Monday, February 28, 2011

Shamanic Festival Attire Has Arrived!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" When the vulture costume arrives at the front door, I know it's a sign that spring is in the air!

And yes, my friends and readers (all three of you), the ever-helpful Akron Costume and Supply has delivered again! On Saturday afternoon I step out, adorned in my feathery finery, to help the fine young minds in Wenonah, New Jersey learn that vultures are a good thing, a wonderful thing, a sight to be gazed upon with awe and joy!

I would so keep this costume if I had the dough. But I'll bet it costs an arm and a leg ... it's a rental.

Which makes me wonder who else uses it during the year. And why.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Buzzard Week 2011: A Heretic Speaks

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," celebrating the fabulous Egyptian deities and their respect for Vulture since 2005! All hail the sacred Thunderbird, the Peace Eagle, the Golden Purifier, bird without end, Amen!

We are entering Buzzard Week, the annual peak of Vulture Worship in New Jersey. The East Coast Vulture Festival is Saturday, March 5, in lovely Wenonah, New Jersey. Look alive if you come, because 200 vultures can't be fooled.

Awhile back I wrote a post about Staunton, Virginia, which has a similar influx of winter buzzards. The people of Staunton are not happy about their town being a Holy Land for the Golden Purifier.

Some time last week, I guess a citizen of that ill-informed hamlet read my post. In true troll fashion (which I don't mind at all, unless it's aimed at someone else in my comments section), this sorry apostate wrote the following:

"Until you have lived with a flock of 30+ Buzzards roosting in YOUR yard and vomiting in YOUR yard, you really can't know how disgusting these vile creatures are and you can't say just what you would consider doing to get rid of them. If you would like to have that first hand experience you can camp out in our backyard under the pine trees and get up close and personal with mother nature's garbage disposals. Just make sure you are wearing a hazmat suit because you will need it!"

Oh, my my my. Bound to share Prometheus's hill, I would say. Anon, you won't be burnt at the stake by this civilized Pagan, but you are WRONG WRONG WRONG on every front.

1. I do not have the good fortune of living with a buzzard roost in my back yard. However, I make frequent trips to Wenonah, where the residents don't mind seeing me in their yards under their trees.

2. I have never seen or smelt buzzard vomit in Wenonah. Buzzards don't barf unless they are stressed. That's food they need to survive! Maybe if you quit shooting paintballs at them, they'd keep their supper in their crops.

3. On said trips to Wenonah, I have smelled a distinctly musty odor, but nothing that would be offensive. Vultures are also very quiet. All you hear is a rustle of wings. Their poop doesn't smell. My car has been bombed with it. I don't even wash it off. I just let the rain take care of it.

4. The concentration of vultures in winter roosts is a seasonal phenomenon. In the spring they take off and go their merry way, out into the (vanishing) wilderness and the (overflowing) landfills.

So, Anonymous (oh I love trolls!), I put it to your heretic self this way: Vultures for a few months, not vomiting if you leave them alone, or these horrific, noisy, poop-strewing, shouldn't-even-be-here Canadian geese? It's been nonstop honking here today, and sadly, they ain't flying north.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

In Which I Take on a New Moron: Christine Flowers

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" For all the newbies, here's our platform in a nutshell: If God said, "You shall have no other gods but Me," that presupposes there are other deities. Thank goodness for that. Who wants to pray to a jealous old white man?

Last Friday was the first time I called out sick during the school year 2010-11. I'm a dedicated teacher who puts in 10-hour days without thinking about it. It's my job.

Anyway, I was home sick, and I picked up the Philadelphia Daily News, and therein I read a column by one of their contributors, a moron named Christine Flowers.

The only earthly reason I can see for Christine Flowers to be writing for the Daily News is that she makes the readers furious enough to keep buying the paper to see what she'll write next.

I don't know how long ago it was that Mizz Flowers wrote a column extolling Governor Chris Christie. I emailed her, she emailed back, saying she just wants to see an end to "bloated teacher salaries."

Since then I've mostly missed her, because I'm so busy earning my bloated salary of less than fifty grand. But lately I've caught up with her and decided to make her my new "moron du jour" until Rick Santorum gets his national candidacy out of the gutter and into swing.

Christine is in full flower today, so if you've taken your blood pressure medicine, go to Philly dot com and enter her name in the search engine. Or you can try this link ... but you know how I am at linking ...


http://www.philly.com/philly/columnists/christine_flowers/20110225_Christine_M__Flowers__When_Oscar_meets_real_life.html


The easiest way to get on Annie the Cailleach's last nerve is to make fun of "Norma Rae." Christine the Moron starts with that and moves on. You can smell the "let them eat cake" on her breath.

Philly dot com is an open site, and Christine writes every Friday. I have started trolling there, and if you feel moved to do so, I guarantee her ego is large enough that she will read what you write, whether it gets posted or not. Knowing that my fine Pagan readers are tasteful and thoughtful, I unleash you all upon her with the blessings of the bored gods.

Making fun of "Norma Rae" in the face of the protests in Wisconsin? Moron. Now deal with me. I don't get paid to write newspaper columns, but there's some satisfaction in being able to sneer in your general direction. What a waste of a beautiful surname!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gotta Live Like Auntie Mame

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" What are you going to do when you retire? Have you ever thought about it? Well, think no more, because you probably won't retire. No one will be able to afford to retire in the new Red America.

What with the under-funded and looted pension accounts, the under-funded and looted Social Security, and the under-funded Medicare, you and I will be flipping burgers or shoving Chinese merchandise into mail-order envelopes until we keel over from our untreated diseases.

Ah, this sounds so depressing, doesn't it? Well, what we need is a change in plans.

If you're never going to retire, go into semi-retirement now!

By semi-retirement I mean, work as little as you need to in order to get your job done. And then party like it's 1999 every chance you get! Don't squander your years of health and vigor working diligently for a company that has no allegiance to you ... or a government that wants you to pick up its slack.

Gone are the days when a person could spend 40 years in a job and then retire with a gold watch and a pension. None of us will get that. No matter how things turn out in Wisconsin, the Red Scare is upon us. Act accordingly.

One of the criticisms leveled at communism is that it stifles incentive. Sadly, the same is true of capitalism, if only a few at the top profit while everyone else struggles.

So pledge allegiance to yourself and to your deities, take what little salary you have left after all the give-backs, and live in the moment. Reconfigure your whole concept of time! There's no future worth living for. Live now. Right now. And blessed be.

In keeping with the new era of shared sacrifice, I am now paying you for my free advice. Send an invoice.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Of Morons and Mountains

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we're gazing southbound at some top-quality morons at work. You go, morons! It's not my tax dollars you're wasting!

Today's Baltimore Sun had a front-page story about a group of African American legislators from Baltimore who have decided that Negro Mountain in Garrett County should be re-named. I didn't even know there was a Negro Mountain in Maryland, but I do know that there's a Warrior's Ridge. It's the next mountain over from Polish Mountain...

... emmmm ... Polish Mountain. That would be the Polish Mountain where my farm is...

The selfsame Polish Mountain that is now "under study" for a name change as well.

I kid you not, readers. A committee led by two Maryland lawmakers named Nathanial Oaks and Lisa Gladden has decided to look into dubious mountain names with the hopes of changing them to something more politically correct.

EXHIBIT A: MOUNTAIN TO BE NAMED LATER



I'll go out on a politically-incorrect limb here and say that I don't find "Negro Mountain" to be particularly offensive. But it's not my right to say. I don't live on Negro Mountain, and I'm not African American.

However, I do own property on Polish Mountain (at least for now), and I'm extremely affronted by Ms. Gladden and Mr. Oaks' sudden attention to its name.

Maryland's state anthem has pro-Confederate lyrics that are so offensive no one ever dares sing it in public. If the state's black lawmakers want a cause celebre, they could certainly begin with that song. Or they could re-name the statue dedicated to Confederate mothers in north Baltimore. Right in their own back yard.

But to suggest that the name of Polish Mountain is "under study" for a change is, to me, the finest waste of taxpayer dollars and hot air in the history of the Free State.

There's a whole scene in the Penn-Faulkner Award-winning novel, The Chaneysville Incident, that takes place on Polish Mountain. The author uses the name Polish Mountain. Just like everyone has since before any data was recorded on paper. No one really knows how the mountain got its name. It certainly didn't have to do with anyone of Polish ancestry. And it certainly wasn't a stab at Polish people. It's a beautiful mountain. Any Pole would be proud to live on it.

I have of course fired off a blistering email to Sens. Gladden and Oaks, telling them to get about some more important and relevant business. The time they spend studying Polish Mountain's name could be better spent ... oh, I dunno ... blocking development along the Chesapeake Bay? Improving the quality of Baltimore's public schools? Curbing irrational exurban development projects? Blocking the pending plans to drill for gas underneath the doggone mountains, with possible environmental devastation?

Oh, but it's so much easier to re-name the mountains! We'll just let the natural gas people in on the changes, so they can plan accordingly.

This is not the first time that I have noticed the preponderance of morons in politics. Where do we find these people?

I can't speak for Negro Mountain, but I think with Polish Mountain, my mountain, the crusading legislators may have met their match. You see, Polish Mountain begins at the Potomac River and runs due north into Pennsylvania. Yes, this name change would have to go through not one but two state legislatures. Who would have to approve sign changes, and map changes. And who would have to explain to the African American author of The Chaneysville Incident why his novel would no longer be geographically accurate.

I'm glad my mother-in-law alerted me to this pending legislation in Maryland. I have plenty of time to go home to Polish Mountain and speak to each and every one of its 376 residents. We will no doubt decide to secede from the state and the nation and form our own country. We'll name it the Democratic Republic of Polish Mountain. And we'll pick a better anthem, something meaningful like "Rocky Top."

If they re-name my mountain, I'm going to be so offended that I'll insist that they also re-name Druid Hill Park (in Baltimore). As a Druid, I STRONGLY OBJECT to having an urban park named after my religion!

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Movie Wasn't Funny, but Its Makers Were

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," taking a break from breaking news for a little funny navel-gazing.

Do you go to the movies? I do. I don't mind going alone to see a film, so if I've got a few hours to squander, I'll take in a flick. In that way I saw "The King's Speech," which is about as good as movie-making gets.

This past Thursday evening, Mr. J and I went into Philly to an advance screening for a new movie. The producer and screenwriter were both in attendance at the screening. The idea was to create a "buzz" for the picture, since apparently they had the dough to hire Robert Redford to direct it and a cast of fairly well-known actors and actresses to appear in it, but not enough left over for a media campaign.

I'm not going to name the movie, because I only saw about half of it. I'll get to that in a minute.

First let me say that this screening did have some heavy-hitters in the audience. A mayoral candidate was there, as was Mark Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down. (Mr. J has known Mr. Bowden for 30 years.) There were also swells from Penn and the local history museums, since the film in question is a costume drama about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

With one thing and another, Mr. J and I didn't get inside the theater until the movie was just about to start. The place was packed. Also, it was an older-style art house without the fancy seats and stadium layout you get these days at the Cineplex. Mr. J and I were forced to sit way down in the front, so that we had to lean back and practically stare straight up to see the film.

I suffer from motion sickness. No sooner had the doggone thing started than I began to feel queasy. About an hour into it, my choices were either to make a scene in the theater by becoming ill, or just getting up and going out into the lobby. I chose the latter.

The thing about motion sickness is that, as soon as you remove the irritant causing it, it goes away. But this queasiness didn't go away. It got worse. Turns out I was in the beginning phases of a light bout of stomach flu. Thank goodness I didn't have to run for the bathroom, but I also did not return to the theater.

Anyway, I was sitting in the lobby, just me and the two dudes who were selling tickets and popcorn. All of a sudden, out came the producer and the screenwriter, and they ensconced themselves in seats that were near me.

You would think that they would leave well-enough alone, especially considering the fact that there were two other movies being screened in the art house at that time. But no. These two swells started up a chat with me. The first thing the producer said was, "Oh my. You didn't like the film?"

????

I replied, "Oh no, I liked the film, but I was sitting in the front, and I got motion sickness." Trying to put a good ol' spin on it, I added, "So you see? You've already sold a ticket, because now I'll have to go back and pay to see how it ends."

(This is the moment that separates the Hollywood A-listers from the Hollywood wannabes. An A-list producer would have given me his card and instructed me to call his office for free tickets for myself and my friends. This guy's eyes lit up. Aha! A sale!)

Then I asked, "There's a really nice art house over in New Jersey. It's called The Ritz. Will this be showing there?"

The producer said he didn't know. I said, oh well, I could always look on Fandango.

To which the producer looked at the screenwriter and said, "Wow, we ought to look into being listed on Fandango."

It's hard to break into the Hollywood scene, as any Sundance finalist will tell you. But one would think that this producer would at least have consulted his A-list director to find out the basics of distribution. And one would also think that a producer might have a BlackBerry or other palm device that he could consult to find out exactly where his film would be opening in major metropolitan areas.

Then they began to ask me politely whether or not I'd liked what I saw, to which I politely replied in the affirmative, even though it's hard to get excited about a movie when you feel like you're going to throw up in the middle of it.

Apropos of nothing, the screenwriter asked me, "Do you know much about the Civil War?"

Maybe it's just me, but I thought that question was impertinent. What sort of American would answer in the negative to that?

I replied, "Do I know much about the Civil War? Oh, I suppose I know as much as anyone would who grew up five miles from Antietam Battlefield."

Don't you admire my restraint? I said nothing about the two great-great-great uncles buried in the red Georgia clay at Andersonville, nothing about working in Harper's Ferry when I was a teen, nothing about close friends who do extreme re-enactments, nothing about multiple school field trips to all the area battlefields where I grew up, nothing about the regiment, unit, and division of my four direct ancestors whose service I have documented from the National Archives, nothing about my membership in the nearly-defunct Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, nothing about the two biographies of Stonewall Jackson I read in 2009, nothing about my re-tracing Jackson's forays in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, nothing about my signed copy of Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, nothing about my financial support to the successful efforts at keeping shopping centers from being built at the boundaries of Antietam Battlefield, nothing about my favorite blog post, "Pickett's Slots," about the travesty of a casino being built in Gettysburg, nothing about my special invitation to the premiere of Gods and Generals in Hagerstown, nothing about my dear mama asleep with the Confederate dead, and nothing about passing lines of fake cannons, monuments, and tour markers every time I took a bike ride growing up.

I also did not tell this young fella that I've read the entirety of Shelby Foote's history of the war in question. Because that would be a stretcher. I stopped midway through Volume Three.

Nor did I tell him that upper class people in the 1860s did not say, "Uh huh," as they do in his film. Nor did young people kiss in public, as they do in the film. Nor did people get wounded in the war and then stride about exuding Hollywood health. Nor did dungeons have enough light for people to actually see into them. Nor did dirt roads look like mulched roads (they usually get this part of it right in Civil War movies). Nor did Marylanders ever speak with broad Southern accents, even those Marylanders living on the Eastern Shore.

Ah, but those are minor quibbles. The kind that will get this movie picked to pieces by all the re-enactors out there who will go to see it.

You would never know it to read this blog, but I'm a fairly likable human being. The way I go about being likable is to encourage other people to talk about themselves. So that's what I did with these two. I just started asking innocuous questions. All the while thinking to myself, "I can't believe he just asked me if I knew much about the Civil War."

I, Anne Johnson, will neither praise nor pan a movie that I have not seen in full. But this I will say. The brain trust behind this costume drama (it's the first full-length film for the production house) does not seem to me to be ready for prime time.

If you want someone to buzz your movie, you damn well should know exactly where it will be showing in the area.

If the person you're speaking to is apparently literate, you should not ask if they know much about the Civil War. Especially if your special invitees run high to Philadelphia's most prominent historians and curators.

So readers, if you want to support independent cinema, my advice to you is to click on my sidebar and contribute to the maker of Glen Rock Fae. He, at least, is not going to ask you if you know anything about faeries.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Annie's Quick Solution to the Labor Unrest in Wisconsin and Elsewhere

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we are going to offer you a modest proposal for an end to collective bargaining in the interest of balanced state budgets.


Almost every state in America is having problems with massive budget deficits. You see, in order to cover state budget deficits in the past, most of our fearless leaders everywhere either dipped into, or failed to fund, pension and benefit plans for state workers. Never mind how the money disappeared. It did, and the Republican solution is to crush the final vestiges of labor unions in order to restore budget stability and keep taxes reasonable. Public employees would be deprived of seniority, tenure, affordable health care, and the right to collective bargaining.

Teachers and other state workers in Wisconsin have converged on the state capital to protest.


I just read on the Huffington Post that the Tea Party is planning a counter-protest, also at Wisconsin's state capital, to be held on Saturday. They're bringing in Joe the Plumber and some presidential hopefuls. Their platform is that bloated government spending must be curbed, and the only way to curb it is to exact major concessions from government workers.

Well, for the love of fruit flies. Here's a simple solution to this dilemma.


The governor of Wisconsin should fire any state employee who has demonstrated or supported the demonstrations for collective bargaining. That dismissed person's job should go to a Tea Party regular. The Tea Party regular should be willing to work for whatever salary and benefits package the state can afford, with no job security and extremely high demands for improved productivity in the workplace. If a Tea Party regular wants to be a teacher, he or she would need to complete state-mandated training, to be done on the employee's own time and at the employee's own expense. While the salary and benefits and security go down, the expectations for student achievement and other state services will be higher than ever.


I mean, really. The lines are already long at Motor Vehicles. Those Tea Party replacements had better be more efficient for smaller paychecks! That's what they want, isn't it?


Oh wait. That's not what they want. They want less government.


Okay, new modest proposal. Fire all the teachers, replace with Tea Party regulars. Close Motor Vehicles completely. Anyone who can drive should be able to drive. Think of the bureaucracy that will reduce and the taxpayer money that will save! And think of all the happy teenagers who will just be able to crawl into the car and go, never having to pass a silly test!


Eliminate all environmental protection through state oversight. We don't need it. All companies have our best interests at heart and would never harm our land.

Last but not least, fire all policemen and firefighters, replace with people who are willing to work for reduced wages and benefits and no job security. I know I'll sleep more peacefully at night, thinking of all the tax dollars my governor has saved me.


Would someone please hand Joe the Plumber an oxygen mask and send him to the next five-alarm fire in a high-rise filled with senior citizens? And staff those ambulances with Tea Party regulars as well! Let's get America running by hiring real Americans, not these commie pinko union workers with their greedy paws in the taxpayer till!


In order to do my part to balance New Jersey's budget, I will now be paying you to take my free advice. Send me an invoice.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Caught in the Net

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We booze, we snooze, we listen to news! Other peoples' views!

(Thanks, Puck. Now go be a good faerie and lurk behind the ottoman. No, not there ... not there ... OH NO, DON'T STAIN THE OTTOMAN!)

Grrrrrrr. Faeries. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

As I was driving to work this morning, I caught the tail end of a story about a school teacher who has been suspended for remarks she made about her working environment. She made the remarks on her blog.

Most school districts don't have a policy for material put onto blogs. The reason is, most intelligent people know better than to use a blog to remark upon their working conditions. I mean, come on now. This is pure common sense. You want the whole world to know it when you've had a bad day -- including the people who employ you, the ones who cut the check that paid for the bad day?

Eeeesh.

I am a school teacher, and I sometimes use this little forum to comment on statewide school policies. But that's it. If you're coming here to listen to me carp about my day, I strongly suggest you start taping Maurie and forget all about "The Gods Are Bored." At this site I'm in on all scores and out on all beefs. (Got that one from my father-in-law.)

Personally I would consider it bad form to comment here on any particular having to do with my school. Needless to say, I would never ever use this worldwide form of communication to complain about my students or my superiors. First of all, there's no reason to complain on either front. Second of all, is that what you come here to read? Pish tosh, of course not! Last but not least, complaining is nothing more than stirring up negative energy and letting it color your world. The path to misery is lined with complainers! Stay on the sunny side! That's our philosophy here at "The Gods Are Bored."

Teaching is a profession that requires you to be around literally hundreds of people all day, every day. If you don't like people, steer clear. If you do like people, you understand that each and every one of those hundreds of people is an individual, just like you. If you can say something negative about them, couldn't they legitimately do the same about you? Are you perfect? You are? Well, speak for yourself, because I've never been perfect. Therefore I do not judge others.

The Internet doesn't come with a big page of warnings, the way prescription pharmaceuticals do. That's a shame, because people forget that what they throw out on the Net can be caught by anyone's eyes.

You wanna bitch about your job? Buy an old-fashioned diary and a gel pen. As for me and my household, we don't complain on the Web. There's no reason, and it just makes us look small.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ain't We Got Fun?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we are relentlessly dedicated to fun! "O gentlemen, the time of life is short. To spend that shortness basely is too long."

Shut up, Shakespeare, before I hit you with a water balloon!

On the count of three, everyone's going to salute William Shakespeare with a Bronx cheer! Ready? One ... two ... three ...


PFFFFTTTTTTFFFTTTTTTT!!!

I am seriously thinking of starting my own religion. Rule number one would be not to take anything seriously except the sanctity of human life. Beyond that, anything goes!

This musing is brought about by a change in leadership for the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm.

I got an email yesterday from someone who has taken up some slack left by the departure of Bard Andrew (see sidebar). The new arrival found numerous grammatical errors in the Spoutwood site, particularly in the area of its Tribes. This same scholar had plenty to say about Bard Andrew's take on Celtic spirituality -- from spelling errors to major quibbles about the British Isles and some such.

This same editor suggested that we in the Mountain Tribe should strike the "Meka leka hi, meka hiney ho" from our Mountain Tribe chant, because -- get this, readers -- it must be an "inside joke."

Gauntlet thrown, "Gods Are Bored" takes arms.

If you were thinking of coming to the Spoutwood Fairie Festival and becoming part of the Mountain Tribe, please take heed of the following scholarly arrangements:

1. Be very, very well-versed in "Pee Wee's Playhouse." All hillbillies love it. Don't try to join our tribe without knowing the exact upholstery pattern on Cherry.

2. New this year: You must also have watched every episode of "Dr. Who," Doctors 10 and 11 ... and you'd better be pretty well-versed in Eccleston as well. There will be a quiz. And the Mountain Tribe MAY have a Tardis. If you question the authenticity of hillbillies in a Tardis, you are a HERETIC.

3. DFTBA. Don't know what that means? You are inauthentic. Go and spend 15 years researching archaic Celtic lore (and another six months on the latest internet banter), or you don't qualify for Mountain Tribe.

Bamp! Just kidding.

Ha ha, la di dah! Whoever edited the tribal page for Spoutwood doesn't get faeries at all! Faeries want to be up on the latest, greatest, most amazing, and -- most importantly -- FUN innovations! Do they care if you spell "faerie" as "fairy?" Oh HELL no! Every morning, every evening, ain't we got fun!?!

Spare and I are the leaders of the Mountain Tribe. No one can dispute my authenticity. My ancestors marched to the Whiskey Rebellion from the mountains of Western Maryland. And as a card-carrying hillbilly, I make the decisions for the Mountain Tribe.

We will say "Meka leka hi, meka hiney ho." That is not an inside joke. Pee Wee is a friend to Faerie.

We will wear fezzes, because Dr. Who likes fezzes. Since when is a British science fiction creation a hillbilly? Oh, since never -- but in Cumberland, Maryland there's a fraternity called the Ali Ghan Shrine ... and those dudes wear fezzes!

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are serious in our support for scholarship. We proudly count a few college professors among our readership. But those professors would immediately recognize the difference between innovative sweet fun and strict adherence to some sort of rule of propriety. The former belongs at Fairie Festivals. The latter belongs in books, papers, and in serious stuff.

We are not serious here. A faerie named Puck lives in our midst, and he has told us point-blank that Shakespeare never wrote a word for anything but money or sex. Did you really believe otherwise?

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fear Is Failure

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Today, something a little different.

In order to get a high school diploma in New Jersey, students have to pass a test called the High School Proficiency Assessment. At our school, we teach little but test prep in the subjects that are on the dreaded HSPA ... and career training in the so-called "shops." So basically your average student there fixes cars in the morning and drills for a state test the rest of the day.

Next week I begin a unit of test prep with my Honors class. Because they're Honors, I'm keeping it short, rather than lavishing four weeks on it as I do in CP.

I thought you might like to see a sample HSPA question. Imagine that you have 30 minutes -- no more -- to write an essay based on the following prompt:

"Although fear is a common human emotion, our response to it varies. Using an example from literature, history, science, film, or your own experience or observation, write an essay analyzing a particular response to fear and the effect of that response."

Ready. Set. Go.

Anne's response:

This prompt says that "fear is a common human emotion." That's very true. Fear is so common that it is not easily categorized. There are mild fears, such as those experienced when a credit card goes missing. There are moderate fears, as when the teenager goes out for a night on the town. There are chronic fears, better known as phobias. These can be crippling to those who experience them. Lastly, there is the rational fear of imminent death, to which a vast majority of people respond in the same way: "Oh my God! NOOOOOO!"

Which fear does this prompt want me to address? You see, our response to fear varies as the level of imminent danger increases. So my response to, say, a lost credit card would be one thing, and my response to a knife-wielding assailant quite another. I guess the prompt wants me to pick one kind of fear, dwell on that, and find examples in my own life that correspond to something I've read, seen in a movie, or discovered in a science experiment. The course of easiest resistance in this case is to skip all the surmountable fears and move straight on to imminent fear of death.

Thankfully, I have no personal experience of the fear of imminent death, so I will have to bypass that helpful part of the prompt. However, I also have had no personal, immediate observation of an otherwise healthy human suddenly put in fear of imminent death. Ah, so I suppose I must fall back on movies. Oh my. Wait a minute. I'm afraid of slasher films, and I usually shield my eyes in regular movies when there's any kind of violence. The same for t.v. I can't watch brutality, real or staged.

Is it too late to go back and write about losing my credit card? Oh no! It is! I've already wasted 15 minutes on the fear of imminent death! Let's see ... observation ... personal experience ... history...

One particular response to fear that I have read about at length is a vulture's fear of imminent death. When vultures feel threatened, they projectile vomit. Given that they consume rotten meat to begin with, and then it is digested slowly in biochemicals that can extract and kill the harmful bacteria, their vomit must be disgusting indeed. Therefore, their response to fear is to vomit, and the effect of that response is to remove the fear of imminent death, in the form of the attacker.

History gives us no examples of people projectile vomiting due to the fear of imminent death. Humans have a "fight or flight" mentality, so they either lash out or try to run. Having exhausted those possibilities, however, I surmise that more than a few vomit, due to stress. I feel it is strongly likely that I would regurgitate, or otherwise experience some kind of purge (which I have read is quite common) when faced with the fear of imminent death.

In conclusion, one response to fear is to vomit. Sometimes, as with vultures, this brings the positive effect of repelling attack. Other times, mostly with humans, vomiting doesn't stop the killing and only makes your last moment of life embarrassing as well as terrifying. Thank you for reading my essay, and I hope I passed the HSPA.


I wish I could submit this for a score. My guess is I'd pass -- barely.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fairie Festival Video Fundraiser

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," freedom of expression, session by session! I'm your host, Annie the Crazy Cailleach, and my friend in the tree is Big Red, official dragon of the Spoutwood Fairie Festival Mountain Tribe.

Now is the time to mark your calendar for the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. The dates are April 29 and 30, and May 1. Be there and be fair!

Today I'd like to offer a little public service announcement.

Last year's festival was filmed by an artist named Kevin Spahr. Kevin has finished his 87-minute documentary and is seeking patrons who would like a copy or who would otherwise like to help his future endeavors. He financed "Glen Rock Fae" on his own and has devoted many months to its completion. What I've seen of it is both beautiful to the eye and inspiring to the imagination.

Kevin has posted a trailer on KICKSTART, a fundraising site. If I haven't been a total computer loser, you should be able to see the trailer by clicking on my sidebar. Don't blink if you watch it! Spare and I make a split-second appearance at exactly 1:52 into the preview. If you get to the cute guy with horns, you've gone too far.

Kevin was blessed in 2010 with glorious, sunny (if blisteringly hot) weather, and he just makes that festival look like heaven on Earth. Which it is, so come to heaven with me! What do you say? Let's go greet the fae!

Seriously, please help Kevin out if you can. And reserve now, Hampton Inn Shrewsbury!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Karma Suits Ya

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where no good deed goes unpunished and no bad deed goes unrewarded!

Wait. Have I got that right?

Oh well, la di dah.

I work very long hours at the Vo-Tech. I don't see how the other teachers can walk out as quickly as they do. I mean, if you've been teaching the same doggone thing at the same doggone time every year, aren't you bored to tears? I could not stand to do that.

However, after weeks and weeks of 12-hour days, a girl can reach her breaking point. And so I resolved to try to leave school every day at 4:30, whether or not my work was done. This is a nine and a half hour day, so it should be enough.

We had a faculty meeting yesterday afternoon. It ended at 4:15. "The pox take this place," I told myself. "I'm going home."

Out to the parking lot I went, got in my economy car, threw it into reverse, started out, and heard a sound kind of like I'd backed into a crusty snowdrift.

Except it wasn't a crusty snowdrift. It was a Mercedes Benz parked behind me in another teacher spot.

It's usually so late when I leave that the parking lot is clear. I'm not used to looking behind me for other cars. Ergo, I scratched the headlight and front bumper of a friggin Benz. Not another beat-up economy car like my own. A late model luxury model, pristine and gorgeous except for the damage I'd done.

The damage to the Benz was visible, but nothing was dented or broken, so I decided to wait until morning, find out who parked in Spot ##, and 'fess up.

So of course I spent an anxiety-ridden evening, expecting two things:

1. To be chewed out by the owner of the Benz (I could not for the life of me figure out which of my colleagues could possibly afford to drive a high-end sedan).
2. To be stuck with a huge bill, because let's face it: If you spit on a Benz it's gonna set you back $500.

This morning I got the secretary to look up the parking spaces, and I found out the car belonged to Mrs. X, a highly-regarded history teacher. First thing during homeroom, I called her.

I said, "I backed into your car. The headlight and front bumper are scratched."

She said, "Oh, I didn't notice."

I said, "Well, it's not the kind of thing you would notice unless you were specifically looking at the front of your car, but it's damage, and it's bad enough that it will need to be fixed, and I'll pay for it."

She said, "Wow. I really didn't notice. And don't worry about it. I'll let you know when I get around to it. And it might be a long time before I even bother to look. But thanks for telling me. It might have been weeks before I even looked at the front of my car, and then I wouldn't have known at all how that happened."

And I said, "Some people might take advantage of that, but I'm not one of them. I'd feel bad."

She said, "I believe in karma too."

The moral of this little fable is to be honest about the bumps and scrapes in life that you might otherwise be able to avoid. But I still have my doubts about a happy ending. Mrs. X will definitely need a new cover for her headlight, and some serious buffing. My estimate is $500 or more. But I guess it could be worse. I could have plowed into the Benz instead of grazing it -- and then, given the auto insurance rates in this state, I'd be getting up at 4:00 a.m. to walk to work.

Tonight I tried again to leave by 4:30, but I didn't get out until 5:30, at which time my Dodge was again alone in the lot.

Maybe I should just work late every night.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Advertising Techniques

I chose last week to teach my students about the techniques advertisers use to sell us stuff. I did that on purpose, knowing that the Super Bowl was this past weekend. My students were given the assignment to watch a t.v. show (any show) and analyze six commercials. They could watch the Super Bowl if they chose.

Here were some of the techniques I told my students to look for:

pathos - an appeal to emotion
ethos - endorsement by a celebrity or an expert
snob appeal - making the use of a product look like something wealthy people would do
plain folks - making the product appeal to ordinary people

and there was another tactic on the list ... patriotism.

My students and I agreed that one rarely sees patriotism in ads anymore, since so many products are made abroad. But just look at the Chrysler commercial below. I can absolutely vouch for the locations. It shows the building I worked in when I lived in that town. And look at how many other buttons it pushes. Whoever made this ought to be putting his or her talents into art films instead of car ads.

I feel moved to buy a new car.

Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl Commercial - Imported From Detroit Chrysler 200

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Druid's Walk

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm not Jimmy Page or anything, but it's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely lonely lonely time. What I mean is, it feels like a long time since I last wrote. No matter how I resolve to work less, my job sucks me in at 7:00 in the morning and rarely spits me out before 5:00, at which time I come home to fix dinner. On the weekends there are chores. And yes, Spare does help me with the chores and the cooking ... but it's a big job.

When the bored gods began to speak to me, I didn't know anyone else who followed the Pagan path. The only place I knew about where Pagan events were held was Four Quarters Farm, and it's out near my place on Polish Mountain. A long hike.

Then I started reading newspaper articles about an Episcopal priest over west of Philly who had lost his sinecure for putting Celtic-themed liturgies on his web site. The newspapers mentioned that he had started a Druid Grove that met at Ridley Creek State Park near Media, PA.

On Beltane in 2006 I blithely set off for Ridley Creek State Park with no more than the newspaper hint and a mapquest for directions to the park. Turns out Ridley Creek Park -- in addition to being beautiful and home to a state champion Black Oak -- is very, very large. Nevertheless, I eventually found the Druids at a picnic site.

Thus began a pleasant and spiritually fulfilling four years of Rituals in Ridley Creek Park, and a few close friendships with like-minded people. But our group was small, and fully half of it came from faraway Allentown. From a high of about 15 people, we soon dwindled to six, then four, then three, and last Samhain two. Imbolc has come and gone with no contact.

This is not alarming to the bored deities that we honored during our Rituals. The group has not disbanded in apostasy or schism. All members are still involved in other groups, mostly closer to where they live.

One of the first people to leave our group was its founder, and I recently heard from him. He has founded another group, Celtic Christians who meet in each other's homes, also in that area out west of Philly. I've heard a little bit about Celtic Christianity, but it's not for the bored God Mannanan MacLir, and it's not for me.

So it is with sadness that I sit here on a sunny afternoon, recalling Imbolcs past at Ridley Creek State Park.

My sadness is deepest when I think about the people in that Druid Grove, because it really and truly is difficult for me to fit in most places, including in Druidic groups. I'm apt to give a nod to some other bored deity rather than the prescribed ones. Not that anyone in my particular Druid Grove ever cared, but to a Druidic purist, saying howdy to Manitou might not be kosher. Also, I've never been accused of being a deep thinker (as anyone who reads here knows). All of my worship is through immediate sensory experience. Ergo, almost all of my knowledge of the bored Celtic deities comes from poetry, art, story, and vision, not from the vast literature of modern Druidism.

I know of a Druid Grove here in New Jersey. Once Spare and I went to one of their Rituals, and it was there that I got to meet Isaac Bonewits and hear him talk. But the evening Ritual held by that group disturbed me deeply. I sure didn't like the way they went about their praise and worship. (I've written on this before. Isaac didn't like it either, I later learned.)

The New Jersey Grove has a Facebook page. It's larger and has a dynamic leader. There are all sorts of Pagans at those Rituals, even people who worship the bored deities of Greece and Rome. Still it's not a fit for me.

Today I walk alone.

There's a beautiful mature oak grove that I can literally see from my window as I write this. But I'm not in the least tempted to try to start a seed group. You would understand completely if you had attended (with me) the New Jersey Pagan Pride day last fall, about three miles from my house.

All too often, Pagan Pride events bring out Satanists who are truly just worshiping their notion of Satan as an opponent to Yahweh. This group was well represented at the New Jersey Pagan Pride Day. It is the position of "The Gods Are Bored" that Satan is not bored. Satan is busy. And people who worship Satan as the anti-Yahweh are not even Pagans.

This is the opinion of "The Gods Are Bored" and need not reflect your own.

Having spent the happiest hours of my youth alone in the deep woods, I will return to that practice of immersing myself in some dark hollow, or some sunny meadow, or some ancient grove so remote that the loggers didn't figure it was worth the trouble. I know of these places, back home where I came up.

In the spring, if I'm able, I'll probably drive up to Allentown.

From whence do I draw comfort today, though? Ah, Ah! I'm not at a total loss.

My friends, this Druid bids you adieu to go to Wenonah, New Jersey, in order to watch a large flock of vultures descend to their nightly roost. If I'm going to do Rituals by myself, they certainly won't look or sound quite like anything sanctioned by any praise and worship team devoted to any particular pantheon.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Imbolc 101

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," on Imbolc 2011! Blessed be the Goddess who presides over our homes and hearths, the Goddess who sparks our creativity and who bathes us with Her warmth! It was She who spread her cape over the world to rid it of evil creatures and make way for humankind. Don't believe me? Walk outside tomorrow morning, and you will find threads of that cape sparkling on the ground.

There's no "written-in-stone" scripture to tell us how to praise and worship on Imbolc, the holy day of Queen Brighid the Bright. I see this as an opportunity. We at "The Gods Are Bored" are not dedicated to any sort of liturgy that can't evolve with changing circumstances.

That being said, here are my tips for those of you who want to celebrate this sacred day.

1. It's against our green intentions, but just for this one night, turn on every light in your house. Have your whole home blazing in electric glory. This will emphasize to you the blessings Queen Brighid has visited upon you, to provide you with a warm home that beats back the cold and gloom.

2. Be mindful of the popular traditions. Groundhog Day? You're kidding me, right? Isn't that disrespectful of Queen Brighid? Pish tosh! Imbolc symbolizes the crushing of winter by the first vestiges of spring. In our modern times, this is played out by a fat rodent held up for cameras. So what? Either way we have only six more weeks of cold weather, and then spring arrives! Embrace your inner groundhog.

3. Do you go to work? Ah, yes. Anne's personal dilemma. After all, the only authentic holy days on the Celtic calendar are August 1, October 31, May 1, and February 2. Can you imagine our nation's Christians going about their daily toil on Good Friday? Well, the truth of the matter is that many of them do, and they aren't struck by lightning. And their god is big on lightning strikes, so I hear. So if our nation's workers can shuffle in and punch the time clock on Good Friday, then we who hold Queen Brighid dear can take joy in our toil and work on Imbolc ... just not very hard, and leave early if you can.

4. Do you want to honor Queen Brighid in a way that will touch her heart? Build a fire, write a poem, bake a cake for your kids, light a candle against this dreadful winter chill. Make some resolutions and have Her bind you to them. Reach down and touch the earth. Find the softness of Her mantle through the week-old snowdrifts. Know in your heart that when the Sun warms the Earth, you will either be here to feel the change ... or with Her in the Summerlands.

5. Laugh. Always laugh. If you can't chuckle, chortle, guffaw, snort, or snicker, get a coach and work on it until you can roar! Delete all mental files having to do with self-pity and guilt. Back up the files that empower you to see the humor in everything that harms no one. If you are worried about politics at this time, just remember that Queen Brighid has seen it all and survived every last bit of it. Tra la la! Laugh!

6. Pour exactly 8 ounces of wine outside for the faeries. Neither pour thou 6 ounces nor 9. Eight thou must pour. And then slap down a nice piece of high-end dark chocolate. Voila! You've pleased the faeries and also satisfied your inner Monty Python. Win win.

More free advice from "The Gods Are Bored!" How can we give this away? I don't know, it's dumb luck so far. Or the work of Queen Brighid the Bright. We prefer to consider the latter. Helps us sleep at night.

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