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September 8th, 2007


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04:34 am - this is a bird pun-free zone, folks, let's keep it that way
Saw Michael Palin at the Brattle on Friday night. He'd just come from another talk sponsored by the Harvard Bookstore, which I didn't go to, but he also swung by the Brattle to introduce And Now For Something Completely Different, Monty Python's first feature film. Consisting entirely of re-shot sketches from their first series of television shows, the film was their official debut before American audiences, and Palin admitted "It didn't do very well at all." It's easy to see why, as the film is basically a feature-length episode of the television series: a completely disjointed series of sketches, sometimes linked, sometimes just cut to, interspersed with Terry Gilliam's wonderful animation. It's a film for Python fans, plain and simple, but it's easy to see how the film didn't exactly win any fans in its initial release. Indeed, it wasn't until a Dallas PBS station picked up the show that Americans really discovered the group and gave it a beloved niche in their underground comedy... place you carve your niches.

Palin was a bit soft-spoken (probably a bit talked out from the Harvard Bookstore event; he eschewed the use of a microphone, but nobody had the disrespect to holler "SPEAK UP!") but genuinely nice and sincerely funny when introducing the film. He didn't have a QA session as Bruce Campbell did before Bubba Ho-Tep, but it was nice to see the man up on stage talking about the group's development and how their "holy grail, if you'll pardon the pun" really was exposure in America. Well, they got the exposure, and nearly forty years later still have a very loving fan base. Mr. Palin got a standing ovation on his entrance, and it was wonderful to watch the seminal sketches of the group with a completely appreciative audience, who all made noises of recognition when familiar sketches were to begin and clapped along to the theme music. (Thankfully there were precious few moments where someone in the audience spoke or sang along with the doings on-screen; that was mostly confined to the Lumberjack Song and, of course, the Dead Parrot sketch.)

The Brattle advertised "special prizes for anyone bringing in a dead (stuffed?) parrot" and there were a few folks toting around their plush stuffed parrots though I'm not really sure what the special prizes were. I didn't have any parrot toys on hand so I brought the next best thing: I wore my Alex the Parrot "30th Hatch Day" t-shirt from the Alex Foundation. Someone in line actually recognized Alex, the African Grey parrot with an amazing intelligence; she told me she'd worked with Dr. Pepperberg at Brandeis for one of her classes. We cheerfully bonded over Alex for a bit, and then I got to explain to Pete and Mink just what was so special about a parrot who could not only identify objects by shape and color, but could also make up his own words ("cork nut" was the name he gave to almonds, one of his favorite treats) and count to six. He also was working on the concept of zero as well, which is incredibly cool for a parrot.

I got home this evening and futzed around a lot in writing, and just a few moments ago finally caught up on my friends list. sanspoof reported the sad news that Alex had died on Friday morning. The Alex Foundation website says the cause of death isn't known yet and he was doing fine the day before.

Suddenly I feel real low for having worn his shirt as a Dead Parrot substition on the actual day of his death and laughing like mad at John Cleese whomping his deceased avian on the pet shop counter in the film.

Oh, man.

Takes all the fun out of the sketch for me now.





Resquiat in pacem, Alex, the smartest bird who ever lived.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:ooshiny
Date:September 8th, 2007 11:28 am (UTC)
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Wow... talk about timing. It's not like you could have known or anything. Still, that sucks... and of course, if someone had known when they had saw you in your shirt, they might have appreciated the humor somehow.
[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:September 8th, 2007 02:43 pm (UTC)
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Oh no, I loved Alex....
[User Picture]
From:joyeous
Date:September 8th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
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If anything, it would be seen as a fitting tribute.
[User Picture]
From:fancycwabs
Date:September 8th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
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I gotta agree with joyeous. What better day to wear an Alex shirt?

Also, just because there are other dead parrots in the world doesn't make the Dead Parrot Sketch less funny.
[User Picture]
From:minkrose
Date:September 8th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
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Oy. I know I would feel bad myself, but I agree with Joyeous - it's a fitting tribute. Of course, you'd probably feel more comfortable if you'd known ahead of time that you were wearing that shirt and he had ceased to be on the same day. I know I would.

I'm glad you wore the shirt because I wouldn't know about Alex at all otherwise.
[User Picture]
From:ericjay
Date:September 8th, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for sharing the news about Alex. I first learned about Alex on Scientific American's PBS tv show years ago, and have been interested in his work with Dr. Pepperberg ever since. I'm sad to hear of his death.

I agree with some of the comments above that wearing the t-shirt made for a tribute, even in the unfortunately timed context.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 8th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
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aw, first luciano pavarotti and now alex pepperberg
[User Picture]
From:elements
Date:September 13th, 2007 05:15 am (UTC)
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It turns out Alex actually died Thursday night. If that makes you feel at all better about it not actually having been his death day when you wore the shirt.

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