You know those parrots -- our parrots? The wild ones you
occasionally hear squawking or see careening through the skies in
flocks, that every five years or so you read about in a feature story in
Of course you do. I've always been a believer in the theory that they
are descendants of escapees from the Simpson's Nursery fire in east
Pasadena in the early 1960s and are mostly found in that neighborhood
still, as well as in their truly favorite hangout, neighboring Temple
City, where sometimes you can barely hear yourself think for all the parrot
But Thursday night, walking to my car on North Raymond Avenue in
front of Memorial Park after noshing and gabbing and generally being
entertained at the ab-fab Light-Bringer Project party for this weekend's
Absolut Chalk festival, I couldn't help but notice that a posse of the
parti-colored birds have migrated to west Pasadena -- for one evening,
What a racket in the trees. Walking behind an architect-looking
fellow who was carrying blueprints and looking up with a mystified
expression, I told him the parrot story as I know it. He seemed
grateful that there was some rational explanation for a tropical-bird
infestation in the mere semi-tropics. If they stay, perhaps Old Pasadena
can market them as a tourist attraction.
Can I be cranky for a minute about what we call this year without
getting into the mere fact that the millennium turns next January, not
this past one?
All right, sir. Here we are, more than six months into it, and some
--many -- people are still using that awkward and unnecessary "the
year 2000" phrase. And it's not just the joker on the street.
Even in recent weeks, I have read that phrase in The New York Times,
I have heard it on National Public Radio. I know why we used it in, say,
1987: this magic number seemed so unimaginably far off that we couldn't
bring ourselves to say it. But now we are here. Get used to it. Say it
with me: 2000. 2000. It's a perfectly normal place in the space-time
continuum. What to call the decade to come, I agree, is still a
question. So far I'm leaning toward "the oughties" -- though
it sounds almost as affected as the rest.
In the same vein, why do we feel the need to call a collection of
recorded music after the technology it happens to be encoded on
--especially now, with the various media changing all of the time? My
suggestion, which I heartily suggest all the world sign on to: Stop with
the CDs, DVDs, etc. If you are listening to a recorded group of songs or
musical works you are listening to an ALBUM, no matter what kind of
plastic it's on.
One medium that will not ever go away, thank goodness, is the book,
and I am in possession of a magnificent one thanks to Caltech's Bob
O'Rourke, who forwarded emeritus Professor Ned Munger's full-color
volume 3 of "Cultures, Chess and Art: A Collector's Odyssey across
Seven Continents" (Mundial Press, San Anselmo).
Munger, the great and passionate geographer whose usual specialty is
Africa, wrote the Pacific Islands and Asia portion of this series,
featuring gorgeous photos of carved and cast chess sets from Samoa,
Rarotanga, Laos, Japan, Tahiti, Easter Island, Palau and on and on. You
don't have to play chess to be fascinated.
As with Melville and his whale, Munger sees that to know one thing
well is to know most everything about a people and a place. And he even
has a soapstone set from Tuva, the remote place his old friend Dick
Feynman heartbreakingly never reached.
-- Larry Wilson is editor of the Pasadena Star-News.