Monday, January 31, 2011

Praise and Worship Announcement

East Coast Vulture Festival Children's Fair is Returning to Wenonah in 2011
For the 6th consecutive year the East Coast Vulture Festival will salute the Turkey and Black Vultures that soar the winter skies of Wenonah, perch on out rooftops and sit serenely atop our water tower. On Saturday March 5th 2011 the free Vulture Children's Fair will transform the quaint and historic Wenonah Community Center (the historic train station) into a celebration of vulture culture. This free and family-oriented event will include educational displays, games, crafts, and maybe a few surprises. Naturalists will be on hand to tell us about these remarkable birds and guide us to a close up view of the vultures in the roosting areas. We will have more to tell you about the Fair as we get closer to the date, so look for additional announcements and an updating of our website in the near future.
One thing will be different this year. After careful discussion, we have decided, at least for this year, to take a hiatus from the ticketed Evening Roost event. So this year the festival organizers will be putting our efforts and inspirations into the afternoon Vulture Children's Fair. This wonderful event does so much of what we founded the festival to do and we look forward to a great day in celebration of the vultures and the lessons they can teach us. We'll see you at the Fair on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kind of Blue

I've got a case of Crazy Luke blues. Hoping Imbolc will shake them out of me.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When It's Good To Live in Snobville

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we got a little over a foot of snow in five hours last night. We're talking thunder snow. It was nuts.

Before we got the snow, we had about an hour of sleet. Needless to say, today is a snow day...

Only one more snow day before the Fairie Festival is impacted....

Anyway, I'm a sucker for a snow day. Here's what I like about them.

*All of the neighbors I never get to see come out to shovel. It's an impromptu block party without the pasta salad. And since so many of us who were shoveling this morning are secondary earners in the education field, we had a great gabfest about Governor Fat Ass and his assault on the public school teachers who are the second best in the nation.

*I have a neighbor named Mr. F who is a gadget junkie. He can be really annoying with his leaf blower in the fall. But when a heavy snow falls, and the plow double-buries the cars, Mr. F is a Gods send. He has a heavy duty snow blower, and he loves to use it. He cleared my driveway. Now I'm making him brownies.

*Other than the plowed-in driveway, the rest of the shoveling fell to me. Mr. J is ill, and Spare is a wee little thing. She opted to clean up the kitchen and make lunch. So out I went to ply the snow shovel.

When I first moved to Snobville,  I was so dismayed about the tiny little property. I can sit at my dining room table and see my neighbor making her supper next door. If the windows are open, we can converse. Tight quarters.

But when a foot of heavy snow falls, how much sidewalk and driveway do you want to be responsible for? I'll tell you: not much more than I have.

I'm a Cailleach of a certain age, not in very good shape, and I cleared the front porch, sidewalk, and cars (and around the cars) all by myself. Without Mr. F's help I would still be out there, wrestling with the heaviest piles. But as it was, I got my little section of sidewalk all done in about two hours. Came in and took the Advil right away.

And oh, is it lovely this morning on my street! The thick snow is coating all the branches and shrouding everything on the ground. Kids are strutting by with their sleds, all dressed in bright winter wear. The sun has come out, and everything looks so shiny and clean!

When my Fairie Festival plans become impacted by this unusually snowy weather pattern, I will look back on mornings like this one and remember that big snowstorms have their special sweetness. The bright sheen of snow against sky, the kindness of neighbors, the joy of two hours' extra sleep.

We take what we can out of life. Snow days are gifts. Blessed be to Beautiful Sedna for sending them!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do Not Visit Staunton, Virginia

Staunton, Virginia is one of the portals to the Skyline Drive. It is also a Washington, DC exurb full of museum quality morons.

The residents of Staunton are being visited by a winter flock of vultures. Staunton's response to the visitation is to try to scare off -- or kill -- the buzzards.

And the reporter at the Washington Post who wrote about Staunton's big, ugly problem was too lazy to Google and try to find other towns with similar winter vulture roosts.

If the Washington Post reporter of record, Darryl Spears, had done his proper research, he would have discovered the enlightened borough of Wenonah, NJ, which inherited a winter vulture population and has since made a clear profit of $10,000 on an annual Vulture Festival.

Speaking of the ever-popular East Coast Vulture Festival, it will be held on the first Saturday in March, 2011. At this festival, the children of the region will learn the following Religious Truths:

*Just because someone's droppings stink, that doesn't make them bad.
*Vultures do not kill kittens, puppies, or anything that isn't already almost dead.
*Vulture roosts are a WINTER season event only. As in winter, when it's cold. In the spring, they disperse.
*Vultures do not kill pine trees.
*Vultures only throw up on people who try to shoot them with paintballs. (LOL, that was in the Washington Post story. Someone had it coming!)
*Vultures are a protected species. If you kill one, be prepared. You're gonna pay.

On many occasions I have mused about the possibility of moving back into the Blue Ridge Mountains, to some bucolic McMansion-laden, Walmart-saturated bedroom suburb like Staunton, Virginia. But then I look around me at New Jersey ... sagging old New Jersey, with its refineries and its Snookies and its fat Republican governors, and I say, "Wait. This is Jersey. We treat vultures with respect."

Home sweet home.

Staunton, next time I go to the Skyline Drive, you won't even smell the exhaust from my car!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jesse and Me

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we delightfully dally with deities daily! If you need a bored god (or goddess), just check the sidebar, where we feature a new one every day.

Today, however, we put aside our deity devotions for more worldly matters.

As I drove to work this morning, I learned that Jesse Ventura is suing the federal government for the pat-downs he receives at airports.

Probably very few of you have the fond feelings I hold for Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Back in the 1980s, after he had been a Navy Seal -- but before he became governor of Minnesota -- Jesse was a professional wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation. And he was funny as the day is long. The guy was inspiring. My kind of humor, too. Witty put-downs, oversized boasts, flamboyant boas and statements and strutting. I started every Saturday morning with Jesse "The Body" and even went to live events at the Joe Louis Arena (much to Mr. Johnson's chagrin).

Everyone else must have forgotten Jesse "The Body's" antics, because he was the last dude on the planet I ever thought would be elected to government. (Oh well, not necessarily. We've got Arnold in Cali after all.) From time to time I have wondered how "The Body" would do in national politics. He's got the gift of gab, big time.

Let's put all of that aside, though. Here's an ex-Navy Seal who served as a state governor, and when he flies he has to be patted down. Why? Because he has a titanium hip.

I too have a titanium hip.

I don't fly much in the apparent world. The last time I was on a plane, I had a real hip with no problems in it whatsoever. It's rather disconcerting to know, however, that when I do get ready to board a plane, chances are good that I'm going to be frisked like a caught crook. If Jesse "The Body" gets patted down, what will Anne "The Druid" get? Full cavity exploration?

The automobile is looking better and better.

Jesse "The Body" was a wrestler in the 1980s, so he must be quite a bit diminished by now in terms of physical prowess. Nevertheless, I would not like to be the one who had to say, "Okay, Mr. Ventura. Hands on the wall, spread your legs." Jesse didn't get a titanium hip because he got arthritis. He must have busted every joint in that wrestling ring. Or in the Seals ... the friggin Seals! We are frisking Navy Seals!

Go Greyhound. The energy saver.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hatred Imbalance Restored

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You know what fascinates bored deities? Television! They can't get over it. And they all say that if they'd had it as a praise and worship tool, they wouldn't be bored today.

When I hear this, I turn on some televangelist, or Glenn Beck, or another hater of that ilk, and I ask the bored deity, "Is this who you would want drumming up business for you?"

Some of them are fine with it. Others are dismayed. You're gonna get a mixed bag of answers from deities of multiple pantheons.

Television is definitely a powerful tool for molding peoples' sentiments. (The computer is not far behind it just now and probably will overtake it.) It doesn't matter what political views you hold, chances are you can find some hater on the air who will stoke your inner fire and make you want to drag a sign to some rally.

I'm reflecting on this topic tonight because of Keith Olbermann's abrupt departure from his television show -- a program of left-wing ire that put MSNBC on the map.

Like him or hate him (or his politics), you have to admit that Keith took a page from the Rush Limbaugh playbook and doled out strong opinions with a "progressive" zeal.

As for this "progressive" crap, when did we stop being liberals? The new name feels so 1984-ish somehow, like we were hoodwinked into it by the vilification of our original name.

Anyway, back to Keith. I've been watching his show for at least two years, every night but Friday.

To be perfectly truthful, I've been falling asleep to his show for two years. That would be the amount of time I've been teaching. Before that, I watched him. Not with rose colored glasses, either. "Worst person in the world?" Hater. Funny hater, but a hater all the same.

The reason I supported Keith with my viewing habits was that, to me, he offered a counterbalance to all the hate from the other side of the political spectrum, which I will, from now on, be calling the "regressives." Rush, Glenn, Bill, Sean -- they needed someone to blow Bronx cheers across their bows. Someone similar in temperament and completely opposite in point of view.

New ownership has arrived at MSNBC, and rumors about Mr. Olbermann's big ego and head-butting against management are rampant. So the hater isn't well-liked. I imagine Mr. Beck's not always on the best of terms with his handlers, either.

I'll miss Keith because he was a righteous hater, a counterbalance to the vile fumes across the divide. Now that he's gone, I think I'll read more. Should have been doing that long ago. Oh yeah, and I'll get a laugh out of watching MSNBC fade back into the obscurity it tried so hard to overcome. Sorry, dudes. You fired your matinee idol. Or he quit. Either way, ciao, baby, from someone who didn't much care for Keith but who actually watched MSNBC every night.

Are you reading this, you who buy commercial time on MSNBC? The progressives are progressing elsewhere.

Sheesh. Progressives. When was the last time that was used? Maybe in the era of William Jennings Bryan?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let Justice Be Fun

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," a faerie-friendly site where we dote on deities! Here, we banish the word "myth" to the rubbish heap. Everything's real, baby. Everything's real.

This past September I felt it my teacherly duty to sign up as a club advisor. Except I'm always getting tapped to do school newspapers and lit journals and stuff like that. This year I wanted a little variety, so I signed on to co-coach our school's Mock Trial team.

Mock Trial is a state and national competition. Every year students get a "case." The students become the witnesses and the attorneys, and they prepare the "case" for "trial" against students from other schools. The "case" is then heard in a real courtroom and judged by a real trial judge. Each team has a volunteer attorney coach that helps the students with the finer points of jury trials.

This year's "case" was actually pretty interesting. It's a civil case of double negligence: Who's at fault, the distracted kid driving a big red Corvette, or the distracted pedestrian kid texting while crossing an intersection?

The students on my Mock Trial team not only prepared for the competition, they worked together like a team. For the last few days I've really only had to sit back and listen while they grilled each other, more or less reassuring them when they got nervous. Today they performed splendidly against teams from some of the most expensive prep schools in South Jersey.

I took my daughter The Spare along for the day, and she had a great time. She got to be a bailiff in the second round, so she even had a role to play. Now she likes the fact that she can connect faces to the names of kids I talk about all the time. And for the record, my students were very friendly to her -- not the sort of treatment that might have awaited them if they had come to her school instead.

So this was a win-win-win from my point of view. I got to spend the day with the Spare. I got to watch my students at their very best. And I actually went to the Superior Court building without having to face jury duty.

Candidly, while it's completely Druidic to be a school teacher, I've never felt like the role fit me very well. Today the shoe fit, and I even got to be proud of the team ... and of the bailiff, who had to keep time on each bit of testimony and each lawyer statement. Proud congratulations to the Vo-Tech, and its students from Camden, who more than held their own against the Future Masters of the Universe.

School vouchers? Don't use them. The best education can be had in your own public school. No matter where it sits on the map.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snow Days

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" This is my little slice of "me" time in a very busy day -- so indulge me if you will, and say howdy to some great deities along the way!

Some things you grow out of as you get older. For me, one of those things was Christianity. Another was pro football ... but that only happened after the Eagles blew a chance to win the Super Bowl. I used to love baseball too, and cotton candy. Back burner now. Can take them or leave them.

One thing I have never grown out of is a love of snow. From flurries to blizzards, I just love each and every little flake that descends.

Growing up in the country, I awaited each and every snowfall, not so much for the bliss of a snow day, but for the fabulous group activity of sledding. Ah, sledding, sledding! There was a Mennonite farmer near where I lived who had a gigantic hill. He would clear a path down to the grass on one side, and have a doggone ski slope on the other side, and a big bonfire at the top of the hill. Oh, bliss! And, ahem ... we did our own version of snowboarding way before it was invented, by standing (or trying to) on gliders and regular sleds.

I had a Flexible Flyer that I inherited from my uncle. It was an antique and better than any sled on the hill. Everyone wanted my sled, if only for one trip. Even the adults.

Out in the Panhandle, we had our share of big snowfalls. And when I lived in Detroit, I was in hog heaven, because there it snows a little every day. The whole time I lived there I only saw one big storm, but two inches, three inches, flurries ... there were always flakes flying in Detroit, from November to April.

You would think that the cruel Michigan winters would have cured me of my snow fixation. Maybe they would have, if I'd been living further north, where the stuff piles up like money in a fat cat's offshore account. But in Detroit, it's just a gentle little snowy pattern, the last vestiges of lake effect that blow across the state from Lake Michigan. Loved it!

Here in New Jersey (which just was ranked #2 in the nation for school success), we get these whopper Nor'Easters sometimes. If it's cold enough, a low pressure system can get cranked up over the Atlantic and haul in plenty of moisture. This produces your garden variety blizzard, with high winds, zero visibility, and as much as two feet of snow (in 1996 we got three feet in one storm).

I'm not a teenager anymore, and digging out from a blizzard is hard work to me now. But there's nothing quite like waking up in the morning to white-out conditions, howling wind, and snow inundating everything that moves and everything that doesn't. The fact that I worked at home for so long, and now I'm a school teacher, makes these events even more thrilling.

If you detect a change in my tone from my previous ramblings about the perils of Paganism and snow days, you're right. It seems that our school district -- reeling from last year's winter wildness -- built three snow days into the calendar. We've only used one so far, so I have two more snow days in the bank before I face the dilemma of trying to get a day off work to go to the Fairie Festival.

That being the case, I have petitioned the fabulous Goddess Sedna to send two more ... and only two more ... snow days to break the long march of school from now until Easter. White stuff from the sky. If it isn't volcanic ash, I love it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Want Real Winter Weather, and Lots of It!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where this morning we are pissed to the gills and then some!

This morning's weather was a no-brainer for a delayed opening of school. Everything is glazed over with ice, since it's been sleeting or dripping freezing rain all night. But my alarm clock went off at 5:20 as usual. There was no phone call from the school. I checked the school's home page -- nothing. Checked the Philly news radio page. Our number was not there.

I showered and dressed. Mr. Johnson got up and went outside in the ice to scrape off the car. As I was eating my breakfast at 6:20, the call came in. Two-hour delay.

Due to the nature of our district, I'm sure some of the students were also up, dressed, and maybe even headed to their bus stops.

I've been sitting here catching up on my grading and some other administrative stuff, the kind of paperwork that used to be paperwork and is now online (thank goodness). My mind keeps drifting in another direction, though.

We have already had the full-day-out snow day that will have to be made up on Friday, April 29 -- the first day of the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm. It's a ticklish situation. I'm a non-tenured teacher, and I want to go to that festival.

My best recourse is to take a call-in-sick day. I have 20 days of sick leave already accrued, so barring a catastrophic illness, I should have the time. I also have a doctor (I call him "Dr. Mushroom," and that says it all) who will gladly see me for some referrals I need anyway, and then write me a note when I explain the situation.

It just galls me that I have to do this.

I can't take the chance of putting in a request for a personal day at the end of a long vacation, even if I ask for it for religious reasons. Beltane is May 1, a Sunday. It's not April 29, a Friday. The Fairie Festival, in recent years, has gone out of its way to ease up on Celtic praise and worship -- to the extent that, if I were to call it a "religious event," I would be stretching the truth.

Lies, lies, and more lies! I feel like all of this is going to give me bad karma.

I am therefore hoping for another bitterly cold and snowy winter like last year. If we get one or two more full snow days, more of the Christian spring break days will be lopped off the week. And if we have school on Wednesday and Thursday of that week, then I can ask for the personal day!

Isn't all this bureaucracy annoying? Just once I would love to see all the Christian teachers in the state have to bargain, call out sick, or take a chance of rejection for a leave of absence on Good Friday!

What a way to begin a week. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dodge on the Delaware

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." As you read this, the City of Camden, NJ has had to lay off 170 police officers. One of the most dangerous urban areas in this nation has lost half of its law enforcement in one fell swoop.

Oh well. It's Dodge City, right? What happens there, unfortunate as it might be, doesn't matter to people living snug in their middle class neighborhoods, where Girl Scout cookie season is about to begin and the grocery aisles are loaded with Valentines.

Welcome to the modern world. The world where we balance state budgets on the backs of the poorest residents. But is this a world where only they will suffer?

We are no longer living in the Middle Ages, in a time where people walked to and from most places that they visited in a lifetime. Oh no. We've got cars, and an El train, and we can really get around.

Who benefits most from the huge reduction in the police force of Camden? Two groups. Drug dealers. And their customers.

Who are these customers? Ah, here's where we differ from Dodge! The majority of drug customers depending on Camden are residents of the wealthier communities surrounding it. The junk rolls out of Camden in cars that wind up driving slowly through white-bread neighborhoods all done up for Christmas. And the users of street pharm drive themselves to corners in Camden, where they get what they need before sprinting back to the McMansion.

In this modern world we are all connected. Police are laid off in Camden, and the students in The Spare's high school come to class with hooded eyes and dilated pupils. Police are laid off in Camden, and a cranked-up driver on the New Jersey Turnpike sparks a multi-car pileup. Police are laid off in Camden, and grandmothers weep. Grandmothers in Camden, grandmothers in Snobville, grandmothers in the Pine Barrens.

Our governor is sending a message: No one cares about you, Camden. Get over it. But the message will resonate throughout a whole region -- everyone under the sun that rises over Camden.

Fewer cops in Camden? You can hear the sighs of relief from the drug dealers ... and from their customers far and wide.

Shame on this state. Shame, shame, shame. Threefold Law upon those who have brought this about.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Public Service Message for Nervous People

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We here at this site stand as one with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Let us judge one another not by the color of our religion, but by the conduct we display!

Hmmm. Maybe I didn't get that quite right.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become an official day of community service. So we at "The Gods Are Bored" cheerfully join this effort by alerting you to a community resource that you may never have heard of.

Our second biggest pet peeve here at TGAB (behind how downsized deities are called "myths") is the discrimination against mental illness in our health care system. If you hurt your back pulling the Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven, you can get all kinds of treatment for it, all for a simple copay. But if every day of your life is a battle against anxiety or depression, you'd better have a deep wallet. The "good" doctors don't participate in any of the bogus HMO plans, and if you go to the HMO "doctor" ... assuming you can even get an appointment within the next six months ... well. You get what you pay for. If you pay $15, that's exactly what it's worth. Maybe less.

I don't know about you, but I'm a nervous person. I get all worked up about things. And when I get worked up, I either beat up on myself or lash out at the people I love.

Does this sound like you? Have you spent a fool's ransom on therapy bills?

I never had a fool's ransom at my service, so for many years I've suffered in silence. About six months ago, I found out about a terrific non-profit organization that exists to help nervous people. After going to meetings for half a year, I feel secure in recommending this AFFORDABLE and ACCESSIBLE program to you!

The program is called Recovery Inc. Don't let the dot com fool ya. A meeting will set you back a whopping five bucks. And the book, herein pictured, costs $25.

As the folks at Recovery Inc. will tell you, this is not a quick fix, but it is a workable one. There are group meetings almost everywhere (22 countries), and you can talk to someone on the phone or have an online session. The goal of Recovery Inc. is to teach you how to modify your thinking and behavior in order to control anxiety and depression.

Back in the 1930s, there was a school of psychotherapy that promoted the idea that we can change our mental health by willing our brains and muscles to behave differently than they are behaving. Yes, you can change your mindset for the better -- and this is not some cult, or guru-led outfit. It's practical, sensible, AFFORDABLE behavior modification.

I keep harping on this "affordable" aspect, because after six months I can truly say that I've gotten more help from Recovery Inc. than I ever did from an expensive (or especially an HMO) therapist. This is sort of a 12-step program for nervous people, run by volunteers, and whoever shows up is there. It's not "group therapy." There's a process that allows you to remain anonymous.

I won't go into details about how Recovery Inc. works, but it's a very simple method. If you think of your mind as an orchestra, anxiety can be the big tuba that drowns out all the pretty violins. Recovery Inc. will help you stifle that tuba and bring a balance to your life.

To put a Pagan spin on this, I'll add the following: I've always been leery of the idea that our deities "help" us. If deities alone could solve our problems, we would all be rich and thin, with perfect kids and loving spouses. To this Pagan's way of thinking, our deities want us to effect our own solutions to the dilemmas we face every day. They will come along at the end to take us to the Summerlands.

In the meantime, I, Anne Johnson, nervous person, do hereby recommend Recovery Inc., not only because it is AFFORDABLE mental health care, but because it works.

Did I mention that this is something you can afford? Stop being nervous for less than a McDonald's Happy Meal? No wonder Recovery Inc. is such a secret!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Fabulous Free Advice from Annie the Cailleach

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," live from Snobville, New Jersey! I'm Anne, a fine lady of a certain age. And with age comes wisdom ... if not money. I'm poor, but I'm smart.

The thing about wisdom is that every experience adds to it. It accrues, if you aren't a forgetful moron.

Tonight I accrued some new wisdom and recalled some old wisdom, and it all boils down to this: Don't go looking for those brightly-colored Christmas houses two weeks after the Christmas season ends.

Remember this. You heard it here, so don't do it.

Earlier this evening, the Vo Tech had its annual talent show. My daughter The Heir is about to go back to college this weekend, and I didn't want to spend another long evening at school without her. So I asked her to come over and be with me in the after-school hours (I'm co-leader of a club) and then go with me to the talent show.

Heir's dad dropped her off at 4:00, and we attended the talent show at 6:00. It ended at 7:30, and we started driving back toward Snobville. When we got to Snobville, the whole place was lit up like Christmas never ended (We've had a few snowstorms here, and the wealthy residents don't care about their electric bills).

Heir and I, not wishing to call it a day, decided to go into the neighboring borough and scope out one of our all-time favorite Crazy Christmas houses, just in the off chance that it was still lit up. We drove to the neighborhood, and slowly drove around looking for the house. Found it -- cruised by -- it not only wasn't lit, but it also looked forlorn, because not all of the decorations had been put away yet. So I slowly eased toward the main thoroughfare again ... and suddenly there was a cop car behind me, lights flashing.

I pulled over, wondering what the Sam Hill could possibly be wrong. I sure wasn't exceeding the speed limit, and I'd recently had my car in the Vo-Tech shop, so I knew no bulbs were burnt out or anything. But here came the cop with his flashlight, asking me for my license and registration.

He said, "You were driving slowly and making frequent stops."

I said, "Yes, we were looking for that crazy Christmas house. You know, the one all lit up."

He said, "That's four miles from here." (Were do they get these men? Heir and I were one block from a house that has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

I said, "Well, I know this is silly, because it's way after Christmas, but I was hoping the lights were still on."

He said, "There's been a lot of drug activity in this neighborhood, so we are pulling over anyone who's acting suspicious."

(New Jersey and you ... perfect together.)

The cop bid me farewell, and Heir and I tooled off toward Snobville.

I was reminded of a time when my mother was getting elderly and she was out driving at night. A policeman stopped her and made her walk the white line because she was driving too slowly. He thought she was lit. She chewed him out because it was cold, and she was old -- and he made her late for her bridge game.

Annie's free advice for the night: Drive fast. And don't look for Christmas lights on January 13. If you can't get the Christmas house thing done by the time Santa plops down his last sack of coal, bag it.

Can you think of anything more embarrassing than being pulled over by a cop for driving too slow, and then your registration has expired?

Yeah, I'm Annie the Cailleach. Learn from me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guenevere, Bobby McGee, and James Baldwin

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm doing it again. I'm doing it again. I was chased out of school at 5:00 p.m. because some janitor saw a flake of snow. There, I was grading papers. Here at home, I'm blogging. With the papers sitting neatly beside me.

Oh well, la di dah. Blogging is fun! (Not that I'm complaining about grading the papers. My students tried hard and are earning good grades. Yowsa!)

I just finished a novel about Guenevere called Queen of the Summer Country. Can't recommend it, even though it's definitely Pagan-friendly. The reason I can't recommend it is because I have trouble picturing the mighty characters from the Arthurian saga weeping, moaning, and groaning as much as they do in this book. Yes, there's tragedy aplenty in this classic revealed Scripture, but moaning and weeping on nearly every page? Oh please.

All of us ladies have a little bit of Guenevere in us. Married, dutifully, and loving our husbands, we are nevertheless bowled over by Lancelot.

You are one of my readers, and you say, "Wait a minute. There's no Lancelot in my life." Well, then, I'll bet you've got a Bobby McGee. You know who I'm talking about if you ever turn on classic rock. You can't miss Janis Joplin's heart-wrenching take on the one who got away. She would trade all her tomorrows for a single yesterday of holding Bobby's body next to hers.

My three male readers are now thinking, "Oh, this is chick stuff." Okay, no they're not. Because flip the gender, and you're in the same troubled waters, right, dudes? Maybe your Bobby McGee is a Bobbi McGee, but she's there in your memory, isn't she?

Whenever I read about Guenevere, the story fills me with melancholy. Even in the hands of an inferior writer, this is powerful stuff. The infamous love triangle, gilded with royal trappings. Likewise, "Bobby McGee." When I hear that song I just want to cry. We've all been there. Otherwise Janis wouldn't have had a hit with the doggone song. (By the way, it was written by Kris Kristofferson, a dude of the first stripe.)

Forbidden love. Lost love. Why does this appeal?

It happens that, long ago, I wrote a reference book entry on the author James Baldwin. I read a few of his books, and I also read some magazine pieces he wrote. James Baldwin thought that unrequited love was the most powerful kind of love that people could feel. (One could certainly argue that F. Scott Fitzgerald felt the same way.)

What is it about people that makes us want what we can't have, or what we had and lost? You could seriously look at our species and call this a major failing.

To me, this is not a failing. It's just one more thing that makes us want to create poetry, songs, and stories. Unrequited love makes us passionate. It informs our vision of everything around us. It makes us want to howl at the moon and shoot out the lights ... but that's a damn sight better than sitting in a chair watching the Weather Channel.

I could write a sonnet, or a saga, on this particular theme. Oh, but speaking of themes ... I've got that grading to do! My friends, I wish for you an evening of sweet dreams about your Bobby /Bobbi McGee, because in dreams everything is always so doggone beautiful, it just makes you want to cry.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wren Fare

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Must one be insane to start shooting at people in a crowded place? I think so. But it's funny how some of these insane people show so much doggone method. When a madman shoots a Congresswoman smack in the face, and kills an innocent child for good measure, some of us are tempted to search for a motive beyond mental illness. Completely crazy people open fire on shoppers at a mall, not at members of Congress who have been criticized by right wing politicians and commentators. (And completely insane people often miss their targets. They're almost never fatally accurate.)

I could go on and on about this, but I'll just compare Sarah Palin to Charlie Manson and leave it at that. Hey, I can be extremist too! This is my little corner of the First Amendment right here ... I can say what I want.

 Lighter fare now: On Christmas Day in the morning, we discovered a little house wren flitting about inside our dwelling. Since then, we've had five more wren visits. This morning, it being about 25 degrees outside with a stiff wind and three inches of snow, I was loathe to send outside another little wren hiding in the Christmas tree.

I called the local wildlife refuge, and they told me what to do. Consider this another bit of free advice from Annie the Cailleach!

In cold weather, house wrens will gain entry to a home through any little cavity. Then they can't get out again. So if you see a wren flitting from the living room curtains to the dining room settee, just open a window. Doesn't matter how cold it is, or how snowy. Wrens don't migrate, so they know how to deal with winter weather.

That's what the nice gal at the wildlife refuge told me when I said I didn't want to let the lil' fella out into the elements.

This has proven a terrific blow to my cats, Alpha and Beta, who see these little wrens as winter entertainment.

Free advice and First Amendment rights, all in one place! I really should charge for my services.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

All, or Nothing at All

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we do not believe in segregated water fountains! But think about it for a minute. Our holidays in this nation (so long as working people will be allowed holidays) mostly revolve around the Christian calendar.

For a Pagan, this can be a hassle.

Last school year, my district had about four snow days. Those days had to be made up in June. By the time we got out of school, it was almost the Fourth of July.

This year, any snow days we accrue will be taken off the calendar during our much-ballyhooed Spring Break, beginning with Friday and proceeding backwards through the week.

Having grown up in farm country, I never had a Spring Break until my college years. And school never lasted beyond the 8th of June. Often it was finished by Memorial Day.

Spring Break in my district begins on Good Friday and lasts all through the following week. Ah, and here's the rub. The Friday after Good Friday, April 29, is the first day of the Glen Rock Fairie Festival ... which is already in the planning stages.

School districts far and wide frown upon, and often don't grant, personal days that dovetail with holidays. So, if we get even one snow day this year, I will be scheduled to come in and placed in a very delicate situation if I request a personal day for religious purposes.

(None of this would matter if I had tenure, but Governor Fat Ass Christie is trying to see to it that I never get tenure. Me and every other poor soul who had the bad fortune to begin teaching during his blighted administration.)

Before you tell me to demand my Pagan rights, there are a few mitigating factors. First, the Fairie Festival is not strictly a religious event. In fact, the Rituals have been structured so as to remove any affiliation with any particular Path. Second, the day I would be requesting is April 29, and not May 1, which is a Sunday and which is on the sanctioned list of holy days (students only can stay home without taking an attendance hit, not teachers).

I'm sure those of you visiting here for my Druid take on life will feel my frustration. I'll sit home, or hit the laundromat, on Good Friday. I'll sit home on Easter, drowning my sorrows in Peeps. And I'll have to miss a whole day of the Fairie Festival if we get one snow day.

Now, think about this. If 700 students have a whole week off and are told they have to come to school for one day on Friday, how many of them do you think will show? We had Three Kings Day this week. More than 300 kids stayed home. And that wasn't a Friday at the end of a vacation week.

One snow day, and I'll find myself sitting in an empty school building with a handful of kids vying for perfect attendance, while the Fairie Festival commences with a Ritual that I have supplied.

It's snowing here today, with more snow forecast for Tuesday. Due to the nature of my school district, we're often among the first to cancel for the elements. I therefore think it beyond any petition to the bored gods to so arrange the weather that we have no snow days this school year.

Instead, tonight's Shrine of the Mist petition will go to the bored deities of the Siberian steppes. Bring on the white stuff! Lots and lots of it! Lop all the days off Spring Break, not just Friday! Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday! Can I get two blizzards here?

Heck, if we have to work Wednesday and Thursday, then I could take off Friday with no hassle!

I think I will put in for the personal day anyway, mindful that the moment I get tenure, I will never work on May 1 or October 31 ever again.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gatsby Update

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Can you repeat the past? Of course you can, old sport!

So speaketh the Great Jay Gatsby, and quite a few religions make a tidy living supporting that outrageous proposition.

But not here at "The Gods Are Bored!" We operate volunteer services that help ancient deities become computer-literate and environmentally aware. Don't believe me? You should have seen the shock and disdain on Cernunnos's face when I first used silk/plastic mistletoe in a Ritual. Then I explained to Him that silk/plastic can be used over and over, it causes no harm to living mistletoe, and in fact it ought to be kept out of the landfill because a buzzard can't tell the difference between a plastic berry and a real one until the berry is consumed. Cernunnos got on board in a jiffy, and He even donated a wonderful thrift-store silk piece to my Yule altar!

That's what I call keeping up with the times.

I'm off-topic, though. Let's talk about Gatsby in the hood.

There's always somebody slinking into my classroom with a clipboard in hand, evaluating me according to the latest educational philosophy, which currently is something called Marzano. Today I got yet another visitor, without a clipboard, smack in the midst of one of my un-structured Great Gatsby lessons.

At most American high schools, teachers fling a copy of GG into their students' hands, assign them a certain number of chapters a week, lob on the symbolism and vocabulary, and generally create a massive hatred for a novel that I consider emblematic of the American experience.

With my class, we have read almost all of the story out loud, acting out parts in turn, and stopping frequently to comment upon these crazy rich people and their skewed values system. I have done zero vocabulary and nearly zero "language arts" lessons. We've just been reveling in the story.

My students love it. Even the ones who can hardly read at grade level love it. You know why? Because buried within all that lofty (and beautiful and difficult) prose is a fantastic story.

Today we were acting out Chapter 7 under the watchful eye of an administrative spy. I suggested we skip a few paragraphs of lofty prose, and you know what? My students would have none of it! "We want to read every word!" One of them said, and the rest seconded the motion.

(I was not reading it to them. They were round-robin reading it, randomly selected.)

Even the macho boys who hated the very idea that they might be forced to read something mushy are solid with this tale. And why not? Is it not about a clash between Alpha Males (among other themes)?

Long story short, the administrative type asked me after class if my students were enjoying the book. As if he had to ask! They would have stayed another 40 minutes, busily engaged with it.

Then the admin told me that the students at our sister school hated GG.

I write this because on Monday next, the Superintendent of my school district will be observing me as I teach The Great Gatsby. (We are almost finished the book.) My future employment is entirely in his hands, but I'm not changing my strategy one bit.

Great literature is only great if it says something about what we value. And readers who aren't terribly sophisticated can lose their grip on this book if they get bogged down in the prose. How terrible is that? Gatsby is a classic! The "American Dream" dissolves before your very eyes! This story makes you question all the answers ... so long as you don't have to dissect every other paragraph for vocab and crap that proves you aren't using Spark Notes.

For the record, I actually Googled Spark Notes so my students could see that they have a tool they can use to help them understand the story better. I told them that we would skip any word we didn't know, and if they needed to know it, I would just tell them what it is. Because my aim should be to increase their vocabulary skills, but my intention is to make them think.

They like it! Hey, Mikey!

When I get the pink slip, I will still feel that I have accomplished something ... great.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bored God of the Boiler Room

Welcome to ... pant pant pant ... "The Gods Are Bored!" pant .. pant. I'm your scorched hostess, Anne Johnson. Hot! Hot! Hot!

The school building I work in is 80 years old and counting. It has an old-fashioned boiler room.

When I arrived in my classroom after Christmas break on Monday morning, the temperature hovered ... I kid you not ... at least in the 80s if not nearing 90. It was like walking into a sauna.

Our New Jersey governor is all for firing teachers and busting our union, but I wonder how much moolah the state could save if it upgraded old boiler rooms.

In an effort to lower the output of hot air (in my classroom, not from the governor's mouth -- latter being impossible), I took a hike downstairs to the boiler room to see what was up.

And here's just the problem that arises when there are bored gods around with no meaningful employment. Lounging in the boiler room I found Vulcan. He was staring vacantly at the furnace, occasionally adjusting the intake valves.

Granted, there are some bored gods who we can live without, and Vulcan certainly is one of them. Who needs a volcano erupting all over the place? Just ask those poor folks in Pompeii what they think of Vulcan. All the same, this Dude is out of place in a public school.

I'm frankly afraid to do a praise and worship for Vulcan, to get him out of the boiler room and on to bigger, better things. I didn't even say howdy to him. For all I know, I could offer him an interview here at TGAB, and he would respond by blowing my house sky-high so my humble belongings will make the lunar eclipses red. On the other hand, I have to spend 10 hours a day, sometimes more, in a room where it's becoming impossible not to sweat the small stuff.

I guess I'll have to approach Vulcan and, picking my words carefully, offer Him some sort of olive branch. Somehow I feel like He won't be any more enthusiastic about turning down the heat than the school janitor. More capable, yes. More willing, no.

Perhaps I'll send Vulcan an anonymous note gently suggesting He may wish to visit the Mid-Atlantic Trench until March or April. I could even pass myself off as one of the World Cultures teachers, in case Vulcan gets pissed. Something's gotta change, though. In this era of energy conservation, I hate having to open windows on the coldest day of the year.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On Being a Chosen One

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we tackle tough questions every day! Here's a tough question that I'd like to sack for a 20-yard loss:

What's the best way to handle the "chosen ones" amongst us?

The question came up one day over this holiday when I was discussing Harry Potter with my daughters. My feeling was that the Harry Potter series comes apart on about Page 50 when it becomes clear that Harry is a "chosen one." Special as he is, all of his superiors hide essential information from him ... constantly. If I was a chosen one, I would like to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could. It was supremely frustrating for me, reading that series, because just once I would have liked Harry to say, "Damn it, quit beating around the bush!" And then Dumbledore should have spoken up about everything, including being gay. But then it wouldn't have been a very exciting story, huh?

This is why King Arthur works -- after a thousand years. As a kid his life was in danger (like Harry), so he was hidden in a forest and not told who he was (unlike Harry), all the while being groomed in martial arts (better than Harry) and the attainment of wisdom (more systematically than Harry). When he finally discovered he was a king, he was ready to go whoop ass and rule, without ever having had to deal with the angst of nagging doubts about the quality of his teachers and what they might or might not be telling him.

One last fictitious chosen one: Luke Skywalker. Again, better than Harry. As a kid his life was in danger (like Harry and Arthur) so he was hidden away on a planet (like Arthur) watched over by a benign hermit (more Dumbledore than Merlin). Thrust into the fray, Luke had to learn by doing (unlike Arthur but somewhat like Harry). The difference? Luke's dad was a bad guy. (In some versions of the Arthur tale, Uther's no gem either, but he's never a Darth Vader.)

On to the chosen ones in the real world. It has never made sense to me that Jesus got visited by wise men and angels as a child, and then spent 30 years doing carpentry with his dad. I wonder if the historians got that part right? Actually, if you read the New Testament closely, you see that Jesus was rather confused at age 30 about who he was and what he was expected to do. I blame the parents in this situation. Every Christmas, at the very least, they should have reminded Jesus of the circumstances of his birth. Maybe he would have gotten started on his mission earlier, and lasted a little longer.

Another chosen one: The Dalai Lama. Heads up, fiction writers! If you want to see how it's done, watch this process. The dude was deemed a chosen one at a time of life when about all he could choose for himself was whatever he could grab. And yet, have been deemed the chosen one, he was carefully brought up and tutored by the finest minds of the generation. End result: an extremely intelligent, humble, practical man. I doubt if there's one Dumbledore in the Dalai Lama's past.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty doggoned skeptical of people who get "chosen one" status as adults. Look at your popes. A mixed bag at best. Seems to me that if you're a chosen one, something major should happen at your birth, or soon thereafter. In this, our real world could borrow from fiction -- assuming King Arthur is fictitious (which I don't, I think He's a bored god).

If someone tells you he or she is a chosen one, do a background check. An improperly-trained chosen one is a rather dangerous entity. Behind every chosen one should be a good teacher or two. I'm not just saying that because I'm a teacher. I'm saying it because the vast majority of humans don't operate purely on instinct, so they'd better have learned something before they begin issuing orders and battling evil.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


I woke up this morning all snuggled against the cold night air, and I got to thinking about the fact that my life is maybe two-thirds over. So what sort of resolutions should I make, given that fact?

I began thinking about some of the things I've dreamed of doing that I've never gotten around to doing. We all have a list of those, don't we?

My list doesn't include climbing Mt. Everest or hiking to Maccu Picchu. Never was very intrepid.

However, there is one thing I've always wanted to do. At least since 1987. I want to march in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade.

The tradition of Mumming belongs to the bored gods: to Saturn and to the Celtic deities who brought you Wren Day. By joining a comic brigade, I will be proving my devotion to the bored gods. And proof it will be indeed. Even the sorriest brigade of Mummers practices for months, sewing or purchasing expensive costumes in the process.

This is resolved. I want to Mum. So might it be.