Archive for February, 2007

N’Kisi the Highly Articulate Parrot

It seems appropriate that for this, Bim and Bam’s inaugural post, I should draw attention to N’Kisi, an African grey parrot with a vocabulary of 950 words (and maybe by now more). My motives are often a mystery to me and I have a hard time remembering anything but simple recipes and exceptionally good sex, so I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this 2004 BBC story on N’Kisi. Never mind my motives. I have two points. One is that N’Kisi is a parrot. My first pets were Bim and Bam. They were parakeets (the connections astound here at B + B), one blue and one green, the first of a long line of pets to committ suicide or at least die in what appeared to be a very willful manner. A suspect sort of carelessness has been the defining trait of most of my pets, and Bim and Bam are no exception. Bim squeezed his little parakeet head between the cage wires and broke his neck. Bam flew behind the refrigerator and fried on its hot irons. Welcome, the few of you who haven’t left me for the BBC, to Bim and Bam.

I had another point and it has more to do with N’Kisi, but maybe some to do with Bim and Bam too. N’Kisi is articulate enough to be a wiseass. Reports the BBC:

When he first met Jane Gooddall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, he said: “Got a chimp?”

When another parrot hung upside down from its perch, he commented, “You got to put this bird on the camera.”

What I like about N’Kisi is that he appears to possess enough intelligence to adapt a human point of view toward animals’ state of bondage. See, I’m not even as articulate as N’Kisi. What I’m trying to say is that it’s almost as if N’Kisi recognizes that he and fellow animals are objects of human curiosities and maybe cruelties, and knowing he can’t beat people, he joins them in their eccentric interests (chimps, cameras) and maybe even goes so far as to mock them a little. If N’Kisi were human, he would make these comments out of the side of his mouth with his arms crossed. N’Kisi is the guy who has few or no interests but pokes fun of yours. In the world of people, that guy is usually a character, a pretty interesting if somewhat frustrating friend and someone you might enjoy getting a beer with but wouldn’t talk to about your deepest, darkest fears. In this case, that guy is a parrot.

I don’t like beer much, but I like a glass of wine or a good strong drink. Which brings me back to Bim and Bam. Or doesn’t really. N’Kisi got me thinking about Bim and Bam and how much they knew about how much their lives sucked and what role that knowing played in their demise. And what about the turtle that walked off the third-floor balcony and the beta fish that jumped out of its bowl? Maybe they all knew. Maybe they didn’t and I tend to anthropomorphize and am therefore a sucker for a story like N’Kisi’s.

Bim and Bam Have a Chat