Monday, April 29, 2013

Tape Recorder

I'm sure you've noticed that the modern-day yard sale is chock-a-block with VHS tapes for movies you'd just love to own if you had

A. the space to store them
B. a device that plays VHS tapes easily
C. the time to watch movies
D. all of the above

For instance, I just had a yard sale, and I have an entire set of Shirley Temple movies that I inherited from my mother and just can't bear to put at the curb. When I say a set, I mean every doggone thing Shirley ever appeared in, including a collection of "Baby Burlesque." That little girl worked her butt off!

But this is beside the point.

Another item I have in abundance is audio cassette tapes. Oh, not "The Best of Dean Martin" or "Elton John's Greatest Hits." I have video cassette tapes my sister made in the 1970s ... of my grandparents talking.

My maternal grandmother had a memory that would rival any elephant's. I have a tape full 90 minutes long of her reciting poems and stories she learned as a young girl, back in the days before radio, out in the country where vaudeville never penetrated. Some of the songs on the tape are ancient ballads that came over on the wooden ships.

One problem: I didn't have an audio tape player.

Or so I thought.

Yard sales are marvelous things in that you root through the house looking for stuff to sell. In that process of rooting, I found a beautiful, wonderful audio cassette player that I didn't even know we had. I also found the big stack of photographs that went missing!

Back to the cassette player. Gifted with this relic of a bygone century, I snapped in the tape and started listening to Grandma saying her poems and singing her songs.

Ah, the abundant "r" sounds of the Appalachian accent! And the casual double negatives, the abundant use of "ain't," the additional syllable at the beginning of a phrase that has disappeared from our tongue. ("And when we went a-huntin', my father led the way.")

My daughter The Heir asked me to turn off the tape. She never met her great-grandmother, but Heir said she could hear my voice in the elderly Appalachian lady.

I pressed Heir: Was it the accent? No. What, then? The spirit.

My grandmother loved to recite poetry, she threw her whole joie de vivre into it. So do I.

Bardic grandmother, I salute you. Thank you for the gift of poetry and ancient song. May I be worthy of the gifts you have given.

And may the tape recorder never break down, because I don't have a clue how to transfer this aural wealth of history into the new media.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

More Captivating Information about High School Choirs

You know who you are. You are the survivor of high school spring music programs.

Yes, either you played in them, or you went to them as a parent, or both. A pleasant experience? Speaking only for myself, no and no! Hated playing in them, and hated listening to them.

When my daughter The Spare walked across the stage and grabbed her high school diploma, I thought to myself, "Ahhhh.... no more spring music concerts!"

For those of you not in the know, most high schools combine all their musical acts (band, orchestra, choir, and dance) into one springtime program. It's uniformly long and mostly excruciating, except for the singing. It's easier for voices to hold a proper note than instruments. I've never heard a single high school orchestra, most notably the one I performed in, that could produce anything that remotely sounded like pleasant sound.

Last night I went to a spring music concert at Boniface VIII High School on behalf of my exchange student, whose mama is halfway around the globe. This concert reminded me painfully of the parental obligation of attending high school performances. But I stuck it heroically. If you read yesterday's post, you'll know I had an agenda.

I wanted to see if a parochial school larded its spring music concert with religious music, which was a given at Snobville Public High School.

Turns out, the parochial school musical fare was, with one exception ("Come On, Get Happy," a show tune), resolutely secular. Not a single syllable of Latin. My student, Extra Chair, was completely correct.

So after the painful ordeal evening concert, E.C. and I unwound over a sandwich at the local diner (her first diner visit ever). She explained why the spring musical program had no religious music in it.

Silly me. The Boniface VIII choir sings at Mass once a week! So of course they blow all the Latin into those entertainments. Actually, however, E.C. says they don't sing any Latin. It's all English or Spanish. No matter the native tongue, the religious music goes into the religious venue, and the pop music get spread upon the parents, teachers, and siblings.

The moral of this sermon is, if you have to keep going to high school spring musical concerts, it's always nice to learn something new about them. Clarinet, please give me a B-flat ... on key.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On the Fascinating Topic of High School Choirs

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," entertaining two or three people somehow since 2005! My name is Anne Johnson, and my home has suddenly grown to include another young lady. Since I have an Heir and a Spare (daughters), I call this young lady the Extra Chair, because we have to pull one up to the table when everyone's home to dinner.

But I digress.

When my daughter The Spare attended Snobville High, she sang in several excellent school choirs. Like everything else in Snobville, Spare's choir was chock-a-block with kids intending to major in vocal arts in college. You can't avoid this in Snobville. Give a kid a ball, he or she becomes an Olympian. Give them instruments, they wind up in the symphony. Give them a good camera, they become George Lucas (that's you, Spare ... get it done!).

Spare's choir teacher came to public school from a distinguished career as a church choir director. And so, inevitably, the Snobville Public High School Choir always sang at least two Christian numbers during the public school concerts. (Generally one was in Latin, one in English). During the Christmas holiday, a nod would be given to Judaism with some blast from the Old Testament.

And this boiled my blood. Not because the music wasn't pretty (it was), or well-done (it was), but because a public school choir should be held to the same First Amendment standards as every other aspect of public school. Music should be secular. It's not like one has to search dusty archives to find  chorus music with non-religious themes.

I used to complain about this to Spare. She would fix me with a disdainful eye and say it's no big deal. But to me it is. No one thinks about the First Amendment violations in school choir music. Suppose one or more of the singers were Pagans? Hardly seems fair.

If I ever go to a Snobville High choir concert and hear "Cantata in F Major for Flying Spaghetti Monster," I'll be satisfied.

Tonight is Extra Chair's annual high school choir performance. She attends the local parochial school. Now, you would surely expect a boatload of Latin-based Christian music at such a do ... and that's where it belongs. Extra Chair tells me that the program will consist of non-religious fare! Granted, E.C.'s English isn't perfected yet, but if I go to listen to a concert at Bonifice VIII School and there's no Latin, I'm going to be flabbergasted ... and more irate about Snobville High than ever.

The last time I went to a parochial school was when I was doing my night classes for teaching, an experience so wrenchingly foul that it still lingers like the last poison ivy blisters after a long bout of itching. Whew! Different school! Bring on the musty auditorium!

We'll see if the First Amendment prevails where it need not do so. What a world.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Church of the Holy Yard Sale

April is yard sale season. I'm sure you've noticed. Some places have town-wide yard sales ... multi-family yard sales ... fundraiser yard sales. To me, these things smack of religion. Or, at the very least, they shed some light on human praise and worship.

Okay, now you think I've finally gone around the bend. Well, maybe ... if there's a yard sale around the bend. Otherwise, I'm on the mark, I think.

First, let me differentiate between an estate sale and a yard sale. Estate sales happen when people die or move, and pretty much everything goes. With yard sales, you just go through your house and get together stuff you want other people to buy from you. You're not dead, not even sick usually. You've just bought a lot of stuff at other peoples' yard sales, and now it's time to send it on down the line.

A few weeks ago I went to a banquet, and the woman sitting across the table from me described in great detail her weekly forays into yard sale Nirvana. She begins the week before by examining Craigslist and the local papers minutely, noting every yard sale in a 20-mile area. Then she makes a map. She gets up before dawn on Saturday and follows her map. She makes thrilling discoveries. She's proud of her yard sale acquisitions. This lady regaled her hapless hostages fascinated listeners with a long, long list of things she has gotten at yard sales, which included just about everything except her toenails (and for those she got a pedicure kit, unopened, for a quarter).

I wouldn't really say this person has turned yard sale shopping into a religion, but the zeal she displayed is similar to the giddy happiness I've seen in the faces and bearings of some religious people. There's an element of bragging in yard sale disciples that you wouldn't see in most religions, but that look in the eye... it's so familiar. There's bliss in those bargains. There's devotion in their pursuit.

Now let's look at the flip side of yard sales: the sellers. My family is having a yard sale this coming weekend, so I've been pondering the process.

When you throw a yard sale on your lawn, you're inviting the approval or disdain of hoards of strangers. You are a missionary of your stuff, trying to convince others that what you have is of value. If no one buys what you've strewn on your grass, you feel devalued. Worse yet, if someone tries to bargain down your already-low price by noting deficiencies in items, you want to load everything up, take it back inside, and hug it. At least I do.

People are rather like this about their praise and worship. It really hurts when someone belittles you for what you believe and what you value. Likewise, you can't always understand the driving passion some people feel for the process of yard sale shopping. It floats their boat, but not yours. Sound familiar?

Now you're saying, "Anne, I can't believe you're comparing the lowest kind of silly shopping with something as lofty as worship." Well, sorry. I am. It's in our nature to have a set of values (our stuff) which we want to share with others. It's in our nature to study other peoples' values (their stuff) and glean gems from them. It's in our nature to be deeply hurt if people malign our values. Our stuff = ourselves. Which is why many religions inveigh against having a lot of material stuff lying about.

It's human nature that some people go overboard in their worship (hoarders). And there are even the atheists -- the neighbors who roll their eyes and try fruitlessly to get their car through the crowded street, just to go out for a cup of coffee and a biscuit. Why buy other peoples' junk?

So, as I prepare for this weekend's multi-family yard sale on my block,  I'm taking stock of what I have and what I'm willing to display. Faith enters the picture when I continue to believe in my unused cookbooks, even if no one will flip me two bits for them.

In case you're wondering, the collection from this Saturday's holy yard sale will support a deserving young lady as she pursues her college education. Blessed be the yard sale! No early birds.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Extra Chair

Life gives us very curious challenges. I'm sure you have noticed. There's no time of life, even in the womb, that does not deal out a fistful of challenges.

The latest challenge here at "The Gods Are Bored" has been sparked by Mr. Johnson's decision to take a small severance option from his company, which is basically the Titanic anyway. We don't want to downsize, however, because Mr. J needs our home property. He has a convenient and necessary home office within. Heir has a lair at the very top of the stair, where she lives without care. So there. We're trying to hold on, using creative financing.

In that regard, Fate threw us a boarder. She is an exchange student named Extra Chair. She moved in last Saturday.

Extra Chair has the cheerfulness and energy of Tigger. She does not walk. She bounces. She sings. Her happiness level is supernatural. And as an only child, she is absolutely smitten with Heir and Spare. Imagine suddenly having two sisters, just a little bit older than you!

Extra Chair attends the local parochial school, wearing her Buddhist bracelet with her Catholic girl uniform. She sets off every day through our yard full of lawn gnomes and faerie cairns.

Last night, Extra Chair asked me to look at her English essay. I was dismayed. It seemed way too short and under-developed. I queried her several times: Are you sure this is enough to satisfy your teacher? And she assured me it was. This is not a slacker student, so I am now intensely curious about the grade she will receive on this little theme.

If her grade is an "A" or a "B," it is total vindication of my Camden public school, where three-quarters of the students receive free breakfast and lunch, and all are learning trades. Because if she turned it in to me, I would fling it back in her lap and tell her to write more, much more ... and then I would show her how.

For a number of years, the students in my school have been passing the state-mandated standardized English tests with ease. Last year, 92 percent of our kids got proficient grades on the first crack at the exam, and the rest made it through in second rounds.

Extra Chair's theme might be a clue as to our students' abilities, because I'm here to tell you that it wouldn't pass muster in my public vocational school. Not for the grammar, which is easily fixed (her English is pretty good), but for the content.

You know that the move is on to privatize education, and the battle is being led by the parochial schools, which are clinging to solvency by their fingernails. But if conscientious student Extra Chair can be used as an example, I would say that we public school teachers are rockin'. Maybe we actually work harder than you would be led to believe.

Extra Chair is working on her pronunciation of "faerie." And she is learning quickly (and hopefully painlessly) to steer clear of Decibel the parrot.

For updates on the tragic explosion in West, Texas -- by our valient heroine on the scene -- hop on over to Yellowdog Granny. Have some tissue handy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Freya's Champion in West, Texas

I still don't know how many people read "The Gods Are Bored," but if your eyes are passing over this, please go visit Yellowdog Granny, who lives there ... lives there. A more courageous great-grandmother would be very hard to find. Leave her a wish on behalf of your deity.

Anne Johnson

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Accelerated Brutality

By the time I was ten years old, three national figures had been assassinated in my lifetime: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. These slayings, I think, laid the foundations for a time of turbulence that we see accelerating around us.

Both Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford survived assassination attempts. So that's two more presidents (who we know of) who had to dodge bullets.

But of more concern to me is the trend that, if it didn't begin with the Manson family, certainly became established by the Manson family. This trend is to murder rather random, innocent people in large numbers that draw intense media coverage.

The Manson family, then the Jonestown massacre (which was, in some cases, mass suicide). Those were two astonishing crimes. Otherwise, when I was younger, the trend was to individual mentally deranged serial killers -- in and of themselves a terrible menace.

Since last summer we've had, now, three events in which unsuspecting people have been killed or injured with efficient weapons. A shooting in a Colorado movie theater, a shooting at an elementary school, and now a bomb at the Boston Marathon. In less than a year.

I can't account for this. Maybe the deranged killers are shifting from an individual serial model to a senseless mass model. I refuse to assign any sanity to the people doing this, just as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were dangerously insane.

What concerns me (and not for my own physical safety ... I live in New Jersey and drive the Turnpike, so I know where my dangers lie) is that these episodes are accelerating. They're happening more often. No sooner do we turn sorrowfully from one than another explodes. Literally.

So, what has changed since the 1960s? Well, I'll tell you. We now have cable television. We have nightly programs that are politically polarized and strident. We have 24-hour news cycles with networks vying for exclusive interviews and gruesome details. And now we have the Internet, where all the crazies can find the other crazies and learn how to make bombs to boot.

We're offering scant answers here at "The Gods Are Bored." But it just seems to me that the trend toward violence aimed at unsuspecting civilians is accelerating. God bless America.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Job Ecology

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Wow, what a hectic weekend! Extra Chair arrived with her luggage and many lovely gifts from China. I threw a birthday party for Spare ... had all three of her college roomies and her best friend over for dinner. Not a great way to prepare for a week of teaching school. I'm tired!

An anonymous commenter left a very thoughtful response on the post "Closing Gaps." This commenter said the world would be better if we had "job ecology." What a lovely metaphor! Instead of shipping jobs overseas and mechanizing human beings out onto the streets, wouldn't it be great if the goal of business was not entirely profit, but also the continued contentment of workers?

Mr. J and I often talk of Old Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol. Reading that story, we're not sure what kind of business Fezziwig is running... only that he employs apprentice clerks. But boy, oh boy! Christmas comes and the whole place is dancing and feasting and having a great time -- including Fezziwig, his wife, and his pretty daughters! Even Scrooge loved Fezziwig.

Can you imagine a CEO in these days, dancing and drinking with his or her employees? I suppose it must happen some places. Doesn't happen in my place of employment.

It seems to me the nature of our species to seek to consolidate wealth and power within a small extended family group, and to hell with everybody else. The ecological model would seek to consolidate worker security so that everyone could get out of bed in the morning not dreading a pink slip. This would increase satisfaction, spending, and (I believe, though many CEOs would not) individual performance.

Job ecology would mean that my daughter The Heir would not be an "independent contractor" who finds herself with a $450 tax bill. Nor would her employers be so pressed that they couldn't offer her benefits, because the big corporations that hire them would pay government benefits all down the ladder.

Now I have to run and teach one last class today. Teachers used to have job ecology in the form of tenure. This, of course, is being eroded -- not because there are bad teachers, but just because no one should have job security. No one.

Global climate change? It's not just in the atmosphere. It's in how we're living. The center cannot hold.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why I Love Festivals

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," silly and serious and sensitive Pagan blogging since 2005! I'm the fast typist brilliant authoress, Anne Johnson. I thought of giving myself a pretty Pagan name, but nothing has ever stuck for long. I'm thinking of taking out "Buzzy" for a spin to see if I like that one.

There's been some discussion on the Web lately about varieties of public worship, with many Pagan authors advocating group rituals. A few writers like large festivals, but most don't. So, always the contrarian, I'm here to send in a vote for festivals.

Can't speak for anyone else, but I'm a nervous person. Perhaps I'm the only nervous person in the whole world. Could be. You don't hear many people admitting to being nervous ... like it's a failing or something. HEY! I'M NERVOUS! It's not a failing, it's just what is.

Small groups don't work well for me because I'm always second-guessing myself. It's very hard for me to ground and center within a small group. *Am I doing it right? Did I say (or do) the wrong thing?* On and on. I don't see this as a failing. I see it as my own personal internal mechanism. Then there's my other interior dialogue, which I do consider a failing. I've been to one small group where I kept asking myself, *Are they doing it right? This is not the way I like to do this!*

I'm not the ideal candidate for a coven or a grove, or a blot, or even a Methodist congregation.The one grove I was in that I liked broke up due to size (small). Loved those folks, but even there I was a bundle of nerves. Whereas the Methodists would have found me scathingly critical if I'd opened my trap.

Festivals are a much better place for nervous Pagans. A large festival with a widespread religious representation allows the nervous person latitude to enjoy things anonymously (thereby avoiding the *Am I doing it right?* pitfall). Also, at a festival, if you don't like the way it's being done, you can jolly well slip away for a nap or some quiet meditation elsewhere. People at festivals tend to be friendly but not looking for deeper bonds -- the kind that make me nervous.

I attend two festivals in the warm weather. the first is the  May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm in Glen Rock, PA. This festival celebrates faeries and Beltane, first weekend in May, and is convenient to Washington DC, Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Philly.

The other festival I attend is Drum and Splash at Four Quarters Farm in beloved Artemas, PA. Artemas is not convenient to anything, which makes it a deep woods with swimming holes and mountain vistas. Well worth the long drive.

While Drum and Splash -- and Four Quarters in general -- is considered religious, Spoutwood is more about having fun and slipping in a little Earth Worship like a spoonful of sugar into iced tea.

For those who think festivals are "religion lite," just recall that praise and worship is a personal thing -- some people, some bored deities, just like it big, loud, boisterous, and relatively anonymous. Don't fault the solitary Druid who throws on her tribal and goes to drum and dance with people she doesn't know. Maybe that's the one way she feels comfortable, at home, and at peace with herself.

Thus endeth today's sermon. Thanks be to Vulture.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Blessed Moment for Buzzard Worshippers Worldwide

I don't have to write today because

*tears of joy*

Also, I can't recommend enough that you get your daily dose of California condor cuteness from the web cam focused on Saticoy's new baby sibling!

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Closing Gaps

I send you greetings from many wonderful deities! The weather has suddenly warmed, and they are having a lively chat by the Shrine of the Mists. I can hear them back there teasing the neighborhood tom cat.

The Great State of New Jersey wants to close the achievement gap between the highest scoring students and the lowest scoring students. It makes no sense to Governor Christie and his chums that poor kids don't perform well on tests, that they don't learn as much, and their futures are therefore grim.

Well, there are gaps, and there are gaps.

If you close the educational gap, you might well close the expectation gap. Don't know what the expectation gap is? Read on.

My students struggle to achieve a high school diploma. Armed with that diploma, they go get jobs at Whole Foods, Wegman's, Home Depot, and Target. My students are thrilled to find work at such places. They get decent wages and work hours, and some of these businesses offer health care (at least minimally).

College graduates who enter the work force consider themselves failures if they have to work at Home Depot. Is this what they went to college for? To shelve paint samples? Whole Foods. Is this what they went to college for, to chop up eggplant all day?

I had a student come visit me last week. She was all dressed up and supremely happy. She had found a good job cutting up vegetables at Whole Foods. She was in hog heaven.

Along with the educational gap goes the expectation gap. There's the expectation of a "better" job -- better than Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

My question to the Powers That Be, then, is this: If everyone gets an equal education, and everyone goes to college, who will be happy working at Dick's Sporting Goods? Shouldn't America have different calibrations of happiness?

I'll muddy the water even further. Is it possible that, armed with her high school diploma and some ambition, my former student will stride happily into Whole Foods and work her way up the chain of command? Isn't that how America is supposed to work, especially for the immigrant generation?

Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the self-made person. Maybe I'm too 20th century for this new world. But one of my grandfathers had a college degree, and the other one an 8th grade education, and they both had white collar jobs that they loved. Is that not possible anymore?

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Should Teachers Pack?

To: National Rifle Association and Others Who Believe the Best Defense Is a Good Offense

From:  Anne Johnson, Public School Teacher

Re: Carrying a weapon in order to protect my students

Considering the fact that my classroom is the very first door on the front center hallway, literally the first door any visitor to the school sees, I can rather confidently predict that I would be directly in the line of fire if an insane gunman came into the school building. I might have time to lock myself and my students into the classroom whilst said insane gunman blasted his way into the door (which is usually locked). But after that, where would he go? Straight to Room 105. That's me.

In theory I agree with you that it would be wonderful for me to have a loaded gun of my own that I could unsheathe, aim, and fire with deadly precision.

In fact, the only weapon I've ever used effectively is a fly swatter. Even then I am only partially proficient.

Back in the 1960s when I attended day camp, I shot BB guns at targets. I missed. Every time. I have hit the sides of barns with Super Soakers, but never a moving human being.

Therefore, even though I would love to be part of your happy solution to random gun violence in public places, I fear that by the current tools of evaluation, I would not satisfy the requirements of the position; namely, public school teacher.

This is not to say that I could never be trained to wield a firearm effectively. I'll bet after 100 hours of professional development on the community firing range I could perhaps pull a trigger without knocking myself down. From there, considering the intelligence of many gun owners, I ought to be able to figure the weapon out. But if there's some assembly required, all bets are off. I'm an English teacher. Assembling things happens in math and science classes. I can hardly assemble a peanut butter sandwich. (I can understand Shakespeare, though. Everyone is skilled at something.)

See this fine female? She's not me. I'm not her.

I brake for squirrels. When I play Monopoly, I let people stay in my hotels for free. Back in the day, I hid from the food fight in the middle school cafeteria. Once my grandfather asked me to bring him his squirrel gun. I had to drag it across the floor, because I couldn't lift it.

So if some assailant tries to shoot my students, the best I can hope for is to be a meat shield while they scramble under the desks. I have given this long, hard thought, and that's pretty much the sum total of my capacity to protect anyone.

Sorry to disappoint you. The militia will have to be well regulated without me.

Anne Johnson

Saturday, April 06, 2013

An Extra Chair

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we are never always prepared for a new adventure!

Today's sermon: Chinese buying American

Did you take the SAT? I did. It was expensive, so my father told me to do the very best I could on it, so I wouldn't have to take it a second time.

On the day of the test, I woke up feeling healthy and alert. I ate breakfast. I wore my most comfortable clothing. I took the test in my favorite classroom at my high school, and it was administered by my favorite teacher. He supplied abundant #2 pencils.

Nervous people don't necessarily do well on standardized tests. It's that clock ticking. You have this feeling of a guillotine, hanging by a fraying piece of twine, ready to chop if you're not finished when the buzzard sounds. (Ooops. That would be buzzer.)

When I took the SAT, I happened to finish a longish Language Arts section with about three minutes to spare. I looked back at the dizzying array of little gray penciled-in bubbles. And then I saw it.

I had skipped a line, early in the process.

I had to rush like a commuter to get all those bubbles erased and re-positioned in the next line up. But I did it. Whew! And when the scores came back, they were decent ... even the math.

Now, suppose that I woke up that morning with a migraine, or with heightened anxiety, or with cramps, or with the flu. Suppose I didn't catch that missed line in a crucial Language Arts section, which was my strength area. Suppose I was in a strange hall, with unknown proctors, surrounded by people I didn't know.

And then suppose this was my one-and-only chance to take the SAT. If I didn't do well this one-and-only time, I might not be able to go to college.

This is basically the plight that Chinese students face. They have a national collegiate test, once a year.

Can you imagine the anxiety that students must feel in this situation? And parents, who have only one child, upon whom their future financial security somewhat rests?

We're doing a lot of imagining here today, but it's building up to an explanation.

Increasing numbers of affluent Chinese parents are sending their only children to America for secondary and higher education. Most of these parents work through agencies that pair Chinese students with Christian and parochial schools. South Korean parents are doing the same. This is a bonanza for struggling parochial schools, as they wait for that coveted, Constitution-busting voucher system to materialize. You see, the parents who send their kids abroad to America can afford to pay the ticket price at the parochial school, as well as a monthly stipend to a host family for room and board. These same parents will be able to write a check for full tuition, and room and board, at a college. Ergo, what a windfall for struggling liberal arts colleges! Motivated foreign students who can pay in cash! Wowsa!

It was quite by chance that I discovered one of these student placement groups, coincidentally within a week of Mr. J taking early retirement. There's a 16-year-old girl from northern China who attends a Catholic school on the edge of Snobville who is working within the group. She will be moving into Chateau Johnson next weekend. Her current host parents are a couple in their early 30s with no children of their own.

This young lady, who will be called Extra Chair (in keeping with Gods Are Bored policy of considering offspring as commodities), came for a home visit a few weeks ago. She has so much energy that she wore me to a frazzle within 24 hours. But I'll give anything a try in these uncertain times. We have about eight weeks until the end of the school year, and if all goes well, Extra Chair will re-join us in September. She is currently a sophomore.

Extra Chair misses the home cooking of her native land, of which I know nothing. American Chinese food bears little resemblance to Chinese Chinese food. However, recognizing that most Chinese cuisine is healthier than American vittles, I'm willing to experiment. There's a Korean market nearby, full of weird vegetables and tofu and 50-pound bags of rice and seaweed and sauces with no English on their packaging. Mr J, Heir and Spare have expressed their complete and utter refusal cautious approval of tofu-and-seaweed suppers, so we'll see how it goes.

As befits Catholic school, Extra Chair has to take religion classes as part of her curriculum. This course of study baffled her at first and produced the first "C" she ever got in her life. She is adapting but is not interested in converting to Catholicism. Nor will I try to convert her to Druidism. Vulture worship won't be on the map until the time when Extra Chair is completely comfortable here.

It's like this. The nest Mr. J and I inhabit is just too large to be empty. Heir still lives here. Spare has graciously ceded her bedroom to Extra Chair. In order to stay in a home where he has ample space for his enormous book collection, to say nothing of a private home office in the garage, Mr. J is willing to take in another teenager.

Me, I spend my day around kids exactly the age of Extra Chair. The idea of coming home to one, especially such a lively one, doesn't really appeal. But I'm a fun, nice person with lax rules so long as good grades are maintained. We'll take it a day at a time.

The first problem looming ... we have only one cat (Beta), and Extra Chair fell head-over-heels in 20 seconds. Ahem, Beta is Spare's cat. Spare tamed Beta and, as much as anyone can control a cat, Spare controls Beta. Hoping this doesn't evolve into a sister-like power struggle.

Spare's a trooper, though. She'll be bunking in a room with cinnamon-colored paint and bookshelves from floor to ceiling, all stuffed with Mr. J's library. She has already planned out how to imprison include Beta in that space.

So, what do you think? We've sent so many jobs to China, and now they're sending the job of parenting and educating back at us. I'm still totally confounded by this new twist in the global economy and how it will affect our lives here at TGAB. Wish us luck. We need the job.

In closing, here's a reminder to like "The Gods Are Bored" on Facebook! It's so much easier to converse there, no tricky captchas. And we'll be posting some different content there. So, join the party for an extra daily dose of laughs!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Now We Are Eight!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Eight is great! I ate on a grate. Hate being late. Bait the gate!

Ah, dear Puck. He's just one happy faerie, stopping by to celebreight the 8th anniversary of The Gods Are Bored!

My goodness, how thyme fries! (Thanks, Puck.) It's hard to believe that this little site has been active and re-active and radioactive since April of 2005.

For those of you who don't know the story, I started this blog after reading in the newspaper that a woman got $525 towards her vet bills by dog-blogging. I don't own a dog, and I haven't yet had to put adverts up here, but the idea of starting a blog appealed to me.

I figured there was enough serious stuff about Pagan paths, ancient and recent, already. So (rather by osmosis and personality) I decided that laughter is the best medicine ... so I opted for funny. You don't see "Pagan" and "funny" in the same sentence very often. Voila! My niche.

Still, there's a serious intent to The Gods Are Bored. I like to think of it as a respect issue.

All of the ancient deities that we know of have been relegated to the "m" word: myth. To me, that's just not respectful. People worshiped those deities. Our ancestors worshiped those deities. By heaving the "m" word at Zeus, we belittle those who have gone before. We suppose a progress in human worship that, frankly, I don't see.

If you think that humankind has made progress by worshiping deities that are nonviolent, how is it that we have gotten the Holocaust and 9/11? Superior and inferior deities? I'm not buying it.

Anyway, la di dah, the old TGAB archive is massive -- 1800 posts and counting! Don't congratulate me on my staying power. I just type fast.

Some highlights:

*Interviews with bored Gods and Goddesses, sometimes over tea and crimpets, sometimes far less civilized.
*Druidic praise and practice
*Interviews with the self-pitying Satan, who always wants to be called "Mr. Applegate."
*The strange and wondrous (and ongoing) saga of the mysterious Monkey Man ... who is now one of my best friends.

*Fond moments with my daughters, The Heir and The Spare.
 *Political rhetoric, shading oh so very slightly to the left ... especially in matters of organized labor.

*Mummers, faeries, snobs, kittens ... not necessarily in that order.
*And, saving the best for last *drum roll* Vulture worship for the masses! All hail the Sacred Thunderbird, Golden Purifier, Almighty Bald Buzzard!

Terms of engagement:

*I don't usually link to other sites in the middle of a sentence. It ruins the flow of the narrative. Also, I suck at computing.
*If it's a photograph, and it's on Google, I snatch it. It's a bad habit. Not my only one.
*Comments are always welcome, unless your name is Billy.
*The Gods Are Bored is now a Facebook page! Like us and get extra bonus silliness!

Future goals and aspirations:

*I hope to broaden the scope of Vulture worship here in America and abroad.
*I want to make you laugh. You can already think for yourself. So let's chuckle together.

Puck says, "Onward and upward. Awning and upswing. On board and cupboard. Stop, stop! Hop on Pop!"

He's a pip. With pep.

Bright blessings to all of you who've been on this merry ride with me!


Image: Puck, by Seitou ... original to this site! Monkey Man, Heir and Spare ... original to this site! Yeah, sometimes I do it right. Good night.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Proof That Faeries Exist: A Little Poem

Hello, faerie weather friends! It's only four weeks until the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm! If you live within 100 miles of Baltimore or Washington, DC, Google this puppy -- it's a great way to introduce young children to Faerie, so that they will grow into fun-loving, risk-taking adults. I've seen some of my TGAB friends there, so if you plan to go, drop me a comment or a note so that we can connect in the apparent world!

I'm cleaning off book shelves in preparation for a new resident in the Johnson household. Tucked away in a corner, I found this poem from a 1936 magazine. I only have the page, so I don't know which magazine printed it. But what a lovely little poem for a spring day!

There Are Fairies
by Elizabeth C. Wherry

We thought there weren't such things as fairies
And often we'd said "pooh!"
But Becky said, "Oh yes there are."
And told us how she knew.

"Why, I'm sure that there are fairies," said Becky with a smile,
"For I see the things that prove it every little while.
There's a cliff beside the creek that is old and strong and gray,
But it's full of cozy cavelets where fairies hide by day.
Sometimes they trim the doorway with drooping columbine,
Sometimes across the gateway there's a trailing bit of vine.
And who else but a fairy could coax fronds of ferns to sway
Across the railing of her porch in such a graceful way?"

"Oh, I know that there are fairies," said Becky with a nod,
"For the birds use pathway patterns that fairy feet have trod.
Though I cannot see the patterns of their curves upon the air
I can tell by every spiral that the fairies made them there.
And who besides a fairy princess could use, do you suppose,
Such lovely satin dress goods as the petals of a rose?
And who besides a fairy singer could teach a wren its song?
And surely none but fairies could drive butterflies along."

So we're sure that there are fairies
Since Becky told us so
And we wrote this poem to tell you
That all of you might know.