Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Meanwhile, in Philly

What a week here at "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm nearly breathless.

Another round of thank-you-very-much for your generosity to my classroom! I went over to set things up today, and I felt far less anxiety than I would have before the donations rolled in. With one week until school starts, I'm halfway feeling okay about going.

 So now, as a change of pace, it's story time!

Story 1: "Why I Want to Like Cops but Just Can't"
by Anne Johnson

My daughter the Heir volunteers on Sunday mornings with a nonprofit group that serves the opiate- addicted population in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Basically her group sets up a card table, and there's a nurse who does vitals and dresses wounds, and Heir gives out snacks, clothes, blankets, whatever donations they have. Heir's group also picks up discarded needles for disposal and gives out clean needles.

This past Sunday, Heir and her fellow volunteers were seated at their card table. A Philly cop approached them and told them they had to leave. The nurse talked back. She said, "We are just doing a little first aid here." So the cop called for backup.

In just a few minutes, there were nine police officers surrounding the volunteers, and a sergeant bellowing in their faces: "You can't do this! You don't have a permit!"

Know what happened? The citizens pulled out their phones and started recording the encounter. That helped to de-escalate ... but Heir and her companions had to fold up their table and leave. Only they didn't leave, they just walked up and down the street, performing their good deeds.

Y'all know how I feel about unions. Well, the police have a union. They are public sector employees ... like me. But if I screamed in the face of one of my students, especially one who just wants to help sick people ... my butt would be fired and on the curb before you could say, "Racist cops, off our streets!"

Heir was pretty shaken up. But she's going back next Sunday.  I worry about her, but I'm proud.

Story 2: "Fly Iggles, Fly"

When the Philadelphia Eagles won their first and only Super Bowl in 2018, my daughter the Fair was a stripling of 23 living smack dab in the center of town. She was part of the happy, drunken throng that spilled into the streets to celebrate the victory. Since then (and before it too), she has bled Eagles green.

On Tuesday, the Fair performed as a production assistant (PA) for a commercial shoot at Eagles practice. The work wasn't glamorous, but she got up close to the entire team, including the quarterbacks and all of the remaining heroes of the Super Bowl. The irony is that all of the other film crew were males, and none of them knew anything about the Eagles!

There'll be more about the Fair next week. A play she wrote and directed will debut at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I'm proud of her too.

Proud of the Heir and the Fair. They are my life.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Things I've Learned

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," 14 years and counting, your destination for Pagan humor! With more than a little politics stirred in for good measure.

The death of David Koch, pictured below, has prompted me to be a bit philosophical today.


One of the things I have learned in a long life is, don't rejoice in the death of your enemies. They manage to live on in all their malevolence. (I learned this upon the passing of Antonin Scalia.)

That's not all I've learned, though. Here's a helpful list for you striplings. Free advice, so to speak.

1. I've learned that plum tomatoes make the best sauce.

2. I've learned that there are jobs where the paycheck is secondary to the enjoyment of the work. These jobs are rare.

3. I've learned that first impressions can be horribly off the mark. Don't make snap decisions about people.

4. I've learned three Walt Whitman poems by heart. Oh, wait. That's bragging, not advice.

5. I've learned that if you want to make an outdoor shrine or worship area, look for images of shrines to the Virgin Mary. They can be adapted.

6. I've learned that Calomine lotion and an oral antihistamine can help with poison ivy infections. In my last three outbreaks I haven't needed to go to the doctor.

7. I've learned that wild coincidences happen with enough frequency that they call into question the strict scientific worldview.

8. I've learned it's ridiculous to think humans are superior to cats. When was the last time your cat fed you and cleaned your bathroom?

9. I've learned that when you start talking about all you've learned, and how different the world is now than it was when you were a kid, people stop listening to you ... and I can't blame them.

So, go forth, striplings, with your toolkit enlarged by this essential wisdom!

Oh, and one more thing of immense importance:

10. Upholstery should be professionally cleaned once a year. Don't try to do it yourself.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

You Beautiful People!

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of you wonderful readers, I now have a year's supply of loose leaf paper for my classroom! Hooray!

I also have enough donations left over to purchase many of the book titles that got axed off my requisition! I can get them on the secondary market much cheaper. I'm going to have more students than I had last year, so oh WOW I am so glad to be able to get more books!

There were some frequently asked questions about my shameless plea. I'm only too obliged to answer:

1. How can a school not supply its teachers with loose leaf paper? Isn't that a staple?

It is a staple! So the only reason I can give you that my school district will supply staples like staples and not staples like paper is just sheer perverseness. We can get loose leaf paper (maybe), but the process is ridiculously lengthy -- involving competing bidders, etc. -- and not always met with success. It's easier to scout for it in thrift stores, which is what most of us teachers do. I don't ask the students to bring it, because it's not fair to take from those who brought, and distribute to those who didn't. The students themselves call that one out.

2. Why do you need so many books? What happened to last year's books?

My friends, I have a classroom library that runs on the honor system. My students are poor, and the school has multiple places where they can accrue fines, including the library and the cafeteria. I am not going to fill out a fine card for a poor kid to replace a paperback book that was half falling apart. This honor system works pretty well, actually. There's no downright theft.

Several things happen to my classroom library books, in no particular order:

*Faeries take them.
*They disappear under students' beds with lots of other stuff (including homework).
*Kids like the books and give them to friends whose teachers don't have that book in their classroom.
*They go to the gym and get locked in a locker.
*They get left behind on benches. Someone else picks them up.
*They get read so much that they fall apart.

I am not an average 9th grade English teacher whose students arrive in my class prepared to read pithy classic literature. My first priority is to improve student literacy. Now, I don't know about you, but I like to read books that I can identify with. It stands to reason that teenagers of color would want to do the same. So the books in my classroom library are for those kids. I curate my titles carefully. Some of the books are so easy to read that an enterprising second grader could whip through them. Those books (also about teenagers, it's a whole genre) are for my students who speak English as a second language. Many students have told me they never read a whole book until they came to my classroom.


Circling back around, I want to thank you again for your donations. Please email me your address, because you will get a paper letter you can use for your income taxes!

May all the Gods and Goddesses of multiple pantheons running deep into the tunnels of time bless you and keep you!

Your most grateful servant,

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Passive or Aggressive, I'm Not Gonna Take It

Thank you to all who volunteered to donate loose leaf paper to my class! I left PayPal info in the comments of the last post.

Today I have another training session (aka humiliation) for a bewildering computer program my school is using to spy on teachers assess student learning. The last time I had one of these, the facilitator was openly disdainful of me.

Two can play that game.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

I Thought I Wouldn't Have to Ask for Books for My Classroom (Or Loose Leaf Paper)

Hello, fellow sufferers! Here I come at you with my hands outstretched. Never thought I'd have to do this again. It's been 10 years since the last shameless plea for this item.

Just this past spring, I was chastised at work for spending my own money on books for my classroom. The administrator who took me to task said, "There's plenty of money to order books. Don't spend your own money! Really!"

So when time came to order books for my classroom, I sent in the carefully-curated list of new, popular, and cutting-edge titles that I wanted for this year's classroom library. We teachers are told that we don't need to add up the cost, because the district will do it for us.

I had no idea how much my book list would cost. It didn't seem any longer than the lists I've sent in over the past three years, and I've always gotten everything I asked for.

On July 30 I was asked into a conference with the assistant superintendent. There was another administrator there too, so I knew there was some "problem." They always travel in pairs when it's bad news.

The news was, I had ordered $2000 worth of books for my classroom library! Why? What did I do with last year's books? A bout of "let's grill Anne" ensued which was cut short by me saying that I would pare down the list, all they had to do was ask.

Since then I have been haunting book sales and using Mr. J's credit at a bookstore in Philly to add to my classroom library. The problem with this is that my students are English language learners and people of color, and they have specific needs for engaging novels. These needs do not overlap with the used book sales in lily-white Haterfield.

I'm not going to ask for books right at this moment, but if you are interested in helping me, drop me a comment. When I see if I get any books at all for my classroom, I'll determine what I still need and arrange a way to contact you.

What I need right now is loose leaf paper. Can you believe it? Loose leaf paper.

If you can send me a package of loose leaf paper, email me at


and I will send you my address.

I'm not blaming Betsy DeVos for this debacle. The other teachers at my school were encouraged to order books for their classrooms, and some of them did it for the very first time. Jesus! No wonder kids come to my room asking if I have any good books!

I miss being a goat judge.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Woodstock Was 50 Years Ago

Where has time gone? Of course, I was ten years old in the summer of 1969, so the Moon landing had more of an impact on me then.

Woodstock has since loomed larger. Some of the bands that played there became favorites of mine within three or four years of the event.

There's a store near my house called Woodstock Trading Company. They sell beads, incense, Grateful Dead t-shirts, fairy balls, candles, essential oils, and jewelry. In short, one of Anne's happy places.


On Saturday, the folks at Woodstock threw a 50th anniversary party in honor of Woodstock (the festival). I got done up in my tie-dye, but when I got there it was pretty hot. So I came home.

But not before the dear proprietors of Woodstock Trading Company gave me a present. They had found a vulture feather and saved it for me, tied to a piece of hemp.

May the bored gods keep and guide my very own Woodstock family! Peace.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Best of "The Gods Are Bored": Greed Creed

From December, 2005

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where the fairies are fair and the world isn't.

Today we will look at a few rules that apply to that one percent of Americans who control - what is it? - 80, 90 percent of the wealth?

Warning: If you are not one of those people, you cannot follow these rules.

1. If I want it, it's mine.

2. If you have it and I can take it, it's mine.

3. If I had it once and I want it back, it's mine.

4. If I can grab it at any cost to others, it's mine.

5. If I fight for it, you'll lose, and it will be mine.

6. If it was mine once, forever it will be mine.

7. If I see it and like it, it's mine.

8. If you think it's yours, forget it, it's mine.

9. If I want to own you, you're mine.

10. If it has coal, it's a mine.

The fairies added that last one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

It Could be "War and Peace"

It occurred to me that it might be fun to go back and read "The Gods Are Bored" from the beginning. What an eye-opening experience!

After three days I have read the first six months of my output. And 2005 was a short year! Some years I wrote way more than 200 entries. As far as I can judge, most of them exceed 500 words.

I've got a plan to create a "Best Of" that will collect some of the better stuff and put it up in a separate space, or just here for new eyes.

It's pretty disheartening to see that the same issues that were plaguing us in 2005 -- global warming, income inequality, union-bashing -- are still plaguing us today. Only the names have changed. Back then it was Frist and Santorum. Now it's Trump and McConnell.

One thing I have learned from this little enterprise: I've got to write shorter entries. I did blather on and on.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

In Which I Sternly Reprimand My Deceased Ancestors

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" In Goddess We Trust! They should put that on money, along with Sojourner Truth.

You would hardly know this is a Pagan website these days, but it still is. If anything, the current state of our nation has entrenched me deeper with the Gods, Nature Spirits, and Ancestors.

It is the latter that I communicated with a few days ago. It wasn't pretty.

It's not often I get to the county where my mother's people resided and are interred. Usually I biff right past it on my way to my dad's county deep in the mountains. But Monday morning found me in Mom's neck of the woods, after having seen my sister play a concert with the municipal band.

I regularly visit and venerate my Johnson ancestors, as they were tough, resilient, Grand Army of the Republic slavery-haters. And supremely loving and wonderful folks as well.

Mom's family, beginning with Mom and going back through time, were racist, Confederacy-loving slave-owners with money but no scruples. Nevertheless, I purchased some shiny stones from Michael's and went to decorate their graves. (Shiny stones are better than flowers. They last longer and are pleasing to the Nature Spirits.)

My first stop was the cemetery where my great-grandmother, grandmother, and parents are buried. It is locally known as Rose Hill Cemetery, but it was created to inter the Confederate soldiers who perished at the battles of Antietam and South Mountain. Said soldiers were dug up from their mass graves on the battlefields by a wealthy local asshole landowner, and re-interred in a new, prominent spot in my home town.


Once this monument to white supremacy was established, all the area's families that had owned slaves promptly bought plots there. Hence three generations of my kin, including -- to my chagrin -- my dad.

First I went to my parents' grave. As I recalled it, they had those little markers on the ground with name and birth/death date. Imagine my surprise to find a big-ass gravestone that had to cost a pretty penny! After texting my sister, I found that my dad had ordered it after my mother died. I guess the carvers didn't get around to making it until a few years after Dad's death. It took me aback. During his lifetime, I couldn't get my father to buy a decent suit to wear to church. And here was many thousands of dollars worth of neglected gravestone, already dirty. (Sis never visits.) I put some shiny stones on it, shaking my head. I would have been glad to clean my parents' house while they were alive, but keeping their expensive headstone grime-free is not on my bucket list.

I didn't scold my parents, grandmother, or great-grandmother. (The latter two are buried nearby.) But when I got to the older churchyard further out in the country, I took the people there to task. If only the stones heard me, maybe that's a good thing.


These are the generations that actively owned slaves. In particular need of a stern rebuke is this couple:


John Brinham supervised the smelting of iron on South Mountain, which depended upon the labor of more than 300 slaves. A researcher of color did her master's thesis on the conditions of this labor, and it was horrible. I won't even go into detail, I'm so mortified by it. Nor is Mary Hanna off the hook, because her father owned people too and even doled her out a few to run her household and care for her children. (I think my rich aunt must have erected this stone, it looks to be so modern in aspect.)

Here's what I told the ancestors:

"Well, y'all, I'm not gonna lie. I'm ashamed of you. But you gave me life, and as luck would have it, I have been given an opportunity to teach children of color in a fine school. I can't hope to work off all your bad karma in just 20 years, but maybe if I help enough minority students it will mitigate the considerable damage you did over generations."

With that I scattered the obligatory stones, took some establishing shots of the stones' locations, and hoofed it on out of there, wishing desperately that I was treading the familiar turf of Dad's people's graveyards.

We venerate our ancestors for giving us life, but if they don't otherwise deserve veneration, we should be morally obliged to compensate for their bad behavior, if possible. I haven't the financial means to seek out descendants of my ancestors' slaves and offer reparations, but I really try to be a good teacher and help my students prepare for a world in which, although they are not enslaved, they still face momentous obstacles to success and safety.

It's important to know who your ancestors were and what they did with their lives. You might need to do some work for them in the apparent world.

And then there are the stone-cold idiots who are actually undermining the good deeds of their ancestors. Here I am talking about the scum of the Earth bad people who fly Rebel flags, not knowing that their forebears fought and died with the Union Army. You see this shit throughout Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey. It's a disgrace.

So at least I know what my people did. And in the peaceful moments at my outdoor shrine, I never seek to talk to them. I do think about them, though, and often. Especially after a hard day at school. Especially then.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Consequences of a Reading Disability

Boring. Boring. Boring. Why would anyone who isn't a teacher want to read about reading disabilities?

Answer: Because Donald Trump has one.

Over the weekend we had more victims of the public health crisis known as gun violence. I have written so much about this topic that there's nothing I can even say about it anymore.

However, when Donald Trump stood at the podium Monday morning and read off a teleprompter, he  still got the name of the city wrong. He said "Toledo" instead of "Dayton."

The reason he said this is because the teleprompter said "Texas and Ohio."

It's hard to read from a teleprompter. I've done it. But there are many cases where Trump has stumbled over text on a teleprompter. (That's how we got the fearless Colonial army storming the airports.)

Donald Trump likes to rant and rave speak extemporaneously. He is also infamous for refusing to read anything longer than one page, no matter how complex the issue.

Lots of people hate to read, and there are many ways to overcome reading disabilities. There are also quite a number of ways to compensate for an inability to read well -- especially if you're rich. I've seen students of mine offer to pay classmates to "help" with reading assignments. I've seen parents do reading assignments for their children. I've seen kids pass off assignments from year to year, I've seen them crib stuff off the Internet, and I've seen them assiduously "reading" books that have been made into movies.

The trouble with these avoidance techniques is that you can't learn nearly as much if you struggle to read. You inevitably wind up with less general knowledge than your peers, because it's just not possible for family and friends and the t.v. to do all your reading for you. So you grow up, and you're not stupid, but you just don't know as much as other people. Your knowledge gap only widens if you're in a job that requires reading, and you don't do it.

This is all well and good if you want to spend your life exploiting pretty women and stiffing workers who've contracted to you and more or less hanging with the worst riff raff in the leisure class. But if you need to make an honest living, or you need to apply expertise to a difficult job, you are working at a great disadvantage.

Any questions?