Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
My sister is concerned about the old house. Since it was broken into, she is sure it will be used by teenagers for Satanic rituals. If you ask me, the devil's not in that house. He is nearby, though. He creates a wasteland and calls it progress.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Well, we've lost 4,000 Americans in a battle over crude oil. But be prepared, gentle readers, especially if you're under the age of 25.
(I know that narrows the field quite a bit.)
Read my article in The Smart Set and ask yourself if you can't see a whole new reason for warfare on the horizon.
Back to meaningless laughter on Friday! Christopher Hitchens says women don't know how to be funny. I say he ought to see me trying to put washer fluid in my car, and he'd change his mind.
"Bottled Water World," by Anne Johnson: http://www.thesmartset.com/
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Here's an Easter story straight from my navel, so toddle off if you came looking for issue-oriented reporting.
About two weeks ago, my daughter The Heir came home from school all excited. "Hey, Mom, guess what?" she said.
I expected she might have gotten an "A" on a paper or a raise at work.
She blurted: "I'm gonna be the Easter Bunny!"
Apparently the local Rotarians recruit members of Snobville High's National Honor Society to work as the Easter Bunny at the annual Snobville egg hunt. The Heir got to dress up in an Easter Bunny costume, ride the fire truck, and hug scads of sweet tots. The Rotarians were very pleased with her performance, rewarding her with one of those really, really humongous chocolate bunnies that you see in the store but never buy because they're too expensive. It's like the Oscar of chocolate bunnies, so of course it's on display on our mantelpiece.
Anyway, as The Heir hugged toddlers and posed for photos, it occurred to me that my former Christian church always has an Easter egg hunt on the Saturday before Easter. It's held in the backyard of my friend Celeste, the only church lady who has remained buddies with me since I strayed the fold.
The Rotarians were only too glad to allow The Heir to have the bunny suit for a few more hours. So I phoned Celeste and said we'd be over to greet the sweet little Methodist kids. And off we went.
I formally severed ties with the Snobville United Methodist Church three years ago after undergoing a period of intense enlightenment. So when I arrived at the Methodist Easter egg hunt in escort of The Heir (in her costume), I saw some people who I hadn't seen in three years. To say their reception was frosty is putting it mildly. Not even a "thank you" for bringing The Heir in her fluffy suit, even though this event had never had an Easter Bunny before!
Of course Celeste was her usual sweet self. And another gal who has every reason to blacken my eye for not helping with some DAR stuff was clearly glad to see me. Otherwise, although I greeted everyone warmly and asked how they and their children were doing, the warmth only flowed one way. No one even asked why I was there.
This behavior has very little to do with my choice to leave the church. (I never really made my reasons public.) What it actually is, is normal for that group of people. Except for Celeste and the DAR chick, the Snobville Methodists are just plainly a bunch of cold fish. No wonder it was so easy for the bored gods to gain my ears! I was surrounded by Ice Mommies. God can have them.
Nobody even inquired after my daughters, The Heir and The Spare. Don't tell me it's because no one remembered their names. Who can forget names like Heir and Spare?
The Heir did her bunny gig for the Methodist kids (who were nearly as cold as their folks), and we hoofed it out of there, both eager for a cold can of TaB Cola. Which we had at home, and it tasted awful as always but soothed every frayed nerve.
On this Easter Sunday, self, Heir and Spare climbed into the car, quit Snobville via the Walt Whitman Bridge, and drove to our Druid Grove gathering of Alban Eiler. I've never quite gotten out of Church Lady mode, so we had dyed three dozen eggs for our event. The Heir hid the eggs in a field, but then she had to go retrieve a dozen for the ritual!
We had a lovely bonfire in a park-sanctioned pit, and enjoyable, spiritually-rewarding ritual, a fun time spreading blessings and hunting eggs, and then we repaired to a nearby Irish pub for some extra warmth.
I think I'm doing better now. I wish The Heir could have kept the bunny suit through Sunday, because now I hang with a group of people who know how to treat Easter Bunnies and other human beings.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I will sing my rune and rhyme
I will go sunwise with my basket
To the nest of my hen
I will place my left hand on my chest
My right hand to my heart
I will seek the loving wisdom of the gods
Abundant in grace, in broods, and in flocks
I will close my two eyes quickly
Moving slowly, as in blind man’s bluff
I will stretch my left hand over there
To the hen’s nest on that side
The first egg which I bring near me,
I will put it withershins round my head
I will put the egg down in my right hand
So there will be one on the basket
I will raise my left hand on high
I will stretch it out quickly
I will lift two eggs down here
There shall then be three in the basket
I will stretch my right hand again
I will lift three eggs at a time
I will seek a ruling from the gods
Then there will be six in the basket
I will raise my left hand a second time
I will take down four eggs with it
In the name of the gods, all powerful
Then there will be ten in the basket
With my right fist of the strongest claim
I will lift two eggs in my fingers
When I’m done, my brood will be complete
From beneath the breast of the speckled hen
I will put soot on their two ends
Not saying a word all the while
In the name of the gods of sea and hill
In the name of the protectors and guides
In the name of Aine, mother of all
In the name of Arthur of sovereignty
I will set the eggs down on Thursday
And the happy brood will come on Friday.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Friday, March 21, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
For my ten regular readers, this is a banner day! My story on the Berkeley Springs Water Tasting is at banner top at The Smart Set. Go have a sip. And then come back here tomorrow for the latest laffs!
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the War in Iraq. So this conflict has now surpassed the U.S.Civil War, World Wars One and Two, the Korean War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War, and -- a personal favorite since the old ancestors were involved -- the Whiskey Rebellion.
Oh, my bad! I forgot the War of 1812!
Of course, all of these wars pale in comparison to the Hundred Years' War (which I believe began sometime in the 1300s, I'm too lazy to look it up) or the Crusades -- lump those babies together and you've got three centuries of fighting. There's also that conflict that was never declared and was decided mostly by biological warfare, but still has pockets of resistance yet today: The War between Eastern and Western Hemispheres. If we say it began in 1492 and ended at Wounded Knee, that's one friggin long war.
Even that war is just a tiny blip on the radar when compared to the Biggest War of All Time: Them vs. Us.
The War of Them vs. Us has raged since the Pliocene, maybe even earlier. It is grounded in the very fiber of humankind, which consistently shows itself as a species to be fettered by a bad combination of survival instincts and the ability to think in ways that enhance personal survival.
Look around you. From the teams on the Little League field right up to the Nazis invading Poland, we're wired to see the world as Them vs. Us. And we are better than they are. We're smarter, we're stronger, we deserve more, they should listen to us, and then they'd be so much better off! We've got it right, they've got it wrong, how can we convince them to be like us? And if we can't convince them to be like us, wouldn't it be better to get rid of them, so that they don't try to make us into them?
We at "The Gods Are Bored" try to advocate a big, broad, flexible outlook as a way to advance the evolution of humankind. And then in the next breath we pronounce Rick Santorum a moron. Which he is. He's one of them. And we don't like them.
So then, how do we transcend this genetic glitch that leads to war anniversaries? Sorry, this sermon is open-ended. We at "The Gods Are Bored" don't have an answer. But we do believe that whatever deity actually created this species ought to get right to work on the problem, and solve it in a hell of a hurry.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
Two days after I poured a whole bottle of Triple Sec at the feet of the dread Tiki (see below), he departed as mysteriously as he came. He's gone, there's no sign of him. Nor are there the charred ashes of a bonfire.
Such are the ways of the bored gods. Is your god too busy to answer your prayers? Our operators are standing by to take your call.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Today when I left for work, the American Association of Incipient Geezers met me in the driveway. My membership has been approved.
It's my birthday.
The year I was born, Alaska and Hawaii became states.
Fidel Castro took power in Cuba.
Barbie was born too. She's aged better than me.
Eisenhower was president.
Too young to be a hippie, too old to be a yuppie, I remain
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I have spent the last six weeks teaching world history to ninth graders at the Vo-Tech. I have 130 students, and only two of them are white. The rest are African American, Hispanic, and Asian. Only about 12 of my students are Asian. (They are all children of Vietnamese refugees.)
New Jersey has a "core curriculum" for each and every course that is taught in the state's public schools. And the world history core curriculum does not include a unit on Africa. Not even ancient Egypt. It's as if the entire continent of Africa doesn't exist where world history is concerned.
I couldn't begin to enter the minds of the high-paid consultants who devise educational core curricula. It's a tough job, I'm sure. And tough jobs almost always attract morons with meaningless credentials. So there you are.
However, my African American ninth graders, fully 40 percent of the total, felt that they should be learning something about black people during Black History Month. And yet I persisted with the core curriculum, shoving John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Robespierre, Napoleon, and (next week) John Stuart Mill into their fine young minds.
No, it doesn't make a damn bit of sense to me either. I'm glad you agree.
I have covered for the missing history teacher through a whole marking period. It was her habit to assign one major marking period project. So I followed suit.
My marking period project involved having the students talk to a family member about their own family histories, compiling a family tree, etc. This, I thought, would enable the black students to learn black history, the Hispanic students to learn Hispanic history, and the Asian kids to learn Asian history.
The projects were due last Friday. And amidst the moaning, complaining, and prevaricating, some real gems came to the surface. One student discovered that he was related to the recently-retired mayor of Philadelphia -- and to me, since we both have Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. Two students descend from Native Americans, their parents knew which tribes. There were tales of sugar cane factories and getting the hell out of the South, of hopscotch and Desert Storm, of love that grandparents feel for the kids asking the questions.
One student wrote that her grandmother's grandmother warned of a monster called the cuco that would come out from under the bed at night and eat children who misbehaved. Another reported that his great-great-great grandfather, who worked in the sugar fields, became afflicted with a leg injury that grew so painful he took a machete and hacked his leg off ... dying from blood loss. This student read his paper out loud to the class, drawing appropriate "oooooooos" from the audience.
I did not clear this project with the school administration before I assigned it. I figured they'd probably say it shouldn't be done, privacy and all that. However, I did include my school email address and school extension on the assignment sheet, telling the students that if their parents objected, the parents could call and I'd give another assignment to that student. No parent called.
So that was my solution to a Black History Month in which the state of New Jersey expected me to cover the Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the empire of Napoleon, and the Cultural Revolution. Ergo, all white dudes, except for Marie Antoinette. (Wasn't she a pip? Sort of like Alice Walton, only better looking.)
Moral of this sermon: The most important history is your own, what your people have gone and done and been through. Unless you're a consultant to a state committee on core curriculum standards. If you're one of those, you probably leaped straight from monkey to man, with nothing in between.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS