Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Mummer Magic

Every year on January 1, the city of Philadelphia throws all decorum aside and has a day-long revel. It's called the Mummers Parade.

Where I grew up (Hagerstown, MD, basically), there was a big Mummers Parade on Halloween every year. In both cases, Philadelphia and Hagerstown, I think the original idea was to give all the crazies some goal beyond drunken rioting.

Turns out that the sheer energy and good will of these events can sweep away even the most dire black magic heaped on a city. This is why I, Anne Johnson of "The Gods Are Bored," sought membership in a Mummers comic brigade.

And found it. Early on New Year's Day -- like, really really early, before the well-oiled string bands and fancies -- I will be stepping out with the Two Street Stompers.

Like every other Mummer unit, this one is a conglomerate of family and friends, some of whom are third and fourth generation Mummers. They bring their kids and their grandparents. I'm invited to bring Spare, if she wants. These are the good God people, and they will cleanse the city with their cheer.

We will have a bountiful three practices in the alley behind the captain's house in Gloucester City, New Jersey. Then it will be off to the parade!

This will be the 25th anniversary of the first time I ever watched a Mummers Parade. For a quarter century I've been sitting by a warm fire on New Year's Day, sipping hot tea and saying to myself, "Why am I not out there in the cold rain, dressed like a wench and pumping a parasol?" Well, no more. This year, I have been moved by great karmic events to restore good will to Philadelphia. Here at "The Gods Are Bored," I will tell you all about it.

Video below of the brigade I have joined. They're even providing a costume!

mummers parade 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I am officially a Mummer. I have been accepted into the 2 Street Stompers New Year's Brigade. I am unspeakably happy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming Down with Something

I feel some grippe coming on. I'm going to bed early.

Between now and January 1, every time I don't have the energy to blog, I am going to post the lovely tribute to the Goddess Columbia seen below. It's beautiful, moving, and it reminds us that Liberty is a Lady. She carries the torch for us all.

9/11 Tribute Verizon Commercial

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Corruption of Fine Young Minds

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Have you heard anything about the protests on Wall Street? Me neither. Gonna be a big, fat black eye for the mainstream media if they don't get down there and cover this. I want to get this post done in time to catch ABC News and see if they are with us or agin us.

On to today's sermon: the corruption of fine young minds with evil reading material known as books!

Every year in September, the Friends of the Snobville Library hold a big used book sale. People line up like ... hmmm ... like ... hmmmm ... maybe like ... vultures? Yeah, that would be it. Vultures. People line up to get the "good stuff" cheap, so they can re-sell it on Ebay.

This year there was a good deal of kvetching from the customers. The Friends of Snobville had set the price of a hardcover at $3.00, a quality paperback at $2.00, and a "pocket paperback" at $1.00.

You do the math. Seven books, and you're out $20.00. That's a lot of cash for someone else's books.

In years past, I used to go to this sale to buy books for my classroom. But at those prices I couldn't afford it. My salary has dropped $150 per paycheck with all the new deductions for health care and pension, and losses of occasional coverage that paid $30 per class period.

You could say I was fuming. Snobville at its snobbiest!

But wait, dear readers. I was determined. It paid off. It just goes to show that if you really are hell-bent on corrupting minors, it can always be done.

The sale ran on Saturday and Sunday. Same prices on Sunday. So on Sunday I showed a Friend of the SL my Vo-Tech teacher ID and asked for a discount. Lo and behold, they let me take any book I wanted for free!

Trust me, readers, I went over those tables of books with one thought in mind: Is this book banned, or could it be banned, or was the ban recently lifted, soon to be returned? If the answer was "yes," I grabbed that puppy. I think I got about 60 books, all first-rate filth. Tuesdays with Morrie? I'll bet there's a swearword or sexual innuendo in there somewhere. Da Vinci Code? Blasphemy! (I got three copies.)

I did wait until late on Sunday afternoon to do this gleaning. I thought it was kind enough of the FotSL to let me have free books -- I wanted to wait until they had sold as much as they could at those inflated prices.

Maybe you've been to a used book sale? Generally in the last hour, they shout, "Fill a bag for five bucks!" After which new scurrying ensues.

The Snobville answer to this was, "Fill a bag for thirty bucks!" Pinky swear. I've paid that for a bag of hard shell crabs, nicely steamed and seasoned ... but used books? For the love of fruit flies!

I guess that idea didn't fly too well, because only a few minutes later, the same Friend shouted, "Fill a bag for ten bucks!" Which seemed slightly more reasonable but still steep, since all the good, banned stuff was gone.

And then the funniest exchange occurred. It was classic. Apparently some woman had picked out a bunch of books earlier in the afternoon and then had plopped down on a bench, waiting for the buck-a-bag call. (Probably has read so many banned books that she used her life as a bookmark and misplaced the book.)

Here was the conversation, so far as I eavesdropped:

Friend: I'm sorry. We can't sell you these at that price. We have watched you sitting there waiting for us to drop the price.

Crazy woman: You just said, "Ten dollars a bag." You have to honor that!

Friend: No, we won't honor it with you. It's not fair for you to get good books and sit around until the price drops.

Crazy woman: It doesn't matter how long I've been here. You just said, "Ten dollars a bag." Is that what you're charging, or not? It's not fair if you have one price for me and one price for everyone else.

Friend: You're trying to cheat.

Crazy woman: No, you're being unfair!

At this time I sauntered past, lugging my huge cart of freebies, nodding gratefully at the gent and noting the crazy woman's quick appraisal of my haul (nothing valuable, all banned and banged up).

It was lovely for the Friends of the Snobville Library to give me books for my classroom. As for the crazy lady who spent her Sunday afternoon waiting for a discount on books she'd picked out five hours earlier, wow. Not sure how to call that one. I'll leave it up to you.

Off I go to pollute my students' minds with Bella and her vampire!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Book Week: Some Modest Proposals

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's "Banned Books Week," so throw out that lascivious copy of the Bible under your desk and read something that isn't smutty! In this sermon, we at "The Gods Are Bored" will offer you safe and secure suggestions for eliminating banned books from your life. As you know, reading banned books has caused many of the social ills plaguing humankind. We have to do something about it, pronto.

You know what great, safe, and improving literature is regularly overlooked? Instruction manuals! Don't believe me? Go find the manual that came with your IPod or your microwave. Better yet, read that fascinating sheet that came with your Ikea book case. You won't find swear words, sexual situations, or violent content in there. And it just gets better, because instructional manuals fold up so nice and cozy -- you won't need the book case you just bought. Take it back!

I'm a school teacher, so it's very important for me to be aware of all these banned books. Such evil works as To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men can be found all over my school! But worry not, dear reader. I'm tossing that smut and replacing it with helpful and instructional literature. This week I made copies of my Verizon monthly statement for my entire class. Of course I blacked out HBO first, because we all know what kind of filth runs on HBO.

You might think cookbooks are safe. And I agree, so long as they don't have any recipes that are high in fat, salt, or sugar. The trouble is that a smart student, when given a Weight Watchers cookbook, will figure out how to re-introduce the salt, sugar, and fat into an otherwise slimmed-down recipe. So be warned. Cookbooks are not acceptable.

I'll tell you something else that should be banned. Used book sales. There's no oversight in these things! Kids can wander around and just choose whatever they want to read. Chances are that Mom is over looking at the tennis or yoga paperbacks. She won't even notice her susceptible youngster poking a curious eyeball into Leaves of Grass.

The very best way to protect innocent children from banned books is to not teach them to read in the first place. How many times have I had to remind you people that the entire Captain Underpants series is banned, banned, banned! And it's written for third graders. You can't have third graders reading about a character named Professor Pippy P. Poopypants! This will warp them for life. Better not to read at all than to be tempted to read a banned book.

Further banning: the bestseller list. Have you read  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or any of its sequels? Horrific! (I actually mean it. Turned my stomach.) And yet ... and yet ... that book is in my school's library! Heck, let's ban bestsellers and the library. Purity of mind, purity of mind.

I have been trying to decide what core curriculum I should teach my sophomores next, after they're through with the Verizon bill. Aha! Here's my high school yearbook! (*Anne blacks out the ribald comments by her classmates*) What a relief! My students will love this.

This is at least the tenth post I've written about banned books. Lately I've been wondering why I get all riled up about them. I hardly ever see anyone reading a book anymore, unless it's a student who's been told they have to read. So we stop teaching students to read, and then no one will read, and there will be no reason to ban books.

I say, give everyone a Droid and burn all the books. A modest proposal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" as the days become even with the nights, and the long descent into darkness begins. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, but the dwindling hours of sunshine can really take a toll. Oh well. On we roll.

I think I mentioned that Mr. J will have a book coming out in a store near you next spring. The last time I mentioned it here on this site, I used Mr. J's real name, and I got all kinds of weird email from people who are Googling that name. Mr. J, you see, had a famous father in the sportswriting biz. So for now, I'll just stick with calling a K a J.

Mr. J's book was received with vast enthusiasm at the publishing house. He had the lightest edit I've ever seen on a full-length manuscript. The press is going to put photographs at the head of each chapter. Okay, I know the guy is my husband, but I think this book is going to sell.

While Mr. J was visiting with the editor in New York, he mentioned that I had written a novel.

Yes, I did do this, about a hundred years ago. I even had a small press willing to print it, until the economic downturn put an end to small presses everywhere.

Long story short, Mr. J's editor said he'd pass it along to the editors of my sort of fiction at the publishing house. The publishing house is St. Martin's Press.

It is extremely difficult to get a novel into print these days, unless you're James Patterson or a good friend of Oprah's. Apparently two editors will be looking at mine, weighing it in the profit-vs.-loss balance, and getting back to me.

At this equinox, I would like to think my chances are 50-50. Or maybe there's a bored goddess of writing out there who wants to give me a boost.

Beam me some luck. It's a good book, and writing it was one of the highlights of my life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All He Wants Is a Good Baseball Glove

Have you ever had to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time? Have you ever gone to a school where the language spoken is not the one you know? I haven't had to do either. In fact, being in a country where I don't know the language is a phobia of mine. I'm a woman of a certain age, and I've never traveled abroad.

Many of my students are from the Dominican Republic, but most of them can speak and write pretty good English. (Reading is difficult for them -- it's like translating. No fun.)

This year I have a young man who does not speak very good English. He is struggling mightily. And we have no Foreign Language specialists on our staff.

I gave all of my 150 students a questionnaire to fill out about themselves. Struggling Student had so many heart-wrenching answers that I got teary-eyed.

Apparently the only enjoyment this kid has in his life is baseball. Every other answer had something to do with baseball. Finally came the clincher:

Question: If I could have anything I wanted, it would be .......

His answer: "A good baseball glove."

Do any of my three readers have a good baseball glove sitting around in a box, unloved and unwanted? What a simple request! I would buy him one myself if I hadn't gotten a hefty pay cut.

It's against the rules for a teacher to give a student a gift. However, there is a tenured teacher working in the building, and she could (and would) give him the glove if I did (and would) give it to her.

Send me an email (through my profile) if your diamond days are in the past, but the equipment remains.

PS - Tenure is a wonderful thing.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Yo ho, yo ho, the pirate's life for me! It be "Talk Like a Pirate Day," matey! Wait a pinch while I get Decibel the parrot on my shoulder, and then ...

Wave yer cutlass if you've ever worked for someone who ought to walk the plank!

I just found out this morning that a swabbie who bossed me around last year and saw to it I'd have too many  students this year will be jumping ship. This former first mate third class, who I'll give the earned monnicker "Rat Face," will be a-leavin my ship and heading for the Great Sloop Snobville High! Arrrghhgh! I kid you not! The worst pirate that ever sailed the briny deep just got hired at Snobville High! I'd love to be a fly on the wall when Rat Face meets Mr. G. The incompetent leading the arrogant. Yar, won't take more than a stiff breeze to sink 'em like a stone!

Pieces of hate! Pieces of hate!

All this pirate talk puts me in the mood to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster! A prayer to the Great Plate commences now:

Oh gracious Noodly Master,
Pasta perfection for pirates,
Promise through thy gracious tendrils
That all incompetent and arrogant sons of sea-slugs
Will be cursed with having to deal with each other.
Which, through Thy grace
Will lead to duels with pistols or cutlasses, or just plain ugly sneers.
Cast down the mighty, arrghghgh, like so much slop over the starboard bow!
In the name of All Noodles, ramen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Faeries Have Come for Mom Mom

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," solemn today as we await the moment when our family matriarch crosses through the veil.

My husband is 55 years old, and his grandmother is still alive. She was an enormously active woman who only sat still while she was eating, and then only if everyone else had everything they needed. Born in 1914, she worked in a shirt-making factory to support her family while her younger sisters got to go to high school. She always resented the fact that she wasn't able to get a high school diploma.

Even without the diploma she made good. Married, bought a row house in South Baltimore near Fort McHenry, and worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles. In 1952 she pooled her resources, and she and her husband bought an undeveloped waterfront property on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis. They towed a house boat over from Baltimore, built a pier, and spent all their spare time there, gradually improving the place until they constructed a split-level house up on the bluff, a beach house by the water, and a 100-foot pier out into the bay.

Mr. Johnson spent many a happy hour on that houseboat with his youngish, vigorous grandparents. They taught him to fish, to drive a powerboat, to crab, and to swim. When he took me to meet them, I was bowled over -- not only by the magnificent view from their property, but also by their perpetual motion. Mom Mom in particular was a dynamo.

Whenever the topic of mortality came up around Mom Mom, her response was the same: "I want everything and anything done to keep me alive." She wouldn't sign a Do Not Resuscitate order. Maybe you wouldn't either if you'd never, ever been sick in your whole life.

Finally, at age 98, she fell and broke her hip. So you know how that goes. We went to see her in the rehab center, and we knew right then and there that her time among us was short. My throat is choking up just telling you about it.

Except for one thing. The faeries are there with her.

She is in hospice at the home of Mr. Johnson's aunt. One evening last week she told Mr. J's aunt: "There was a little girl with red hair in the doorway. She said, 'Come on, it's time to go.' But I told her I didn't want to go."

Long-time "Gods Are Bored" readers will recall that my dad, after breaking his hip, saw Peter Pan in the doorway of his hospital room.

It cannot be a coincidence that two people in my life, my dad and my grandmother-in-law, both have seen red-haired children just before dying. (I never told Mom Mom about my dad. She never liked to talk about death.) Clearly these are faeries doing what faeries do.

Portal beings take non-threatening shapes to greet those who have lived good lives and are about to cross over. In my husband's grandmother, the faeries have found a very unwilling candidate for the Summerlands. They will guide her. I just hope they don't expect her to rest once she gets there.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Robin Hoods of Religion

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Did y'all like that beautiful video of the Great Goddess Columbia? Isn't it inspirational? The beauty of it is that all those sweet little kids are praying to the Goddess. Oh, be still my beating heart!

Speaking of hearts, I guess it's more than Cupid toying with bows and arrows today. Apparently the black magicians misguided Christians in Cindy Jacobs' evil empire have noticed that we Pagans don't cotton to the idea of One Nation under Jehovah. Here's a recent threat kind note to us:

" You see, there is no DC40 Prayer War. It is finished, you just haven’t come to the truth of it yet. However, if you are reading this, it is too late – we release the arrow of blood-covered truth and convicting power of Holy Spirit into the core of your being, and release grace for you to SEE in Jesus’ Mighty Name!”

I think these people should choose their metaphors more wisely. Don't you?

The only blood released here at "The Gods Are Bored" is to the Red Cross, one pint at a time.

We stink at the link, but if you haven't seen this PNC bulletin about this fall's black magic intended to turn America into a theocracy, read it and cheep:

Then come back here. Ground. Center. Breathe. Watch the beautiful video below, courtesy of Verizon.

Coming soon: I will tell you all about the big plans to cleanse Philadelphia of all the negative energy generated by archers who tip their arrowheads in blood...

... whew. Seriously. If Pagans talked like this, they'd be investigated by the authorities.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Queen Mab

In the play "Romeo and Juliet," by William Shakespeare, one of the PRINCIPAL, i.e. MAIN characters is a fiery fellow named MERCUTIO. The name (smart playwright) is based on Mercury (bored god), hence "mercurial."

In Act I Scene 4, Mercutio notices that Romeo is moping about a woman. Mercutio slowly wigs out about it in the famous "Queen Mab" soliloquoy. I here reprint the Bard's version and then give a short translation. For my money, this soliloquoy, INCLUDED IN BOTH FAMOUS FILM VERSIONS, is a brilliant treatise on the dark abilities of faeries.

O then I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the faeries' midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men's noses as they lie asleep.
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o' mind the faeries' coachmakers;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners' legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
Her traces of the smallest spider web,
Her collars of the moonshine's watery beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone, the lash of film,
Her waggoner a small gray-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid;
And in this shape she gallops night after night
Through lovers' brains, and then they dream of love;
O'er courtiers' knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O'er lawyers' fingers who straight dream on fees;
O'er ladies' lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometimes she gallops o'er a courtier's nose
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig's tail,
Tickling a parson's nose as he lies asleep;
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometimes she driveth o'er a soldier's neck
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscados, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes.
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she ---

(And at this point Romeo interrupts him and Mercutio pauses for breath.)

Anne's translation (not meant for the stage):

This faerie, Queen Mab, is a miniature trouble-maker, all done up in finery made by bugs. When you go to sleep, she gives you dreams of your desires. Beware, though. She won't make you happy. In fact, if you follow her, she will smite you with dashed hopes, cold sores, and pregnancy. Mab isn't nice. Don't listen to her.

And now (drum roll, please), Mr. G's version of this seminal soliloquoy from "Romeo and Juliet," also featured in the 1971 Franco Zefferelli film and the 1996 re-make with Leonardo di Caprio:

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Can You Catch the Sparrow?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," paper stress edition! I am not cut out to be a school teacher. The paperwork befuddles me. Love the kids, hate the dead, white trees.

Other than yesterday's navel gaze, I tried to stay as far away as possible from the 9/11 memorials. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that an estimated 125,000 civilians died in the Iraq War. That's 40 for every American in 9/11. Little reality check there.

At the Shrine of the Mists we light candles for all children killed in warfare. No discrimination. It's how we roll.

Ah, well. On to brighter and lighter topics!

My three regular readers enjoyed the little clip below of "Mr. G's World," a day in the life of a high school drama teacher.  It must be very special to be a drama teacher/coach/director. How wonderful it must feel when you choose your favorite kid for the lead ... butcher Shakespeare like a pig roast ... pick a good-looking boy who can't act ... don't have to grade so many papers!

It's really eerie how the "Mr. G's World" clip mirrors the Snobville drama teacher, who (ironically) is also Mr. G. What a coincidence! Uncanny, really. If Snobville's Mr. G had an Aussie accent, I would swear it was one and the same man.

Last week I noted that Mr. G (the real one) and a trusty Snobville mom had taken a cleaver to "Romeo and Juliet," of all things. Readers, I am not exaggerating. They took out Tybalt. They took out Mercutio. And they took out Benvolio. Never mind overlooking the beautiful and truthful "Queen Mab" speech about faeries. They axed the whole character! How can you perform "Romeo and Juliet" without Tybalt and Mercutio?

Maybe I'll shuck out ten bucks to find out. Um, maybe not.

The cast list was made public today, and I must say that Mr. G (the real one) is as predictable as Old Faithful.

In our humble borough of Snobville live a family by the last name of Sparrow. There are several stair-step daughters, and they have had itty bitty roles on Broadway and in t.v. shows. Not because they're extraordinary (so far as I can see), but probably because their mom is plugged in to these things. Some moms are like that. They ought to be in the back yard building shrines, but they're calling agents and private acting coaches and making long treks to Manhattan.

It's gotten to be funny. If your last name is Sparrow in Snobville, Mr. G will give you the lead in the play. He pals around with this family, and even though the most recent Sparrow is a freshman, she lapped the other 30-some auditioners for Juliet as if she were Sea Biscuit and they were a pack of winded ponies.

Before the Sparrows arrived on Snobville's high school stage, Mr. G's daughter was still in the school. Needless to say, she got the lead in every play while she was there.

I. Kid. You. Not.

So Spare and I ran down how the last few years of Snobville drama have looked:

Mr. G's daughter
Mr. G's daughter
Mr. G's daughter
Mr. G's daughter


I think this provides a valuable lesson for all aspiring thespians in Snobville. Might as well get used to it now, kiddos. It's who you know. And after all, Hollywood has plenty of "royal families," doesn't it?

Oh, but Mercutio! Mercutio! If this post wasn't running long, I'd type in the whole "Queen Mab" speech!

I'll do it tomorrow.

Not since Mr. Bigwand has a personage come along who so richly deserves excoriation. We'll be having fun in Mr. G's world this year!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 Navel Gaze

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," recording a navel gaze on the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers. The tragedy happened well before I began writing "The Gods Are Bored" -- just about the time when the Old Ones began a gentle tug on my soul.

First, the politics. I am one of those people who think we ought to examine this tragedy with a touch of hubris. Why did this happen in the first place? I ponder. One thing I believe to be absolutely true. The terrorists won. Our economy was already on the brink of a downward curve, and 9/11 just pushed things over the edge. You can feel differently if you like, but anyone with a drop of Scottish blood will tell you that a few determined warriors can plunge a mighty nation into bankruptcy.

Just an opinion. Opinions are entitlements.

On September 11, 2002, I was working at the job I loved -- writing -- at home, sitting just where I am now. In those days I had recently completed a long gig for ESPN. I had a t.v. on my desk, all hooked up to the cable. Mr. Johnson called me on the phone and told me to turn the t.v. on. When I did, one tower was already in flames, and the second plane was just tearing into the other one. Honestly, dear readers, my jaw dropped. Literally.

I watched the horror unfold, and then the little Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder said, "Get back to work!"

Just at that moment, the announcers said another plane had crashed in "rural southern Pennsylvania." That's where my farm is.

So I watched on, in ever-increasing horror, until the shock turned to rage. I turned the t.v. off and went back to my mundane reference book work. Damn if I was going to let terrorists keep me from earning a wage!

Of course I couldn't work. I was too horrified. And then it was time to go pick up The Spare from school.

The Spare was in second grade. Chances are she is one of the youngest Americans who will actually remember 9/11.

The elementary school was within an easy walking distance of Chateau Johnson. Almost every day a crowd of moms would be gathered in front of the school, waiting for dismissal. (I never let Spare walk home alone until she was in Middle School.) On this day there were easily ten times the usual number of parents on the lawn. One of them was weeping. Her brother-in-law had been on the 80th floor -- his first visit ever to the World Trade Center.

When the bell rang, I witnessed something I'll never forget. The kids came charging out as usual. They hadn't been told about the tragedy. But we parents knew. We rushed our children, grabbed them and held them tight. Rare was the child who didn't have a parent, or aunt, or older sibling, crushing his ribs.

I held onto the Spare for dear life. It turned out that her teacher had been called from the classroom. The teacher's daughter had been scheduled to take one of those flights and hadn't made it to the airport on time. Of all the classes in the school, Spare's was the only one that had an inkling it hadn't been an ordinary day.

Spare remembers. She remembers me telling her to go upstairs and not watch any channel but Nickelodeon. But when she turned on my upstairs t.v., of course it came onto the news channel, and she never switched.

Heir was in sixth grade. Her school had an assembly. The principal told them what was happening. She came home with a million questions.

The rest of the day is a blur. What chiefly stands out for me was seeing this horror unfold, stubbornly and angrily returning to work (Appalachian trait), and then grabbing my little one for dear life (human trait).

There are crazy people out in the world. Real psychos, who cling to any religious fervor that feeds their inner demons. Beware of these people. They come from every praise and worship team known to humankind. We never know when they will go over the tipping point and start blowing stuff up.

When a place like Norway isn't safe from terror, why should America not stand on guard against every lunatic fringe?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Welcome to Mr. G's World!

Today my daughter The Spare is trying out for her high school's autumn production of "Romeo and Juliet."

There's just one problem. The play is garbage.

Mind you, The Spare attends a "Blue Ribbon School," which I guess is supposed to mean that the school pursues intellectual rigor. Trust me, the only rigor in that school is mortis.

For the third year in a row, the school's drama teacher has enlisted the assistance of a savage butcher ... clueless playwright wannabe ... bored kept woman with delusions of grandeur ... local mom to create a fall production that puts the "f" in FAIL. Not FALL. FAIL.

This time, the hapless target is The Bard.

The local mom (described above with acute precision, if you ask me) took the text of "Romeo and Juliet" and re-told the story from the point of view of the Nurse as she's sitting in a nursing home with dementia.


No, readers, I kid you not! I swear by all the Confederate Dead in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland! I swear by every single drop of rain that has fallen on the Delaware Valley in the past two weeks! I swear by the best and brightest bored gods! I did not make this up.

Just imagine taking a wonderful play like "Romeo and Juliet," paring it down to a stinking two acts, axing all but seven characters, and wielding a mighty mean machete over the dialogue. Oh yeah, and then there's the whole point-of-view thing. The Nurse is trying to remember. Or thinks she remembers. Or ... but soft! There's Will Shakespeare moaning from his tomb!

It seems to me that a "Blue Ribbon School" with dance classes, a madrigal choir that has performed at the White House (resplendent in Renaissance costumes), and 100 kids clamoring for roles in a play, could actually put on the real "Romeo and Juliet," First Folio. We are six miles from Philadelphia. Don't tell me you couldn't find a sword-fight coach!


I have just returned from picking Spare up at the audition. She is downstairs crying. The drama coach called her up on stage first ("Let's do this fairly, in reverse alphabetical order, seniors first!) and did not call her for a second reading. She was the only senior who was not given the opportunity to do a second reading.

I'm no stage mom, trying to get my kid into Pampers commercials. To me, this thing is bigger than the Spare. It's about a despot in a small high school who takes good plays and makes them bad  (or writes worse plays himself). It's about a school full of kids who want to be in productions, and the school only offers two productions a year. With a cast of seven.

The only thing more tragic than "Romeo and Juliet" is "Romeo and Juliet" re-written by some fluff-brained Snobville mom. If that school deserves a blue ribbon, I've seen some Angus beeves that should be encased in platinum. Don't tell The Spare, but I'm glad she laid an egg at the tryout. Better to not perform at all than to perform in The Great Shakespeare Chainsaw Massacre.

Ah, but art imitates life, right? Look at the darling clip below! It's Mr. G's world! Might as well have been shot at Snobville Blue Ribbon High, it's that close to the real thing. Welcome to a new sub-plot at "The Gods Are Bored!" It's the small-school drama coach who thinks he can improve upon the Bard!

Summer Heights High - Mr G's Drama Class

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Where's Timmy Tiptoes?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," dishing out deities on demand! Collect the whole set!

Well, actually that would be impossible. You'd always miss a deity or two ... or a thousand, depending upon how far back you want to look.

In fair weather I set my parrot, Decibel, on the front porch. The local squirrel population sees Decibel's cage as a lunch wagon, and no wonder: Given that parrots and squirrels are both plant-eating tree-dwellers, they have much in common when it comes to noms.

The summer guarantee of good eats has kept the squirrel population pretty high at Chateau Johnson. There are nests galore, and almost always it's possible to see one of those bushy-tailed seed-snatchers on the lawn. My cats don't even chase them. I don't own a dog. Squirrel life is good chez moi.

Last week we had a pesky, itty bitty hurricane. Not! We had a whopper of a tropical storm. It dumped inches of rain, and then the wind blew ferociously for about 16 hours. There were embedded tornadoes in the area.

Couldn't have been a good time to be a squirrel.

I write this because, since the end of Hurricane Irene, I've noticed a big drop in the squirrel visitations to Decibel's Diner. I've maybe seen one or two squirrels, total, in a week. At the height of Decibel Tourist Season, there can be as many as a half dozen squirrels in my yard -- noisy, cheeky rascals -- and another three or four across the street, trying to figure out how to mount an invasion.

Did the storm kill the squirrels? If so, where are the remains? To my unending grief, Snobville does not contain a reliable vulture population. Vultures are very helpful in detecting the whereabouts of deceased critters, but in this case it's a total mystery.

(Come to think of it, what happens to vultures in a hurricane? Oh, now I'm REALLY depressed!)

I'm sure the squirrel population will rebound. Or maybe they're still in hiding. It's just curious to me, that's all.

This was my first full day of school, so of course I am totally preoccupied by the noticeable drop in local squirrel population. This may sound insane to you, unless you have taught school.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day at the Shrine of the Mists

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Labor Day 2011 Edition! Please pay attention, because Labor Day will soon be a thing of the past ... and so you should make the best of the ones remaining. What are they going to call Labor Day when there is no more organized labor? I'll tell you: Monday.

A disturbing trend has followed me since I left full-time employment at Gale Research Company in 1987. I have found that, whatever I job I do, I quickly find myself working much harder for less money.

When I first left Gale Research back in 1987, they paid me very well as an independent contractor. They were so doggoned glad to have a trained worker willing to forgo health benefits and vacation pay that, for a few years, I made good bread. But as the whole "independent contractor" thing got rolling, companies like Gale learned that there were so many people eager to do the work for less money -- people who had never had benefits in the first place -- that the wages began to fall. First by a little bit, then precipitously.

It wouldn't have helped me if I had stayed at Gale Research. In the mid-1990s they laid off a number of the people who started working there at the same time I did. And we won't even go into the fact that the company is selling far more product with far less quality than it did in the day.

When I entered public school teaching, I thought that I'd finally found a profession that would be somewhat immune to this trend. But this year I am taking a substantial pay cut, what with our governor's garnishing our wages for health care and pensions and our local district's cost-saving measures. At the same time, my class sizes have increased. Last year my largest class was 24. This year my smallest class is 25. I'm despairing over the task of meeting the individual learning needs of 162 students -- all while being observed in my so-called "tenure year."

This morning I spent a long time sitting in sage smoke, arranging rocks I brought from Polish Mountain onto the Shrine of the Mists. The bored gods who visit my shrine have seen it all: vain rulers who exploited their poor subjects, tribes of people who knew that teamwork and profit sharing were the best means of survival, little bands of hardy individuals who crept from place to place. And then there are the deities of the Celts -- a people who valued the middle class. Isn't it strange? I can feel some gods whispering, "Nothing has changed," and others saying, "Everything has changed."

Wish me good luck in a new year of work, as I do more for less pay. I'm not a novelty. I'm the face of  modern America. Just one more pale face.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Everything's Just Ducky! Hurricane Hype

It's hard work being Rush Limbaugh. He has such a difficult time holding onto his "moron of the universe" title when there are so many other hard-working morons trying to unseat him. Nevertheless, he manages to do it. No doubt the opiate derivative medications help keep him sharp.

Earlier this week, the Limbaugh pestilence described the build-up to Hurricane Irene as "hype" created by the media. I guess hurricanes should be ignored unless they can completely decimate a city and leave a million people homeless.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" join the throng of Hurricane Irene victims calling Limbaugh's remarks EPIC FAIL.

Case in point: Yesterday I went for a walk along the murky little waterway near my house. The entire floodplain looked like someone had plastered it with mud. All vegetation was flattened and battered. As I perused this sad landscape, I stepped sideways on a hill, slipped on some muck, and fell on my face. (Actually I fell on my titanium hip and all that side of my body, and then on my face.)

So there I sat, checking for broken bones, plastered with New Jersey mud, and cursing myself for being clumsy ... and within 30 seconds I was beset by a swarm of mosquitoes.

Bitten, muddy, and humbled, I limped home.

Deep within the primal stem of my brain, at its lowest level of functionality, I must have believed Rush Limbaugh and considered the hurricane talk just so much blah blah blah. Why else would I choose to stroll along a floodplain just days after a catastrophic meteorological event?

The moral of this sermon is so simple even a moron could understand it. If the media calls it a dangerous hurricane, and you look outside and the weather's atrocious, and the fire sirens bleat at all hours for the next three days, and you can't walk a path because it's inches deep in slippery mud,  it must indeed be as the media says: a dangerous hurricane.

Words of wisdom, wasted on the wise. Morons don't read "The Gods Are Bored."

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