Words by Shelton Hull
Our little tour de farce begins with a dispatch from an old friend, Miss Emily Bloch, who did yeoman work as the education reporter for “The Florida Times-Union” (and served as president of the state’s chapter of Society of Professional Journalists) before moving to “The Philadelphia Inquirer” last September, where she now serves as their national news reporter. Bloch was on the scene in that capacity to report on the dumping of hundreds of pounds of pasta behind a creek in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey. Residents were furious about a perceived pattern of neglect by local authorities, but wasting food is just a cardinal sin, in general. The mess was cleaned up pretty quickly, but the perpetrators remain unknown.
Parrots, like humans, are highly complex social animals. They have demonstrated intelligence on the level of 6- or 7-year-old humans. Like humans, they also have physical and emotional issues that may preclude them from more direct forms of socialization. And according to researchers at Northwestern University, parrots, like humans, have shown such an affinity for engaging each other through video chat. Researchers have successfully taught the birds tasks, and they were able to form social bonds with the other birds in the study that continued even after the study was over. At this rate, it may be just a matter of time until one of them has to be canceled.
Drug smugglers have proven to be among the most creative craftsmen working today and — with so much money on the line — why not? We hear these stories almost weekly, nowadays, so they are always in queue for this column. This month’s example comes from Manzanillo, Mexico, a port town on the Pacific coast where the Mexican Navy confiscated about 19,000 pounds of concentrated liquid meth, concealed within 11,520 bottles of premium añejo tequila. Based on this writer’s possibly wonky math, that’s worth about $320 million, which is quadruple the sum earned by Walter White during his run as Heisenburg. Of course, we only hear about this stuff when people get caught, so who knows what kind of other crazy stuff they’re actually getting away with. It’s already a high-traffic zone, and their choice of añejo tequila brought them extra scrutiny, since it can only be made in Mexico.
Authenticity was also a concern in Antwerp, where Belgian customs officials crushed exactly 2,352 cans of beer by request of something called the Comité Champagne, a consortium of wine producers in the Champagne region of France, whose namesake product is fiercely defended by international law. The beer in question (you see where this is going) was Miller High Life, whose slogan, “the Champagne of Beers,” has been a source of persistent, simmering beef since its coinage way back in 1906. What’s even funnier is that the doomed beer was destined for Germany, which presumably has more than enough beer already.
Speaking of Europe taking things way too seriously, Italy was recently taken over by Giorgia Meloni, whose right-wing Brothers of Italy party is exactly what one might imagine it to be. They took advantage of a historically-low, 26% voter turnout to seize 118 of 400 seats in the chamber of deputies, allowing them to build a decent center-right coalition government (238-162) that may hold for a couple of years, unless the leaders do something stupid … which they’ve already done, having introduced legislation imposing stiff penalties on Italians who fail to use Italian words in official communications or even fail to pronounce Italian words correctly. This response to “Anglomania” was due to reactionary conservatives fearing the imposition of non-native cultures on their own, whether those cultures are an actual threat or not. It’s a stupid, terrible idea that deserves prompt repudiation, but given the current political climate, it could succeed.
Let us conclude this installment right here at home in Florida, where a retinue of righteously pissed-off neighbors gathered to protest a series of killings that has rocked the community in and around Coral Reef Park in Palmetto Bay. After some residents complained about aggressive behavior by Muscovy ducks and Egyptian geese, two invasive but essentially harmless species, village leaders hired a firm that killed 21 of the birds, sparking an outcry. As with most living things in Florida, the legality of the killings remains in dispute. Also unclear is exactly how they were killed, although it’s generally believed that they were humanely trapped and then their necks were broken by hand, which, remarkably, is legal. The harsh blowback (which has included at least one Hitler reference and several fights) was funny but predictable. As polarized as people are in Florida these days, killing animals is an easy way to bring people together.