial before settling down to a Residents concert, followed by a midnight showing of "Harold and Maude."

Now that's an event I could see myself at!

Seriously. The only people who go to marches are people who feel strongly about something. Can you imagine getting up on the morning of the "Restoring Sanity" march and trying to decide what to wear? Navy Dockers and white button-down, or khaki Banana Republic crop pants with a basic J. Jill t-shirt? zzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZ!!!!!

None of that dull attire at my "Restoring Insanity" march! Come in your faerie wear, your best cosplay get-up, your favorite glistening yellow raincoat! And while we're at it, let's do some cosplay of our own. Travis Bickle re-enactors! Scary clowns! Reward for the best impersonator of Bob's Big Boy!

Boom boom, ain't it great to be crazy?

The moral of this story is simple enough. Sane people don't go to Washington to demonstrate their sanity. They stay home and mow the lawn.

While they're doing that, I say let's march, crazy lunatic people! Remember, our nation's motto is, "Out of many, one." There are plenty of crazies out there, and it's America -- they have to keep us. Let's show our gratitude by reminding America that we're nuts, and we vote in nutty ways, and democracy is the lunatic's best friend!

Who's with me on this? I have to know how much Red Bull to bring.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Long Strange Trip

There's a store over in my sidebar called Woodstock Trading Company. Woodstock is a family-owned business, and its merchandise is teleported straight from 1972 to the present. They don't sell pipes at Woodstock, but everything else is hippie dippy trippy. All of my faerie balls have come from there, and most of my ritual candles and incense as well. If what you want is a Grateful Dead _________ (you fill in the blank, they've got it), you cannot do better than Woodstock.

On Sunday the folks at Woodstock had a Garlic Festival. They have it every year at the moment when they prepare their garden bed (in front of the store). They had a band on the lawn, Grateful Dead covers of course. They also had an old road trip hippie bus called the Sugar Magnolia.

Are you on the bus or off the bus?

Remember that old phrase? It's metaphorical, of course.

People who are on the bus are free spirits, adventurous, risk-takers. No two days are alike, because the bus is always rolling. Enjoy the ride!

Those who aren't on the bus play it safe, keep within routine, and ... well ... let's be honest. They prop up the people on the bus. If it weren't for the "off the bus" crowd, the people on the bus wouldn't have any gigs to play, no destination, no place to crash when they're sleeping off the shrooms. If we're perfectly candid, there wouldn't be a bus at all without the cooperation of people who aren't ever going to get on it.

So, what do the people who aren't on the bus get as a reward for supporting the people on the bus? The off-the-bussers get to live vicariously without incurring danger. They can lie on the grass and listen to the Grateful Dead, maybe get a little bit stoned, then rouse themselves and get back to work on Monday morning.

I'd like to be on the bus, but I'm not much of a risk-taker. It's too easy to sit in the grass, sing along, enjoy the sky, return home and cook dinner.

One of these days, though, I'm going to throw all caution to the wind. I'm going to climb on the bus, take a long, strange trip. I'll be the one singing for the crowd, living for the moment, raking in adventure like a gardener on harvest day. I'll deal with the hangovers and the crazy fellow-trippers, because it's better to fly than to be rooted to the ground.

Yep, I have definitely not ruled out the long, strange trip. In the meantime, I had Jimmy snap this photo of me as an inspiration. It is never too late to jump on the bus. Don't believe me? Will it change your mind if I tell you I used to spend every Sunday morning in a Methodist church, and now I go to Garlic Festivals instead?

Our bus for the long, strange trip is taking passengers now. And later. Any time. No seat belts. Don't forget your tie-dye shirt! If you don't have one, they've got hundreds at Woodstock Trading Company!

Peace, love, flower power.

Friday, September 17, 2010

She Who Hath a Trade

In August of 2004, my dad fell and broke his hip. He had, by that time, an advanced case of Parkinson's Disease. Part of the reason he fell was because he was confused.

It happened that my sister and her husband had reservations for a vacation in the Rockies at that very moment. So I had to go home and clean out my dad's apartment, because it was the end of August and the assisted living place wanted to move someone new into Dad's space on September 1.

And so, in the course of seeing my beloved father on his deathbed, and clearing out his belongings, I hardly noticed the email informing me that my services as a writer for Gale Group would no longer be required. The email came the same week I was caring for Dad. I happened to stop by the public library to look up my messages, and that was what I got.

Lost my dad, lost my job. Couldn't get either one of them back. Miss them both, but not the "them" they had become in the end. The "them" in their prime. There's a difference.

Well, there was no replacing Dad. But my stomach gets empty every 24 hours, so I had to find a job.

At first I thought I could get more writing gigs, so I applied to be a substitute teacher. By an entire quirk of fate, I began teaching not at Snobville High (where I thought I'd go, since it's within walking distance), but at an old-fashioned Vo-Tech with classes half a day and "shops" the other half. After working for 20 years alone in a home office, I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of young people from Camden, New Jersey.

I liked them.

Thus I began subbing at the Vo-Tech regularly, and when an English teacher went out on extended leave, they gave me her classes. Then the business teacher had a maternity leave. I, who hadn't worked in an office since 1986, was teaching "Office Basics!" After that, I taught World History for eight weeks.

Then I took a test, along with about 125 other people. I couldn't believe how simple the test was. I had two hours to finish it, and I was finished in an hour. I literally checked every answer. "I must be taking the wrong test," I thought. But when I looked across the room, many of the other people taking the test looked baffled.

Before the test score even arrived, I got a Certificate of Excellence from the test place. Then I got the score. I completely aced a 120-question multiple choice test.

Last year I became a full-time teacher at the Vo-Tech under a provisional certificate. I had to go to night (and weekend) school, and pay lots of money to various individuals and state entities, in order to get a piece of paper that would officially certify me to do what I was already doing. You see, my degree was in writing, not teaching. There's no state in the union that wouldn't see this as an easy way to grab some ducats.

In today's mail I found my New Jersey certificate to be a public school teacher.

Friends, I never thought I would be a teacher. And candidly, if someone had foreseen teaching in my future, I would never have predicted it would be in a school full of poor urban kids.

Most days I miss my old job. It's easy being your own boss if you're motivated by hunger. But just as often, I look around me at all the fresh faces, all of our nation's future nurses, and plumbers, and office workers, and I'm glad to be out in the world, doing some good. Just a little bit of good, and no harm.

The Vo-Tech building was designed by the same architect who designed Philadelphia's famous Museum of Art (the one with the Rocky steps). Above the Doric columns and the mini-Rocky steps at the Vo-Tech, there's a motto chiseled into the facade:

"HE WHO HATH A TRADE HATH AN ESTATE"

(When the Vo-Tech opened in 1926, it was all-male.)

Often when I go to work I ponder this motto. I was a tradeswoman of words ... and I built a hut. Now I'm a teacher, building a cabin. It's a long push for the estate, but you know what? I'm not hurting anyone, and I'm doing a little good. Let them say that of me, at least.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Better than "The Gods Are Bored"

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home to an amateur writer who used to be a pro. Even in my heyday, however, I was not as good as today's link. If you really want to meet the Monkey Man, click!

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/20100916_Daniel_Rubin__Free_spirit_spins_yarns_in_Camden.html

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Marvelous Monkey Man Magical Mystery Tour!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we ask for nothing more than true love and high adventure! And to use our netbook off the new neighbor's wireless. Simple pleasures, simple pleasures.

My daughter The Heir was a little stripling in sixth grade when the Adventure of the Monkey Man began. Brief recap: She was walking home from school on a back street with a friend, when an odd fellow on  a bike passed them. He was wearing a jester hat and carrying a monkey puppet. He greeted the girls by way of the monkey: "Hello, kids! ooo ooo ooo AH AH AH!"

Being a rather benevolent parent who believes in freedom of speech, I did not freak out when Heir told me about this person. I just counseled her to stay on the main street.

From those humble origins began the saga of the Monkey Man. He became an obsession with our family, each of us competing for sightings. They were infrequent enough to make it an adventure, but frequent enough to make it suspenseful. Legend clung to the man. You never got the same story twice about him. Street person, school teacher, strung-out stoner ... everyone claimed to know all about him.

One fateful day, he lost his monkey. He ran into my daughter The Spare on Main Street and gave her an email address and a description of the monkey. He was asking everyone -- surely someone had seen his monkey!

Some cross country runners recovered the monkey from the riverbank and turned the monkey in to the police. We heard about this and sent the Monkey Man an email. He wrote back.

Now he's one of my very best friends.

A few of the urban legends were true. He is a part-time school teacher. He did spend some formative years in the late 1960s in Berkeley. But he also spent his boyhood in the house behind the one I live in now. He writes poetry. He recites multiple passages of "Leaves of Grass." He always stops by on Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from the Monkey Man. He and his monkey had scheduled a performance at the famous Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Trouble was, his venue was moved from an auditorium with 90 seats to an auditorium with 900 seats. Popular as he is in these parts, he can't summon an audience that size!

Thank you, Facebook!

It's possible to friend newspaper reporters. Did you know that? Columnists especially. I had friended one Philadelphia Inquirer columnist who I read all the time. So I wrote to her via Facebook, suggesting she do a story on the Monkey Man. She wrote back, "What's with that guy? All the moms around here are concerned."

I replied, "I am solid with the dude. Please write about his Fringe Festival performance."

Well, that columnist wasn't keen on the story, but she passed it on to another Philadelphia Inquirer columnist. His story on the Monkey Man will be in Thursday's Philadelphia Inquirer! You can read it and weep! (Actually, laugh.)

I doubt if one newspaper story will fill the 900 seats, but I do believe the Monkey Man will get a bigger audience than if he got no publicity at all.

For years the magickal flow has mostly been from the Monkey Man to me. This week it was payback time. I'm so happy I could drum up product placement for my friend!

And now, the details from here:

Read about the Monkey Man in a column by Daniel Rubin in Thursday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

Come meet and greet me at the Monkey Man's performance of an original show, "Seal Moon," part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Saturday, September 18. 401 South Broad Street, 7:30 p.m. Admission $15.00, and free for puppets.

If you want to join the Monkey Man's poetry group, we meet at Slice of New York Pizza, 3rd and Cooper in Camden. Email me to be added to the contact list. Puppets eat free but sometimes perform poems.

Puppets. Have you ever thought about carrying one in a committed way? I'm here to tell you that people who do make extremely interesting companions!

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rush Job

This is a little note to myself:

Anne, please write tomorrow about your favorite friend, your hero and local pal, the fabulous Monkey Man tomorrow!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Laugh or Go Nuts

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You know what? I have a hard time choosing, but I'd say that laughter is better medicine than whiskey. Although when the two overlap, it's great.

I promised myself I would never kvetch about my school here at "The Gods Are Bored." So I'm going to break that promise (all promises get broken eventually) but try to do it in a subtle way.

Last year, during my first year of teaching, I had a "coach" who came in a few times and then sort of disappeared. This coach was an experienced teacher from the other campus in our district.

Now I'm in my second year.

Recently, a teacher retired from my district who had 40 years experience in the same school. Literally, this man has had no other job in his life but teaching. In the same school the whole time.

He is my new coach. He observed me on the first day of school. And I only found out he was going to be there from the Opening Bell at 8:00 the night before school began.

If you're in the teaching biz, you know it's kind of like being a polar bear on an ice floe. You recognize that some other polar bears are going to come in and watch you, but it's your floe. This new coach wants a part of my floe, while also teaching me how to rule my floe, according to how he thinks it should be done.

At first I was sore as all get out. And then I just turned it into a laugh. What's the use getting riled up? If this school district fires me, I'll get unemployment while writing my heart out and applying for other jobs.

Anyway, this new coach makes Mr. Bigwand look reticent (and young).

New coach, new label.

This one I called the Teacher Creature.

But Puck the faerie pointed out that this coach deserves to be recognized for his ability to orate at length in a manner that literally has turned all of my memories of Bigwand to fond ones.

Puck suggested, and I concurred, that my new coach is the Preacher Teacher Creature.

It's great to have faeries around in these situations. They see you wringing your hands, all worked up and overwrought, and they remind you that life is short, and its lease grows shorter every day.

In conclusion, I may from time to time make reference here to the Preacher Teacher Creature. So I'm going to break another promise (just in the mood for broken promises today) and use an acronym. Preacher Teacher Creature will now be known as PTC.

PS - My dad taught school for 40 years, always a teacher. And my grandfather worked for the American Celanese corporation for 45 years, as an inventor. But when Dad and Granddad retired, well. They indulged in all the activities they had always wanted to do. Dad joined the city choral guild and sang his heart out. Granddad fixed watches, and antique clocks, and anything that broke mostly, and he went on garden tours and took lots and lots of slides of flowers.

The Preacher Teacher Creature is still in teacher mode. I guess he can't sing, and no one wears watches anymore.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11

Amidst all the calls for tolerance today, I think we perhaps should remember that some things require intolerance.

It is intolerable to inflict harm out of religious fervor. Civilized and moral people do not commit such acts.

It is intolerable to burn reading materials that are held important or sacred by other people. Even if those reading materials advocate violence against others. (I wouldn't know if the Koran does. I only know the Bible.)

It is intolerable to allow one crazy preacher from one tiny church to represent our nation in the worldwide media. But that is what has happened because we let it happen. He was news. We ran with it. Including me.

The Internet is broadcasting our First Amendment to the entire globe, and people of some nations can't comprehend it. I'm open to suggestions -- what can we do about this?

In the meantime, it's well to remember that any of us could become a terror victim. Seize the day, embrace the Divine, live like that plane's coming for you tomorrow. Although I sure hope it doesn't!

Peace.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Burn, Chicka Burn Burn!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where you can come for a chuckle at the end of your long, tough working day! Tee hee! (See? I told you!)

All this talk of burning the Koran has put me in the mood to torch some tomes. Don't you feel the same way? Like, if we're going to light a fire, shouldn't we throw lots of stuff in it?

Well, I was going to use the Great Gainesville Koran Burn as a locale to ignite some Chick tracts. You know who Jack Chick is, don't you? He's the guy who writes all the "you are going to burn in hell forever" comic books for happy little kids!  Except that after they read the comic books, the kids aren't happy anymore. They're anxious and depressed and wondering how God can be so mean. (I speak from experience.)

Burn them! Into the fire with all Chick tracts! They'll make a terrific conflagration, much better than the dull Koran!

I'm having second thoughts. Here's why:

When I went to the Chick website to pick up the link, I saw that the great master Mister Chick has published a brand new comic (the guy is like, 85 or something). This comic is Halloween-themed, but by golly it's almost as silly as the Cthulhu rip-offs that keep getting pulled from the Web.

Here it is, go have a laugh. http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/1065/1065_01.asp

What I love about this is that Halloween is suddenly okey-dokey with the notoriously anti-Pagan Mr. Chick. As long as some nice Christian lady is handing out Chick tracts instead of candy (and the message about sin and damnation gets in there), we can all trick-or-treat!

Dare we say it? Is Jack Chick going soft?

You know what? Even if he is going soft, that old stuff of his is rancid! So the tract burning is back on again! This Saturday at sundown, we at "The Gods Are Bored" will kindle a fire and then stoke it with classic Chick tracts, all the while chanting, "Chick is a hater! Chick is a hater!"

Damn. This sounds like one fun plan. Mark your calendar, I feel a book-burnin' comin' on!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hope Gov. Fat Ass Doesn't Notice

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" BRRRRRRIIIIIINNNNG! There's the bell. It's time to teach school! With the first of many, many 10-hour days behind me, I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival tomorrow of my 95 vibrant pupils. Call me brave or foolish, but I like freshmen. Then again, maybe I'd better reserve judgment until next June.

If you're not in the education biz, you can't have any idea how many trees get felled, pulped, processed, packaged, unpackaged, shoved into copy machines, and ground out as administrative directives. Unashamedly, the powers that be call it "administrivia." And if our dear New Jersey Governor Fat Ass wanted to save some money, he could find ways to cut back on all the paperwork, forms, and memos!

A few hours ago, I was shoveling through a mountain of beginning-of-the-year school memos, and I found one entitled "State Approved Religious Holidays."

Oh, ho ho! Thinks I. Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur.

Guess what? I am so not kidding ....

Samhain (Wicca) October 31
Beltain (Wicca) May 1

!!!!!!!

I won't quibble about the "Wicca" part. All hail Wicca! I'm just astonished. Astonished, I tell you!

Now, before my tap dance goes into the next combination, I will hurry to add that these holidays are excused absences for students, but not paid holy days for teachers. Meaning that my daughter The Spare can stay home on October 31 and not have the day counted against her. I have to take a personal day.

All is beautiful, though.

You see, since I started as a full-time teacher, both Beltain and Samhain have been on weekends. Beginning next year, they will be on Mondays. Armed with that religious holiday directive, I can't be accused of slacking if I take a personal day on Halloween (which I most certainly will).

Thank you, state of New Jersey, for recognizing the bored deities! Now, if we can just give the heave-ho to this union-busting, worker-hating, rich-people-pandering walrus of a governor, New Jersey will be a swell place to hang a hat.

Monday, September 06, 2010

OxyMORONS

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," day-before-school-opens edition! Teacher Annie is going back to the Vo-Tech smack in the midst of a Mercury retrograde for the ages!

Whoa. Are you having as much trouble with this retrograde as me? I just had to chase a red-tailed hawk (joovy) off Decibel's bird cage! So much for the front porch, Decibel my dear. When the hawk's looking for a picnic supper, it's time to bring the parrot inside.

Today's sermon: Hawks in Dove Clothing

When I'm wrong, I'll admit it. I was wrong when I said that the people who wanted to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero ought to build it elsewhere, just to be on the safe side.

There is no safe side.

This week, on September 11, our nation's finest morons will be protesting at mosques near and far. So my troll was right, there's no point in moving your building plans, because the morons will find you and blame the bunch of you for the deeds of a few on the lunatic fringe.

On Saturday, a place that gives Oxymoron a whole new depth of meaning, the Dove World Outreach Center  http://www.doveworld.org/ is going to have a good old-fashioned Koran Burning. Yes, 21st Century America, holy books will be burned. And not out of hate, according to the fine young morons at this place, but because "Islam is Evil."

The Dove World Outreach Center is in Gainesville, Florida. That little town is quite a distance from Ground Zero. It's even a haul to get to Miami from there.

Hey, Gainesville! Are you gonna let this happen? Would you rather be famous for your Gators, or this abomination? Prove Glenn Beck right about universities being "reeducation camps." Use your reeducation to counter protest this moron douchebag book-burning into the ground!

Talk about ironic. The Spare is cramming on her summer reading project, which was 1984. Whenever I hear about any books being burnt, be they the Koran or Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets, my blood just boils! Big Brother burns books. Not citizens of an educated democracy.

But what really sticks in my craw is the name of this bunch of book-burning bastards. The Dove World Outreach Center! When did doves become symbolic for one religion's hatred of another? Even more despicable ... both religions pay homage to the same busy god!

Oh, Mr. YHWH! Excuse me, but your followers are behaving stupidly again. Can you take five from the gazillion prayers you have to answer and deal with this? I don't believe you can pass the buck on this one, even to Jesus. You've got to deal with it yourself. Oh, wait. Didn't deal with it in 1099, not gonna deal with it now. (I sure would like to see this deity's schedule. He's way past "gym, tan, laundry.")

I'm afraid my friend Hecate might actually be right. Wingnut morons who heave Islam's holy book into the fire would gladly heave people (including Pagans) into a blaze ... or at least a jail. All they need is enough support amongst themselves and a couple of ballot boxes.

Dove World Outreach Center ... change your name to reflect your true nature. I humbly suggest Napalm in the Morning World Center of Shame Heaped upon Your Savior. I know it's a mouthful, especially for your high-grade brand of moron, but work on it. Fits you like gloves. Cuz you sure as hell ain't doves.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

International Vulture Awareness Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You'll think I'm making this up, but go ahead and Google it. Today, September 4, 2010 was International Vulture Awareness Day, observed on several continents! We are trying to change hearts and minds all over the world -- to reach out and gain disciples for the Sacred Thunderbird!

Today I journeyed to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. This was the only place in the vicinity that was having an International Vulture Awareness Day program. And what a program it was! A pair of wildlife rehabbers from the Red Creek Wildlife Rescue talked for a whole hour about turkey vultures and displayed a whopping fine specimen who had been raised by a human and cannot be re-released into the wild. Pinky swear, that vulture (named Hannibal) knew that he was the center of attention and did all he could to charm his highly interested audience.

Hannibal's handler rattled off the usual facts about vultures, the ones I've often quoted here as Holy Scripture so will not repeat. However, it just goes to show that no matter how much you think you know about Sacred Thunderbirds, every new sermon will have new information in it.

How about this: Have you thought about a vulture's carbon footprint?

Most of us Pagans have wistful moments when we imagine leaving a neutral carbon footprint on Gaia. Step aside, human race, and let a winner lead the way!

Vultures leave a negative carbon footprint. Every day that they get up and go to work, the Earth becomes a better place. This is something we can't even strive for. We can't eat rancid meat. Our "droppings" are toxic. (Vulture droppings have no toxicity, although they're pretty acidic.)

As much as I've thought about vultures over the years, I never thought about their carbon footprints. I should write a whole new Psalm about this. Worthy art thou, o Thunderbird ... (good start)

It's not often that wildlife rehabbers have to give an hour-length program on a single species, but these brave folks did, and the dude held the 7-pound vulture the whole time. When an hour starts nearing its end, you get down to some arcane knowledge, and this is where I felt a schism brewing between myself and the vulture preachers.

The first point of contention was the vulture preacher's demand that we not call vultures buzzards. He said that vultures aren't buzzards. "Buzzards" (actually, bustards) live in the British Isles and are a kind of raptor not found in the New World. Ergo, if those birds are "buzzards," then our New World vultures cannot be "buzzards."

Sacrilege! Blasphemy! You've got this straight from Anne Johnson: Go ahead and call them buzzards.

I say this and back it with logic. What do you call that pretty little backyard bird with the red breast who hops across your lawn and pulls up worms? Oh! It's a robin! But wait. There's a little bird with a red breast that only lives in the British Isles, also known as a robin. So which one is the robin?

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they adopted many Native names for wildlife not found in Europe. But the settlers also endowed other species with names of Old World critters they resembled. That is how our New World vultures got to be called "buzzards." And how robins got called "robins." So what's good for the robin is good for the buzzard. I say we can use buzzard and vulture interchangeably, unless of course we're talking about condors.

The other thing that I found fault with in today's sermon was the preacher's admonition that it is illegal to own vulture feathers. This is indeed true -- except if the feathers are used for religious purposes. When I pointed this little quibble out to the preacher, he said, well, yes, if you're a "card-carrying Native American," you're allowed to own vulture feathers.

Friends, I have a vulture feather on my wand and a primary flight feather on my altar. Both of them were picked up off the ground, not pulled from a live bird. Those feathers are a part of my Ritual practice, and I don't need to carry a card, or be a Native American to use them. Bring it on, Fish and Wildlife! Saying I have to be a Native American to revere the vulture is like saying you have to be able to prove descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be a Jew! That's just preposterous. (If you refer to last March's "buzzard worship" sermons, you'll see that I got full approval from the card-carrying Native Americans to be a vulture Shaman, no questions asked about ancestry.)

Anyway, to wind up this sermon about a sermon, I just want to remind you yet again that we humans can never hope to measure up to the high standards set by vultures when it comes to aerodynamics, carbon footprint, or non-aggression. In everything you do, and everywhere you go, please spread the good news about buzzards. People actually kill them out of fear of them. This practice must end! It's hard to imagine a dirtier world than the one we currently have until you face the prospect of extinction for all vultures. Say it will never be so!

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Fridays with Jeffers

In honor of International Vulture Awareness Day, a poem by Robinson Jeffers.
Photo by Birdchick

Vulture

I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside
Above the ocean. I saw through half-shut eyelids a vulture wheeling high up in heaven,
And presently it passed again, but lower and nearer, its orbit narrowing, I understood then
That I was under inspection. I lay death-still and heard the flight-feathers
Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer.
I could see the naked red head between the great wings
Bear downward staring. I said, “My dear bird, we are wasting time here.
These old bones will still work; they are not for you.” But how beautiful he looked, gliding down
On those great sails; how beautiful he looked, veering away in the sea-light over the precipice. I tell you solemnly
That I was sorry to have disappointed him. To be eaten by that beak and become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes–
What a sublime end of one’s body, what an enskyment; what a life after death.

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Foster Farewell

Today we bid farewell to three foster kittens. I named them, and I hope the animal shelter where they came from doesn't take away their names.

We called them the "criminal cats": Butch, Doc, and Sundance. All three are yellow/white mix. Sundance has very short hair. Butch and Doc look so much alike that only their faces are different colors. Someone left them on the doorstep of the shelter in a cardboard box when they were about six weeks old.

Ach! They're sitting here at my feet, oblivious to the abrupt turn their destiny is about to take!

But that's life for all of us. The difference between us and kittens is that we can reflect on fate, and they just roll with it. These "criminals" aren't going to like being caged, but hopefully they'll soon find homes where they will be loved even more than we loved them here.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Which Came First, the Universe or the Gods?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," pondering deep philosophical questions and cleaning delicate upholstery since 2005! Sometimes you've just got to ask yourself, "What would Billy Mays do?" Go, therefore, and do thus, Pilgrim.

I'm acutely aware that the physics behind the Big Bang theory eludes me completely. Yeah, yeah, I know, there was an explosion, and stuff got thrown around, and time passed, and here we are. How did this happen? Beats me.

With the news this afternoon that Stephen Hawking will be publishing a new book shortly, a book in which he demonstrates that Divine Intervention was not a necessary prerequisite for the creation of the universe, I think it's high time we at "The Gods Are Bored" weigh in on Intelligent Design. Yet again.

Could it actually be possible that we've got the sequence of events wrong? I mean, just for the sake of argument. What if the Big Bang happened, and through its energy, Divinity was produced? No "chicken or egg" here, just BANG! and then the Divine.

Throughout history our great thinkers have pointed to our Earth's uniqueness as a repository for organic life. Well, even before astronomers began finding other stars with planets around them, I would have given you good odds for the existence of other planets, and even for other planets with life on them, and even for other planets with intelligent life on them, and even other planets with higher quality intelligence than what you find here. (On that last point, contact me if you want the wager!)

Now I'll go one step further. Many of us sense the existence of Higher Powers. That's how we get the bored and busy gods! We sense Higher Powers and throw human construct on Them until ... voila! A jealous god, a love goddess, a trickster. Suppose those Higher Powers exist beyond our ability to comprehend Them at this particular juncture in our evolution. And suppose those Higher Powers evolved after the Big Bang.

Are you comfortable explaining the entire universe with just your five senses? What if there's a Deity Planet out there where everyone has ten senses? What if there's a planet with a God School on it, where super-sensory Beings train to communicate with organic beings at various stages of evolution? (If you've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, you may be thinking of it now.) Why can't there be a planet with a God School? Hey, I bet you there is one! It's a big universe out there. Don't be thinking that you, or Stephen Hawking, or even your deities have the final word on it.

So, if the Big Bang came first, and then Divinity, then what happens when the universe grinds to a close? Does everything just die, including deities?

Well, I say we cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, though, we here at "The Gods Are Bored" are not ruling out the possibility (we actually think it's a probability) that in the beginning there was a Big Bang, and from it sprang Divinity ... powerful energy we can feel but not understand. Everyone knows that when you can't understand something, you activate your inner database to try to make sense of the feeling. So here come the gods and goddesses of every stripe, the faeries and angels and demons and spirits and ghosts and extraterrestrials. We endow Divinity with human traits simply because that's our schema.

The moral of this sermon is that it's a great big universe out there, and if we understand all of it at this moment in our history, why are we still paying physicists to study it?

Think of the universe as a race that began with a blast from a starter pistol. Everything is off and running! Forget the finish line, and enjoy an interesting contest.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Keeling

I would seriously like to talk to these people who want to schedule a 12-month school year.

People, come and spend a day with me.

It's September 1. The students have not yet returned to school. I am spending these final days preparing my classroom and my lessons.

The part of the school where my room is located was built in 1926.

My room faces east. The view consists of an asphalt parking lot and the next wing of the school, which is made of yellow brick.

There is no air conditioning, and the windows only open six inches.

Today one of the guidance counselors brought in a thermometer. It was 97 degrees at noon in my classroom.

Here in New Guinea .... oooops, I mean New Jersey ... we've had eight heat waves this summer. We define a heat wave as five consecutive days with temperatures of 90 or better.

I cannot imagine trying to teach anyone anything in such conditions. I literally staggered to my car this afternoon. The idea of "quality instructional time" during the summer months does not take into account the age of the school buildings and the weather from region to region.

So, to the next bonehead who pipes up that kids forget stuff over the summer months, I say, well, yeah. But they wouldn't learn it in the first place baking in a 97 degree oven, so everything equals out.

I love my job, but sheesh. Someone pull the plug on summer, already! Oh pleeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeze!


Addendum to tonight's rant: The Onion's take on a busy god: http://www.theonion.com/articles/judge-orders-god-to-break-up-into-smaller-deities,404/