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):



* 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.


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.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

I Must Admit, It Stings

Here I was, all full of vigor and great ideas. Time to move on, time to join the deluge of podcasts just the way I leapt into blogging in 2005!  Time to stay edgy and relevant and young.

What's a girl to do? I hatched the idea to interview bored deities for a podcast! Sounds great, right?

I put out a call to all the bored Gods and Goddesses who so graciously enjoyed my hospitality over the past decade and a half, here at "The Gods Are Bored." I figured they would be all keen to do the latest, greatest social experiment.

Monday afternoon as I was tearing into my Memorial Day hamburger, a ... what shall I call it? ... delegation of Goddesses knocked politely at the front door. They wouldn't come inside, preferring to sit on the porch. At first I found this a hopeful sign, as it was an exceedingly temperate day.

Hel did the talking, which was surprising as I had never interviewed Her before. But the others sat primly nodding their heads in agreement.

Long story short, there will be no interviews with deities from Anne. I am relegated to that special realm of disdain reserved for women over 60 and under 102.

Hel did not mince words: Obsolete. Washed up. No longer relevant. Like, when was the last time you wielded a sword? Can you even lift one?

This is the kind of harsh shit you would expect from a Goddess like Hel, but the oh-so-polite pursing of lips and gentle nods of Her companions hurt more. I'm not gonna name names here. But it was a thorough inventory of Goddesses who have dipped my scones in their tea for years.

Well, then, what about the bored Gods -- as in, the male deities? Hel flicked her wrist and had me understand that the only deity who agreed to sit for a podcast interview was Zeus. And He only wants to "explain the whole swan thing."

Needless to say, this visitation from the Exulted Ones was brief. I watched Them go, the ingrates, and was sorely tempted to tell them this is how Yahweh got His stranglehold on the praise and worship racket.

Nobody in Johnsonia noticed that I was blue and distracted the rest of the day. If you're over 60, you know the feeling.

Now please excuse me while I go wallow in atheist snark on social media.

And fuck podcasts. They're boring.