Thursday, March 31, 2011

On Magical Creatures

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," quick-blogging while the spaghetti sauce simmers! I'm Anne Johnson, your hostess, and sadly I have no pie tonight. Try me on Sunday.

All too often, when we think of Faerie, we think only of human-like creatures. In fact, Faerie is chock a block with non-human beings. Think of your local wildlife refuge, then transfer it across the veil. Yep, magical creatures. Scads of them.

When I was young, I had the companionship of a furry creature I called "Ewt." He had a long face like a deer, and pointed ears, but they were high on his head like a cat's ears. He was furry and could change sizes at whim.

Not only did I have Ewt, but he was one of a big flock of ewts. There were many ewts. Mine just liked me. The rest were his friends.

I had an uncle who was a doctor. When he first began practicing medicine, my dad and I visited his office. He had a little figurine on his desk. I identified it immediately as my ewt. Uncle, always obliging ( to his dying day, alas! Oh, I loved him!) gave me the ewt statue.

But this was just a statue, a representation of the Ewt I knew from the Other Side. I played with Ewt all the time, and I talked to him too.

Many, many years later I purchased a book called The Notebooks of Brian Froud. Brian draws Faerie. Not just Gothic steampunk fairies like Amy Brown. Brian draws Faerie. And in that book I found a perfect rendition of Ewt.

I can't say I was surprised. If anyone else was going to see ewts, it was Brian Froud. I was just amazed that he got so many of the details spot-on. It was a pleasant confirmation that I wasn't alone in enjoying such a fabulous magical creature.

A few years ago, I met Brian Froud. I had him sign my copy of Notebooks right next to the ewt drawing. I asked him where he had seen this creature, and he said the woods. I told him that this was not a unique creature, but a whole species of creature that had many, many individuals. He had never seen a herd of ewts and was intrigued by the possibility.

Beyond the veil are creatures. Not just humanoids with pointy ears. There are creatures with fur, feathers, and wings. Reptilian beasts and little furry gerbil-like cuties.

Why should life beyond the veil be any leaner than the apparent world?

But don't wait to cross the veil before you embrace the creatures of Faerie. Look and listen for them just before you dream. Encourage your children to play with them -- kids see them. I should know.

Embrace the ewt in your back yard. Ewts do not eat your garden.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Say Yes to Dragons, Say What to Siblings

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where things get curiouser and curiouser. Is life that way for you? I guess if I live long enough never to be surprised by people, I should just part the veil and step on through.

Thank you to all who have offered the aid of your dragons to the cause of the Mountain Tribe! I would only ask that you not send any dragon who has deep sentimental value for you, as we will be tossing them about a bit, and they might get torn or dusty or (OH PLEASE NO) muddy! If your dragon still wants to come to the Fairie Festival at Spoutwood, my email is luvbuzzards at yahoo dot com.

And now, a personal message, so skip this if you aren't PAM OR RITA! YES, PAM AND RITA, I NEED FABULOUS STUFF FOR THE MOUNTAIN TRIBE! We have an official banner, but a beautiful Mountain Tribe tapestry that can stand alone would be fabulous to have in the brand-new Tribe tent -- where there's no competition, oh no, but two of the four tribe leaders are ARTISTS. Contact me as above, and we can brainstorm! Do you want a challenge? Make me a 3-D tabletop mountain!

On to today's sermon. Tired old topic, I know, but this is what's on my mind as Mercury goes into a nasty Aries retrograde.

In the past year, my sister has adopted two dogs and five cats. She has gotten a tattoo. She and her husband paid to have their basement finished, pretty much just to give the cats somewhere nice to live. Now they are planning to travel to China to adopt a child.

Last week, my sister's wonderful, adorable Amazon parrot flew into a wall and died. Sis grieved for about 48 hours before her husband presented her with a new Eclectus parrot. Sis had had her Amazon for almost 25 years, but never mind, now she has a new parrot. "It is helping with the grieving process," she said.

Today I got an email from Sis. I'm sick over what she had to say, but not because of the money involved or any of that. It's just another red flag rising amongst a sea of red flags -- think of a bathing beach 1,000 miles long with a gale warning along the entire length of it. I'm talking that kind of red flag alert.

Must have been four years ago, Sis gave me some pierced earrings that she had gotten from her mother-in-law's estate. Two of the pairs were pretty valuable.

I'm not much of a wearer of fancy jewelry, and I'm pretty cavalier with gold and gems. It's all rock to me. (Well, except for my wedding ring.) So when the good folks battling development at Terrapin Run were seeking items for a silent auction (to help pay the land use lawyer), I donated the earrings to the cause. And they fetched a nice sum too.

In her email this afternoon, Sis asked if she could borrow one of those pairs of earrings. It seems that she has gotten her ears pierced. She is five years younger than I am, and she has worn clip earrings her whole life.

Whatever possessed her to get her ears pierced, she wanted the gift earrings back. Which of course can't happen, because the baubles in question saved a little stream.

The bigger alarm flag rose when she wrote that she could not afford a pair of 14-carat gold earrings right now.

With all the expenditures she and her husband have made in the past year (vet bills alone must be high four figures), what moved her to get her ears pierced in the first place? What is moving her to do all the things she's doing? I've told her I'm scared for her. I've told her to take the slow track on adopting, to outsource a few of the cats. I sent her a sympathy card for her bird, figuring there was no replacing that special parrot... It could not have arrived before the new bird was bought.

What's wrong with my sister? I'm so worried! I'm sure she'll provide a better home for a disabled Chinese boy than some orphanage, but it's not the child that gives me pause, it's her.

At this point I'm keeping things civil, because a while back I confronted her and was told that Druids must be bad people if they were so judgmental. I can't help but feel, though, that I'm watching construction of a house of cards. A pair of earrings is nothing compared to the magnitude of impulsive decision-making I'm seeing.

Oh snap. Thanks for listening. If you look at how the bored gods get along with their siblings, it's often similar stuff. Please light a calming candle for this sis of mine. Fire can only rage for so long before it consumes its fuel.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shout Out for Dragons!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Today's sermon is on a fabulous beast from beyond the veil: the dragon.

I believe in dragons. We have their bones all around us and are still digging more up. We put those bones together and call them dinosaurs, but what they really are is dragons.

Dragons live in the Other World now, but still we can feel their intentions, both dangerous and benign. Only a stone cold fool would court a dangerous dragon, but you see people who do it -- big old tattoos on their arms, t-shirts that breathe fire. Don't come crying to me, tough guy, when that dragon thrashes you into a puddle of karma.

As for me, I prefer benign or beneficial dragons. A benign dragon just wants to play fetch, climb trees, and laugh as you beg it to come down. Beneficial dragons, though not seeming to be fierce, can protect you when the world is coming to pieces around you.

Big Red is a benign dragon. As you can see, he climbed a tree and laughed when I begged him to come down. I laughed too. Laughter is a good thing.

All of this is prelude to the most bizarre but necessary "Gods Are Bored" shameless plea ever.

I need stuffed dragons. At least a dozen. If you have a stuffed dragon, or you know where to get one cheap, I will pay its postage from you to me, and back from me to you.

When I said that the Mountain Tribe would sponsor a dragon toss at the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival, I thought it would be nothing to pick up a dozen dragons from the thrift store. Over the years I have seen dragons there aplenty. I got Big Red there. Since then I've passed over quite a few cute dragons simply because I had no need for them, and I figured there were kids out there who needed benign dragons.

In the past four weeks, I have rescued exactly one dragon from the thrift store. There's a distinct dragon deficit.

So if you have a dragon, or you know where you can get one cheap, or you see one between now and mid-April, help me out here! I'll pay you to send me your dragon. I'll keep scrupulous records of which dragon belongs to which person. And then, after your dragon has gotten a chance to soar and fly for a weekend, I'll send it back to you. It will be extremely contented and bring you scads of good luck and happiness.

Talk to Miss Annie. I need to borrow your dragon.

PS - In this post I have called dragons "it" because dragons come in both genders, and I didn't want to say he/she.

Friday, March 25, 2011

United We Bargain, Divided We Beg

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." Tonight we have lit the Shrine of the Mists to honor the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that occurred 100 years ago today.

This workforce of primarily immigrant women had tried to unionize in 1909, but wily bosses caused rifts between the workers, who came from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. The employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory worked 10-hour days from Monday through Friday and a half day on Saturday. Most of them were women, because the wage they earned was not enough to live on. They could only contribute to family incomes. They couldn't support themselves -- even with those hours.

When the fire occurred, the exit doors were locked. The product being made -- cotton shirts -- was highly combustible. You jumped, or you fried. Either way, you died.

Much more so than the efforts of the "hillbillies" down in the coal mines, this tragedy in the heart of New York City galvanized the organized labor movement and was often cited when advances were made in shortening the work week and in providing safety standards for workers.

On this of all days we should pause for a moment and consider the benefits of collective bargaining.

They say that Communism destroys incentive. Well, left to its own devices, Capitalism does the same. When you are only paid if you're healthy enough to work, when you can never hope to stop working until you die, and when you have no share in the profits of your employer, you might become a tad frustrated by your lot in life. The only incentive left to you is to cut corners on the job or, like old Fagin in Oliver Twist, find a more lucrative line of work.

Public sector employees are not a bunch of greedy divas trying to drive state budgets into the abyss. These unions are made up of men and women who want decent (not grandiose) wages and sufficient (not excessive) benefits. Many public sector employees are intelligent enough to be willing to bargain for fair contracts that will help keep budget deficits in check. At the same time, to expect any unionized employee to shoulder the burden of balancing a state budget while the state's wealthiest citizens don't get tax increases is ... what's the word? ... demoralizing. It stifles incentive. And the last thing you want to see coming up your driveway when your house is on fire is a demoralized firefighter.

It is in no one's interest reduce the pay and benefits to the people who teach our children, who protect us, who watch what's being dumped into the streams and rivers. Public sector employees might not be poor immigrants crammed into a sweatshop, but they do produce a product: our future.

In honor of the many people who have died fighting for unions, please keep your heart open to the notion of collective bargaining. No one is trying to become a millionaire off a union contract. But trust me to death on this one: a reduction of pay and/or benefits in public schools will have a catastrophic effect on education in this country. There's nothing more dangerous than a sick teacher who will do anything to hold onto her job.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I've Got To Do ... WHAT????

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Boy, was I ever grumpy the night of that beautiful full moon! Well, I got over it, and went out in the lovely moonlight, and thanked the bored Goddess Luna for being so full so late. I might be wrong (probably am), but doesn't this make Easter as late as it ever can be?

Next to being Buzzy at the East Coast Vulture Festival, my second-favorite yearly role is co-leader (with Spare) of the Mountain Tribe at the Spoutwood Fairie Festival. This year will be our third anniversary of receiving this honor.

Ah, but there's always a catch. Right?

For our first two years, we Mountain Tribe maniacs only had to show up and act rowdy. This year the festival wants to expand the role of the Tribes.

And. That. Means. I. Have. To. Make. A. Fancy. Table.

So that visitors will know what the Mountain Tribe is, and whether or not they belong in it.

Those three of you who have read "The Gods Are Bored" these many years will recall that if hot glue guns are involved, Anne bows out. The very word "craft" makes me break out in hives. Just ask any church lady who ever asked me to make centerpieces for some churchy event. I'm sure my clueless crafting is still the talk of the Bible Circle.

This new Spoutwood challenge is not just some thing I can fudge, either. Some of the other Tribe leaders are professional artists who can hot-glue letters and flowers to a fabric sign from 50 yards away. I don't feel particularly competitive with them, but all the same, it will look pretty shabby if my table contains a TARDIS and little else.

Adding to this, Spare and I are not in agreement on what to do with the table. That's bound to happen when one leader is in her 50s and the other is 17. We do agree on a TARDIS. Beyond that we go our separate ways.

Life throws us these challenges, though, and one must sigh and rise to them. It's the burden of leadership, I guess.

Anyway, over the next week we'll be having a discussion here at "The Gods Are Bored" about the new, crafty, artistic, eye-popping, and otherwise fabulous Mountain Tribe table. Your input is desperately needed. Desperately. Needed. Think of your input as what it would take to talk Anne off the ledge of some high-rise building in Gotham City.

The Fairie Festival is April 29, 30, and May 1. If you have a vision, please share it. If you can make things like paper-mache mountains, I will be your slave until the end of time.

If the Second Amendment covered glue guns, I would be out there lobbying to have it removed from our Constitution. *sweaty palms* Oh! Glue guns! Calgon, take me away!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

They Are All for Sale

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," liberal pro-union communist pinko subversives since 1981! I'm not a member of the Communist Party, but if you're blue you must be red.

In the previous presidential election we Democrats all had a big choice to make. Hillary or Barack?

The largest labor unions supported Hilary Clinton in the primaries. I should have listened to the buzz.

Honestly, Barack Obama is the biggest disappointment of a president that I have experienced in my long and varied life. Mind you, I'm no stripling. I had a viable memory when President Kennedy was shot. I watched John Glenn head into space.

And yet, at age 51, I succumbed to a dynamic young man whose platform was "Time for a Change."

Would someone please convince me that this president has done more good than harm?

--Prisoners are still sitting in Guantanamo without the benefit of representation.
--Energy companies are still raping the land with wanton abandon.
--The Big Money interests are rocking on with no more oversight than they had under Republican watch.
--To my mind, the worst (until tonight): A president who garnered every single pro-union vote in the nation turned his back on organized labor in Wisconsin and has been absolutely mute on the subject of workers' rights.
--And now we're bombing Libya. I'm sorry, but what's happening in Libya has to be settled in Libya. America has spit in the eyeball of national sovereignty for 110 years and counting. This is all about our oil supply. Civil wars rage in Africa, genocides continue unabated, and we don't lift a finger. If it happens in a country bubbling with crude, we bomb.

President Obama, you're a disgrace. You promised to support collective bargaining. You haven't. You promised to shut down Guatanamo. You haven't. You said things would change. They have. For the worse.

You had a bully pulpit. Why didn't you use it?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beta's diagnosis/ Anne gets a challenge

Beta has malignant cancer. We caught it before it hit her lymph nodes, but it's only a matter of time before the tumors return. Lady readers, please get your preventative appointments! Unlike Beta Cat, you would understand when the doctor came forward with your lab results. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


But don't fret, readers (all three of you)! Beta's had a lovely life, with a few tough runs at the beginning, and occasional beat-ups by Alpha. There will be no more surgery for her. She'll live out her days in my little back yard, micing and moling and baby-bunnying. And sleeping all curled up with Spare.

Next week there will be a whole new and very difficult challenge for "The Gods Are Bored," and I hope you'll help me with it. I don't know what pantheon I get this from, but I feel deeply that the gods do not help us. We have to help ourselves. We have to sink or swim on our own, no matter how bad it gets. But this new challenge isn't something dangerous or desperate ... it's fun, fun, fun! So be prepared ... we are about to prove the power of a blog in a whole new arena. Who's with me?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Be Prepared

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," in the waning days of winter! I'm going to cross my fingers and hope we don't get a late-season snowstorm.

When I think about my grandparents, I recall how they devoted the months of August and September to canning. Even when they got old, they still canned up a storm. In fact, I took it as a sign of ill health when I started hearing them grouse at each other and make mistakes in the process.

By October, my grandmother would have rows and rows of home-canned goods lining her pantry shelf. This food would not have been enough in and of itself to get my grandparents through the winter ... or maybe it would have been, if they conserved. And shot squirrels, which taste just like chicken.

I think of this because, if I were told to stay in my house for a week and not come out, I'd be hard-pressed to feed the three mouths living in there based on the contents of my cupboards. The only creature at Chateau Johnson who is prepared for a siege is Decibel the parrot, whose big bags of bird food typically last about three weeks in the wintertime.

Mr. J and I sometimes argue about being prepared for dire contingencies. He says I'm an alarmist, that I shouldn't worry my daughters with the prospect of a solar storm knocking out the power grid, or a meltdown at one of the many nuclear power plants to the west of our house.

With all due respect, husband, I'm going to get some cans. No, I'm going to get lots of cans and watch the expiration dates on them. Whatever is on sale at the grocery store this week, I'm going to buy.

I have pantry shelves in my basement. Right now they're being used to store holiday decorations for every season. I look at those shelves and think of Grandma. She would have had 30 cans of green beans there instead of a light-up jack-o-lantern.

It may be foolish optimism that would make me hoard food, but what's the harm in having disaster food supplies? What do you think about water, reader? Should I stockpile that too? Our local water comes from an aquifer.

In the event of a prolonged power outage, I believe we could keep at least one room warm with our existing supply of firewood, furniture, and books. We have lots of books. Call me Savonarola if you will, but I'll need something to keep off the chill.

What do you think? Stockpile candles too? I'm serious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

John Cures All

Well, it's hard to be cheerful in the face of the consequences of our human need for generated power. But when I get the blues like this, I fall back on the peerless talents of John Cowan and the New Grass Revival. Google any music site and let John take your troubles away.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Nature of Deity: Round Table Discussion

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I can't believe I spelled Pi wrong in my previous post! *face palm* I ripped and roared a little bit too much over the weekend. But still -- pie? What was I thinking about? Hmmmm. I wonder....

When I was in college at JHU, my paleontology professor said that in 30 million years, California will be an island off the coast of Alaska. That's how active the tectonic plates are around the Pacific Rim. And from both satellite and ground, we can see what a seismic shift can do to a landmass.

Let's cut to the chase. What deity do we blame for this restless Earth? It's events like what just happened in Japan that made my beloved dad an agnostic at best, and mostly an atheist.

Think about it for a minute. If we presuppose that deities have our welfare as Their primary concern, how could any one (or group) of Them created such a wackadoo of a planet?

This seemed like a question to put to the bored gods, so I sent out requests for a round table discussion. Needless to say, Yahweh is a no-show (although He was invited). In His place we have the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Also joining us this evening are some deities with Underworld experience. Please give a warm, wonderful, "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Tepeyollotl, Umvelinqangi, and Eresshkigal! (Sacred to the ancient Aztecs, Zulus, and Mesopotamians, in that order.)

Anne: Welcome, O mighty deities! Here are some fine offerings of pecan Pi for you! And no, don't eat the Spaghetti. He's one of You!

Eresshkigal: When people start worshiping noodles, it's time to throw up your hands.

Tepeyollotl: Or just throw up.

Anne: Now, now, bored deities! At present there are growing numbers of Flying Spaghetti Monster devotees, while Your own praise and worship teams have languished to the point that You are called ...

Eresshkigal: Don't you DARE say the "m" word!

(All, including FSM): WE ARE NOT MYTHS!

Anne: Hey, did I say You were? Chillax! Remember where You are! This is "The Gods Are Bored." We never use the "m" word here, except to point out that any deity can become a "myth" if His or Her (or Their) praise and worship team dies out or becomes the victim of a hostile takeover. No, today's essential question is the philosophical one that has bedeviled the human race since the beginning of time: What sort of deity creates a haphazard world where bad things happen to good people, and really, really bad things happen completely at random? Please explain to me why the Koch brothers are more worthy than the poor Japanese and their children who just got mortally smacked down.

Umvelinqangi: Any deity can answer that for you, Anne. You are not to question the ways of the gods.

Anne: Yes, I've heard that one. But what I want to know is, why? Who's accountable here? Who created this fragile, fickle planet and then set us adrift on it...

FSM: You're drifting on it now, but the dinosaurs had it first.

Anne: Whoa! I didn't know you could talk, Noodly Master!

FSM: I'm just trying it out. Not sure I want to make it a permanent part of the playlist. I keep putting my feet in my mouth.

Eresshkigal: That wouldn't be a good idea if you were hungry, Sticky String God.

Anne: Back to the essential question. Which deity is responsible for the faulty nature of the planet's geology? Seems to me like any half-decent deity could create a planet that wouldn't stir up so many disasters. Is there anything too difficult for a deity to do? Or do You just not particularly care about humans?

Tepeyollotl: The trouble starts when people give us praise for all the great things that happen, and then ask us not to do any mean things. We don't roll like that. We're on a totally different plane of existence.

Anne: Okay, so You don't care what happens to us humans, and You screwed up the plumbing in the Earth-moving machinery.

Tepeyollotl: No, it's not like that at all. The ones who are screwing up are you people.

Anne: Yeah, right. Like we created the tectonic plates! Oh please.

FSM: Maybe the Earth just happened. You know, like chemistry and physics reactions taking place over time.

Anne: Well, then, where do the deities enter the picture?

Eresshkigal: We entered it when you began to experience the levels of perception. Trouble is, you're not very good at it yet, so you graft all these human traits onto Us. Blame Us when things go wrong. Praise Us when things go right. It's not that simple.

Anne: I never did think it was simple as Pi.

Umvelinqangi: Give up the Pi puns, Anne. We all get it. You were tired and working without your glasses.

Anne: So, Great Ones, are You only in it for the good times, and You step back during the dark hours? Or do You pick us up and carry us, like that sappy Yahweh story that gets sent in chain emails?

Tepeyollotl: None of the above. We operate in a different reality entirely. The universe is far more complicated than humans can imagine. Even your computers don't get it, and they probably never will. That being said, I wonder if I could take a piece of Pi for the road. It's a long way back to Mexico.

Anne: Oh, yes, please ... all of you help yourselves! I know that humans have a history of making "offerings" and then sneaking off to eat or drink them behind the altar. But I'm watching my girlish figure just now. The Pi is all yours.

FSM: No thanks on the Pi, but could I roll in a little of that Calabrian olive oil you bought at the Italian market?

Anne: It's pretty expensive stuff, Noodly Master.

FSM (whiny): But I'm a God!

Anne: So You are, but You're still working Your way up the ladder. Crisco will be just fine for You.

FSM: I'm offended.

Anne: No you aren't. You exist on an entirely different plane of perception, where no offense is given or taken. (To the other deities) I've got that right, don't I?

Eresshkigal: As close to right as you're going to get, Anne. By the way, if you put a little bit more vanilla in this Pi filling, it will be better.

Anne: Advice from the Goddess! I am blessed.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pie Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we have just returned from a weekend of festivities and are contemplating how it will feel when that alarm clock rings in the morning. That would be Monday morning, 3/14.

Thanks be to Facebook, it's International Pi Day!

Hasn't the Greek version of Pi always reminded you of Stonehenge? No? Well, nuts to you. Go play in the traffic.

Here's a nice Pi poem, courtesy of the day:

Irrational number, Pi, oh me!
Before the decimal comes 3.
After the decimal it becomes fun,
First the tenths, and that is 1.
Must I tell you even more?
The tenth is followed then by a 4.
After that, within the mix,
 1-5-9 becomes 1-6.
In case you're looking for some sense,
Use Pi to find circumference.

 If you ever had any doubts that this site is infected by faeries, the above should put them to rest. We are viral with faeries. They dictate. We perform.

Friday, March 11, 2011

There's a Tsunami in Your Future, Mr. Billionaire

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you wondering what union-bashing and a killer earthquake/tsunami have in common? Well, read on -- and please pardon the typos, I don't have my computer glasses on.

When people wonder why the very wealthiest people everywhere are squirreling away their money and are not willing to part with it through taxes, they're overlooking the obvious. Within about 20 years, a very wealthy person will be able to live indefinitely.

Advances in cell biology and robotics are bringing us closer and closer to fabulous longevity. Not just some geezer living to be 100. A vibrant, young, healthy 200-year-old, spending an afternoon on the links after a morning jog and a fling with his mistress.

Wealthy people will soon be able to cheat death. And when you're planning to live 400 years, you don't want to be paying the doctor bills for someone who's only going to suck up the planet's resources and then die anyway.

Oh, brave new world! Am I the only one who sees this as the end game?

The one great leveler of the playing field is death. Once death can be conquered, the rich will truly be different from you and me.

This is when Gaia will step in and keep that playing field level.

Our planet is restless. Its landmasses float around on a liquid mantle, crashing and crushing against each other, causing volcanoes and earthquakes. Outer space is loaded with debris that can and will fall from the sky. And that fickle star from which we draw all life could get a bit stormy and short out the whole planet's power grid. Yes, I read this on Yahoo ... It's a worst case scenario, but it could happen.

If the power grid fails for even a few days, the playing field will be leveled in a snap. Just ask hurricane (or earthquake) victims what happens at night when there's no electricity. Now imagine it being that way for weeks.

My message to Joe "The Plumber" Billionaire is this: Go ahead and seek physical immortality. You may just live to see the most dreadful geological event in human history. Ah, what fun! May you be on your 89th visit to Yellowstone when it blows. You'll be just as dead as the worker who can't get cancer treatments, the one whose health insurance got reduced while you never saw a tax increase.

Joe, you cannot cheat the Reaper. On Planet Earth, even the king must die.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Beta Blogging

Have you ever tried to type with a cat's head between your fingers?

I'm very pleased to report that Beta Johnson is two days home from her surgery and on the mend. She does not like being given antibiotics, and I'm sure it will get harder as she feels better. But just now she's on my lap, purring and butting my hands.

I got surgery for Beta because of Spare. But now that Beta's home I believe she was worth the patch-up. She is a great mouser and moler, so she earns her keep. Heck, she even smacks down the basement crickets.

So, Ceiling Cat, look down upon us (although You aren't bored) and help me get Beta's antibiotic into her. By baby bird season Spare will be cursing her again.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Soreness in My Heart

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored." As always, a pleasure.

My daughter The Heir is home on spring break. She loves to rummage. Since our home's crawlspace is in her room, she dug in there and found some stuff I didn't know I had.

When my sister moved from West Virginia to Maryland, she gave me a bunch of junk  that I just stashed upstairs. Heir went through it and found a bundle of letters written by my mother back in the late 1970s.

The letters begin in the spring of 1977 and run until late autumn 1978. My mother wrote them to a therapist she saw at that time. He must have returned them to her in bulk, either at her request or on his own initiative. The envelopes are there, and they're postmarked, and they are not stamped "return to sender," so I assume that the therapist at least opened them. Whether he read them or not I cannot surmise.

My mother suffered terribly from bipolar disorder, and these letters are a classic study of the illness. However, even looking at them is a painful ordeal for me. There are 76 letters in the bag, all of them hand-written, all of them at least three pages, some more. Through the summer of 1977 she wrote to him about three times a week.

I took the letters to my personal haven, the laundromat. While my towels were spinning, I perused them. I had a decision to make: leave them in the laundromat trash can, or bring them home for future generations. They are, after all, primary source material on a mental condition that can be inherited.

I brought them home. They will go back into the crawlspace. But with them I must place a narrative document that will explain their provenance. This will not be easy to write.

I'm wondering what planet is in retrograde, because this is shaping up to be a very difficult week indeed.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Navel Gazing on Vulture Day 2011: Swap

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We're coming down off a buzzard high today. Another East Coast Vulture Festival has come and gone. Alas.

This year's fest was only an afternoon affair for kids and parents. There were buzzard crafts and walks to a buzzard roost. My friend Wanda came down, and let me tell you, she's an ace photographer. Here's one from the buzzard lookout:

If I didn't love Polish Mountain so much, I'd change my desktop image to that one right there! If you're reading this, and you're Goth to the core, I don't think Wanda will mind if you steal it.

When I dress up in the big buzzard costume, I get my picture taken about 100 times with little kids, with teenagers, even with grownups. And I never get to see the pictures. As "Buzzy," I don't talk, so I can't ask for photos to be emailed to me. Therefore it's extra special to me that Wanda snapped this candid portrait of me, Buzzy, with my devoted fans.

Some kids are more devoted than others.

Human nature being what it is, some little kids are frightened by a big, tall buzzard with shiny wings that flutter in the wind. Others are curious, and still others just want to wrap their arms around you and hug you. Yesterday there was one teeny little tot, just barely toddling, who wanted to "feed" me. She kept bringing over leaves and stones and holding them up to my "beak." It was so cute I wanted to die with that being my last memory. Another little "Cindy Lou Who," hardly more than two, asked me, "Is this a costume?" And when I nodded yes, she soberly whispered, "I won't tell anyone."

On the other hand, the 4th grade Girl Scouts wanted to know why the vulture was wearing skinny jeans. I guess I got lazy. I didn't want to wear the tights.

Some kids played "blind buzzard's bluff" with me, and others just tentatively touched the feathers. The adults who run the festival greeted me as a long-lost "Buzzy" friend. Some of them literally never see me out of the costume, since I park two blocks away and walk up the street wearing it.

From my point of view the weather was perfect for this year's festival. It wasn't cold, but it was breezy, and that helped to get oxygen into the costume. I still couldn't breathe and see at the same time, but at least I could breathe when I wanted to. That isn't always the case in this challenging mascot gear.

When the festival ended at 5:00, I started back toward my car and took the vulture head off midway. I walked by a tree with about 30 vultures sitting in it and more honing in. Looking to disprove the heretic that says these birds smell bad, I stood straight under the tree to take a whiff. The ground had white droppings on it, but there was no odor at all. None. Nada. Zip.

I looked up and saw a buzzard looking down at me. Not for the first time, I felt like I must have been a vulture in a former life ... and that being human is a step down. Anyway, I caught the buzzard's eye and said, "Swap." As in, swap lives with me.

At that moment the tree exploded, and every vulture in it took off. I guess I spooked them -- or maybe the thought of swapping lives with a human was so unappealing that they couldn't get away fast enough. I prefer to think it was the latter.

I put the Buzzy costume in the car, wiping a tear, and drove up to say goodbye to the other members of Church of the Holy Thunderbird. Literally, some of them had never seen me outside the costume before. As we were all standing there congratulating ourselves on another successful Vulture Day, the most enormous kettle of vultures any of us had ever seen filled the sky from horizon to horizon. They were dancing on the breeze -- more buzzards than any of us could count. It seemed to me that they were just having a good time up there, riding a roller coaster of wind gusts. We all stood transfixed at the glorious sight. Then the buzzards dispersed, and in a moment the sky was nearly empty again.

Life is both nature and nurture. I think of the kids growing up in Wenonah, having a fun day based on the quiet birds that winter in their town. I think of the pickup basketball game on the school playground, being watched by two dozen vultures perched on the water tower, and the boys not paying any mind to the vultures at all. And then I think of the kids in Staunton, Virginia, who are fearing and hating buzzards, trying to scare them off with dogs and paint guns, complaining about the vomit and the odor, and the possibility that their kittens will be whisked off for dinner. Which children will grow up with the view that all of Nature has beauty? Which kids will grow up less fearful of everything?

 I have come to love New Jersey. Don't tell Mr. J or my kids, but as soon as both daughters are out of the house, I'm going to contact a realtor in Wenonah. I think Mr. J would like it there, and it's only just a little farther from Philly than Snobville. Fifteen miles as opposed to five. But what a difference those ten miles make!

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Wanna Fly Like a Buzzard

Saturday, March 5, 2011 is Vulture Day in Wenonah, New Jersey.


Let no one shower disrespect on New Jersey. We know better than anyone (except the people in West Virginia and Kentucky) how very stinky the world can be.

This is why we pay homage to vultures.

If you can't smell road kill while eating breakfast, thank a vulture.

If you're not tripping over possum slime on your sidewalk, thank a vulture.

If you love ancient Egypt, thank a vulture.

If you've seen that big, rocky thing in Georgia, thank a vulture.

If you'd rather soar than flap, thank a vulture.

If bald is beautiful, thank a vulture.

If the sky entertains you, thank a vulture.

If the world is clean, thank a vulture.

If humans aren't the best of everything ... thank a vulture.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Fred Phelps: Your Turn, Moron!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Here at this little dumping ground, we are fierce proponents of the First Amendment. Yes, freedom of speech is an important Constitutional guarantee, and today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it again. Military families have no protection from the Westboro Baptist Church and its right to free expression. Fred Phelps and his family can yell "God Hates Fags" and publish profane statements about deceased combat veterans. Hey, it's how they roll, and the Bill of Rights rolls with them.

This is as it should be, readers. We can't erode freedom of speech.

So let's use it.

The Westboro Baptist Church (an embarrassment even to the real Baptists, who don't embarrass easily) is the platform for our nation's most despicable, deplorable, demented, and disturbed retro-hominid. Fred Phelps didn't just inherit some whack job gene from sewer rat parents. He got a boatload of defective DNA, a veritable buffet of poorly organized peptides. To call this Gollum a moron is an affront to morons everywhere. Phelps delves deep into the sludge pits where even the likes of Rick Santorum and Clarence Thomas fear to penetrate. To put it plainly, there's no new low to stoop to until Fred Phelps sets the bar. He is the final force in the universe of low.

Fred Phelps's god hates fags because Fred Phelps's god is a Great Beast. Yes, you can't really identify Fred Phelps's god with any known deity outside a few sparse Bible verses that were probably written by some saggy old priest somewhere who wasn't getting any. We won't even tar and feather Yahweh with Fred Phelps. Granted, Yahweh's standards are questionable, but He's not killing U.S. soldiers because of rainbow marriages. This lunacy arises from the mind of Fred Phelps, a creepy sick deviant who probably beats puppies with sticks and pulls the first spring crocuses up because God Hates Purple. Fred Phelps's god belongs to Fred and his family alone: a dirty deity doing dastardly dumbass deeds.

Fred Phelps and his family make China's one-child policy look attractive. If he was a crop, it would be time to rotate, plow under, and plant poison ivy. If he was plastic, he'd be the one piece you wouldn't recycle. If he was news, it wouldn't be fit to print. If he was a car, you would park him on a dark street and leave the keys in the ignition. If he was a fur coat, we would all move to Florida, and if he was a bathing suit we'd high-tail it for the Yukon. If he was gum disease, we would all floss.

Every bored god that ever was hates Fred Phelps. I have personally petitioned numerous deities to rain misery upon Fred's head. Every time he has a flat tire, it's the wrath of a bored god. That fungus under his toenails? A bored god from Borneo (thanks be unto Him). Even as we speak, Aphrodite is making Fred Phelps's wife uglier and Fred hornier. That pesky mud puddle Fred stepped in at his last military funeral? Sent by Chac the Rain God. You go, Chac!

May a thousand small but highly annoying calamities befall Fred Phelps over the course of a day, a month, a year. And let us, one and all, make note of where he gets buried, so we can expectorate and release flatulence upon his grave. We'll get a sign-up sheet and do it in shifts, like an eternal flame.

Go to hell, Fred Phelps ... if hell will have you. Don't ask me about your chances with that pantheon. I doubt if even the Devil would want your sick-ass company. So go and die in an existential way. Cease to exist, leave no trace, go to oblivion and don't return. Think of yourself as light leaving a star, and just travel across the universe without hitting anything until you reach a Black Hole with very, very low standards of what it will suck inside itself.

I'm Anne Johnson, and I have a First Amendment right to say that Fred Phelps is a demon spawn. It's a damned shame the rest of us have to share this planet with him. If I ever see him I will shout loudly at him, words I don't usually use. But I won't ask him to kiss my ass. We all know what those lips say, but we don't know where they've been. Touch my flesh with them? I. Think. Not.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Beta Bears the Burden

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" A sad note tonight: My cat Beta has breast cancer.

Around Christmas time, maybe a little bit earlier, Spare noticed that Beta had some lumps under her right limb. They've gotten bigger and badder since, and Beta is starting to slow down a little. So I took her to the vet, and he wants to operate.

I'm a farm girl at heart. I'm not one of these people who wails, "Oh, Doctor, keep my kitty alive at all costs!" I don't disrespect people who feel that way. I'm just not one of them. To me, being an animal is all about quality of life. If you're content and pain-free, if you can come and go at whim, and if you can keep your chin up around the other kitty cats, then okay. You're good to go. When you start feeling bad, then you're going to go to the Summerlands, quickly and painlessly.

Except in the case of Beta, the doctor says that with surgery she'll live to her normal life expectancy with no major further problems. The cancer might return, but it won't be so aggressive that I will have wasted my money.

Knowing how attached the Spare is to this kitty, I'll make the sacrifices to get the operation. Spare tamed Beta in the first place. (Beta was a feral teenage mom, living behind our garage.)

I'm sitting here wondering how I'm going to get Clavimox pills into Beta, and how she will recuperate from such major surgery. But I'm going to do it. As much for the Spare as for Beta. But I don't want to watch Beta waste away in less than a year (doctor's prognosis w/out the surgery).

The buzzards will have to wait for Beta. Off we go to a lighter note.

Beta is my second cat. The first and older one is Alpha. When we adopted Alpha, we had to promise that we would never get another cat, because Alpha doesn't play well with others. But Spare tamed Beta, and Beta was so plain I thought she'd never get adopted, so we kept her.

Alpha and Beta have never gotten along. "Barely tolerate" is the extent of it.

Sometime this winter, the glass panes broke in one of our basement windows. I've been waiting to get some money together (?!!?) to get the window fixed. Turns out this has to be a high priority.

Today the neighboring cat, lovingly known in this household as Mestopheles (a daily outside nemesis), decided to pay an indoor visit by way of the broken window. Mr. J. came in for a cup of coffee and found a three-cat ruckus in progress. You would think that Alpha and Beta would team up to repel the invader, but Mr. J. says it was more of a tag-team affair, with each cat for herself and all teeing off on one another. Decibel the Parrot, who served as referee, gave the match to Mestopheles. Nobody in my house gets along.

This sermon is basically about two things. First, take care of your health. If I had ignored Beta's lumps (given that she's only barely lost a fraction of her energy), she'd have been a goner. Now, her chances are good ... and I may even think of a creative fundraiser to finance her care. Second, look after those pesky home repairs. Or else.