.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

My Photo
Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


As my academic semester comes to a close, I find I must curtail blogging activities for a bit whilst I grade final papers, calculate final grades, entertain out-of-town guests, and prepare for a grand party this coming Saturday in honor of graduating with my Masters in English: Composition (woohoo!).

But for your amusement (and mine, of course) I leave you all with one of my favorite blonde jokes and invite you to share one ( or two or three) of your own as well. I have a thing for blonde jokes, having once been, before my hair became pigmentally challenged, a blonde.

A Blonde Plays Craps

Two bored casino dealers are waiting at the crap table when an extremely attractive and voluptuous blonde woman walks up and bets $20,000 on a single roll of the dice. She says, "I hope you two don't mind, but I feel much luckier when I'm completely nude."

And with that, she strips off every last stitch of clothing she has on, rolls the dice and yells, "Come on, baby, Mama needs new clothes!" As the dice come to a stop she jumps up and down and up and down and up and down and squeals, "I WON, I WON, I WON!"

She hugs each of the dealers and then picks up her winnings and her clothes and quickly departs. The dealers stare at each other dumbfounded.

Finally, one of them asks, "What did she roll?"

The other answers, "I don't know - I thought you were watching."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Jobs Americans Won't Do

I was talking with a woman out on parole for a felony crime the other day. She was the recipient of the first-place prize in a journal writing contest I coordinated at the community college at which I work. Her writing is powerful (check out her blog - especially her post "Killing Me Slowly") and speaks of her experience in prison. She has turned her life around immensely - she is a poster child for rehabilitation - has paid her debt to society, abides by the regulations of her parole, and has retrained for a biotech job. She has recommendation letter after recommendation letter (from teachers, the county sheriff, politicians, etc.), yet she cannot find a job - that felony conviction keeps getting in her way. She tells me it's harder for women with felony convictions than for men with felony convictions to find work. Why? Because more manual labor jobs are available to men than women - and often those are the only kinds of jobs (regardless of qualifications) parolees can find.

Yet in contrast to this woman's situation, we have an abundance of "jobs Americans don't want to do." Apparently, we've had a cultural shift from one generation to another - Americans (or rather, to be precise, white males, according to this LA Times article) don't see manual labor as something they wish to do - even if that labor is well paid (unless of course, the white males have felony convictions or are extremely down on their luck).

I can understand the disdain of manual labor to a certain extent - physical labor is hard and hurts your body over the long haul. And my generation, the baby boom generation, was encouraged to reach further than our parents. In fact, coming off the heels of WWII, flush with victory and a sense of "we can do it" and the promise of a new age and new opportunities, our parents strove to provide better for us - to provide us a springboard from which we could achieve more than they had. The American Dream kicked into high gear: Education and a white-collar job. Home-ownership. A big car (and perhaps a second) in the garage. A color tv and hi-fi stereo. And with all of that, the American Dream turned definitively middle class and white collar.

But I did my share of manual labor as a teen and young adult: Worked as a gardner, a housecleaner, and as an untrained nurse's aid, helping old ladies in and out of bed, the bath, the shower, running breakfast trays up and down stairs, emptying and cleaning commodes. My brother spent a summer digging ditches though he was well-paid for his labor and treated kindly by his boss.

Most young people today would not work such jobs; they are above such lowly work.

My son, however, is working as a day laborer now - he is unskilled, under-educated - following a wandering path that worries me. He lives in Arizona (truly the Wild West he tells me, where quite a few of the young people he knows routinely carry guns). He gets up at 4:00AM, goes to the day laborer spot and competes with dozens of men (and boys) for a long, hard day's work at $5.25 an hour. His last job was digging ditches. He, along with four others, was selected by 5:00AM, loaded into a truck and driven for an hour to the job site, out in the Arizona desert, which is quite cold early in the morning. He and his coworkers stood about until 9:00 AM, warming themselves by a makeshift fire, until the boss showed up with equipment. Then the work began. They worked steadily through the morning as temperatures rose to the 90s, got an hour off for lunch, and worked again until 4PM, when the boss collected the equipment. The laborers stood around until 5PM, when the truck came to transport them back to the pick-up spot. The boss deducted $2 from each worker's pay (transportation costs). No one complained as this is all under the table and if you complain, you won't get work again. Kid got home at 7PM. Though his day was about 15 hours long, he worked only 6, making $31.50 that day (before transportation fees). This is no way to make a living.

Seems as though we have "jobs Americans won't do" because these jobs pay so poorly and have appalling work conditions as well. But as the LA Times article points out, we won't do them even if we are well-paid for such work. And why is that? Because we view them as making us "less than," regardless of the pay. We attach a stigma to these jobs - they are only fit for parolees and illegals, for the uneducated, the losers, the disenfranchised among us.

But why should anyone receive such little pay and work under such harsh conditions? Except of course, it provides the "boss" with an advantage - cheap labor and larger profits. And except of course, sometimes such harsh, low-paying jobs, are the ony ones some folks can get.

Something's wrong with this picture in a variety of ways.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bird Flu Strikes in Florida!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Balcony Sitting in the Morning

“That potato vine has already grown,” I write in my black-bound journal. I have long desired a potato vine. This one has small, delicate, white flowers – someone told me at the nursery that there are different kinds of potato vines, some with lavender or purple flowers – but all I know is the white potato vine, having coveted my friend, Carol’s, potato vine for several years. Last time I was at Carol’s, I noted that her potato vine was gone, causing me distress and providing the impetus to finally plant one of my own.

“I have nothing to write.” My journal continues. “Sat here for ten min., journal in lap, pen in one hand, coffee cup in the other, staring at the potato vine, listening to the birds and the airport noise – but nothing to say, nothing to write."

"Though I’ve just recently taken up sitting on my balcony in the morning again, there’s nothing new about it (except the potato vine and the two hot-pink inpatiens planted in my old, cobalt blue pots). I’ve sat here sipping coffee, listening to the morning sounds of my neighborhood (CAW CAW CAW CAW cries out a passing crow) many times before. The train horn blares in the distance and I can hear the grumbling, rumbling of the train coming down the tracks, an express or a freight (for it is not stopping). I hear too the footsteps of a passer-by in the street, his shoes making a soft click-clack, (really a thwick-thwack). He must be wearing slippers and is no doubt the old man from the house down the way out for his morning smoke. He is hacking and coughing a bit, and I can smell his cigarette, as its grey smoke drifts up in the soft morning air to where I sit, hidden from his view.

This balcony sitting brings me no new insights; no new knowledge comes my way as I sit here, listening, observing (a squirrel runs yet again across the power lines, from one clump of trees to another). My world is not changed by watching the thick, green leaves of the trees across the street slowly light up as the sun paints the tops of trees and homes and apartment buildings in a vibrant glow, leaving the street, the sidewalk, the front porches and doors in shadow – for now.”

I sip the last of my coffee and close my journal. Time to shower and get on with the day. I have papers to grade, classes to teach, errands to run. The car needs servicing and I keep forgetting to pick up my black blazer at the cleaners. I rise from my cozy bench to re-enter my apartment, but not before I catch one last glimpse of my potato vine, as it sways just a tiny bit, moved by a gentle, morning breeze. I step inside and shut the sliding glass door.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Mother's Day Proclamation

Do you know the original intent of Mother's Day?

Mother's Day was intended as an international day of peace and has its roots in the abolition and suffrage movements of the 19th century and in Julia Ward Howe's 1872 issuance of her Mother's Day Proclamation. (Howe, a deeply religious woman, was a writer, poet, lecturer, social activist, and may be more familiar to some of you as the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, penned in honor of the Union soldiers.) For decades, Howe's Mother's Day of Peace was observed, at first formally and then later informally, by women who were concerned with peace, the elimination of societal ills, and human rights.

In 1914, Congress passed a resolution proclaiming an official and national Mother's Day. But unlike Howe's intent, the purpose of Congress was to honor the individual sacrifices of mothers, rather than consider how war often demeaned those sacrifices. And with the blink of an eye, commercial florists, the developing advertising industry, and our ever-growing consumer-oriented culture perverted Howe's intent even further, transforming the day to one in which mothers are theoretically showered and spoiled with gifts, a day that has become a consumer holiday almost void of any deep meaning.

And so I offer you Julia Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation. And though indeed you should honor your individual mothers on this day, I invite you to imagine what the world would be like if all of us, mothers and fathers throughout the world, were "too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

Mother's Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of fears!
Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice! Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,

And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Birds Don't Believe in Flying Blind

Some excerpts from the AP news story “Lawmakers Demand Phone Records Answers”By KATHERINE SHRADER and DONNA CASSATA with accompanying brief commentary by a disgruntled Bird.

AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the NSA program shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

Tens of millions of calls, huh? I’m sure ALL of those communications were between terrorists. Yup. Sure. Right.

"The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval," said Bush.

Yeah, right. Like we all believe that.

NSA is the same spy agency that conducts the controversial eavesdropping program that had been acknowledged earlier by Bush. The president said last year that he authorized the NSA to listen, without warrants, to international phone calls involving Americans when terrorism is suspected.

In Bush we trust.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said NSA was using the data to analyze calling patterns in order to detect and track suspected terrorist activity, according to information provided to him by the White House. "Telephone customers' names, addresses and other personal information have not been handed over to NSA as part of this program," he said.

Yeah, as if I believe that. But even if it were so, once NSA has the call info, it can get names, addresses, and personal info easily enough.

"We're really flying blind on the subject and that's not a good way to approach the Fourth Amendment and the constitutional issues involving privacy," Specter said of domestic surveillance in general.

"I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who wanted more details.

Even the Repubs are worried about this. Hmmm…

God bless Amerikuh – home of the free and the brave.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

WARNING - DANGER - A Most Uncharacteristic Post!

A Most Uncharacteristic Post: the leftist-leaning -let’s not stereotype and generalize, keep an open mind, consider multiple views- liberal takes a big bird shit on Ahmadinejad Mahmoud, President of Iran.

My dear idiotic Ahmadinejad,

I am not a rotty who can lay down a steamin’ hot brown, nor a Hell Pig who can trash with impugnity. But I am a Bird, gifted with flight. And I am on my way to shit on ALL the windows of your home. And if I’m very lucky, I’ll shit on your head too! (Allah be with you.)

I read your letter to President Bush. Now, I am no fan of Bush, and I can see how you might be motivated to take him to task – in fact, some of the issues you scold him about are issues that I, and many of my countrymen, have taken him to task about as well, but we strive to find solutions – ways to make things better. Your letter seems to be just a scolding, with no movement toward the discussion of ideas or differences, and no acknowledgement or understanding of your opponent’s point of view. Acknowledging and demonstrating an understanding of your opponent is a critical rhetorical strategy (particularly here in the West) that one must employ in order to reach one's opponent. Typically in communications from one head of state to another, the goal is to share ideas and concerns, and to entreat the other side to perhaps change their stance, their perspective, or at least, give a little leeway. To achieve that end, one must start from a place of common ground, and one must demonstrate a considerable amount of ethos (credibility and an understanding of the audience). Your letter, well, I am not sure what your intent with this letter is. I think your purpose is not clear, nor do you truly understand your audience. If you were in my first-year composition class, we could discuss this in a conference and after my feedback, you could revise. But you are not my student, so I will just give you a big, fat, plop of bird poop splattered across the pages of your letter.

Although your letter is addresed to President Bush, it is surely meant for all Americans. But I cannot truly tell what your intent, your purpose in this letter is (other than bitching). You provide a laundry list of complaints – and you tick them off one by one in your letter, exhibiting poor organizational sturcutre. I am not always clear on why one idea leads to another, why one paragraph leads to the next.

You are somewhat confused about the secular condition of the U.S. You refer to the U.S. as followers of Christ. Perhaps you didn’t’ study about other countries in school (I suppose it is not just young Americans who are limited in their knowledge of the rest of the world), but we have a little thing called separation of church and state over here. So although our president is indeed a Christian, and though these days the separation between church and state is a tenuous one, it still exists; thus your arguments based on faith are irrelevant to your audience. Go take it up with Allah, or Jesus, or Buddha if you like.

Although you do make some valid points on human rights, I am irritated by your general hypocrisy. You are the pot calling the kettle black. When Iran provides some concrete rights to Iranian women, perhaps then we can listen to you pontificate on human rights. In the mean time, fuck off you little weenie!

Your critique of our media and the purpose of a free press is rather curious as well. What the fuck do you know about a free press? You don’t have one at all!

Your letter also bemoans how the West is mistreating Hamas because we want to force Hamas to recognize Israel – something which is against Hamas’s mission statement. You say the Palestinian people voted in Hamas – and we are undermining that form of democracy by insisting that Hamas recognize Israel.

First, it takes far more than holding elections to make a democracy.

Second, Hamas is free to choose its own path. We are not “forcing” them to do anything.

Third, WE get to decide to whom to give our money. We don’t want to give it to a terrorist organization. Do you give money to projects and organizations you disapprove of? Didn’t think so.

Hamas can raise its own cash. Why should my tax dollars go to support a suicide bomber’s family? The suicide bomber should have thought of that before he or she strapped on a bomb and blew up innocents in Israel.

And while we’re on Israel. You moan and groan about how Israel became a state. Guess what? In war, maps are altered – that’s how it works – be it just or not. The Ottoman Empire claimed most of Palestine prior to WWII, backed Hitler, and lost. Now granted, WWII didn’t directly alter the lines on the Middle Eastern map, but the UN, in granting partition in 1948, did. And don’t forget, the Arab world was offered space and lines on the new map as well – it turned it down, vowing to destroy Israel instead. Lost that fight though, now didn’t it?

There was something else that played into the creation of a state of Israel – sympathy and guilt. Sympathy for the survivors of the Holocaust, and guilt that the world felt for taking so long to recognize the horror and try to stop it. And that leads me to your continual claim that the Holocaust didn’t occur – you bring that up yet again in your letter, though you are careful to tread lightly – but not lightly enough. You claim to be a teacher. Well, read some books and do some research you fuckhead! The Holocaust is a verifiable fact! Shithead!

You see my dear little A is for asshole Ahmadinejad, your letter has caused me to want to crap all over you and to close ranks with my fellow Americans. I don’t like Bush; I don’t like how we went into Iraq; I think our media has to do a much better job of questioining authority and keeping us informed, and I abhore the conditions at Gitmo, but I will not suffer your hpocritical, asshole totalitarian fool’s critque of ideas and concepts of which you know so very little!

So here’s a big, juicy, long squeeze of bird shit just for you Ahmadinejad.

Now you've wasted enough of my time and I must be off - better skies are calling!


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Where Are The Women?

Here's a curiosity I've been puzzling over for some time: the media'’s use of such words as "Iraqis,""“Palestinians," "Muslims," and "people." The use of plural explicitly conveys more than one, but these specific names or titles, and the generic "“people"” are also, theoretically, gender neutral - – or rather gender inclusive - implying that both women and men are included in the plural designations.

But it seems whenever a news report is about violence in the Middle East, and the reporters use such words, the accompanying pictures are of men only.

For example, Associated Press writer, Bushra Juhi reports today in his article, Iraqis Cheer Crash of British Helicopter” that

"British forces backed by armored vehicles rushed to the area but were met by a hail of stones from the crowd of at least 250 people [emphasis - mine], who jumped for joy and raised their fists as a plume of thick smoke rose into the air from the crash site."

The accompanying photos are of men. So, it'’s not really "Iraqis" that are cheering, but Iraqi men that are cheering. Where are the women? Not in the streets cheering. Perhaps at home, trying to tend to their families, trying to stay alive.

I am aware that cultural differences abound. In traditional Islamic culture, women are not as visible as in other cultures. But I am speaking of the Western (not Islamic press) and their reporting practices, and of Western culture and our language use.

Remember all the pictures of "Muslims" rioting over the Danish cartoons? Did you see any women? I didn't. Muslim men were rioting - – not Muslim women.

Is my concern simply political correctness run amok? I don't think so. Words are signifiers - they matter.

There's a big difference between people - men and women - and just men cheering violence. There's a big difference between Muslims - men and women - rioting in the streets and Muslim men rioting in the streets.

In western culture, beginning in the 70s (and continuing today), linguists, social activists, and rhetoricians began examining our use of language for gender bias and exclusion and we noted that women were actually excluded conceptually from the symbolic representation of such words as "“people"” and "mankind." Our awareness brought a shift - – we moved from "“mankind"” to "humankind,"” from the standard use of "“he" as a common pronoun denoting both male and female to the awareness that "“he," despite some linguistics claims of a historic denotation of both genders, is a pronoun which in a connotative capacity signifies a man. We began to use either gender-neutral, gender-inclusive and gender-specific terminology, to insure that women were INCLUDED in the symbolic representation of ideas - words. We - women - want and deserve to be signified in the texts of our culture.

Now women are included even when we are not really there.

I find fascinating and curious the way we, as readers and viewers in concert with the media, are socially-constructing the story through the use of images and words that are at odds with each other.

I think both the exclusion and inclusion matters. What do you think?

A few photos:

Iraqis throw stones at British troops. Reuters, May 6, 2006.

Where are the women?

Newsweek, July 1, 2004
See any women?

And follow this link to see Palestinians pelting an Israeli tank with stones (ain't no women doing that).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Haunting

(rough draft)

You come to me at night.
Wreck my bed, my sleep.
Toss me, turn me. A wraith, a ghost.
I cannot touch you and you are impervious to my pleas.

You follow me to the grocery store.

Once, as I held a Valencia orange to my nose, breathed in its aroma,
you stood right behind my shoulder,
the soft touch of your lips grazing my earlobe.
I heard your whispers, recognized the timbre of your voice.
And fled the store, hastily dropping the tear-marked orange
onto a pile of nectarines.
Stranded. Forlorn. Yearning.

You came to me last night.
Held me from behind, whispering in my ear as we both looked into a mirror.
Your touch delicate, almost intangible.
Your voice soft, rich, flowing as Siamese silk.

I woke without sorrow.
Woke with forgiveness

for a change.