Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Opportunity I Didn't Have

What was life like for you when you graduated from college? Did you float effortlessly into the job of your dreams? Really? Then here, for you, are my friends Milk and Cheese, to act upon my jealousy.


I had to go right to work in a job I hated, because the economy sucked, I majored in creative writing, and going home to my bipolar mother was not an option.

It's not that I have had a bad life, but sometimes I can't help but wonder about the roads not taken. I was not adventurous. I'm neither an astronaut or a Type A. So I settled. Moved with caution.

This spring my daughter The Heir graduated from college with a double major in media and fine arts. Talk about employment potential! She's a painter, for the love of fruit flies! Where can a person like that get work in this economy?

Back in June, The Heir met a lady who said there are full-time jobs at the IRS Call Center in Philly. Heir looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, I just can't do that. It will ruin me."

I agreed.

Heir embarked upon a quest to live out her dream. Within a few weeks she had helped two artists with major projects, and then she got an internship with a married couple who are highly sought after sculptors in these parts. The internship started out free, but when they saw Heir's bustle and her ability to organize (unparalleled in people her age), they hired her part time, minimum wage.

Heir has also rented a studio in a large arts collective, where she has resumed painting. She says she is learning a great deal about sculpture (and home renovation, another useful skill) by working with the sculptors. In fact, she tells me she has learned more in three months than she did in four years of expensive college. She is in the early stages of living her dream.

But dreams do not come to us in real life without dangers. Do they?

The sculpture studio is in Germantown. I took Heir there the other day in the car. (She otherwise rides mass transportation.) The neighborhood is just the next tick up from a slum. The sculptors bought an old silver polishing factory for a song and are fixing it up. My heart almost stood still when I saw the area outside ... and then the cavernous interior of the building, which ... kid you not ... reminded me of Frankenstein's experiment room. But there were beautiful sculptures everywhere, in various stages of completion. Heir showed me the ones she helped with. She showed me the tool room that she had completely organized. She showed me the places where her advice had been taken. She was so proud.

Heir is actively discouraging any parental visits to her painting studio. It is in Kensington, a neighborhood that is beginning to gentrify but still has a large and active criminal element. The studio is in a huge factory that has been slightly renovated to give artists spaces where they can work. Heir is happy that her space has a ... ready? A space heater.

When I drove Heir to Germantown, she brought her bike in the back seat, so she can avoid the mass transportation that is scary and costly. But the street she's on in Germantown consists of trolley tracks and cobblestone. Little tiny patch of pavement between the two.

What, me worry? Can you hear my teeth gnashing from where you're reading this?

Here's the bottom line, friends. And I may very well have to re-visit this post from time to time, or even in a dire emergency.

I would rather my beautiful young daughter be taking risks in marginal neighborhoods, biking badly-paved streets, making little or no money, than to see her slip into a 9-to-5 that she hates. I'd rather her take chances than sit in her room here at Chateau Johnson, fearing the outside world.

Go forth boldly, Heir. Seize the opportunity I never had. I'm not bipolar. I love you. Bunk here as long as you wish. Better sorry than safe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can You Be an Astronaut?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we really and truly are mourning the passing of Neil Armstrong (not Neil Young). I'd better go and gather some rosebuds, because time is really flying.

In my sermon today I will get inside Neil's head, and the heads of those who flew similar missions.

I guess it was probably some time in 2009 that I found myself in some doctor's office, waiting for either the Heir or the Spare ... and waiting ... and waiting. I was reading a magazine (can't remember which one, but this is a blog, so I don't have to be specific). The magazine had a long article in it about the psychology of astronauts.

It stands to reason that astronauts have to be in tip-top physical shape. But what's going on in their heads?

Turns out these folks are not Type A personalities. They are not hot dogs, or show-offs, or especially daredevils. The Apollo astronauts (and all other space travelers) were chosen because their minds were very, very bland.

Of course you want astronauts who won't panic if the space ship starts to come apart piece by piece. So these men were chosen for their ultimate grace under pressure. They had to have the right stuff mentally, which translated to very, very calm, very, very rational psyches.

After the first spate of daredevils, Houston did vast psychological testing on astronaut candidates. And then picked people who were more like Spock than Kirk.

Example from the article: Someone asked one of the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon to describe the experience. He answered, "We successfully completed the mission."

Have you ever heard of an astronaut who wrote a poem? An astronaut who sang the blues? An astronaut who cried while watching "The Notebook?" Forget it. Those dudes were chosen because they were calm and focused.

The other day I watched some footage from last year when the government gave Neil Armstrong some gold medal for national service, a really big honor, biggest you can get. He was addressing both Houses of Congress. And his speech was really, really boring. And clearly written out, no ad lib. He didn't smile or cry. Calm as a cucumber.

That's the way these guys were. Many of them are still alive, and they don't give good interviews. They would rather play golf than talk.

History places astronauts squarely in the role of scouts. Natural selection gives us men and women who carefully go into new places, carefully observe, carefully get themselves back to home base, report, and then ... only then ... do the Type A personalities rush in.

But if we were all like that, our only music would be the whir of an engine.

Neil Armstrong accomplished his mission. May he have found the Summerlands. What They will make of him There, I have no idea.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Young, Stoner Astronaut

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I have a terrific, nostalgic sermon for you today, but we have to do the opening rituals and stuff first.

1. I would like the faeries to give back the thick envelope of photographs I set aside to have scanned. The best of the best. Gone. Only in Chateau Johnson can this happen.

I'm trying not to get worked up. But certain faeries had better hand over the pics, or they will not  go to Spoutwood next May Day.

2. What a busy time this has been! On August 23, my beloved daughter The Spare headed off to college. The Spare! The Spare! What will my life be without the Spare making me laugh all the time! And her big dinner parties. And her Doctor Who parties. And her Harry Potter parties. And her 4th of July get-togethers. And her Christmas dinner soirees. I think we counted: She had eight parties last year with at least 10 guests. Seems like some of the life has been sucked out of the house.

Spare didn't choose just any college. She is attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. This expensive institution is not on the edge of the city. It's not in a quiet city neighborhood. It is right square on the freakin downtown streets, Center City, wedged in between skyscrapers and the Kimmel Center and the big theaters. You can see Billy Penn on top of City Hall, about six blocks away. Granted, Philly isn't New York, but at that particular spot it sure feels like it. To each her own, but I sure couldn't live amidst all that bustle. Spare! Spare! Never forget your Appalachian bloodline!

3. On we go to our pathetic patient, Decibel the parrot. Decibel hurt her wing awhile back, and the bills are mounting. We brought her home from the hospital last Monday, and within days she had torn her wound open again. Back we went to the vet for another $100 appointment, and now the poor feathered fool is wearing a bird collar.

The vet covered Decibel's collar with a few layers of surgical tape. Needless to say, Deci is hard at work trying to chew through the tape, and making good progress. Mr. J and I have to hand-feed her. But at least the collar is making her more docile. It's easier to give her the two kinds of expensive medicine she has to have twice a day. All of this so she doesn't peck on her injured wing -- so I have no idea how long she'll be in the collar. Seems like it's going to be awhile.

Now for the sermon: Mr. J just told me that NBC reported the death of Neil Young, the first astronaut to walk on the moon! Is it any wonder you're reading this blog and not an online news source? As much as I mourn the loss of the real Neil, I just can't help but have some fun with this.

How old were you when the first man walked on the Moon? Were you even born? I was a ten-year-old who was just captivated by space travel. Among my earliest memories lie visions of the space flights dating back into the early 1960s.

So it was that my whole family had gathered to watch the lunar touch down, which (if I recall) was in the late afternoon, during a thunderstorm. (Some local preachers later sermonized that the storm was proof of God's wrath about the whole Apollo mission.)

My mother and father couldn't understand why Neil Young had been chosen to be the first man to walk on the Moon. After all, he was a stoner hippie freak with a whiny voice who dared to insult fine Southern folks. But there he was, humming "Cinnamon Girl" as he plunked down the Canadian flag next to the lunar module. Neil even complained to Houston that he needed to be back in time for a big rock concert in New York on some guy's dairy farm.

My family thought it would have been better to find someone who was really committed to space travel, rather than a rock star with other pressing commitments. But who were we to question our government's crucial decisions? We loved Richard Nixon, leader of the Free World.

A few of my friends thought Jimi Hendrix should have been the first astronaut to come out of the hatch and walk on the moon. Jimi was at least an American. And why did they leave Janis in orbit? Those were different times, I guess.

A few days later, Neil touched down and got back to his day job. He often said that his days as an Apollo astronaut were a defining moment in his creative life.

Rest in peace, Neil Young, ground-breaking astronaut. Egg on face,

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Basically Four Quarters

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Here's a nice shot of the Central New Jersey Pagan Pride Day! The gal in the purple dress is me. I got to the event just in time for the very end of the mid-afternoon Ritual. That's not so bad as it sounds. If I had just used my reliable sense of direction, I would never, ever have found that place! The GPS knows best.

Some people don't care for Pagan Pride Days because the Rituals are "lite" and cater to all sorts of beliefs. That is exactly why I do like them. Since I'm a gal who worships deities whose names are lost to time, it's always joyous to mix with people from a variety of praise and worship groups. I'm not particularly interested in the differences between Wicca and Druidism, or between Rhiannon and Freya. Everything flies with Anne! No exceptions! Don't believe me? I've got a picture of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus on the shelf right behind me. Color me egalitarian when it comes to deity. Possible exception of Vulture, which is the One True Religion, over and above all others -- literally.

You might ask, "Anne, if you believe in all deities, how in the world do you worship?"

Simple. I call the Quarters.

Whether you're at a big ol' Pagan Lite Ritual, or just all alone in your tiny back yard, you can encompass the Divine and All Goodness by acknowledging the Directions. Suddenly the whole world is a great big circle, and you're in the middle of it, and all the deities of all the pantheons in the here and now, and the past, can be with you in your circle.

I've seen Quarters called in various ways. I like to begin with East (the hawk of dawn), move to South (the great stag), then to West (the salmon of wisdom), then to North (the great bear). Then, instead of calling a specific pantheon of deities, I just open up to the Divine.

You know what the bored gods tell me? That we modern humans are too serious when we worship. The bored gods were party gods. They want to dance, and laugh (and get drunk ... alas, those days are over for me). Therefore, my neighbors get treated to worship that looks like someone dancing to the Talking Heads. Which is sometimes what I do. With the bored gods, once you're harming no one, you are free, free, free to feel Their warmth, any way you choose to praise Them. They are in the circle with you. Glad to be seen and heard and felt.

One thing you'll never hear me say (mostly because I usually work solitary) is, "Am I doing it right?" When you worship the bored gods, there's no wrong! Their right rites have been lost to the mists of time.

Dance. Move. Laugh. It's a big circle.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Very Sad Plight of Flying Monkeys

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," two-weeks-until-school-starts edition!

Oh my, Decibel. One night under her home roof, she has bitten open all her wounds. Now I fear I must make a shameless plea for financial aid. If you're rolling in it and want to help with bird bills (the monetary, not the beak kind), please email me.

But hey. I know how tough it is out there. How few of you are rolling, or even breaking even. The "Tonight Show" laid off 20 workers. And Jay took a pay cut.

Basically we are all fucked.

Take, for example, the sad plight of the flying monkeys.

When I was a kid, the flying monkeys scared the living daylights out of me. I also detested those soldiers that chanted. It was great to see how happy they were when the wicked witch died.

Over the course of my life I have had very little reason to hire a flying monkey or a group of them. It's just not how I roll. But this summer, one came to me. He had been hired to turn me into a wicked witch.

Fat chance of that! Within 15 minutes of his arrival, I had explained to him that

1. The vast majority of witches are not wicked, and those that are would meet with disapproval from the rank and file.
2. I do not choose to be turned into a wicked witch. I would puke before I terrorized a cute little girl and a Cairn terrier.

3. I love to swim, ergo I would not like to evaporate the minute I step into the surf at Ventnor. (Step is the operative word here. The surf there is so rough I cringe to go beyond my kneecaps.)
4. One wicked witch in a 1939 film was enough for two centuries.

It was surprising how quickly he aborted his mission. I soon found out why.

The poor soul was severely emaciated. He said he hadn't had a decent banana in years. I promptly gave him every one we had in the house. He vowed to serve me forever, was there anyone I wanted to terrorize? A dog snatched? A scarecrow pummeled?

None of the above for me.

Then he told me how things have gone for the flying monkeys.

His tale of woe did not surprise me, but it might surprise you.

The Wicked Witch of the West was apparently a motivated employer who bargained amiably with the flying monkeys' union. Under her control, the flying monkeys were well paid. They had a good health care plan (most operations were performed by the witch herself) and generous vacation time. They were given higher wages for learning safer and more efficient ways to fly. And they didn't have to buy their bananas at some company store -- they had a nice, modern supermarket filled to the brim with fresh fruit.

Since the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, the flying monkeys have had trouble finding employment, even among some of the worst supervillains. Magneto offered them a pay cut and then laid off half the monkey force on the day before Christmas. Galactus said he had no need of flying monkeys when he could get Daleks for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the food bill. The Tea Party will use them only surreptitiously, as contract employees -- and then the check just never arrives in the mail, even after multiple invoices.

It's hard out there for a flying monkey.

Most of them have maxed out their unemployment and exhausted their retirement savings.

At some times in my life, I would have considered this story a dodge or a hoax. Let me tell you, readers: I believed this poor flying monkey. He opened up a little sack in his tattered vest and showed me what he'd been paid to turn me into a wicked witch. Ten bucks up front, $30 more with proof of success.

With The Spare beginning college this week and Decibel apparently headed back to the spa animal hospital, I didn't have thirty bucks to cancel the assignment.

I rooted around my abundant supply of thrift store costumes, looking for wicked witch gear. Couldn't find any. I always have hated the Nittany Lions, so I didn't have any Penn State shirts. In desperation we went to the local ice cream store. I promised a kid two cones if the monkey could photograph me snatching one of them and making the kid cry.

Thin broth. I have a bad feeling that the flying monkey will not collect his meager fee. I did give him a nice sack of fruit, though. Everything's ripe this time of year in New Jersey.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gods Are Bored Update

Well, beyond all the expectations of myself, the Bored Gods have returned Decibel the Parrot to me, greatly improved and well on the way to health again! I'm sure there is some venerable deity of the South American rain forest to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. As for the debt to the vet? Oh, snap. Don't even ask. Okay, I'll tell you: four figures. Could have had 20 budgies and 20 cages and 20 sacks of budgie food for what Mr. J shelled out. A big, bright "Gods Are Bored" thanks to all who contributed to the Decibel Fund, and it is still open, should you feel inclined.

On Saturday Mr. J and I went to the Central New Jersey Pagan Pride Day, and I got to meet Mrs. B, she of the famous "Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom" blog (link in my sidebar). What a lovely lady! She gave a presentation on poppets that was very interesting ... I asked her to make one for Decibel.

My current Druid Grove was well-represented there too. The park where the event was held could not possibly be an easy commute for any of them (took me over an hour). If there are evangelists for Druidry, these folks are the ones. Heck, we may be knocking on your door some Saturday morning, all dressed in Celtic knot tie-dye!

That's all the news I have time to share, except for this: I've lost 20 pounds this summer. It was a rigorous diet that I do not recommend in any way, shape, or form, but it's nice to have my girlish figure back.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot! I also learned Stanza 52 of "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me
He complains of my gab and my loitering
I too am not a bit tame; I too am untranslatable
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me
It flings my likeness after the rest, and good and true as any on the shadowed wilds
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air; I shake my white locks at the runaway sun
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags

I bequeath myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love
If you want me again, look under your boot-soles

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged
Missing me one place search another
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

The last few lines need a little touching up, but go ahead and try to get this one by heart. The "shadowed wilds" line took me a whole week. If you see any omissions, tell me ASAP, because school starts in two weeks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Computer in My Head

We at "The Gods Are Bored" just completed a two-day, mind-numbing seminar on the latest, greatest computer program for data-driven instruction.

If you haven't heard of data-driven instruction, it's the latest, greatest tool for teachers everywhere. Just by looking at numbers grouped various ways, you can see exactly how your students are progressing as they learn something. This by-the-number approach has been created by two forces:

1. Standardized testing, and
2. Computer geeks

Go on, tell a computer geek to create a program that tracks student progress as the kids fill in little circles with number two pencils. Snap, crackle, pop! Eight ways, 15 ways, two dozen ways, to follow your students, group them, pinpoint specific tasks they can't do very well (i.e. subordinate clauses), and, of course, that all-important number: their Lexile score.

Lexile is basically reading-level, only geekier. I wish all my readers could take the standardized test for Lexile, so they would know how brilliant they are. Collectively we would max out that puppy and drive the data through the roof!

I've only been a teacher for a few years, but there are some things I've learned. I did not need to consult a computer to learn these things. Here goes:

1. If you have 110 students, by October you will know them all, their strengths and weaknesses, because you like them, they're people, and they reveal what they can and can't do, even if they don't want to.

2. Most standardized tests suck.

3. Someone is making a lot of money off the widely-held conviction that teachers can't tell which of their students need help without consulting a pie chart.

4. Most older teachers who grew up before the era of computers spend valuable time trying to run data through computers when they could just be reading student essays and making notes with a pencil, on some paper.

5. Not everyone is going to "get" everything, but this is the goal in today's educational environment. So, let me get this straight. Should Decibel's vet know how to fix my car? Should I know how to spay a cat?

Did you know that the geeks are trying to create a computer program that can grade essays? There are some programs already that can offer help with grammar, but nothing that can judge content. So this important grading falls to people. Well, we know this won't last, because you have to pay people to score essays, and a computer could do it cheaper.

Pardon me for not mincing words, but I hate it when a person is reduced to a numerical score. If Anne Johnson is having a bad day and decides that a computerized standardized test is the last thing she wants to do on earth, she will be deemed a moron by the data. It will be even worse if the cute guy next to her is flirting with her for the first time ever.

Sorry, geeks, but just now the computer in my head is better at tracking student progress than your fancy programs. On the day when that is no longer the case, the human race is doomed.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Decibel Update/Marginal Issues/Witch Wars

Hi folks! Give your bored deity some praise and worship today!

The vet just called with Decibel's vitals. She is improving, and she's acting like a baa lamb for them, allowing them to hold her and pet her, which -- trust me -- she wouldn't dream of doing in her daily environment. The cage they have her in is like a jail cell, but when I visit they let me hold her (I'm baffled that I still have fingers). She'll probably be in the hospital another six or seven days, making the tally for her recovery twice as much as her initial purchase price.

The other day I called gay marriage and other voter-distracting issues "meaningless." That was not the proper word to use. Human rights are never meaningless. I should have said "marginal." Too many people are casting votes for their legislators based on single issues, disregarding the more widespread and dire problems, with global climate change heading the list, at least in my playbook. Our economy is so broken. It's getting worse every day, too. How long can this go on? Just in this household alone, we will be facing pay cuts next year as high as 15 percent! This is outrageous, and we aren't alone by any stretch of the imagination.

Next topic: Another round of what I love to call "witch wars." It seems like, no matter how large or small the group, right down to, but not including, solitary, you will often see arguments and drama that adversely affect the religious experience. Much has been written in many venues about this. I have to laugh, because I wonder how many of the people who are concerned about "witch wars" have ever worked Children's Sunday School at a Methodist church. Or sung in a choir led by a good-looking director. Or went to a high school with a cross-town rivalry. Yes, yes, I know we Pagans are supposed to be setting a good example for future generations and other religions, but people are people. Everywhere.

If anything, the Pagan ranks may be loaded with irate people, because some of us come from traumatizing experiences with Methodist Sunday Schools. We're the ones who said, "This just isn't right," and maybe we're just wired to keep on saying that, wherever we wind up.

Personally, every whiff of drama I smell from a Pagan group sends me running. At my age I am not going to deal with factions or cults of personality, or divisions in philosophy engendered by heated argument. The bored gods hear me when I praise and worship them all by myself.

Some people need their Covens and Groves, and some people can go it alone. If you are having trouble with your group, you should try solitary. The only drama you bring to that Circle is your own.

Oh! Free advice! Sorry ... I'll have to issue an I.O.U. if you want me to pay you for reading it. Decibel's in the clink, Spare needs an Apple laptop (MUST BE APPLE) for school, and it's August ... the month when every school teacher can't buy a cup of coffee.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This Land Is Their Land

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," hoping the deities of yesteryear will be able to find work in this dismal economic climate.

I doubt that They will. Even though They are gods who can work miracles, heal the sick, send lightning bolts and good/bad weather, soothe the grieving, and protect the populace. Sadly, all of these positions are currently filled by a single deity, which makes Him the one percent.

Good luck saving those mountain gorillas, Chonganda. Maybe you can get an unpaid internship.

This billboard shocked commuters in the Las Vegas area today. Apparently it was a totally rogue action, done overnight by some happily employed, secure individual with a living wage and health care desperate out-of-work (but not out of ideas) American. According to the story on the Yahoo news feed, Nevada's legislature has cut funding for suicide prevention and intervention.

(Don't be alarmed. That's a mannequin. I would not call it a dummy.)

We are living in a nation where many people can't find work, but they can buy guns. Some of these people are deeply concerned with totally meaningless issues like gay marriage and abortion, while their usefulness as "units" disappears.

Others may be starting to re-think who the real villains are. The fact that these villains are not as clueless as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette will protect them for awhile. But as more and more people find themselves unable to feed their children (lower rungs), pay for their homes (my rung), or advance thanks to extra education and hard work (higher rung), the villains will no longer be safe.

If you add climate change to this mix, oh golly.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Decibel Makes Up for Lost Time

This will have to be quick, because I have a doctor's appointment shortly.

Decibel the parrot hurt her wing a few weeks ago. I suspect it was a run-in with a squirrel, as my cats are justifiably afraid of Decibel.

Parrots are very stoic, so it wasn't until this morning, when she was practically falling off the perch, that I decided she needed a trip to the vet.

Part of the reason I held off on the vet trip is because, as generous as Governor Chris Christie is with my state health care (not), he draws the line at caged birds. Meanwhile, Spare starts college in two weeks.

Decibel is now in the hospital receiving multiple levels of care. She will live to earn her name. The bill is astronomical.

I decided not to turn Decibel over for adoption (meaning that someone else would foot the bill for her recovery) because the doggone bird has been with me since chickhood and is totally bonded to me. What's the use of her living if she's looking for me every day in someone else's house?

The vet assured me that Decibel can be completely cured. So, there you have it.

Over the years, Decibel has been a very cheap pet. All I had to do was buy bird food, which I supplemented with stuff from our table and the occasional treat. A lot less overhead than a cat. Decibel has been living in the same cage since 1990. It's getting a bit harder to dismantle for cleaning but is otherwise functional.

Alas, all pets come with a price tag. Time to ante up for Decibel.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Put It to the Test

Good morning from "The Gods Are Bored!" I just read the most depressing article about county fairs in the New York Times. The drought in the heartland has wreaked havoc on prize-winning zucchinis and 200+ pound pumpkins.

For those of us who grew up eagerly anticipating the county fair, this is a sad story that illustrates the scary commencement of a new Dust Bowl in our primary food-producing regions.

But, hey! Let's all be distracted by silly stuff!

Just in on Yahoo News:

Johan Huibers, a Dutch contractor and millionaire has reproduced a copy of Noah's Ark, built the proportions laid out in The Bible.

Here it is:

Now, recall that we here at "The Gods Are Bored" believe in "production for use." This is why we abhor firearms and even those bottle rockets that take off peoples' fingers on the Fourth of July.

In this case, though, I think "production for use" applies.

Considering that the world could be headed into a new era of catastrophic flooding, I think we should pack up that ark with two of every living creature on the Earth. Of course we need also to leave room for the dinosaurs. We can calculate that space by using the existing dinosaur fossil skeletons for measurement purposes.

Rounding up insects will be difficult and, at times, perilous. However, it is not fair to exclude them, since they are the largest family of creatures on the planet. I volunteer a stink bug, gender unknown, and a pair of silverfish I found mating in one of Mr. J's boxes of newspaper clippings. Mosquitoes can fly, and there are too many in my yard to catch, so I'm going to leave that chore for someone else.

We also need to make comfortable space for eight people. And a storehouse for food supplies, 40 days' worth, including all the vast variety of foodstuffs animals nosh on. I have a shrubbery that could keep a pair of leaf miners going for 40 days. They can have it if they dig it up and take it away.

There you have it. Production for use. Load up that ark, set it adrift in the Sargasso Sea, and look for the snow-white dove bearing an olive branch. A sodden olive branch bearing no fruit, because it was submerged and drowned.

Hmmm. Problem there. All the plants drowned! How are we going to feed the leaf miners until new shrubbery can be nursed to maturity? 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Our Very Wonderful Well-Regulated Militia

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," fellow soldiers! It's time to protect America!

You see, each and every one of us over the age of 18, with very few exceptions, are members of the well-regulated militia.

You've probably noticed that I write a lot about the First Amendment. In the interest of fairness, it's time to look at the Second Amendment:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Here comes the Hun! Where's my gun?

It's not easy being a member of the United States of America well regulated militia. People so easily overlook your role in protecting our free state.

Just this morning, I heard that the mass transit police in Philadelphia apprehended a patriotic militia man on the busiest subway in the city. This soldier was carrying an AK 47 assault rifle and several rounds of ammunition. (His ration kit also included marijuana.) The cheek of those transit cops! Honestly!

My daughter The Heir rides mass transit in Philadelphia, and I am personally offended that a well-regulated militia man was hauled off the train and arrested. No doubt he was there in the first place to protect Heir and the other passengers from the ever-present danger of an enemy in our midst.

You are going to see more of this, readers. Our state security is going to be compromised because our militia members are being arrested, and in some cases denied firearms altogether. I quake, I absolutely quake, for my daughter's safety on the El. Everywhere you look there are Nazis, North Koreans, Viet Cong, and bearded terrorists shouting about Allah! What's the name of that little island in the middle of nowhere that the U.S. invaded back in the 1980s? Slips my mind, but you just know the leaders of that island are out for serious reprisals. (Just remembered: Grenada. Full of enemies.)

As for the arms we can bear, well, I say that whatever we can carry should be bearable. At my very next opportunity, I am going to a gun show in search of a surface-to-air missile. If I am going to be part of the well-regulated militia, I don't want to take any chances with those flocks of geese that pass this way in the fall. Haven't you ever heard of germ warfare?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Lughnasadh 2012

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Lughnasadh edition! Or, if you prefer the bored gods native to North America, Happy Feast of the Green Corn!

This is another of those fun summer parties we have (May Day being the other) that contain an underlying message of growth, fertility, making plans, and appreciating the weather that nourishes. For me, this holy day is also a moment to consider what happens when the weather (or life) does not nourish, when there's a drought, or a flood, or lightning strikes that decimate your favorite tree.

Well, this is where the atheists think that all religious people are silly. We thank the deities when our crops yield and mature, and we petition the deities when the sailing is rough.

With ample evidence to believe that the universe is completely random, there are also those uncanny moments that just don't seem possibly to be coincidences. This is my experience, anyway. Furthermore, I have said it before, and I'll say it again: If human beings represent the highest level available in the entire universe, then it's a damn sorry universe that ought to just fold in on itself and try again, sooner that later.

At the beginning of July, I went to Polish Mountain to walk the land and honor my ancestors. There's a very small burial plot near the foot of the mountain that has some recent graves in it ... enough for some kind of perpetual care fund. In that burial ground is a small stone for an ancestor of mine who fought in the Revolutionary War. Just as I was honoring this stone, a vulture swooped low over the hillside. It rounded once and then sailed off to the west.

I believe in free will, but I also believe in synchronicity and in  Higher Powers. Stored within us are parts of our brains that we don't even use. I'm stealing from Robert Anton Wilson when I say that, should we some day be able to tap into those unused brain areas, we might really experience the gods.

How does your garden grow? Has this season been plentiful, or has it been fraught with peril and uncertainty? Either way, kick up your heels today ... just because the time of life is short.

Blessed be,