Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Free Advice on Getting Your Letter to the Editor Published in the (Not Fake) New York Times

Did you know that the New York Times was in publication during the Civil War? I did some research on the Battle of Antietam, and by golly, the good ol' New York Times had several correspondents right there in the thick of things.

It wasn't fake then, and it's not fake now.

That sound you hear is the buttons popping on my vest. Ten days ago I wrote my first-ever "Letter to the Editor" to the New York Times, and against all odds, they published it -- and first in line!

I'm an old-timer who likes to get her news in paper format. Imagine my conceit humble pride when I opened Monday's newspaper and saw my letter there, at the very top of the column!

(I had advance notice. The editors contacted me about word choice and length, of course. It's the New York Times, they don't mess.)

The letter is about the villainous Betsy Devo$ and her assault on sexual assault victims. It's in response to an editorial the so-called "fake" New York Times published that actually praised the menace Devo$ for her actions.

And here it is!

So, now you are asking ... Anne, what's your secret? Lots of people write to the New York Times every day!

Ahem ... well ... (twirls the casual coat button) ... my first guess is that, in these days of instant commenting, most people don't bother to write a formal letter to the editor, which first you have to look up the email address (kind of hard to find) and then you have to submit it.

Then, well, I sorta figured the best way to proceed was to lard the thing with every big word I ever knew from my days of bi-monthly vocabulary tests in Mr. Hershey's English class.

Finally, there was the passion. A good Letter to the Editor needs passion. Having had numerous friends, colleagues, and family members who have experienced simple and/or sexual assault, especially in college settings, I felt a pressing need to weigh in.

It's that pressing need that gets 'em every time.

If you ever feel a pressing need to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times, keep it short and fill it with big words. You know you can do it. Only smart people read this blog ... so you know you can. You know you can.

Friday, September 15, 2017

An Extra Fairie Festival!

In just a few short weeks, the Spoutwood Fairie Festival will be having its first ever Fall Fairie Fest. In honors of this milestone, I publish below a relic of Fairie Festivals past ... some fun that Olivia and I had when she was still The Spare.

Jabberwocky for the Spoutwood Fairie Festival

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How Do I Stop a God Fight?

Help! Help! It's a deity smack-down in my living room! And one of them is a true expert at ruining furniture!



The bored God Huracan arrived here in New Jersey today, and Cloacina, my dear Goddess, greeted him with the cold fury of a Roman statue!



There's a lot to be said for resting bitch face.

Cloacina was recently charged with keeping our nation's waterways clean, having been given my spare bedroom as Her personal sanctum. She taught herself how to turn on the t.v. with the remote (something I have never been capable of doing). Cloacina, therefore, has watched both Harvey and Irma, nonstop, clicking from Fox News to MSNBC, to CNN and the nightly networks. OMBG, is she pissed!

And here comes Huracan, winded and worn out after a double booking.

Hey, you two, can you take it outside? Cloacina, remember that you shouldn't shoot a gun at a hurricane!

For the love of fruit flies. How can I mediate this thing?

Okay. Okay. Both of you. Take a deep breath and handle this like deities, not roller derby contestants. Thank you.

Huracan, you really outdid yourself. I mean, really really outdid yourself. However (please listen, Goddess Cloacina), You are not responsible for Your ascendant power. Yes, You've gotten larger, and greedier, and more destructive -- which is Your duty and prerogative as a hurricane God. But that level of destruction You're so proud of? How much of it is the product of humankind? Look: they built on barrier islands, low-lying keys, floodplains and in swamps. Places Your original praise and worship team never populated in numbers, out of respect for You. You can't take credit for all this devastation. It's hubris.

Cloacina, I'll bet you know enough Greek to recognize the word hubris.

Now, Cloacina, I know Huracan doesn't want to hear this (especially in His severely weakened state ... just a little mist over Jersey). But those same humans who had their shoreline properties, their boats and their businesses reduced to splinters, will go right back and fix everything up again! Yes, no matter how foolish it is to live in a part of the world that can be leveled by a bored god, people are going to do it. Which means that yes, they will have to boil their water for awhile. (I know, I know how angry that makes you, Goddess!) But they'll fix it. Until the next time. They will. And it won't take long, either. Our government will pay for everything, even though the people asking for the money generally don't want to pay taxes or regulate polluters.

What we have here is a failure to communicate between two fundamentally opposed deities. Huracan was once worshiped as a destroyer, His praise-and-worship team truly fearful of Him, and justifiably so. Cloacina, at the other end of the spectrum, drew all of Her respect from Her willingness to help clean up the human world. Add to that the fact that these two deities are from completely different pantheons from different continents, and you've got a whole lot of area for dissent.

Huracan, you cannot take complete credit for this. Humans are stupid.

Cloacina, calm down. Humans will fix this so they can go on being stupid.

Which means, Huracan, that You'll get many more shots at the same target.

But Cloacina, let Huracan do the shooting! Don't You shoot Him.

Can we just settle down and get along? Tell You what: I'll go get some Chinese carryout and confuse both of You utterly. While I'm gone, don't You dare stain my upholstery!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

A Poem (Not by Me)


Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernandez Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Do the Gods Hate Donald Trump?

For at least 20 years, climate scientists have been predicting that, with a warming planet, hurricanes would become larger and more frequent. This is not information that was passed to them via a burning bush that didn't get consumed. These are predictions based upon the behavior of wind and water, air currents and storm surges.

Please don't tell the bored deities who visit me for tea and Tastykakes, but I've always been quietly skeptical about Higher Powers. There has never seemed to me to be anything predictable about the behavior of Gods and Goddesses, including the busy God.

Still, you have to wonder.

Never, in my impressive lifetime, has there been two massive hurricanes in a space of two weeks. If you count Jose, that's three, and if you count Katia, that's four. In two weeks.

Keep in mind, this is September. Hurricane season lasts until November.

EXHIBIT A: DO THE GODS HATE DONALD TRUMP?


Is there possibly some agency in this? Chills me to the bone to think so, because a deity who would want to make a point about climate change at this particular juncture would be putting a lot of innocent plant life, creatures, and people in danger. And I'm not just talking about the USA. I'm talking about all over the world. South Asia is being inundated as well. Let's not even address the wildfires out West, or the uninhabitable Caribbean islands.

But if you want to make a point ... if you want to make a point to leadership that denies climate change science and is actively seeking to squelch it ... what could you do that would attract more attention than to fling hurricanes and monsoons around with reckless abandon?

It has been a mere three months and a week since Donald Trump announced that he was pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord. Is it possible, possible, that a bored deity or two (or 200,000) could be so infuriated as to visit the good ol' Wrath of God(s) on this nation?

Okay, it's most likely a coincidence. A predicted eventuality that just happened to follow close in the wake of a boneheaded and despicable pro-polluter decision.

What a coincidence, huh? Wow.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Witches to Evangelists: Not Now, Not Ever!

Philadelphia's Pagan Pride Day is always held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This year was the first in about five that I haven't attended. The last two years I did a drum circle there. This year it was rainy, but mostly I was just tuckered out from paint crew and teacher meetings. I stayed home.

Occasionally the event draws the ire of Christian evangelicals who, in small numbers, come to protest. Since they don't have a permit to use the park, they are always quickly escorted to the perimeter.

This year was no different, except that the protesters were louder (they had a bullhorn) -- and they videotaped the fracas and loaded it up on YouTube, after carefully disabling commentary.

If you want to watch the blighted thing, here it is. It's about 10 minutes long, and it's sad.

I started to watch it and stopped about two-thirds of the way through. What struck me about it was what the pastor said through his bullhorn; namely, "You witches haven't taken over America yet!"

Yet. Yet?

I'll be the first to tell you that I am participating in a Magical Battle for America, which is, yes, a concentrated astral Work. But the aim is not to "take over America." The aim is to protect and defend the America we hold dear:

*freedom of or from religion
*equality of gender, race, sexual orientation, region, and age
*a fair and balanced judicial system
*equitable tax rates based on income
and last, but not least, for me
*the right to organize peacefully and bargain collectively.

I'm not crusading for one nation under Anansi. I want Anansi to be welcome in the mix!

It's a tired old trope to suggest that your religion is the only true religion, and that anyone who doesn't practice it is worshiping a demon and going to Hell. Truth is, the demons belong to the Christians. Satan is not part of my practice!

So, open letter to you poor, scared Christians out there who fear the nation is about to be taken over by witches, who will quickly and thoroughly re-write the Constitution, institute rituals in the schools, and issue every kid a wand:

Nope. Not interested. Not on the agenda. The Philadelphia metropolitan area has more than six million people living in it. We're lucky if we get 300 folks out to Pagan Pride. Does this sound like a vast stampede for social upheaval?

It especially saddens me to see little kids get dragged along to these protests. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon! They should be picking apples or riding ponies or watching Dora the Explorer! Teaching children to fear and hate is not productive. It's not Christian, either.

So, yeah, the "prayer warriors" are on their knees for Donald Trump, and some (by no means all) Pagans are in their circles to block him. That's just democracy at work! I don't look at it as a war, I see it as a battle. A battle for what is, not what hasn't happened yet.

Get a grip on something besides a bullhorn, y'all. We just want to drum and hold raffles.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day 2017

I blame myself.

In 1987, I left a full-time, full-benefits job because I moved out of the state where I was employed. Once the company ascertained that I could legally work for them as an independent contractor (some states did not allow this), I kept right on working for them. Without the benefits and on a per-piece basis.

I bought a computer and set aside part of my home for an office. For the next 20 years, I was self-employed. The company that got my work made a better profit on me than on its full-time workers ... so the company moved more and more work onto more and more independent contractors.

This was a bonanza for me for awhile. I had my husband's health insurance. I could make good money. I got to be home with my kids while they were growing up. I loved the work. I wrote four books plus chapters and sections of many others -- all fascinating stuff. The 1990s were prosperous for me.

Then the whole thing slid to Hell.

Competition ramped up for the contracts. The company forced me to incorporate as my own small business. Then I had to start coding my work (another pioneering effort -- I was coding before coding was cool). The fee structure plummeted.  Then another small corporation undercut my small corporation, and I lost all my contracts. That was 2005.

I had helped open the door to the idea that people will work without benefits. That companies could give work to "independent contractors" rather than hire a staff.

I was essentially an invisible scab.

The company that employed me in 1987 should have had a bargaining unit that would have insisted on rules against outside contractors. It didn't. And who was I? A new homeowner and mother-to-be who needed a part-time job. The macroeconomic implications of the work situation never occurred to me.


The cat is out of the bag. Why hire full time and get stuck with all that pesky paperwork and those expensive benefits, when you can get a few part-timers, work them just as hard, and expect them to care for their own health and retirement? Only some bleeding heart would want to see his profits gobbled by insurance payments and paid vacation days!

This scenario? It's coming soon to every line of work there is. Including public school teaching.

I know you won't believe me, but this used to be a humor blog.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

International Vulture Awareness Day

Drop everything! Today, Saturday, September 2 is International Vulture Awareness Day!


Without vultures, the world would be awash in putrefaction. If only they could clean up politics the way they do festering carcasses!


There are vultures in the Old World and vultures in the New World. They are not closely related genetically. They evolved in parallel manner because there's always a nice supply of rotting meat out there, no matter what (temperate) continent you fly across.


Here's Floppy, one of my favorite vultures! See the bald head? It's a cleanliness thing. No feathers to get all matted up with gore as the bird feeds. Ah, evolution! Magnificent.


So, why do we need to be aware of vultures? Well, in both Africa and India, massive vulture populations have been killed off catastrophically. What kills something that eats festering carcasses? The medicines or poisons those carcasses ingested while they were alive. In the wake of plummeting vulture populations, some countries (especially India) have seen a rise in rabies, wild dogs, and other diseases that vultures shrug off like a walk in the park.


Fortunately, there are vulture rehab programs out there. The San Diego Zoo has spearheaded a modest but significant return of the California condor to the wild, wild West. In Africa, Vulpro is working with several species of African vulture. Due to their reproductive behavior, vulture populations are hard to restore. Here's hoping for success, though. Who wants to slog to work through dead skunks and fly-covered garbage?


So, happy International Vulture Awareness Day! Salute the next buzzard you see! I'm talking about a bald bird, not a political boss.

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

Friday, September 01, 2017

My School's New Dress Code: A Haiku

Hillary Clinton
Wears pant suits effectively.
It's just not my style.