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Bird's Blog

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

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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.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bird’s Top 7 Movie Car Chase Scenes -REVISED

December 31 - Not much of a revision gang - just two points. 1) After careful consideration, I think the scene from the Vanishing Point is underated on this list and should move to the number 2 spot (sorry K9, can't put it at #1) and 2) here's wishing everyone a safe New Year's Eve (avoid those car chases scenes tonight) and a Happy New Year!

For Dear Percy - For Inspiration

7. Die Another Day (barely makes the list)

6. Mad Max 2
5. The Italian Job
4. Gone In 60 Seconds
3. The Vanishing Point (moves upto the number 2 spot!)
2. The French Connection (moves back to the number 3 spot!)

And the #1 car chase scene in my book:


The car chase scene in the remake of The Bourne Identity deserves to be on this list as well - but I could snag no pic of it. My apologies.

Percy B Silly

Percy B Quick
Percy B gu
nning the motor and shifting the stick.

Come, Percy, come
Write us a scene

With squeals, and spins & doughnuts galore

With speed and speed and then even more!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fare Thee Well, President Ford

In 1976, as a registered Democrat, I cast my first vote in a Presidential election for a Republican: Incumbent President Gerald Ford. That vote is, thus far, my only Republican vote. And it's a vote I do not regret.

I was 18. And I am quite sure that in part, I cast my vote because of the fatherly image Gerald Ford projected. To my eyes, he appeared to be calm, sure, strong, and paternal without patronizing. Ford spent 25 years in Congress and had built a reputation for honesty and integrity - rare commodities in the Nixon White House and characteristics the nation sorely needed in the aftermath of Watergate. And he had worked hard to help the country heal from the shock and disgust of Watergate. Some may have thought it wrong for President Ford to pardon Nixon. I did not. It was the smart move for the country.

Ford was an old-fashioned Republican - fiscally conservative and a a believer in small government.

And he wasn't really all that much of a klutz, though Chevy Chase (then of the SNL cast) had a field day with Ford's physical mishaps. But we shouldn't forget - the man was an athlete and an All-American. He had a great sense of humor - he played along with the joke. Ford was a quintessentially honest, intelligent, and gracious man and a rarity in politics - a modest man with a large amount of integrity.

Fare thee well, President Ford.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Finials Of Broken Glass - Christmas Eve Votives

Friday, I visited my dear friend, Marijane, in Half Moon Bay. She made us lunch; we walked down to the beach and threw sticks for her dog, Blue. The air was cold, but the sky was clear and blue and the tide swept in and out, stretching a glittering hand across the sand. Later, we drove into town and walked about the shops on Main Street.

We’d stopped at an odd little shop stocked with junk, antiques, and whimsical garden ornaments. A wheelbarrow full of broken glass (at only $5 a pound) caught our eyes. The barrel seemed mainly full of glass finials, old doorknobs perhaps, or cabinet knobs. Some large, some small. Some with holes in their bottoms where the salvagers had carelessly torn them from their doors, others with uneven yet solid bottoms, some with chips on the sides or jagged edges. Some deep blue, with streaks of purple; others a light, flimsy gold, with yellow and green streaks that reflect the light. They all seemed luminous, charming, and spoke of a by-gone era, now discarded in a dirty wheelbarrow left outside and still wet from the previous day’s rain.

I paid $5 for a pound of broken glass and the half hour’s pleasure of sorting through various pieces of ragged, rough, broken finials. Marijane and I laughed and giggled, and brought some of the broken shards up to our eyes, to the light, to peer through and see the world differently.

I think the broken finials make some interesting candle votives.

Yesterday, I spent the day baking, cleaning my home, wrapping presents, and then visiting friends. Today, my son will join me for Advent Sunday breakfast and we will light the fourth candle. My daughter returns home later this morning from visiting relatives on the East Coast. She and I will attend the ballet (The Nutcracker) and share dinner. Tomorrow, we’ll all three drive to Santa Rosa - over the bay and across the bridge to Grandmother’s house we go – to me stepmum’s for Christmas Day celebrations.

As I write, I sip delicious coffee and listen to Handel’s Messiah. My home is clean, the tree, lights aglow, is beautiful. I am content. And I hope all of you are as well.

Have your selves a Merry Christmas,


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Friday, December 22. Tonight, I relit my solstice and Christmas candles and as I did, I thought of a young man named Mark and his mother, Darlene. I do not know them, but I lit my candles for them. I learned about this family via Bronxbt and Jack. And so now I post the link for any of you who might follow it and leave your good thoughts and energy on a stranger's blog. Long ago, in this very season, a woman and her son were befriended by strangers. This is a Christmas tale. http://dailydotes.blogspot.com/.

The dead of winter. The dark of night. No moon. Only clouds. And rain pelting the street.

Outside, the lights twinkle on the balcony. Inside, the candles flicker in their votives.

I have grown impatient with the short days and eager for this, the darkest, longest night of winter to arrive. Let the dark have its full. It has reached its zenith and has only tonight to revel in its inky blackness before the scarcely perceptible light begins to make its move
and shift the balance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Yellow (for /t.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Elf-Bird Shenanigans

To view, CLICK HERE! And turn up your sound too!

Many thanks to the lettuce-eating Brit blogger for this link and idea.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Girl and Her Doll

In third grade, I received a doll, Bessie the Bashful Bride, for Christmas. She lay in a long white box with a big, red ribbon tied about it. Nestled in tissue paper, she was dressed in a bridal gown and had green hair. She was soft and cuddly, unlike my previous doll, Pitiful Pearl, who was a hard doll, stiff, not amendable to cuddling.

Bessie had called silently (as toys are wont to do) through the store window to my mother. Passing by on a winter’s eve, she stopped outside the plate glass window of some downtown shop, captured by Bessie’s soft, smiling face and shy demeanor – she didn’t at first notice Bessie’s green hair and bridal clothes.

Bessie was an anomaly. A cuddling doll with green hair dressed in a bridal gown? She was a misfit no doubt. Who on earth would buy such a doll for their daughter? But she was perfect for me, a shy, withdrawn 8-year-old who didn’t quite fit in any where.

My mother went into the shop and had the clerk fetch Bessie from the window display. She held Bessie in her arms – and Bessie fit perfectly, her rather ample doll-butt nestling in the crook of my mother’s arm. Bessie was the doll for her daughter to hold and cuddle and cherish.

Christmases in my home were modest. Every year, one of three children received a “big” gift, while everyone else received small trinkets. One year, my sister and I received a joint big gift – a child’s record player. Another year, my sister received a bike and the very next year, it was my turn for a shiny, blue coaster bike with a basket hanging from the handles. But this particular year was not my turn for a big gift, and I don’t recall whose turn it was, for once I opened up the Bessie box, it felt like my big year. I fell in love with Bessie at first sight.

Her gorgeous bridal outfit seemingly had nothing to do with her true attraction. It was Bessie’s smile, Bessie’s soft and cuddly body that endeared her to my mother and to me. The bridal dress was beautiful – Bessie even had a veil, but the wedding garb was short-lived, and soon replaced with every day doll clothes. Though I had a wonderfully rich fantasy life (which included a few imaginary friends), I had no little girl daydreams about marriage or weddings. And I was very practical when it came to clothes. The least fuss and bother the better. A doll in a fancy bridal dress didn’t work well with climbing trees – and climb trees I did, with Bessie, a book, and apples in tow. Perched in a tree, I often read aloud to Bessie. She would smile her bashful smile. I would offer her bites of my apple in between pages, but she was a selfless doll and preferred to leave the entire apple to me. I am sure, however, that she appreciated being read aloud to. She liked every book I read to her and never had a complaint.

Bessie was well-loved yet often ill-used. She lost most of her hair the day I played beauty parlor with her. I shampooed her hair, tried to perm and style it. Bessie became the half- bald, bashful bride. She wore caps for a while to hide her embarrassment, yet she never reproached me. Her love was unconditional.

My mother was a cold woman sometimes. Though she did many motherly things, they were often void of that motherly warmth. She taught me my colors, numbers, and alphabet before I started kindergarten. She provided crayon and paper for coloring and books for reading. But she was not a cuddler herself – there weren’t many times I can recall sitting in her lap, and I have no memories of her brushing my hair or helping me get ready for bed. She would come in and say goodnight at the bedroom door –she never sat on the edge of the bed and gently pushed the hair away from my face, or caressed my cheek. That was not her way. But love her children she did. Of this I am certain.

In Bessie, I received all the motherly warmth my mother held tight within her. She knew she couldn’t cuddle her daughter. She knew that if her daughter could not be cuddled, her daughter at least needed to cuddle someone.

Bessie would be the last doll of my childhood and the one I loved the most. I would sleep with her for years before she was relegated to a chair in my bedroom. When I left home at 18 to move to the Bay Area, I left with $100 in my pocket, a box full of record albums, and packed in my small suitcase full of clothes –Bessie.

To this day, Bessie occupies a chair in my bedroom. She is accompanied by Pearl (whom my mother kept for me for many years and then sent along in the mail), and a small collection of stuffed animals – gifts from my daughter to keep Bessie, a gift from my mother, company.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Advent Candles

We light a candle for each of the four Sundays of Advent and a fifth candle for Christmas Day. The first candle is placed in the east, and has stones, a crystal, and seashells about it. The second candle placed in the south has a mandarin, a few blue corn seeds, and a sprig of Noble pine near it. This coming Sunday, we'll light the third candle. Placed in the north, this candle will have miniature animal figures (an eagle, coyote, bear and penguin) placed about its base. The fourth candle, placed in the west and lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent, will have miniature people - dolls - resting at its base. On Christmas Morning, we light all the Sunday candles and the center candle which represents the crossroads or intersection of the candles and their properties (earth, plant, animal, humans). I have practiced this ritual with my children since they were babies. We still gather on Advent Sundays to light the candles and share a special meal.

The pictures below are actually the same picture, taken last Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent. Each picture has a different effect, except the last one - which is the original shot. I applied the watercolor effect on the third version- but to really see it best, click on the photo so it enlarges.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christians Spreading the Good News

Wal Mart offers a new video game just perfect for teenaged Christians: Left Behind Eternal Forces, in which good Christians have been taken up into heaven for the Rapture, leaving all the sin-filled, non Christians to deal with the aftermath of the Apocalypse. Of course, prior to that ascension, the true believers are battling the nonbelievers (oops, I meant, Christians are spreading the good news of Christ) – it’s a game of conversion. And as a good Christian, you lose “spirit points” if you kill, rather than convert, a non Believer. Regardless, reports say the game is quite violent and breeds hate and prejudice.

Wal Mart has been a bastion of free speech and consumer choice in the past. This is the chain that has refused to carry a variety of different music CDs by Marilyn Manson, Snoop Doggy Dog, and that in-the-closet gang-banger, Sheryl Crow. The chain is currently turning a deaf ear (or perhaps the other cheek?) to the concerns over this game.

Of course Wal Mart should carry this despicable game – especially right now during this season of love and hope in which the Christian world celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace. And Wal Mart should also stock their CD bins with rap tunes and their book shelves with erotica. But they are about “community standards” and apparently, the communities Wal Mart caters to are perfectly amendable to violence and hatred, as long as it’s wrapped up in a Jesus banner.

Hmmm... WWJD?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Buttercup Karoke Party for Little Lamb and /t.

Revised Sunday, 12/10: If the song below doesn't suit your voices my dears, go to this link and sing-along with the ever-so-lovely musak: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/singasong.htm

Why do you build me up (build me up) Butttercup,baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still
I need you (I need you)
more than anyone, darlin'
You know
that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) Butte
rcup, don't break my heart

"I'll be over at ten", you told me time and again
But you're late, I wait around and then (bah dah dah)
I run to the do
or, I can't take any more
It's not you, you let me down again

(Hey, hey, hey!) Baby, baby, try to find

(Hey, hey, hey!) A little time, and I'll make you happy
(Hey, hey, hey!) I'll be home
I'll be beside the phone waiting for you
Ooo-oo-ooo, ooo-oo-ooo

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby

When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still
I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me
up (build me up) Buttercup, don't break my heart

You were my toy but I could be the boy you adore
If you'd just let me know (bah dah dah)
Although you're untrue, I'm attracted to you all the more
Why do I need you so

(Hey, hey, hey!) Baby, baby, try to find
(Hey, hey, hey!) A little time and I'll make you happy
(Hey, hey, hey!) I'll be home

I'll be beside the phone waiting for you
Ooo-oo-ooo, ooo-oo-ooo

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then
worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still
I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don't break my heart

I-I-I need you-oo-oo more than anyone, baby
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don't break my heart

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm Dreaming of My Winter Break, With Every Paper That I Grade ...

My winter break begins December 15 and lasts until January 21. Over the break I will:

Added 12/09:
See the new Bond movie.
Read some more about Barak Obama (run, Obama, run).

Lounge morning after morning in my silk pjs, with coffee and a croissant on a tea tray near my side and NO STUDENT ESSAYS anywhere in sight.

Make uglies from clay. Last time I did this was in Mrs. Farnsworth's fourth grade class – it was the best art activity ever!

Daydream, wonder and worry about the ‘07 baseball season. Jason Schmidt has left the Giants’ bull pen – he defected to the damnable Dodgers. Will we have a closer? Hell, will we have a pitching staff that’s worth anything? Will Bonds stay or will he go?

Play The Clash as loud as possible and wait for some cranky neighbor to complain.

Make New Year’s cards from the cut-up scraps of old Christmas cards. Who knows if I’ll even send one – it doesn’t matter.

Play my CD with Dean Martin singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over and over – until I never want to hear it again (or a cranky neighbor complains).

Spend an afternoon reading (some novel that I have absolutely no intention of using in any class I’ll ever teach) and napping on Ocean Beach. I’ll bring a thermos of hot cocoa, my favorite cuddly blanket, some apples, and a bag of dog treats to share with any four-foot that comes along.

Listen to Handel’s Messiah, especially the part with “Unto us, a child is given.”

Write some very bad, very cliché erotica.

Walk 4 miles a day. Lift weights three times a week. Drink a glass of champagne every Saturday night.

Sign up for salsa lessons.

Never ever set the alarm clock.

But until then, back to paper-grading!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Self-Indulgent Teacher Vent

Argh and Sigh.

After talking with me after class briefly, a student dumped his two returned essay folders in the trash on his way out the door today. He was upset and frustrated. He's been upset and frustrated all semester long.

This student has told me repeatedly in woeful cover letters accompanying his essays and in a few emails that he is experiencing "family troubles." At one point, someone claiming to be his mother sent me an email on his behalf, explaining that his grandfather was dying of cancer and the student had been spending all his time with her at the hospital instead of in my early morning class.

I am not unsympathetic, though I am doubtful. This particular student got off to a bad start early in the semester. After conferencing with me for 30 minutes on a rough draft essay, he made no changes at all on his revision - and thus I gave him a no-pass on his first essay. I tried to send a clear message, through my commentary and in-person, that although his rough draft was good, it was not a final draft. And conferencing with me and then making no changes was not acceptable.

The student didn't like this at all. "But," he told me, "I love writing and I've always gotten good grades." "That's great," I told him. "Loving writing is a good start - but in this class, you've got to work your revisions."

Absences have piled up for this student and he has failed to show up to two more conferences - conferences at which I was willing, due to his family situation, to bring him up to speed on what he'd miss.

He missed most of the class meetings in which we worked on the linguistic reclamation essay - a rather difficult essay with some very particular tasks associated with it. As a result, the essay he turned in did not address the essay prompt, nor include any of the particular requirements specific to this essay, this topic. And so I had to give another No Pass grade to this student. I commented that absences had severely impacted this student's ability to write a passing essay. He was upset. "But you know my situation," he said. " And I still keep getting no grades."

"I did assign a grade." I told him. "The grade is a No Pass. Absences interfered with your ability to do the work."

"But you know why I was absent. I have other priorities now."

"And that's fine - you do have other prioritries. But as a result, you missed classes and weren't able to successfully negotiate this essay."

"I don't understand why I got this grade."

" You didn't address the prompt. Nor include the required elements of the essay."

"I don't understand why. I was an Honors student in high school."

"Did you read my comments and my note?" I asked.

He shook his head.

"Read my comments." And that's when he shook his head again and left the room, dumping his essays in the trash on the way out.

I am not unsympathetic. But regardless of why the student was absent, those absences impact his grade. He appears to have some tough choices this semester and I can certainly understand how he might choose (as would I) family over course work. However, I cannot give him a passing grade if he is not doing the work to the minimum standard per the requriements. He doesn't understand that. He wants me to give passing grades because of his situation.

I can't do that.

And I find myself resentful and upset that this kid views me as the bad guy, the uptight, tight-assed English teacher that won't cut him a break.

Truth is, I can't stand this kid's attitude. And I don't feel obligated to cut him slack just because he has an ailing and dying family member. He has missed far too many classes - and he has been unwilling to work with me and communicate with me.

I find myself comparing him to a student I had a few semesters back. This kid never missed a class meeting, until about 6 weeks into the semester, when he missed a class, but showed up to my office hours afterwards. "I'm sorry I missed class today," he told me. "And you need to know, I'll be out all next week."

I began to give the kid my usual missing-classes-impacts-your-grade blah, blah, blah lecture when I stopped, suddenly realizing that the student looked pretty shaky and that he was a student who had never missed class before.

"Why won't you be in class next week?" I asked gently.

"My dad died. He had cancer and he finally passed. I need to fly home and be there for a bit."

I cut this student a lot of slack. He wanted work to take with him. I told him not to worry - his priority was to take care of himself and his family. We'd figure it out when he got back.

He returned after a week, conferenced with me, picked up a packet of make-up work, did it all in a week, and didn't miss another class. He passed. Granted, the week's absence hurt his grade, and his focus was off - I could see a decline in the quality of his work. But he kept at it and he made it through. He passed the course.

I know not everyone is the same, and we handle adversity in different ways. I don't think I could get through a semester with a family member dying from cancer - I'd have to drop. And that's ok.

But I cannot give a passing grade to a student just because tragedy has struck his life.

I resent being asked to do so.

I resent being considered a "bitch" because I won't.

And I am annoyed with myself for taking this so personally.

Grump. Grump. Grump.
Argh and Sigh.