Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mummer Mayhem!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Never Bored On New Year's Day, because They Come to Philadelphia!" I'm your hostess, Annie of the City of Brotherly Love! There are only six El stops between my house and Market Street, so even though I'm across the river, I sort of feel all Philly-Nilly at times.

Every year on New Year's Day, we Philadelphians get a real treat in the form of the eight-hour-long Mummer's Parade. There's no easy way to describe this satin Saturnalia, this feathered frolic, except to say that many of the thousands of people who participate in it devote their entire lives and fortunes to it. I didn't check YouTube, but if you've never seen a Philadelphia Mummer's Parade, I'm sure there are snippets of it here and there.

I'm a Mummer junkie. Forget doing anything else on New Year's Day. I sit in my lounge chair and watch the parade until the last feathered fanatic struts off in search of his celebratory beer.

And OMBG, this year's parade will have me on the edge of my seat! .... Well, not really. I usually loll like a contented cat. Let's just say I've already picked some favorites in the string band competition.

The Philadelphia Daily News printed synopses of each string band's theme in today's newspaper. No one consulted me, mind you, before the themes were chosen -- but I am intrigued.

Here's the summary for the Woodland String Band (finished in 8th place last year):

"Woodland takes you to a land of wizardry, mysticism, sorcery, witchcraft, and enchantment, led by the Grand Wizard, AL A. KAZAM. Harry Potter serves as the guide as Mummers fans watch and listen to familiar, fantastic sights and sounds played by musical wizards, witches, sorcerers, and druids."

Granted, this performance is likely to reek of stereotype in every conceivable way, but I must say I am interested to see a Philadelphia Mummer take on druids.

Needless to say, Woodland was Anne's early favorite until she read on.

Here's the summary for the South Philadelphia String Band (finished in 3rd place last year):

"Embark on a majestic journey of Native America, where great warriors rule. Experience a celebratory powwow, glide along a mystical canoe down the Shenandoah, witness the majesty of the sacred white-buffalo skull, feel the force of a thundering herd stampeding through the village, and be dazzled by the arrival of the mighty and wrathful Thunderbird."

The capitalization is theirs, not mine.

Okay, by now it should be clear to you that the Philadelphia Mummers aren't exactly subtle or politically correct. But who could resist the prospect of a parade that will include both Druids and a Thunderbird?

The forecast calls for rain. I wonder how that will affect the Thunderbird. It might suspend its wrath and go curl up in a pine tree with its fellow Thunderbirds.

Go ahead and spend your New Year's Day making fancy dinners and resolutions. As for me and my house, we will watch the Mummers!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No One's Bitching about This Stereotype

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," leaping back into the saddle after a brief bout of flu-like symptoms! I'm glad that's over. On to business as usual!

There's a movie I like called "Lone Star," directed by John Sayles. In the movie, a white Army sergeant proposes to a black Army sergeant, and she accepts. When the guy's buddy says, "Is her family going to be cool with you being white?" The sergeant replies, "They're so glad to discover she's not a lesbian that they couldn't care less what color I am." To which the buddy responds, "It's always great to see one prejudice defeat another."

Back in 2003, the producers at CBS floated the idea of a reality t.v. show that would take some poor family from Appalachia and stick them in a Beverly Hills mansion, and film the results. This was to be a real-life "Beverly Hillbillies."

People from all over Appalachia protested. Some even traveled to New York to stage a rally in front of CBS headquarters. Congresspeople from most of the Appalachian states strongly encouraged CBS not to film such a show. CBS caved, and we were spared an ugly spectacle of stereotype.

Problem is, stereotype sells. Human beings like to feel superior to other human beings. Sucky but true, my friends.

You know how poor I am at linking, so at your leisure, Google "MTV Jersey Shore."

MTV has produced a reality t.v. show about a group of young Italian New Jersey-ites who are spending the summer in a beach house together, their antics being caught on camera. The show is a despicable display of disdain toward people of Italian ancestry who live in the Garden State. Not that these kids behave any differently than spoiled brats anywhere else in the country, but they take pride in being "Guidos" and "Guidettes." Their accents grate on the ear. Their clothing -- when they wear any -- is beyond tacky. They all have nicknames like "Snookie" and "The Situation." They're lazy party animals who run values deficits in the triple digits.

My daughters, both born and raised in New Jersey, absolutely love this show.

I watched some episodes of it with them the other day when I was sick. I tried to recall seeing people like this strolling the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. Not that I spend a lot of time at the shore -- to me, the beach is best kept at a polite distance. But I do go there, and I'm observant. I can't remember ever seeing anyone like these people at the watering holes in my general vicinity.

Never mind that. The kids in Kansas who watch "Jersey Shore" will come to the conclusion that everyone in Jersey -- Heir and Spare included -- is a spoiled, self-indulgent, values-free Italian with an ugly accent. Obligingly, The Spare has begun to cultivate the accent and mannerisms for comedy routines.

The moral of this sermon is simple. Human nature includes the need to feel superior to certain other groups of people. Modern entertainment will go to great lengths to find these small ethnic groups and display them as if they are the norm. Apply this to praise and worship situations as you like, because there it's just the same.

Ask someone on the street to describe a Wiccan, and they'll probably say ... ugly old woman in black with a pointy hat who hoards cats and then kills them. Ask someone on the street to describe a person from New Jersey, and they'll probably say ... a brainless buff Italian with a bad accent and worse work ethic.

Oh well, at least it takes the heat off West Virginia.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Gods Are Bored is temporarily suspended pending the duration of flu-like symptoms. Ick.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Flu-like Symptoms

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" (Insert your snappy opening line here.)

Santa Claus brought us a web cam. Spare already knew how to use it, of course. So she sat down to give me a tutorial. We created a Facebook fan page for "The Gods Are Bored." And then Spare recorded a zippy promotional greeting for the page.

And it was just over the top. Before an hour had passed I decided to take it down.

There are too many problems with Facebook, regarding spammers and viruses. And there are my few Facebook friends who would be utterly astonished at the content of "The Gods Are Bored." And there are creepers on Facebook who would become fans of "The Gods Are Bored" just in hopes of glimpsing the Spare's perfect teeth and frisky wink.

Within an hour I already had four fans. If you fanned "The Gods Are Bored" on Facebook, and you want to be my friend on Facebook, go to my profile and leave me an email with your name.

It wasn't that The Spare's pitch wasn't good enough. It was that her pitch was too good. I hope it didn't go viral in the course of one afternoon. One must watch doing things when one has flu-like symptoms.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another Interview

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" New Year's resolution: blog more, not less. It sucks being too busy to entertain bored deities with marzipan and petits fours! They go for that stuff like nobody's business.

Did you ever wonder why Christmas is celebrated on December 25? Some people think it's because the date is associated with Mithras, a truly bored god of post-Jesus Rome.

As for me, I don't buy into the Mithras thing. If you're a careful observer of the cosmos, which at least some learned people must have been in the Old Times, you begin to notice, right on or about December 25, that the days are indeed getting longer. This definitely calls for a celebration! I think this holy day must have been far wider spread than the followers of Mithras.

Speaking of the followers of Mithras, I have a treat for those of you who are. He agreed to drop by this morning, having nothing else in particular to do. And how nice! He brought some fine-looking steaks! Say what you will about Mithras, he can butcher like only a God can butcher.

Please give a wild, warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Mithras, ancient deity of male soldiers and statesmen!

Anne: Thanks for the steaks, Mithras!

Mithras: They aren't for you. They're for your husband.

Anne: But there are enough to share, not only with my husband, but also with ...

Mithras: Your two female children. Forget it. Give your husband the steaks he can eat, and freeze the rest for him to eat later.

Anne: Whoa. It's not only politically incorrect and environmentally unfriendly to eat steaks in the first place, it's also discriminatory not to give them to women.

Mithras: Women don't matter. Except for breeding. Male children.

Anne: Lovely. I could be wrapping gifts, I'm talking to a sexist God with a bloody dagger. Hey! You get that thing near my upholstery, and I'll show you what I know about butchering!

Mithras: Don't threaten me. I'll have my followers squash you like a bug.

Anne: Do you even have any? Seems to me like all the sexist meat-eaters drifted away from you about 1600 years ago. Look, I don't know much about your praise and worship team, but I do know it was only open to men, and the rituals were conducted underground. When you were designing your agenda, did you ever think your team would work better if you admitted the gals too? And maybe had some nice, airy, user-friendly worship spaces?

Mithras: Women don't matter. Except for breeding. Male children.

Anne: (to her readers) Sheesh. You wonder why this one is bored? Some of them ought to be bored! (to Mithras) Your name always pops up around this time of year. Like, December 25 was your birthday, and you had disciples, and all that.

Mithras: Male disciples.

Anne: Male disciples are popular in many praise and worship teams. Here at "The Gods Are Bored," we have a big, broad, flexible outlook that includes women in the practice of Divine Mysteries.

Mithras: Sacrilege! (brandishes dagger perilously close to Anne's pristine wing chair) WOMEN DO NOT MATTER!

Anne: Sez you, Chump. Here's an idea. Why don't you buy yourself an all-terrain vehicle, drink a couple of six-packs, and go hunting?

Mithras: I don't have the money for an all-terrain vehicle.

Anne: Imagine that! And who do you think is to blame for your obscurity and its attendant financial woes?

Mithras: Women! Damn all women! No women allowed!

Anne: I'm a woman. So please don't let the door hit your butt as you leave. Take your steaks with you. I don't know whether this date has anything to do with you or not, but any deity who excludes half the population from his praise and worship team doesn't stand a chance against deities with more decency. Steer clear of my furniture, too! I'm not spending my holiday scrubbing chintz because of a sloppy macho deity!

(Exit Mithras in a huff.)

Readers, if you take anything away from today's interview, it's that some deities are born to be bored, some achieve boredom, and some have boredom thrust upon them. Mithras seems to be to have achieved boredom in spades. They say his remaining temples are interesting, but if I ever have money to travel, I think I'll seek out some cheery spa town instead.

Enjoy some days off, remember the poor (of both genders and all ages), and go in peace.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice 2009 Shameless Parody

'Twas the night before Solstice, and out on the lawn
Dear Annie was dancing ... a snow day was on!
On Solstice, you see, she'd have nothing to do,
Except oh, perhaps, for a small chore or two.
So after The Heir and The Spare she did kiss,
She took several candles to Shrine of the Mists.

But out in the rear of the house, don't you know,
Was an 18-inch layer of crystalline snow.
It blotted the shrine from the ground to the tip,
If you didn't know quite how to find it, you'd slip.
With a broom from the house Annie cleared out a space
Where the candles could sit comfortably in their place.

Just after sunrise the very next day,
Anne lit her candles. For peace did she pray.
Then onward she trudged in search of her mittens,
She had to return to the shelter two kittens.
She had to do laundry, she had to grade tests
How quickly she learned that for her, there's no rest!

Now darkness has fallen upon Solstice Day,
And Annie is tired, as always, oy vay!
When down to this blog she finally did sit,
She'd nearly forgotten the candles were lit.
She glanced out the window, and they were still there,
So she whistled and called to The Heir and The Spare.

For deep in a bowl of dimond-bright snow
A cluster of candles continued to glow.
So close to the ground that you can't see the flames
But the flick'ring reflections are playing bright games.
The faeries of winter will dance in this light.
Merry Solstice to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love the Stuff

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the deities of the winter solstice have had a whopper of a pillow fight! The weather outside is frightful.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" live about 50 miles east of the Atlantic Ocean. Usually when it snows elsewhere in the Delaware Valley, it rains here. Every now and then, however, we get these storms called Nor'Easters. If they come in with cold temperatures, it snows like all get out.

Weather forecasts only begin to predict these storms with any accuracy about 12 hours before they begin. Last night we got the call: 12 to 18 inches. And the bored gods have delivered.

Just now The Spare and I took a walk. She hasn't seen this much snow in years -- the last time, she was about eight.

Disruptions: The foster kittens were supposed to go back to the shelter today. Forget it. They're still here. I wasn't willing to drive three miles. My Druid Grove's Solstice Ritual is likewise scratched. In the apparent world, that is.

Heir spent last night in Philadelphia with her beatnik friends, but I woke her at 8:00 and got her on the El before the worst of the storm hit. It was such a relief to see her walk out of the El station this morning, to know she would be here with us.

Tonight the house is warm with smells of roast turkey and oatmeal cookies. There are a few too many cats. Decibel the Parrot is a little flustered. The Christmas tree has been placed and lit, but not decorated. The snow is still falling.

I think I'll put a festive cloth on the table and say a prayer, like Dylan Thomas, to the close and holy darkness.


Friday, December 18, 2009

For those of you in a quandary, today is the day to ask the Goddess.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Change of Heart

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," celebrating another day of living! Yeah, yeah. Rock on, geezer friends!

Tonight I drove by the Snobville Library, where there's a lit-up Christmas tree and a lit-up Menorah. Something in me just snapped. (I'm not decent to be around in the dark days). I decided that Snobville ought to have a Pagan display on its lawn too.

Off I went to the local hardware store (never Home Depot). I bought a pine wreath that I could stick into the ground. I bought some more of their weird mistletoe that claims to be real. I thought about the little holly tree growing under a pine, and the tons and tons of ivy in my yard. All just wonderful for a Pagan Yuletide display on public property!

Now it's three hours later. I'm in my warm house. The wreath is outside. The mistletoe is still in the car.

I ask myself: Why would I stick a perfectly good wreath on the library lawn, when I have a shrine to all bored deities right in my own back yard?

What would it prove to stick a wreath on that lawn? Nothing, since Christmas trees are Pagan in the first place.

I have come to my senses and will use the wreath, holly, and ivy to festoon the Shrine of the Mists. There will be an All Gods Eve on December 31, and I want the shrine to be spiffy.

Tonight's question to my legions of superior readers: Do you mind if I use the plural "gods" to describe all deities, male, female, and totemic? If not, can you suggest something more inclusive that is readable?

Heir is coming home from college in an hour. I can't wait to see her!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Guilt

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Feeling a little guilty about something? Something small, like that extra peanut butter cookie? Or something large, like  ... oh, I dunno. It's you, not me, who's riddled with guilt!

Sin, sin, sin. It's everywhere. Gosh, sometimes I feel bad just stepping on my lawn. It must hurt the grass to be beaten into the dust by feet.

There was a time when I felt guilty about things. I guess. Well, I used to take communion, which is all about shedding guilt once a month, so you can stack it up again for next month.

Don't know when exactly it happened, but my views on guilt changed. Not to the point where I'm going to run down some dear old granny and speed away laughing into the rearview. But just enough that I worry a lot less. Sorry, grass. I've gotta walk over you. Deal with it.

See if you follow me on this. Guilt happens when we strive to be like a deity and fail to do so. What the heck? We're people! We're not deities! People make mistakes. They do stupid, hurtful things. We try not to, but damn. There we go being human again.

I've found the Pagan rule on this to be so completely impossible to follow that it leaps into absurdity. "An thou harm none, do what thou wilt." Exactly what can I do that will harm none? If I eat a carrot, it harms the carrot. If I drive to work, it harms the glaciers. If I eat a peanut butter cookie, I'm harming peanuts, wheat, cows (butter), the tropical environment (cane sugar and those who harvest it), and the glaciers (baked in the oven). Not to mention my arteries.

If I wanted to harm none, I would have to starve to death in a desert. And who's to say that all the Advil I've taken over the years wouldn't kill the vultures who ate my carcass? Wait a minute. If I died, it would harm my daughters -- they still need me! Aaaaghghghgh! See what I mean?

Therefore, once again I fall back on the good ol' tried-and-true big, broad, flexible outlook. Like I said, I'm not going to rob a bank or flatten a granny, but when push comes to shove I'll try to judge the relative level of harm by human, not superhuman, standards.

Perfection happens only with upholstery ... all hale the percale!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gods Are There, People Are Here

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Shop early and save on shipping! We have plenty of fabulous bored deities in stock. Our apologies, but Archangels are on back order and will not ship prior to the holidays. Please browse our collection for an alternate selection!

Prior to today's sermon, I would just like to say that Mr. Johnson was away last week for a few days, and my daughter The Spare and I had loads of fun together while he was gone. Most of it was holiday related, since Spare is 15 -- and you know how young teens feel about certain holidays. The favorite moments for me occurred when we stood in a line of tots and parents to see Santa Claus, just for the joy of seeing the kids all excited. (Spare didn't sit on Santa's lap. I'm sure Santa was desperately disappointed by that.) The next night we strolled the streets of Snobville and saw Santa again. This time, a barbershop quartet was with him. They were singing, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." So of course I did kiss Santa Claus, and Spare did her best "shock face." She is a natural comedienne. We are going to own the Spoutwood Fairie Festival next year.

On to the sermon:

My friend Maebius tagged me to write on the following theme:

What religions do you find most interesting apart from your own? Would you pick one of the major world religions? Say Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism or Judaism? Or would you pick something more obscure, like Wicca or Taosim or Rastafarianism or Gnosticism? Would you pick irreligion, say Atheism or Agnosticism? Or if you're not Christian, would you say Christianity?

To me, every path, or tradition, or mystical experience, is equally fascinating. Why? Because I am interested in people.

The vast majority of us feel that Higher Powers exist -- superior beings, if you will. What differs is how we approach the divine. And wowsa, there are so many different ways to approach the divine!

You can put on an Ann Taylor suit and heels and go out on Sunday morning to the Methodist church, where you will be treated to a Bach selection on a $100,000 organ and perhaps a rendition of "The Messiah" by a 75-voice choir ... then a sermon on how to behave wisely and compassionately, which you won't pay attention to because your heels are giving you blisters and it's almost time for the Eagles kickoff.

You can stand in the sun and whirl around until you throw yourself into a trance state.

You can sit in a room and eat some shrooms and wait for your brain to open to higher levels. (Do not mistake this for an endorsement of hallucinogens. Did it sound like I was endorsing the Methodist church?)

You can chant, or meditate, or learn Cabala, or kiss the Torah, or dance in a drum circle, or stand in St. Peter's Square in a throng, waiting for a glimpse of the pope. You can sit at the feet of the Dalai Lama to learn his wisdom. You can work with Maitreya, you can be Asatru, Wiccan, Discordian, Buddhist, or even a Jehovah's Witness. All to me are fascinating.


Why do we seek to commune with Higher Powers? Is it just because we're afraid of death, and we're self-medicating with false promises of something beyond that final breath? (I'm interested in atheists too.)

To me, all praise and worship springs from two sources: the mystical, which some of us experience, and the cognitive, which all of us experience. Our cognitive (thinking) praise and worship depends on our cultural constructs, most especially how our parents or friends or society approach the divine. Ask most Methodists why they are Methodists, and they'll say it's because they were raised Methodist. So for me, what's most interesting is the culture from which the praise and worship springs. That's why "The Gods Are Bored" invites so many ancient deities to visit -- because I'm interested in cultures that no longer exist, therefore their deities have been unfairly relegated to "myth."

What I don't like, as many of you know, is the propensity of certain faiths to proselytize and seek new members in places and cultures where a religious path already exists that is unique to that culture. It's downright disrespectful. Leave those Fiji Islanders alone! They've got it going. They do not need Jesus. Give them the antibiotics, and let them go ahead and praise their deities. Why is yours so much better? Breaking news: He's not.

In summary, we at "The Gods Are Bored" would say that the divine is universal, and the understanding of it is cultural, historical, and subject to change. Those who interpret the divine are people. People are imperfect. To me, it's those imperfections that make us fascinating and infuriating. The religion I find most interesting apart from my own is yes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm Number Three

Can someone tell me why, when you Google the name "Anne Johnson," my blog comes up third on the list? According to the stat counter I use here at TGAB, only about 200 enlightened and superior individuals access this site every day. With so many Anne Johnsons out there, can I truly be the third most popular Anne Johnson in the English-language world?

If so, all the rest of you Anne Johnsons ought to do your share! Live up to your proud name!

May the bored gods be with me today at school. Yesterday was terrible. Some days are like that.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Weekly Bigwand Update

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You've heard of the Mall of America. We're the Mall of the Gods! Check out some of our high-end specialty stores. Deities of ancient Micronesia! Now there's praise and worship for the discerning connoisseur!

For those of you who joined at our last pledge drive and need a short update, My name is Anne. I lost my job of 20 years in 2004 and had to re-invent myself, so now I'm a brand-new, first-year school teacher.

This morning I was so exhausted that I looked out at my first period class and just about babbled. I couldn't form a sentence. But it was first period, and I was surrounded by 15-year-olds who had also been up until the wee hours (not grading papers, though). They babbled right back at me. Jolly good fun!

This Wednesday marks the end of Phase IB of my new teacher training classes. Again for those of you just arriving on the late train, Phase IB is the class I have to take that teaches me how to teach, while I'm already teaching and being thoroughly (and expertly) coached in my classroom. I must endure this punishment until June.

The punishment is significantly enhanced by the instructor, a pompous, self-satisfied retired teacher I've affectionately re-named Mr. Bigwand.

Awhile back, Mr. Bigwand noticed Puck, the faerie I wear to work on a cord around my neck. He asked me what Puck was, and I said it was a symbol of my Pagan path. He immediately assumed I was Wiccan. Not that it matters, but that's like assuming every Christian is Catholic.

Tonight, in a moment when he paused from his self-praise, he said to me, "So. What do you Wiccans do at Christmas?"

(Honestly, I do not make this stuff up. You've just got to take my word for it.)

I replied: "First, I'm not Wiccan. I'm Druid. And the better question would be, 'When are you Christians going to give us our holiday back?'"

Having already told us (three times) that he studied for the Anglican collar, Mr. Bigwand now had to prove his big, broad, flexible outlook, which he did by querying me about which of the O'Reilly-sanctioned holiday activities were actually "more ancient" in origin. I replied that the far shorter list would be those that aren't "more ancient" in origin. Which launched him into a mostly monologue about burning candles all night on the solstice. As he moved on to converse with the next victim, he proclaimed, "I love the opportunity to learn new things."

I'll have to take his word for that, because so far as I can see, the last new thing he learned was how to drive a car.

I don't know if it's bad news or good news, but I will be continuing classes with Mr. Bigwand after the aforementioned holidays. I really don't mind, because like H.L. Mencken, I'm mildly amused by loud morons ... and they make good copy.

Oh yeah ... Did I mention that I got the opportunity to evaluate him anonymously last week? He handed out forms, specifically told us not to put our names on them, and then -- after we had our say -- officiously shoved them in an envelope destined for the New Jersey Department of Education. But did he close the envelope? Oh heck no. I'm sure he didn't even wait to read those evals until he drove home. Funny thing was, I looked around me as I evaluated, and I saw fellow inmates scribbling away in high dudgeon. You just can't save everyone from themselves, so I returned to my own form.

My NJDOE anonymous evaluation of Mr. Bigwand? "Stellar teacher."

Machiavelli's lessons aren't lost on me.

P.S. - Sorry to mention the holiday. I promised I wouldn't. I just couldn't let this opportunity pass to hold up for inspection another boorish Bigwand comment.

"So, what do you Wiccans do at Christmas?"

Have at it, readers. Trust me. Mr. Bigwand is going to wander onto this site some day. Go ahead. Teach him something. He loves to learn new things.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Philosophical Difficulties with the Marcellus Shale Deposit

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hosted by an expatriate Appalachian named Anne Johnson. Anne Johnson is my real name. What it lacks in originality is more than compensated for by its fabulous properties of anonymity. I am me, and we are many, and go ahead and Google, try to pick me out from the crowd!

It has long been known that a supply of natural gas exists deep beneath the mountains of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and northern West Virginia. This gas is trapped in a kind of rock layer called Marcellus shale. Recently, engineers have perfected a means of extracting the gas by blasting water through horizontal drills that are somehow plunged deep beneath the mountains' surfaces.

Several things have happened as a result of this little jump in drilling technology:

1. People who own piece-a-nothin' farms overtop the Marcellus Shale Deposit could be potential Jed Clampitts and are already being lured by big-money energy companies.

2. Those big-money energy companies (think Dick Cheney) are trying to do what they do best -- circumvent paying out dough to property owners and low-balling what they do give in compensation.

3. Environmentalists are debating the pros and cons of getting clean energy (natural gas) by doing more mountain-rape, which brings us to the debate that...

4. Drilling for gas beats mountaintop removal mining for coal and brings a similar payoff: energy from a domestic source.

My granddad had a natural gas lease on our 75-acre farm. The farm sits on top of Marcellus shale.

My uncle, who has lived on the farm for the past 25 years, canceled the gas lease long ago.

The farm could go up for sale shortly. I own a share of it, but so do several cousins who are strapped for cash. My sister also has a share in the place, and she wants to sell. I would like to keep the farm, but with two kids to educate and a house in New Jersey, I can't afford to buy a second property -- even though I would only have to pay 5/6 of the agreed-upon price.

Usually I can get a grip on issues pretty quickly, but this Marcellus shale thing has me all at sixes and sevens. Does the gas beneath my mountain make the property more valuable? How would I feel if the Cheney trucks came roaring in and started to drill, baby, drill? Would I rather keep the farm in the family, and reap the potential Clampitt windfall, or sell to some speculator? How much respect do I have for the beauty and purity of my mountain? What happens if my neighbors have differing opinions and open their properties to the Cheney drillers?

It's times like this when one needs a bored god's advice. And who knows the underworld better than Hades? So today I put in a call, and it happened that He wasn't too busy (imagine that!). Here he comes now, trailing a little fire-and-brimstone that smells like Retsina. Please give a wild, warm, wonderful TGAB welcome to Hades, Greek God of the Underworld!

Anne: Welcome, God of the Underworld! How are things down below?

Hades: Oh, man, I'm stoked. Stoked! Yowsa! I've got Tiger Woods!

Anne: You mean Tiger Woods is dead? I didn't see that on the news.

Hades: Not yet. But when he dies, I get him! Turns out he's a cheetah, not a tiger! (Laughs)

Anne: Oh, for the love of fruit flies! I didn't invite you hear to listen to bad puns. I have a serious philosophical issue to discuss with Someone who knows the inside of the Earth.

Hades: I'll show him a thing or two about golf.

Anne: Now. Let's go over this whole Marcellus Shale Deposit thing. Where does the deposit lie in relation to Your kingdom?

Hades: Every time he tees up, I'll melt his irons right out from under him.

Anne: Could we please not talk about Tiger Woods?

Hades: Hey. This is a big catch for me. I've never gotten over missing out on Lou Gehrig.

Anne: You've gotta have a hundred thousand top-quality athletes in your collection, Hades. Not to stereotype or anything, but they're kind of a randy lot.

Hades: Yes, and golfers are no exception. But Tiger. Tiger! Huge acquisition. Huge.

Anne: Just for a moment can You give me some insight on the Marcellus Shale Deposit?

Hades: This also gives me all his concubines. More cuties to keep me warm in the wintertime!

Anne: You know what, Hades? You're not the first bored god I've interviewed from the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons. And to be quite blunt, I can see why it was easy for Christianity to get a toehold in those cultures. You Greek deities all seem to have such flagrant human failings. Try to be serious for two seconds! Please!

Hades: I am serious. I'm a collector. Don't you get excited when you get a valuable new item for your collection?

Anne: I don't collect anything except memories.

Hades: Boooorrrrring! You should collect something! I suggest stamps. You don't have to be rich to own a first-class stamp collection.

Anne: You know what, Hades? I just remembered. I'm alive. And I have a lot to do today.  Look! Watch me move around, shoving the socks into the sock drawer! La di dah. Oh, it's great to be alive, with a wonderful new memory of dancing in the snow with the Spare, in the parking lot of the thrift store in Pennsauken...

Hades: I'll be back for you some day.

Anne: No you won't. I'm booked with another carrier. Thank goodness. Because it truly would be hell to spend eternity watching Tiger Woods try to play golf with molten putters.

Hades: Speak for yourself! I've got Tiger! I've got Tiger! (Dances into the storm drain and disappears.)

Well, readers, you never know what you'll get when you ask a bored god for an interview. Sometimes they help, sometimes they advise you to start a stamp collection. As always I'm open to your suggestions for a serious bored deity to which I can pose my ethical questions on the Marcellus Shale Deposit conundrum. Also, if you are reading this, and you have a personal opinion on the issue, I sure would like to hear that too. Even if you can spell "shale" and do nothing else, you'll offer me more than Hades just did.

Have a great day, and don't forget to look alive!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Foster Kitten 101

Welcome to "The Gods are Bored," honoring Isis and Osiris through kitten care since 2003! I won't get a pyramid over my bones, or pots of honey and such, but those Egyptian deities are going to roll out the old welcome mat to yours truly anyway! Why, even as I type this I must stop every other word and stroke two tired kittens. Who will shortly be under a lit-up pine tree, waiting for the embrace of a sweet little girl I'll never even meet.

Say what you want about meditation, sweat lodges, magick, prayer, you name it. In my book, a gal who's putting in 60-75 hour work weeks who can still care for motherless kittens is performing an act of worship. (*TOOT TOOT!* That's me blowing my own damn horn.)

Here's a little crash course on foster kitten care.

Kitten Care 101

1. Kittens live in a rabbit hutch.

2. Kittens must stay in the rabbit hutch while humans are not watching them.

3. Contents of hutch as follows: blanket or cat bed, cat box, cat food.

4. If kittens are removed from the hutch for playtime, the cat box should be removed too. That way they can use it.

5. If kittens are placed back into the hutch for safekeeping during a long day when people aren't around, the cat box should be placed back into the hutch with them.

6. If the cat box stays outside the hutch while the kittens are locked into the hutch, things get messy.

7. So, always keep the cat box and the kittens in the same convenient location.

It usually doesn't matter to me whether or not my husband and daughter read my blog. Tonight I rather hope they will.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Double Post Below

Anticipating a busy Wednesday with my favorite bloviator, Mr. Bigwand, I hearby offer two posts below: one a video that I must say makes me curious about exactly what holiday carols might be up for singalong, the other a shameful admittance of poor parenting. Have a great Wednesday, my lieblings!

Woodstock Trading Company Announcement

My dear friend Mom and my former foster cat "Monstro" will help you with your holiday shopping!

Terrible Teen Runs Amok

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," prompt home delivery of select deities, fresh and willing to accept your praise and worship! Just call us UPS -- Upscale Pantheon Service!

You know it's bound to happen. You leave your teenager home alone, she's going to get in trouble.

I'm talking about my younger daughter, The Spare. (I have two female children, The Heir and The Spare. Heir is in college right now. More on her in a moment.)

Yesterday I staggered in from another long bout of night school to find that my teenager had committed a despicable act. Oh, all bored gods please forgive her!

I think I've mentioned that we took in two foster kittens from the shelter. To nurture and tame them up so that Santa would have them to dole out on Yule. Well ...

... exceedingly difficult to confess this ...

The Spare gave one of the kittens a makeover.

Yes, I know. I know! We Pagans suffer egregiously under the burden of stereotype, much of it based on ritual killings of kittens. How could The Spare not remember that as she gently swiped blush across the cheeks of Reba the Kitten?

I noticed immediately that Reba the Kitten had a subtle rosy glow that was decidedly un-kitten-like. When confronted with the evidence, Spare admitted that Reba had been climbing her as she did her own makeup, so she impulsively gave Reba a peppy new look.

For shame! A kitten wearing blush! I'm devastated that my child, who I have raised to the best of my ability, would actually apply cosmetics to a feline's cheeks!

Fear not, readers. Spare will be punished severely. She will be dragged to Baltimore, to the baby shower of her father's first cousin -- a girl who knows to wait until after she's had the baby to get married, so she'll look better in her wedding gown. Now there's a set of values any parent would appreciate!

I can't bring myself to confiscate Spare's makeup. She would rather have her pressed powder than the keys to the T-bird. And truth be told, Reba the Kitten seems no worse for wear. Not that I want to condone immoral behavior, but ... oh, don't say you heard it here! ... A kitten looks really cute with a little blush, properly applied.

No, Anne! Bad! Bad! No makeup on kittens! Bad! Bad Spare! Off to bed without watching Countdown with Keith!

That'll teach her.

Update on Heir: My daughter The Heir is ill, but she does not like for me to talk about her here at TGAB. Your well wishes and positive energy will be most appreciated. Her doctors feel that if she takes it easy between semesters, rests and pampers herself, she will feel better in time for the spring term. She has a chronic condition, so she has no choice but to learn how to live with it. The good news is that she's joined a band in Philly. She plays the musical saw. Now she wants to expand her repertoire by learning the ukulele.

It's too late to put these challenging offspring up for adoption. I'll just have to muddle through somehow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," staring ahead at a 60-hour workweek ahead after an exhausting Thanksgiving holiday!  Forget being rested and refreshed. I'm trashed, and I still have three more loads of laundry to do.

Can't blame the kittens. Can't blame the daughters. Can't blame the elderly mother-in-law. Can't blame the spouse who had to work last night.

Only one person to blame. Me.

I have never learned how to say no.

When my mother-in-law asked to come here for Thanksgiving and make most of the food, I said okay. When The Spare said she would cook the rest, I said okay.

Except neither one of them lifted a finger to help clean up. And then there's the regular laundry, and the special queen-sized bed change. (How even the comforter got dirty I haven't a clue.) There was the obligatory entertaining needed to amuse the mother-in-law. Worries about Heir's health, which is tenuous. And I had to go to the doctor too. Sandwiched in between washing dishes. Pots. Pans. Plates. Silver. Because of course you have to use the good china on Thanksgiving, right?

All you young readers out there, start a trend.

1. If you don't invite someone for the holidays and they want to come, here's what you say: "Sorry, but I've been working really hard, and I want to rest."

2. If your kids or significant other are accustomed to lavish traditions, here's what you say: "We have to streamline here. I can't do it all. I can't even do half of it."

3. If someone offers to help you do it, don't believe them.

4. Look in the mirror and say, "No." Practice. Say it 1,000 times. Write it on a blackboard until you fill every space, like Bart Simpson.

No more. No more. No more.

The life you save may be your own. Just. Say. No.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Frank Talk about Sex between Gods and Mortals

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where every day is a holy day! We should rejoice and be glad in it!

It's certainly not my doing, but have you noticed that the gods aren't as bored lately as they used to be? Several of the commentees in my previous post made note of it. Greek deities, Roman deities, Norse deities, Celtic deities, even ancient Babylonian deities  --  all making a comeback! That's swell, don't you think?

Don't worry, though. We at "The Gods Are Bored" recognize that many, many gods and goddesses are still bored. They have been deprived of their praise and worship teams. Some of these deities are lost in the mists of time. Others are trying to mount brave fronts against missionaries from other faiths (won't name names). Alas, this is a sad state of affairs.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" will not rest until every unclaimed deity has a follower! Yes, it is a noble ambition. Thank you for noticing.

Everyone has his or her own view on divinity. Mine, needless to say, is pretty liberal. I must say, however, that I have trouble wrapping myself around the idea of sex between deities and humans. Why would a deity, male or female, want to do it with a human? Aren't They so much better than us? I mean, it's not like interracial dating, or marrying someone outside your faith. You're getting it on with a god!

(It need not be pointed out that certain popular religions cannot claim exemption from this celestial activity.)

As your government-sanctioned health teacher has taught you, unprotected sex often leads to unwanted pregnancies. Which begs another question. Why would a deity not take precautions to avoid a half-god, half-human offspring? Maybe some have learned this lesson the hard way and now behave more carefully while under the boardwalk.

I'm pretty sure I've never had sex with a god or an alien. I would remember, wouldn't I?

This merry musing arises from my reading of The Lightning Thief, a novel that proposes that Zeus, Poseidon, Athena et. al. are still up to their old tricks, still shagging morals and producing half-blood offspring. This is great fodder for fiction, and will probably be a ripping good movie as well, but for me it doesn't hold as much water as its predecessors, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Both LOTR and HP are set in alternate worlds where all sorts of mayhem can be posited to be plausible. In Lightning Thief, there's a camp for demigods on Long Island near Montauk.

One would think Zeus would pick better neighbors than Billy Joel.

Back to our thesis. There's ample evidence that deities have knocked up mortals. My question is, why? Mortals, even the best of them, don't have a clue how to raise a demi-deity. What happens? These god-sired hybrids end up experiencing violent deaths. Say what you want about taking away the sins of the world, but I doubt if that was what Jesus was thinking about while being crucified.

From the human perspective, I can see how one would be motivated to bang a god or goddess. They're higher beings -- they must be great in the sack. At the same time, I would caution a little restraint.  Nix that afternoon with Zeus. Go take a polar plunge and find some diverting amusement. Cedar Point springs to mind. There you can ride about five roller coasters, up and down at dizzying speeds, and not have to spend the rest of your life looking after a child who will at best seem to have delusions of grandeur, and at worst start a new religion that will imperil even more bored gods.

In closing, we at "The Gods Are Bored" would encourage you to avoid sexual encounters with higher beings. The affairs are fleeting and the consequences huge. Find yourself a nice respectable mate, one who will do all the dishes after a big Thanksgiving feast. Never met anyone like that? Me neither. No reason not to keep trying. Gods don't do dishes either.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Segregated Thanksgiving

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Yeaaaahhhh.

Can I be candid? Of the above list, the only thing I would take right now is a roll. With butter and perhaps some jam.

Every year on the night before Thanksgiving, the local churches put together an "ecumenical" service for the season. Meaning that the service alternates between churches, and every year a different pastor leads the bash. All are welcome, so long as they're Christian, Muslim, or Jewish. It's rather like the National Day of Prayer. Go ahead and pray if you're a follower of the busy god. As for the bored gods, they're not even in the balcony.

Don't bored gods deserve a wink and a nod on Thanksgiving as well? If you think so, please leave an "ecumenical" comment, lavishing kindness on the bored god or goddess of your choice.

You can praise the busy god too, if you like. Gotta wonder why you would want to, though. He has plenty of attention by half.

May your travels be safe!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," offering a full slate of services to discarded deities, including career counseling, emergency praise and worship, and our ever-popular "follower finder" option! Please contact us for all of your deity needs! Our operators are standing by to take your call.

About ten days ago, my friend Nettle left a message on her Facebook inquiring about a ride to Pennsauken. She said she needed to go to an animal shelter there to see a dog that was up for adoption.

Thus began a faerie-guided adventure.

Turns out (no coincidences with the fae, remember) that the shelter Nettle wanted to go to was the one where I volunteer. Sunday last, I picked Nettle up at the El stop in my town, and she, Spare and I rode over to the shelter.

Nettle tried several dogs on for size. There was "Badger," a white showy sort, brimming with personality and vigor ... and highly sought after by other potential adoptive families. Then there was "Cara." Shy. Great big, scared eyes. Cross between a pug and a chihuahua -- so, essentially the size of a cat.

I rooted for "Cara" from the beginning, because she seemed like the kind of dog who could languish in a shelter for months because it was difficult to get a read on her personality. I just had a feeling, though, that "Cara" was a good fit for Nettle.

I suppose the faeries felt the same way, because last Wednesday Nettle adopted "Cara," and yesterday Spare and I helped Nettle take "Cara" to her new home -- Philadelphia!

"Cara's" history indicates that she was transported north from South Carolina. Talk about culture shock! From Dixie to Philly in just five months ... via scenic Pennsauken, New Jersey!

After we finished filling out the paperwork on "Cara," we took her to the car for her journey out of Jersey and across the bridge to the City of Buzzardly Love. That little charmer just sat on Nettle's lap and gazed out the window with an adorable curiosity. Then she got tired and settled in for a snooze. From the first moment "Cara" seemed totally at home with her new person.

I tried to give "Cara" a crash course on living in Philly, but she didn't seem to understand when I told her to say "Boooooooooo" and "Dallas sucks," and the ever-popular "Yankees suck."

The sun was setting when we drove up Market Street past Drexel University. I said to "Cara": "Well, doggie, this is symbolic, you see. The sun is setting on your previous life, and tomorrow it will rise on a whole new era for you."

Sure enough, this morning it is perfectly beautiful here in the Delaware Valley. Not a cloud in the sky!

I feel blessed to have helped a dog find a home. This was a new experience for me. All of my experience of the Almost Home shelter is kitten-fostering. Bring them home, pamper them, take them back. It was refreshing to see how careful the staff at Almost Home is about choosing good owners for deserving pets. My kittens must all get good families as well.

Speaking of kittens. This is where the faeries really went into overdrive.

While I was waiting for Nettle to finalize her adoption of "Cara," I had to ask. I just had to ask.

Any "hissie spitties" in the cat room?

Oh yes. Four weeks old. And the staff was worried that they might get sick from being around the other cats. Would I take them?

So in addition to bringing Nettle's dog home to Philly yesterday, Spare and I took possession of two semi-tame, fluffy kittens named Reba and Ramsey. The idea is to keep them away from the sick cats until they're eight weeks old, which will be just about ... Yuletide.

I'm leaving it up to the faeries to alert the Yule elves that two kittens will be ready for delivery on December 24.

Is it any wonder that Spare and I broke our pact not to mention "that holiday" and drove home from Philly yesterday singing festive songs of a certain season?

What a happy day! Love is in the air.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Checking the Little Box

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Now it's official. I'm dancing faster than I can. I'm Ginger, and Fred just went on crank. How's that for a multi-century analogy?

Tonight I stayed at school until almost 6:00. There's this program our school has called 21st Century Initiative. It's chock-a-block with federal funding which no one quite understands how to disburse. For instance, one evening this week another teacher just showed up on my doorstep and said I was "on the team," and a student had stayed after school to spend three hours in my company.

That student is a wonderful person and the very model of what a student should be. Getting paid to help him get into college -- and understand the work when he gets there? -- yeah. I'll do that.

This evening the student and I sent out some requests for information to colleges in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Asking colleges for information is rather like using a copy machine. No two web sites are the same. I guess they do that to keep spammers out. Student and I had to re-input every bit of information on every site.

There's one thing all these colleges have in common, though. Every one of them has a special little box to check if you are Hispanic.

Each time student and I came to that little box, we laughed. He is, you see, Hispanic.

He wants to be a writer. I don't know why I would thank the bored gods for dumping him into my lap, but I think this partnership was meant to be.

I think I'm going to encourage him to start a blog.

What else is going on in the Annals of Anne?

Well, Decibel the Parrot got hold of my middle finger and tried to sever it from my hand. He ground away, down to the bone, and only gave up when Spare screamed at him. What an adorable pet! Everyone should own a parrot.

Staying after school to help Student is one matter. Listening to the loquacious Mr. Bigwand and his chipper wife every Wednesday night in the "alternate route" teacher program is another. For some reason known only to him, he called on me last night. He pointed in my face and said, "How are you and I different?"

Oh, was it ever on the tip of my tongue to say, "I'm human!"

But instead I pulled out the tried-and-true. "I'm from Appalachia," I told him.

Which sent him off on another long-winded diatribe about how my formative experiences go into the classroom with me. And they do, of course. I didn't need him to tell me that ... over and over again.

Then, during a break, he blundered by me and said, "By the way, lovely part of the world." As if he has traveled the length and breadth of Appalachia, weighed it in the balance, and found it satisfactory.

So there's my "teacher." A guy who can sum up Appalachia in half a breath by saying, "Lovely part of the world."

I was tempted to show the guy a lovely part of my anatomy. But I need the grade. Gee, he's one swell instructor! Where's that evaluation form?

Saturday I have school from 8:30 until 1:30. All of this is keeping me so young!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exit 56A

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," dusting off the Old Time Religions since 2005! If you can read this, thank Jupiter. The deity, not the planet. We may not use His numerals, but we sure use His alphabet.

These tough economic times have led many people such as myself to seek a livelihood in the teaching profession. As those of you who do it know, it's one demanding job.

Teachers like me are called "alternate route." Meaning that we haven't sat through 30 credits of tedious pedantry on metacognition, but have instead earned a living while retaining enough personality and vivacity to lead a classroom. (*snicker* "Metacognition" sets off the spellchecker! *snicker*)

Alternate route teachers have to attend 200 hours of classes on how to teach. While we're already teaching. Starting in 2010, the state of New Jersey will make wannabe teachers take 30 hours of classes before they can even get an alternate route certificate. (*snort!* "Wannabe" doesn't set off the spellchecker!)

Through a complicated process worthy of any state government, we stragglers in the "old" alternate route program must get two sets of classes finished by December 31. I'm squeezing in right under the wire with Phase I-A, which I should have taken before Phase I-B, but which I began after Phase I-B because I didn't qualify for Phase I-A before I was hired, and the school enrolled me straight into Phase I-B.

Yeah. I'll bet it's just like that in your state too.

Anyway, the classes for Phase I-A are held in Sewell, New Jersey. In order to get to Sewell, I have to take Highway 55 and get off at Exit 56A.

Alas and alack! Here's the very devil of a problem!

If I get off at Exit 56B by mistake, the road takes me straight into Wenonah, New Jersey. Buzzard capital of the Eastern Seaboard. Also known as Anne's Heaven.

Yesterday as I was careening down the highway, shoving cookies into my mouth in a fruitless effort to quell my stress, I nearly chose Exit 56B instead of Exit 56A. I remembered just in time that I was going to Alternate Route Teacher Class Phase I-A, and I took the correct exit.

As I rounded the cloverleaf, I gazed longingly in the direction of Wenonah. And there, in the dusky autumn sky, I noted a lone vulture, winding its way to the good ol' winter roost -- no doubt to be reunited with about 200 close friends and family.

Oh, to be buzzarding instead of sitting through a long class on Bloom's Taxonomy for Higher Level Learning!

I'm not one to hook class, though. I dutifully turned the trusty vehicle onto Delsea Drive and wended my way to class. Signed in. Nodded in all the right places, just like a student. Watched the gal next to me send surreptitious text messages, just like a student. Failed to recall a single thing from the prior week's lesson, just like a student.

At the end of the long evening, the peppy instructor checked his calendar and determined that next week is Thanksgiving. He announced that we would not have class next Monday.

There are Gods and Goddesses! O happy day!

Next Monday, when Mr. Johnson and The Spare think I'm at class, I will instead be in Wenonah, in spiritual communion with the Sacred Thunderbird. Rarely has Thanksgiving been more welcome!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wouldn't Work with People

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today the tables turned on us!

Not literally. I'm not lying under 75 pounds of varnished walnut.

What happened was this: Spare and I took a friend to the pet shelter where we volunteer. The friend wants to adopt a dog. A small, older dog who will enjoy city life and the company of two cats.

My daughters and I have fostered more than 60 kittens for this shelter. Usually when we enter the door, we're either picking up tiny waifs for a temporary stay at our home, or dropping off slightly larger, well-fed and healthy waifs for someone else to adopt.

As far as the pet shelter adoption process goes, I was totally in the dark, until today. My pets are all serendipitous acquisitions (except for Decibel the parrot -- my biggest mistake thus far in a long life). It was a whole new experience, walking into the familiar shelter in search of an animal to take home for good. And the shelter had a nice group of little dogs from which to choose. My friend liked two of them. I liked them both too. It's nice to know I'll get to see whichever one she winds up with.

As we played with the little dogs and sized them up, something occurred to me. Cats and dogs live with us for years, sometimes for a decade and a half. But when it comes to choosing them, we do so quickly. "I'll take that one, thanks. He's adorable!"

Funny part is, the ending is almost always happy. You walk into a pet shelter on any given day with your pet carrier, point to a kitty, bring it home, and for the next 14 years it sleeps peacefully at your feet every night and rubs your leg when you come home from work. It works just as well with a dog, if you know what size and mix you want. The first pooch you point to will adore you after the first bowl of Alpo.

Can you imagine it working this way with people?

Just imagine. You go to the people shelter, looking for a companion. The attendant brings out a man (or woman) meeting your age and size preferences. A quick perusal, an application fee, and out you walk with your new person!

Well, that's ridiculous, of course. We're the thinking species. We search and search for the perfect human companion. Some of us never find that person. Some of us go through a dozen rotten relationships before finding a decent partner.

To me this proves one thing beyond all doubt. Cats and dogs are superior to humans. On any given day, you can walk into any given pet shelter and cart home a fine companion who will bring you bounteous joy. Try doing that with Homo sapiens. Go ahead. I dare ya.

Love at first sight only works with shelter pets. Remember where you heard this, because some day I'm going to start charging a fee for such sound advice.

Image: Casey Jones, one of my favorite fosters.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Semper Fi

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Pagan and patriotic since 2005! I'll venture a guess that there aren't many Druids in the Daughters of the American Revolution, but there are some. At least one. That's me. I pay my dues every year.

You all know that I have trouble linking, so if you want to read the editorial I'm going to rant about today, just biff on over to The Wild Hunt to get all the details.

A journalist for the Chicago Tribune has suggested that religious tolerance, particularly of minority religions like -- oh, let's just pick one -- WICCA, might have contributed to the violent shooting at Fort Hood. Never mind that the shooter was a Muslim, or that he was unbalanced. Fort Hood has a reputation for multi-faith tolerance. Our friend at the Chicago Tribune thinks such tolerance in the military is a big, bad idea:

“Fast forward to 1999, when an Austin, Texas newspaper published photos of a Wiccan ceremony at Fort Hood. Theologically conservative Christian clergy joined with indignant Congressmen to protest the Army’s acceptance of Wiccan practice. As reported in Hannah Rosin’s contemporaneous account for The Washington Post, these clergy threatened to disrupt the protests, going so far as to call on Christians not to enlist or reenlist in any branch of the military until Wicca was banned from military posts. But the Army brushed off the threatened protests. Again, according to the Washington Post article, Fort Hood spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Santos said at the time that as long as a religious minority does not interfere with discipline, the military will help it find an off-base leader and a place to practice its beliefs … in light of the fact that the Army and various government agencies appear to have disregarded warning signs about the shooter’s contact with religious radicals who have since praised his murders, a tragic irony bubbles to the surface: might the emphasis on religious inclusion and interfaith acceptance have allowed the sinister to walk, undaunted, disguised as the spiritual?"

(Jason at "The Wild Hunt" added the emphasis. And the italics. Now I can't turn off either. I stink at computers.)

We at "The Gods Are Bored," whether we can adjust font or not, do not approve of using religious beliefs as a qualifier for military service. First Amendment issues aside, this is just ridiculous. It's an all-volunteer military force these days. Are you going to turn people away because they're Wiccan?

I know this is an incredible reach, but go along with me for a minute. If an invading army is advancing upon New Jersey, bayonets fixed, I personally will not care if those defending me are Christians, Jews, Pagans, atheists, or Believers in Alien Abduction. Thank you, soldier, for defending me. May your deity or deities bless you.

And with no due respect to the Chicago Tribune editorialist, Tom Levinson, I would simply ask: Has there been a single case of Wiccan violence against fellow Christian soldiers in the history of the U.S. military? Hey, we know how much press that would get if it did happen. So it hasn't.

Patriotism is not solely the province of certain kinds of Christians. That's what is wonderful about America. You want an all-Christian military? Go dig up Richard the Lionheart and set him in charge again. Medieval mindset and all.

I'm Anne Johnson, N.S.D.A.R. 723499, and I approved this message.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Niccolo and Me

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you have what it takes to rule a Principality?

This is my dear old friend, Niccolo Machiavelli.

I can't remember the first time I read The Prince. I know it wasn't in college, because I took The Divine Comedy one semester and didn't sign up for The Prince during the following term. Maybe because I felt like I was missing something, I picked up a copy of The Prince and read it, somewhere along the line.

The term "Machiavellian" has come to mean something sinister and manipulative. Actually The Prince is pretty pragmatic. Common sense, if you happen to be running a biggish show. The book is just dense enough that you forget most of it if you don't read it once a year, so after two or three years it's like reading a whole new text.

No offense to Niccolo, but The Prince is also an effective sleep-enhancer. Put that puppy next to your bed and turn to it at night, and you will save a fortune on lavender and white noise machines.

I'm thinking about The Prince tonight because I have a student who is struggling with the whole concept of school. As is often the case with such students, this one is exceedingly bright -- if not terribly well educated. I just ordered a copy of The Prince for him.

Now you're saying, "Wait a minute, Anne. You're going to give a kid with a middle-school reading level a college-level text so full of big words it puts you to sleep?"


You see, it's not the substance of the gift, it's the suggestion. I would never tell the student this, but if you hand a teenager a book about how to rule, he or she might internalize the notion that ruling requires education and higher level thinking.

When I give the book to the student, I will tell him that the best thing to do with it is to put it by his bedside and read a page or two each night. I won't hide from him The Prince's magical, sleep-inducing qualities. But I will also hint that there's gold in them there pages. Gold that can be mined in little nuggets. The first of them being that an effective ruler has to exert self-control before trying to control other people.

We're having a bit of a blow here tonight. No better time to curl up with Niccolo Machiavelli. My lids are growing heavy just thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mean Old Pagan War Gods

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," laughing through life with the help of ignorant morons! Why should Veterans' Day be any different?

My good friend Hecate has a post up today in which she links to a moron writing about how many wars have been avoided since monotheism shoved out the bored gods. After all, doesn't Christianity tell us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, and to treat others as we would have ourselves be treated? Yea, verily.

So, back in the dark days of polytheism, people waged wars in the names of their deities. God has cleaned this up. Seriously, I kid you not.

Okay, I am kidding. Where once people fought for their gods and goddesses, people now fight for their god. And what's most amusing about it (actually it's not amusing at all) is that Christians have fought Muslims, who have fought Jews, who are still fighting Muslims, who bombed the World Trade Tower in an attack on Christians. All of whom worship the same god.

Ah, harmony, harmony! Love thy neighbor! Don't be a Pagan! They don't love their neighbors!

It being Veterans' Day today, the Spare and I were trying to sing some patriotic songs. It's doggone tough to find one that doesn't mention God, except for the National Anthem, which can't be sung by anyone due to impossible octaves and indecipherable lyrics.

Hecate's post got me thinking about hymns. So here, in honor of that peaceful deity who exhorts his followers to turn the other cheek, are just a few catchy lines from popular songs in his honor:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored
He hath loosed the faithful lightning of His terrible, swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.

If you would like to remind me of other peaceful lyrics pertaining to the busy god, please leave a comment. I must run to night school ... another dose of the blowhard Mr. Bigwand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's Missing from the Health Care Bill?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you ready for some health care? Yes? For your sake I hope it's a problem that begins below your forehead.

There's been much made of the exclusion of payments for abortion from the House bill on health care. Let me tell you, we at "The Gods Are Bored" aren't going to think highly of this arrangement. It stinks up the joint.

But there's something that stinks worse and has stunk worse for a long, long time. It stinks so bad that I haven't heard one word about it in all these health care proceedings. My guess is that the politicians are just overlooking the stinker once again and leaving our American population at the mercy of a whole set of crippling and fatal illnesses.

Readers, have you ever sought medical care for a psychiatric condition?

If you can say no, you are one lucky duck.

Health insurance has always had two standards. There's the standard that covers every last band-aid when you fracture your femur. Then there's the standard that pays back pennies on the dollar (if at all) for your consultations with doctors and psychotherapists regarding your mental illness.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't heard a thing about coverage of mental health conditions in this current round of trying to make all Americans healthy. To me -- with all apologies to women who want to control their own bodies -- this omission even trumps the denial of coverage for abortions.

The inability to get basic insurance coverage for psychiatric illness is a huge pet peeve of mine. Why? Reasons? Hmmm. Do you want the whole list, or just the top ten?

When I was a kid, my family was impoverished by my mother's bipolar disorder. Then, as now, medical insurance didn't pick up much of the tab. I compare the severity of my mother's illness to a bad case of multiple sclerosis. Even on Mom's best day, bipolar disorder impeded her ability to function on a basic, normal level. At its worst, the illness brought great risk to her life and the lives of her family members.

But, oh well. She should have been able to snap out of it, right? After all, it wasn't like multiple sclerosis. She wasn't in a wheelchair. She could walk and talk.

I will not consider this a civilized nation until mental health issues achieve parity with all other health issues, especially where insurance coverage is concerned. Just now we live in a country where many of our mentally ill citizens turn to street pharms or liquor stores to self-medicate. People who are savvy enough to know they've got problems can't afford treatment ... or they're told to snap out of it. Or they shop around for affordable care, only to get the poorest excuses for doctors and therapists.

Right this minute ... I literally mean right this minute, a member of my family is seeing a doctor for treatment of debilitating panic attacks. How are we paying for this treatment at Chateau Johnson, where we have "full" insurance coverage? We're writing a check. And getting no reimbursement, because our insurer says we could get the health care from someone in their network.

Who will be in the mental health care network when this highly-anticipated health care bill goes to President Obama's desk? Do we know? Did anyone bother to ask?

Naah. No one bothered to ask. Stupid loonies. They should snap out of it. It's all in their heads.

Monday, November 09, 2009


WTTGAB! Anne is tired. See Anne yawn. Yawn, Anne. Yawn.

Go to bed, Anne. Look! See the bed, Anne? It is soft. It is warm.

Good night, moon.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Benches on a Boardwalk

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you live and kicking from the great state of New (*coughcoughcoughHACKcough*) Jersey! Remember our slogan: "New Jersey and You: Poisoned Together!"

Now don't you wish you lived here too?

On Friday morning I found myself in the seaside resort of Ocean City, New Jersey. The skies were cloudless, a fine breeze stirred the sand, and I had two early morning hours in which to stroll the boardwalk before returning to the teachers' convention.

Having grown up in the mountains, I have trouble loving the beach. I've never quite gotten over that whole tidal thing. You know, water running uphill. Bothers the hell outta me.

Then there's the crowds. The tacky shops. The high prices. The lack of parking. The broiling sun. If that's your idea of vacation, you go. I'll stay at home and clip coupons.

However, on a November Friday, the boardwalk holds none of its usual nuisances. The stores are closed (no high prices). The sun is welcome (not broiling). Parking is overwhelmingly ample. And the people are few and far between. In this case, the whole seaside resort thing suddenly becomes appealing to me. I can even handle high tide without the jitters!

With soaring spirits, I set out for a stroll.

Let me backpedal for a minute, purely in a navel gaze mode. Summer before last, I went with Mr. Johnson to Ocean City to pick up the Spare from an overnight stay. Mr. J and I went onto the boardwalk, and I couldn't make it one block. My arthritic hip was so bad I just couldn't walk that uneven surface at all. It was hell.

Flash forward to 2009. The hip is fixed. I can stroll and stroll! If you've never been disabled, and subsequently fixed, you can't imagine the high it gives you to walk three miles on a boardwalk, where once you couldn't limp more than a block.

So I set out for a stroll on the quiet, postseason Ocean City boardwalk.

At first, I loved it. No people! No noise! Nothing but the waves, the sun, and the occasional biker, or the thump thump thump of a determined jogger. The stores were all shuttered. One had a sign in the window: "Open every weekend, except during bad blows." Well, I liked that. Seemed sensible to me.

I walked to the north end of the Ocean City boardwalk, turned around and started south again. Somewhere between 14th and 16th streets I had a sea change. (Imagine that!) The dead, deserted boardwalk began to weigh on my merry mood. It seemed so empty. Such a shell. (another bad pun) And so, as I turned back toward 9th street, I decided to walk the other side of the boards. The side with the benches.

There are two or three benches every 20 feet or so on the Ocean City boardwalk. Some of them face the sea, but many of them face land. I had noticed before that the benches all have dedication plaques on them. I'd just never read any. Now, in order to ignore that incoming tide, I started to study the plaques.

Major discovery here. People love their families.

The vast majority of the plaques are dedicated to departed "mom moms" and "pop pops" who brought children and grandchildren to Ocean City for a great time. Apparently these deceased grandparents were highly successful at creating happy memories. Bench after bench records how much people are missed, how much they loved the ocean, how much their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews loved them.

My family also made an annual vacation trip to Atlantic City when I was a little girl. (We lived in the mountains, so a mountain vacation was no fun. Or some such.) I remember these trips to the shore as traumatizing events. My mom had bipolar disorder, and she didn't forget to pack it in her suitcase when we went on vacations. So basically, visiting Atlantic City for a week only meant I had no place to hide from her fury.

Like most little kids who grow up far from the sea, I was afraid of the waves breaking on the shore. I didn't want to go into the water. Mom would have none of that. Well, she put up with it for a day or two. Then she lifted me up roughly, strode out into the surf, and dumped me there. Then she took a picture of me, wailing in the brine. Then she spanked me for crying.

Is it any wonder I can take or leave the beach?

Anyway, all morbid memories aside, it was quite cathartic to see all those benches, lovingly inscribed to people who doled out love and joy by the beautiful sea. May they have found the Summerlands. May they be dancing with the nixies. Forever and ever, so mote it be!

I'm sure I'll never be named on a plaque on a bench by the sea. No problem. I don't want a plaque. What I do want is the love that leads family members to bestow such honors.

To any bored God or Goddess within earshot, please hear this prayer:

May I be worthy of a bench on the boardwalk.
May I be worthy of a flower on the flood.
May I be remembered often and fondly.
May the Summerlands open to me.

Busy day tomorrow, and night school Monday. Catch you soon, my friends!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Moron Teachers Gather to Gamble

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home from the annual state gathering of public school teachers, aka NJEA Teachers' Convention! This shindig is held in one of our nation's premier pustules, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

I believe I was living in New Jersey when casino gambling was given the A-okay for Atlantic City. The A.C. boosters promised that bringing Vegas-style casinos to the hurricane-prone coastal zone would rejuvenate the economy of poor old Atlantic City. Well, the casinos have come, in all their excess, but the rest of Atlantic City still looks like Detroit. Where they also touted casinos as the tonic for urban blight... and were also dead wrong.

I went to the teachers' convention because my teacher-mentor suggested I attend a few professional development seminars. In other words, I got the message that I'd better get my butt to Atlantic City by hook or by crook.

Thursday I drove to Atlantic City. It takes about an hour from where I live. I found the convention center with no problem and even got street parking nearby. So far, so good.

I had about two hours to spare before the seminar started, so I browsed the mammoth exhibit hall. Didn't they used to give away pens and magnets and stuff at these things? I walked out of there with two re-usable bags and a few business cards. And a snobby sinking feeling that I was in the company of multitudes of morons.

This feeling was confirmed in spades when I attended the seminar.

One of the recurring complaints about Anne as a teacher is that she does not activate higher level thinking in her students. The seminar was called "Strategies for Activating Higher Level Thinking in Language Arts Settings," or some such ... in other words, just what the doctor ordered.

The meeting room was very small. Good thing I got there early! (My regulars know that this is a TGAB maxim: Always get to a meeting 30 minutes early.) I got one of the last seats available.

So the seminar leader dude launches into his presentation. He does so by modeling.

Those of you in the teaching biz know all about modeling. I even did it as a substitute teacher. How modeling works is, you show a person or a group how to do something, and then let them practice. This dude was modeling "vote in your seat," which I've seen before in teaching settings. But in this case, the "vote in your seat" was just a prelude to the strategies for higher level thinking.

Except we couldn't get to the strategies for higher level thinking, because some of the morons in the conference wanted to talk about how teachers get blamed if students don't succeed. It was totally off topic. Totally. And no matter how hard the presenter tried to get the two loud morons to stop talking, they just kept at it, because they wanted to make their points.

Pinky swear, I wanted to yell, "Hey, you! You with the bald head and beer gut! Shut up, moron! I want to learn something!"

When the fat moron finally shut up for 30 seconds, the presenter launched into his presentation. And it was good stuff. Stuff I can use in my classroom. I was drinking it all in, taking notes (sort of), and imagining how it would work with my students.

And then someone's cell phone went off. In that small room, it sounded like a tornado siren. And the moron it belonged to TOOK THE CALL AND STARTED TALKING OUT LOUD INTO HER PHONE.

New Jersey, do you want to know why your students aren't learning anything? It's because they're being taught by apes!

Can it get any worse? I'm sitting in a windowless room (which I hate), in Atlantic City (which I hate), being thwarted in trying to learn new skills (which I really hate) by a top-notch selection of Garden State morons (hate, hate, hate!).

What really nailed the coffin shut was the end of the presentation, when the presenter said, "Well, I had three strategies I wanted to share with you, but we only got two finished." And that was that. He packed up and left.

With much gnashing of teeth and many dirty looks toward the seminar-ruining morons, I found my way back to the doors of the convention center. New Jersey teachers were strewn everywhere, in long lines and packs, waiting for ... what? Oh, for the love of fruit flies! They were boarding casino buses! Bally's, Harrah's, Trump Plaza, Caesar's! Time to gamble, teachers! We all know how much money you make! Now it's time to revel in that largesse!

Those who can't do ... gamble.


As for me, I got in my dusty Dodge and drove south, to the family-friendly and casino-free tourist mecca known as Ocean City, New Jersey. There I passed a quiet evening grading papers in a cozy bed and breakfast inn.

One final moron moment, and then I'll bung off.

Friday's seminar was called "Creating Writing Communities in Your Classroom." This one was held in a huge room with plenty of seats. And they filled--at least 250 of 300. It transpired that the seminar was going to be about the wonderful uses for web cams in the classroom.

There was one problem. The presenter couldn't get his web cam to work. He admitted he'd been trying for an hour before we even filed into the meeting room. He then admitted that at his school, he had assembled the entire 7th grade -- more than 150 students -- in the cafeteria for a "virtual field trip" to a New Jersey zoo. On that occasion the web cam hadn't worked either, and 150 7th graders sat for an hour in a cafeteria, waiting to see lemurs on a screen. Vividly recalling my own behavior as a 7th grader, I could clearly imagine the mayhem that must have ensued as our earnest presenter tried valiantly to bring his "virtual field trip" to fruition.

I left that seminar vigorously vowing never to try anything ... ANYTHING... involving a web cam and oovoo in my classroom.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention. The Friday seminar was shaken by another cell phone bleat and another supposedly-educated professional who wanted to entertain 250 people by talking on the phone during a meeting! Somewhere there's a college that granted a degree to this semi-human potato blight.

I won't argue that the person most responsible for a child's learning is the teacher. But I will say that many teachers bear responsibility for their students not learning, because the teachers themselves aren't active learners. If you spout your pet peeves, or talk on the cell phone to your friend Wanda, in a seminar setting, you aren't learning anything new. If you schedule a fancy presentation about the latest online technology, and then can't get it to work, you're achieving a negative. No one will want to make the same mistakes. It seems to me that a good many New Jersey teachers are leaping into Moron Lake and dragging their poor students along for the swim.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cancel It.

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," today hosting a worn-out, frazzled wreck of a female who's trying bad moods on for size! WHERE'S THE XXXL?

You know what holiday I hate? Xmas. Cancel that dud, and do it now!

It's bad enough that department stores start decking their halls with boughs of holly in September, but now things have gotten even worse. Halloween wasn't even rung in and out before all the stores everywhere were shoving it aside for Xmas!

Pardon the rare burst of bad language, but that sucks.

I can't really blame the Christians for this despicable annual ploy to separate me from my money and my sanity. Xmas has always been marked by various praise and worship teams, some of them in lavish ways. In these modern times it belongs exclusively to Jesus, however, so I'm gonna heave my bad mood in that direction.

Can we skip it? Please?

Recipe for disaster? Take the darkest month of the year (Northern Hemisphere) and shove a merry, jolly, ho ho holiday right into the darkest part of it. Bombard people with subliminal messages that equate gift-giving with immortality and/or orgasms. Expect people to host dinners and parties for people they don't even like in the summertime. And the best part? Watch your kids bite their lips as their friends show off new, fancy tech equipment that their parents can afford and you can't.


I'm not mean like Ebenezer Scrooge. I'm just sick of everything that goes with Xmas. I would like to be able to go into stores and not have my eyeballs filled to the plimsol line with red and green glitz! As my friend Seitou pointed out the other evening, who picked that color scheme, anyway! That shit don't match!

(Well, that's not how she put it. She's more ladylike. But still, she's right.)

You know what? There's only one place on Earth where I can have any control over Xmas overload. And that is right here at TGAB.

Time for a pledge.

I pledge avoidance
of the fact
that Christmas is coming.
I will not mention it
in any way, shape, or form,
from this moment
until December 24, and maybe not then.

Hold me to it. I am fed up as hell with this eternal holiday.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Brief Samhain Navel Gaze

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today our teaching skills will be judged by the district superintendent! No wonder we're up and blogging at 5:00 a.m.

Housekeeping: Congratulations to Buzzardbilly, winner of three magnificent vulture greeting cards! BB, I'll be in touch.

It was mad rainy here at TGAB on Samhain. So, of course, one of my jack-o-lanterns gazed at the sky in dismay. (I carved them myself. I don't make a science of it.)

This is the Shrine of the Mists, done for a rainy Samhain. I had other plans for it, but the weather didn't cooperate. On the other hand, here is an interesting phenomenon.

I bought cheap votive candles for my pumpkins. I had trouble getting them lit. When I did get them lit, however, they rocked on with maximum longevity. I suppose I lit the one pictured at about 6:30 p.m. I put his "hat" on so the rain couldn't get in to snuff the candle. Wow, that worked!

When I went to bed at midnight, The jack-o-lantern was still glowing. It was both lovely and eerie in the dark night. I decided to let it burn. The grass was so wet, and it was on the shrine, so I figured I wouldn't start a forest fire.

Mr. Johnson is a night owl. When he came to bed at 2:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, he reported that the pumpkin was still burning. I got up and looked out. Sure enough, I saw an orange glow, two little eyes and a crooked mouth.

I went to feed the horse (that's what I call using the loo at night). When I came back to bed a minute later, the pumpkin's flame had extinguished itself. Isn't that interesting? If you don't think so, you've wandered to the wrong site. Go talk to Rush.

Final photo: Gnome Henge, the annual gathering of lawn gnomes in front of Chateau Johnson.

Now I must go and prepare for my day teaching school. Please keep me in your thoughts. We need this job I was lucky enough to secure.