Monday, October 25, 2021

It's Liberating To Be Hated: Interview with Justitia

 Howdy howdy howdy and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, and I have been saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag since 1964. It has gotten old. So for the past 25 years or more, I've been leaving out the "liberty and justice for all" part. Because, get real. Where's the justice in American society?

But it's a trifle sensitive trying to explain that to my guest tonight, Justitia, the Goddess of ... you guessed it ... justice! She joined me for dinner, and we're sitting here digesting, so let's give this lovely Lady and her balance scales a warm, wonderful "Gods Are Bored" welcome!


Anne: Good evening, great and mighty Justitia! What did you think of the chicken cacciatore?

Justitia: Well, it was good and bad. Tasted fine, but the portion was too small.

Anne: Oh gosh! Sorry! Do you want seconds?

Justitia: I have rendered my decision on the matter. Case closed.

Anne: To be honest, Your Honor, I could be persuaded to go out for a soft serve ice cream.

Justitia: Motion is approved! You may approach the bench.

Anne: But before we sojourn to the ice cream shop, I want to ask your opinion on something.

Justitia: Opinions are my thing. Justly rendered, of course.

Anne: Of course! Well, Justitia, it has come to my attention that someone very high in the chain of command at my workplace has an extraordinarily low opinion of me. So low, in fact, that this person thought students would be better served by a substitute teacher than by me.

Justitia: Well, what are the students being served? If it's chicken cacciatore, the substitute might be more generous.

Anne (aside) These Roman deities are so human, aren't they? (to Justitia) No food involved, just education. A teacher is out sick, and I offered to cover her class. The principal was all for it, but the higher-up wasn't having it. 

Justitia: It's probably about money.

Anne: Nah, money's not a factor. I know from talking to ex employees of my firm that this particular power-broker holds me in very low esteem. My problem is, this person may come in to evaluate me at some point this year.

Justitia: Why, how very liberating!

Anne: What do you mean?

Justitia: If you know that they hold you in low esteem, then no matter how brilliantly you perform, it won't matter. So why perform at all? Everything this person says about you is tainted by bias, thus rendering the person incapable of forming a true opinion of your worth.

Anne: You know, I didn't think of that! You're absolutely right! Nothing I do or say is going to convince this person I'm a good teacher. I could get a citation from the governor, and I would still be stuck with the nines.

Justitia: Therefore you should not expect justice from the person, nor court it, nor even care. Knowing you can't please this individual frees you from having to try.

Anne: Justitia, Great and Mighty Goddess, I am going to fix you up with a to-go container of chicken cacciatore! And here, take these bagels ... they are terrific. And here's a handful of Halloween candy, mostly Snickers.

Justitia: Annnnd?????

Anne: Soft serve ice cream! I'll get my coat and car keys!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

I'm a Wreck at the Vo-Tech

 When was the last time I interviewed a bored deity? A long time. But I can't blame them for boycotting me. Who wants to talk to a human wreck who can't even keep her upholstery clean?

This is just a follow-up on the hate crime in my classroom. To recap, a student wrote the "n" word on a Black student's paper during a time when everyone was circulating around the room. The student who received the slur reported it as a HIB (harassment, intimidation, and bullying).

I turned in a ton of handwriting samples to the administration, and this helped them to determine whose handwriting best fit the scrawl on the paper. They clearly identified a boy and proceeded to grill him about it. He cried. He pleaded innocence. His tears moved the vice principals.

They didn't see the look the kid shot me in between grillings. With face masks, all I can see is eyes. But that's all you need to see, really.

Long story short, another student confessed to the crime. The student said he didn't know the paper belonged to an African American student. He said he thought it was funny. And he said he imitated his best friend's handwriting.

This satisfied the administrators and the girl. The boy who confessed was removed from my class. The girl is back.

The boy with the distinctive handwriting and menacing glare is still in my class.

It's unrealistic to expect that I'll never have issues like this in my classroom. But by and large, the students at my school are pretty dedicated and respectful. And the baddies don't last. But with a TikTok challenge called "Slap a Teacher," I am on my guard.

I've got a wand. I found a piece of rose quartz at the beach over the weekend. I put up a grid of the Four Quarters on my desk. Every day I wear my Witch Ball and my copper bracelet.

There are no atheists in the foxhole.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

It Gets Worse

 You know what? Before I became a teacher, I complained about my neighborhood, politics, and religion. Never my job. Oh, how I long for those days.

For those of you just joining the chorus at "The Gods Are Bored," I'm a school teacher at a vo-tech just east of Camden, NJ.

Earlier in the school year, I got trolled on parent night by someone who posted the "n" word and also called me a white cracker. It was good for a few laughs in the teachers' lounge.

But on Thursday, I was doing a "gallery walk" for my students' writers notebooks. The students were walking around the room, commenting on one another's notebook entries. And someone in the room wrote the "n" word on the paper of an African American student.

In all my years of teaching, I've never seen ... yada yada yada Doesn't matter. My jaw dropped and hasn't returned to normal.

The wronged student filed a report on the incident (as did I) but will not come back to class, because the criminal who wrote the word is still in my room. I know it because every kid who was there on the day it happened came back the next day -- except the victim, who is one of my brightest kids this year.

Someone in the room has been convicted in the court of public opinion, but that's not enough to get them out of my class, and out of the school. There has to be convincing proof. Which means that on Friday, I had to conduct class as if the incident hadn't even happened, hoping to collect a writing sample from each kid featuring a capital G.

I will say right out of the gate that the perpetrator could not have been Caucasian, because I only have one Caucasian kid that period (out of 23 kids total), and he's a baa lamb who sits on the other side of the room.

There's nothing quite like having to call the parent of the wronged student to apologize and try to make amends. When I say I have been shaking like a leaf and sick to my stomach since it happened, I do not exaggerate.

As a teacher, I feel like I am the captain of the ship. If someone is injured on my watch, it's my fault. And this is the worst injury a student can face in my school, short of being slam-dunked or shot. I feel horrible.

I haven't gotten blowback from administration -- yet. But that may change when I insist that the suspect be re-assigned to another classroom, even if they can't prove he did it. (The suspect is tearfully proclaiming his innocence.)

The worst part of this is not being able to flip my shit about it in front of the whole class. I have a lot of African American students in there, and I'm sure they're concluding I don't give a damn about them. Never mind the cute little Hispanic girls who are sure they know who did it, but they can't be positive, but they want to see justice served.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Every day droves of students are going home, infected with Covid or quarantining. Seven students got called out of my 9th period class on Friday. Word on the street has it that kids left on Wednesday non-stop from beginning to end.

I need the pay and benefits at my job. If I didn't, I would quit.

I would honestly rather be writing about Jeff Bozos and the Big Blue Dick Horizon, but it's hardly on my mind.

Breaking out every charm, ointment, and spell I can use to set this right. My teacher desk is going to look very interesting on Monday. I'll try to take a photo.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Free Advice on What Not To Say at Work

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," home of one proficient (not distinguished) teacher. If you're a teacher yourself, you probably know just what I mean.

I totally expected the transition back to full-time teaching to be stressful. How could it not be? Last year I spent most of my days "teaching" from a recliner, while covered by the ample rump of Gamma Cat.

But this transition has been horrible. Worse than anticipation by a country mile.

I won't even go into the standardized testing (seven days out of the first 25, including the past two days). Nor will I dwell upon the fact that the assistant superintendent decided that the AP Lit kids would be better off with a substitute teacher than with me, when their teacher went out for emergency surgery. (Long story)

But what I will dwell upon here is toxic positivity. It's been a problem in my school district ever since I've been there.

Maybe you have this poison in your workplace, too?

"Let's all be positive here! If you just try being positive, you'll feel better!"

When someone says this, here's what I actually hear:

"It really sucks to work here, but don't you dare acknowledge that. Cover it up with a smile, and take whatever drugs you have to in order to keep that smile on your ugly mug."

Today we had another round of standardized testing. I hate using the computer programs and often fuck it up (including today). And yet two administrators tried to coax one of those phony baloney smiles out of me.

I wasn't having it. I'll smile when there's reason to smile, not because I'm told to smile.

But wait. There's more!

At lunchtime I have a paid "duty" in the cafeteria. I enjoy it, actually, because I'm buddies with all the janitors, and we joke around. Today, the new vice principal came in. She asked me how I was doing, and I admitted to being pretty stressed out.

Her response? "Ah, just have a glass of wine when you get home."

Wait. What?

Free advice to my three readers: Never recommend a glass of wine for a stressed-out employee! You might be speaking to an alcoholic.

This is what I mean by "toxic positivity." Instead of recommending a glass of wine, middle managers should be taught how to acknowledge the reality and severity of the stress. Just fucking listen.

OMG INTERRUPTING THIS RANT FOR A WORSE ONE!

William Shatner breaking down in tears because Jeff Bozos sent him into orbit? GAG ME WITH A PLATINUM SPOON.


You know what I'm positive about? I'm positive all billionaires should be eaten. With or without a glass of wine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

May in October: A Pandemic Navel Gaze

 Two years. No festivals. It's enough to make a girl weep.

Okay, call me frivolous and silly if you like. I prefer to see myself as a chaotic magician in need of charging my skills through joyous and unusual festivities.

Words matter, right?

Anyway, it's been quite awhile since I had the opportunity to charge my chaotic magic, but I did so in spades over the weekend. 

For two decades, Spoutwood Farm hosted Fairy Festivals. The final one was in 2018, and we moved to a venue near Baltimore in 2019. Here's a nice photo from that shindig:

EXHIBIT A: THEN


If you are in on this kind of magic, you see the power here. If you're not, wow! Look at that sky!

Well, the pandemic descended, and all revels were cancelled in 2020. Then 2021 hove into sight, and the revels were cancelled again. Not that I blame anybody. No one wants to go cavort in a field with their best friends and wind up with a novel coronavirus as a souvenir.

Over the summer, one of the chief revelers from the Fairy Festival arranged an event called "Lesstival" that would be open to those who volunteered their time to previous large festivals. And this one would be back at Spoutwood!

And so, with vaccine cards in hand, a few of us arrived at Spoutwood, donned our outlandish garb, and indulged in chaotic magic. I used the opportunity to re-charge my working wand, using Spoutwood energy. And now my wand is flat-out humming with power!

Spoutwood Farm is a beautiful location in the piedmont hills of York County, PA. It did get quite trampled during the many festivals there, and eventually the fair outgrew the farm. Now, three and a half years out from the last gathering there, the farm has transformed. The vines are thicker, the trees are larger, and the wooded areas are entirely the realm of the fae again. Just don't go in there, okay? It's lush and alluring. How very fairy.

So a few of us gathered at Spoutwood. We had music, and a Burning Man bonfire, and we danced a Maypole. Yes, a Maypole in October! 

EXHIBIT B: NOW


If you look real close, that's me by the tree, contemplating the long, strange trip that led to a Maypole dance in October. 

Wow! Since we were adults, led by the owner of Spoutwood Farm, we actually wrapped that Maypole with panache! And had fun doing it. I came away from this mini-festival chock-a-block with chaos.

The best part of this festival was it had a nice long morning of downtime while all the tipplers nursed their hangovers. So I was able to take a charming drive through rural PA (complete with Amish buggies) and find a new waterfall for my collection! Look at this lovely falls!

EXHIBIT C: MILL CREEK FALLS, YORK COUNTY, PA


Easy walk, not crowded, fantastic water symphony. And fool's gold in the rocks.

This was my weekend, soaking up some mayhem in the land of the fairies. It was so refreshing!

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Fast Times at Parent Night

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where surprises lurk like tripping hazards around every corner! I'm your befuddled host, Anne Johnson, proficient school teacher.

Once a year during the first week of October, public schools fling wide their doors for an evening event called -- variously -- Parent Night or Back-to-School Night. In the case of my school, this extravaganza also includes presentations and tours for potential students, since we are a magnet school.

This year, some person in the top ranks of our command squad decided that Covid risks are alarming enough to turn the bulk of Parent Night virtual. Interested 8th graders and their families would still be welcome in the building, but parents of existing students would have to come to Google Meets online.

So the command squad ordered each of us to create individual Meet links, and then the squad put all these links up on the school web site, with our names on them. The sun set over Camden, and we teachers reported to our classrooms and opened our Google Meets.

Parents started trickling in for me right away, considering that I now have 7 classes total.

About 30 minutes into the ordeal, it was time for the parents of my first class of freshmen to log in. So, the way Google Meet works is that someone asks to join and I (the teacher) have to admit them. Which of course I was admitting everyone, because email names and such are wacko to begin with.

Have you noticed that this younger generation is more technologically savvy than their elders?

My Meet attracted trolls with bad grammar and spelling and worse language. There I was, trying to tell parents about how I grade silent reading, while the "chat bar" was filling with the "n" word from some user who actually even blocked their ID in the chat. The ordeal culminated with a comment about Romeo and Juliet that suggested the play should be buggered by me, a white cracker (and some more insults) smoking that fine weed.

With the help of text messages from colleagues, I was able to purge the Meet of the monsters and resume affable chatting with parents. Certainly not my fault that the command put all those Google Meet links on a public platform.

If you are retired from the ed biz, like my friend Ol' Buzzard, you are very lucky indeed. Apparently this upstart social media platform named TikTok is giving youngsters the idea to film acts of vandalism and mayhem in the school setting. October, for instance, is "slap a teacher" month. I have no doubt that "disrupt online Parent Night" was a "challenge" as well.

Lord love a cross-eyed fruit fly! And to think I am staring down the barrel of seven more Parent Nights before I can hang up my chalk and retire! I think I may have to downsize the dreams of my golden years.

Monday, October 04, 2021

On Being a Content Creator

 Have you ever asked a teenager what they want to do with their life? I'll put this another way: When you were a teenager, what did you want to do with your life?

I had a solid career goal myself. I wanted to be on "The Partridge Family." 

This year a new career goal has surfaced among the students at my school. More than one student, both genders, report wanting to be a "content creator" or an "influencer."

The ready availability of uncensored social media platforms has made many teens long to be influential through posting something on TikTok or YouTube. They are now listing "content creator" as career goals.

I really think it's a shame that people think of Tide pod-eating when the words "content creator" get flung out there. In its basic concept, "content creating" is making something that didn't exist before. The idea of content creation casts a wide net, and that's why I am proud to say I am a content creator for "The Gods Are Bored!"

The difference between me and my students is that they want millions of followers, while I'm completely and blissfully satisfied with 225. Well, ahem, I would love for the Smithsonian Institution to accept my petition for immortality, but hey. You can't win them all.

Sometimes I'm frivolous. On rare occasions I'm serious. But funny or not, I'm fine with the appellation of  "content creator." For 20 happy years I created content for reference books (and wrote a few books myself), but I think "content creator" actually fits me better than "author." Certainly fits me better than "thinker" or "sage" or some such.

Now, let's move on to this whole "influencer" thing. I definitely want to be an Internet influencer, and my cat is not pulling his weight in this regard.


I put up salacious content like this all the time, and he just doesn't get any traction! Three hundred likes here, 65 likes there, it doesn't amount to the millions and millions I need to get that lucrative contract from Fancy Feast and Royal Canin.

This is in every way akin to how bored deities feel. All you want is a few disciples, a few faithful to light up a shrine or something on your behalf. But the field is crowded. So many content creators, so many influencers! No wonder perfectly sound Goddesses wind up selling funnel cakes at the flea market. It's a cold, hard world out there.

Boost my cat, will you? And poor Sedna ... will you boost Her too? So grateful!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hubris Run Amok

 I know I'm a bad person. I know I have a wicked side. I know I have the capacity to take others' suffering lightly, if I feel the suffering to be a matter of hubris. I've got a cold streak. I don't suffer fools.

Years and years ago, when Mr. J and I first moved to Haterfield, one of his journalist colleagues dropped by to say hello. At that time dear Decibel the Parrot was just a young stripling, but he had already learned how to shred skin on fingers with his big ol' beak.

Mr. J's colleague asked me, "Does your bird bite?"

"Oh yes," I replied.

Not even lying, the dude walked over to the cage and stuck his finger in. Decibel lived up to his reputation and bit the guy to the quick.

I could not help but laugh at that fellow. Hubris! It's a bitch.

Well, readers, that bitch hubris is having a whopper of a romp these days, and the Internet is a perfect park for a romp.

Here for your perusal is a website, Sorry, Antivaxxer. On this site, an enterprising hubris hunter has compiled a list of names and photos of people who loudly spurned the COVID vaccine and then succumbed to the disease.

My friends, you are entitled to your bodily autonomy, and you have the right to refuse a vaccine. But if you openly ridicule the vaccine and the people who take it, and then you get the illness and die of it, you sadly deserve a heaping helping of derision.

I feel sorry for people who quietly decide not to take the COVID vaccine, and then get the illness. But I have no qualms about "Sorry, Antivaxxer." Some book I might have read somewhere says, "As you sow, so shall you reap." And if you sow disinformation, if you make light of a deadly illness, if you belittle people who don't think the way you do, well then. Your reap may be done by the Grim Reaper.

Again, just to be clear, I do have sympathy for people who contract severe COVID after avoiding the vaccine. But my sympathy ends abruptly for the vocal, sarcastic anti-vaxxers who loudly seek to convince people not to protect themselves.

You've got to wonder, too, about the people who ingest medication used to de-worm horses in an effort to prevent or treat COVID. What are people thinking? I don't use Gamma Cat's flea medicine to treat my earaches.

Okay, it's not very Christian of me to lack sympathy for certain people. But hey! I'm not a Christian! I don't have to feel sorry for those who wallow in hubris and then inherit the wind. What a relief!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Pandemic Teaching Nightmares

 Today I took a half sick day. I went out to lunch and then to the swimming pool. I also called my doctor and got an appointment.

I left early because I was having a panic attack.

Since school began on September 7, five of my students have gone out on quarantine (after one tested positive for COVID). I can't get these teenagers to wear their masks properly unless I am looking straight at them.

School started on September 7, and on September 13 we started district-wide standardized testing. This is done through an expensive online platform that the district purchased a subscription to. The test took 3 full days and part of a fourth. I looked at the junior-level test. It was excruciatingly hard.

Today, September 21 (full moon), we had a practice for another standardized test, this one run by the state of New Jersey. Can you believe we spent 75 minutes practicing how to take a standardized test?

The real standardized test is scheduled for three days next week.

I had a panic attack because I always do when I have to administer a state standardized test. I'm so afraid I'm going to do something that ruins the students' scores that I'm much more likely to actually do it. The expensive testing platform programs are confusing to use.

So I asked my administration not to assign me the job of running the practice test, and they went ahead and assigned me anyway. There is literally no one in the school administration who worked on the last state test in the spring of 2019. Not one administrator who remembered that I have difficulties doing this.

Well, y'all will be proud of me, because I schooled the entire administration today. I melted down and was openly flustered and upset. When an administrator came in to help me create a new password (I just made a new one two days ago), I made the password HellonEarth1! and made sure the admin saw it.

The irony is that the whole practice was a fiasco school-wide, and my class got going first by some strange mystery.

When the practice test was winding to a close, one of the administrators came to apologize to me. But she wasn't among the ones I asked to assign me a benign testing duty. My guess is that she drew the short straw. But it only made me feel worse when someone apologized to me for something she didn't know about.

If I could comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, I would shut down all the Big School corporations that create and administer standardized tests. You can't believe how many there are. And how much money they make. And how bad they make kids feel about themselves. And how stressed they make the teachers who have to run the testing.

Pearson, Linkit, Kaplan, and all companies that "gather data": go suck a cactus. I'll bet your CEOs go hob-nobbing at Davos every year. I'll bet they would taste good if slow-cooked with some root vegetables.

Hardest school year since my second, so far. So glad I didn't spend my life in this profession.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Culturally Appropriate

 I spend too much time on Facebook. Click "Like" if you do too.

One of the reasons I spend so much time there is that there are so many pages with topics that are vitally interesting to me. How can I resist a Facebook page called The Turkey Vulture Society? It's candy to me, I tell you. Candy.

I also follow a page called "For the Love of Crows." Because, you know, if you can't be with a vulture you love, love the crow you're with.

Yesterday a young woman posted on "For the Love of Crows" that crows are her "spirit animal." It didn't take two second for a sniffy person to comment that "spirit animal" is a cultural appropriation that shouldn't be used. The concept of spirit animals is Native American, and we white Europeans have no right to it.

I have been as guilty as anyone in this. For years I called vultures my "spirit animal," my "totem," and on and on. I call them Sacred Thunderbirds, the Native American description, because it's so much lovelier than "buzzard," which is the European descriptor.

From now on I'll call them buzzards. I really don't have any right to appropriate Native American concepts.

Well, this whole cultural appropriation thing got me to thinking. What am I entitled to in my white, European traditions? Where is my cultural touchstone?

DING DING DING DING!!!


I believe that dressing up in costumes and dancing is probably more ancient to the human condition than any other invention. But the idea of dressing up in a costume (either nicer than your usual clothing or cross-dressing or both) and dancing at the beginning of the year is indisputably a product of the British Isles.

Being a Two Street Stomper is my culturally appropriate activity.

Which is swell, because today I went to a parade! The weather was impeccable, the crowds were friendly and appreciative, and we gave them a good show. It was so nice to see my Stompers fam again after 18 long months.

The moral of this brief sermon is:

*Don't call it a "spirit animal" or a "Sacred Thunderbird." Call it a buzzard, but venerate it just as much.

*Being a Mummer is a culturally appropriate activity for me. OH yeah! Two Street Fired Up!


Anyone who has gotten this far in this post: Thank you for your offers to help me with my disagreeable co-teacher! His initials are BD. Can't even believe I'm having this issue, never having had it before. But there's a first time for everything. I'm stuck with the boy, hoping I can teach him something. But not highly confident.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Wow, I Need My Working Wand!

 On day four of my first week of work, I was told that a kid sitting near my desk had tested positive for COVID. Five students were sent home to quarantine, but I got to stay because I am vaccinated.

I was prepared for this. My guess is the whole school will shut down before Christmas. But in the meantime, I have need for my working wand.

Those of you who have been following my meandering life will know that I have two magic wands: a ceremonial wand and a working wand. The working wand, though it is charged with magic, just looks like a stick. It's quite portable. Comes in handy.

There are so many reasons for taking a wand to work that I can hardly list them all in a single post. I've never faced anything like this autumn. Not even last autumn, when I sat in an empty classroom, fearing my colleagues and their lax habits.

All the students (who aren't in quarantine) have returned to class. They are required to wear masks. Which, being teenagers, they try to finesse. They must put their phones away while in class. Which, being teenagers, they try to finesse. They have to wear uniforms and ID cards. Which, being teenagers ... never mind. You get it.

I teach 9th grade. But this year I am teaching kids who missed 8th grade. I don't know if you can remember back to those awful middle school years, but you will no doubt recall that there's some maturity that happens in 8th grade. It didn't happen. The kids are immature and squirrely. Some of them, when told gently to put their phones away, shut down and put their heads on their desks.

But I saved the worst for last.

I always get at least one inclusion class. For those of you not up on your teacher lingo, an inclusion class contains students who need special, individual support for a variety of reasons. Inclusion classes are co-taught with a Special Ed teacher. I have worked with many such teachers, always in a spirit of collegiality.

This year I need my wand.

I am saddled with a loutish young man probably still in his twenties. Do I need to say more if I tell you he got full-blown COVID last winter from hanging out in a bar with his buddies? Well, sadly, there's more. The chump is chock-a-block with toxic masculinity. Let's put aside that he complains about other teachers he has worked with. He is poison to my students.

After he snarled at the class most of last week (earning their hatred right out of the gate, trust me), I told him I would handle the discipline. Not ten minutes later, he got in the face of a stripling girl of 14 and dressed her down for something I had just handled. The girl wound up shaking and crying.

Not on my damn watch. Wand up, shields up, time to detox this masculine pest.

I'm not a confrontational person. But little girls aren't going to cry in my classroom. I also bleed Union blue, and this guy is in my bargaining unit, but I'm prepared to go to his supervisor if he doesn't shape the hell up.

You know what I hate? I hate people who project doom. I can't feature someone who could say, "IF YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE OUT, YOU'LL HAVE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE HERE AT THIS SCHOOL, AND YOU DON'T WANT THAT KIND OF TROUBLE."

For the love of fruit flies! It's not like these kids are out drinking with their buddies in a pandemic!

So, as my beloved Yellowdog Grannny says, "Chin up, tits out." And wands out. And spines straight. I'm not only teaching the students, I'm teaching a teacher.

By the way, my room is full of the books you all donated to me. I got a whopping $200 from the school district last spring, but I'm well set, thanks to you. I haven't forgotten.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Labor Day 2021

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm Anne Johnson, a school teacher in the Time of COVID-19. If you can do this job, under these circumstances, without resort to magic, you are a better person than me.

But La Di Dah! I got two shots, and I've got a copper bracelet, and I have hung vulture feathers at my front door! COVID can't touch me!

Well, okay, it can. I just hope that when it does, it flicks me lightly, rather than walloping me with a blunt instrument.

Never mind that. Last Monday was Labor Day! And you know what that means, right? Philadelphia's annual Communist, Socialist, Godless, Corrupt and Overpaid Union Get-Together!

Just kidding with all those adjectives. Big Business wants people to hate unions so that the businessmen can go on being rich on the backs of their workers. And that would be a nope. Public sentiment for unions is actually improving. Hooray!

So, without further sermon, here are some photos I snapped at the AFL-CIO Labor Day Parade in Philadelphia on September 6. Here is the float that got things started.


You see that blue sky? The weather was gorgeous. 

Here is a card-carrying Socialist in the crowd.


The red shirt is a coincidence, because the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (plus that one pesky blogger from New Jersey) also wear red.


My shirt says #redfored, which is our teacher motto.

Every year the union puts up a big banner at Penn's Landing.



And then all the various unions -- identified by their shirts, enjoy the use of Penn's Landing (with free burgers and fries) for four hours. I think these are Boilermakers.


Every union has its own matching t-shirts, often with meaningful slogans on the back.




Here's the Communications Workers of America. That's the union Mr. J belonged to.


This year the AFL-CIO gave out beach towels.  That's what the dude is holding.

And you will never guess who I ran into there. The Monkey Man! He rode to the parade on his bike, with Monkey in tow, and we enjoyed a nice chat by the Delaware River. It's always good to see him!


The sunlight made it hard to get a good shot, but you get the picture.

It was great to get out into the sun with my union brothers and sisters. Needless to say this didn't happen last year. But we're back!

And guess what else is back? The Mummers Parade! In some form. I put down a deposit on a dress.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Malcolm Kenyatta Is Amazing

 Hello there! You may have Googled Malcolm Kenyatta's name and come to my page as a newcomer. If so, welcome aboard! I am a resident of New Jersey, progressive as get-out, and I believe in a future that is epitomized by Malcolm Kenyatta.

Now, my three regulars. I know you have never heard of him, so I'll give you some back story on Malcolm Kenyatta.

My daughter The Fair lives in Center City, Philadelphia. When the pandemic began and her hours were cut, she couldn't get unemployment because there was an unresolved issue with a social security number that she had gotten wrong once, on a long ago job. Fair was so upset, crying, certain she would never get things straightened out, and I told her to call her State Representative. I even looked up his name in the Pennsylvania legislature. His name: Malcolm Kenyatta.

Finally I persuaded Fair to call Malcolm Kenyatta's office, and his staff quickly fixed her issues with Pennsylvania and got her that unemployment pay.

It's kind of sad that no one knows their State Representatives can do such things. People are way too used to the idea that the government doesn't care about them at all, except at election time. But long story short, Representative Kenyatta has an efficient staff, and they are quite helpful.

Then one day I was driving to work, and the local news station played a clip about a State Representative who was giving Republicans some kinda sass in a committee meeting. The clip they played was hysterical. Bunch of old white men telling Malcolm he was out of order, and Malcolm not having it. I thought, "That's the guy who helped Fair! I think I have a new hero!"

It was about this time that MSNBC discovered Malcolm Kenyatta, and he started appearing on the various evening shows. That's where I was able to put a face to the name. The odd thing is that now, I can't even remember the issue that got him on national t.v. There are so many that could qualify.

If you want to see him standing up for voting rights, here he is.

Earlier this year, Malcolm Kenyatta announced that he is seeking the position of Senator in the state of Pennsylvania. It didn't take me two seconds to sign up to support his campaign, even though I'm across the river. I'm doing it for my daughters.

Malcolm Kenyatta is young, gay, progressive, and passionate. He reflects the America I would like to see, where people of all races and persuasions have a seat at the table where big decisions are made. I like the way this young man doesn't suffer fools. I flat-out love his platform.

So imagine my surprise and delight, when I went to this year's Philadelphia Labor Day Parade, that I turned around and nearly smacked into Malcolm Kenyatta! I did a little squeee, of course, and before I could say ICANTWAITUNTILYOUARESENATOR, we were hugging for a photograph.



Readers, I do truly want to see this fine man advance in the halls of government. If you live in Pennsylvania, vote for him. If you don't, invoke the help of your deities on his behalf. He is the America we need to see.

More about Labor Day soon!

Friday, September 03, 2021

The News from Texas

 I know you've heard all about it. Texas has a new law that forbids abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Oh, shucks, let's dispense with the formalities. Texas has made abortion illegal, and the Supreme Court has wink wink nod nod approved of it in the middle of the night.

This is a tricky little dodge that the Texas state legislature has passed. It's not the long arm of the law that's gonna enforce the abortion ban, it's ordinary Texans. They can report anyone who is getting an abortion, or anyone who helps in any way. Maybe what we would call a "citizen's arrest." And there's a nice bounty of $10,000 for any tip that leads to prosecution.

The law is so draconian that you practically have to reach back to Stalin and Mao to find precedent. But pish tosh! It's fine with the Supreme Court!

It's fine with me too, mainly because this kind of shit reminds me what a blessing it is to live in New Jersey, the Garden State, may the Gods guard and keep it!

You know why else it's fine? I'm all for this whole citizen cop thing. After all, the Supreme Court has approved, right? So let's get some good out of this.

I am contacting my state legislature. I think they should pass a bill that makes gun ownership against the law, except for active duty military. Any citizen of New Jersey can report a gun owner, or anyone who drives the gun owner to buy a gun, or anyone who operates a firing range, or golly, anyone who sells ammunition and camouflage clothing! I'm really cool with that $10k reporting fee, too. I will be really vigilant about turning in all those criminal gun owners out there.

Tell me how this is differs from the Texas law? Guns kill. Let's get them out of the hands of potential killers. And get paid to do it. Supreme Court will have to help us, because, you know, quid pro quo.

I'll bet I could think of a dozen laws for citizen vigilantes to handle. Take leaf blowers, for instance. What we need is a good stiff law that prevents people from using leaf blowers except for Saturday afternoons in October and November. Pollution! Noise! Where are my citizen crime fighters?

In all seriousness, I truly hope this abortion ban is the tipping point that turns Texas blue. How can a majority of citizens approve of ending abortions? (Legal and safe ones, anyway ... there will never be an end to abortions.) Come on, Texas! Vote the bums out. Start with the guy who flew to Cancun when the whole state was frozen solid and people were dying of hypothermia.

Texas gals, if you can make your way to New Jersey to "visit the historic Stone Pony," you can stay at my house for free. Wink wink, nod nod.



Thursday, September 02, 2021

Scary

 The remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through New Jersey last night. A tornado spawned in South Jersey and stayed on the ground through fully half of the state -- about 90 miles. It came within five miles of my house.

We get hurricanes all the time, and they wreak havoc. But this was different. Some areas got 10 inches of rain. Houses were demolished, tornado-style. This was not a typical New Jersey hurricane.

Such weather events used to be quite rare, but this is the second year in a row that we have had a damaging hurricane during season. Both names began with "I."

When I was growing up, I don't think I ever saw a hurricane that began with "I."

I also didn't think I would see Roe v. Wade overturned and Jim Crow voting practices reinstated. America is moving backwards in everything but overall temperature.

Gods help us all.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Die on the Hill, Just Don't Take Me Along

 Ah, summer is almost over, and a new school year beckons. Even though COVID-19 is almost worse than ever, we are back to full enrollment in our schools.

In the meantime, I know three fully vaccinated adults who caught COVID-19 and were sick for weeks. Granted, they survived. But sick for weeks. All younger than me.

Pandemic does not be over. How silly of me to think so! This is 'Murica, Land of the Idiot and Home of the Moron.

Why are people who have been vaccinated for a half dozen deadly and infectious diseases suddenly unwilling to get a shot? That was a rhetorical question. I know the answer. The answer (no matter what other answer they give) is that Joe Biden encourages everyone to get a shot. If Joe Biden promoted breathing, they would all turn blue and suffocate.

If it was just the anti-shot morons infecting each other, I wouldn't care a bit. Go ahead and die on the hill of your "freedom." But I don't want to go with you. I have done everything -- everything -- the public health experts have told me to do. Everything. A 45-minute visit on Christmas, on the front porch of my daughter's rental? Did it. Quarantine for weeks and weeks? Did it. Wearing a mask everywhere? Did it. Doing it. Will do it. Hand sanitizer? Use it. Avoiding crowded indoor events? Did it. Doing it. Will do it.

I fought to get a date for my vaccination. Now I will need to fight for a booster ... and in the meantime spend my days with a room full of teenagers. There are 100 students on my roster this year. Even if half of them are vaccinated, that'll be a lot of COVID-19 floating in the stagnant classroom air. And I will have to wear a mask all day long, every day. I'll be afraid to take it off any time I'm in the room, including when I'm alone. Shit can hang in the air.

Most of this suffering could have been avoided if we had a citizenry that is less evenly divided between reasonable and ridiculous.

Getting sick from COVID when you've done everything to prevent it is like dying of tobacco-induced lung cancer without ever having smoked a cigarette. I don't want to be that victim!

Yes, I have practiced magic to keep myself safe. But no matter. I'm predicting with confidence that I'll contract this damn plague sometime this fall. Oh, morons. Thank you so much.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Hope Is a Thing with Oak Trees

You know that even in the Wild, Wild West there were people who planted apple trees and built schools, right? That's kind of how I feel about Facebook.

The platform is a dung heap of buzzard-gagging proportions, but how else would I be able to keep up with the Southampton Township Historical Society? (They have a page.)

You see, the Southampton Township Historical Society is the historical body responsible for the area that my ancestors called home from the earliest 1700s. The president of the Society posts all kinds of stuff about that area. One day I clicked in, and there was the obituary for my great-great grandmother, who died in 1947. All kinds of stuff like that. And there are a lot of people following that page ... 939 to be exact. I'm probably related to 938 of them.

It was on this page that I saw an offer, by owner, for a small property in Southampton Township. The property is a quarter mile from the churchyard where my great-grandparents and great-great grandparents are buried.

Earlier this week, I went up to see the property in question. It's small. But I am in love.

EXHIBIT A: NOT JUST GENERIC FOREST


I was expecting a steep, rocky thicket of scrub pine trees with no place to even set up a pup tent. Instead the land is a growing hardwood forest that has achieved enough maturity that the floor is springy with leaf mold and there's ample space for a cozy campsite.

This picture doesn't really capture it. The trees are tall. They're hardwood. No invasive species, no poison ivy, no place for rattlesnakes to hide.

I love it. I want to buy it. I want to be a citizen of Southampton Township again.

Working on it. Wish me well!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Plant of Doom

 It's happened twice this summer. I have gotten poison ivy without even seeing it.


I know what this pestilential plant looks like. I've known since I was a kid. "Leaves of three, let it be." Yeah yeah yeah. I know, I KNOW.

I let it be, I promise. But it finds me. It slinks through the underbrush and catches me unawares.

The first time I got it this summer, I kind of understood. The Fair and I went to Cattus Island County Park and took a hike. I stepped off the path for 15 seconds to pick some wild blueberries. I think that's when the Plant of Doom attacked. The next evening I started feeling that classic unbearable itch at two places on my leg. 24 hours later I had blisters the size of dimes.

Okay, that was weeks ago. This past Monday I did a little light yard work in my sandals. Did I mention that I know what the damn stuff looks like???? I did not see it. Nor did I touch it, because it's not on my hands. There are, once again, two blisters on my ankle, right above where the sandal hits my foot.

I. Did. Not. See. The. Plant.


I feel that poison ivy has become sentient. It is now following me around and attacking me by stealth. It does this because it knows it's the only native flora I will not abide in my yard.

Have any of you ever gotten poison ivy without setting eyes on it? I have literally not been anywhere outside of my yard since last Saturday. And I know I didn't get it at the LARP, because I wore boots, socks, and leggings while I was there.

Why, readers, why? I didn't see it! How can you get slapped by the Plant of Doom without noticing it? I'm on my way to two more  #$#S%#@$#  blisters!

Monday, August 09, 2021

Yes, I Went LARPing with a Bunch of 20-somethings in the Woods

 This post begins with a definition. LARP is Live Action Role Play.

What this means is, you go to a wooded area, arm yourself with foam weapons that look real, and fight scary monsters and zombies and other bad, weird things. I tell my students that it's basically a video game in real life.

I have a few Fairie Festival friends who recommended that I try out the whole LARP thing. They go to this event in Williamstown, NJ once a month for a weekend. I went a few times before the pandemic, but I hadn't been back to Williamstown until last weekend.

And I had a blast.

The property where the LARP is held is really swell. It's wooded in places, meadow in places, and a Christmas tree farm. The people who go to this regularly have built structures in the woods. There are so many it really looks like a little magical town. I would say there are at least five acres in all. So, if nothing else, it's fun to just stroll around.

LARP is pretty complicated, especially if you've never played a D&D type role-play game. Which I haven't. So I don't really know how to defend myself from the monsters. My only strategy is to run, but now that I'm better known as the token geezer, the monsters just let me escape. It's called "noncom," and it saves my graying keister.

"Graying" is the operative word here. I could be the parent of almost all the other players. There aren't any others in my generation. The participants are mostly 20-somethings, maybe early 30s. Some of them have tots.

On my previous visits to this adventure, I was pretty awkward. This time I kind of found a niche as a Non-Player Character (NPC). I helped to hang shiny things in the woods, I helped to determine where the magical land-shifting was occurring, and I did the muscle-memory church lady thing--helped to prepare dinner for everyone. In between I watched battles from a safe distance and caught up with my festival friends.

I was warmly welcomed in Williamstown. It felt good, sort of like a festival but not.

I'm going to the next event, Labor Day weekend.

No photos, alas. It's hard to run from monsters with an IPhone in your hand.

Friday, August 06, 2021

In Which Fox News Robs Me of Another Valuable Friendship

 We have all been there, right? Someone we have known forever, loved forever, looked forward to seeing, goes down the worm hole and becomes lost to us. But not without a parting salvo.

There is a business in my community that I have loved and supported for 17 years or more. It's family-owned and run by a mom, pop, and son. It stocks items I would much rather buy in person than from an online source.

Now, these owners. I'm not going to say they weren't eccentric (or Republicans) before they tripped and fell into the Fox News wormhole. I knew that small business owners frequently vote Republican because of tax issues. But 10 years ago, these people would not have displayed the xenophobic, racist anxieties that they are displaying today.

I didn't even have to go to the store to discover the sea change. Today I was reading on my porch when the mom of the business called me. I have her in my phone as "Mom."

She wanted me to be her co-author, and she sketched an idea that she thought would make a great t.v. series. It was so loathsome that I have no doubt it would be a fantastic hit with the people out there who refuse to be vaccinated because "freedom."

When I asked her where she got her idea for the series, she said, "The news." Note that she knows me well enough that she didn't say the "F" word. But I already knew the answer before I posed the question.

A fellow customer just told me that this business now has Fox News running in the back room all day every day. This would do wonders for the store if it wasn't located smack dab in the bleeding heart of Liberal Land. As it is, I don't think many customers will agree with the sentiments.

I counted this family as best friends and visited their emporium frequently, up until four years ago, when my visits fell off sharply. Now the visits will end. I would rather not see them at all than see them parroting the Fox News hard-liners. This makes me very, very sad.

But OH WELL. Tomorrow, while the business celebrates its 40th anniversary with a lawn party, I will be 30 miles away, doing a LARP with people I don't even know!

Shedding a shell, growing a new one, knowing that a lot of good will be left behind.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Gettin It Done without Amazon

 Howdy again, and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where patience is a virtue and the small business rules! I'm Anne Johnson, and I'm not paying for frivolous space travel for billionaires. Period, end of sentence.

This post begins with my fear of Coronavirus as the school year loomed last fall. I was lucky enough to discover a book called Backwoods Witchcraft by Jake Richards. This excellent work has all kinds of spells and conjures and amulets in it, and from the author's expertise I learned that copper items help to guard from illness. So I bought a beautiful copper bracelet with mountains on it, which I received a few weeks before school began. 

I've been wearing the bracelet constantly, and it has protected me from Covid. I know because my supervisor at school caught the virus and got terribly ill. This was before the vaccine.

If you have ever owned anything made of copper, you know it's hard keeping that shiny, minty fresh exterior. It's also such a bendable metal that it can lose its shape. So here I am, 12 months in with this bracelet, and it needed to be adjusted.

I took it to my splendid friend of long standing, Muin, who works with metal in fantastic ways. It was the work, literally, of 20 seconds for him to knock the shape back into my bracelet. And then he gave me tips on how to polish it and keep it minty fresh. Turns out I need Wright's copper polish, which I can pick up at the local hardware store. I also need stuff called Renaissance Wax. (One can also use beeswax, but who can resist a product called "Renaissance Wax?") Muin applied some polish, and then some of this magical Ren Wax, and my bracelet looks better than it did when it arrived in the mail.

You might think that something so esoteric as Renaissance Wax would be hard to find outside the evil Amazon Empire. But no! I clicked into the first web site that wasn't Amazon and found a real he-man's paradise of a small business down in Texas.

If you had asked me four weeks ago, I would have said, "Pandemic be over" (famous words of a friend of The Fair). But it's not, and even if I'm vaccinated, I still see a chance of serious illness. So I am going to continue to wear my amulet bracelet. It's just going to look and fit better.

All the links in this post lead to the products described at web sites that are not Amazon. Full disclosure, I did buy Backwoods Witchcraft from Amazon, but I could have done my due diligence. Honestly I would like to drive to Tennessee and purchase Jake Richards's books right from his hands, but that's not possible.

"Renaissance Wax." What a great product to put through the "Anywhere but Amazon" test! Got it, gettin' it, thanks Texas!

Keep the author of "The Gods Are Bored" in your magic the next few weeks. Big events are on the horizon. I will tell all as things unfold.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A New "Gods Are Bored" Series: Anywhere But Amazon

 Did you see this?

"I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this," Bezos said during a post-flight press conference. "Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It's very appreciated."


Yeah, Jeff. Fuck you, and your dick spaceship! "I just want to thank all the little people who got me on this nice trip to outer space. Everyone who works long hours, breaking their backs in my warehouses (and pissing in bottles), and all of you customers who get your socket wrenches and yoga pants from me, rather than shopping locally or even searching a little bit online."

For the love of red-eyed fruit flies! Is this demon spawn for real?

Got to assume so, I guess. So, what can I, Anne Johnson, do to thwart this King Louis XVI wannabe (short, of course, of following the same fate that met ol' Louie)?

Announcing a new "Gods Are Bored" series, ANYWHERE BUT AMAZON!

In this occasional series, I will choose a random item that could easily be purchased on Amazon, and I will direct you to another outlet. And please, I would like some reader participation here! If you are thinking of buying something on Amazon, let me help you find an alternate vendor!

Today's item to not buy on Amazon: a shower curtain.

Simplest thing in the world, right? I mean, you can pick up a vinyl shower curtain in a lot of supermarkets. But suppose you can't? And suppose you want a stylish one?

Annie's advice? Target.com

Target ships as fast as Amazon, costs the same, and sometimes they give you a deal for free shipping if you spend a certain amount. The last time I ordered an item from Target.com, I obtained six pairs of cotton cuff socks for the same price I would have paid to ship the item I originally bought. I needed socks and basically got them for free.

Now, if you really want to go the ANYWHERE BUT AMAZON route, you could search up a shower curtain on Etsy. I just looked, out of curiosity, and there are 55,470 shower curtains on Etsy! If you can't find one from a small vendor on there, you are the most discriminating shopper of all time -- and in that case you sure aren't using Amazon.

Readers, I am at the point where I wouldn't buy from Amazon if it was the only place selling air. Bezos is not only a spoiled-ass billionaire, he is clearly so tone deaf he couldn't carry a tune across the room.

What are you tempted to buy on Amazon? Ask Annie ... she'll help you find it somewhere else!

Links are directly to shower curtains.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Interview with a Bored God: Tezcatlipoca

 Hello out there in the Google-space, it's time for another installment of "The Gods Are Bored!" I'm just back from a little week-long visit to the Chesapeake Bay. It was hot. There were crabs.

So I got home last night, steaming and exhausted, and I turned on CNN in time to see this bearded Branson billionaire being interviewed about his trip into space. He was so damn effervescent about seeing the Earth from that height. Until the CNN interviewer asked him if the experience gave him an increased sense of what he might do to save said Earth. Then he hemmed and hawed, because, like, should he care?

Next up, Jeff Bezos. Going into space in his craft week after next.

Enough of this, already! Let's get a Bored God to put a stop to it. Please give a warm, wonderful, "Gods Are Bored" welcome to Tezcatlipoca, sacred Sky Deity to the Aztec people!


Anne: All glory, laud, and honor, great God! Must say, Your people had the right idea about how a deity should look.

Tezcatlipoca: You called, white woman. I answered. Get to the point.

Anne: Yes, Sir. Well, I just have a simple petition, and since You are a Sky God, I thought I might put it to you.

Tezcatlipoca: Don't tell Me what I am! I know what I am! What's your petition?

Anne: I was just wondering if You could kick these space travelers to the curb. I mean, they are getting right there in the sweet zone, basically Your living room. Can't You give them the boot with Your onyx foot?

Tezcatlipoca: You mean, like I should have done with those conquistadors?

Anne: Yes! You've got the gist!

Tezcatlipoca: And you think that would be the end of it. I mean, I could crush these assholes like bugs, but just turn over another rock, you're going to find more bugs.

Anne: One certainly understands Your cynicism. But with all due respect, the conquistadors never soiled your carpeting. These rich fucks building their own spaceships are leaving tracks of dirt everywhere they go. Now it's landing right on Your stoop. I don't know, that would bother me.

Tezcatlipoca: Are you talking about that "Aguirre the Wrath of God" wannabe that disturbed My nap the other day?

Anne: Yes! Exactly! Blonde guy, conquistador to the bone! He woke You up? Mmmm. I mean, I'm not You, but I wouldn't have that.

Tezcatlipoca: I just didn't see the point of flicking My wrist at that gnat.

Anne: Trouble is, there are more gnats on the way. They may start making a habit of it. 

Tezcatlipoca: That won't do. I just re-did my stoop.

Anne: There's another one planning to invade Your space in just eight days. And let me just tell you, this man has no respect for stoops. He flings stuff at stoops millions and millions of times a day! Thinks like a conquistador in every respect.

Tezcatlipoca: He'd better not fling something at My stoop!

Anne: He will, great God, and it's likely to be something useless like a shoe horn or a pair of yoga pants.

Tezcatlipoca: How many days until this man dares to invade My home? It will be his last dare.

Anne: Eight. And if I might add, now You're showing the right spirit.

Tezcatlipoca: Thank you for the alert. I will unleash the Serpents and Jaguars. He'll rue the day he soiled anyone's stoop!

Anne: All glory, laud, and honor.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Paganism for Profit

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," school-is-out edition! I'm your sweltering host, Anne Johnson. It's 98 degrees outside. Real feel temperature is 2,680.

For some years I beat heat waves like this by attending a Fourth of July event at an "Interfaith Church" (quotes are mine) out in the cool mountains. But that was then. I haven't gone to the event in four years. The reason is simple: The place may be a nonprofit, but the bottom line is still the most important line on the document. Some things just raise red flags, you know? The place is skeevy, and it doesn't take a psychic to pick up the vibe.

 Today's sermon is a cautionary tale about Paganism for Profit.

*Paganism for Profit Rule #1: If the leadership seems always to need money to fight lawsuits or to buy the next shiny thing, beware! Chances are the leader has his or her own agenda and will use your money to pursue it. This holds true for campgrounds and "Cons" and even local covens. Be especially suspicious of the leadership that humble brags about their own sacrifices to obtain the shiny thing. This is merely a ruse to get you to want the shiny thing enough to invest in it.

*Paganism for Profit Rule #2: If the leadership attracts "interns" and then works them like draft horses, beware! Interns are notoriously underpaid and overworked, but this should not be the case at a church.  This isn't the Middle Ages. People who enter into work arrangements as interns may be doing it to learn skills or simply out of religious zeal, and in both cases they are done wrong if they wind up sweeping barracks and mowing lawns from can-see-to-can't-see.

Paganism for Profit Rule #3: If volunteers are working so hard they can't enjoy the religious festivities, there's something amiss. Like the interns, the volunteers are being taken advantage of, either because there aren't enough of them or because they are so dedicated that they do way too much for way too little recognition from the leadership. If you go to a religious rite and some people there seem to be doing all the work, steer clear of that. (I have seen this at several different Pagan events.)

Paganism for Profit Rule #4: If your festival has absolutely no connection whatsoever to any established rite or ritual on any religious calendar, it's not a church event. It's a party. So don't promote it as something spiritual, even if it has speakers or meditations or whatnot. Likewise, if you go to an event expecting it to be spiritual, and it turns out to be a bunch of stoners setting off fireworks, don't go back! You won't find what you're looking for there.

Paganism for Profit Rule #5: If there's an "in crowd" and an "out crowd," partially or mostly based on how much money individuals donate, you do not need that foolishness. Isn't this partly why you left the Christian church? Don't be surprised that it happens in the Pagan community too. But don't buy into it. Literally.

Paganism for Profit Rule #6: If you feel like the whole thing is skeevy, if you're just getting uncomfortable vibes even though you're having a good time, proceed with caution. I have been at several events where excessive imbibing of alcohol was part of the rite. Whiskey isn't ayahuasca, okay? That person who is "channeling" by slurping spirits -- is she even 21? Ick.

So yes, I'm feeling a little sour grapey that I'm not sitting in a swimming hole with a whole evening of drumming ahead of me at a bucolic campground that nonetheless always skeeved me solid. But today I'm concentrating on the skeevy and not the sweet. I can't support a place that is baldly profit-driven and badly run. Nobody will miss me anyway. I was never an elite donor, or any kind of donor for that matter.

The moral of this sermon is simple: When you go to an event or a place that purports to be New Age spiritual, take a good look and listen before you commit. If it seems like there's one person in charge that everyone else defers to passionately, or if it seems like profit is a motive, move on. Build yourself a shrine in your back yard and drum on your porch. It's safer that way.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Mackenzie Scott Should Read the Bible, or Be Eaten. I Don't Care Which.

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we don't comfort the afflicted ... we afflict the comfortable. Today's comfortable person is Mackenzie Scott, formerly Mrs. Jeff Bezos.

In case you haven't heard, this chewy and nutritious plutocrat has been giving billions of dollars to the charities of her choice.

I found out about this by seeing a Facebook page called "YOU Are Now RBG." This article was posted, followed by dozens of ordinary women, applauding dear Mackenzie's generosity.

When I dared to suggest that someone who has $60 billion giving away $4 billion is laughable, insulting, and grounds to be chopped up for soup, I got scolded. I was (in no specific order):

*anti-feminist

*hard-hearted

* cynical

* a danger to woke society

Several clearly intelligent women seemed to have a complete inability to grasp the fact that giving four dollars away when you have 60 dollars is nice, but giving $4 billion away when you have $60 billion is LAUGHABLE.

"But she has plans to give away half her fortune!" one Karen exclaimed.

Half of 60 dollars is a lot. Half of $60 billion is NOTHING.

This person could give away 99.9 percent of her wealth and still live large. She would still have millions!

Next question: How much did she pay last year in taxes to the government of her native land? The answer is not available, but my guess is, not much. Certainly nowhere near the percentage we common middle class scum pay. And why give money to the U.S. government when you can fund theater projects and colleges? Well, let's start with public fucking schools. And go from there. Did you know that America's senior citizens have to pay the entire cost of hearing aids? And there sits Mackenzie, on a fortune that would buy hearing aids for every damn senior citizen in America.

Final question: How did Mackenzie Scott acquire $60 billion (with a b) dollars? Well, for those of you who do your shopping in stores, there's a company called Amazon that has practically monopolized the purchase and delivery of every item you could ever want. Amazon has done that by creating inhumane conditions for their workforce and by strenuously blocking efforts at unionization of said workforce. It's basically the 21st century's answer to coal mines and shirtwaist factories.

So, to the dear feminists at "YOU are now RBG," I've got to say: This is not about a woman. It's about an owner who exploits workers. Who does Mackenzie Scott think she is? To me she seems like some emperor of old, flinging ducats into the crowds of starving subjects on Festival Day.

EXHIBIT A: FEED HER TO GRITTY



Speaking of Festival Day, this is Juneteenth! Now a federal holiday! I had 12 years of public schooling, then four years of college, then a lifetime of reading and watching the news, and I never heard of Juneteenth until last year. So please allow me to catch up and learn how to celebrate this holiday before I begin to comment on it.

This sermon will end with that rarest of recommendations from "The Gods Are Bored." Mackenzie Scott should read Jesus Christ's advice to the rich man, and then follow it. Same goes for anyone who has more money than they could spend in 100 lifetimes.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Heartbroken Hillbilly ISO a Little Piece of Land

 I have never gotten over the sale of my grandfather's property on Polish Mountain. I couldn't afford to buy my cousins out. And the house would have needed upkeep. I'm no starry-eyed romantic when it comes to unattended homes in the middle of nowhere.

Still I have grieved. That's the Land of My People -- seven, eight generations -- and I've felt adrift since the property passed out of my life.

I've been looking at the real estate listings in that neck of the woods, and the prices are astonishing. I had pretty much given up ever buying even a little shard of ground in the zip code where I grew up. (It's about 100 miles from DC and Baltimore, which explains everything.)

But now I spy a glimmer of hope. It is just a glimmer.

There's a slip of land for sale by owner. Sitting right smack dab in Land of My People Central. A really small lot covered with rock and hardwood saplings, bordered by a wildlife refuge.

If I am able to acquire this land, I don't plan to build on it. I'll just take a folding chair and go sit in the woods there. It'll be the largest ancestor shrine in the region, but no one will know because I don't intend to disturb one single rock. I'm not going to hang one shiny bauble from a tree limb. I'm not going to pester the bears or the rattlesnakes. It's woods now, it'll stay woods. But it will be my woods.

Well, y'all know that buying and selling even the simplest piece of ground is a mammoth undertaking. So I'm not putting a lot of emotional investment in this. I'll go up and see it this summer, if it's still available, and then I'll decide.

Did you know that one cannot build a good ol' outhouse in PA anymore? What is the world coming to?

I'm not a huge or even medium Woody Allen fan, but this clip is short and apropos of the situation.

Say a little prayer for me to the deity of your choice. It would be wonderful to be a card-carrying hillbilly again.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Red-Eyed Menaces

 My dear ol' dad taught me to respect and appreciate insects. I'm pretty tolerant of most bugs, with the usual exceptions for cockroaches and biting flies. It's never been part of my playbook to be disconcerted by harmless insects, no matter how large they are.

That tolerance was tested to the max over the weekend when I went to Maryland for my nephew's high school graduation.

The state of Maryland is experiencing a brood year for 17-year cicadas. I took some photos that are better than others online, but my technology isn't working for me tonight. I will have to paint a picture with words.

These HUGE, LOOMING MENACES have beady red eyes, transparent wings, and the vocal prowess of 100,000 HEAVY METAL BANDS. They consider all parts of the human body to be swell perches. They collide with windshields with resounding splats. And YOU CANNOT HEAR ABOVE THEIR DIN.

The worst of it was on the Baltimore Beltway, a place where one doesn't want to be distracted by SWARMS OF SIZABLE BUGS. It felt like they were raining from the sky. Glancing at the trees beside the highway revealed packs and packs of them. And then ... SPLAT. SPLAT. SPLAT. Windshield wipe-out.

At first I thought the Red-Eyed Menaces weren't as numerous in Western Maryland. But then my sister and I took a kayak paddle down a local waterway, and WE HAD TO SHOUT TO BE HEARD OVER THE CICADAS. They were flailing in the stream, zooming through the air, and using the kayaks (and our shoulders, and our heads) as helpful landing zones.

Oh, I wish my photos would load! Then I could subject you to the trauma!

17-year cicadas are about the length and size of a thumb. That's a little bit more insect than I want to find on my kneecap, glaring at me from beady red eyes.

Well, reader. I did survive. I'm back in New Jersey, which is remarkably free of the scourge. I don't know how I have gotten to the ripe age I am without ever having been confronted with a 17-year cicada brood, but it happened. Now my education on the subject of Red-Eyed Menaces is complete, and I'll know to take a pass on Maryland in 2038.