Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Another Chat with ChatGPT

 What a Brave New World we live in, my friends! Today, in preparation for my sermon here at "The Gods Are Bored," I had another lively chat with ChatGPT. Here are the results.

This is my second post about ChatGPT. It's an AI text-generating software that is available for free to any high school kid who needs to write an essay about that novel they didn't read. You can even put it on a 9th grade setting, to get text that has mistakes in it!

Today the English department at my school had a meeting with our district's Assistant Senior Superintendent. The ASS came to our meeting specifically to inform us that our district will not be blocking the ChatGPT app or any other text-generating AI app. The ASS sniffed, "Go back to using paper and pencil. Do you have enough paper? I can order paper."

Friends, I can't make this shit up.

Even I, Anne Johnson, who have only been teaching 13 years can recall a time when essays were written by hand, and only the final draft was typed out on a clunky desktop computer. My students were never willing to re-write, revise, expand, or edit their work. And who could blame them? A revision involved putting a red carat at the end of a sentence and slapping a series of sticky notes on the draft. I hadn't done that myself since 1975! Now, with Google Docs, I can say to a student, "Why don't you look at that second paragraph and offer another example and some more insight?" And I get it.

I guess you can't blame me for taking my umbrage to the source of the problem: ChatGPT. I opened a new account and asked it, "Should a 9th grade student use ChatGPT to write an essay?" And of course it expounded brilliantly on how it is not in any way a substitute for true critical thinking and creativity. Well! Humility! One loves seeing that in artificial intelligence, since it is so often missing in the human race.

No surprises there. So next I asked it some specifics about how shoes are used as symbols in the novel The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. The House on Mango Street often appears on lists of Best Books of the 20th Century, and deservedly so. It's positively brilliant.

Not only could ChatGPT not identify how shoes are used as symbols in the book, it gave inaccurate quotes and glaringly wrong information about the text. This lil bot is surfing the web and latching onto inaccuracies that it then spouts as truths.

Emboldened, I asked ChatGPT about another novel I teach, Forged by Fire, by Sharon Draper. The bot did even worse with this lesser-known book. The stepfather became an older brother (?) for one thing.

What I loved was that, when I pointed out to ChatGPT that it was wrong, it apologized and promised to do better. Maybe that's why my district's ASS likes it so much -- it's a suck-up.

Then I got another idea. Remember how I asked it if the Gods were bored, and it said "blah blah blah" instead of a simple YES? Today I specifically asked it about my blog.

Anne's Question: What is the blog "The Gods Are Bored" about?

ChatGPT's Answer: I am unable to determine the specific blog you are referring to as my training data only goes up until 2021 and "The Gods Are Bored" could refer to a number of different blogs or websites. However, a blog with a similar title could be about religion, spirituality, mythology, or other related topics. The blogger might explore different beliefs and practices from around the world and offer their own perspective and insights on these subjects. The "bored" aspect of the title could suggest that the blogger is looking at these topics with a critical eye and perhaps finds certain aspects of religious beliefs and practices to be tedious or lacking in engagement. Without more specific information or access to the actual blog, it is difficult to say what the exact focus or tone of "The Gods Are Bored" might be.

Dang! The Smithsonian didn't want me, and neither does ChatGPT! And then it has the cheek to imagine what the blog *might* be about! HA HA! BAMMMP!!!  WRONG, YOU STUPID BOT! This peerless blog is a channel to bored deities from multiple pantheons over millennia of recorded history!

Sorry this sermon is so long. But here are my encouraging takeaways:

1. ChatGPT doesn't read books. It couldn't tell me what color Esperanza's shoes were, even though she describes the same shoes three times in a 100-page book.

2. Chat GPT doesn't have access to my blog. I remain inscrutable to it.

3. Finally, after all these years of begging y'all to send me loose leaf paper, my ASS is going to order reams and reams of it. Oh, the irony.

I have one last message for both my ASS and ChatGPT, and I'll give it as only a Super Bowl-Bound Eagles fan can do it:


Saturday, January 07, 2023

Bonding with the Philly Tarot Deck

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" We're from Philly, fuckin' Philly. No one likes us, we don't care. Go Birds! Wanna cheesesteak?

If anyone had told my little self in 1969 that I would live my life out 6 miles from Philadelphia (thereby investing all my heart and soul in that hapless hamlet), I would have either cried or jumped off a cliff, depending if there was a cliff available at the moment. I didn't have any interest in Philly, any connections to Philly, or even a smidgen of desire to set foot in it.

Hold that thought in your mind through the back story.

Like almost every modern Pagan, I have dabbled in the Tarot deck from time to time. But never with any enthusiasm. As with religion in general, Tarot is so doggone earnest. All drama, no humor. I could never wrap my mind around the standard deck. Then I got a Knights Templar deck, and that one was worse. But I do believe there's some wisdom to be had from Tarot readings, so I never discounted them completely. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

Until now.

For Xmas, my daughter The Fair asked for two prints from a "Philly Tarot" deck. I had never heard of it. I followed the link she sent me, and the two she particularly asked for were Xed out. I don't know if that was because they were sold out or not. I couldn't see them.

But a quick perusal of the Philly Tarot deck made me think, "Gee, Fair must want the whole deck, really, she's more besotted with Philly than I am!" So I ordered it.

She didn't want the deck. Only the prints.

I didn't cancel my order for the deck. Hey, I live in fuckin' Philly, I should promote the local businesses, right?

Then my daughter The Heir and I went to Phoenixville, PA for the annual Firebird Festival. This shindig is always a highlight of the year. I like to get to Phoenixville early, in order to find a parking spot and do some shopping. Phoenixville never disappoints when it comes to Xmas shopping.

Nor did it disappoint this year. The local book store had the Philly Tarot prints, signed by the artist. And Oh. My. Gods.


This was the print Fair wanted.

But as I leafed through the other prints I found this one:


I think that's when I started to cry. Because I had ordered the deck without knowing that this was in there.

In due time the Philly Tarot deck arrived in the mail, right in the swirl of the holiday, so I put it aside to examine later. And it only got better, if that could be possible.


In addition to being beautifully created, these cards are a real love song to Philadelphia. Ben Franklin is the Emperor. Betsy Ross is the Empress. The Liberty Bell is the Hanged Man. And that ominous Tower, so foreboding that we have a whole era called Tower Time, is the detested Comcast Tower that everyone in the city hates with a passion.

I could go on and on.

You know how Tarot decks are. You have a major arcana and then the four suits, which are pretty much playing cards. Well, when I finally got to leafing through the suit cards, the Cups were on the bottom. In the Philly Tarot, Cups are cheesesteaks. And the figures on the Cups cards are Mummers.

I just want to throw these on the floor and roll around in them, I love them so much.

I don't think I will use the Philly Tarot strictly as card readers do. But I have my ways of using Tarot cards for myself and anyone who wants some advice. The important aspect of this deck, for me, is that this Tarot deck is chock-a-block with humor. Crikey! David Lynch, holding the iconic Clothespin statue, is the King of Wands! Throw that one in a reading and keep a straight face. I dare ya!

Long sermon short, I have fallen in love with my new Tarot deck, which combines all the standards of a regular deck with an abundant and loving tribute to the city I'm stranded in, probably until I croak.

If you want to see the whole thing, click here. I hope this artist is able to pay his rent on time just from sales of this card deck. That would make me happy.

Monday, January 02, 2023

2023 Mummers Parade with the Two Street Stompers

 Happy New Year, fans! Those of you just joining "The Gods Are Bored" might not be aware that I am a badge-wearing Philadelphia Mummer. The Mummers Parade is the oldest folk parade in America, happening in Philly every year on January 1.

If I can sum up the Mummers Parade, it's this: Lots and lots and lots of people, like in the 10,000s, dressed in satin and sequins and feathers, dancing and clowning at various skill levels in clubs, bands, and brigades. I am a member of the Two Street Stompers, which is a Comic brigade. We marched 240 people this year.

Our theme was "I Want My M(ummers) TV." This theme was chosen because the local station that aired the parade dropped its patronage at the 11th hour. Fortunately, a cable station called MeTV2 picked up the entire 8 hours of Wenches, Comics, and String bands. I'm sitting here now watching the recording, and the cable network is doing WAY better than the local station did.

Anyway, back to our theme. We had a giant t.v. and our captain dressed in that astronaut uniform and planted the MTV flag in a miniature moon. Then the ladies danced as Cyndi Lauper, and the guys danced as Twisted Sister, and the kids and their parents did Devo. It. Was. Amazing.

Every year someone watching at home records the performance from the t.v., so here it is.

And here are the Exhibits:


That's me in the back with the multi-colored hair and rhinestone sunglasses. I couldn't resist accessorizing this theme!

Does it look like we're having fun? I love this parade.


Somehow, nine years out of ten we get these jaw-dropping sunny days. It wasn't even cold!

The parade consists of two components. The first one is the performance at City Hall and the strut down Broad Street (pictured in Exhibit B). Then we board buses and go down to South Philly, where the whole tradition originated, and we strut down 2 Street. The whole parade is quite a hike, especially 2 Street.

Our club marched at City Hall later than usual and didn't get to 2 Street until about 4:30. That's way later than we usually arrive there, and it meant that I got to experience being on 2 Street at night. It's a wild celebration. South Philly is a neighborhood, and the entire neighborhood turns out for the more intimate atmosphere. And by dark, everyone -- viewers and performers with one pathetic exception -- are full of spirits. (The pathetic exception is me.) Must say I did miss that one shot of Fireball I might have imbibed. But I stayed the ol' sobriety course.

I got home later than ever before, to find a lovely dinner cooked by The Fair. Whole family sat down together and ate. So I got to spend the day with my Two Street Stomper family, and the evening with my biologicals.

Speaking of biologicals, usually both daughters attend in person, but this year only The Fair did. That was okay, since the other offspring went to keep her dad company.

EXHIBIT C: She Loves Her Some Philly

It's so magical to spend the first day of the year dancing in outrageous satin, with a big group of fun and lively people!  Here's to another 10 parades!