Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What the Fringe Element Does for Us

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hippie-dippy edition! Just stop by here for all the sex, drugs, and rock n roll you can handle. We'll fly the astral plane, take a trip around the Bay, bring you back the same day... da da da dum dum!

I'm just barely old enough to remember hippies. What I remember about hippies is what most people remember, if they think about it -- there weren't many true hippies. If you want to know what it was like to be a true hippie, read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe.

True hippies did the Timothy Leary thing: They turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. If they were political at all, they didn't live any one place long enough to vote.

When we think of "hippie," we think of draft protesters and flag-burners, and young people taking over college campuses (and getting shot for it). These people looked like hippies, but they were intensely engaged in the political process. And their influence was out-sized. Politicians courted them and listened to their demands. Thanks to these political "hippies," we no longer have a draft, people can vote at age 18, abortions are legal, and it's ok to burn the flag.

The counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s was led by a small group of loud people and was given big-time press coverage. It sent shock waves of fear through Mainstream America. The Summer of Love spawned the Moral Majority. It gave us Richard Nixon as a president. Ordinary folks were just shocked to the core by all this protesting ... and sex ... and drugs ... and long hair.

The backlash to hippies was the conservative resurgence.

Now we are faced with a new group of loud, politically active, outsider freaks who are getting a great deal of press time. They are the Tea Party movement, the Dominionists, the "Pray Away the Gay" morons like Rick Santorum. These people are a tiny minority of Americans, just as the hippies were. And just like the hippies, they're getting some political traction.

Fear not, gentle reader! The same ordinary, run-of-the-mill Americans who were shocked by the hippies will be equally shocked by the Tea Party and by people who want to re-name Washington, DC the "District of Christ." Fringe groups make a lot of noise, and sometimes they change national policy, but inevitably there will be a backlash against them. Illogical as it may sound, the Tea Party may usher in a prolonged period of liberal politics.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" feel pretty certain that the conservative fringe will get loud enough, and belligerent enough, to nauseate the mainstream. Eventually their traction will fail, and they'll all go limping off to the Elks Club, and Bible Study, and minor league baseball games. Their only legacy may be reducing the amount of health care Americans can get. Vote at 18 vs. reduced or eliminated Medicare. Well, I know which one of those options is better for our nation!

"District of Christ?" Meet "Summer of Love." We all wanna change the world.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And now for the REAL hurricane...

Tomorrow I go back to school. It's freshmen orientation, and I will be teaching three sections of freshmen this year. I will also have three sections of sophomores. I will not have the freshmen Honors section.

I have a new teacher coach. Last year he was the department supervisor, but he somehow got knocked down a peg. He is 29 or 30, young enough to be my son. It is due to his change in status that my schedule got re-arranged, that I got sophomores, that I lost Honors.

Remember last year when so many of you fine readers sent copies of The Great Gatsby for use in my classroom? I want to thank you again for that. I'm hoping I get Honors again some day. I'm not considering teaching Gatsby to the regular College Prep kids. But I have the books! And last year's Honors class really liked the story.

This year I'm not asking y'all for any hand-outs ... except ... I'm sure my Patience Extender is getting worn out. It was almost completely broken in June. It won't possibly last another ten months. So, if you could please send me a Patience Extender, I would appreciate it.


Monday, August 29, 2011

God's Fault Again!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" My, what a mighty wind we had here! And six inches of rain! There are trees down, and power outages, and limbs in the streets, and every waterway is flooded. All up and down the East Coast, everything's a mess. Poor Asbury Park! I looked at some YouTubes, but none of them were good enough to post here. Suffice it to say that tourist season is over for that boardwalk.

Guess who is to blame for this hurricane? God!

Busy God, sending messages to the politicians in Washington, DC. The message? Politicians spend too much taxpayer money. Except now the politicians will have to spend even more taxpayer money to clean up after the hurricane! Who is the dummy here: God, or Michele Bachmann?

The smart money's on Michele. What a moron!

The good news out of Chateau Johnson is that all of our trees survived and we only lost power sporadically, like any old thunderstorm.

Now, mind you, I didn't leave the protection of my household and its residents up to pure chance and the vagaries of weather patterns. Oh no! I petitioned safety of a whole slew of bored deities: Chac (see below), Hurracan, Oya, Oshun, and Triton. And because They weren't busy sending a message to Washington, DC, They put up a celestial wall of safety around my house and loved ones!

If you are visiting this site because of all my dissing of Cindy Jacobs and other Christian warriors (of which Michele Bachmann is clearly one), please ponder this a moment.

A leading politician claims that the God of Cindy Jacobs caused an earthquake and a hurricane -- serious, deadly stuff. My bored gods, on the other hand, quietly and efficiently saved my family from harm, while feeling no particular need to send a political message to Washington.

Busy deities get blamed for everything. Bored deities aren't burdened with such baggage. So, why go with the god who feels the need to send messages in a showy, destructive way? Seek ye the bored gods and goddesses who have the time to care for you, and the gentility not to use major weather systems to make a point.

The word of the bored gods, for the people of the bored gods, thanks be to the bored gods! Yep.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Interview with a Bored God: Chac

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" About an hour ago it was raining cats and dogs. Now it's raining farm animals. And by the time Hurricane Irene gets fired up, we'll be seeing elephants and giraffes falling on the house!

I'm a weather geek, and usually I don't worry about meteorological conditions. This hurricane has me scared. My house is surrounded by mature trees, the ground is already saturated, and every time we get a fairly windy thunderstorm our power goes out. As soon as I'm through interviewing our "Gods Are Bored" guest, I'm going to turn the computer off and unplug it.

Before I introduce today's guest, I want to respond to the commenter who wanted to know how our modern Tea Partiers and Dominionists, etc. are like the hippies of 1968. I wrote a lot about that back when I first started TGAB in 2005, but I'll gladly cover that ground again next week.

But that will have to wait, because I've got a visitor. You might think it would be Hurracan, but no. Today we have Chac the Rain God, sacred to the Aztec peoples. Please give him an extraordinarily warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome!

Anne: Chac, I'm on my knees to you. Please, please don't let us get washed away! Why are you doing this?

Chac: Mortals. So annoying! If it's dry, they pray for rain. If it rains too much, they pray for the sun to come out.

Anne: We've had a lot of rain around here this summer, Chac. Whoa! It's getting harder by the minute, even as I write! Must you?

Chac: This deluge will re-stock every aquifer and every reservoir on the Eastern Seaboard. Try to look at the bright side!

Anne: Hard to look on the bright side when it's also getting cloudier and dimmer by the moment. And the mosquitoes! Have mercy!

Chac: I show no mercy. If you want mercy, reduce your carbon emissions. You think nothing of driving your car 200 miles to Polish Mountain, and 200 miles back. Look at all the cars! The factories! Warms up the ocean. Gives me power. And when I get super-charged, I just go hog wild.

Anne: You've got a point, Great Rain God. I am partly to blame for this. But truthfully, these atmospheric conditions have occurred throughout history ... so it pretty much would happen anyway, from time to time -- just like the earthquake last week.

Chac: Yeah, well, I gotta do what I gotta do. It's my job. And with your modern forecasting techniques, any fool who doesn't get out of my way deserves what he gets.

Anne: That's true. You are a wise God. So I will petition you for just two simple things.

Chac: Making no promises, but I'll listen.

Anne: Please go easy on the trees, insofar as having them fall. Remember, trees are a line of defense against global warming.

Chac: Some trees will fall. I'm a Rain God, not a Tree God. You're interviewing the wrong deity.

Anne: Okay, forget the trees. Please spare the Silver Ball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Chac: Done. Pinky swear. I love that place!

Anne: You go there?

Chac: Sometimes when money is short I sell hot dogs there. The owner is a great guy.

Anne: I'm gonna let you go now. Clearly you're having a busy day.

Chac: Yes. When it rains, it pours.

Anne: In this case, when it pours, it deluges.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Earth Moved and Swallowed My Farm

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," East Coast earthquake edition! I'm your host, Anne Johnson: shaken and stirred.

Murphy's Law: If there's a measurable earthquake in my neighborhood, where do you think I'll be? Taking a shower, of course! And that's what I was doing when the whole house started to rumble and grumble, the bathroom door began banging, and all the slippery surfaces under my wet feet began to sway. When I determined that no one was actually rattling the bathroom door, I knew it was an earthquake. I experienced one once, in Detroit. So I just grabbed the shower bar, and -- voila! -- in a few seconds it was over.

On the other hand, Heir, Spare, Mr. J, and most of my neighbors hadn't ever felt a quake. The street filled with panicked suburbanites. Heir immediately began to fret about aftershocks, and when she turned on the news and heard about all the building evacuations in Philly, Baltimore, and DC, she was just sure we should all lay flat on the ground out in a field somewhere!

Pish, tosh, said I. Mr. J and I went forward with our plans -- a short honeymoon getaway in New Castle, Delaware. It was very romantic, peering across the murky Delaware Bay as big barges motored by, at the vista of smokestack-cluttered Jersey on the far shore.

Ah, well, it appears that the flatlands will be my home for the rest of my sorry life.

The earth did indeed move on August 23. My highly motivated cousins found a buyer for the family farm on Polish Mountain. Out of nine people with a vested interest in the property, I am the only one who didn't want to sell it. My ancestors lived in that area as early as 1720. They were the first non-native residents of that rocky region. I am the first generation to have sought my fortunes in the big city. Even my dad taught school in Appalachia.

By the time the government takes taxes from my share of the sale, I'll be left with enough money to cover one semester of college tuition for one of my daughters. One set of useless textbooks, one cluster of pompous scholars in return for all of this beautiful land.

With the sale of the property, I don't believe (in our culture) that I can call myself "Appalachian." I can say I'm "from Appalachia," but if I don't own a chunk of it, I can't claim citizenship.

At a crucial turning point in my life, I chose to go to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to study writing, instead of going to Frostburg University to study forestry. Needless to say, my parents were thrilled by this decision. Mom had a new mantra: "You'll marry a doctor!"

I moved to the city. I've lived in cities ever since. But I always had the farm to "go home to." Honestly, I was hoping no one would step up to buy it, especially in this economy. And from the sketchy report sent by my cousin, I fear that the buyer is a developer. He owns other properties in the area. But I certainly can't meet his price, and if I did he might up the ante.

On August 23, I felt an earthquake that lasted 15 seconds. And an earthquake that will last forever. An inner San Francisco that has crushed my heart.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"The Gods Are Bored" will not be publishing today, as it is the author's 27th wedding anniversary.

Ain't love grand?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fairies and Faeries Really Do Exist. Really.

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Your patronage is important to us. If you have a complaint, please take a number and be seated. Someone will be with you shortly.

My three regular readers know that I have a shrine in my back yard that is dedicated to all the bored gods whose names and identities have been lost in the mists of time. Sort of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, except not a tomb, because deities are immortal.

Showing the utmost respect, I have made this shrine fairy/faerie-worthy by placing all sorts of wonderful pretty stuff  in it: sea glass, iridescent marbles, crystals, Marcellus shale, sea shells ... rocks from places I've been. In the middle of last week, I found a bag of beautiful minerals at the thrift store. They're now on the Shrine of the Mists.

My shrine sits under an ancient pear tree that bears inedible fruit. Well, I should say that it's inedible to humans. Hornets flock to it. The squirrels seem to like it too, and I have a suspicion the possums and raccoons aren't picky either.

Saturday evening I looked out at my shrine, and I saw wings moving on it. Black wings, beating back and forth contentedly. When I went out with my ritual candle, I found a swallowtail butterfly feeding on a pear that had fallen into the shrine. Careful not to disturb the butterfly, I set down my candle (mindful also of the happy hornets that wouldn't be happy if I stepped on them).

When I put the candle on the altar stone, I noticed a single wing lying on the stone. It was beautiful. Looked like this.

I said to the butterfly, "You'd better be careful. A faerie has lost its wing and will probably be back for it."

Then, as a prank, I went back into the house and called The Spare. "Spare!" I shouted. "There's a faerie on the shrine!"

She came downstairs. I pointed to the black object at the edge of the shrine. It wasn't moving.

Spare (oozing teenage disbelief) started down the back porch steps. Slowly. Just as she hit the bottom step, the butterfly moved its wings one beat. And Spare jumped a mile! Then she went to investigate, came back inside with teenage disbelief firmly established, and coolly informed me that it was a swallowtail butterfly.

Yes. There was a butterfly sipping a pear on my shrine Saturday afternoon. It was a butterfly. But what happened to the wing on the altar stone? When I went back outside Sunday, the wing was gone! It couldn't have blown away -- the shrine is bowl-shaped with walls.

It's gone. The faerie wing is gone.

Personally I do not need evidence from my five senses to have the faerie faith. If you do, there you have it. This was a wing right out of Arthur Rackham, and it disappeared overnight.

The moral of this sermon is simple indeed. Faeries exist, and you had better show them respect.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Someone Warn Rick and Michele: Church Attendance Is Declining

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Oh, I just love getting my news from the radio! It's easier for me to avoid having to link!

Driving around a bit this morning, a Sunday, not much going on in the news. A report comes on that says church attendance is declining. I don't know if church attendance is declining just in the Delaware Valley (where I live), or everywhere across the nation. That's the thing about radio. It can be nebulous.

What interested me about this report was the speculation offered as to these declining numbers. The reporter said that people are probably avoiding Christian churches because of the emphasis on nuclear families (which most people don't have anymore).

I'm not sure I buy this. I've never personally seen a single mother, or a teen mother, showered with disdain or disrespect in a church. Usually they are welcomed with open arms -- especially by the single men who go to church in search of companionship.

Here's why I think church attendance is declining:

1. Politicians who mix church and state turn people off. When all you have left in the churches are the people who want the U.S.A. to be run on biblical precepts, you're gonna have some big, empty pews.

2. Churches always ask you for money. I just wrote a post about this last week. If you don't have enough cash to fix your own leaky roof, are you going to submit yourself to a stewardship sermon requesting tithe money to fix the church's leaky roof?

3. Our society is changing. When I was a kid, church was the only game in town on Sunday. Everything else was closed. Now you've got appealing brunch options, soccer games, open shopping malls, and the wonderful laundromat, bustling with busy sinners like me!

4. Church attendance, at least in big cities, has never been all that impressive. I guess in small towns, where everyone you know goes to church, you're more inclined to do it yourself. Where I live, it's just as easy to go to a museum ... and less expensive.

If there's a cautionary aspect to this sermon, it's just this: The harder the fringe Christians press their agenda, the more people they'll alienate. Loud fringe groups who have outsized influence on politics are always met by a backlash. If you want to know why we even have to deal with the Dominionists and the Moral Majority and all these fools, just go back to 1968 and ask yourself what the hippies wrought.

I think I'll keep listening to news radio on Sunday. If I hear that church attendance is growing by leaps and bounds, I'll be concerned about the future of America. Checks and balances are good things, in government and society at large.

E pluribus unum.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Used Black Magic To Teach a Kid To Read

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" This may be the first and last time I ever talk about black magic, so do a bookmark or whatever. I never intend to do black magic, but occasionally it happens by chance ... and in this case it had the desired effect.

Now, all you school teachers, read up on this post. You may want to use this spell too.

Earlier this week I went to a school meeting about a thing called data driven assessment. This is basically where you use standardized test scores to plan your lessons and to see which kids are learning, and what they're learning. All of this based on little bubbles they fill in using Number Two pencils. After they take the standardized tests, the school sends them to this geeky company (name withheld), where they're inputted and then you can zap into them 100 different ways. The school meeting was basically intended to show us teachers some of those 100 ways to read the data produced by our students.

Now, I would have thought this all to be so much flatulence into the wind. Except, lo and behold, I discovered one student who completely and totally learned to read in one year, with my instruction and black magic!

For the sake of giving him the same kind of due respect our modern educators seem to want for kids, I will call the student 07890.

07890 was one of those students who, if he was interested in the work at hand, would apply himself and do a good job. He caused no trouble, was polite, on time, and usually on task.

On the first of four standardized reading tests I had to give last year, 07890 scored a 1 out of 13. There's no such thing as "hopeless loser" in data-driven instruction. The data company labeled 07890 "partially proficient."

The school year progressed, and 07890 revealed himself to be a rather indifferent student who was satisfied with C-plus grades. One day I said to him, "I've noticed that if we're reading or writing about a topic that interests you, you really get into it."

07890 replied, "Yes, I can't always motivate myself to work on things that don't interest me."

I promised I would try to find books and topics that would interest 07890.

On our second standardized test of the year, 07890 improved slightly. This time he got 3 out of 12 questions correct. You see? Already I was having the kind of influence that only a great teacher can have. He improved 200 percent!

Sadly, on the third standardized test of the year, 07890 plateaued. He got another 3 out of 12.

This was a disappointment. 07890 was somehow maintaining a B/C average in my class, while being unable to read!

Aha. The proof was in the pudding. When the final marking period came, 07890 showed his true colors and began missing assignments, turning in work that was incomplete, and just plain not doing stuff. This is what you would expect of an illiterate student, after all, especially if he's a freshman in high school.

I can't say I didn't warn 07890. I told him he was failing the marking period. He shrugged it off.

So I had to turn to black magic.

This black magic is the well-known teacher spell, "Academic Behavior Report." It's a form letter that teachers send home to parents when students are not doing well in class. I am always loathe to send these things. How do I know what sort of punishment will be meted out upon a kid from a parent who gets the letter? But I had no choice. I might add that, if I had known of 07890's standardized test scores at the time, I might have sent a letter home sooner, just out of sheer concern for his near-complete illiteracy.

A distinctly humbled 07890 came into my classroom a few days later and asked if he would be allowed to make up the assignments he had missed or done incompletely. I gladly granted him complete freedom to do so. I also suggested that he might try a little harder on the next standardized test. If he did well, I said, it might boost his grade.

Imagine my surprise at the teacher meeting on data driven learning, when I saw the computerized assessment of 07890's standardized tests! On the final test of the year -- the test he took after the black magic was applied -- he got 12 out of 12 answers correct. No, I did not help him! There was clearly magic at work from a higher power!

(Here I wish to add that 07890 and all of his fellow freshmen would have done better on Test 3 if the testing company had actually keyed in the correct response for one of the questions. Every single kid got the answer wrong, because they all chose the correct answer -- and the machine was programmed to accept a wrong answer. If this makes sense, then you can see the vast benefits of judging teachers by standardized test results.)

Normally I don't pat myself on the back for spell work, but this case is so rare and exceptional. As a teacher I like to think that I taught a young man to read in one year. And what a convincing actor he was too! You'd have thought, the way 07890 stuck his nose into football books, that he already knew how to read. He sure had me fooled. But no matter! He knows how to read now!

Let us all applaud the presidents and governors and other educational muckamucks who think standardized testing is the shits. They're so right! Any computer can tell you how well your students are doing. The teacher's only role should be to sharpen a large supply of Number Two pencils.

One final note: In school year 2010-11, my students spent seven school days doing standardized tests. This was just great for me too. Think of it. Seven days I didn't have to plan a lesson! Add to that the three days I was out grading standardized essays, and that's two whole weeks of school without one word from the teacher! I tell ya, folks, with a little black magic and a gross of Number Twos, teaching is a snap.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Here Comes the Moron

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" When choosing a deity to worship, keep in mind the way you dress. Some deities like for you to gussy up a bit. Others will take you as you came into the world. Personally I like deities who choose comfort over style. It's just how I roll.

During prom season last spring, Heir, Spare and I were treated horribly in a local dress emporium called Jan's Boutique. It was the busy season, and we went in the store, and a saleslady took one look at us and steered us straight to the cheapest gowns, saying, "I don't think you want to spend $3,000 on a dress, right? Unless maybe you do." (The last said in a very condescending manner.)

This is nothing to the story going viral right now out of dear old New Jersey. A clueless salon in Somer's Point canceled the sale of a bridal dress when they discovered that the purchaser had crossed out "groom" on the application and wrote "partner" instead. In a voice message on a phone, the store owner told the bride-to-be that the store wouldn't participate in anything "illegal," and what the bride was trying to do was "illegal."

I've heard of laws in my time, folks, but have you ever heard of a law against purchasing a bridal gown?

Anyway, the lesbian bride-to-be went ballistic, since she really loved the dress she tried on in the shop. She contacted the Philadelphia Daily News, and now the sad tale has gone viral.

Here's the pathetic, whimpering damage control offered up by the beleaguered shop owner:

The owner certainly got cussed out, and rightly so, but it wasn't during the try-on. It was after the spurned customer got the telephone message that her custom not only was not wanted, but also it was "illegal."

What is it with these people in high-end dress shops? Can they afford to be discriminatory and insulting in their selling practices? If so, why am I teaching school? Their businesses must be booming! If they can turn customers down, or steer them to shoddy merchandise, without thought of profit, they must be comfortable indeed.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" hereby designate Here Comes the Bride, of Somers Point, NJ "moron store of the month." Feel free to let them know what you think.

The only hope this sorry establishment has of staying in business is to relocate. Saudi Arabia springs to mind.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gilligan and the Skipper Need Not Apply

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you a libertarian ... someone who would like the government entirely and completely off your ass in all matters public and private? If so, you may have some interesting housing options in the future.

We all know how Anne sucks at linking, so.....

The gazillionaire founder of PayPal, who is also heavily invested in Facebook, wants to create artificial libertarian islands in international waters. These islands would obey the laws of no country. Guns would be permitted, welfare not.

Can you imagine being a school teacher on a libertarian island?

"Okay, boys and girls, open your books to page 34. That is, if you want to. If you don't want to, you don't have to. You can do whatever you want. This includes distracting the kids who actually do want to learn what's on page 34. If all of you want to play video games, and there aren't enough consoles, then just fight it out. The strongest wins."

Can you imagine being "the help" on a libertarian island?

"I'm not going to clean your house today, Mr. Thiel. I don't feel like doing it. Oh, so you say you aren't going to pay me? Well, then I'll just have to shoot you. There are no laws against it, after all." BANG.

It's not like the idea of libertarian communities hasn't been tried before. There was one, I think it was called Dodge City, somewhere in the American West. Don't quote me, though. I went through a libertarian phase in high school, and I think I missed some classes.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" are all in favor of these expensive libertarian islands in international waters. One down side: An island outside of all national boundaries will have trouble finding any good deity to worship -- and recall that all religions have rules, so religion would be O-U-T, out! However, an expensive libertarian island seems like the perfect dumping ground for morons with money. To hell with taxing American billionaires! If they move to the libertarian island, we'll just smack a hefty tariff on every little thing they want. Pint of Ben & Jerry's? $10,200. Utz potato chips? $7500 an ounce. Don't even get me started on the cost of a T-bone, spring mix salad, truffles and home made apple pie. Why, we could fund two Camden police officers for a year, just on what the libertarian islanders would have to pay for a bag of Tootsie Pops!

Off you go, founder of PayPal and all your billionaire buddies. Off to no-nation waters, your little artificial island, like something out of a "Dr Who" episode. Bon voyage! Please note, though, that if you want to return to America, you will have to get a green card and apply for citizenship all over again. But why would you want to do that? You'll be so very happy in your world with no rules other than the ones you personally choose.

Wow. I so totally see a reality t.v. show in this one. Don't you?

Damn greedy, elitist bastards. Why don't we send them to Elba now, instead of waiting years for their prototypes to launch? Good riddance, they're doing nothing for us anyway.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reaper Gonna Get You

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Isn't that a cheerful title? Well, we all have to face it, unless we're divine. The Grim Reaper's gonna arrive at our doorsteps someday and -- off we go.

This would be more depressing if there was only one Heaven and Hell, but considering the number of deities and pantheons and praise and worship teams out there, I'll bet there are thousands of Heavens. That's why I promote the bored gods. I haven't traveled much in the apparent world, but I plan to voyage far and wide once I'm finished with this challenging mantle of mortality.

Twenty-two years ago, when my daughter The Heir was born, my mother-in-law and her mother invited themselves up for a week to "take care of me." I was 30 at the time and was up on my feet in two days, but the two Mom Moms lingered a week to cosset The Heir.

When things got dull, the two Mom Moms went to work. They cleaned my entire house. Then they washed all 38 windows. At that time we still had the old 1920s-era storm windows with hooks that had to be taken down by hand. They did it. And they were so efficient that my next door neighbor tried to hire them.

This was 1989. Mom Mom Senior was 76. Mom Mom Junior was 56. They worked like fiends from dawn till dusk.

Ten years later, when I invited them up for Thanksgiving, Mom Mom Senior went missing. She was 86. Know where we found her? My basement. She had cleaned it from top to bottom. She had scrubbed the floor. Never had been done before, never has been done since.

Mom Mom Senior owns a beautiful waterfront property on the Severn River just minutes from Annapolis. As you might imagine from the above, she poured her vast energy into the place, and it's gorgeous. She and her husband bought the land in the early 1950s for $3,000. If her heirs ask anything less than a million for it, I will be shocked.

Even though she never learned to swim, Mom Mom Senior had a 100-foot pier out into the estuary, from which she hung crab traps and went fishing and boating. Her favorite thing in the world was a soft crab sandwich.

Every time all of us younger folk watched her bustle relentlessly, we would joke that the Earth had finally produced its first immortal human.

Not so.

On Tuesday, Mom Mom Senior's closest family members will decide whether, at 98, she will be placed in a nursing home or brought to her daughter's apartment for hospice care. Having seen my own parents in similar straits at much younger ages, I would bet that this former dynamo of a woman will go to Catholic Heaven in a few months. Mr. J and I, Heir and Spare went to see her yesterday in her current room in a rehab unit (she wants no parts of the rehabbing or the pureed food that has no salt or sugar). We all emerged sobbing.

Can you imagine owning a waterfront property minutes from Annapolis and not having a hearing aid? We literally had to shout right into her ear for her to hear us at all.

I have held my tongue about Mom Mom Senior's elder care because she isn't my blood relative. But it sickens me to see that her son and daughters have gone on the cheap, not getting an equity loan or reverse mortgage or anything, to provide top-level care for her. Then again, I've heard enough of the family lore to know that there's not much love lost between children and parent in this situation. So Anne, after having given advice that was unheeded, said no more.

The moral of this sermon is not really the "live life to the fullest" platitude that you might expect. I would say, "Live life the way you want to." Eat cake, drink hard liquor, smoke a spliff, I dunno, whatever makes you happy in the moment. The most frugal and hardest-working among us will meet the Reaper some day. Tra la la! Praise the gods and pass the brownies!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Questions I Would Like To Ask the Republican Presidential Candidates

I bet you're like me. I bet you can't stand one more ludicrous "debate" in which a bunch of well-groomed politicians promise us jobs, jobs, jobs.

Here are the questions I would like to pose to the Republican candidates:

1. Did you finish grade school?

2. We know you're praying to win the election. What does God get if He helps you?

3. Given that Armageddon will arrive prior to the next election, why are you even in this debate? Is your faith in Scripture that shaky?

4. Give three examples of successful "trickle down."

5. When did Social Security become a government hand-out? The people have paid for it from their checks for decades.

6. Other than repealing Roe v. Wade, gay marriage, and medicinal marijuana laws, how else will you bring our nation closer to the Old Testament?

7. (Tough one) What magazine or newspaper did you read this week? Online counts, so long as it's not "Bachelorette" gossip.

8. Sing our National Anthem, all of the lyrics.

9. How do you plan to handle the pesky problems of Paganism and atheism? Internment camps or deprogramming?

10. Who did your makeup?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Unexpected Feel-Good from Facebook

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's a beautiful afternoon. Time for a walk!

But before I do ...

About two weeks ago I started a Facebook group. It quickly became a forum for arguing and vitriol, which made me feel very, very bad. So I shut it down. I may moan and bitch and rant here at "The Gods Are Bored," but I don't like to argue. Done with that.

Two days ago I joined a new Facebook group dedicated to my hometown. And what a pretty, fun group it is indeed! It's called "You Know You're From ______ If You Remember ..."

Tells you something about where I grew up. All of us geezers are reminiscing fondly about the farms and sno-cone stands and flooded quarries. And our school teachers.

So I uploaded one of the videos of my dad doing his science experiments. He taught school in Hometown for almost 50 years. And here's one of the replies the video got:

"This is the best posting I have seen on this page. He's exactly as I remember him from 1967 or 8. My brother got hooked on chemistry and went on to get a Ph.D. in Chemistry. Thank you for putting this up. Please do it again as more people my age get on here."

My dad went off with the faeries in 2005, but not before leaving behind a great deal of good in this world. As you can see from the picture, he was pretty much half-faerie when he was alive.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Sea Glass Cure

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you ever get so riled up and teeth-gritting angry that you just want to dash a dozen eggs on the kitchen floor? Have you ever done it? Well, I don't recommend it myself. It's messy, and then you have another thing to be angry about: cleaning the kitchen floor.

When I'm angry (which I am now), I generally grab a piece of sea glass. Sea glass, as its name implies, is any kind of glass that has gone overboard or been swept into the waves. It gets scoured by the sea and sand, winding up opaque and softly rounded, instead of shiny and sharp.

I am now asking the sea glass to smooth me out, so I am no longer angry at:

1. Incompetent co-workers. For the love of fruit flies, we all have those!

2. Psychotherapists who watch their clocks and grab their checks with no real regard for the feelings of the people who come to them for care.

3. Left-wing and mainstream Christians, who ought to be chastising their more radical brethren, but who aren't -- for whatever pathetic reason.

4. People like Christine Flowers, who think that anyone and everyone can, through sheer hard work, become a billionaire.

5. Governors who would rather vilify public school teachers than ask the rich to pay more taxes.

6. A president who has done everything he can to pacify the very people he promised us he would oppose to his final breath.

7. People who are still writing to me about their sweet and cuddly Rhodesian Ridgebacks! Give me a break. Of course you love your dog, he's the best dog in the world! Surprise me, please. Tell me you hate your dog, he's dangerous and vicious, and you fear for your neighbors' lives. Yeah, not holding the breath on this one.

8. The death of print journalism. I'm part of the problem, but I can honestly say that when newspapers stop publishing, we will be lost.

9. Conservative politics. Our governor laid off all the car inspectors. Now the only thing given an inspection in New Jersey is emissions. Conservatives believe that all New Jersey citizens will be responsible enough to keep their brakes in good repair. Good luck widdat. See you on da Turnpike!

10. Political candidates being showcased at prayer events. We got a black president. We will probably get a female president sometime soon. You know what we will never see? An atheist president. And that's exactly what we ought to have. An existentialist president would be even better.

Ahhhh, sea glass, take me away!

Not working.

Tanqueray, take me away!

I'm what you would call a practical Pagan.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Sky's the Limit

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Do you own a house? I live in a house. The bank owns it, but they let me rent it from them. Trouble is, they expect me to keep up the place like I own it. Why can't they fix the leaky pipes? I'm paying good rent here!

Today's sermon is inspired by a post from Hecate in which she discusses whether or not Pagans should start building community centers and sturdy places of worship. Churches, in other words.

Hold the phone. Count to ten, Pagans. Take a deep breath. Then sweep from your mind all notions of a warm and fuzzy community center where you can hold Rituals without dodging pellets of hail.

(Seriously, my Druid Grove once got pelted by hail during a Ritual.)

Just before I ceased and desisted being a Methodist, the church I attended began a vigorous campaign of building additions and renovations. I've been gone from that place for awhile now, and I went in to give blood a few months ago. Oh, you should see it! Big old gymnasium in the basement with a basketball court, and a brand new entryway that looks like Versailles... Jesus would be proud, I tell ya! Fresh paint on the three-story pillars, new carpet ... The church lady greeter remembered me, you see, so she was keen to give me an eyeball full of what I'd been missing.

You know what I saw? I saw fifty bucks out of my pocket twice a month to pay for Jesus Versailles. Bullet dodged!

I'm 100 percent sure that my Druidic ancestors did most of their praise and worship indoors. It gets cold in the British Isles in the wintertime. But our religions can evolve while still supporting the bored gods. In this case, I vote for evolving into outdoor praise and worship teams. There is literally no overhead if you go to the nearest park and do a gentle little ritual. For something bigger, you can go with a festival that will not take chunks of change from your daily lifestyle. If you are phobic about the outdoors, look for that friendly Unitarian Universalist Church -- but they will probably charge you a user fee.

I have never liked the idea of religion and money going hand in hand, except when the do-re-mi goes to a worthy and reliable charity. Otherwise, if I want to play basketball, I'll join a gym. And if I want to sit in a pretty parlor, I'll visit my granny.

You know how they did it at the Methodist Church? They were so hard-pressed to get the money to pay for the building and its upkeep that, on certain Sundays, they asked you to put dedicated charity money into a different envelope, so they would be sure to send that money to the charity! I call that double-dipping.

I will borrow today's punch line from Bard Andrew (see my sidebar, he's pretty cool).

You get up in the morning in a box. You get your breakfast from a box. You get into a box to drive to a box, where you work all day. Then you get back into your box, drive home to your box, and sit and stare at a box all evening.

To me, being a Pagan means getting out of that box, going out in the thunder and hail and sub-zero wind chills, out in the blistering heat and the glorious equinox weather, and pouring your love of the bored gods into the air, down into the earth, deep into the water, and across the hot coals of the fire. Leave the box behind! It's an expensive distraction.

Finally, let us not forget that, being meek, we will inherit the Earth after Rapture. Then we'll have our choice of so many fabulous buildings, all bought and paid for, and some with basketball courts -- also paid for!

Bide your time on that building campaign. Is there any roof prettier than the sky?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Another Chesapeake Odyssey

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I salute and praise the bored Goddess Oshun for a very brief but enjoyable two days on the mighty Chesapeake Bay!

Oshun's praise and worship team was brought to the Chesapeake area in the 1600s to do all the heavy lifting and farming. Now, in their honor, the main road through the peninsula where we stay is named Frederick Douglass Highway. He got his start (and not a good one) on a plantation in that area.

Today, Dick Cheney lives in the same region, so you might say the karma is not exactly blissful. But we Johnsons can't resist the view from the ever-more-expensive inn where we stay. This year's visit was the shortest yet. Like everybody else, we're watching the economy with great anxiety.

You know what? There's bitter irony everywhere. A tanking economy means fewer people buying boats and shorefront properties. And this is the lead-in for today's sermon.

Spare and I always go kayaking when we visit the Chesapeake. Not far from the inn, as a buzzard flies, there's a little wild spit of sand where you can beach the boat and wade. The water isn't deep for hundreds of feet out into the channel, so it's like a gigantic natural swimming pool.

Except a miracle has happened, readers. We should all Hail Oshun, Queen of the Bay!

When Heir, Spare and I first made landfall at this little wild beach, there was a sandy bottom all the way out. Nothing much to step over except a few dead horseshoe crabs. This year, in addition to the fabulous and unexpected dearth of jellyfish, the beach showed a fantastic transformation. Basically, it was all but gone.

Acres and acres of seaweed has sprouted where once there was only barren sand. This puts an end to human swimming but marks the beginning of a new nursery for the teeming life that calls the Chesapeake home. Seaweed is a sign of health for the bay, so even a little bit of it makes my soul glad and loosens my tongue for the praise of Oshun, may her people recall her name!

Mr. J and Spare love the Chesapeake for its water, and its steamed crabs, and its pretty sailboats. But let me tell you, the buzzarding is good there too. When Nature provides, I always heave a nice roadkill into the field for the local vulture population, but it's not necessary. There's never a vulture-free sky, and if you know where they hang out, you can do a devotion that they will see, hear, and ponder!

The news gets even better. My daughter The Heir is home safe and sound from beautiful Oslo! (Thanks be to the deities of the Norse pantheon!) She climbed mountains, she survived a frightening terrorist attack, and she got to see how another nation handles a horrific tragedy. Suffice it to say that Norway is very, very different from America. The people there are determined that this event will not change the freedoms they value. Heir tells me that within a week of the bombing, all the barricades were removed, and the police presence returned to normal. Not that Norway has no problems -- Heir saw the junkies -- but it's not a paranoid, "eye for an eye" culture.

Heir's bummed to the max about being home. Suddenly her beloved New Jersey isn't quite as appealing. Just now she was telling me about taking a 10-minute El train ride to a fresh water lake with a swimming beach. HA! A 10-minute El train ride here gets me to foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy ... Philadelphia. Somebody open up a window!

Here's some free advice that I'll gladly pay you to take. If you or a loved one takes a flight out of Newark International Airport (famous as being the departure site for the 9/11 bombers), use a GPS to get yourself in and out of that place! The signs are terrible, and if you take a wrong turn, you damn near wind up in New York City, and you find yourself surrounded by honking commuters who have no patience when it comes to lost drivers.

Back to the Chesapeake: I'll try to get Oshun here this week for an interview. She must be thrilled at even the smallest sign of improvement in Her domain. I know I was! Forget swimming. It's seaweed, seaweed, seaweed for me!

I've got to ask you something. How many blogs talk about the Chesapeake Bay and illustrate the sermon with pictures of buzzards and the Jersey Turnpike? That's why you should stop by here frequently. Nothing makes sense. And that's a damn good thing.

"Oshun," by the truly incomparable Thalia Took.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

When Worship Goes Wrong

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," dedicated to the notion that all deities are created equal, no matter how few or how many followers They have! Lob a name and human characteristics at them as you will. No matter. They're expressions of the Higher Power we can all feel around us, within us, in our bones and our brains and our hearts.

In the wake of my knee-jerk reaction to the DC40 malefic magick, I created a Facebook group called "Pagans Protecting Philadelphia from DC40." Quicker than you can shout, "Who loves the Dallas Cowboys?" the few members of the group began getting testy with one another. What the heck is it about Philly? I don't care what Ed Rendell says on national t.v.: Philadelphia is not a touchy-feely, hail-fellow-well-met kinda place. I guess all the good karma gets stored up all year long and is let loose on January 1, for the Mummer's Parade. Then we settle back into our hostility for another 365 days.


"Witch wars" are notorious, having occurred way before the Internet came along to supply extra vitriol. And they don't particularly bother me, because

1. I live in Philadelphia (see above), and

2. I was once a Methodist, and the worst witch war in the world can't match a Methodist war. Those Methodists know how to quarrel, let me tell you.

Anyway, I created the Facebook group to channel positive energy, and after three days it was doing everything but that. So I took it down. If DC40 thinks this is a win for them, well, they ain't been to Philly yet. It's just how we roll, yo.

What I found more disconcerting yesterday was my difficulties at worship in my usual place of devotion, the laundromat.

When all is right with the world, the laundromat is a fabulous place to connect with deity. Watching the clothes in the machines puts you into a trance state. Ecologically, you can take the secure thought that you are saving tons of energy by shoving three weeks' worth of dirty stuff into one 20-minute wash cycle. There's an orderly progression to the ritual, from hearing the metallic clink clink of the coin machine to pulling those warm, clean-smelling bath towels out of the big ol' dryer. Nobody bothers you unless you choose to strike up a conversation. Basically, you're free to pray and meditate while energy-efficient machinery scrubs your socks.

Yesterday, not so good. It was 95 degrees outside and about ten degrees hotter inside. The coin machines were grumpy, no doubt due to the heat. But by golly, with all that heat, would you believe that two out of the three giant dryers I used were tossing the clothes around with no hot air? So when I was finished my deep dialogue with Manannan MacLir, two-thirds of my clothes were still wet!


Well, the laundromat attendant made good on my loss of $3.00, and I put the clothes in different dryers. Having bid farewell to Mannanan, I started watching the local news, and the big story was a line of thunderstorms that kept getting bigger and stronger as they headed west-to-east, from Reading to Philly to the dear little Suds for Duds Laundromat and Worship Center in Westmont, New Jersey.

Just as my towels were finally crisp and dry, a whopping thunderstorm hit. The rain was slanting sideways, and the lightning and thunder just ripped right along. So I had to wait for that to pass (which reminded me to thank Thor for protecting my daughter The Heir). When the rain died down, I started carting my towels to the car, hit a snag in the parking lot, and ... down they went, onto the puddled pavement!

Well, the gods give, and the gods take, and yesterday just wasn't my day. Honestly, it wasn't a very good day for our nation either, so there you have it. Monday's in the archives.

On Wednesday, Spare, Mr. J and I are going to our annual summer destination, St. Michaels, Maryland. There I will set everything right by doing my Lughnasadh devotions to the Sacred Thunderbird. Please don't ask for details of this praise and worship unless you want to hear about double-thick Hefty bags, road kill, and radio towers.


Heir comes home Friday! And what stories she will have to tell!

Image of Mannanan by the incomparable Thalia Took.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Most Powerful Spell

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Today we begin a little experiment. Kind of like Job in reverse. I am going to mention Cindy Jacobs and DC40 frequently in my posts, giving them ample opportunity to find this site. Let's see if they can harm me through their prayers. I stand in flat-out opposition to their agenda, so ... have at me, varlets! Jesus is too busy to look after me, so I put myself in the hands of the bored gods. Na na na na BOO BOO! (Bronx cheer with rude gesture)

I've just finished writing 25 spells for next year's Llewellyn Spell Almanac. Many of them are based on the Appalachian hedge magick I grew up with, so they tend to be cautionary and protective. And serious. My grandmother showered me with dire predictions of what the "black dog" and the "booger men" would do if I strayed too far from home. (This, of course, was for her convenience. Much magick works this way.)

As for me, I find that the strongest spells are those laced with humor. How many times have I said it here? Laughter is the best medicine!

(Speaking of which, when you're through here, go look at Yellowdog Granny's spine-ticklers. She usually puts a slew of them up on Monday morning, and if that isn't strong magick, I don't know what is.

Let's look at a recent event, and you'll see what I mean.

I invited the Great Goddess Freya here, knowing that She's getting busy again but hoping for a moment of Her time. She penciled me into her schedule, dropped by and played with my cats, and shared a horn of local lager. Four weeks later, my daughter The Heir was in downtown Oslo when she was literally rocked by a bomb blast. She was a ten-minute walk from the government complex.

Freya was probably busier than ever that day, but She found time for The Heir. All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Freya, Mother of the North!

Here at Chateau Johnson, the only event that is not mocked and saturated with humor is the death of a loved one. At that time, and that time only, I become serious. But it passes. As for being angry at the spouse and kids, I turn that over to Anansi, who helps me disappear into a story-world until I've cooled down.

Laugh through the Apocalypse. It's happening to you anyway. Will crying make it any different?

Maybe that's a bad analogy, because all of us Pagans will be laughing through the Apocalypse. We're going to turn all those mega-churches into skate parks and have Rituals at the National Cathedral.

My family has so far been spared from the ravages of fire, flood, and hurricane. But I've been through job loss, work frustrations by the cartload, and the heartbreak of my child's chronic illness. I don't laugh at these things, I laugh at myself going through these things. Best. Medicine. Ever.

With that in mind, I remembered that Philadelphia has its own amazingly powerful counter-spell for malefic magick. It's called the Mummer's Parade, it happens every year on January 1, and this year I will be in it. What ill-guided intentions can stand up to 15,000 crazy revelers in sequins and feathers, carrying parasols and wearing wigs? Get real, DC40. Philadelphia is free!

Ha ha ha, ho ho ho, and a couple of tra la las! That's how I laugh my day away, as I cheerfully thumb my schnoz!