The Alex Foundation has announced that the
world famous African Grey Parrot, Alex, died
on September 7, 2007. The cause of death is
unknown but an announcement is expected
later this week, though it has been suggested
that Alex might have died from Aspergillosis, a
fungal infection of the lungs he has battled in
Alex was purchased by Dr. Irene Pepperberg
at a Chicago pet store in 1977. He has been
the featured parrot for more than 30 years of
research into the intelligence of African Grey
Parrots, most recently at the Department of
Psychology at Brandeis University in
Waltham, MA. The name Alex is actually an
acronym, A.L.EX., standing for Avian Learning
Alex’s intelligence was said to be quite amazing. He had a vocabulary of more than a 100 words, but what was exceptional about him was that he appeared to understand what he actually said. For example, when Alex was shown an object and was asked about its shape, color, or material, he could label it correctly. According to a New York Times article in 1999 he could “identify 50 different objects and cognize quantities up to 6; that he could distinguish 7 colors and 5 shapes, and understand the concepts of ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’, ‘same’, and ‘different’,’ and that he was learning ‘over’ and ‘under’.” Pretty amazing if you ask me, I know some people who can’t “cognize” that well themselves…
I use to have a cockatiel, Mordecai, named after the turn of the century ballplayer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown … and let me tell you that bird was also pretty damn smart … at least I thought so until he flew out the door into the big bad city oblivion of east Hollywood … oh Mordecai, I hope your still out there buzzing around, livin’ large or at least as large as a little yellow cockatiel can live!
If you are in the Bay Area right now (noon, Saturday, September 8th), there is still time to head out to enjoy most of today's big free event in San Francisco, the Michael Franti overseen 9th Annual 911 Power to the Peaceful Festival, celebrating music and arts and taking place at Speedway Meadow til 5PM-ish today today in Golden Gate Park. Scheduled to have started earlier this morning (9AM), the big festival, which is expected to draw up to 70,000 people, will include free music (including Michael Franti and his band Spearhead and the Indigo Girls on the main stage and DJ Spooky along with other spinmasters in the DJ tent), as well as an open-air art gallery, a healing arts tent, kids zone, bike coalition, eco village, environmental and political organizations disseminating information, and vendors selling food and drink.
Performers for the rest of the day include Quannum label hip-hoppers Lifesavas (who are scheduled to perform until 1:20PM), DJ Spooky at 2PM spinning for an hour, followed by Bassnectar in the DJ tent, the Indigo Girls on the main stage at approx 3PM followed by Franti and Spearhead.
Started in 1998, the free, outdoor 911 Power to the Peaceful Festival has been steadily growing. That first year, which took place in a neighborhood park, drew an estimated 6,000 people but has grown to draw in excess of 60,000 people to Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadow. Past performers and spokespersons have included KRS-One, Digital Underground, Woody Harrelson, Angela Davis, Blackalicious, The Coup, Saul WIlliams, Alice Walker, and Talib Kweli.