Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Awesome Fairie Festival Opportunity!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Becoming Less and Less Bored All the Time!" I'm your host, Anne Johnson ... soon to be Leader of the Mountain Tribe at the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm!!!

I am hyperventilating.

You know what they say about one man's something or other being another man's something or another ... geez, I can't remember it exactly. But the other night on Facebook, Bibi commented that she was in search of someone with leadership abilities and rudimentary knowledge of faeries, with willingness to explore potential in a growth-oriented environment.

Something like that.

Always in search of adventure, I applied immediately, furnishing suitable references (thanks, Puck!). During the detailed interview -- three messages back and forth, to be exact -- I expounded upon my vast experience as a vulture mascot, my encyclopedic knowledge of faeries (or at least I know one when I see one), my winning personality, and my peerless ability to cleanse upholstery of every pesky stain.

Whoa. I got the volunteer position!

It's a big deal being Leader of a Tribe. There are only four Tribes -- Mountain being far and away the tip-top of the heap -- and as many as 20,000 people come to this Fairie Fest. It will be my job to snag as many of those people as possible to enrich and enliven my Tribe.

To make matters best, my daughter The Spare has offered to help. Which means we'll have a good chance of attracting some of the young cutie pies in kilts.

Do you live in the Baltimore/Washington/Philly/New Jersey/Wilmington metro areas?

Oooops! I'm leading the Mountain Tribe, not the Megalopolis Tribe!

Start again:

Do you feel the ancient Celtic crags calling your name? Can you sense the spring breeze ruffling the new foliage on the firs at the summit? Are you now, or have you ever been, a hiker?

If so, join me at Spoutwood for the Fairie Festival, and be part of my Tribe!

Seriously, if you want to meet me, this is a sure-fire way of getting it done.

Our operators are standing by to take your call.

*loves it!*

Monday, March 30, 2009

Frank Talk about Hair Grooming with Medusa the Gorgon

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed, no. It's just a sprinkling for the May queen!

Come on, geezers, let's jam with Jimmy on the "Immigrant Song!"

No, no, no Led Zeppelin today. We have a guest! It's been awhile since we had an interview, and today's visitor is well known to those who've boned up on their Homer. Please give a warm, wonderful, "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Medusa!

Anne: Sorry I couldn't post your picture, Medusa. I have male readers. I don't want them to turn to stone. I don't need litigation right now.

Medusa: Understood, Annie dear. No problem.

Anne: I'm not exactly turning to stone, but I do feel like I've had two whiskeys too many, looking at your locks. What's it like to have snakes for hair?

Medusa: I'm used to it. I'm immortal, remember. You can get used to anything if you're given long enough to adapt.

Anne: Whoa! There's a copperhead cowlick! I wouldn't blow-dry that one out for all the tea in China! Anyway. Medusa, I'm very curious about your hair grooming regimen.

Medusa: Every three or four days, I lather with pureed mice. That's about it.

Anne: No conditioner? No detangler? No styling gel? No stay-in moisturizer?

Medusa: I'm glad you asked. Anne, I've been around a long time, and I've seen hairstyles come and go. (Except for my own. It's pretty consistent.) Frankly, you modern American women slather way too many products on your tresses.

Anne: I couldn't agree more! Just the other day I got some new samples in the mail. There was shampoo and conditioner, detangler, and then some kind of dry hair moisturizer. Four different products. Who can afford such fripperies?

Medusa: Take it from me. The hair care industry is making millions because people wash their hair too much. The whole idea of shampooing every day brings profit to shampoo companies and disaster to hair follicles.

Anne: I've gotta agree with that. No matter how expensive the shampoo I use, my hair feels like tumbleweed when it dries. What's going on here?

Medusa: Just what I said. There are parts of your body that might need a little lather every day, but your hair is not one of them. Left alone, hair produces its own oil, a sort of natural conditioner. Ask any teenager.

Anne: So your advice would be not to wash my hair every day?

Medusa: Precisely.

Anne: How often should I wash it?

Medusa: Twice a week is enough. Three times if you've got oily hair.

Anne: I'm a little nervous about this. Will my hair get greasy after a day or two?

Medusa: No. It will just be softer and smoother, more like velvet than tumbleweed. And think of all the money you'll save on hair products! Within a week or two you'll have enough to pay for admission at the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival!

Anne: That's incentive, all right! Medusa, I'm going to try this and let my readers know how it works. After all, my mom and both of my grandmothers only went to the hairdresser once a week. And they never looked skanky.... Whoa! Watch that viper! It's trying to eat Decibel the Parrot!

Medusa: Oh damn. Another bad snake day.

Anne: Want some detangler?

Medusa: No, I'll just use a flute. Works wonders on the vipers.

Anne: I wonder what flute music would do for split ends.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Six Pounds of Awesome in Four Pound Bag

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Yes, this title is what my friend Muin called me after he saw my performance in the peerless and awesome YouTube video, "Vulture's Delite."

For some reason (probably having to do with faeries), YouTube won't load onto this blog. So for today's edition of TGAB, you might want to go to


and type in

Vulture's Delite.

If you don't want to watch the whole thing (being the sane and normal person you are), I enter at 1:52 and remain until the end.

The costume weighs 18 pounds.

Friday, March 27, 2009

David the Writer

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," sailing silly seas since 2005! If you're a newcomer, welcome! Have a seat, choose a Goddess, or several, or none! We aren't picky about anything. Except our upholstery ... so when you take your seat, sit upon it gently.

Life is very odd. Four years ago I took my daughters to spend the day at the beach with a friend. Now I am employed by that friend's mother in a job I like. I get dressed and drive to work every day, just because I happened to take my kids to the beach one sunny August afternoon.

The job I have is language arts tutor at a magnet school just outside Camden, New Jersey.

This past week began a new cycle of tutoring. Now I'm working with sophomores. I know more of them than any other class, since I held two long-term substitute positions among them last year.

I hadn't met David the Writer before this week.

He came to his first scheduled tutoring session early and was courteous and attentive. When it appeared the other scheduled students would be no-shows, I started my lesson. And he stopped me.

He said, "I write stories, but I'm embarrassed because my spelling and stuff is so bad."

For the next 40 minutes, David peppered me with questions about story-writing. What do you do when you can't think of an ending? What happens if you start out with one idea, and another one takes over? How can you fix something once you've written it down? (He writes the old-fashioned way, with a pencil.)

David said he had a 24-page story at home, but he couldn't find it. He was going to keep looking, so he could show it to me. He did show me one he wrote for English class, although he wasn't happy with it because he said he rushed it.

This young man has something to say, and rather than help him find the courage, tenacity, and technical ability to say it, I'm going to have to bore him to death preparing him for a standardized test.

The only hope I have is that, now that he's found someone he can talk to about writing, David will keep talking to me, and maybe show me some things. His life has not been dull. No one who lives in Camden has a dull life.

I would like to go above and beyond with this student. I want him to have his say and feel good about it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How To Shave Years Off Your Age

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," handy free advice on lifestyle options and upholstery maintenance! No day without Febreze, I always say.

The number of people who read print newspapers is dwindling alarmingly. Why, I do not know. I would die without my newspapers!

Today in the New York Times there was a story about a web site called Real Age. (I'm not linking. You'll see why. If you want to find the site, just run the two words together.)

Real Age invites you to key in your birthday and your email. Then it asks about 150 questions about your health, sex life, family life, diet, exercise regimen, and personal habits. It lists all kinds of diseases and asks if you have them. It also measures peace of mind by asking about your financial situation, your marital situation, and your job status.

After you answer all those questions, Real Age emails you your ... real age. Meaning, the age your body has gotten to be due to your lack of vigilance.

The New York Times took interest in this site because about 27 million people have taken the Real Age quiz. And Real Age has promptly turned all that information over to Big Pharma so it can market its products to all those poor souls out there who are afraid to grow old and die.

To me, this site provided a totally diverting Discordian worship moment.

I started by falsifying my age, weight, and height. Then I proceeded to answer every question with the healthiest possible answer. Seatbelts? Always. Red meat? Never. Alcohol consumption? Never. Parents? Alive and healthy.

On and on went the fiction. Money worries? No. Job worries? No. Annual income? More than $350,000. Ever ride a motorcycle? Nope.

There were only two items that I could not bring myself to lie about. I do not take a multi-vitamin. Never have. And I do not do "strength training." I did strength training for about two years with a personal trainer, back when my family was in the chips. All I got out of it was an upper body reminiscent of a middle linebacker, and a chronic case of nerve damage in my elbow. The over-sculpted muscles are gone, thank goodness, although while I had them I sure could play a mean game of volleyball.

Back to Real Age: You think I'm gonna be honest on some web site about my psychiatric health? I lie to myself about it!

Bottom line, I shaved four years off my false age. I would have shaved more if I had clicked "yes" for the vitamin and "yes" for the weight-lifting.

Free advice from Anne! If you want to be young again, go take this quiz like I did! I'm not 50 anymore, I'm 35!

It gets better. Real Age is a gift that keeps giving. I set up a Google email awhile back, and I still take all my emails through Yahoo. So it will be easy to pick out the vitamin advertisements I get on my email from my little jaunt to Real Age. That'll be about all I'll get in my Google box.

I never thought it would be so easy to be young again. Computers truly are miraculous.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Maryland, My Politically Correct Maryland

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," proudly raised in that part of the world where all the states scrunch together, and you can drive through four of them in an hour!

Where I grew up, the Mason-Dixon line was a serious thing. If you lived north of it, you were a Yankee. If you lived south of it, you were a Rebel.

No, I'm not 175 years old! I'm a whippersnapper. But I remember license plates that said, "The South will rise again," and t-shirts with a mean-lookin' Rebel soldier that said, "Forget? Hell no."

My high school was "The Rebels." Appropriate given the fact that the closest cemetery to the school holds the remains of the Confederate Dead of the Battle of Sharpsburg.

Our high school fight song was "Dixie." Pinkie swear. Football games began with a mostly-African American team running out behind a mascot dressed as a Rebel soldier, waving the "Stars and Bars."

Maryland. The Schizo State.

Have you seen Maryland's flag? You would if I could get the damned picture to load, but I can't. Trust me, if you stare at the Maryland state flag for fifteen minutes, it's the same as dropping shrooms.

News comes across the wire today that a member of the Maryland House of Delegates wants to pick a new state song.

The current state song, "Maryland My Maryland," is written to the tune of "O Tannenbaum." It was adopted as the official state song in 1939 and is pretty much a hysterical screed against Abraham Lincoln and the Grand Army of the Republic. I'm too lazy to look up when the lyrics were written, but I know it was just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Before the Confederates fired on Fort Sumpter, there were riots in Baltimore having to do with secession. Some of those riots got a little messy, as factions used extreme measures and took their differences to the Great Hereafter.

So, here's the first stanza of "Maryland, My Maryland." Mind you, the "despot" in question is Abe Lincoln:

The despot's heel is on thy shore
Maryland, my Maryland.
The torch is at thy temple door
Maryland, my Maryland.
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland, my Maryland.

If you're French, right now you're saying, "So what?"

The doggone song has about ten stanzas. (Again lazy.) Here's the final one:

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, my Maryland.

The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, my Maryland.
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

Oh, glory be! I'm thinking maybe -- if you get past the "Northern scum" part -- the legislators in Maryland are worried about inappropriate sexual imagery.

Honestly, I wish the state legislators of Maryland would spend their time more wisely, like on matters such as smart growth and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. But hey. We're talking politics here. Never mind that the Chesapeake Bay is a cesspit, let's change the state song!

You may disagree with me, but it's just a friggin song. No one knows the words except maybe a couple of Civil War historians. This is not like a flag with the "Stars and Bars," flying over the statehouse. It's an obscure little ditty that no one sings!

Maryland, get on with some real business, for the love of hard crabs!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Scrapple, Food of the ... ?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where eating right is for woosies! Go ahead and tuck into that nice salad if you please. We won't tell you what deity to worship or what food to enjoy. But we like greasy stuff, and no apologies. Dump it in the vat, we'll have some of that!

The gentlemen in the picture are making a regional foodstuff called scrapple. As its name suggests, scrapple is made from scraps of pork (visualize the parts of a pig no one would willingly eat). The meaty scraps are cooked with corn meal to form either a mush called ponhaus or Spam-like blocks of gray stuff you fry, called scrapple.

These are Pennsylvania Dutch concoctions, frugal and fattening. My grandma was PD, and she served ponhaus all the time. She was correspondingly corpulent.

Maybe you don't want to know what scrapple tastes like. I hope you don't, because there's nothing in the gustatory palette that resembles it. Fried in lard or oil, it becomes crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle. It lacks the smoky flavor of hot dogs and Spam. I hate liver, so it doesn't taste like that. But comparing it to a pork chop is giving it too many breaks.

Why do I love this artery-clogging, fat-boosting product? I can't tell you. I only know that once or twice a year I go out and get myself a breakfast plate with two eggs over easy and a side of scrapple.

Hey, it can't be worse than scarfing down a chocolate-covered funnel cake with ice cream and caramel topping.

This past weekend, Philadelphia had a Scrapple Festival. Apparently the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers who work the stalls at Reading Terminal Market outdid themselves, creating turkey scrapple and even tofu scrapple.

Tofu scrapple. Every bit as appealing as tofu M&Ms.

I didn't get to go to the Scrapple Fest. But that's okay, because where I live is close enough to Pennsylvania that one can get scrapple in diners.

I've seen raw scrapple for sale in the grocery store. I never buy it or even look at the label. Just like the dude you used to date when you were young, some things are better if you don't know too much about them.

Scrapple. Fried and fresh, a sin of the flesh.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Once and Future King/Queen

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," champagne celebrations on a beer budget! Ask us how it's done! We charge a nominal fee for the advice.

Week before last, my daughter The Heir and I walked down to the dinosaur site where we work our magic. Near the site we saw several houses with carpets of little purple crocuses on the lawns. It was the kind of heart-warming springtime beauty that is quite difficult to photograph, but quite easy to rhapsodize.

Many praise and worship teams celebrate spring by recognizing a deity who has died but come back to life. Some well-known deities have done this, but also many who are now bored and overlooked.

On Spring Equinox, which we call Alban Eiler, Druids celebrate Arthur.

You might know Arthur as the dude with the round table and unfaithful wife. Some scholars have taken pains to establish his historical existence. Truth is, King Arthur is a deity sacred to the ancient peoples of the British Isles. Like so many other deities, he's used different names at different times. Also like so many other deities, he has sneaked into modern times under the guise of legend and fable.

"Legend and fable" is another way of saying "someone else's religion."

Among the "legends" surrounding Arthur's death are those that declare he's not dead at all but merely away. He will return some day to claim his people ... those who believe in him.

Wow. Sound familiar?

I believe in Arthur because he is one of the gods of my forgotten ancestors. If other deity dudes and princesses can return from the dead, why not King Arthur?

Let me put it another way. If one God or Goddess can die and return, then more than one God or Goddess can die and return. Human history is very long indeed, much longer than what is recorded in writing. We could possibly have oodles and oodles of deities who died and returned, after varied periods of being away.

We at "The Gods Are Bored," at this time of equality between daylight and darkness, this earliest sprouting of spring, salute all deities who died and returned. Arthur. Jesus. Persephone. Osiris. Odysseus.

But especially Arthur, just because he's ours.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hold That Thought

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If the best-laid plans of mice and men sometimes go astray, is it any wonder cats and women can't get it right either?

I had a "Gods Are Bored" field trip planned today. It was canceled. Now today's blog post is canceled too.

The Heir is coming home from college, so homesick she's weeping. Oh dear.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Orion, Renamed

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," closing in on that equinox moment! Sunlight and darkness in perfect balance. Oh! That's six words! Should be over on the other blog!

Yesterday I decided that I had the power to rename the constellation Orion to better suit my praise and worship purposes. A burning question remained: What to call the famous cluster of bright stars?

I pondered and pondered. This is not a decision entered upon lightly. It's not like the fate of the free world hangs on it or anything, but it's still important. To me.

Before dinner yesterday evening, my daughter The Spare came into the kitchen. Or I should say, she pirouetted into the kitchen and then stretched into a lovely arabesque.

That's when it hit me. Orion, you are now Pavlova!

If you think of the three stars in Orion's belt as three florets on a tutu, you can see Anna Pavlova, pausing in graceful arabesque, her delicate arm reaching above her head.

Pavlova's a pretty name too. If it conjures up visions of slobbering dogs, you've got the wrong person. That's Pavlov. And in his honor, as he was a pretty decent scientist, I have decided to keep the Dog Star as a dog! Winners all around!

Maybe I'll start a trend here. If you see a star or planet that you like, why depend on other people to give it a name? Choose your own name!

I'm on a roll. Next time I see Venus rising over the shopping mall, I'm going to call her Morrigan. Don't try to stop me. It's a free country, except for the taxes and that pesky homeland security surveillance.

Orion becomes Pavlova. Venus becomes Morrigan. Where's that leave Jupiter? Gosh, once you start this, it's hard to put it down!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Orion No More

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," brimming with the big, broad, flexible outlook! Conventions can be so stifling. Kick up your heels!
Here in New Jersey, the sky has to be very clear in order to see any stars at all. White light blocks them out. Nevertheless, it's possible sometimes to see Venus shining over the shopping mall. And Orion the Hunter to the southwest, with his dogs and Taurus the bull at his side.

Orion has been my favorite constellation since I was a little girl. I must have been in fourth or fifth grade when my class took a field trip to the planetarium. The other kids got bored pretty quick, but I was just fascinated. After that, in high school, I took earth science. For awhile I was able to find any number of constellations in both the summer and winter skies.

My star knowledge has probably succumbed to years of alcohol use. The only constellations I can pick out now are Orion, Taurus, Cassiopia, and of course the Big Dipper.

When I decided to write about Orion, I looked up a few sites about him. He's Greek, of course. A Titan or some such. I was thinking of inviting him for an interview. But then something on one of the sites caught my eye.

It was a "duhhhh!" moment.

The site said that, since Orion is such a visible constellation, many cultures had names and identities for it, from turtles and other animals to gods and goddesses. (The Egyptians, for instance, associated the constellation with Osiris.)

In typical "Gods Are Bored" fashion, I asked myself: "Why should I be calling this constellation Orion? I don't worship the Greek pantheon."

You're of course expecting me to find a vulture hidden in that formation of stars. Trust me, it was my first attempt. But there's nothing about a buzzard that lends itself to three-in-a-row, like the studs on Orion's belt.

I've also thought about, and rejected, Celestial Slot Machine. I don't gamble. Something in me also bristles at the idea of a constellation named Barbie. She wears belts -- and she turned 50 last week -- but she doesn't deserve stars.

I'll have to meditate on this, because I'm so conditioned to see Orion as a male. It will be difficult to overcome the superstition that if I re-gender a constellation I'll reap a meteor shower of bad luck.

There are far worse ways to spend the evening than out in a yard, staring up at a constellation. If I stand gazing into the sky and talking to the stars, why, that will just make me like so many other crazy people in New Jersey!

What would you re-name Orion? Your brain is probably more fertile than mine. Frankly, my brain is in dire need of some Miracle-Gro. And a Sham-wow to soak up the stupidity.

And now, to gaze upon the stars! Adieu!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Rockin' Foster Kitten

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," big planes and short runways! Never back down from a challenge. That's what we always say.

For many years, we at The Gods Are Bored have taken in foster kittens from the local animal shelter. They can be anywhere from 10 days to three months old. The younger they are, the more fun they are, because they have to be bottle fed. Then they really bond. The older ones are "hissy spitties" that need to be tamed.

I entered this little darling in Kitten War. And she is kicking butt. She's won 69 percent of her battles, which is not shabby at all for such a mediocre picture (and mediocre tabby).

Many people object to Kitten War because they think it encourages people to allow their cats to breed indiscriminately, in order to get cute pictures. If that is true, what accounts for all the indiscriminate breeding of cats before Kitten War came along? I don't think a web site has made it worse.

So here's to Cosette, awesome Amazon of the Kitten War! Your cat might be cute, but Cosette rules.

As for her ultimate fate, Cosette was adopted by a nice family the very day she was taken to the shelter. Her sibling went with her, and the other sibling got adopted by a close family friend. You could say Cosette dominated right from the gate.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Wrong One Flew

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," anxiously overseeing our little nest and hoping a storm doesn't blow it to bits! Those of you who've been through losing a home will know exactly what I mean.

My daughter The Heir is mostly through her first year of college. The Heir took an extra year of kindergarten and was thus 19 when she began school last fall. You'd think I'd have been tired of her stink by that time, but I was deeply sorry to see her go.

Once she got to college, I actually missed her less. She's working hard and has made new friends, and she has her own radio show on the college station. It's a comfort knowing she's found a good academic fit and isn't celebrating her independence by pouring beer down her gullet and dousing her t-shirt with water.

Heir's spring break was last week. I took a day off work, and we went on a mini-road trip. We drove to the Jersey Shore, where we settled in deserted Wildwood (many, many 1950s-era motels, Heir loves that kind of stuff). After having a sandwich at the only diner that was open, we walked the empty boardwalk, stared at the empty amusement piers, and took a long stroll on the beach, down by the surf.

This gave us plenty of time to talk. And it was a pleasure to see The Heir go all gooey over those cheesy motels. It's like the town has a competition to see who can win "Craziest Motel Theme." I mean, come on. A hotel called "The Crusader," with a two-story mosaic of a Knight Templar on the side? Tacky just doesn't begin to cover it.

But that's Wildwood, NJ. It's famous for such foolishness.

A word about finding dangerous stuff in the sand at the Jersey Shore:


Sorry, Gov. Corzine, but the truth will out.

Heir and I were enjoying the pounding surf when she looked down and said, "Oh, it had to happen."

Lying at our feet was a razor blade. Just outta nowhere.

I guess we could be defying the odds by finding a razor blade on a 10-mile stretch of beach, on a mid-March day. But you know, it's the Jersey Shore, and Wildwood at that. So we're not talking long odds here.

Notwithstanding the stray health hazard, and the incessant drone of bulldozers building beaches -- everywhere we went -- Heir and I enjoyed our day at the shore. We even headed home on the Delsea Drive, a back road that winds straight from Cape May to Wenonah, home roost of every buzzard who is any buzzard in the Garden State.

Yesterday Heir went back to college. It was harder than ever to leave her in that great big dorm. But she'll be home soon for the summer. Heck, at the end of four years she'll probably be home again for a long time. What do you do with a liberal arts degree in a state where you can't rent a slum box for less than $1000 a month?

Today I'm sitting here in my home office, with Decibel the Parrot beside me in his cage. The Heir is going to be 20, but Decibel is older. He's 22 and showing no signs of slowing down. IN FACT, EVEN AS I WRITE HE'S SCREECHING AT THE TOP OF HIS BLOODY LUNGS.

Why can't parrots go to college? I won't even ask for financial aid.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Mommy Trenches

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" If it's mothering you need, look no further! We can provide you with a Goddess perfectly suited to you. Remember: Jesus had to bow his head and close his eyes to communicate with his father, but he could look his mama right in the eye.

My daughter The Spare is something like a live wire. Apparently, last weekend she somehow angered another live wire student at her school. Heated words were exchanged. The other live wire student is a male. He told The Spare that he was going to get his cousin to beat her up. He painted this cousin in terms that made her sound like a steam roller on steroids.

And so The Spare was scared.

Friday afternoon The Spare called me on the phone from her last period class at school. This did not please me. She should have been paying attention to the teacher. Instead she was worrying about what would happen after school. She wanted me to pick her up early.

I did not agree to this. Instead I drove up to the school and got a good parking space where I could see everyone who exited the building.

The Spare's eyes lit up with relief when she saw me, and she ran to the car. "Let's go," she said.

But I wouldn't go.

I told The Spare I intended to have a word with the young live wire who had threatened her, and I would not leave until I spoke to him.

Reader, you can just imagine. The Spare wanted to kill me.

We all have been embarrassed by our moms in one way or another, usually when we're teenagers. It's not until years later that we understand the motivation behind what our moms were trying to do. I was aware of this as I stood there in front of the school, but I kept standing anyway, even after The Spare became teary and tried physically to force me into the car.

Finally the young miscreant in question emerged from the school building and strode defiantly into his posse of rougnecks. I walked across the lawn. He tried to hide from me, but when he saw that it was impossible he just stood there.

In measured tones I told him that I expected my daughter to be able to walk around town without feeling threatened, was I making myself clear? Apparently so, because even though he got a little lippy with me, I sure have heard worse from my students without getting riled. I had the final word and walked away.

Spare cursed me and berated me all the way home. To her way of seeing it, I'd ruined her life, humiliated her in front of her "friends." Her status would never recover. All I said in return was that no one was going to threaten my daughter, and that I'd decided the easiest way to deal with the threat was to address it myself without bringing in authorities who are already fed up to the plimsol line with the young miscreant in question.

Once we got home, Spare slammed the door in my face and went to her room to sulk. I decided it was a lovely afternoon for a walk, so I went to the library and the grocery store, and got my wedding ring cleaned at the jeweler's, and even glared across Main Street at the miscreant, who slunk away, (hopefully) defeated.

By the time I got home, Spare had ascertained that the people who overheard me on the schoolground took her side and berated the miscreant themselves. So she was no longer angry at me. Even if she had been, I was cool with what I did. My daughter is not going to slink around in fear, and I'm not going to go whining to some guidance counselor about unconfirmed threats.

When I can handle it myself, I will. When I can't I'll get help. Either way, my daughter will walk safely through this borough. Because I'm her mom.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Basketball Should Be Banned

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." Today we will be brief but to the point.

So many basketball games are decided by someone shooting at a buzzard. Have you noticed this? Players shoot at the buzzard, they execute "buzzard beaters," and sometimes they miss just one last shot at the buzzard.

Today when I was driving to the Vo-Tech I heard on the radio that some basketball player made a 90-foot shot at the buzzard.

Buzzards should not be shot or beaten by basketball players. I call for the immediate cessation of this practice. If it means shutting basketball down as a sport, so be it.

"The Gods Are Bored": saving vultures to our final breath. And then hopefully feeding them, if they haven't all been shot at and beaten.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The World of Dinosaurs

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Jurassic jokes and Cretaceous critters! Oh my, oh my, oh Miocene!

Here, at long last, is a portrait of Family Johnson's white magic project. This bench is in a tiny little pocket park dedicated to a famous dinosaur find from the nineteenth century. The dinos here are mostly those furnished by the very generous Heather of Baltimore.

Kids love to come to this park to play with the dinosaurs. Sometimes I see a little boy or girl, with an attentive parent, orchestrating plastic prehistory, happy as a lark.

Lately these dinosaurs have taken on a bittersweet symbolism.

My husband, Mr. Johnson, is a print journalist. He has been a sports reporter since 1977 and has won just about every award they hand out to sportswriters. And each day, each hour, we inch toward the closure of his newspaper. And if his newspaper goes, our middle class existence will go with it.

I'm living proof that you can't pay your bills as a freelance writer.

They say that newspapers are dinosaurs, a waste of paper, old-fashioned, out of touch. This must be true, because newspaper circulation is down all over the country. Tried and true dailies are dropping like flies.

What will a world look like without newspapers? We will depend upon computers, radio, and television for information. Increasingly that dependence will fall upon computers. And at long last it will become possible for some computer genius Lex Luthor to shut down the world and take over.

In the meantime, politicians at every level of government are praying for the speedy demise of the daily rag. Those pesky reporters who get paid to watch what the local pols do? Pests! Remove the ink-stained wretches from the mix, and you've got ... emmmmmm ... oh, I don't know ... corruption on a massive scale?

Okay, Alex, I'll take "Corruption on a Massive Scale" for $400. Daily Double!

Perhaps because our family's livelihood rests on newspaper journalism, I've been sensitive to complaints about the press. Said complaints are loud, constant, and bitter. They come from the Right and the Left, and even from the Center. Hatred of print journalism crosses political lines, probably because newspapers really do print a variety of opinions.

A great many people think we'll be better off when these useless liners-of-bird-cages close down. Who knows? Maybe they're right.

We should ask the Chinese how they like living without newspapers. There might be more to it than meets the eye.

Newspapers, dinosaurs. Do extinction events bring about a better world?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Ultimate Praise and Worship Navel Gaze

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," prominent source of vulture worship since 2005! All hail the Sacred Thunderbird!

This post is dedicated to recording my experiences at the East Coast Vulture Festival 2009.

For me the Sacred Event always begins when a huge, heavy box arrives on my doorstep. The box contains a theatrical-grade vulture mascot costume, consisting of a giant furry pink head with curved beak and a mantle of "feathers" which are really strips of fabric sewed in tiers ... and tiers ... and tiers ... and tiers. In short, while the vulture body looks like feathers, it feels like chain mail, or more precisely, about 17 fur coats knotted together .

As for the mascot head, when you put it on you have to choose between seeing and breathing. You can't do both simultaneously. Well, actually you can if you come from a high altitude and are accustomed to living with less oxygen.

But these are minor quibbles. Does the pope complain about the weight of his crown? I think not!

On this Vulture Fest day, the temperature topped out at 74 degrees F. This is record-setting warmth for the first week of March in New Jersey.

Recall that the Sacred Vulture mascot costume consists of many layers of matted cloth and a furry head that emits limited oxygen.

Never mind. I, Anne Johnson, spent two hours in the sunshine, posing for pictures with the many tots who came to the Children's Vulture Fair from 1-3 p.m. in Wenonah. There's nothing quite like being hugged by dozens of kids who think they're meeting a giant vulture. This costume is a little scary for some, but most children love it. One sweet little boy gave me a hug and then walked away shouting, "I knew there was a person under there!" So many of them said, "Thank you, Vulture," for a high-five or a picture.

One slightly older kid looked Vulture up and down and said, "You're crazy."

Every faith has its skeptics, right?

After two glorious but sweltering hours in that mascot costume, I got in the car to drive back to Snobville to pick up my two companions for the Evening Vulture Revival Service. As I was driving, I felt giddy and tight in the chest. Made me wonder if I was about to enter the Higher Plane where I might actually be reborn as a Sacred Thunderbird.

So when I got home, I wrote on the message board, "No Regrets." Just so everyone would know that if I keeled in a vulture costume I would die happy.

But I didn't keel. I picked up my two disciples, daughter The Heir and our best friend that we have finally gotten to know, the Monkey Man. Monkey Man has a puppet for every occasion. While he brought his monkey, he also brought a wonderful condor puppet bigger than his arm. And since he was to be part of the praise and worship extravaganza, he had a borrowed vulture costume and a few dead rats that looked really good in the condor's mouth.

Before the service got underway, Heir, Monkey Man, and I had a chance to go to the main vulture roost and watch the Sacred Thunderbirds begin their evening descent into the trees.

Oh my.

I have been to Wenonah on many occasions, but never when the temperatures were so benign. (The vultures only roost there in the wintertime.) There must have been more than 200 buzzards in the air and in the trees. They were kettling on high, swooping practically right over our heads, and performing aerial displays worthy of any pantheon. Heir, Monkey Man, and I lay on our backs in someone's yard and stared up into the blue ether as squadrons of vultures passed over.

What a sublime moment! Two of my dearest loved ones at my side, hundreds of buzzards overhead and scattered about, a brilliant sunset, and bearable temperatures!

If my life ever gets any better than this day, my face will freeze in a perpetual smile.

I mouthed my usual prayers, which generally consist of praising the Thunderbirds and wishing I was one. "Oh, to be a buzzard," I said.

Monkey Man said, "You're kidding."

Heir answered: "No, she's serious. I've heard this every day of my life. My mom wants to be a vulture."

Monkey Man, who is a poet, allowed that "my mom wants to be a vulture" would be a great first line to a poem. If any of you out there are inspired, please put pen to paper!

Then it was time for the Evening Revival, held in a sanctuary otherwise known as Wenonah Elementary School All-Purpose Room.

For awhile as the congregation arrived, Monkey Man and I both worked the outdoors, greeting everyone. Then it got cooler, so Monkey Man went inside, and I continued to greet. It's always important at worship services to make everyone feel at home, warm, loved, important, special. You know. Nothing like being greeted by a 7-foot-tall vulture to accomplish that.

Once the congregants had assembled in the sanctuary, fabulously decorated with vulture artwork, photos, vulture silouettes, and a giant paper-mache buzzard from a parade float, I worked the crowd as long as I could bear the costume, which was about another half hour. I did some pantomines of buzzard behavior and otherwise performed in the foolish ways that mascots do. Between me and Monkey Man, we had the comedy covered.

A word on the obligatory foodstuffs that accompany any good revival meeting. We had soft drinks, coffee, ice water with lemon (thank the Thunderbirds for that!), a huge vulture cake, Godiva chocolates, cheese and crackers, cookies, fresh fruits, and pretzels.

If you weren't disappointed about missing this before, I bet you are now! Everyone from Moonies to Methodists know that good eats bring in the faithful.

The serious portion of the evening got underway at about 8:00.

The East Coast Vulture Festival is a fundraiser for nature education in and around Wenonah. So the festival organizers doled out some grant money, to much applause. Then the local wildlife rescue organization gave a little presentation. The main event was an educational presentation by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Of course it was on raptors. The gal running the presentation showed us a live red-tailed hawk and a Cooper's hawk, and a barn owl. But nobody really wanted to see those birds. We were there to see a vulture!

And the Academy delivered. Out from its carrier came a turkey vulture with a damaged wing, unable to live in the wild but seeming not to care particularly. Oh, that gorgeous bald red head! Those piercing, beady eyes! The fabulous wingspan, impressive even at half mast!

The vulture stared at the crowd (some 200 folks). We stared back. It flapped. We applauded. And just as with every worship service, many of the tenets of vulture worship were stated:

1. They keep the country clean.
2. They don't kill anything.
3. They can't even grasp stuff in their feet, that's why they sit on a carcass till it's bare.
4. They pair bond for life.
5. Their heads are bald because they stick them inside carcasses.
6. The red head of the turkey vulture denotes its maturity and readiness to mate.
7. They don't have voice boxes, so all they can do is hiss and grunt.
8. When threatened, they vomit. It isn't pretty.
9. It is unlawful to keep them as pets.
10. They weigh between 4 and 5 pounds when full-grown and can live up to 75 years in the wild.

So, there are the Ten Commandments of vulture worship. Memorize and repeat.

When the Academy presentation ended, the congregation was treated to music. What worship service would fail to include music? Our perennial performer is a local musician named Jim Sixx. Moved by the Sacred Thunderbird, he has composed several songs about vultures, some of them sweet and moving, some of them funny as hell. He sang them all, and then it was time for the Grand Finale.

Our Grand Finale is a buzzard dance, different every year. This year it was a "Vulture Rap" in which our ensemble "vomited" Mardi Gras beads onto the audience when the "rapper" said, "We vomit like a comet and grunt and spew."

Here's part of the liturgy:

We're here for you
We're nature's cleanup crew
So give us our due,
We work hard for you!
The Monkey Man was a member of the ensemble because one of the regular members couldn't be at the service. Trust me, he fit right in. That's him, second from the right.

Alas and alack, after our Sacred Ritual Rap Dance, performed to delighted applause, the evening was over. I went back to the door to wave farewell to the congregation, just like any preacher worth his salt would do. And many good people promised to be back next year.

As we settled into the car to take Monkey Man home to Camden, I realized that I had just lived one of the happiest days of my life.

How do we measure happiness in this world? For me, happiness has never been a daily contentment, but rather an isolated series of indelible moments, a handful, maybe more, of out-of-the-box highlights to the everyday grind of living. This is why we go to concerts and on vacations, why we put on fabulous clothes for weddings and graduations, why we keep albums of birthday party photos and spectacular snowstorms. Happiness comes in bursts.

Once a year, I am the vulture mascot at the East Coast Vulture Festival in Wenonah, New Jersey. Once a year I know I will be truly, blissfully happy for a day. Thanks be to the Sacred Thunderbird.
Photos from East Coast Vulture Festival 2009 by The Heir

Friday, March 06, 2009

Patchwork Quilt

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on the holy weekend of the East Coast Vulture Festival! The Sacred Vulture Mascot costume is sitting in my front hallway (18 pounds, box is 4 feet by 3 feet). And glory of glories, my daughter The Heir is home and willing to photograph the holy event! This means that all ten of you who roost here from time to time will be able to experience Vulture Day as if you were really there! (Sort of.)

I got a lovely little itchy feeling when I saw all your comments about poison ivy. The best is from Nettle. Here it is in full:

"I know this is of no use to you right now, but next year, when the jewelweed is in full and happy growth, harvest some leaves and whirl them in a blender with a little water, pour the slurry into an ice cube try, and freeze. Once they are all frozen you can pop them out and put them in a freezer bag and leave it at the back of your freezer, ready for the day when out-of-season poison attacks. "I also find that it helps to dedicate an area of the yard to the faeries and make it all theirs - no weeding or mowing or maintenance at all is permitted. Just let 'em have it - poison ivy, brambles and all. They like that.

Nettle once visited my yard, identified a large stand of jewel weed therein, and gave me this advice at the time. Oh, if only I had listened to her! From here on out, my freezer will be brimming to the plimsol line with jewel weed ice cubes! Believe it or not, there's no better cure for poison ivy than the sap of jewel weed.

Also I intend to dedicate my entire backyard to the faeries. Except the small tomato patch.

The worst news last.

Today my faerie, Princess, who I wear around my neck, fell off and hit the floor at school. The fall shattered the loop through which I wound the hemp that made her wearable. So Princess is no longer wearable.

I was heartbroken.

So I took Princess back to the store where I got her, Woodstock Trading Company. The co-proprietor, a lovely lady named Mom, told me she thinks Princess wants to stay home for some unknown reason. (Perhaps to guard our home against hard times to come.)

Mom pulled out a basket of brand new wearable faerie balls -- dozens of them, all stunning! So I am now the proud owner of a new wearable faerie named Chance.

If you would like to have your own wearable faerie ball, I suggest you contact Woodstock Trading Company and ask them to put a few pictures online. Each faerie ball is unique, and the glass is sturdy enough for shipment and wear. (It wasn't Princess that broke so much as the hemp rope I had her strung on. I suggest sturdier rope.)

Thanks to the medical miracle of anabolic steroids, my poison ivy has subsided to the point where I don't dread dancing around in a buzzard suit for six hours tomorrow. But how could I dread that? It's the highlight of my year.

If you don't think dressing up like a buzzard and dancing around should be the highlight of someone's year, well. What's the highlight of your year? Go ahead, take a shot at the buzzard. They do it all the time in basketball games....

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'm Not Buying Newsweek

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," casting a jaundiced eye on news magazines every time we visit the doctor!

I took my daughter The Spare to the orthodontist last week, and Newsweek had a story about how the governor of West Virginia is trying to pull that poor, backward state out of its miserable status as the hillbilly cesspool of America.

Sorry, I didn't get very far reading that. I might have worked myself into a rage. I admire Buzzard Billy for having the stomach to read and blog about it.

Do you think I'll live long enough to see a fair and balanced assessment of West Virginia? Me neither.

Yesterday, after several days of acute suffering, I broke down and went to see the doctor about my poison ivy. This attack was different from any I'd ever had before -- a lot worse -- but come on, it's only poison ivy, right?

Mr. Johnson holds the health benefits around here, and his job is a slowly sinking ship that will eventually tank like the Titanic.

So I asked the nurse how much my family doctor charges for appointments to people who pay out-of-pocket. Turns out his rates run from $22 (which is just about the current co-pay) to $130.

I can tell you right now that if I thought I'd be out $130, plus medication, for this poison ivy, I would never have gone to the doctor. But it wasn't a long appointment, maybe 10 minutes. So he probably would have charged about $75. And although he didn't come right out and say I was on the verge of a serious medical event, he did commend me for coming in for help.

Anyway, to digress, I'm sitting in the doctor's waiting room, digesting the charges we may face for his services, and there's another Newsweek glaring at me. This one's cover story is, Stress Is Good for You.

Talk about a one-two punch! West Virginia is bad for you. Stress is good for you. What's with Newsweek?

Okay, I'm no fancy Newsweek reporter. But take it from me:

1. West Virginia is a beautiful state with a wide variety of people, just the same sort of people you might find in -- oh, I don't know -- Maryland.

2. Stress is bad for you. Bad. You feel bad when you are stressed. That's why you drink, that's why you eat chocolate, that's why you hyperventilate. Did I say that stress is a bad thing? It is.

Note to Newsweek: Maybe you ought to have a swimsuit issue. You might get that right.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I Knew Him When

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," a refreshing mix of politics and religion! Given enough time, we're bound to offend everyone.

Long, long ago when I was a slender-waisted college lass, I had a classmate named Michael Steele. He was a tall, skinny fellow with a thick head of hair, African American, pre-med major. Mike and I got to be friends because we had some modern literature classes together. And we struck a deal: If he would lend me his literature books, I would type his papers. (I couldn't afford to buy all the books, and Mike didn't know how to type.)

Mind you, I said type the papers, not write them. Even though Mike was a pre-med, he was pretty handy with words.

Fast forward a good many years, and Michael Steele is the best known graduate of my particular class at Johns Hopkins. When I saw him at an event in Maryland awile back, I wasn't certain enough that it was him that I felt comfortable going up to him. He had changed a lot physically ... and he was a Republican.

Don't know that Mike and I ever talked politics in college. So I don't know if he was an inductee into the Evil Empire then, or if he took to it later. My guess is later.

At any rate, I can hardly turn on the t.v. now without seeing Michael Steele.

The other day Mike called Rush Limbaugh an "entertainer" and said something about Rush not representing the Republican party, I think. The only part I recall is "entertainer," because that was a handy word to describe Rush. Although I don't find Rush particularly entertaining myself. Okay, okay, I can't listen to the guy for ten minutes without cussing at the radio. But my entertainment tastes aren't the same as other peoples', so who am I to judge?

I could only applaud Michael Steele for standing up to the Rush Menace. But alas, Rush ascends again, wringing from my old classmate a pathetic apology.

Does Rush Limbaugh represent the sentiments of everyone in the Republican Party? I can hardly believe that. But if it's true, why doesn't he run for office? Who remembers that past indiscretionary use of prescription painkillers? All of us have stuff like that on our rap sheets. (Well, I don't, but I did buy a parrot ... which was a big mistake.)

If you want a laugh, or if you want to channel your inner Michael Steele, you can go here and send Rush an apology of your own.

Wow, I stink at the link! Here's the URL: http://www.dcc.org/content/sorry

If you are Michael Steele and you're reading this, hey. I have a few books that belong to you. Can I mail them? I don't want to do lunch.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Revenge of the Iron Fairies

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where foot-long icicles co-exist with poison ivy blisters! Oh well. C'est la vie. Drip, drip, drip. What you gonna do?

I am reflecting upon how I contracted a case of poison ivy on the coldest weekend of the season, and I've concluded that it's the fault of faeries. Iron fairies, to be exact.

A year ago Christmas, my daughter The Heir gave me an item from a store in New York City called Iron Fairies. Everything in the store is made from iron, and most of the merchandise is fairy statues.

At first I thought "iron fairies" couldn't exist. The whole nature of the fae is that they're light and airy, ethereal, wingy thingies that hardly touch ground. But then I reflected that faeries are elemental, and iron is an element. So of course some faeries could be iron.

Flawless logic like this is what got me where I am today.

One evening when I felt the Heir to be in danger, I took the gift bag from the store, The Iron Fairies, shoved treats in it, and put it in my garden. Then I dedicated my garden to the iron faeries.

As I was pruning my shrubs and pulling out ivy (mmmm hmmmmm) last Saturday, I was musing idly on how the iron faeries would react to having their woodland cleaned up a bit.

Guess they didn't like it.

My back is up, though. I've been leaving offerings for those doggoned iron faeries since last summer: candy, wine, chocolate, trinkets, you name it. And this is my reward. An armload of blisters just four days shy of the East Coast Vulture Festival!

Maybe the iron faeries are jealous of the Sacred Thunderbird. But why? I haven't yet given a buzzard a glass of wine or a trinket.

You would think something as immortal as a faerie would realize that, no matter how one prunes a garden, it's just going to get overgrown again.

Gosh, I pity the fool who ever makes a concerted effort to tame this little piece of ground behind my house! It's a mistake I won't make again. Trust me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

On Being Unique

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," mirth for the fungus among us! Pull up a toadstool and set a spell. Pretty sure you'll be lichen what you see.

(I think this greeting would have worked better with yesterday's post.)

There are so many billions of humans on the planet, and each one wants to feel unique. I know, I know, teenagers like to follow the crowd, becoming so many wildebeests on the plain. But deep inside, all of us harbor a need to be different somehow from everyone else.

This yearning for uniqueness is not to be confused with a yearning for fame. In fact, many athletes and entertainers advance their careers by imitating other athletes and entertainers. There's nothing particularly unique about the Jonas Brothers, for example.

I've always believed that uniqueness is something worth cultivating. Every now and then I achieve it. Today I am sitting here feeling quite distinctly unique.

A count taken in 2007 sets the population of Camden County, New Jersey at just under 514,000. (That's just 7,000 less than the whole state of Wyoming.)

It is currently snowing in Camden County, and the temperature is hovering around 25 degrees.

And I have a case of poison ivy.

I wonder how many of the 514,000 citizens of Camden County, or, for that matter, the 522,000 citizens of Wyoming, can claim a case of poison ivy today, March 1, 2009?

Uniqueness. Some are born with it, others have it thrust upon them. In my case, crust upon them.

Please don't dispute my self-diagnosis. I did some yard work on Saturday.

And don't be jealous of my uniqueness. It has its down side. Itchy, festering blisters under an Irish wool sweater are not a recommended way to stand out from the crowd.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Toronto Star coverage of the Sacred East Coast Vulture Festival.


Contemplating a Career Change?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," whipped about by the fickle winds of Fortune since 1959! I'm your host, Anne Johnson, proud owner of a chronic case of generalized anxiety disorder.

In these challenging times, the list of job openings in the Sunday newspaper is slender indeed. (The newspaper itself is slender to the point of anorexia.)

However, on a banner day, one can still find premium employment by reading the "Help Wanted" ads. Here's one from today's (bankrupt) Philadelphia Inquirer:

West Chester, PA.

Prep mushroom growth-media; apply water & mix raw materials; monitor composting/degradation; insert & manage materials & horizontal silos; harvest crops & pack as req; load trucks. F/T; variable hrs/days, incl. wkends/holidays. Fax resumes to Fairchild Mushroom, XXX-XXX-XXXX.

I changed the name of the company so they won't Google this.

Okay, we at "The Gods Are Bored" appreciate thoughtful prose, but the above "Help Wanted" ad goes a bit too far with the politesse, don't you think?

Here's what it should say:

West Chester, PA

Shovel cow manure, mix it with more cow manure, water, and toxic chemicals, smell the stuff all day to make sure it stinks enough, add more crap as needed; spend your day prowling dark, reeking silos; be damn well prepared to work yourself to exhaustion harvesting mushrooms, especially on weekends and holidays. Now we want to see a faxed resume that proves you know how to shovel shit and take crap from nasty overseers. Minimum wage, and be happy to get it. No vacation or health insurance; that's for socialists. Fairchild Mushroom, XXX-XXX-XXXX.

I'll bet they get 1,000 resumes.

Where is Upton Sinclair when we need him so very badly?