Category Archives: birds

Pyrrhuloxia

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The desert cardinal.

It sings and behaves almost exactly like its scarlet cousins.  It never flies away from seasonal changes or difficult weather, and it also tolerates drier conditions than its bright red family members.

Why do you need to know that?  Because I am a birdbrain.  I connect things that are totally unlike each other.  I am a surrealist.  And for me, being a cardinal is all about never flying away when the winter comes, never giving up.

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There was a time in my life when I wasn’t entirely sure of who I would become.  Let me say clearly, “I am not now, nor have I ever been a homosexual.”  And if I had been one, like a couple of my friends turned out to be, I would not be ashamed to be one.  But there was a time, in my high school years, when I really wasn’t certain, and I was terrified of what the answer might be.

And it was in high school that I met Dennis.

Now, to be honest, I noticed him while I was still an eighth grader, and he was in my sister’s class and two years younger.  It was in the locker room after eighth grade P.E. class was ended and sixth grade P.E. was getting dressed for class.  I was returning to pick up a book I had left.  He was standing just inside the door in nothing but shorts.  The feeling of attraction was deeply disturbing to my adolescent, hormone-confused brain.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with that feeling.  But I felt compelled to find out who he was anyway.  He was the younger brother of my classmate Rick Harper (not his real name).  In fact, he was the book end of a set of twins.  But I came to realize that it was Dennis I saw, not Darren, because they were trying to establish their identities by one of them curling his hair, and the other leaving his straight.

Nothing would ever have come of it, but during my Freshman year of high school, I encountered him again.  During a basketball practice where the ninth grade team was scrimmaging with the eighth graders, the seventh graders were all practicing free throws at the side of the junior high gym.  While I was on the bench, he came up to me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and he tossed me his basketball.   “Play me one on one?” He asked.  I almost did.  But I remembered that Coach Rod had warned us to be ready to go into the game when he called on us.  I had a turn coming up.  So, I told him that and promised I would play him some other time.  He grinned at me in a way that gave me butterflies in my stomach.  Why?  To this day I still don’t really know.

Dennis’s older brother and I were in Vocational Agriculture class together that year and both on the Parliamentary Procedure team preparing for a competition. We were at Rick’s house.  After a few rounds of practice that convinced our team we would definitely lose the competition, David and his brother trapped me in a corner.

“Hey, Meyer, how’re ya doin’?” Dennis said.  Darren just stared at me, saying nothing.

“It’s Beyer, not Meyer,” I said.  Of course, he knew that.  The Meyers were a local poor family with a bad reputation, and it was intended as an insult.  And it also rhymed, making it the perfect insult.

“Still one of the worst basketball players ever?”

“I try.  I’m working on it really hard.”  That got him to laugh and ask me to give him a high five.

“Goin’ to the basketball game later?”

“Yeah, probably.”

I knew then that he wanted to be my friend.  I wasn’t sure why.  He was picking me out of the blue to make friends with.  We didn’t move in the same circles, go to the same school, or even live in the same town.  He was a Belmond boy, I was Rowan kid.  And he didn’t know I was only a few years past being sexually assaulted and not ready to face the demons my trauma had created within me.

Later, at the basketball game, he found me in the bleachers and sat down beside me.  In my defense, I am not a homophobe.  And neither he nor I turned out to be a homosexual.  He just wanted to be my friend and was taking difficult steps to make that connection.  He was the one taking the risks.  I greeted him sarcastically, and looking back on it, somewhat cruelly, because I was filled with too many uncertainties.  I never meant to drive him away.  But I will never forget the wounded look on his face as he scooted away down the bleacher seat.

He tried to talk to me several times after that.  He apparently never lost the urge to befriend me.  But as much as I wanted to accept his friendship, it never came to be.  I have regretted that ever since.

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Dennis passed away from cancer early this year.  It is what made me think about who we both once were and what I gave away.  I went on to actually befriend a number of boys through college and into my teaching career.  I never chose any of them.  The friendship was always their idea.  I went on teach and mentor a number of fine young men.  I like to think I did it because I felt a bit guilty of never really being Dennis’s friend.  I hope somewhere along the way I made up for my mistake.  I hope Dennis forgives me.  And I wish I could tell him, “I really do want to be your friend.”

The pyrrhuloxia is a member of the family of cardinals and grosbeaks.  And it does not migrate away from troublesome seasons and bad weather.  There is dignity in being a pyrrhuloxia.

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Blue Waves, Blue Birds, and Red Hope

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My political opinions are worth about as much as the intestinal gas they are made of.   That being said, at least I don’t light them on fire in the manner my conservative friends with Tea Party hemorrhoids do.  Living in the Red State of Texas and being mildly liberal has forced me to listen to incessant streams of flaming insults and invective.  It seems “liberal” is a bad word in Texas.  We are apparently the primary cause of everything that’s wrong with the world.  If you just have more conservative views, like having gleeful titter-fits over tax cuts for rich folks no matter how much they will hurt the working poor in the long run, then you are a good person, and Jesus loves you, and we forgive your three divorces, unpaid alimony and child support, and that Mexican-American you killed with your concealed carry because of the Stand-Your-Ground law.

But, my intestinal gas is bubbling after yesterday’s primary elections in Texas.   Huffines lost the Republican primary to Paxton.  Why is this significant, you may ask?  Because the most corrupt and richest candidate did not win.  Texas tradition is totally upended.  And while both of them campaigned with lots of mud and bad words (yes, they actually called each other “liberals”), one of them is against both higher property taxes and reduced funding of education (which is the primary cause of higher property taxes).   Paxton at least sounds like she is for spending more money on public education (heresy to the traditional Republican view of education).  So there are signs of change in the Republican landscape.

And it appears that things are changing color in the reddest of Red States.  Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, solidified his chances in November by becoming the Democratic Party victor in the primary.  And so far his small-donor contributions have come in waves, giving him a fund-raising lead over the Republican Party’s most hated lizard-man Senator.  There is a feeling of a rising blue tide coming to sweep away Republican anchor stakes like Cruz and Pete Sessions.  Democrats may actually win despite Republican cheating through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and corrupt dark money.

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But the point of this whole long intestinal-gas-fueled display of political insight is not that I want the Red State of Texas to turn completely blue.  I think that too many liberals is just as much of a problem and a breeding ground for corruption as too many conservatives.  The biggest problem has been that the blue donkeys and the red elephants haven’t done much but hate each other and call each other names for too long.

We need two sides to have a decent debate that can hammer out the kind of decently balanced solutions that solves problems for everybody.  Texas Republicans have been in complete control for too long.  They ignore problems like equitable school funding, racial problems in law enforcement, and income inequality.  They give all their attention to smoothing the way for corporations and money-making interests.  As long as the rich guys are happy, the world is good for Republicans.  We need to balance the Republicans again with more moderate policies and beliefs.  If you look at the political platform of the Republican Eisenhower Presidency and compare that to the Democratic Obama Presidency, you can see that they are very much the same.  I think the chaos that the current Presidency has brought to the Republican Party has already produced some hopeful signs of the reversal of some of their most hostile and heartless positions.  The high priests of greed and corruption that have taken over the Republicans since Nixon are beginning to experience rebellion among their acolytes.  Republican pundits, thinkers, and operatives whom I actually respect are turning away from Trumpism and denouncing it in the mass media.  Some of them have even left the party.

But I am not hoping for the death of the Republican Party.  I am hoping for a fundamental change in who they are and what they support.  I think recent election results are strengthening that hope.  We need them to renounce their Gordon Gecko religion of “Greed is good!”  We need them to turn away from the corruption, anger, and intractable stupidity of the Tea Party.  We need decent moderate Republicans to return to prominence once again.

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Robins, Blue Jays, and Blackbirds

God talks to me through the birds.  I know that sounds crazy.  Only a loony man like Francis of Assisi could ever believe such a foolish thing, right?  But is is true.  I am aware of the birds around me at all times because birds have meaning, and when I need to see certain signs from God to center and redirect my life and spiritual awareness, God puts certain birds in my way, hoping that I will see them and interpret their meaning correctly.

This morning at QT I saw three different kinds of bird.  First I saw a robin while eating my QT pumpkin spice doughnut.  Then a blue jay on the ground hopped out from behind the corner of the building.  Then a pair of blackbirds flew down to watch the jay hunting through the grass.

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Robins are traditionally the bird of spring-time, the harbinger of the end of winter.  As a boy in Iowa, it was always a relief after the long cold winter to see the first robin of spring.  But it means more than that.  Robins are reliable.  They leave for the winter to parts south and always return to bring hope for relief from our troubles.  You can depend on robins to provide that service.  The robin I saw this morning, I saw in early December.  Winter is just beginning.  But Texas is a place where robins spend the winter.  God is telling me through the robin that my troubles are ending, easing into a metaphorical Spring and Summer.  And like the robin, God is asking me to continue being reliable for my family and everyone else who looks to me for signs of hope, candle flames in the darkness, and a return to spring.  How’s that for bird-brained thinking?

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Blue Jays are bullies and thieves.  If you have ever watched birds go about bird-business, and ever specifically watched blue jays do their jobs, then you already know they are bully birds.  A blue jay will arrive at the bird feeder and drive off the sparrows, finches, and chickadees.  They use their superior size to dominate the other birds, eating their fill before allowing the smaller birds their chance.  They are aggressive enough to land on your picnic table and snatch a McDonald’s French fry or six if you are not close enough to swat them.  And it was a blue jay that got me three times on the top of my head with her claws, diving at me like a dive bomber, when I was ten and didn’t realize that her chick had fallen out of her nest and sat shivering next to the sidewalk where I was walking.

Seeing the bird this morning was a reminder that there will be more aggressive folks on the sidewalk of life ahead of me that I will have to avoid.  But this blue jay did nothing but hunt the grass for himself.  He did not bother any other bird.  So relief from the aggression of others is at least possible.

And black birds are the most common sorts of birds to see.  But when you say, “black birds” what do you really mean?  Grackles, creeks, common grackles, starlings, magpies, and redwing blackbirds are all black birds, even though they couldn’t be more varied and different from each other.  The black birds I saw this morning were common grackles, which, of course, aren’t even truly black.  They have iridescent blue-green feathers on their heads that can reflect sunlight with neon blazes of color.  Black birds tend to be scavengers, trash-snatchers of the highest order that live on whatever they find. So they really feel that all business is their business. No trash bin left unattended, or bug that a blue jay scared up and then ignored, is beneath their notice.

So God is telling me to appreciate all those around me.  I should notice and record their many unique beauties  and skills and useful utilities.

There was good reason that Francis of Assisi preached to the birds.  They are always watching, always listening, and, if studied carefully, always telling us about God’s will.

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The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory

You’ve heard of the sinister 9-11 tale of the dancing Israelis?  Some conspiracy theories are very concerning.  You have to be concerned about whether the conspiracy theory is true and aliens from Zeta Reticuli really have been cloning Elvis, or whether the conspiracy theorist is a nut-bag like Alex Jones who simply needs to be locked up to protect him from himself.

 

But no conspiracy theory worries me more at the moment than one about the existence of German ninjas who advance the neo-Nazi agenda by the use of the secret martial art of der Ententanz.  That’s right, they do violence to opponents (and possibly themselves) by aggressively doing the Chicken Dance. 

You really have to watch the video above to truly appreciate the perfidy of Ententanz Fu.  Notice how it starts with the pinching-fingers castanet attack, useful for grabbing the opponent’s nose or other sensitive protruding appendage.  It is followed by the flapping elbows move that can stun the enemy by its sheer ridiculous flappiness.  And then the bouncing butt attack, which can potentially paralyze the adversary by bouncing them around the room.  All of this is followed by the dancing in a circle maneuver which renders the viewer unconscious with insane levels of laughter.  Yes, the aggressive use of the chicken dance can literally make you laugh yourself to death.

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Now, if you truly believe I am not totally serious about the dangers of ninjas doing the chicken dance in order to assassinate ordinary tax-paying citizens, I should warn you…

I mean, most people think of Ententanz Fu as merely another way German-themed tourist traps like the ones in Fredricksburg, Texas make relentless fun and ridicule targets out of clueless white people during Oktoberfest, but in reality…  Yes, it is that, but it can be so much more.  Take it from somebody who narrowly escaped from a chicken-dance-induced coma fairly recently, it is possible not only to die laughing from this dancing-poultry scourge, or be embarrassed to death, but you can also accidentally tie yourself up into a German pretzel… at which point, chickens will dip you in mustard and eat you.

So be warned.  This is a danger not even Alex Jones on InfoWars has warned you about.  (Though, if you give him enough time alone with hammers to hit himself in the head with, he may come to the same conclusions soon enough.)

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Filed under birds, conspiracy theory, goofiness, goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, sharing from YouTube

Penguin Proverbs

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You know how creepy penguins in cartoons can be, right?  The Penguins of Madagascar are like a Mission-Impossible Team gone horribly wrong and transformed into penguins.  The penguin in Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers disguised himself as a chicken to perform acts of pure evil.  Cartoonists all know that penguins are inherently creepy and evil.

I recently learned a hard lesson about penguins.  You know the joke, “What’s black and white and red all over?  A penguin with a sunburn.”  I told that joke one too many times.  Who knew the Dallas metroplex had so many loose penguins lurking around?  They are literally everywhere.  One of them overheard me.  And apparently they have vowed a sacred penguin vow that no penguin joke goes unpunished.

As I walked the dog this morning, I spotted creepy penguin eyes, about three pairs, looking at me from behind the bank of the creek bed in the park.  When I went to retrieve the empty recycle bins from the driveway, there they were again, looking at me over the top of the neighbor’s privacy fence.

“Penguins see the world in black and white,” said one of the Penguins.

“Except for purple ones,” added the purple one.

“Penguins can talk?” I tried unsuccessfully to ask.

“Penguins only talk in proverbs,” said one of the penguins.

“But the purple one gives the counterpoint,” said the purple one.

“The wisdom of penguins is always cold and harsh,” said one of the penguins.

“Except on days like this when it’s hot,” said the purple one.

“You should always listen to penguins,” said one of the penguins.

“Of course, people will think you are crazy if you do,” said the purple one.

“People who talk to penguins are headed for a nervous breakdown,” said one of the penguins.

“Unless you are a cartoonist.  Then it is probably normal behavior,” said the purple one.

“Is this all real?” I tried unsuccessfully to ask.

“Everyone knows that penguins are real,” said one of the penguins.

“But there are no purple penguins in nature,” said the purple one.

So, I sat down to write this post about penguins and their proverbs with a very disturbing thought in my little cartoonist’s head…  Why am I really writing about penguins today?  I really have nothing profound to say about penguin proverbs.  Especially profound penguin proverbs with a counterpoint by a purple penguin.  Maybe it is all merely a load of goofy silliness and a waste of my time.

“Writing about penguins is never a waste of time,” said one of the penguins.

“And if you believe that, I have some choice real estate in the Okefenokee Swamp I need to talk to you about,” added the purple one.

 

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The Nutter’s Nest

Eurasian_Nuthatch_(Sitta_europaea)_by_nest_hole wikimediaThese little birds of gray and white and often some other pastel color are synonymous with crazy people.  Why?  Because while the rest of the world orients itself upright from gravity, these little nutters are always hopping along the tree bark upside down, or at a truly odd angle from the rest of the world.

Red-Breasted-Nuthatch-NestThere is something eerily off about an upside-down bird.  And you should listen to the bird calls on the Audubon website; https://www.audubon.org/bird-family/nuthatches   Don’t they sound like absolutely demented little buggers (bugger in the sense that they pick bugs out of bark and then eat them)?  And where do they keep their nests?  In those holes?  Yes!

1st-nh-eggsWhat a truly daft little bird!  And why is daft little Mickey obsessing today about nuthatches and where they keep their eggs?  Because the nutsy noodler needs a new idea every day to make a completely daft and dewy-eyed post about something that could possibly only matter to Mickeys.  So where does Mickey get his ideas to screw into concentric circles of purple paisley prose?  Does he make a list of ideas and schedule his posts?  Does he keep notes?

Of course not!  That would make too much sense.  No, he putters around the house all day, retired and ill, but with his brain constantly on fire.  And he keeps all the pots of memory, trivia, silliness, and factoids boiling as they perch upon the grill in the kitchen of his mind.  Something is constantly cooking.

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Take, for instance, the matter of moose bowling.  Where does an ultra-goofy idea like that come from?  Well, that was in the memory pot.  Having been a teacher for kiddos that don’t handle English very well, I have a number of mangled-language stories to share.  One time I had a drawing of a Bullwinkle-like cartoon on the board (which I generally refer to as a Moosewinkle).  A Vietnamese child was asking me about the Moosewinkle, wanting me to explain what that was all about.  I said something about him being a really good guy, someone I would like to go bowling with some time.  So, the boy asks me, “Mr. B, how is that you throw a moose to knock down the bowling pins?”  He understood about bowling, but not about how you could have a moose as a friend.  And this from a culture that thinks Doremon is perfectly normal and okay to live with.

So it can be said that Mickey picks random memories out of the air and twists them into pretzels to get an idea for a post.  Or maybe it is not totally out of the air.  I don’t know how many times Mickey has seized on an idea from Facebook, posted by friends of all kinds… former students, fellow teachers, other writers, racist cracker friends from Iowa and Texas, and a distinct lack of normal people.  They post all kinds of weird stuff… not pictures of food and kids and kids eating food like normal people.  And Mickey’s brain is always on fire and boiling up the pots.  He makes connections to random things and ends up with a post about nuthatches.  What a Nutter!

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Bird is the Word

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Birds are always talking,

And birds are always squawking,

And they are using bird-words,

These are the words I heard.

Twitter-pated – this word comes from the owl in Bambi and means not being able to think straight because you’re in love.

Aviary – is a great big bird house, big enough to fly around in

Feather-dusted – to you and me it means clean, to a bird it means the feathers are dirty

Bird-brained – don’t be insulted if a bird calls you this.  It is a compliment.

Fume-fluttered – you gotta fly and get away from that bad smell.

Wing-walking –  it’s how you get from here to there if you’re a bird… Duh!

Wakka wakka – it’s those dang ducks again, always telling jokes!

Egg-zactly – as precise and perfect as an egg.

Coo-coo-karoo – that stupid rooster wants us to get up again at daybreak.  It’s like a bird can never sleep in!

Clucker butter – Can you believe that KFC place?  Butter on improperly cremated dead chickens (ah, well, they were only chickens after all).

Now that you have less than one per cent of the bird vocabulary, please don’t try to tell me what they are saying.  I really don’t want to know!

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